Friday, August 1, 2014

Stay In Step

*We posted this as our second entry, but I accidentally deleted it. So I am reposting it.*

At the last staff meeting before we left, everyone laid hands on us and prayed over us. As they were praying, our elder and friend, Jeremy, prayed that we would stay in step with God during these two months in Nepal. That phrase came flooding back during our first attempt at getting to the "other side".

Crossing the road in Nepal is…let’s just say… an adventure. Think bicycles, taxis, cows, trucks, people, motorbikes beeping, and a partridge in a pear tree, all at once, coming from the opposite direction you are used to. Now picture our family, from suburbia America, all 7 of us trying to get to the other side of the street in Kathmandu. We tried to prep the kids for this. We talked to them about the importance of staying right in step with us. We told them.

Stay in step, they said. It will all work great, they said.

But when the time came to actually cross the street, it didn’t quite go as we imagined. One of the kids froze. Just froze. Right in the middle of the street, crippled with fear. One thought independence was the route to take in a situation like this. A couple of them grabbed onto us for dear life. We made it across, obviously. And from that two minutes of organized chaos, we learned an incredible lesson.

Stay in step with the One who has called us here, the One who has gone before us. Stay in step without letting fear cripple us. Don’t run ahead, thinking we know what the next step should be. Just stay in step with Him!

We are so thrilled to be here. It has been hard to write as much as we expected. Getting our internal clocks set to a 10 hour time difference has meant zoning out during the times we would normally be able to write.  But, we are settling in and adjusting well. All of the kids are doing great. It took them a total of about 15 minutes to become “one of them”.

Marlin, our 21 year old, introduced a skateboard! HIlarious!
 Madi is just ready to move here!
 Parker had a play dough party.
Lily has made a friend for life!

Dylan says these are the “best buddies” ever..

Todd and I just sit back and watch how God has shaped our family for a time such as this. Now don’t be mistaken. We have experienced some challenges.

Madi had a cockroach the size of my thumb crawling on her neck while she slept last night. Yep, just stop and say a prayer that this doesn’t happen again. I think all of Nepal woke up.

We have already washed some of our clothes by hand (mainly because two of our bags didn’t arrive, so the girls and Todd only have three outfits, and well let’s just say the Nepali food hasn’t quite agreed with Dylan.)

One week is gone already. Crazy! We are thankful to be here, and we want to stay in step with all that God has in store for us.

If you want to see more pictures of our trip, you can follow us on Instagram at toddfoster1970 and sheafoster. You can also friend us on Facebook at Todd Foster and Shea Williams Foster.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's Only Temporary

On Sundays for the last 6 weeks, we took a few hours to go out to breakfast and then to a pool at a local hotel in Pokhara. It was a great time together as we prepared for each week ahead. The pool is located directly in front of the landing spot for the paragliders. So each week we watched dozens of paragliding adventures land right in front of us as we swam. It never got old.

This past Sunday, there was a girl at the pool, sitting alone. Upon our arrival, I walked up to her and apologized for ruining her peace and quiet with our small family of seven. She laughed and we started chatting. I learned that she is from France in Nepal visiting her boyfriend who is a paragliding pilot. She was watching him work as she enjoyed the pool. He is Venezuelan, but has not lived there in years due to some political issues. So I asked her, “Where is his home?” She replied, “Nowhere. He moves around all the time and has no country.” We enjoyed meeting her and watching her boyfriend land his parachute beautifully each time.

We had other similar encounters during this trip. Meeting people from all over the world. In shops, restaurants, airports. Becoming friends on Facebook, and wondering if we would ever cross paths again.

Unlike our new paragliding pilot friend, we do have somewhere to go. We do belong to a country. We came to Nepal at the beginning of June. We have a return flight home tomorrow. We are due to pull into our driveway on July 30th. We will be home. During our time in Nepal, we knew the return flight would be approaching. We settled in as best we could, but we never made it our home. Our clothes were in Rubbermaid tubs, our comfort foods were rationed (We had war over the last fruit rollup), our sheets and towels were on loan. We were always guests and were so thankful for the way they loved on our family the whole time. Our time, our home, this experience in Nepal, was only temporary.

But wait, as a follower of Jesus, isn’t my whole experience here on earth supposed to be temporary? God said it in Hebrews 13:14, “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” We are supposed to live as though our lives here are temporary. We have spent time thinking about how we lived here in Nepal since this was not our home. We thought about how it would even be possible to live like that in Virginia.

When we get back to VA, we won’t be selling all of our dressers and living out of plastic tubs. I think it’s different than that. What we did with our time, our energy, our resources here, was focused on investing in others for the sake of Christ rather than being distracted by our stuff  and spending our time setting up so we can live comfortable lives. I will still decorate my home and buy gifts for my children. You will still see me in the drive-thru at Chick-Fil-A. But, we want to focus our time, energy and resources on our permanent home, not the one we pay a mortgage on. We want life to be intentional… because this home is only temporary!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Need

I love learning and exploring new cultures. In fact, I was on an airplane a couple years ago from India to Nepal, sitting next to a young Indian man who had just gotten married. He was very friendly and answered all of my curious questions about life in India and arranged marriage. I learned a lot on that short plane ride that day. After my line of interrogation, I asked him if he had any questions about life in America. What he said to me was so profound, I think of it often. He said, “I have heard that Americans don’t know their neighbors, that you build garages so you don’t ever see your neighbors, and that you don’t REALLY know each other, yet everyone is always ‘fine’ if you ask them.” He then asked me why we don’t need each other. He talked about how they do life together and that without one another, they wouldn’t survive.

I have thought so much about that conversation during these last six weeks of living in Nepal. It has been lived out in front of me daily. This dependence on one another. Each one offers something so important to everyone else. It is family. It is life.

And now, it is becoming life for our family. We all need one another. That concept is sometimes hard to see when we are going in all different directions back home. There’s something so unique and amazing about each person in our family, something that we need from each other. It is unfolding in real time here, and now we get to take it home.

It isn’t just in our family. On the morning we were leaving Lynchburg to start our Nepal adventure, a beautiful friend handed me a stack of envelopes. There was one for each day we would be gone, letters from several different friends. It is hard to describe the lifeline these letters have been for us here. On a day when we were tired, hot and discouraged, we opened up our letter for that day.

We read, “It’s a new week. How are you? You may be getting tired at this point. Praying you find strength in Him! No doubt you’ve had some tense moments already. Don’t stop saying yes. Keep pressing in.”

Yep, we needed that! And we have needed each one!

And the Facebook messages, texts, and emails from countless people encouraging us to keep going. We value each one.

We need people. We all do. We need each other in order to survive. We always talk about this idea of community. We need people who are the same and people who are different from us. Over these past six weeks, that idea has come to life. And now we get to take it home with us.

If this journey were a 50K race, we would be on the last leg, we would have less than 10K to go. We know the finish line is coming up. It has been an amazing race. Full of fun adventure, a gazillion mosquitos, rice, beautiful people, family, huge life lessons, sweat, laughter and emotion.

Now to figure out how to wrap it all up, say goodbye, help our kids transition back, and enjoy the process of coming back home.

If you would like to see pictures of our journey, please follow us on Instagram (SheaFoster or ToddFoster1970) or on Facebook (Shea Williams Foster or Todd Foster).

Monday, June 30, 2014

Number Our Days

We counted the days until we left to come to Nepal. As the departure date drew closer, the emotions heightened. Numbering those days brought anticipation and excitement as we prepared, and everyone wondered what this adventure would bring. What would we experience that is new? What would we eat that is weird? Will the kids at Trust Home be excited for our family to be living with them for 7 weeks? And so much more. That same anticipation was there when we boarded the plane, and was still there during our 7 hour layover in Doha. Everyone was filled with wonder.

We have now been here for 24 days. We are pretty much settled in now. Not all the streets look alike as they did when we first arrived, and we know the way to the market. We are used to dodging cows in the streets, and the deafening horns on the big trucks just as they pass by don’t make us nearly wet ourselves anymore. We are pros at laundry-by-hand (not even close actually), and can cook a mean dinner using just a propane burner. We are covered in bug bites and have nearly forgotten what AC feels like.

We leave to go home in 24 days. That sank in this morning. We shared this with our children at breakfast, and talked about making these days really count. Putting a number on the days that are left brought about a much different emotion than the first time we counted the days. While we are looking forward to seeing our family and friends, and we are all anticipating eating things we miss from home, like a big cheeseburger or a yummy salad or salsa or Chick-Fil-A (ok, I should stop now as my mouth is watering), the reality is that we are sad to leave.

Everyday is hard and amazing all at the same time. It is a moment by moment dependency on God, and definitely is not fun when our independency creeps in. One of the things we have learned by being here together, is that families need more shared spiritual experiences that help them grow together. As a result of this shared experience, we pray we will never be the same! All of us. Closer together. Closer to the heart of God.

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

This journey has taught us to be present in every moment. Realize how important today is. Numbering our days should not merely make us look forward to what is coming, but to live in the moment, here and now.

Make it count. Don’t miss it. Enjoy the process.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Leaning in

As parents, we are always teaching our kids life lessons and hoping they will get it. The icing comes when through their life, we learn lessons from them. It’s a beautiful thing.

Marlin has been fully a part of our family for four years. He legally became Marlin Travale Jones-Foster on April 1 of this year. When he first walked into my third grade classroom in 2001, something happened in my heart for this kid. There was some kind of connection that really has no words. He came over and spent time with our family, and after a couple of years we lost touch. Seven years later, we were reunited (I’ll save that incredible story for another post).

So as Marlin started to become part of our family more and more, we would always pray that he would long to know what it means to follow Jesus. At first, he just slept through church (he basically slept through life), and as he slept, we just prayed that somehow God would help him see his need for a Savior. Then, slowly, he started to wake up from that sleep. He started listening. He started engaging. He started asking questions. And in 2012 Marlin made a life-altering decision to surrender his will to live for Christ. It was hard and amazing all at the same time. He started learning what it meant to say no to his old life and yes to what God wants for him, even when it doesn’t make sense.

So when we said we were coming to Nepal for the summer as a family, he said yes to coming also. We talked and prayed about what this experience would be like for him. We talked about a more simple way of life. We talked of everything that would be new and different. We talked about leaning in. And he responded with a resounding YES! He may have wanted to change his mind when we boarded his first ever plane (a 14 hour plane ride). In his words, “I’m about to poop my pants right now.”

We came here to build into the older kids at the home. To disciple them. To help them know how to live out their walk with Christ in a land where barely anyone follows Jesus. If you know anything about this culture, this task is so much easier said than done. Transparency with emotion takes time. We have come here many times with teams, and spent a few days at a time getting to know the children here, building trust and relationship.

So remember that when I tell you this:

We have been here for 16 days. Marlin has already spent hours swapping stories with the older boys here. He and one boy both came from homes with alcoholic fathers. They talked about how hard that was, and instantly God drew their hearts together. Marlin is leaning in.

Actually all of our children, each in their own unique way, are leaning in. Todd and I started this journey with a jog. The kids, all five of them, took off with a sprint. They don’t let the language barrier stop them.  They are getting in there with the kids. Eating with them, playing with them, serving them, loving them, getting to know them. Today Madi left, all by herself, to go to the market with some of the kids. It was completely unknown what she would be walking into. They are hot and tired and sun burnt (really, really badly). There are bugs and cold showers, and different food and did I mention bugs? Huge bugs.

It’s a beautiful thing that our children are teaching us to keep leaning in. When it is hard and we are tired. Lean in. When it feels lifeless. Lean in. When it is uncomfortable and unknown. Lean in. Just keep leaning in. Marlin. Madi. Lily. Parker. Dylan. You guys let God teach us through you. Thanks kids!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Enjoy the Process

I am sitting in a waiting room. I keep looking at the door for my friend to walk through and announce the birth of their first baby. Aren’t we almost always waiting for something? A stoplight to change. A grocery store line to fade.  A special day to arrive. A storm to pass. A promise to be kept. I sit and wait for that door to open. The anticipation and excitement are great. The waiting... not so much.

Waiting it hard. It just is. I remember a card we once received from an aunt with just three words written in it - Enjoy the process. In the waiting, in the meantime, enjoy the process. Easier said than done.

We have been waiting, my husband and I, for the chance to serve with our family cross-culturally for an extended period of time. This waiting has been 15 years. Fifteen years of learning to enjoy the process! In those 15 years, God has put together what we call our family. Five incredible kiddos through both birth and adoption. Healing and freedom from my past. An unexplainably fun marriage. Opportunities to give away what we have been given. And so much more. All in the waiting.

We haven’t always waited well. Sometimes it has looked like this: You know, when you are in the line at the store, and you are in a hurry. You get the cashier that moves at a snail’s pace. Every. Time.
You keep checking the time on your phone, making it obvious that you would like this process to be moving along more quickly. You know perfectly well that your outward expression of anxiety will not miraculously cause her to go from tortoise to hare. Yet you still dance around, and become more agitated, hoping she will get a sudden burst of energy and decide today is the day to conquer the world! You finally make it through the line, load up, and get in your car exhausted from waiting. You think to yourself, “I didn’t make it through any faster. I could have done that experience a lot differently.” You are exhausted from that waiting instead of filled up from enjoying the process. Yep, that pretty well sums up some of our waiting. We tried to point it out to God that we are ready and willing to go. We tried to make it happen faster. But God wants us to enjoy the process He has us in NOW.

Well, the waiting for this part of our story is over. We leave on June 7th to embark on a wild 7-week adventure to Nepal. All 7 of us. We are excited to introduce our children to this culture, to the land we have traveled to over and over again, to simplicity of life, and to serving selflessly alongside some of the most beautiful people in the most fascinating part of the world.

So come along on this part of our journey, through the waiting room, and adventure with us.