Saturday, August 30, 2014

Entering America

So maybe I wept when the custom's official stamped my entry card. Not just a few appropriate tears. I was weeping.  He thought I was returning for a funeral. I had to assure him they were happy tears. I am here for a wedding.

I was crying so hard that I had to repeat answers to his questions. He couldn't understand me. 

It was terrible.  

Thankfully, I landed in Chicago. I don't know anyone in Chicago.  And it's a good thing.  I cried uncontrollably for an hour and a half in the airport. I haven't been on American soil in 3 years. I am glad to be home. 

Then I washed my face. Changed into some jeans.  And left South Asia behind for a week. 

By the time I saw my sister and mom in Memphis, I was one happy girl. Thankfully the weeping had ceased.  

So far I've eaten Mexican with my mom, sis and cute niece at my favorite local spot. I sang God Bless America ever so softly while eating those delicious fajitas. I talked to my sweet boys, who are in the midst of all sorts of man activities. I've gone to Hobby Lobby to browse, picked up a pomogranate Izzy from The Fresh Market, and wandered around my parent's house marveling at all that's changed, and so much that has, thankfully, stayed just the same.  

I woke up at 3am to eat dinner. And my very sweet mom came downstairs to sit with me. That's love. 

America, I've missed you.  

It's good to be back in the motherland:) 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mama's big adventure

Definitely a few tears shed. But I'm on the way! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I am flying home this week for the wedding of a very dear friend of almost 20 years.  If I called her from the remotest jungle and asked her to come, I know she would.  This is my chance to honor her on a most important occasion.  So I am crossing 8,000 miles, leaving my husband and boys in the middle of South Asia. I won't pretend this is the easiest thing I've ever done. The very difficulty of it makes the friendship that much more valuable though.  I wouldn't have it any other way. 

On weeks like this, I feel like all my life is colliding.  There are all these separate pockets of me that feel, well, separate.  I like things clean and clear.  So perhaps I separate them more out of my own need than right division.  

I am a girl from the suburbs who spent her weekends on a farm. I went to private schools and, consequently, still prefer khaki pants. I've lived in the bush of Africa and a sprawling city in one of the most crowded countries in the world.  I love beautiful dresses and fancy scenery.  I can get into fine dining. I love the moments when I sit on the floor of someone's one room house and eat their rice with my hands. I like jewelry from the local market and when it comes with a designer label too. I am an intense introvert. I live in a communal society and sometime my phone and email and even this blog bother me. I love to read, write and be still. I have two children and it's been a long while since I've been still or quiet for longer than a few hours.  

I love being a wife and a mom.  And on some days I struggle deeply with the purposes of God in such menial tasks.  On other days, all the gospel glory of raising little ones seems to be before me.  My husband has a business and I help him sometimes. I love being administrative. It's one of my stronger gifts.  I deal a lot with people, and I don't think it's one of my strongest gifts. I am passionate about the poor, the sick and the suffering.  And I feel a lot helplessness to know what to do in a season of life when 2 little ones are always under foot, rubbing their hands in dirt and licking objects at random. I grapple regularly with the tension between doing good to others and knowing that I ought to do the most good to these ones that are mine for a short while. Nothing in my life feels separate.  But it is in some compartmentalized places in the course of my days. 

I feel an immense vulnerability this week as I return to my native town, to my family and friends, alone. 

It seems like a collision of worlds, and I am not sure how to process the impact. 

Life overseas has changed me.  I will not enter in again as I was, because I cannot. My lens is different. It is that global perspective that sometimes causes all that felt so clear to be unclear. Life feels small and change feels slow because it is small and slow.  There are bigger problems in the world and they won't be solved by a campaign or a march through town.  The normalcy of a hometown and homefolk seems to startle that reality. I have deep memories from these past few years of profound suffering on street corners and newspaper pages.  Suffering that I honestly had no idea how to help. I spend more time feeling overwhelmed with problems than I do knowing what I should do. Most of the time, I revert to the things that I know how to do, however menial or insignificant in the face of suffering.  I hope I grow out of that one day, but so far I haven't. 

I serve a mighty and powerful King, but while His kingdom is coming current and fast, it's not yet.  

I live in both the current, fast and the not yet.  

I think I will sense that a great deal over the next few weeks.  If you think of me, would you pray for perspective? I need a better lens for this, and my Father is wise enough to give it.  

Thy kingdom come. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Half

David ran a half marathon yesterday.  The beast finished in 1 hour 43 minutes. (And he was kinda disappointed.) I am nothing but amazed and proud.  The hills were rough.  The sun was hot. I mean hot.  And in spite of his 4am wake up, he spent the rest of the day serving me and other people.  What a man!

Congrats on the big achievement, hubs! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I scheduled Jude for his bi-annual eye check up. It's an hour and a half across town, so I decided to throw in his follow up for the root canal as long as we were in the area.

What a trooper!

Little brother spend the morning like any good American 2 year old: playing apps on the Kindle. I feel sure it was good for his brain. 

By the time we got home at 3:30pm, we were pretty much shot. 

I think school will be a relief tomorrow! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

5 ways South Asia made us (more) awkward

We haven't been normal for a long time.  And we were sure never cool.  But there are some ways that 3 years in South Asia has definitely taken our awkwardness to the next level.  Before we head across the oceans in the coming months, we just thought we'd let you know.  Then, when you think, "Wow, those Dawkinses are weird!" at least you'll know we're self-aware, right?

Here are 5 ways this life abroad made us a little more socially awkward than we already were:

1. We drive like maniacs. Did you know that there aren't even lines on most roads here?  There would be no point. The aim of driving is to squeeze in where you can and progress however possible. There are enough cars, cows, camels, ox carts, tractors and people on the roads to make a trip to the grocery feel like an exhilarating video game experience. Recently, as David was backing up down a one-way entry ramp amid traffic, it occurred to us that we would be heavily fined for such a maneuver in the US.  Here, it just seemed like the most reasonable thing to do. Honking should be an entirely separate post.  Let's just say we're heavy handed.

2. We bobble our heads.  We do.  The head bobble is a cultural mystery.  It can mean yes. It can mean no. It can mean a vague level of ambiguity that is absolutely convenient for any number of situations. At first, we did it jokingly in imitation of neighbors.  But that is no longer the case. We bobble our heads at each other in response to questions.  Our children bobble their heads.  I bobble my head when I think about things sometimes.  Try it, friends.  You will like it.

3. Our English is broken. After 3 years of communicating cross-culturally, we just have to admit that our English has taken a serious hit.  We use phrases like "He's not keeping well" to describe illness and the command form "Take" when offering a plate of cookies. Sometimes we can't remember how to say things in normal American English. And our kids sure don't know how.  Jude has the most fantastic Asian accent that he turns on when talking to locals.  He sounds exactly like his classmates.  However, this can get confusing.  Recently, we were with some Australians…and he broke into the Asian accent for lack of a better alternative. It's possible that he may respond to my country relatives' twang with an Asian flare.

4. Sometimes we're inappropriate. Asians are known for asking forthright questions.  They'll boss you right to your face with no shame. Correct your children right in front of you.  It's a communal society, and there's no problem getting in other people's business.  If there's an accident on the road, people just stop their cars and get out to have a look.  (I'm serious.) One of things that urked me most when we first arrived was  that everyone was always asking me how much something cost, how much we pay in rent, the value of our car, etc, etc.  Nothing was off limits. Strangers would ask me our salary total…right after asking my name.  Three years later, I admit that somewhere along the way, we just started asking it right back.  I was curious about their rent amount too.  I wanted to boss their kids too. So, when in Rome? We're gonna try to rein this in…but just feel the freedom to look us in the eye and say "Hey guys, that's inappropriate."

5. Style has vanished.  Obviously, we were never exactly on the cutting edge of fashion.  But Asia has done us in.  You may recall my jams that I wear and love.  This would be a case in point. David wears short sleeved old man button downs frequently. His dress pants are a little shiny, because that's all the shop had. I have 2 pairs of shoes, brown sandals and pink crocs.  I wear brown with black frequently for lack of a better alternative.  My children do not own a pair of long pants. It's too hot.  The one redemptive point for me is that Asians do love some good accessories. Though, even this, may be a little awkward in America.  I wear a lot of sparkles these days, bangles and earrings, scarves and necklaces, sequins in the day time. You can just never out sparkle a South Asian lady. I never wanted to be "that girl." The one who goes overseas for so long that she comes home wearing the same skirt she left in 10 years earlier, and thinks it looks great.  But I just have to own it: I am that girl. And hubs is most certainly that guy! Maybe someone will give us fashion counsel?!

There you have it, friends.  Truth be told, we wouldn't trade these three years for all the awkwardness in the world. And now you can look at us, all quirky and bobbling, and love us anyways. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Add it to the list....

It takes an awful lot to entice me to stay up until midnight these days. It was worth it though for a few hours of kid-free game fun. Of course, Ticket to Ride was up first, followed by Power Grid. The Nagels know how to pick 'em!

Add this one to my growing list of stategy game greats:

Play it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

the next thing

For the past three years my days have been fairly planned.  Whether I felt like it or, as was often the case, not, I usually got up in the morning and went to language class. Or studied. Or listened to vocabulary.  The order of my days was all viewed from the angle of a language program.

I am no longer in a rated language program.  Now I am learning how to be a life long learner of another language.  The pressure is off. A weight, too heavy for me to describe, just lifted.

I feel like I've been running a three year marathon.

And, to be honest, I'm a bit wrecked.

I sat down yesterday and went to the Word because I'm having some trouble remembering who I am.  I'm not really sure what to do next.  My life has been predominantly impacted by goals and classes for a long while. Significance is a tricky subject in these times. There's a sneaking thought that slowing down from a pace that's far too fast to sustain is a failure, it means I'm not worth as much.

But that's not true.

I have value because God gave me value.   Not because of what I do or do not accomplish in a day.

My worth is wrapped up in the One who created me.  The One who knit and fashioned and formed me.  Of course, I agree that what we do with our lives is important.  (I sure wouldn't be living on this far side if I didn't.)   But our worth is intrinsic.  It's a part of who we are as created beings.

So whatever the next thing before me is, however small or mighty, may my value be found wrapped up in Him.

Monday, August 11, 2014


We are home, and friends, I'm feeling old. It has taken me 3 days to recover from an overnight flight. 

But the trip itself was great. 

We spent 4 days in some really helpful meetings while the kids played with other Americans and ate goldfish crackers. In the evenings, we hung out with friends and enjoyed some serious Western food. Au Bon Pain wins the award for most-frequented by yours truly.  

On Day 5 we hit the aquarium...and boy, was it a hit! 

Silas, the usual fearless, was definitely daunted by sharks swimming through a water tunnel. But overall, we had a fantastic time. 

Glad we went. GLAD we are home! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Five

1. We made it. The class is over. The assignments turned in. My last phonetics skype call is in the morning. Whew. 

2. Jude had a baby root canal this week on his front tooth. Apparently there was some tooth trauma in the past. (How on earth could that happen to our calm little lad;)  For a kid who screams at the barber shop, when the drill came in, it was a display of true bravery. Not a peep! 

3. We watched Planes last weekend for a little family night. Obsession under way. Please note Silas is clutching a plane in the lunch pic above. 

4. Hubs has an obsession of his own these days. He's training hard for the half marathon here in mid-August. No small feat in monsoon season. His time makes my run look like a walk. 33 and still got it!

5. Tomorrow we leave for Thailand. A week of meetings and hopefully a big trip to the aquarium! Too bad it's a midnight flight. Jude told me earlier this week that he's always wanted to stay up all night. I guess his dream might come true. 

Have a great weekend!