like all good stories, this one begins with a case of never ending strep throat. a self-diagnosed case but a case nonetheless. there once was a girl who moved to a country far, far away. in the beginning it was difficult to figure out all the ins and outs of this new place but after a while she figured it out and even got comfortable. she has been there for a while now but the time is running out. one day, while she was dealing with the pains of this chronic-like strep throat, she decided that she needed a reprieve from this intense pain. so, she went off to find buy some yogurt and juice, thinking a smoothie might be just the right fix. she was generally a talkative girl but due to the throat ache-age, she was unusually quiet. because of this she had been thinking a great deal about what would soon be happening in her life in the near future. a few days earlier she had received news that she would be returning to her home that is far, far away from the home she's found in what was or…
For a wonderful update on our pet-life, please read Erin's blog from today, here. Also, my church's dog, Jonnie, might possibly be pregnant. Oh yes, right at the beginning of winter--so they will be little puppy pop-sicles.
For a while I knew pizza day was coming. Initially I thought I would be making 30 pizzas. 30 pizzas is a daunting task for most people, however our pizza situation was even more daunting with our tiny ovens. When the day began approaching I found out I only needed to make about 15 pizzas. Music to my ears, that was. The pizzas were for the youth at my church. A fellowship activity--just to simply enjoy one another's company. It definitely was joyful. I created, with a team of my Mongolian friends, a little pizza shop [or factory] in one of the classrooms at my church
When the pizzas were finished we all gathered to watch a wonderful performance of Tektonic--the dance craze of the millennium. If you don't know what that is, you should educate yourself here.
And after we enjoyed our 15 delicious very meat-y [about 3 kilograms of meat] pizzas, we played Honey, if you love, you'll smile. After some hesitation about playing, they realized that it was a ridiculous and fun game tha…
Chopsticks, Asian food, an obscure language, bundling for -35 degree weather, talking without words, having relationships purely through Skype, including meat in every dish, singing in another language, cooking and making things from scratch: bagels, tortillas, pretzels, etc., learning to be at home on the other side of the world... These are just a few of the things that I have learned this past year. It is unbelievable to even think about the fact that I've been away from every thing I have ever known for a year [I realize a year is a tiny amount of time], much less that where I am now is familiar--also my home. There are some things I wish weren't so familiar, though. I wish seeing dead frozen puppies as I walk to work weren't familiar. I wish the constant awareness of the difficulties of everyone's home life, whether it be because of money problems or relational problems, weren't so familiar. I wish it weren't so familiar that the lack of jobs causes people to…
Snow is so beautiful. Growing up in Alabama, when it snowed everyone got really excited because it was a rare happening. And by rare I mean it maybe, maybe snows once a year--and usually doesn't stick. Today is October 1, 2010. I have almost been in Mongolia for an entire year. I.cannot.believe.it. There are so many things that have changed in my life, some of which I'm not even sure I have noticed. The things I think, the things I eat, the things I wear, the things I can understand--there are a myriad of things that are different. One of the biggest things that has changed is my affinity [well, and adaptability] to the snowy life. When were first arrived in Mongolia, last October, there was already a lot of snow on the ground. Immediately it was different than anywhere I had ever lived. With every passing day the weather got colder and colder and the snow became a regular occurrence. I soon realized it wasn't strange, it was a normal part of life--just like rain is to me. …
In Mongolia there are three national sports: Wrestling, Archery and Horse Racing. There is a festival every summer, Naadam, that celebrates those three sports. But, I've uncovered a secret fourth national sport [of sorts]. Basketball. It's the only other sport that they play on a regular basis. Forget baseball, football/soccer and rugby, basketball is where it's at. Everywhere that I've been there has been a basketball court that the Mongolians I was with scoped out shortly after our arrival. In the countryside they play basketball, at my church we have a very loved basketball court and my apartment complex that rarely has an empty court. They. love. it. It's amusing to watch them play basketball but I've found that my favorite part is listening. By listening I figured out that the word for "shoot" like "shoot the ball" or "take the shot" sounds a lot like "shit." And when I say it sounds a lot like it, I really mean it sou…
It's been a while but I thought I'd give a little shout out to the quirks of Mongolian life. A tribute to texting in Monglish [Mongolian+English]: All sending and receiving of texts requires a dictionary [and sometimes a translator] to decode the meaning of the Mongolian sentences written in English characters. Needless to say, I don't think the full effect of texting is found in our home due to our lack of all things Monglish. Wouldn't you like to be on the receiving end of this text: "za za, margash ulzii. saixan amraarai"?
Recently I was sharing with one of my students about the middle class. I shared with her that my family is a part of that. She understood and said, "But you are rich" and I immediately told her that was definitely not true. But then she persisted, "Your heart is rich so you are rich." The fact that she equated money's riches with the heart's riches perfectly encompasses my thoughts for this last part in the series. Originally I was going to post this after we had camp and VBS, way back at the beginning of the summer. Then, two things happened that kept me from writing--life happened and I got the feeling that the story was not finished yet. So, I waited as the summer played out. The life part of the set back was my job for the summer--being a hostess. Each summer umpteen different Korean mission teams come to provide a myriad of Vacation Bible School experiences. Those experiences require a great deal of Mongolian involvement [which I am not] so along with m…
yes, i know that i said that there would be a part 3 and it has yet to be delivered. my life is just a tad busy lately, leaving with me little time to sit and right part 3 which is going to be the best of the 3 parts [i hope]. so, as i've been doing a lot lately, here are some pictures from my life recently, to fill the word void. riding horses. three of my favorite littles ones from church. honoring this goat's life before it became our food. ulaanbaatar, my home.
There was a man living in a village somewhere. He was a foreigner but he spoke the language, dressed like the villagers, lived in the same kind of home and ate the same food. He had lived in the village for many years and he was very close to the people that lived there. One day, another foreigner came to visit the village. He asked the villagers about the man who had been living with them for so many years. "Is he one of you?" He asked. They answered "No, he will never be one of us. He will always be a foreigner." Someone told the missionaries here this story a few months ago. And this story has yet to leave my soul. When I moved to Mongolia my intention was not to become Mongolian. I came to see and share when I can, always knowing I am not the same, I don't have to be and I shouldn't be. Over the past 9 months I have learned an incredible amount about this culture and what it means to live here [I learn more each day]. These people have become so ingrained i…
It generally takes me a good while to process things that happen in my life. Thus, camp and VBS have been at the top of my thoughts quite a lot, recently. This trip was particularly special for me--it was my first real trip with Mongolians and put my language skills to the test. From the first days of preperation, you would have looked at us and hoped we would even made it to our destination, much less arrive, survive and thrive. But, like most things in Mongolia, predictions are impossible and the level of success would present itself in a surprise ending. Surprise! not only did everything work out fine, but it was one of the most wonderful trips I have ever [EVER] been on. In case you didn't know, around April Erin and I decided we really wanted to have a joint youth camp. We mentioned it to our youth and they were overcome with joy about even the thought of this. We knew then that somehow we had to make it work. Along with camp, my church decided they wanted to go on to another …
my soul already longs to be in the countryside again.
retreats for me have always been healing and binding. i am a people person with everything that is inside of me--so, spending a week with my students was like pure energy. i am bursting at the seems with hope and joy from the week. i am so proud of my youth and the way they handled everything. i haven't quite caught up on my rest or figured out exactly what i want to share yet, though. so, here's a few pictures from the trip that can give you a tiny taste of our time together. tent man. jumping pictures are universal. worship and games around a big bonfire. this is the river we got to play in. [bathing suits=underwear] the ger [where i got to sleep for the first time!] and our tents. the neighbor boy from next to the place where we stayed. epitome of cute. little praying hands. washing the children's feet and praying for them. my youth and the kids from the VBS that my church did in another town after we had camp.
though they are dainty, they are still yellow and a welcomed sight after such a long winter. summer school is essentially code for: let's play outside. blue skies are in abundance and make me feel anything but blue. naked gers are almost as much fun as clothed ones.
Congregational Development in Mongolia from Sushil Bhujbal on Vimeo. Check out this fantastic video that one of our friends helped to make. This is one part in a four part series of videos from all over the world. You can find the others here. Thanks to our friend, Chris Heckert and the GBGM for doing a great job showing the world this unique place. This video shares a lot of where my heart is present at right now and gives some insight into the lives of our Mongolian brothers and sisters. Today, Mongolia doesn't look quite like that but you better believe that winter is real.
"...we ought to act with God in the greatest simplicity, speaking to Him frankly and plainly, and imploring His assistance in our affaris, just as they happen..." practicing the presence of God:brother lawrence
what a beautiful God who "loves our affairs, just as they happen."
Each afternoon into the evening, I hear children playing in the courtyard of our apartment complex. There is even a nice hopscotch game set up right beneath my window. At nearly every hour of the day you can hear a basketball being bounced on the finally unfrozen half-court.
Those kids stay out there for hours on end. Skipping their normal meals of meat, potatoes and carrots for their third or fourth popsicle of the day.
I've found here that spring really just means ice cream. Those words are basically synonymous. When it started being above 0 outside, kids started eating ice cream like it was going out of style.
Everyone opens their windows as if to air out their hibernation quarters. Now that it has gotten closer to what I call warm, I've even gotten into the popsicles and open windows.
Since the winter solstice we've been gaining 3-5 minutes of sunshine everyday. I've heard it said that in the height of the summer the sun wi…
upon our arrival in mongolia, erin and I had about 10 dvds. together.
with our first 2 months being completely consumed by the h1n1 crisis, those 10 dvds became quite well worn. so, we began the search for something to watch online. perfect plan, right? you can watch almost anything online. well, not when you live in mongolia. nope. it knows. the internet knows and it says things like "We're sorry we cannot stream outside of the US." I stand by my opinion that the "We're sorry" is the fakest apology i've ever heard.
so, i'm not going to say exactly how it happened, but we began exploring other avenues for watching shows online. with a few downloads and a small fee, we could watch things on netflix. come to find out, netflix downloads at the rate of Christmas when you're 7 years old. download 15 minutes, watch 5 minutes. That makes for a lot of effort for a short amount of entertainment.
Knowing that there is a package from my family in transit always reminds of waiting on Christmas when I was little. It usually takes about a month and my dad is about ready to burst by the time it gets here.
Each box has things that I've mentioned would be good to have. This particular box asked for a Bible, some corn starch (to make really fun gooey stuff with my kids), some vitamins for some of the children I know here and some seeds to plant in our tiny balcony garden. Aside from that I knew some other things that would be in there but the rest were surprises.
I was surprised when I opened it and found 2 of my favorite dresses, my chacos, a new really cool pair of sneakers from my sister, muffin mixes, honey roasted crunchy peanut butter, GRAVY mix and bacon...a plethora of the kind of bacon you find that's already pre-cooked. There was also some mail...an Auburn Alum brochure (sad) and a letter from my compassion child, Wilber that he signed himself!
I don't have too many distinct memories of Pentecost before today. I mean I've always known the day and what it meant but it isn't often a widely celebrated day. The one other memory I have is from when I was a freshman at Auburn, at Sunday Night Worship for the Wesley Foundation. I remember someone cut out little tongues of fire and had them blown down from big fans in the balcony.
But yesterday--this Pentecost--was different. I started the day like this:
And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting... [acts 2.2]
Each Sunday morning I help lead Sunday School for a Kindergarten class. Our classroom is a small ger. When I woke up in the morning, I could already hear the wind. By the time we arrived at church, in our small ger, it was even stronger. You could hear the wind all around. We were sharing wooshing, violent, rushing wind sounds with the children like we imagined it was on that morning …
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginn…
Peace Avenue is the main road running through the city. Naturally so, when I want to go sit somewhere to read on a beautiful day like today, I need to travel this oh-so-busy road.
So imagine, this road with me. It all starts here... "I need to go to the Post Office" or "I want to look for some new white board markers" or "Let's go sit and read at Cafe Amsterdam" or any other thought that might go through your mind. 9 times out of 10, you need to go down Peace Avenue for all your desires. There are countless schools, The Wrestling Palace, The State Department Store, Sukhbaatar Square (the main square downtown), restaurants, a Louis Vuitton store (necessity, right? not for me), the main Post Office for the country, etc. You name it, it's on Peace Avenue.
Along with all these places, there is the public transportation system. Now there is the picture's center piece...the transportation system and me.…
“You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.” –Maya Angelou
Today, right now, this is my home. I love making places feel like home. Mongolia is my home today but I have many homes.
On another, slightly related, note, I am reading Ecclesiastes right now and I really like this:
"He has made everything beautiful in its time...I perceive that there is nothing better for [us] than to be joyful and to do good as long as [we] live." -Ecclesiastes 3:11a, 12 We need nothing more than to be joyful. We shouldn't long for other homes or places. We can learn to be present and at home wherever we are because the Lord is with us. Home and joy are things we can take with us wherever we are.
Today, as I was walking downtown I ran into this group of girls in the town's square giving out free hugs. I immediately thought of my friend, Ross, and when he had a "free hugs" day on the Concourse at Auburn, University. It was a beautiful day and a lot of fun.
I gave them a big hug and told them about my friend, Ross, and how everyone thought it was really fun and nice. The girls knew enough English to have a short conversation with me but I think they really wanted to get back to hugging. I asked them if it was the first time they had ever done that and they said yes. They said they thought it was the first time for "free hugs" in Mongolia. Which I thought was pretty cool. I think the most beautiful part about it is that right now is tourist season here. Starting May 1st I've seen more tourists than I've seen in the 6 months I've been here. So, whether or not they meant for their "free hugs" day to be in tourist season or not, it still w…
We've become quite the trash-to-treasure people here. We have a big box of milk and juice cartons, cereal boxes, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, glass jars, tin cans and many other curious items. I'm always trying to figure out new things to make for and with my students. So, after Erin and I planted some seeds that her mom had sent us a while ago--I decided to try it out with my students. We used these egg cartons as seed starters. We planted some vegetables and flowers. We're going to be measuring the growth of our plants and hopefully planting them in the garden, that our church has, when they get big enough. Planting seeds and saving our "trash" are just some of the beautiful ways we have a blessed life, here. It's life-giving to use, grow and share things with one another. Life here is sweet and good. It is good to taste of the Lord's goodness, especially with my brothers and sisters.
"His welcome refreshed me and made me see something that's easy to lose sight of in our infernally busy lives. That we exist for each other, and when we're at a low ebb, sometimes just to see the goodness radiating from another can be all we need in order to rediscover it in ourselves."
-pg. 367, The Cloister Walk:Kathleen Norris
I've been thinking a lot about how life ebbs and flows. After all, that is the title of my blog. Even though, I know that is how life is, I sometimes still forget, especially in those low ebbs and exciting flows.
Not only is the ebbing and flowing natural but it also makes you appreciate the other more. It's like joy existing with sorrow. We're not supposed to separate them. They accentuate each other. Essentially, that's what keeps us alive--the ebbing and flowing of our lives merging with those around us.
The ebb and flow of life have become natural for my life in Mongolia. Just saying that brings my thoughts to a pause. It…
It's been a while since I shared some of our quirks and joys. We're quite used to most things Mongolian but some things you can't do anything but laugh about. Hope you enjoy...
1. A few weeks ago our oven just stopped working. We were about to bake something luckily we were able to cook it on the stove top as well. So, we just made do with our stove top and exhausted nearly every Mongolia-possible recipe we knew.
We waited for further instructions on what to do about our bake-less situation. In the meantime, we borrowed a microwave from Helen (our boss here). The next day, we got a new, shiny, wonderful oven. It has actual temperatures on it, unlike our old oven. Needless to say, we were more than excited. We baked a peach cobbler in it.
You can find a full report on all things cooking and baking, specifically our new oven, here, at our baking blog.
2. Spring has arrived in Mongolia. Well, it is arriving--it's a little bit of a slow process. While my friends in the Sou…
"The thing about light is that it really isn't yours; it's what you gather and shine back. And it gets more power from reflectiveness; if you sit still and take it in, it fills your cup, and then you can give it off yourself." pg. 228 Traveling Mercies:Anne Lamott
I have a slight anxiety about finishing things. I have been holding out on about 5 books, not wanting to finish them. I had about 6 pages in Henri Nouwen's book Here and Now and 10 pages in Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies. I decided yesterday was the day to finish at least those two. Now I'm on a sprint to finish the 3 others I've started:: Three Cups of Tea, Follow Me to Freedom and Dare to Love Completely.
Just as I have anxiety about finishing books, I have found that I also have anxiety about finishing parts of life. I'll forewarn you that what I'm about to say will sound ridiculous. I have roughly 10 more months in Mongolia and I'm already dreading leaving.
To celebrate the new-life and joy that Easter brings us, we decorated the ceiling of our worship ger with beautiful, handmade butterflies. Knowing that this would most likely be my only Easter here, I had a feeling it would be special no matter what. However, I had no idea how much a part it would play in my faith. Every year for as long as I can remember, I have always loved Easter and really tried to allow it to have meaning deep down in my soul. I wanted to be newly changed by Easter each year. This year, Easter was special because I not only got to celebrate it with people I have genuinely come to love but also because I got to celebrate it with a people who have been redeemed and their lives have been changed by our Savior. It is not a national holiday or even well-understood in the church here, but I think the reality of Easter affects their every day life. It affects who they are today and tomorrow. I learned a lot from the Disciples when reflecting on Easter this year. Probably…
All of my life In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship
This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I'm filled to be emptied again
The seed I've received I will sow
A while back my best friend told me to listen to this song because she thought it was beautiful. I did and I agreed fully. My list of favorite Hillsong songs grows weekly, I think. Tonight, it came on one of my Genius mixes on itunes and the last verse struck me like I'd never heard it before.
"I know I'm filled to be emptied again..."
This is something that's been on my heart a lot lately and i think it is one of the most beautiful parts of life. We are filled to be emptied to be filled and so on and so on. It seems like each time I am emptied a little more of me is removed so that I can be more filled with God. I've got a long way to go so I will continue to be emptied to be filled.