Where it Starts

Help me fathom

Where it starts

A simple stable

Small and stark

A spark ignited

In the dark

Help me fathom …

 

… Where it starts …

Amid the season

And the show

Amid the empty

Come and go

Amid the caverns

In our souls

Help me fathom …

 

… Where it starts …

Turn my eyes

From self to part;

No prejudice,

No selfish arts:

No lesser loves,

No wimpy hearts.

Help me fathom …

 

… Where it starts …

Give me the love

That brought You down

From Heaven land

Into our town

To turn our sorrow

Upside down,

To spill the joy

Of being found,

To tune our souls

To freedom’s sound:

The name that turns

This globe around.

Jesus, sanctify

This heart;

Help me fathom

… Where it starts.

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{Locusts and Life

Because we’re all living out our stories page by page, word by word, and not holding the finished copy in our hands, the part of life we’re looking at can sometimes fail to make sense. It isn’t the most natural thing in the world to just open up my hands and surrender to whatever turns of events show up in my story. And for me, sometimes the hardest things to surrender are the things I can’t change … like those events that happened in the past. I’m learning to trust God for the present and the future, but the past is often more complicated to give up to Him, because there’s nothing I can do about moments that have slipped away already. You know?

  Right now in the book of Joel. God is promising to restore “the years that the locusts have eaten.” This is a comfort that I can’t quite stuff inside my head … because it’s hard for me to understand how God can take the past and do something completely new with it. Yet I believe that right now, He could perform any miracle He wants to. So why do I think that God working something miraculous is inhibited by time?

  These last two years, my “locusts” have been Sickness. Recently, I’m starting to see all the thousands of moments that it has taken away … and it mounts up in piles of regret. It’s hard to see over those mounds and into God’s purpose in it all. But in the last part of that verse, when it’s talking about the locusts destroying everything, God says that He has sent the locusts. That catches my attention. God allowed the damage; sometimes He even sends it. He is God and everything He does is right. If I believe in Him, I have to believe Him. So I have to believe that He is not limited by time; I have to believe that He is not limited by Impossible. He is not hindered by my limited sight. And He is certainly not held back by my weakness, or even my failed tests. He can take the greatest disasters and turn them into breathtaking masterpieces. So surely He can take something like 2 years of health issues, times of missing out on so much and going through a kind of pain I never knew. It’s a small thing for Him to redeem all that, and restore it. I know all of that so clearly–yet, anything I know about Him doesn’t even come close to all there is to know about Him. He is so wonderfully beyond what I can ever imagine. Right now in the mounds of confusion is when it’s hardest to believe, but right now is when my faith can become the most genuine. God, refine my faith right now! You hold everything in Your hands.

UPDATE:

In an attempt to make this as concise as possible … 😉

I am in the middle of a long recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Since our visit to the states last winter, it hasn’t been very good and I’ve been held back from most of the things that used to be in my schedule. But in the past few months, I’ve started to get so much stronger. God has given me strength even while feeling sick, and I’ve been able to enjoy amazing times with all the dear friends who have traveled over here to visit … I regret not being able to do more but am so grateful for what God allowed. Basically I was able to do some things, skip some things, and sleep a lot in between.

So I’ve been feeling noticeably stronger, but still feeling that heavy sickness every minute I’m awake. That’s why it’s a little hard for me to answer when you ask me how I am. Basically on a normal day, I have strength to be up and doing things, with that sickness still there. The closest I can describe it is constantly feeling like you have a fever–aching joints, constant dizziness, blackouts, swollen glands, and a lot of weakness, etc.

Because none of those symptoms have been getting better recently, we visited our doctor here in Chiang Mai for a checkup. She ran some blood tests, and discovered that in addition to Chronic Fatigue, I also have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (which looks like is on the verge of Hypothyroidism). So right now my course of action is getting off of gluten in hopes that I won’t have to take the medication. A checkup in a few weeks will show whether that’s true or not.

So in light of flying back to the states in less than 2 months to prepare for our wedding, my health is a big thing for us. Thank you so much for any and all prayers that you’ve said on my behalf; I need them and appreciate them more than I can say. That’s the long and the short of my health update right now.

P.S. A lot of you know already, but I couldn’t finish telling you about my health without saying that God recently healed me from lifelong back pain! When I was 11, a large upright piano fell on top of me (it’s a long story;) and I’ve had serious issues from that ever since. I’ve pretty much had constant back pain since that year. But now it is totally different; feel like I’ve had a spine transplant! I feel the difference every day … in summary, God is AMAZING. (If you want the whole story, just ask.:)

Free slushies if you made it this far. 🙂 God bless every one of you!

{The Good Old Days

We were born into a day

When worries still lay far away

And all we really knew was,

We were loved.

But when we’re growing, things can change;

We question all our growth and pain,

When surely what we had was

Good enough.

But don’t you see who we’ve become?

Remade from being undone,

Growing every day, a great adventure;

I’d give a lot for you to be

A child again with me

But today has made me say,

These are the good old days.

Days of innocence and whims

Are making room for bigger things;

I thought it was important

That you know–

They’ll be going; let them go,

For this is now, and it’s filled with hope;

Don’t worry; there’s no shortage

Here for love!

Look and see who you’ve become!

Remade from being undone,

More beautiful each day, a great adventure;

I’d give a lot for you to be

A child again with me

But today will make you say,

These are the good old days.

So step outside and close your eyes,

And let your dreams go meet the sky,

‘Cause now it’s finally time to

Make them true.

Chase the beauty, hold your joys;

Embrace the pains, but find your voice …

There’s still a lot of living

Left to do.

{Love Is

It’s been almost exactly a year since the end of my 2 1/2 month stay in Pattaya. It’s very hard to find ways to describe a time when my life was changed every single day. Walking the worst streets of that city, we went into the bars and left every time having made a new dear friend or two. But then, the next time I would walk those streets, I would see the prostitutes in the bars and the utter hopelessness in their faces, and now when I saw that, I wasn’t looking at just prostitutes; I was looking at my friends.

So the best way to describe those months might be that my heart broke every day, but I experienced the aliveness of God using that in such powerful ways. There are things I saw there that will always stay with me and always hurt. There are people who have a permanent place in my heart. And there are stories that light a fire inside me to live that sort of life no matter where I end up.

So then I came back. Normal life looks a lot different from what it did in Pattaya, because God called me back to something different. At first, it was hard to understand, God? Why would You take me down there and break my heart, make me passionate about a work so holy and hard, and then bring me back and ask me to do something else? 

But the biggest thing I learned down there? It wasn’t that *I am called to work with prostitutes as long as I shall live.* I would like for that to be my calling; it’s one thing that is dear to my heart and it sounds like a good thing … but at this point it’s not my calling. And it isn’t that I’m only called to help young women. And it isn’t that Pattaya is a special place with the only people in need of Christ.

The biggest thing I learned, sometimes two or three times in one day, is that God’s Love Reaches Everywhereand He uses me. This is so incredible to me! I’ve always known God can do great things, but I thought He needs great people to do it. No … He only needs obedience.

I remember all those foreigner men we saw, most of them old and fat, men that came to Pattaya only with evil intent.

PICT0990

We stopped counting them within the first five minutes; there were far too many, wherever you go. And their evil and their looks disgusted me. At first, I automatically thought of them as the enemy. Like we’d come to fight against them, since we were fighting for the girls. Men would mock us, or flirt with us, or get mad at us … and day in and day out in those streets, all I saw in those men was the worst evil I’d ever seen. Every now and then, one would talk to us. Most times only to argue with what they knew we were doing, sometimes to justify themselves, but sometimes very vulnerable. One man walked up to us and the first thing he said was, “I know who you are and what you’re trying to do. Give it up. These girls don’t have a choice. It’s a man’s world … these girls don’t have a choice.” I remember actually being excited to talk to him. “Well,” I stuttered, “That’s why we’re here. To give them a choice.” I would have told him that he had a choice too, but he gave me a blank look and backed away with his girlfriend. At one point I got over the shock and the grossness of what I was seeing and began praying for all those men. The more I did, the more my heart started breaking for them too. They’re so trapped … just like those girls. Jesus came to set them free … just like He did those girls. And when I saw God using me–me–in those times when we talked with some of the men, just little, incredible, random circumstances that God would bring up, my mind would be blown … these men are not past saving. They are in desperate need of a Savior, but they still have hope! And God can use us to help them find it!

I remember that my babysitting day was on Mondays. I would spend all day taking care of kids whose moms had left the sex trade and were working at the Tamar Center to start a new life.

PICT0572

I remember Qatar’s goofy smile, and Hero’s crazy happy laugh. I remember little Esther refusing to leave my lap, me standing her up so I could get up and her just plopping down again over and over. I remember singing those children to sleep, watching their eyes close, stroking their beautiful black hair, praying, praying, praying for them … that God would keep those children.

I remember a girl whose nickname was “Mouse”–I’ll always remember her; I couldn’t forget her if I tried.

PICT0511

She’s the one who came in to Tamar’s hair salon one of the first nights and listened to us playing music on the little keyboard. She’s the one who cried in our laps, cried out for Jesus … and then eventually walked back out into the streets to get back to work. She’s the one we cried so much and prayed for, the one who was hardest to leave. {God’s not done with her yet!}

So the fact that this experience has been a year is making me look back a lot … but now more than ever it’s making me look forward. I used to profile people and decide for myself whether or not God could use me to love them. That person is too far gone, too out there, too scary, too crazy, too old, too evil … who am I to reach out to them? But in Pattaya I learned to hear God’s voice. I learned to listen when He pushes me forward to talk to the drunk girl alone in the bar, or the scary foreigner man, or the beggar on the street. And you know what? That’s all it takes … a willing heart, even if it’s hard. God takes that, and He does more than you ever thought He would, because it’s about His love, not our own imperfect love. He uses us! And His love reaches everywhere!

2014 is coming to an end! I’m looking forward to next year more than ever. Wherever God takes me, whatever He has me do, whether it’s street sweeping, teaching English, or cleaning the bathroom for the umpteenth time, it’s about His love … If I lose track of this, I have nothing. I want to listen to Him in my every day life here … I want to see His love reach everywhere through me.

In 8 days I’m heading back to America to visit. This is probably the last post I’ll post for a while … I just wanted to write down what God is teaching me; I don’t want to forget. If I could sum up the lessons I’ve learned this year, it would be in the words below. They’ve been running through my head for months, I guess just waiting for me to write them…*

Always firm, but never bridled:

Never tethered, tamed, or broken,

Safe and warm, yet hardly mild,

Harbor, whelming as the ocean;

Love, a glorious commotion–

Oh, my God, Your Love is!

.

Sometimes still, but never ceasing,

Always moving, creeping, stirring;

Escalating and increasing,

Spreading fast, exploding, churning,

In one instant, covering, burning–

Oh, my God, Your Love is!

.

Beyond belief, but never false:

Incomprehensible, astounding,

Hard to fathom, hard to doubt,

When in my heart I feel it pounding,

Pulsing Truth while yet confounding–

Oh, my God, Your Love is!

.

Giving life, but never dying,

Never weakened in its giving;

Sacrificing, self-denying,

Changing me as Christ, forgiving,

Shows to me His way of living.

Oh, my God, Your Love is!

(*For Kaitlyn and Kristen)

{The Long and the Not-Quite-Short of It

As I’m sitting here,

Like, as I’m sitting on my giant, falling-apart bed, in this very moment, I have been living in Chiang Mai for 1 year, 9 months, 1 week, and 5 days. (Don’t double-check that–I am a firm believer in not wasting any more time than necessary on Mathematics.) It’s funny how it seems way, way longer than that, but when you write it out, it looks like such a small amount of time! I still remember the feeling of sitting in the plane as we flew over the ocean, wondering what on earth we were doing, my family and I, flying in a plane over the ocean, let alone moving all the way across the ocean. I remember thinking back and reminding myself why we were doing this, of all those prayers we had prayed, the little details that had fallen into place for it to be so clear to us. And as we started to fly over the water, I looked over across dad’s lap and out the window, down to a little shadow of an airplane, reflected on a cloud below us. I remember realizing, Oh, that’s us; that’s our airplane, and thinking how odd it was to see a shadow of one’s self down on a cloud. Then, I saw this and my heart skipped a beat:

glory

It turns out that you can google “rainbow around airplane shadow” and learn about these things, how “diffraction” and “classical wave tunneling” and “droplet tunnels” somehow explain the mysterious rainbow. But I just keep remembering the promise God made the first time He made a rainbow, a promise of forgiveness, and mercy, and just that He won’t give up on us. He really didn’t have to make rainbows, but He did, and He made them for His glory. Oh! And that circle around the airplane shadow is called “glory.”

And that is why God brought us over the ocean to Thailand, because of His glory.

Yes. That was possibly the first bunny trail we’ve encountered so far. You can keep track.

What I was trying to say in this post, is that I’ve been thinking, I’m not sure how much people know about life here. Sometimes I sub-consciously think that if I’ve told one person something, everyone somehow knows it. So maybe some people know random bits about life over here that don’t even make sense. In this post, I just wanted to give you, as briefly as possible, a glimpse into my first 1 year, 9 months, 1 week, and 5 days in Thailand.

Of the Beginning

The first few months in Chiang Mai seemed like a dream. And sometimes they seemed like a dream that would never end, when culture shock and heat shock and Dengue fever and homesickness and random other sicknesses set in. It seemed like we would never learn our way around, or be able to read all the squiggly letters flying past us as we drove (skittishly) down the [opposite side of the] road. But it was an adventure, an exciting new experience to plow through together as a family … all 8 of us.

Most of you have probably experienced some degree of culture shock. If you haven’t, I’ll explain just a speck of it for you. It affects everything you do, from traumatic and dramatic things to tiny, insignificant, later hilarious things. As we explain the stages of culture shock, we will use palm trees as an example. (We have palm trees right outside our house.) (This still stuns me sometimes.)

Culture Shock (Stage 1)

EUPHORIA

snoopy1

“Palm trees! Beautiful, glorious palm trees! WE SHALL LIVE IN A MAGICAL UTOPIA OF PALM TREES!”

Culture Shock (Stage 2)

SUBSIDING EUPHORIA

snoopy2

“Today I saw 45 palm trees. PALM TREES ARE FUN.”

Culture Shock (Stage 3)

EUPHORIA AND EVERYDAY LIFE

snoopy5

“This is me, living my life, in the shadow of palm trees.”

Culture Shock (Stage 4)

REALITY

snoopy4

“I think … today is hotter than … yesterday …”

Culture Shock (Stage 5)

SUDDEN RE-REALIZATIONS

snoopy 2.5

“I live in a hot place! I live in a hot place with PALM TREES!”

Culture Shock (Stage 6)

REALITY (DRAMATIZED)

snoopy6

“Hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. Hot.”

Culture Shock (Stage 7)

CRISIS

snoopy 7

“The number of palm trees in this country is SICKENING!”

Culture Shock (Stage 8)

ADJUSTMENT

snoopy3

… and somewhere along the line, getting you to the coveted stage #8, is this:

snoopy8

And that brings us to the next part.

OF THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS

In the past almost-2-years, we’ve had incredible, incredible people here to welcome us and prop us up and teach us things and keep us going. Our IGo family has been amazing … so much more than we could have ever asked for. And then, I can’t even begin to describe the mind-blowing support you guys back in the states have given us. It seems ridiculous to even try to describe, because we can never thank you enough. Every prayer, update, gift, letter, phone call, visit, it means so much more than you’ll ever know. Until Heaven … when, I’m really hoping, God will give you instant replay of all the happiness that has happened in our hearts because of you.

So much has happened since we moved that it’s hard to summarize. Somewhere along the line, I learned to read and write the mysterious language of Thai, which looks like this:

คุณชอบการเรียนภาษาไทยไหมคะ

(And as for the speaking, I’ve learned only a fraction of what I want to learn, but now I can finally have fun getting to know Thai people … with an occasional embarrassing mistake.)

I got to spend 2 1/2 months in Pattaya working in the streets with Tamar ministries, and those were days that changed my life. I got to learn bits of how to teach English when you don’t really enjoy teaching English. I got to help pick out a name for my sweet Thai godson (pray for him?). I got to pray with my neighbor for the first time and watch her cry out to God (pray for her?). I got to spend a few weeks at a hostel with my sister and our friend, teaching English to those heartbreakingly sweet children, singing our lungs out with them, coloring with them, and learning so much more from them than we could ever teach them. I got to experience the fully-alive sort of life when your heart breaks for people all around you. I got to see God’s light reach into darkness I never thought I’d see. I got to see miracles happen. I got to begin a relationship with an amazing man who’s been my hero since I was 15. I got to learn to make Thai food (okay … I’m still working on that one). I get to live close to some of my dearest friends, and even my boyfriend. I get to live in the shadow of a mountain (and palm trees). I get to learn the beauty of the hard things, like those everyday choices to choose others above yourself. I get to feel an intensity of the spiritual battle around us that I’ve never felt before; some days it drags you down and you hardly know how to fight … more than anything I’ve learned the power of Jesus’ name, in any place. I get to zip around town on a motorbike, and stop and pull on a raincoat during rainy season’s surprise showers. I get to receive letters from beautiful friends who take the time to care. I get to be a missionary in everyday things, like washing dishes or sweeping the gecko droppings in my shower. I get to finally sort of find my way around this city. I get to see need all around me; sometimes that isn’t easy, but I never want to stop seeing. I get spied on by all those geckos on my window. I get to visit a Thai church and see the gospel radiate in every culture. I get to meet students who come to IGo from all around the world. I get to barter for vegetables. I get to learn to get used to heat, when heat is one of my least favorite things in the world and I would rather be stranded in a snowstorm with no socks or shoes. I get to miss so many people, and it shows me how blessed I am to have something worth missing. I get to walk 2 blocks from my house and see the deep green of rice fields, and mountains looming in the distance. (I get to bike up those mountains every now and then, to escape the heat.) I get to have those brain-dead moments after learning so much Thai that you can’t think of the English word you want. I get a loving squeeze on the shoulder from the crazy old lady next door who can’t speak English or regular Thai, but chatters away to me anyway … and comes into our yard to collect the flowers that fall from our tree. I get to watch lanterns float up into the sky on Loi Khratong, or douse people with water on Song Khran (these people take their holidays seriously). I get to lie awake listening to our village partying with their unbelievably loud party truck blaring unbelievably loud party music. I get to hear the rooster over the wall crow 48 times a day. I get to swerve to miss a baby elephant on the lane to my house. I get to listen to Christmas music when the weather gets down to the 70s and it rains, and it almost feels cold outside. I get to painstakingly read my Bible in Thai and see new things about God’s Word I never saw before.

Maybe the hardest thing for me to walk through since being in Thailand has been the problem of my health. There have been a lot of months of being sick and weak, having no energy and wiping out all the time. Sometimes I’ve been so sick of holding myself back and taking it easy and resting that I could scream. Recently, God led us to a new doctor here in Chiang Mai, and from blood tests she diagnosed my problem as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Since learning what’s wrong with me and what all I can do to eventually get back to almost normal, it has been so amazing … I’m getting better … I really am. And God is the one to thank for that!

My life is almost completely different from what I would have imagined it to be only a few years ago. And it’s so strange … most of these things, I wouldn’t have chosen. I still wouldn’t have chosen to move to Thailand, or anywhere in Asia. I wouldn’t choose a lot of the things I’m doing. But it amazes me how much joy I have in the everyday life here … it must be from God, because I know it’s not coming from me. Suddenly I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else, just because of the joy of knowing that I’m where God wants me to be.

The deep, painful beauty God works through the hard things is something that I sometimes don’t even want the grace to walk through … I want to walk around it instead. But looking back, every hard thing has been worth it. Anything I’ve had to give up has been worth it, because I’ve been given so much more than I deserve at the same time. Life in Thailand so far has been a wonderful classroom … through all that life has brought recently, I’ve been a mess sometimes, I’ve learned, I’ve found my home in Jesus, … and most importantly I’ve learned that it’s not about me. It’s about God’s glory. And no sacrifice we can make would ever be enough to give Him enough glory. His glory … that is why I am here for now, and you are where you are for now … and that is the long and the short of it.

P.S. Which culture shock stage am I in right now? Well … pick one … I may be experiencing it tomorrow. 🙂

Photo credits: Google 

{The Beginning and the Why

Dear Reader:

Before you decide to sink your teeth into this blog, you should know one slightly important thing: I am not a blogger. This means that I won’t be cranking out daily, weekly, or even always monthly updates. And it means that I reserve the right to champion the cause of bunny trails in my key-clacking. And it means that you probably won’t be clicking onto this page to find frequent sermons/eye-popping theories about all the relevant news and culture topics of today. If I were paralyzed from the waist down and lived in a stone cottage on a misty cliff, I would probably spend all day scribbling and doodling and weaving words … but I’m not–and I don’t. 🙂

Still … Welcome! I am awfully glad to have you stumble on over, and you are most welcome to join me at my inglenook, where you can hear about my life and I can hear about yours.

So, what is the Why of this blog? (Mainly why someone who is not a blogger would … blog.) I’m glad you asked; I have often asked myself the same thing. (*adjusts imaginary glasses*) Well, a big part of it is the whole reality that I live across the ocean from most of the people I’ve known and loved all my life. Thank goodness, some of those people I know and love have the knack for delicately breaking the news to me that I STINK AT STAYING IN TOUCH. It’s been pretty complicated sometimes, figuring out the best way to keep in contact. Because, I could be writing or phoning home all the time, and you still wouldn’t know everything that’s happened in my life (besides, it would be a pretty pathetic life). Well, God has brought me all the way over here for a really good reason (the only way I know that is because He is God), and the reason He kept most of you loved ones all the way over there is just as good of a reason. So, the ideal goal for this little blog is to stay plugged in to the other side of the world, and at the same time, write down what life is like plugged into this side of the world. I really believe that God wants us plugged in right where we are, living to the fullest, and one way we can help each other to do that is to pray for each other, wherever we are. Hopefully, if you drop by and read every now and then, you will have a better idea of how to pray for me. A blog is one place I can put that in … one place.

Confused yet? It’s only the beginning of a random and honest adventure down the bunny trails of life. 🙂