Personal Ramblings, Reading Life Between the Lines

10 things I loved when I was 10 I’ll enjoy even at 100

1. Anything mango

2. Anything chocolate

3. Furry little non-shedding things that go “woof” (and not meow)

4. A good laugh

5. Colored pencils and a coloring book

6. Sassy, snarky comments

7. Clean, crisp white sheets

8. Balloons

9. Train rides

10. The Reader’s Digest

Life in Nepal, Reading Life Between the Lines

dung and stars

Before moving to Nepal, I did my research. Lonely Planet, the Internet, and an uncle who had lived here. But my information sources obviously did not prepare me enough. As I stepped out of the airplane, the smell hit me, almost knocking me over—the warm, pungent  combination of diesel fumes, animal dung, and human sweat.

The hour-long drive from the airport was decorated with sights to match the smells. Animals and humans defecating side by side. Ancient buses grinding against one another, puffing black fumes. From somewhere deep inside my sterile soul came a silent scream “Take me back to air-conditioned homes and litter-free streets!”

With every new day, I grew increasingly sensitive to every dung heap and diesel cloud. My daily walks were carefully orchestrated—wear shoes at all times, ensure pant legs end above the ankles, use handkerchief to cover nose, and most importantly, don’t take eyes off the road. ALWAYS LOOK DOWN.

The inevitable happened one dark night. I stepped into a fresh, warm pile. In anger, I waved my arms into the black night and yelled out my every suppressed thought. And as I vented, the brilliant beauty hit me: Nepal’s coal black sky–far away and untouched by the pollution of its soil–showered me with the most beautiful stars I had ever seen—translucent, shimmering gems of perfect beauty. A canopy of gems, fit only for nobility, yet it shone on everyone alike.

Standing in a puddle of dung, I was lost in exquisite beauty. All that time, while engrossed in combating the smells of Nepal, I missed out on the beauty. All that time I was looking down instead of looking up.

Standing in a puddle of dung, I realized that life is kind of like dung and stars. There’s the good and the not so good. I can either spend my time looking out for the smelly stuff in life or I can revel in its beauty

Life is what we make of it. A heap of dung. Or a thing of beauty.

Personal Ramblings, Reading Life Between the Lines

uncle solomon

He hibernated in our home, sleeping till noon and waking up groggy and strange. He never spoke until he brushed his teeth, so he’d murmur and mutter, shake and nod, until he did. Why he waited for precisely an hour, I don’t know. But then everyone stopped trying to figure out Uncle Solomon a long time ago. I think grandma birthed him on top of the coconut tree, and baby Uncle Solomon just slid off.

His role in my growing up years: “Lifepolice.” I don’t why my parents gave him such authority. As per the Lifepolice, many things were forbidden–comic books, dancing, silly jokes, secular music and meat. He said there were invisible, 12-tentacled mini monsters buried in every bite of chicken that multiplied in your stomach and choked your intestines into strands of rubber band.

One day he told me to never stop until I found my thing. So I set out to find it. And whenever I found something and asked if it were it, he’d say “Maybe.” One day I reached my limit–Pigtails flying, I stomped into his dark room (He never turned on lights) and yelled so loud my throat was sore for six days. “I am not going to look for the thing anymore. You’re weird and I don’t need to listen to you.”

The pillow that always lay over his face slowly came up. He said “Sit down.” Down went the pillow. Mom and Dad were not home. It was just me and weird Uncle Solomon. He was going to kill me, chop my body into tiny pieces and fertilize the haunted Neem tree by the front gate!

I waited for what seemed like 16 hours. In silence. In darkness. In fear. Then he spoke into the pillow: “What things did you find while looking for your thing?” I thought hard. “I found out there are 42 different types of beetle, that Wesley is my best friend even when I don’t like him, that I am as good as a boy, that I can make words dance on a page, that there isn’t enough time in a day, that Daddy loves me so much it makes him cry.”

The pillow went up again and wise Uncle Solomon said: “The best part is all the other things you find along the way. Keep looking and you’ll find yourself.”

Personal Ramblings

rocked to sleep on the bay

There’s noise everywhere: Around me are disgruntled people, in my head are reminders of many things that need to be done, in my heart are thoughts, anxious and angry. All together, it’s noise that disturbs me, that longs for just a moment of peace.

And I think back, stretching my memory, to remember the last time I had a perfect moment of peace. And I remember. It was in the back waters of Kerala where our houseboat docked for the night in the middle of a watery nowhere. I lay down on the futon covered in cool white cotton and look up. A perfect black sky shimmer with stars, the tame waters rock me to a lull. The oarsman stays discreetly silent while I cry out all my tears.  And with that emptying I feel peace. In that stillness I hear God . . . Be still and know that I am here.


consequences of wallowing

“. . . They didn’t even hear him–they were that beaten down in spirit.” (Exodus 6:10, The Message)

The last few verses of Exodus 4 paint a perfect people–Moses and Aaron have gathered all the leaders and all the people. They tell them of the wondrous things God is doing for them. Everyone listens; everyone believes. Then everyone bows and worships God.

But then at the end of chapter 5 the same believers are now doubters. Angry and fearful, they challenge God’s plan. Even Moses questions God and declares that “things have only gotten worse” (5:23).

When faced with the hardships of the moment, God’s people were blinded to the joys of the future. So God, in His patience, begins to recollect aloud all of His promises. He stresses every one with a definitive “I will”– I will bring you out, I will rescue you, I will redeem, I will take you as my own, I will bring you into the Promised land. I will. I will. I will. And then He finally proclaims I AM YOUR GOD! (6:6-8)

But they don’t hear Him! They had wallowed so far down in their mirky misery that they hear nothing but their own groaning and whining. Pessimism had deafened them to the voice of God.

Personal Ramblings

life is like a bicycle

This is for MC . . .

Albert Einstein had a son who struggled with mental illness. Imagine that. Here was a genius, a man with so much to his name and fame, someone everyone looked to for solutions to problems. Yet he couldn’t fix life for his son. In a letter to his son, he said “Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you should keep moving.”

Life is a struggle. Sometimes we are on the bike, sometimes we fall off. But it’s a good thing all of us don’t fall off at the same time! When I fall, I am glad for those who prop me up, dust me off, and help me get back on.

Getting back on the bike is key. Getting through tough times is possible with the support of one another and believing that “a life submitted to God cannot fail.” (paraphrasing . . . .it’s somewhere in Jeremiah!)

Spiritual Musings

a friend’s reassurance


I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121: 1, 2

Guy #1 is in one of life’s harsh predicaments. Feeling desperate, he’s waiting for God to fix things. Thus begins Psalm 121.

But Guy #1 doesn’t get beyond two verses. Guy #2 takes over for the rest of the psalm. We don’t know who he is. And who he is really doesn’t matter; it’s his role in this psalm that should beckon our attention. He is there to reassure Guy #1 of the omnipresence and the grace of God. He speaks of God walking with us to keep us company through our misery, of God watching over us night and day, of God protecting us no matter what we are up to.

Nothing he says is new or profound. It is a truth that Guy #1 knows and has already stated very clearly (“My help comes from the Lord.”) So what Guy #2 says doesn’t really matter very much either.

What matters is that he is there for his friend. He is a true friend–the kind that sticks around when you are awful company; the kind that doesn’t fuel your misery, but instead gently keeps you focused on the solution to the problem.


Personal Ramblings, Spiritual Musings

when people let you down

But the head cupbearer never gave Joseph another thought. Genesis 40:23

When I moved here, she went out of her way to befriend me.  Over the next two years it seemed like she was always there to support me in my little battles. But when the big one came armed with heavy arsenal that shot down my reputation with documents that seemed so true, she disappeared from my life. Never warned me of the brewing foes, never asked to hear my side. All of a sudden, she stopped calling, stopped coming by to pray with me. Just stopped being a friend.

And it hurt. Until I re-read this episode in Joseph’s life. The cupbearer was his friend. While in prison, Joseph had brought consolation into his friend’s life by interpreting a dream. The guy owed him one. And yet when he was freed, when he was back in the good graces of the Pharoah, he didn’t give Joseph another thought.

I can imagine that. I know how that feels. And I am glad for a God who brings happy-endings to stories muddied up by people. When people let you down, when those you’ve helped are the first to throw a stone at you, God is there watching, waiting . . . to tie all the episodes with a forever, happy ending.

Personal Ramblings

when there are no explanations

My parents are 70, my mother-in-law 80. And I’ve prepared myself to face the inevitable one day. One day, I’ll have to let go, say goodbye, and give praise for their lives and the ways they’ve made a difference in mine. So, yeah, I’ve been sort of prepping myself.
But I hadn’t prepared myself for the unexpected sudden death of loved ones. So when my sister-in-law died yesterday–so suddenly–I felt my world literally screech to a halt. Objectively, I know that life goes on, that God allows only that which we can bear, etc, etc,. I know all this; yet, I can’t seem to take my foot off the brakes.
I need some sort of explanation and there aren’t any.