Friday, December 28, 2012

A Season of Birthdays

While having your birthday near Christmas cannot be too fun, just because most people are thinking about Christmas instead of you, we know quite a few people whose birthdays fall in late December. 

Of course we had our "Birthday Party for Jesus," with Rebekah and her friends frosting and decorating a cookie cake (His preference over real cake--unleavened) for Him.

Then last night we got dressed up for our landlord's daughter's 5th birthday party, with private DJ and catered food (yes, for a 5-year-old).

Accompanying us to that party was our friend Annie, who as it happens, has a birthday TODAY!

Since she stays in an apartment near us and her family lives all the way across the country, we did what we could to celebrate with her on her 21st birthday!

Of course Rebekah was beside her during the candle blowing, present opening, and--without a doubt--

during the cupcake eating.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012: While You Were Sleeping...

We had left a note for Santa again this year from Rebekah.

In a letter to him, she said she only wanted one thing--a house for her princesses. As you can see, her other request, in the note that accompanied her cookies and Coke for Santa, was that Santa come when she was awake.

So while you guys were waiting on Santa to come, warm in your beds, we were reminding Rebekah that perhaps Santa had already passed through South Asia.

She looked a little more tired, and therefore less surprised than last year, but she got the princess house she had asked for.

Santa brought us the usual gifts:

Books "to distract us from learning Hindi," to quote Kristie;

And some high quality, American-made underwear.

And, out in our sleepy little town, almost everyone just lived life as normal, as if there were nothing to celebrate on December 25th.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Reaching Out: Scarves, Stories, and Stained Hands

(Here is a Second Installment of us just living our "missional" lives during the Christmas Season in South Asia.)

We have told you before about the Good News Kristie has been able to share with some children and their mothers down by a river near our house, including the chance to share about Jesus' Resurrection on Easter.


We are certainly not fluent Hindi speakers, but we use what we know as much as we can. What started as children just coming out to play with the foreigner has turned into a large group of people who come to hear stories from the Bible. 

Kristie has been chronologically storying through the Bible in the past few months, but jumped from Isaiah to Christ's Birth this week.

The most remarkable thing about these kids and their mothers is that they seem to be remembering details about the stories of God's guidance of His People we never thought they would grasp onto.

Stained Hands

Henna, or mehndi, is very popular for women here in South Asia. The designs drawn on the hands, arms, feet, and legs stain the skin for a week or two, and often-times tell a story.

Some awesome ladies have made designs that correspond to Bible stories, including the Birth of Christ. The girls are so proud of the designs, and sitting still during the application of the henna gives them another chance to hear the love of God for them.


We are not huge proponents of indiscriminately giving stuff away, as such actions can have a lot of negative consequences. But, in this controlled (and relatively small) setting, we were able--through the unexpected gift from a church in Mississippi--to give these poorest of the poor a warm scarf for a little bit of extra protection on these surprisingly cold nights.   

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
--Matthew 25:40

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Reaching Out: Cupcakes, Christmas Outfits, and Christmas Lights

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
--1 Corinthians 10:31

We have always wondered how to make EVERYTHING we do focus on God's glory. I think the kids these days are calling it being MISSIONAL, whether overseas or in the USA.

We are trying our hardest.

Cupcakes for the Glory of God

Kristie has been baking A LOT over the past couple weeks--
  • Banana Bread (South Asians call it Banana Cake)
  • Banana Muffins
  • Sugar Cookies
  • Cupcakes
--in order to give to people in our neighborhood, our rickshaw drivers, our post office workers, and anyone else we come in contact with regularly. The late nights have been worth it, though, as we have been able to explain who Jesus was and why He came to dozens during these weeks.

And Rebekah needed to help us, of course, make the 60 cupcakes for her class at school. While Rebekah's schoolmates ate the cupcakes, Kristie shared with them (in their own language) the story of why Jesus came to Earth.

Christmas Clothes for the Glory of God

While many in the USA are having "ugly sweater" parties, we are having all kinds of conversations about why we are celebrating in the ways we are, wearing the clothes we are, etc. We are such a minority in this country religiously that so many really do not know anything about Christmas at all (probably about as much as you know about Diwali or Kali Puja).

Christmas Lights for the Glory of God

"I'll be the only Hindu with lights up for Christmas!"

Some Christians traditionally hang stars above their house to commemorate Christmas, but we do not see the lights and yard ornaments reminiscent of back home. But our landlord, who lives on the second floor of our apartment building (we live on the third floor), said his Christmas gift to us was to decorate (or re-decorate, since the lights had all been up earlier in the month for Hindu Puja season) our building with lights. Not sure what the neighbors will think, but he just wanted to show his appreciation (you can vaguely see our Christmas tree lit up through the window on the third floor).

Please keep us and all of those we shared with in your prayers.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Life of a Gingerbread House

Every family has to have their own Christmas Traditions. 

Since Rebekah was born, we have always made a birthday cookie for Jesus

And last year in South Asia, we started what every family should try: a Skype-filled Christmas.

This year, we embarked upon the more traditional American pastime of building a Gingerbread House. 

We started with a nice box set from a Canadian bakery, 

Laid a foundation of sugar icing, 

Put up walls and decorated with candies,

And were very proud of the way it looked in the end.

But alas, the Gingerbread House only lasted a few days. 

Slowly, some 3-year-old picked off the decorations, 
ate the poor gingerbread lady out front, 
and eventually knocked the walls down.

Gingerbread houses are a lot of work to put together, and only last a few moments intact.

But they provide consistent pleasure: during construction, at completion, and during disassembly.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Darjeeling: Donning Our Tourist Hats

Our friend came to visit last month, and we headed up the mountain to see the mountains from Darjeeling. Last year, we stepped into the tourist role during our mini-vacation there.

This year, the view was just as good, though the weather was a little warmer.

But when the cold weather showed up, we donned our tourist gear again,

Let Rebekah create another scene at the zoo by having South Asians stop looking at the animals in order to take pictures of her,

And of course we let her ride another pony. This time she got to ride Jamuna (who, by the mark on his forehead, must be a Hindu pony). 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Our Giant Christmas Tree

We did okay decorating last year, with a borrowed tree and little-to-no knowledge of where to find decorations around our sleepy little town.

So we were determined to find a tree of our own, cost aside, and put our own stamp on the holiday. 

Kristie took the "cost aside" comment literally, and we found what must be the most expensive, but biggest, Christmas tree in South Asia. Fully decorated, and with presents underneath, this little corner of our apartment provides lights and viewing enjoyment for everyone on the south side of our building.

And, of course, when we said we were going to take some pictures of the tree, Rebekah interpreted our words as "Why don't we do a photo shoot of you, Rebekah?".

So we made it about her, even when she flashed these gang signs. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Our Little Poser

Rebekah has never been camera-shy... at all.

Recently, though, she has gotten to the point of making faces, 

Striking certain poses,

Or just cutely grinning and asking for her photo to be snapped.

Really, who are we as parents to argue with her?

Her sweet personality makes it impossible for us to stay angry with her when she disobeys. She just lights up any room she's in.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas: Our Turn to Decorate

October and November have been loud and colorful months of holidays for various religious groups in South Asia... Lights, firecrackers, and huge pandals all over (much like last year). 

Despite trying to expend all of Rebekah's energy playing at our Thanksgiving celebration,

We had promised to decorate our enormous 8-foot Christmas Tree we had set up earlier in the week, and she was not going to forget.

Rebekah had previously tried to decorate by herself, 

And she was prepared to hang as many Christmas ornaments as possible.

We started a new Christmas tree tradition by having to fend off swarms of mosquitoes that had made it up to our 3rd floor apartment. And yes, James is using a hand-held electric mosquito zapper--an awesome South Asian invention.

Although the weather is a little different (no chance of snow or temps below 50 degrees), we finally got the tree decorated to make South Asia feel a little more like Christmas once again.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving, Expanded Edition

We are celebrating another Thanksgiving overseas today, and after last year's small celebration, many things expanded as we blew out Thanksgiving here in our sleepy slice of South Asia...

We had over 20 adults and nearly 30 children at our festivities!

James started his morning with a couple hours of basketball as a preemptive strike on what would be consumed later in the day.

Smoked meats...

We mean plates and plates of meat (and other foods, but it was hard to get past the main courses)...

Desserts truly meant to do nothing more than kill a person with pleasure...

Finished off with a couple hours of conversation with friends,

Some tree climbing in a neighbor's yard,

And a greeting-card-like family evening of getting our 8-foot tall Christmas tree decorated and looking good.