The Angsts of a New Mother

I’d had a restless night.

Throwing the bed covers aside, I waddled out of bed as graciously as a 6-month pregnant woman could and went to make a pot of tea. My husband walked into the kitchen a short while later.

“What’s on your mind, babe?” he asked gently. He’s got a special ability to figure out when something is bothering me. I guess most husbands do.

Stretching my legs and rubbing my back, I looked at him worriedly.

“What if we mess up as parents? And what if we mess up big time?”

These were some of those fear-begetting questions I wished had never entered my head. They had snuck up on me and kept me awake for most of the night.

I thought my husband might laugh off this question as one of those many paranoid hypotheticals I throw at him. But surprisingly, he sighed and took my question quite seriously. We leaned back into our chairs for a long chat.

As I began to reflect deeper, I realized that my parents had loved me intensely yet imperfectly. Growing up, I had blamed them for some of the parental decisions and choices they made for me, vowing to never make the same mistakes when I became a parent.

But here I was on the verge of becoming a parent myself, hopelessly consumed by the fears of my own inadequacy coupled with the fear of the unknown.  What guarantee is there that, despite my best efforts, my child won’t feel let down by the way I bring her up? What if she blames me for the choices that I make for her in her tender years? What if my style of parenting creates such a negative lasting impression that it leaves her with a personality disorder? And most frighteningly, what if she turns her back on God because of something that I do or say? What is the point of parenting if you love unconditionally only to be hurt?

Like every pregnant woman, I first ascribed these fears to the ‘having-a-mind-of-their-own’ pregnancy hormones. But whatever their source, they continued to hound my mind for days. My husband and I prayed about it, searched the Scriptures, and talked through it with each other and with some of our close friends. These deep seated fears birthed an incredible way of walking with God and seeing His Father heart yet again.

The thing about our fears is that they cloud our hearts from seeing and savouring the sufficiency of Christ! I had forgotten that God is sovereign.  The truth that He is all-knowing, all-powerful and in full control of every person and situation had slipped my mind. It’s not a truth that I can put my finger on. It’s lofty, glorious and amazingly settling. In the revelation of that knowledge, it’s calming to view parenting with a fresh set of hopeful eyes.

I learned that, as parents, it’s supremely easy to feel a sense of ownership and entitlement with our children. Possessive and protective instincts rush in at the drop of a baby hat. Of course, those instincts are God-given. But do we snatch our kids from the Giver himself or do we place them firmly in the palm of His secure hands? Do we parent through helpless dependence on the perfect Father or through the pridefulness of an imperfect mother? Maybe, if we’d see ourselves as stewards over our children, we’d save ourselves a lot of grief.

As the days went by, God continued to help me look deeper into my heart. My fears and doubts were legitimate and he would of course answer them. But those answers would make real sense only when the heart issue was addressed. As I looked at parenting with dependent humility on an all-sufficient God, I began to let go of my moral high ground over my parents’ failures. I couldn’t spend a lifetime holding onto real and perceived hurts. I needed to release forgiveness and remember that they’d loved me fiercely. I even needed to remember the wonderful memories they had created for me, the ones that lay buried beneath all the hurt. Most important of all, they’d pointed me to my Lord and Saviour. Even though they might not have been perfect parents, they had been faithful parents sustained by grace.

My daughter has arrived and is growing up to be the sunshine of our lives. Has having my eyes opened to some deep insights made all my parenting angsts go away? Not really. Sure, I will be intentional about making the right choices, being extra gracious and mindful of the way I bring my daughter up. But I am fairly certain that I will make my own mistakes; some of them probably quite disastrous. The key though is to be humble enough to depend on God and reconcile before Him and my daughter every time I mess up.

It also means that I’ll have to let go of trying to be that perfect parent (by my own standards), simply because I can never be the perfect parent by myself. Joyfully, in the redeeming grace of Christ, I am the perfect parent, even on my bad days! Mercifully, God can turn my shortcomings into good for my daughter.

My daughter will make choices for herself as she grows up. The best thing I can do for her is to let God be her God. And the most precious prayer I can pray over her is that He will reveal his love for her in whatever way He may choose to. I can walk with her and constantly direct her to the only One who can fulfil her every need. Her perfect parent lovingly displayed His everlasting love for her on the Cross. He became vulnerable and offered himself up to pay for her and my sins, knowing fully well that we might reject, disobey, blame, hate or disbelieve him. Yet He chose to pour out his Father heart for our sake. What better love can I model and point her to every day?

I suspect that there will be plenty of moments in the future when my heart will skip a beat thinking of all those ‘what ifs’. But I pray that those moments would be reminders for me to immediately look to the perfect Father who alone can quell my fears and help me love her as deeply as I’m loved.

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Picking Up the Pieces

Blink! Blink! my cursor goes as I pause to reconsider my decision to write about this emotional struggle I’ve been dealing with. But that’s how I’ve always been. Mostly on the fence. Always second guessing myself. Always having to be pushed to do things. However, one thing I was good at was making friends. I took time to make friends, but when I did, I knew I’d keep them for life. I always gave so much of myself to every new friend I made. I was one of those looking at old pictures-letter writing-kinda soppy type óf friends. I was happiest being around my friends.

Before I knew it, I was married and was soon a mother with no time to breathe, let alone maintain friendships. I’d like to think I tried my best to stay in touch. Maybe I didn’t. Because I have never really understood how I went from there to where I found myself in the year 2010: yearning for one friend, at least one, to say, “Hey, I’m here for you” — and then proving it.

That year, my family went through a rather public crisis. We never knew what hit us and nothing could prepare our “over-protected” selves for the dark side of journalism, politics and social media we were suddenly exposed to. As we propped each other up, we were grateful for the precious few that stood by us as a family and prayed us through that horrid time. But there were many others that turned a blind eye. Many took to social media with their distorted versions of the truth. Still others clearly dissociated themselves from us. It was a lonely time to say the least.

Yet, through it all, God was our mighty fortress. Our faith faltered one minute and the next it was strengthened more than ever. I remember how, on one rather depressing day, I silently pleaded with God to show me a sign that He had everything under control. As I looked up, I saw a beautiful rainbow and there was not a dark cloud in the sky. How my heart swelled!

When we came out of this experience, I saw a broken family. Each of us had been broken differently. And each of us has needed healing. I came out of this bitter and angry. Bitter and cynical at the world, hurt and angry at my friends. I was hurt that even the few that finally got in touch were friends whom I reached out to in desperation. I was angry at the friends who used social media to heartlessly say hurtful things. All those promises to “stand by each other no matter what” came back empty and it broke me.

With time, Satan used this brokenness and anger to harden me. I let no one in. I cut ties with 90% of my friends. The ones I still spoke to, I did with no real concern for them. I made new connections with people who knew nothing of what I had been through, but always made sure to keep my guard up.

A couple of years ago, God broke me again. I was reading the book of Job when I read something I had never noticed before.

“And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends…” (Job 42:10)

After all that Job had been through — and I am certain God felt everything Job felt — there was restoration only AFTER Job prayed for his friends. Reconciliation meant that much to God.

I knew what I had to do. And I was petrified. “I can’t be vulnerable again, Lord!” But trust Him, I did; and so, taking baby steps, I began to pray for my friends and I began to reconnect. It was harder with some than with others. Along the way, I had decided that some were just not worth the effort; but God has shown me since that He doesn’t want me to pick and choose the ones that hurt least. He wants me to forgive and reconcile with ALL my friends. Two weeks ago, I messaged the one friend who had hurt me the most and even as I hit send, I felt this HUGE weight being lifted off. (I have only read that phrase in books and didn’t know it was actually possible in real life, but possible it was!)

This new lease of life for my old friendships is different. There are no expectations. My friends will not fall into a perfect friend mould because no one is perfect. They may not be there for me the next time I need them, but that’s alright. I worship Someone who will always be there. Human relationships will always fall short because God wants me to rely on Him.

If you’re reading this and are picking up the broken pieces of your heart — or have built a comfortable wall around that broken heart — pray and reconcile. There will be restoration.

You only love God as much as the person you love least. — Dorothy Day

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What’s An Impossible Dream In Your Life?

Do you have an impossible dream in your life? Something you think would be amazing to accomplish, but is outside your grasp and seems unattainable? Let me tell you about one of my impossible dreams. And maybe I can inspire you to go after one of your own, seemingly impossible dreams, sooner rather than later.

A few years ago, I decided to do a sprint triathlon. I was about to exit my twenties and I wanted to do something completely outside my comfort zone to mark an end to that decade of my life. If you don’t know what a sprint triathlon is, let me tell you: it includes a 400 metre swim, a 21 km bike ride, and then a 5 km run to finish it off.

I sincerely believed in my heart that I couldn’t do it, since I didn’t even know how to swim, let alone swim 400 metres in one go. My best friend at the time had been praying for me, and she felt like God said if you are willing to put the work into this, I believe you can do it. She also asked me a question: “Imagine you are at the finish line, you have done it. Was it worth it? What will making this dream a reality mean for you?”

I said it would mean that I accomplished something that I believed was impossible for me to achieve. Imagining myself at the finish line was so outside of my reality at that time, it seemed like a fantasy. However, with the support of a lot of my close friends, and trusting that God believed I could do it if I made the effort, I decided to try. I signed up for the race right away, to make sure I was committed. I had four months to train for the race. Some friends supported me by signing up to do the race with me. One friend helped put my training plan on the calendar. Another helped me train so that I could get comfortable with my swimming. Others came out and practiced with me.

Even though I wasn’t anywhere near first, second or third place, I am proud to say that with the support of my friends and with God’s blessing, I successfully finished that triathlon. I realised then that I had been limiting myself based on my experiences of the past. God’s word says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He also tells us to keeping pressing on. Our past doesn’t have to determine our future. Sometimes the limitations we put on ourselves are because of past experiences, or a lack of belief in God and our abilities. I certainly don’t want to live a life where I am stagnating and nothing is changing or growing. Even though living in my comfort zone is so easy!

One thing I learned during training for the race was the power of self-discipline. I didn’t feel like training every day. There were many reasons I could have given up. However, sticking to the schedule helped me achieve my goal. Many times when I was running and feeling exhausted I would picture myself running to the finish line on race day, and that gave me the energy to keep going. Also, having accountability and commitment to the goal, were the ultimate reasons I finished that race. It wasn’t easy but it was so worth it! It has also boosted my confidence to try other things that I thought were impossible for me, like learning to play the guitar or learning tennis. (Still working on these goals!)

 

What is an area of your life where you could use more of God’s strength? Is there an area of your life that is keeping you bound in shame from your past? Maybe it’s your career, your marriage, your self-image, your relationships. Let’s surrender those areas to the Lord together, and ask Him to help us do the impossible in those areas of our lives.

Take a few moments now and decide on your impossible dream. Pray about it, and get good counsel when talking to friends and family. If you still want to go forward, get a support system in place, get committed, and get started! I believe in you.

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Walking By Faith, Not Fear

Overcoming fear… As I sat drumming my fingers on a metaphorical table, mentally assessing various ideas to write about for this month’s topic, I realised that this was something I was very good at ignoring – fear, I mean. Before you labour under the mistaken notion that I am claiming to be in any way fearless, allow me to disabuse your mind. Although I am quite the worrywart, most people who know me would never describe me as a fearful person. Yet recently, I experienced a season of crippling fear. And my way of dealing with it? Ignore the cause.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A couple of years back, I sensed God leading me to pray, not just for myself but for others; to intercede, if you will. So I took a few baby steps in that direction. Then followed a season of severe personal strife. Though God was faithful and I eventually came through, it is a time that I look back on with dread. There was too much pain, too much heartache. Then recently, I heard God very clearly say that I needed to start praying and interceding again. Now, I’ve always claimed that if I just heard God say – This is your calling – I would jump to it and joyfully start obeying and serving. Yet here I was hearing exactly that, but there was no resulting jumping or joyful obeying.

Instead, there was a paralysing fear.

For some reason, I was afraid I would lose my daughter. There was no logic to the fear. Yet my mind would provide these plausible scenarios where something terrible could happen to her. So I did what any sane person would do. Ignore the cause; that is, ignore the command to pray. (Don’t ask. It made sense to me at the time!) I believed that praying and interceding would leave my family open to spiritual attack. It had happened before. It could happen again. And this time, the damage could be worse. Oh, the thoughts I thought nearly drove me insane! Fear for my daughter’s safety kept me awake at night. I tried to bargain with God – “Ok, Lord, You want me to pray. Then promise me that You will keep Abby safe. Give me a verse. Speak to me. Tell me she will be ok. I need to know. Then I can obey You.

Absolute silence.

Which can be unnerving to say the least.

So again, I did what any sane person would do – I got angry. With God, for not speaking or giving me a promise. With myself, for being so ridiculously afraid of hypothetical situations. With life. (I’m realising being sane is not all it’s made out to be). This led me to exhibit Jonah-esque tendencies. At least he had the guts to run away from Nineveh. I, on the other hand, took the cowardly option of hypocrisy. Instead of disobeying God outright, I played around with the notion of prayer. I prayed some days (out of guilt), and forgot to do it most days. I carefully ignored my fears, attempting to keep up appearances. Of course, this didn’t fool God or me. I tried to tell myself I was obeying in letter (sometimes), but I knew that I wasn’t in my heart.

Until one Sunday morning when the message from the pulpit struck a chord deep in my soul. The preacher shared his own experience of hearing God’s call and finding his response being crippled by fear and pride. Two simple points – fear and pride. I knew then, even as I heard him share, that when God calls us, we have to obey. We have to step out of the boat and get on the stormy seas. Obedience comes first. Understanding may come later.

Something broke inside me that day. I knew what God was calling me to do. I had to obey. I might not understand why He didn’t give me promises to calm my fear but I had to choose to trust God, above my fears. It was about living by faith and not by sight. Phrases of “Christianese” that I’d grown immune to over the years began to shimmer with a new light.

My daughter illustrated this for me very vividly the other day. After giving her a bath, I was trying to towel her hair dry. “Trying” being the operative word as she kept squirming, working herself up into a nice frenzy till anyone watching us would have thought that I was actively torturing her. Irritated, I yelled sharply told her to stand still, asking rhetorically, “What’s wrong with you?” Taking this at face value, she replied, “I can’t see.” So I retorted, “Why do you need to see? I’m drying your hair so that you won’t catch a cold.” To which she replied simply, “But I have to see.”

This was exactly what God had to put up with when dealing with me! (Thankfully, He doesn’t yell or give sharp retorts.) Here He was, doing everything for my good, while I was struggling with frustration trying to “see” when there was no need. If I trusted God and had faith that He was in control and He would work everything out, then sight didn’t come into the picture. I didn’t need any assurances or promises from God to keep my daughter safe. I knew, whatever the future held, He was there and He would work it out for good.

So I took the step of obedience. And the fear left. No, I’ve not had any assurances or promises about my daughter’s safety, but there is peace. And there is no longer silence.

6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Swimming

We’re in our car and my husband is driving. Our friend is travelling with us. We’re on a bridge and the car hits the side wall and overturns. Plummeting deep into the green water of the river below, we struggle helplessly to get out of the car. I’m losing my breath, I’m drowning, I’m unable to save myself or my family…

I wake up, panting. It was only a dream.

This dream started haunting me recently. I was never paranoid about water until I had this dream. I grew up in Chennai, on India’s southeastern coast, so our family was at the beach pretty often. But my parents were so scared of letting us swim in the ocean that we would just go wet our feet for some time and come back home. I never knew that there was something called a swimming pool, until my brother was in middle school and signed up for summer swimming coaching.

Fast forward to recent times. My daughter learnt to swim three years ago and my son learnt last year. Every time they went to the pool, my kids would beg me to come swim with them. Of course, yours truly knew nothing about swimming.  I could barely manage to stand in the pool for some time. And of course, if I tried putting my head in the water, I thought I was instantly drowning.

So my goal for this summer was to learn swimming. Here are six things I wish I’d known before I started:

1) ‘Just Relax’ is the most important swimming tip you are ever going to get. I realised that the more desperately I tried to swim, the more I sank. At least, that’s how I felt the first few times. Then I decided to just relax in the water and have fun. It didn’t matter whether I looked like a walrus or a giant blue whale in the water, I was just going to enjoy myself. It didn’t matter whether I had water going into my ears and nose, I was just going to relax and not let it bother me. And that’s when it clicked. The minute my tensed shoulders relaxed was the first time I floated for a considerable amount of time. I felt delirious!

2) Kids are very agile. Yes, they are. Kids are way better than adults when it comes to learning any sport and the same holds true for swimming. My 10 year old niece, 9 year old daughter and 13 year old niece were all in the same class with me and they were learning things much faster than me. It was then that I wished I had learnt to swim as a child as opposed to learning it now as an adult.

3) A good coach can make all the difference. I had two women from Kerala who were my coaches this summer. They were simply brilliant. They were chatty and funny, imitating each of us underwater. And they taught us to swim in just fifteen days. They knew exactly how to handle nervously chatty adult women with deft and skill. They knew when to push us in and when to pull us out.

4) Deep end diving is not as scary as it seems. When my coach asked me to go to the deep end and try diving, I went pretty bravely. The first time, I did pretty great. I belly flopped, but at least I didn’t sink. So I went with overconfidence the second time. When I saw the deep blue water, I literally froze. The dream started playing in my head and the next thing I knew, I had jumped in the wrong way and was quickly taking in water, sinking and gasping for breath. That’s when my brilliant coach rescued me and smiled and reassured me that I wasn’t dead yet. Then she took my son (who was also paranoid about deep end diving) and me to another side of the pool and taught us the right way to do it. Gently talking to us and easing our fears, she made us dive repeatedly until we overcame our fear. Now we like to do it just for the fun of it.

5) It’s a great way to burn tummy fat. I wanted to learn swimming to overcome my fear of water, but burning belly fat was an added bonus. I have major issues with scar tissue and adhesions and can never do crunches or planks or push ups or anything remotely connected to my abdominal muscles without experiencing intense pain. Swimming has helped me shave off a few inches from my perpetually pregnant-looking tummy. The good news? It was pain free.

6) What you think you look like in the water is completely different from what you actually look like in the water. For the most part, I imagined myself to be this beautiful Olympic swimmer slicing through the water effortlessly. But in reality, when my coach imitated my swimming, it was a hilarious combination of a giant water monster trying to do some Michael Jackson moves, with the facial expressions of one trying to prevent herself from drowning. So yes, I stopped imagining the unattainable and started working on a few swimming skills that would actually help me enjoy swimming. And in the bargain, who cares if some of the onlookers are entertained by my flailing arms and legs and snorts? It doesn’t bother me anymore, because in my own head, I’m still that Olympic swimmer, right?

And so I’ve come to realise that the dream doesn’t seem to bother me anymore. Tackling my fear head on, and overcoming it, has left me feeling happy and confident. I’ve enjoyed the sport and have tried to make the best use of this season. The kids and I are now trying to convince my husband to learn as well. With those happy thoughts, I’m off for a swim!

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Giving My Kids The Space To Find God

Somewhere along the way, she stopped needing me to hold her hand as we walked in the parking lot. Somewhere along the way, he stopped needing me to read him stories before bed. She stopped needing me to wash her hair with the raspberry scented shampoo. He stopped needing me to tie his shoelaces. They don’t need me to choose their clothes or feed them or brush their teeth for them. At least not anymore.

My kids are growing up. And with it comes the inevitable – they need me less and less in their lives.

I should be relieved. This is what I wanted, right? The independence, the freedom, finally being able to do what I want to do?

Maybe not.

Somewhere along the way, I got used to being needed. It became my identity – and my idol. I realised that I need to be needed.

Now, those of you who know me personally are probably thinking: what’s she talking about? Her kids are tiny.

That’s true. Somewhat. While I’m far from being an empty nester, this mom thing changes in the blink of an eye. One moment you’re looking into the startled eyes of a wailing newborn and the next minute your kid is like, “Don’t kiss me in front of my friends.”

Yup, letting go is hard. But I’m learning to loosen my white-knuckle grip on my kids — and release them to God.

Somehow, in my mind, I’d subscribed to this idiotic notion that I could protect them from all harm. That I could be their sufficiency. That I could create a perfect storybook world for them.  But then came my light bulb moment: My kids don’t need me. They need God.

And they have the freedom to find God only when I let go and let them discover Him for themselves.

I’m slowly overcoming my need to hold on to them — so they have the chance to fall into the arms of the One who won’t ever let go.

I’m overcoming my need to fight their battles for them – so that they can trust that if God is for them, who can be against them?

I’m overcoming my need to interfere in every decision they make – so they learn to face consequences and learn that God works everything out for their good and His glory.

Learning to let my kids fly – and sometimes fall in the process – is the hardest thing about mommy hood. I want to bubble wrap them, mark them as “fragile,” and ensure that the world is kind to them.

But if I clip their wings, they won’t ever see the beauty of the unexplored.

If I overprotect and hover, they don’t have the space to look up at the vastness of the universe and the awesome power of God.

If I force feed them Scripture, they don’t have the chance to discover for themselves that His words are sweeter than honey.

Yes, I still have a role – an important one – and will be their mama till the day I die. But my role is a lighthouse, pointing them to Jesus. My role is to train a child in the way he should go.

Training doesn’t happen in a cotton candy world. It happens on the ground and in the trenches. When fuzzy blankets are ripped away, you discover you’re alone – and that’s when you envelop yourself in the always-there presence of Jesus.

So, I learn to overcome. Overcome my fear of them getting hurt.  Overcome my desire to protect. Overcome my need to be needed.

 

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Pause

As I sit on sandy shores soaking in the sun, listening to the ocean, and watching little boys build sand castles, there is space for thoughts that have been tucked away to peek their heads out. Ever since I can remember, the beach has been a place that made my heart sing. My growing up was always vacations spent by the ocean, and even still the being near it feels a little like light and life to a part of me that still believes in dreaming big dreams.

Beach life also gives me permission to slow down my hurried pace. The rhythm of life at the beach says “Relax, take deep breaths, clear away rubbish that has been suffocating your heart.” The beach signals rest, at least to me, but I can’t always have a beach to make me pause. I need to be mindful of the rhythms of rest that I regularly need to observe individually and lead my family to do the same.

Much like everything else in life, our bodies and minds have rhythms of rest. We need these long or short pauses where we intentionally slow down so our bodies can be stronger, our minds sharper and clearer. Unfortunately, I often run along full steam, ignoring these rhythms until I’m on the edge of burnout. I don’t even notice my state until I’m ready to give up half the things I’ve been working on—surely if they all went away I would be so much more relaxed! But we know that’s not the case (well, maybe sometimes!) and that the Lord gives us permission to release our worries, cares, even our work, over to Him– what a precious relief!

It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Psalm 127:2

Psalm 127 tells us it is the Lord who builds a house, watches over a city, gives us bread to eat. We are to work, but we are also to REST at the appointed times. The Psalmist reminds us it is God who provides, watches, and builds, and it is for us to be faithful stewards of what he has given us to do. He wants us to pause our activity to allow Him to show us He’s the one truly in charge.

As a wife, mother and entrepreneur, I see the need for the Lord to lead and provide in many areas where stress and busyness can easily envelop me. I need Him– although I forget this frequently– to enable me to fill all the roles that He’s given me by the working of the Holy Spirit in and through me. If I am not taking time to rest and observe spiritual disciplines that are for my benefit (reading the Bible, praying, meditating, fellowship, solitude), then I am easily working in my strength and more concerned with what I can make happen. I ignore the rhythms of rest that I need to keep me tethered to a right relationship with the Lord.

So, when do I pause?

Daily – For me, it is helpful to take at least 15 minutes every day that is just time I can sit with a cup of tea, without interruption and noise, to refocus my heart and mind. Chocolate also helps here. There are, of course, days when this doesn’t happen because life with littles is never predictable. But it’s good for me and them if I’m able to have a few quiet moments during the day to recharge and slow down.

Weekly – Sabbath rest is essential, but it doesn’t have to be Sunday. Because my husband is a pastor, Sundays have traditionally been busy days for us. We call our Sabbath Friday afternoon until Saturday afternoon. The specific time will fluctuate occasionally, but it’s a space we like to set aside for hospitality, napping, family time, reading, etc., and where we are not working.

Yearly – Getting away from the everyday is good for building family memories, gaining fresh perspective, and disconnecting from distractions. We would love to do this once every quarter, but it isn’t always possible with everyone’s schedules, so we have started taking a few days or even a week to go somewhere different.  A longer pause will often help me realign when I feel burnout creeping up.

When we first moved to India we didn’t go anywhere but to a one-week youth camp in the mountains for our entire first two years. Two years in the same city and same apartment without a break. It almost drove me insane, and it wasn’t healthy for any of us. Since then we have become much more intentional about our times of rest, hence why this little family jaunt to the beach. Just us without any plans except to make family memories and maybe take a nap or two.

IndiAanya, it seems, has acquired her own rhythm of rest over the past three years. It has always felt good and right to break for a time in the summer and begin again in August. So that’s exactly what we are going to do– pause.

Because our writers are new mothers, old mothers, traveling singles, writers, entrepreneurs, teachers, new wives, students, and loads of other titles you can think of, we need time to pause as well. July is our time to rest and prepare for another year, so if you’re reading for the first time, we’ll be back in August. And if you have suggestions for future topics, feel free to leave them in the comments below, we love hearing what you want to read more about.

 

What are some ways you create space in your life for rest?

 

Photo by Anastasia Taioglou on Unsplash

Gentle Spirit, Fierce Faith

 

She came from a small village in Kerala. So small that it didn’t even have a train station. That was where my great aunt grew up in the 1930’s, the youngest of six children, among paddy fields and coconut trees, in a modest house with a tiled roof and a well outside.

Today, Saramma is a powerhouse of influence over hundreds of women who have the privilege of knowing her.

I always knew “kunjumai,” as we call her, as a wonderful, godly woman. I loved going over to her house. When we went over to spend the day, she would make my favourite chicken fry. There would be homemade spice cake and crisp ginger cookies. There would be marmalade from the Chinese orange plant that somehow managed to survive the summer heat of Madras. There would be pillowy dinner rolls, warm from the oven. Most of all there would be a house full of warmth, where Jesus’ love was tangible.

We would never be bored as children when we went over. We shared guavas plucked from the tree in the backyard, sprinkled with chilli powder and washed down by lemonade. We pored over the old encyclopaedias and photo albums on the neatly arranged bookshelves. We shared stories on the shaded verandah about life and love and God. Kunjumai was full of wisdom, but she never made me feel stupid or small. God was a very natural part of her life, as He continues to be.

He is in her every conversation, without a single sermon. He is in her every gesture, without a whiff of self-righteousness.

Like I said, I always knew she was wonderful. But only later did I discover how remarkable her faith journey was.

Saramma left her hometown to do her bachelor’s degree in Delhi, a bold step for a young woman from Kerala in the 1950s. But God had even more extraordinary plans for her. Not only did she complete her bachelor’s degree, she went on to do her master’s degree from Baroda’s leading university. She then decided to pursue another degree. This time she boarded the Queen Elizabeth to make her way across the world  – to the University of Nebraska.

It was on that campus in Nebraska that this young lady from an obscure, hard-to-pronounce village in Kerala met Jesus. She knew then that her life would never be the same again. Instead of pursuing her PhD in nutrition as she had originally planned, Saramma decided to take on another master’s degree, in Greek and Hebrew from the venerable Wheaton College, Illinois. When she completed her course she knew her calling was to go back to India and work with students.

Armed with one master’s degree from India, two American master’s degrees and a deep love for the Lord, Saramma began her career as a professor at the Allahabad Agricultural Institute. She had settled into her single life, living in the girls’ hostel on campus, when God decided to stir things up a bit. Quite a bit.

A dashing young evangelist visited the campus to preach to a roomful of students. Incidentally, an accomplished young professor of nutrition sciences was in that same room. The minute “PC” saw her, he heard God say, “This is her. This is the woman you’re going to marry.” The next day he marched to her office to tell her that she was the one. Unperturbed, Saramma had three words for him: “Ask my father.”

After a year of corresponding through letters, they tied the knot and started their lives together at the Agricultural Institute. But not for long. Soon, Saramma was pregnant with their first child. Doctors were alarmed. She was carrying a “deformed” child they said. But in the labor room came, not one, but two perfect baby girls.

Three years later, Saramma was pregnant again. She gave birth to another baby girl. But a minute after the baby was delivered, the surprised doctor exclaimed, “Wait, there’s one more!” It was another set of beautiful twin girls.

With four daughters, a full-time teaching job and a husband who was traveling the bulk of the time, Saramma’s plate was not just full, it was overflowing.

Her life was full of unexpected turns. It continues to be. But she handles it with a marvellous grace that comes from an intimate walk with God. Not a morning goes by when she doesn’t start the day with Jesus. She may be expecting 50 people for dinner, she may be unwell, but there’s one thing she is unwilling to compromise on – her time with God.

As I leaf through my recipe book, I see pages marked with her name – Kunjumai’s Carrot Cake or Kunjumai’s Chicken Fry. But I would like to take a page from her book of faith as well.

She shows me that when you’re faced with the unexpected, cling closer to God.

She shows me that when you insist on spending time with Jesus, you instinctively become like Him.

She shows that wisdom that comes from God outshines knowledge.

She shows me that you can be overwhelmingly generous without having a lot of stuff.

She shows me that hospitality is far more beautiful than entertaining.

She shows me that you don’t have to raise your voice for your life to speak volumes.

She shows me that you can inhabit both a sweet gentleness and a fierce faith at the same time.

Today, despite struggles with her health, “Saramma auntie,” as she is known to many, still keeps going. She bakes her famous Christmas cakes for the church sale. She travels to America to spend time with her four accomplished daughters and her grandsons. She cooks up a storm for visitors who are always coming in the front door. And she does it all with a gentle and quiet spirit. She smiles, she welcomes and she puts Jesus on display.

 

Photo by Himanshu Singh Gurjar on Unsplash

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