Dear friends, this past month I became a mother. A friend from high school sent me her daughter—then 17—to visit my husband and me in India for a month. We were thrilled. We worked hard to prepare our old Indian house, so that it would be in good working order for our new youngster. We put in a new bathroom, complete with a western toilet, sink and shower area. We touched up the paint, and brightened our living room with a new table cloth.

During all of this preparation, I didn’t think about what it would be like for her. It’s something hard to imagine, an American teenager spending time and living as a local Indian girl. How would she do it? Wouldn’t it be culturally shocking? I had sent a few letters to our new daughter Emily and to her family regarding some of the cultural mores and customs. To our surprise, she arrived with two nearly empty suitcases, toiletries, and a month’s supply of bathroom tissue! She was ready to wear a sari or salwar kamiz. I took her shopping for clothes and to the tailor in the first few days, and her time here in Kerala began.

My routine changed, as all new mother’s routines do. Suddenly I became protective, and wanted to shield her from anyone who looked at her in a “funny” way. I carried a bigger umbrella to take care of the “space” issue in the market place—that people had to step around us, because we were like a huge molecule, safe within our own little world.

On her 18th birthday, we took Emily to see the end of India, where three bodies of water merge: the Arabian Sea, The Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Ocean. It was too windy for the candle, but we went through the motions anyway, and she made her wish and cut her birthday cake. We also went to see Medicine Hill, a very special place for Siddha Vaidya doctors and practitioners. It was too late in the day to climb up, but at least she could see the last mountain in India.

Our friends took us to their church, and Emily and I experienced worship both in English and in Malayalam. I felt so much love there, especially while people were singing. I had never known that church could be like this. I noticed some things about myself, about the way I am with people: somewhat guarded. And I noticed that I was this way with my newly turned 18-year-old-daughter.

These kinds of experiences give us so much to learn from. We are each other’s teachers in this lifelong school of mastery. I struggled inside with the old negative thoughts that came from my childhood, and from the parenting that I received. I finally had to give them away to God. I sat down and got very quiet, quiet enough to notice that I was holding my breath a lot during the day, and that I had a muscle twitching in my shoulder blade, and a slight headache. I didn’t talk about these things, because I know that these are opportunities for observance only. It is during this time when we are about to have a change in our life, maybe through an insight or an actual physical healing. God is so generous to us this way, by offering us these cleansing gifts—the physical responses that we notice after we give away the old negative thoughts, beliefs, or habits—and then comes our insight, or the gift.

I love this about our generous God. We have the freedom to seek love, peace, and harmony within our hearts. And then our heart grows and expands in many ways. I couldn’t call Emily a “daughter on loan” anymore. She is a daughter now. Our family and hearts have just expanded.