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this post is for my friend Sarah, who is moving to Virginia tomorrow! we grew up together, but just became good friends in the last 2 years i was home--we've had lots of crazy times (as you can see from the picstures!), and i'm very excited for her about her big move. about a year ago, Sarah and i got into this habit of always telling each other 5 good things each time we emailed--i think it started because i was in a bad mood one day and she got tired of listening to me complain! anyway, the lists went from serious to silly, but they always encouraged me, so Sarah, this is for you friend :)
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5 good things from today:
1. good Indian food for lunch, esp. lots of sticky rice (not really Indian style, but that's they way i like it!) and chicken

2. facebook connection with my friend emily, who i've been missing and haven't talked to in sooooo long

3. the dentist. i know, how can that be good??? but friends, it was. i was SUPER impressed by how nice and clean the office was, and how cool the dentist is--she told me when i come back to have my cavity filled next week she'll let me listen to her ipod so i don't have to hear the drill. rock on, dr. kaur!

4. late night skip bo with the roomies (thank you sarah for introducing me to this game!), accompanied by their random music mix: rod stewart, travis tritt, journey, josh groban, michael jackson, merle haggard...the list goes on, and so does the fun here in our flat!

5. and last but not least...LaRonna...all you BCMers know what i'm talking about, and tonight, i introduced the roommies to the one and only LaRonna Marie Stokes...oh my, how i have missed her and her freestyle rappin'll have to dedicate a post to laronna one of these days...for now, check out her webpage that i found--it's not much, but it is truly shinein' like a highlighter!

it truly is the simple things that can bring such joy...good friends, good times...

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the chef bakes a cake...
I had a convicting experience in the kitchen earlier today. I'm still trying to process it, so I hope what comes out here makes sense...
This afternoon our friends came by for coffee, so I decided to make a cake. I have to admit, I don't bake much here in India (my roommate Alisha is an EXCELLENT baker--croissants, bagels, cinnamon rolls, biscuits, cookies, you name it!), but I had a box mix that my mom had sent from the US so I thought I'd give it shot.
My first mistake, and the reason I'm a better cook than a baker, was not following the directions, but taking them more as "suggestions." I did ok with all the ingredients, but I don't know what size the pan is that I used, but I figured it wouldn't matter too much, so I just poured all the cake batter in and popped it in the oven. About 20 minutes into the baking time, I realized that the top was getting really brown, so I pulled the cake out to check it. The top was brown, and the edges were done, but the middle was still quite gooey.
I wasn't sure what to do, but then I remembered that when I was a kid, my grandma used to make cake for me and my sister with her little sandwich maker (the thing that was like a George Foreman but for sandwiches). This was my train of thought: you can make grilled cheese sandwiches in those sandwich makers, and you can also make cakes; you can also make grilled cheese in the skillet, therefore you should also be able to cook cake (I know you're laughing now if you weren't already!). So I took the cooked part of the cake and set it aside and then scooped the gooey part up and tossed it into the skillet.
I was making a huge mess by this point, but everything seemed to be working pretty well. I finished cooking the cake in the skillet and put it on the plate with the other pieces. It tasted fine, but looked awful, so I decided maybe some icing would help. I'm not a great icing maker either (once again, following directions is important), but I got Alisha to look up a recipe and gave it a shot. At first, it looked great, but before I could put it on the cake (or the pieces of cake that I'd tried to rearrange in the pan), it started separating. I'm still not sure why it did that, but I smeared it on the cake anyway and popped the whole mess in the freezer, hoping that cooling it down might help.
[Hmm...maybe this is genetic....I'm suddenly reminded of a similar incident my mother had with a chocolate birthday cake she made for my sister several years ago. It was such a disaster that it ended up in the freezer, full of the toothpicks my mother had attempted to keep it together with. I don't think she's made a chocolate cake since then.]
Well, my friends came not long after this, and the cake ended up just staying in the freezer--I was too embarrassed to serve it to anyone, and my roommates got a good laugh out of it when I pulled it out for them later.
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The more I think about this cake, the more I think this is how I interact with God, and it kind of scares me. I think I keep trying to take the messes in my life and "doctor them up" instead of just being honest and bringing them to Him. I keep pretending and fixing and hiding instead of letting His grace work itself out in all areas of my life, even those that I'm scared to admit exist. I'm so worried about looking nice and proper that, like the cake, I hide anything that seems too messy.
I think that's why I enjoy cooking--I can glance over a couple recipes, take from them what I like, and pretty much experiment away, because it tends to be a much less precise science than baking. But might be able to get away with a few things here and there, but if you really slip up, it's going to show because your cake is going to turn our looking funky.
Cooking just allows you to hide more. I love to "doctor up" dishes that might not have gotten off to a good start. You can make so much from so little, and it still looks (and tastes) impressive. Cooking leaves more room for creativity and spontaneity, and even if my spaghetti sauce turns out a little different every time, it still tastes pretty good.
I think God may teach me a number of lessons from this goofy experience, but what hit me as I was washing the dishes was that, just like the cake recipe, I tend to treat His Word more like suggestions than something that truly guides my life. Ouch.
I find myself "cooking" with Him...taking bits and pieces of what I like from Him, His word, His people and mixing them up into something that I think will turn out great, but it just doesn't. Experimenting with His grace, His mercy, His power, etc. leaves me with a mess and a strong desire to do whatever I can to cover it up and pretend everything is alright.
So, as they say in India, kya karna? (what to do?) I've been here for a year now (an overwhelming thing in and of itself), and I feel like more than culture, language, people, students, food or anything else Indian, I'm learning about myself. The good, the bad, and the extremely ugly...It hasn't always been a fun process, and I can't say that I really feel any farther along than I did a year ago, but I do hope the next year holds more of the same.
I'm not really good at ending thoughtful posts like this, so I steal lyrics from one of my favorite songs, Wrecking Ball, by Jill Phillips:
"So piece together these little mysteries
It isn't hard to see the writing on the wall
Triumph and tragedy, only God can be
Both the Builder and the Wrecking Ball.
And He builds it up
And He knocks it down
Just to build
it up, even stronger..."

"Can't you see that it's just raining...
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...ain't no need to go outside." Ah Jack Johnson, one of my new loves in life...what a perfect song to describe monsoon season in India. Why on earth would anyone want to even think about setting foot outside when the ground is more water than land, and trash and who knows what else is floating in the nasty brown rivers that were once roads? But that's the hard thing about life here--for most people, going outside isn't even an option. Truth be told, sometimes it seems like more people live outside than in, and of those that do have homes, few have the luxury of hiding away in their flats on rainy days.
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You would think that after growing up in south Louisiana, rain wouldn't bother me that much, but there's just something about the wetness/nastiness of monsoon season that makes me want to hide in my room. Even so much that I would have prefered to do my monthly financial report today over going outside (and that's saying a lot!). Fortunately, we had plans to meet up with some friends this evening, so we ventured out into the madness.
It turned out to be a pretty fun evening. It's actually been a really fun week, with our 2 new roommates from Delhi, Preeti and Sophy. They are fabulous girls, and we've had a good time getting to know each other since they moved in last Tuesday. And a few adventures as well--like tonight, when the brakes on the rickshaw went out and we had to get out and walk the rest of the way home. The distance wasn't too far, but the road was more water than, well, road, which made me quite thankful for the Crocs my sister sent me for my birthday.
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We eventually made it home and ran straight for the showers to wash our feet, then proceeded to the living room for dinner, laughing, funny videos and music, and speed Scrabble.
I've been reading other friends' blogs lately and I'm impressed at how thoughtful/thought-provoking their posts are. I think I've just viewed blogging as a way to tell people about stuff that won't fit in my newsletter, post pictures, and so on, but I like the idea of getting a little deeper. Maybe that will be my focus for year two.
And that's a whole other topic altogether...year two. 2. Too. It just doesn't seem possible, and yet this Saturday will mark the 2nd time I've spent August 12th in India. Today is day 361. More on this later...
One final note...I don't know if anyone reads my roommate Alisha's blog, but you should, cause it's fun and she's fun and funny. And there's a fabulous post about a little incident that occurred a few days ago that I think you'll get a kick out of. I'll just leave you with her address ( and this picture:
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