Lessons From Indonesia: On Being Brave

Bandung traffic finalOh.

The things I could write about today.

Of course, you know there will be an Indonesia story at the end of this…because, yes, it is Monday and there is coffee. (And that’s all I’m going to say about those things today…feel free to be shocked.) 😉

I was also down with…the flu. a bad cold. a headache. a fever. potentially all of it…all weekend and so coming back to my blog sort of feels like I’m crawling off the couch and back into humanity. And I’m starting to feel better and can actually talk now without squeaking.

Oy.

I really hate to be sick, but since I know y’all don’t want the details, I’ll leave it at that.

However, Valentine’s Day happened this weekend, and I found myself grateful beyond words that we celebrated last week with friends so I could fully enjoy my day(s) of crashing on the couch and trying to sleep and rest and diffuse this thing out of my system. It sort of worked. And to save the weekend, hubby made red velvet cookies yesterday, which I ate for breakfast this morning.

Life just feels a little better after those plus coffee.

So let’s get to Indonesia, shall we?

I’ve sort of been in homesick mode for the last week. I think part of that is because I’ve done so much reflecting and remembering…and I’ve got friends in Indo who know how to make me miss this place and these people with just a photo or two. Seriously. One of them posted a photo of the crazy that is motorbike parking in Indonesia…aka: a SEA. OF. MOTORBIKES. And I totally found myself wishing for my cute pink bike once again just so I could zoom it up and down Wisconsin Street once. Or fifty times.

However, my husband has forbidden me from having a Vespa here, my dearest motorbike wish, despite multiple moments of begging, therefore I’m sure this would not go over well.

But I do miss my bike in all of its cute, pink, I-can-drive-this-thing-in-flip-flops, glory. I kind of miss it a lot.

And so I bring you the saga…and it IS a saga…of how I learned to drive a bike. So let’s all shed a tear for Mel and her bike-missing that’s happening over coffee this morning.

And feel free to smile, too. Especially during the part when I run into a bush.

:)

As always, thanks for being here. (And if anyone would like to buy me a Vespa, you know where to find me.) :)

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28

We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.
Madeleine L’Engle

Anyone who lives in a big city knows that having some mode of transportation is necessary for sanity.

When we arrived in Bandung, our immediate needs were close enough that we could walk or take an angkut (minibus) down the hill. Therefore, for the first several weeks, we survived just fine without a car or motorbike or even a bicycle.

But once we had been in-country for a month or two, we had the itch to get out and explore more. Public transportation was doable, but not our favorite method, and the day a stranger sat on me on the angkut, I knew it was time for a motorbike!

I sent Tobin to pick it out because I was down with Bandung Belly, (that’s another story for another day…) and therefore, not going anywhere. I told him I had few preferences other than I did not want a manual transmission and that I’d give him bonus points for a unique color.

He did great and came home after ordering a semi-automatic (yay for multitasking!), orange (woo hoo!) bike.

I was thrilled!

And I was actually the first of us to drive it. It was delivered to our school a few days later, and I hopped on, started it up, and drove it right home from school…AND without killing anyone, though I did have to stop at an intersection to yield to a group of school children. I’m pretty sure they sprinted across the road in utter fear of the newbie bule who, most likely, had no business driving.

Over the next few days, we enjoyed our new-found freedom, even if it just meant having a quicker way to get to and from school. I loved driving that orange beauty, and my confidence grew quickly.

Maybe too quickly.

After we’d had the bike for two weeks or so, I hopped on it to drive myself to school. Tobin was going to walk there later, so I decided to go ahead and leave early to get some things done in my classroom before the day started.

I’m still not sure exactly what happened. The satpam (guard) saw me coming, and I just assumed he would open the gate wider than he did, mostly so I wouldn’t run over him. Well, he didn’t, and being the brave girl I was, I gunned it…right into a bush.

It was one of those humbling moments where I had one of two choices. Laughter or tears…thankfully I chose laughter, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt so completely uncoordinated (and stupid?) in my life.

And it took me almost a year to have the guts to try driving a bike again. For that year, I was content to ride around on the back of it while Tobin drove. Yeah, I was a chicken, but it was also good for me because I was able to learn the city…which streets went where and how to navigate the multiple one ways that seemed to dominate the art of transportation there. I probably learned Bandung better than Tobin did because I spent so much time watching, scoping out the good shopping and coffee places…

…and getting lost, because we did a lot of that, too. 😉

After that year, once I had gotten into the groove of Indonesian life, I knew it was time to try driving again. I needed the freedom to meet up with friends (and to go get coffee!) and so we went out one random day and bought me my own motorbike.

Oh. My. Goodness.

It was pink and soooooo cute. It was an automatic, meaning that I only had to gas and brake with my hands, which was better…less to distract me as I navigated the streets of Bandung on my cute little scooter, which I almost always drove while wearing flip flops.

I did well in the neighborhood around our house but knew I would eventually need to dig up the courage to actually drive in the city…among the cars and motorbikes and angkuts and buses and trucks and bicycles and carts and horses…you get the picture.

I was terrified.

It took every ounce of courage I had to venture out that day. I drove, my hubby followed me on the other bike, and we weaved our way in and out of traffic, going all the way to one of our favorite shopping centers and home again.

And I didn’t die.

Not only did I manage to stay alive, I also learned a very important lesson about bravery. It’s so easy to get caught up in the big picture of a situation and let fear take over, when, in reality, all I had to worry about while driving were the vehicles around me. The one rule of Indonesian driving was that I was responsible for what I could see in front of me. And that was it.

Once I understood that, it was much easier to drive the city…and I got even braver, making trips all over town on my own.

We sold our motorbikes once we bought a car and little M was on the way, and a part of me was sad. Those motorbikes were only things, but to me, they represented an important part of our lives as we learned to really live in Indonesia.

They were also great reminders of a lesson I learned in being willing to do things that seem more difficult than they really are.

Here’s to bravery and to doing more than we think we can.

Anyone for a Vespa ride? 😉

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The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Thank you!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Always There

sammy 600 final
Haha…I’m laughing to myself.

😀

SERIOUSLY.

The things I will do to put off posting on Mondays.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me, please…I want to share these stories.

But sometimes I have to get over myself first, and it takes random things like shoveling FEET of snow and wasting my brain on old NKOTB videos (thanks to my bloggy sister who posted that one) 😉 before I’m quite ready to go there.

The truth is that my Monday morning snark really has nothing to do with this chapter.

Right now I have a lot of words to choose from…of course, that will change as the weeks go by. Well, unless I write more chapters, which will probably happen…there are even a few more ideas saved in the notes section on my phone right now. :)

So I asked my hubby yesterday which one I should share…and he immediately said, Sammy.

He hasn’t read my book…in fact, there are only a handful of friends who have seen a few pieces of it and one friend who’s read the whole thing. Tobin is reading it right along with the rest of you, and yet, somehow he knew there would be a chapter about this.

He knows me and he knows the many things God used to shape me during our time in Indonesia. They weren’t always easy things…and this is definitely one of them that is still painful.

A slight disclaimer: this is oh-so-very-UNedited. And it made me laugh when I read the two scenarios that I managed to combine. But to me it makes sense. And even if it doesn’t to you, I hope the truth here will resonate.

It’s one I need today…and every day.

Thank you for being here. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

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20

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Deuteronomy 31:8

I haven’t made it a secret that Indonesia was not easy.

It wasn’t something I dwelled on as we lived the day-to-day, but there were definitely moments when it became a blunt, in-my-face reminder.

There were moments of homesickness that made me hide under a blanket, curl up into a ball, cry every tear inside me…and eventually bring myself to the point of realizing that since I couldn’t will myself “home” that I would have to crawl out of my cave of despair and face life again.

I always came out, and life always went on, and it even included smiles.

I will never forget a certain day in Decemeber of 2005.

We’d been in the country less than five months…definitely still members in good standing of the newbie group.

But we also wanted to break out of that somewhat and learn to live in this place that was our home and would be just that until God gave us a definitive calling for something else.

And as part of our “breaking out?”

We hopped on the motorbike, determined to find a certain restaurant I had eaten at once.

One. Time.

One time, a little restaurant, in a city of about three million people.

We had a vague idea of where it was, but compounding that very vagueness was a maze of one-way streets. A drive that should have taken us fifteen minutes left us still on the bike ninety minutes later, the sun beating down, the dreaded farmer tan forming on my arms, and our spirits sinking.

Oh, and we had a form of bike butt that I can’t even talk about. Because, for some reason, I remember the pain, and it still makes me cringe.

It was one of the worst feelings to be so lost and have no clue where we were going. (Or, if we were going to get there. Ever.)

Anyway, more and more and more wrong turns later, and after almost two hours of driving around (with a gas stop for a very empty tank), we finally arrived at the restaurant. Ate lunch. Did a little shopping at the outlet store next to it. And left.

Feeling a euphoria mixed with some form of what-on-earth-just happened-here.

Frustration could have ruled the day, but we were both in the same place, I think.

We were finally, really living in this place…finding our independence.

And it felt spectacular.

But was that day easy? Absolutely not. As much as it is etched in my mind for eternity, it is not a day I want to repeat. Ever. (Well, I would repeat the lunch-and-shopping part of it…those were definitely aspects I always enjoyed.) :)

There were so many days and even weeks like that…times when we were left to figure things out or trust that it would all work out even when we had no clue how that might happen. Things always did work out, but sometimes not without a lot of confusion, frustration…and tears.

Perhaps one of the hardest things we experienced was so much like this first account…and yet so different.

We’d just begun our third year of Indonesia life, and we were no longer the new kids in town. We were moving into the mentor role and had just spent the week prior with new staff, helping them set up their houses.

It was a good place to be…and we were truly enjoying life and where God had placed us. We were also coming off of a summer spent in Indonesia…the one summer we chose not to return to the U.S. It had been a difficult two months but was not without blessings, either…including a trip to Bali to celebrate our 5th anniversary.

We’d also had some transparent talks as a couple about our relationship with God and how we both felt there were areas we could improve, specifically with spending more time in His Word.

For the previous two weeks we’d been intentionally rising early to do this in the morning rather than late at night as our eyelids began to droop.

We were being intentional…and we were growing.

That’s why we were blindsided…We. Just. Didn’t. See. It. Coming.

It was a Wednesday morning, and I had just sent my fourth graders to their specials class. I was attempting to dig through the stack of grading that had somehow miraculously appeared on my desk, just two weeks into the new school year, when my husband walked into my room.

I took one look at his face and knew instantly that something was very, very wrong.

Sammy’s gone.

Those words still bring tears to my eyes as I, once again, see the image in my mind of my husband standing in front of me, tears in his own eyes.

Though our pembantu (house helper) was at our house and it was broad daylight, someone had stolen our precious golden retriever without anyone seeing.

To say that the days that followed were horrible is an understatement. We couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t function…and yet all of our school responsibilities went on as expected. My students became accustomed to a teacher who did all the things asked of her but did so with red, swollen eyes and a spirit that seemed to be sinking lower with each passing minute.

We spent every free moment combing the city, blanketing it with fliers, and taking locals with us who would translate for us as we explained to pet stores and the two “stolen” dog markets that there was a big reward, and we would not call the police. We just wanted our dog back.

And in between those things and teaching, we would just try to breathe…somehow.

But it almost felt like helpless floundering.

We felt so lost.

I remember the Sunday that followed because I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The pain was too great, my heart was too heavy, and my God seemed too far away.

I found myself face-down to the floor, my forehead pressed against the ever-dusty tile, and wept to that God. The One Who had promised that He cared for His children, the One Who said He cared about the robins and sparrows, the One Who had promised He’d always walk by my side.

I don’t know how long I stayed in that position, but I know it was for a while because I had a pretty good mark on my forehead for a few days. And I can’t even tell you everything I said between my tears, but I do know that I told God, Sammy’s Yours. I want him back, but he’s Yours.

Two days later, Sammy was returned to us through a series of events that I know my Father orchestrated…but that one is deserving of its own chapter.

Again…that feeling of complete bliss but mixed with some wondering, too, of what on earth had just happened to us.

Having our precious doggy-boy returned to us was a day neither of us will ever forget, but is it a day or a week that we ever want to repeat?

I don’t think that question even bears the need for an answer.

And we’ve since revisited those emotions…emotions that can still be strong enough to bring tears. I’ve combed through the story in the past, searching for something deeper that God may be still trying to teach me, and I think I’ve finally found it in the midst of another season when I just don’t see.

It’s not earth-shattering, it’s not going to shock any of you.

But it is Truth.

There are times in life that are just hard. And while we cry and hurt and wonder, we must never, ever forget Him…He is always there, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Today my Sammy is still his crazy, loud, wonderful, golden-retriever self…and he is a living reminder of this Truth.

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The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

Sig

It’s Okay To Breathe…

bench final 1

Four summers ago some friends and I started meeting on Monday nights for an outdoor workout. It began as a 30-minute walk followed by some strength training. At the time it was a good workout for us and where we were physically…and I know I always left feeling like I’d had a good workout.

When the weather became colder, we moved our workouts to the school gym, where we’d run stairs and then do more strength and cardio fun. Yes, fun. 😉

And then a running club began in the spring, and by the next summer a lot of us were running three or more miles and then doing more exercising after that.

And slowly over the course of the next months and years, our workout night continued to morph and become even more difficult.

And those Monday nights have continued over the last years as we’ve tried to hold each other accountable in the journey of being healthy and becoming stronger.

Our latest adventure has been a series of Beachbody workouts, ranging from hardcore cardio to too many squats, from planking to killer ab moves that make me want to say bad words.

This journey of working out has been a good one, but it’s also been a hard one.

There’s been a lot of trying with everything I have…of pushing myself beyond what I probably should some days. And the trying can sometimes feel impossible…like the results are out of my control.

Because they usually are.

I remember a specific workout a few weeks ago. It was brutally difficult…and there was a point when we were doing burpees, and I seriously couldn’t do another one. I just couldn’t. I had to stop and breathe before I pushed myself, once more, down into that dreaded pushup-but-much-worse position.

Resting became necessary before I could even continue.

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams, sharing about what God did in my heart when I gave myself permission to rest. Will you join me there? :)

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Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: (3) On Getting Up Again

surfing final
So here I am on a Monday afternoon (or, evening…ahem…) and that’s because yours truly woke up with a monster migraine. Hello, beginning of the week and the inability to function and write a coherent sentence until the pounding-nails-into-my-temples feeling is gone.

I’ve mentioned this a time or two before, but I really am not a Monday fan. That was part of the reason I decided to share my chapters on Mondays…you know, to try to make Monday into a day I actually LOOK. FORWARD. TO.

But enough about the fact that it’s Monday. Almost Tuesday now. 😉

Also, you are not going crazy. I promise. I shared chapter one last week…this week, chapter three. I decided to jump around a little. That, and chapter two needs some revisions that my brain wasn’t up for over the weekend. And if I post chapter 26 next week, don’t be too alarmed. 😉

So today I bring you a different one, but this is one of my favorites. I can still remember the day like it was yesterday. I hope you enjoy reading about the time this clumsy girl learned to surf and the lessons I’ve learned from the wipeouts…and from the getting up again part, too.

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3

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
Maya Angelou

Something I’d wanted to do since I was a little girl was learn to surf.

This is a particularly odd choice of goals since I grew up in small-town Iowa where large bodies of water were all but absent. Nevertheless it remained a dream…something I could see myself doing someday.

Before we moved to Indonesia, I only saw the ocean twice. The first time, we were in California for our first anniversary, and not getting killed by the waves? Was my goal. (Let’s just say I had a very unhealthy fear of death by large wave.)

The second time was when we were in South Africa, and the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean hovered in the 40’s, I’m sure. Just sticking my toes in was enough to freeze my entire body…no way was I going to submerge myself in that water!

I really didn’t even have a chance to learn to surf until we moved to Indonesia.

During our five years there, we made just three trips home, and we usually spent our Christmas breaks traveling. During that first Christmas in 2005, we took a two-week trip to Bali, where my love for all-things-ocean was kindled.

We swam, we bodysurfed, we boogie-boarded. We soaked up all that the glorious Indian Ocean had to offer us.

But I was afraid of that sport that required standing and riding a board propelled by ocean waves…surfing looked really, really scary.

So during our first trip, I didn’t try it, certain that I never would have been able to actually stand up on that board anyway.

During Spring Break of our second year in Indonesia, I went back to Bali with a few girlfriends. We spent our days between the beach and the pool, shopping, and eating all the yummy food we could never find in Bandung.

Our last morning there I had this nagging feeling. The whole week, I had psyched myself out of trying to surf, making excuses.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling.

So I hopped out of the pool, followed by two of my friends, marched right down to the beach (which was less than fifty meters away), and up to a guy renting out surfboards. Before I could chicken out, I hired myself a surf instructor and board for $5. (I love Indonesia prices.)

My instructor gave me a quick crash course in how to move from lying on the board to standing, all in Indonesian, of course. (I nodded my head and pretended to understand.)

Two minutes later we were out in the ocean, and as I stood in the chest-deep water for my first run, I felt like throwing up my breakfast. What on earth was I doing?

I carefully climbed onto the board, which my instructor was holding for me, and I watched the wave come up behind me. He let go…and I flew forward, hanging on for dear life.

But did I stand? No.

Did I even try to stand? Hmmm. Nope.

We laughed, he said something to me that I couldn’t translate, and I went back for another run, determined to at least move this time.

Again, I watched the wave come up behind me and felt my heart start to beat like crazy. As he let go of the board, I pushed myself up. I actually got one leg underneath me before I tumbled off the board.

Hey, it happens, and I’m pretty sure I scored graceful points for the somersault I did on the way down.

Third times the charm, right? I grabbed my board and faced the waves once again, determined to get it right.

Same story as before. As he let go of the board, I pushed up with everything I had, and I was standing!

The thing I forgot? Was that one must balance in order to stay ON the surfboard. I was so busy celebrating that I lost my balance, face-planted into the water, and came up sputtering after inhaling half of the ocean.

If you’ve ever gotten saltwater in your eyes, just multiply the pain times fifty or so.

It hurt.

I hurt.

And I was totally mortified that about a hundred people, give or take, had witnessed my thrashin’ wipeout. Sometimes there were just disadvantages to being the sometimes-uncoordinated-but-way-too-brave, white girl who thought she could surf.

Thankfully, I can laugh at myself in the midst of pain, which is probably what saved the day from being a total disaster…because on the next ride, I was determined to succeed.

My instructor had barely let go of the board when I popped up, steadied myself on both legs, and rode that board all the way in. A few feet from shore, I hopped off, looked up at a spectator who’d obviously witnessed the entire scene, and gave him a grin as if to say, You didn’t think I could do that, did you?

I spent the next hour riding wave after wave. Sometimes it would be a beautiful ride, sometimes I’d wobble, sometimes I’d completely wipe out…

But I couldn’t stop smiling…because I was following through on a dream I’d had for myself, and it was a beautiful one. There are few feelings I’ve had in my life that top what it’s like to ride a surfboard into shore.

There were several trips to Bali and other beaches over the next few years, and each chance I had, I’d rent a surfboard for a few rupiah, run out into the ocean, and ride the waves like they belonged to me.

Sure, there were wipeouts and face-plants. (Lots of them.) There were days when I fell more than I actually surfed. A couple times I probably came close to severely injuring myself when I took some hard falls.

But learning to surf taught me a lot about life…because there are going to be those days. Days when we feel victorious as we rise above everything…conquering the things that threaten to tear us down. There are also those days when, no matter what we do, the waves are just too much and they knock us down…sometimes harder than we were expecting.

But no matter what…I’ve learned to always get up and keep going.

We recently passed a shop that had a surfboard for sale, and I joked about buying it to use on Lake Michigan.

The truth is that the surfing part of my life is over, and I don’t know when (or if) I’ll ever hop on a surfboard again to face the waves.

But I know the lessons I learned from those rides…and they are worth every wipeout.

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: (1) Finding Beauty

indo green
I’m not sure if I’ll write an intro for every chapter or not, but today you get one. :)

I sort of had a freak out moment yesterday…the kind when I basically told my husband that I didn’t want to share my book with the world anymore.

But don’t leave. Keep reading. 😉

Why? he asked.

There were a lot of replies swirling around in my head.

For starters, I am SOOOOO imperfect. Like, more imperfect than any of you, at least it feels that way often. I tend toward the drama and the crazy and the exuberant, and I think I drive some people crazy a lot of the time because of those things. I don’t want my words or my stories OR ME to be annoying.

And also, in the more realistic realm of all of it, writing a biography-ish piece is…well, it’s a true story that’s been lived. I write the way I saw it and felt it and remember it, not the way others saw it. Does that make sense? I fear that my writing will be questioned.

Which might bring us to the final answer I gave to my husband. The truth of why I didn’t want to to do this? Fear.

It’s true that when we chase a dream, even if it looks so much different than we every could have anticipated, it’s just plain scary. Plus, I really think the devil is just having a heyday with all of this, too.

Oh, my book may never see the shelves of your local bookstore, but words are words, and they’re here just the same. In public for anyone to read and critique.

Fear. It’s creeping in.

It could win today, but I’m going to choose to kick it to the curb.

So here’s the first piece of my heart…the first piece of many. And it’s pretty fitting that it’s also about the first day we spent in Indonesia, too. :)

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1

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.
Confucius

I can’t tell you a lot about the first day my husband and I spent in Indonesia. I do know that we arrived at the Jakarta airport sometime in the afternoon, and that it was hot.

Shirt-glued-to-my-back-in-two-minutes hot.

And by the time we’d stood and sweated our way through that way-too-long, visa-on-arrival line, I wanted only one thing…to go home. I’m not sure what I considered home to be at that very moment, but I knew it was calling my name.

It may have been that the single thing on my mind was a bed with a pillow.

Well, there was another thing, too…I also wanted my dog who had completed his mandatory quarantine in the country and was waiting for us at some obscure, out-of-the-way pet store/shipping company tucked somewhere in the bustling city of Jakarta.

Thankfully we found the friends we were supposed to meet quickly, and they led us (and our mountain of stuff) to a waiting van, and we were soon on our way.

With just a few wrong turns, our driver managed to find our dog, which provided a joyous reunion. We grabbed some McDonald’s and endured our quite-by-accident, first experience with sambal…Indonesian chili sauce.

And then we were really on our way.

I was jet lagged.

I was emotional.

I was dreading the inevitable of using a squatty potty.

And I forgot to look around me.

That first day in Indonesia remains such a fog of images, pieced together by what I imagine and what I’ve seen other times. But I can’t really visualize my first impressions.

And that makes me sad.

After an exhausted night’s sleep in a strange place, I woke (around 3:30 a.m.) to the sound of the call to prayer from a nearby mosque. We had known about the call to prayer from our previous interactions with people who worked at the school, and so it didn’t catch us completely by surprise. Nevertheless, I still let out a grumble, stuffed my head under my pillow, and tried to catch a few more winks.

It didn’t work.

I pulled out my husband’s laptop and popped in a movie to entertain myself instead.

Nowhere in that moment did I look for beauty…granted, I’m not sure exhausted scratched the surface of how I was feeling. Yet at that very moment hundreds, even thousands, of people around me were rising to spend time in prayer. Who they were praying to is not the issue here…but rather the idea of a commitment.

That’s beauty.

I took living in the mountains for granted.

The beautiful, green that surrounded us became our normal backdrop. What I should tell you? Is that I’m not sure there’s more beauty anywhere else on the planet.

And what I loved even more about the mountains is that God placed them in a country that I sometimes found sad. The vast majority of Indonesian people have little and live day-to-day. At first glance, the city of Bandung was not very beautiful…in some, or more-than-some, ways it looked quite dirty. (It actually won the Dirtiest City in Indonesia award one year, though I’m still looking for the proof on that one.) 😉

But the mountains that surrounded it?

Beautiful.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that living there was always easy. While I loved it a lot of the time, it was sometimes a hard place to live, and I never reached the point when I felt like I belonged completely.

I often became frustrated when I couldn’t effectively communicate in Indonesian. I would figuratively curse rainy season and the many days it ruined my plans as well as my clothes and my hair. I complained about traffic and not-so-silently wished that the masses descending on our city for a visit would just go home.

But I also grew to love the Indonesian people and found them to be some of the kindest, friendliest, most loving people I’ve ever had the privilege to live among.

They are beautiful.

Really, when we stop to look at our daily lives, there is beauty all around us.

It can be found in the form of a friend taking time from her day to call and chat for a few minutes. Or, in a just-because-you’re-important-to-me hug from a student. Or a stranger going out of his or her way to offer help to someone who is directionally impaired…and can’t speak a lick of the local language, either.

When I look back at the time we spent in Indonesia, I wish I had taken more opportunities to drink in the beauty that surrounded me…to stop and savor each and every moment.

For there is always beauty, no matter where you are. Take the time to look for it.

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The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: I Wrote a Book (Sort Of)

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Hi, friends.

(Yes, I’m posting in the afternoon, which seems to be a new trend. But I’m sharing the following anyway because…well, because the morning was early once upon a time.) 😉

Well, here we are. Bright and early…and I do mean EARLY…on this Monday morning. And today is the day I begin this journey of sharing my Indonesia stories.

Feel free to do cartwheels…that is, if you feel so inclined at this early hour.

To begin, I need to apologize for a couple of things. First, it’s early. Early. (Have I mentioned that yet this morning?) I had to stumble blindly to the coffee maker because it was that. early. and my eyes? Well, they just refused to open. I’m not exactly sure what words are going to be written this early, and I’m not sure I can be held entirely responsible for them, either. 😉

Also, so many of you were crazy-sweet last week and expressed how excited you were to read my stories on Mondays. *total blush* Bless y’all from the bottom of my heart.

Today won’t exactly be a story, which is also why I sort of feel like I should have written a disclaimer. The actual stories will start next week. This morning, I’m just telling you a little bit about why I wrote the book, which I know isn’t nearly as fascinating as the time I was almost swept away by raging flood waters or the first time I tried durian and just about threw up the entire contents of my stomach on the side of the road.

Clearly at least the drama part is in my favor this morning. 😉

So when I look at the calendar and see 2015, it feels surreal that my husband and I are looking at being back in the U.S. almost five years. It truthfully seems like those years have flown, and there’s a part of me that wonders if we’ve been gone too long for me to tell my stories.

Is anyone going to care anymore?

Not gonna lie…that particular thought has crossed my mind many, many times.

There have been so many times in the last two years, especially, that I dreamed of seeing my book of Indo stories on a shelf, all printed, with the most beautiful cover the world has ever seen. I wanted it all so badly. 

And I will even confess that there is a tiny pinch in my heart over sharing them here instead of continuing to pursue publishing.

But it goes back to telling the stories and how much I just want to do that. I don’t so much care about making any money from this blog or even from the book…I never really did. That’s just not me. It may be you, and that is totally fine, and I will even jump up and down and cheer for you when it’s not quite so early in the morning. It’s simply not what God wants for me…and I’ll take that. :)

Over the next year, I’m going to be giving you glimpses into the life we had while living in Indonesia. These stories are told from the heart of a woman who loved her time there. It wasn’t all sunshine and daisies…in fact, many days it was more like rainstorms and cockroaches…but there was so much good. Yes, there were hard days, and I’ll talk about those, too.

But I want to remember our years there…forever. And this is my way of documenting it all. Just like I write here about life and what God is teaching me in this particular season, the book I wrote is very much the same…it’s just from a different time in life. A different place. Different circumstances.

Sharing it with you all is sort of my God-sized Dream all thrown out here in the open for everyone to read…but I think it’s time. And I jokingly said to a friend that in a year, I’m going to have a lot of fun writing a blog post titled, The Year I Wrote a Book in Public.

Hmmmm. 😉

So thank you…for being here. For reading. For laughing with me. For letting a tear drip here or there.

Here’s to a year of stories and lessons from a time in my life that still means the world.

I hope you enjoy it all.

Photo Credit: Florian Kreitmair

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See Ya, 2014

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It’s safe to say, almost-a-million times, that I’ve put off writing this post.

I’ve been aware for several weeks that I needed to sit down and, somehow, find a way to put 2014 into words.

Words that are honest but also bring hope. Words that remember but also look forward.

It’s proven to be much more of a challenge than I thought it would be.

But that’s ok. Today I’m finding you and my blog dashboard after an embarrassingly-late sleep in and two large mugs of coffee…and I think I’m ready to share.

So let’s get to it. Though I am extremely tempted to refill the coffee mug yet again before I chat. We’ll see. 😉

When I look back a year and read through some of the things I shared with you all, I realize something. I had so much hope for 2014.

That hope looked like a lot of things. Restoration in relationships, especially my marriage. Hopefully an addition to our family. Topping it all off with a book deal.

I like to dream big. :)

When I make that list of things, there is a certain semblance of failure that threatens to creep into my heart. And while I won’t let it creep in, the tears are definitely creeping toward the corners of my eyes, and I have to blink them back.

There’s so much I wanted from 2014…so much that wasn’t just NOT given, but was also taken. It’s easy to dwell on those things and let them define a year.

A year. The truth is that we had a packed year. A crazy one. A difficult one. And there was a lot of good in the middle of it.

This was the year we finally got to take our sweet girl to our second home. I still can’t stop the tears of joy when I think of the first time we introduced her to strawberry juice or she rode on a motorbike or she gave our beloved pembantu a hug. We had dreamed of being back in Indonesia as a family, and I still have to pinch myself when I remember that we actually got to go.

IndoMotor
There were also some pretty sweet reunions with some of my favorite sisters.
To steal a line from Logan…or was it Sarah Mae? 😉 It still blows my mind that the internet gave me some of my best friends. They are truly a gift, one I am so grateful for.

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And part of me wishes I could just stop there so you could all see the good…but I know I need to keep going and keep it real. :) Because there are other pieces of the year that need to be shared…

And they SHOULD be remembered because they’re forever-pieces of the story He’s writing.

The hope our family had of another child broke to shards on a sunny July morning, and it has taken months to even begin to pick up the pieces. Our hearts still ache and the tears still fall, and while I will make no apologies for those things, I also know that I need to hold onto Hope and continue to walk forward. It’s there, even when I don’t see it, and I need to claim the promise that His plans for me are good ones.

We said a heart-wrenching goodbye in September to a beloved member of our family. It was a sudden, painful blow, and while there are so many good memories of the wonderful 11 years with our sweet boy, we just hurt. Still. And we accept that He gives and takes away, but that isn’t without tears. And those tears just have to be part of life for this season as we move forward and love the ones we hold in our arms.

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And maybe a silver lining in all of this loss is that God has knit us closer together as a family and especially in our marriage.
We have clung to each other as we’ve tried to cling to Him. God has deepened our marriage, forcing us to walk with Him together on the many, many days we don’t see. We love each other more deeply (though we can still argue with the best of them!) and we choose to walk this life together, now, more than ever…even if there are days when it’s tempting to throw it all away.

And we also hold on a little tighter to our girl, too…though she did give me a reminder the other day. Mommy, soon I’ll be too big for your arms! Never, my girl. Never. 😉

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I’ve also watched Him take the book-writing dream and say a firm, No.
That one…it’s hard to swallow. Writing and publishing a book has been so much of what I’ve let define me as a blogger…and yet, it’s not what He’s calling me to.

That makes me cry, kind of a lot. And yet, through so many things, I know He is just saying that it isn’t what I should be doing right now. I’m being called to a season of depth and connection, not building and branding. I’ve needed to let go…for awhile now. And as I’ve slowly accepted that and loosened my grip, I can’t tell you how much peace it’s brought. How much pressure it’s released.

And it’s also confirmed something in my heart.

You see, I want to tell my stories. I don’t want to sell them.

And so…you’re all going to be getting them this year. On the blog. Every Monday, I’m going to share one. Unedited, raw, heart-stories that come from a tender place in my soul from an unforgettable time in my life. Stories He gave me that I want to share.

I lived them, and so it’s time to tell them. I hope you’ll be back every week to read them. :)

Honestly, it’s easy to read all of this and and wonder how on earth so many paradoxes can coexist. In some ways I’m shaking my head…but mostly, I have to remind myself that I don’t see the whole picture. Oh, I’d love to…but alas. 😉

If I’m being completely honest here, it’s tempting to say (audibly AND loudly), See ya, 2014. Don’t let the door smack you too hard in the #!* on the way out!

Brutal honesty here, folks. 😉

And yet, I want to walk away from this year, knowing without a doubt that none of it was wasted.

I see it so much already…in the prospect of sharing my words for the simple fact that I can tell my stories, in expectantly looking forward to the good He holds for us, in the ways He is taking the heartbreak and making something beautiful from it.

It’s what I hope for in 2015.

Which brings us TO 2015…at least tomorrow. Will you come back? I want to tell you about the word He’s given me for the year.

It holds Hope, a different kind. One that I think He might be using to knit our hearts back together.

I truly love each one of you who have spent even a few seconds here. Thank you for that, from the bottom of my heart.

Goodbye, 2014.

(And have a Happy New Year, my friends!) :)

Photo Credits: Kim Deloach Photography, Alan Levine

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I’m linking up at God-sized Dreams today as part of our One Year Celebration…seriously, can you believe it’s been a year?! We’re all sharing stories and updates from what God has done this year…so hop on over and join us. :)

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I’m also linking up with my sweet friend, Kristin, for Three Word Wednesday. :)

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Sig

Deep, Not Wide

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I made a mistake last year.

Well, to be fair, I make them every day. 😉

But this one…it was the kind that grated on me for a year. I just couldn’t get it out of my head. And I knew things needed to be different, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I had done wrong. And, really, it took twelve months to process.

But this morning, as I sit down with my coffee and pour my heart out to you, I’m starting to see.

And, oh…it feels good to finally see.

So one of my dreams has been, for a long time, to “make it” in the blogging world…to become the next big blogger, whatever that looks like.

And what that DOES look like…well, I still haven’t quite figured that out. For a long time, I had it in my head that it meant tons of followers, comments, a platform the width of the world, lots of recognition. And, of course, a book deal to follow.

In reality it sounds like a lovely, perfectly-ordered dream, doesn’t it?

And there was a time…a span of about a year…when I chased that dream hard.

Too. Hard.

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams telling a heart-story, one that’s tough to share with the world. Will you join me there?

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Sig

Please Use Caution When Opening Your Drink…

smilebooth2 final I should have titled this post something more along the lines of…

Allume 2014.

Family Reunion 2014.

Lessons From a Really Great Weekend.

On Meeting With an Agent and Other Things That Whisper Hope.

A Weekend of Blessings.

Or, all of the above.

I flew in late Sunday night after a glorious five days spent in the beautiful city of Greenville, South Carolina. Seriously, y’all (do you HEAR me getting all Southern already?!) I heart this city. I have plans to bring some of you TO this city. If I didn’t love where I live so much, I’d be tempted to move my family down there so we can eat fried green tomatoes and sweet potato cake for the rest of our days.

Maybe I love it for reasons like this…

cupcake quote finalBecause, YES. I do want to live in a city that has signs like this on their sidewalks.

Or, this…

cutepuppy finalMel walks into cute, upscale boutique.
Is greeted by cute puppy.
Immediately trades browsing for puppy cuddles and a picture.

But chances are, I love it most of all for this.

allume4-1024x768 finalMy heart sisters. They are forever that.*

When I started my blog back on that lonely, cold morning in January 2011, I had no idea it would turn into Community. Family. Sisterhood.

These are my people…

The ones who stay up late and chat deep and laugh loud with me when I totally explode my drink mid-flight. Yes, yes I did.

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The ones who, when you finally meet in person for the first time, are just as wonderful and sweet and encouraging as you knew they’d be.

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The ones who take the time to hold my hand, share a hug, and whisper Hope to me in a season that doesn’t feel like there’s much to hope in.

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The ones who pray me through a knee-knocking meeting with a literary agent, the kind in which I hand over my proposal. (aka: My. Heart.)

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The ones who don’t count how many cupcakes I eat in one weekend.

DelonnaGindiMel&Kim final
The ones who will sit and drink coffee and share life, even just minutes before they have to leave.

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The ones who make me smile just because they’re near me.

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The ones who will stand by my side as we worship our Father and trust that He is good in ALL.

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The ones who share their dreams and stories…the pretty parts of them and the not-so-pretty, too.

Meetup finalLoved the God-sized Dreams meet up!*

Yes, I went to Allumeand it IS a writing conference…an amazing one. Logan and her team did an awesome job, and I’m so grateful for the prayers, sweat, and tears they put into it for all of us.

But it’s also so much more than a writing conference. It’s that place where I find so many of my friends…sisters. It’s a place where we just get each other. It’s a place where we raise our hands and praise Him…completely…even when it’s hard and the tears flow. It’s a sweet, precious gift, and when it’s over…well, it takes more than a few days to process it all.

I didn’t know how much I needed to be there this weekend…how much I needed to just go and cry and laugh and beand then find some healing. And there was…it wasn’t the kind of healing that makes it all go away. It was the kind where God used people, over and over, to remind me that He still loves me so much and that there are so many blessings still to be had. Even in loss.

There were some cool God stories…and I’ll share those someday. Stories about how God opened up seats BOTH TIMES on full flights so my sweet sister and I could sit together and share life and eat cupcakes at 20,000 feet for a bit longer. Stories about how God brought two precious women…now friends…into my life to bring some Hope to a heart that has just begged for a glimpse of light.

MIssy&Mel finalI love this girl…she has such an amazing heart.
And she makes some of the most awesome jewelry ever.
(See Mel’s necklace.) 😉

Dawn&group finalWith my friend, Dawn, in the middle next to me. LOVE her, her story, and how God planned our meeting.
(And we’re with two super awesome women who I wish I’d had a chance to talk with longer!) :)

Today, though, just think of this post as the scratch-the-surface-and-dump-my-photos kind. Feel free to share some smiles or grab a picture. One of the whole twenty…maybe…I took. 😉 And if you’d like a copy without the watermark, just let me know and I’ll send it your way.

To the wonderful women…friends…sisters…who were part of this weekend. Thank you. You mean so much to me…and though it’s hard to put into words, I think you understand just how much that is.

Until we meet again. And I hope it won’t be too long.

*I’m not sure which of my GSD sisters get credit for these photos. But, thank you!!! :)

Sig

Take a Friend

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A few weeks ago, I pulled myself out of bed earlier than normal on a Saturday morning, fully intending to get a run in before I started my day.

It was a good morning for it…not too sunny, not too humid (yet), and I had the best intentions…but for whatever reason, 8:30 rolled around and I still hadn’t laced up my shoes.

I found myself lacking motivation for something that I typically do enjoy, at least once I get going.

In a last, desperate attempt to get myself moving and excited about pounding pavement, I looked at my daughter. Do you want to go running with me?

Yes, Mommy!

Well, there was my, you-can’t-get-out-of-this-now-Mel, answer. We were definitely going running.

It was well after nine before we were finally out the door with Mae chattering away a mile a minute as I strapped her into the jogger.

We took off…and, friends?

We seriously had the BEST time.

And as we pushed through those three-point-one miles, I couldn’t help but smile at the moments God was giving us…

He was using my daughter to teach me some important lessons about the journey.

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams, sharing about the importance of sharing the dreaming journey with others…join me?

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