Monday, December 29, 2014

Hopeless Mourning

Grace International School (GIS) is a complicated mix of culture and custom. There is the international community that consist of students and staff form countries all over the world and then stuck in the middle is a bubble of Thai nationals. There are Thai teachers that of course teach the language and customs of the land and there are Thai administrative staff that help the school stay connected and in tune with the community and government. All of these staff members are Christians. Then there is a third Thai community. What we would call the blue-collar staff, landscaping, security, custodial, and kitchen staff. A few of these staff members are believers but many of them are not. Kevin is the supervisor for most of these areas.

Kevin has truly enjoyed working with and getting know the members of his team and they are enjoying his leadership (completely the grace of God). The week before Christmas tragedy struck his department. On the way to work one evening Khun Tidt, a security guard, was killed in a scooter accident leaving behind a young wife, a 7 year-old son and 5 year-old daughter. As far as we know Khun Tidt and his family are not believers. On December 22 we attended a traditional Thai Buddhist funeral and the experience left us heart-broken.  

Khun Tidt's widow, daughter, son and friend
We followed the two song taos (pick-up taxis) that were full of the Thai staff from the school to a Buddhist temple north of the city. Once there we had the opportunity to greet Khun Tidt’s widow and children. We were surprised to see that his son was dressed in a Buddhist monk’s robe complete with shaved head. We were told that this was customary for a son or close family member to go through the rites to become a monk to gain favor for the deceased. This practice may only last for a few days but they believe it will still create merit for the next life. The coffin was placed in an ornate funeral cart surrounded by flowers. His picture was on placed on a separate wheeled cart and it too was decorated with flowers. 


Funeral cart with coffin on display at the temple.


We ate a lunch of bitter vegetables, pork nam prik, chicken wings and sticky rice and then the superintendent of GIS gave the eulogy which was translated into Thai. This concluded the first portion of the funeral and it was then time to move to the crematorium for the cremation ceremony. Buddhist monks stood on the four corners of the casket sprinkling water and chanting. After this the funeral guest took up the two long ropes that were attached to the front of the ornate funeral cart and began pulling the cart toward the crematorium. We all walked together while music played. Neighbors came out and paid their respects as the procession passed.
Funeral Processionl

Passing Over Ceremony
At the crematorium the passing over ceremony began. They believe that this will cause the spirit of the deceased to pass from this life to his next. What the next will look like is determined by how much merit he earned while living. Honored guest are asked to give merit on behalf of the dead by presenting the monks with pieces of their robes. One by one the guest come forward and place the robes on a table in front of the funeral cart. A long ribbon was draped from the casket to the table connecting the two. Several times during this process the monks came forward to chant and pour water from one vessel to another symbolizing the spirits passing over.   

Cutting Banana to Sever Relationship with the Deceased
The last portion of the passing over ceremony was when my heart completely broke. A banana was placed on the funeral cart and together Kuhn Tidt’s wife and children cut it in two. This symbolized their desire to sever their relationship with their husband and father. As painful as that is to think about what came next is when I lost it. As soon as the banana was cut Kuhn Tidt’s widow grabbed the children’s hands and ran to an awaiting scooter. A family friend was waiting with engine running so that as soon as the three were on board he sped away as quickly as possible. The family ran not out of grief but out of fear. They were fearful that the spirit of the man that they loved would follow them and haunt them. Can you imagine losing a spouse or a parent and the love you had for them being overwhelmed with fear? I cannot explain how deeply this hurt me to watch. 

Crematorium
Once the immediate family left, the cremation ceremony began. The casket was moved from the funeral cart and placed in the crematorium. The ornate cart was placed on a funeral pyre to the side. The casket was opened and the body was washed with coconut water. They are fearful that the spirit will return to the body at this point and the washing of water prevents this from happening. We were all invited to come forward and pay our final respects. We were given paper flowers that were to be placed in the coffin. Then the coffin was closed and the door to the crematorium was shut. So that the fires could be ignited.

Ornate Funeral Cart
The ornate funeral cart was the first to be burned. Fireworks built into the cart ignited the flames and produces a loud wailing sound as if the cart itself mimicked the grief and anguish of the crowd. To say it was eerie is an understatement. From the burning cart a cord had been strung to the crematorium. A spark traveled through this cord a started the fire beneath the coffin. 







At this point the crowd began to disperse. As we turned to go we noticed that fire on the funeral cart had died down and people began to frantically pour accelerant to reignite the flames. We were told this was a very bad omen. This showed that the deceased was not ready to leave this life. Fear was compounded on fear.

It was one week ago today that Kevin and I attended the funeral. We are still processing. We have come face to face with the hopelessness, the lostness that surrounds us. Kuhn Tidt’s fellow security guards are shaken to their core. Some have already said that they have seen his spirit at work creating fear.

We covet your prayers as Kevin and the rest of the Christian staff at GIS try to breath life giving truth into their dark and horrifying world. May the God of all truth, love, and mercy set them free from the shackles of fear that the enemy is using to keep them blinded to life.   

  





Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Receptive Heart

Receiving is hard. Independence is our goal from an early age. It is what we are taught. It is what is expected. I guess this is why when Jesus teaches us to come to Him, abide in Him, we struggle. I know I do. I am definitely a ‘try harder’ kind of person. 

Our motivation is innocent enough. We just want to do all that we can to please God. We want to share His love with a dying world. We want to serve others. We do all this for JESUS. We work hard, very hard. The only problem is that we are doing it all in our own strength and we end up exhausted. 

As we have read and studied chapter three we have realized just how hard we have been working to do good things. We also realize that we are tired. The bottom line is Jesus does not want us to do things for Him. He wants us to let Him do His work in us and through us. My job is to receive from Him and let Him have His way in my heart and my life.

The second thing that stood out in this chapter is this:
Jesus moves toward needy people.

For some reason it seems very unspiritual to be needy. We buy into the lie that a good Christian has it all together. We don’t need help and we don’t need God. This is the opposite of what scripture teaches. Over and over again, Jesus went to the needy. He sought them. He healed them. He loved them. The Pharisees were the ones that had it all together and Jesus rebuked them.

We spend most of our time relying on our own resources such as our education, our finances, or our connections. Only when circumstances come into our lives that we can’t handle or fix do we turn to God. This is exactly where I find myself today. Circumstances over the last month have brought me to the place where I realize my need for Jesus. Even though it is never my intention, I have been doing it all on my own. Lovingly and graciously God has quietly watched as I struggled and strained under the weight of self-sufficiency until I came to the end of my rope. Now, I am hanging on by a thread and I am crying out to Jesus just one simple word, “Help!” His responses to my desperate cry is, “I’m here what do you need from me?” My answer…. “Everything!” 

What have you asks Jesus for?

Preview of Chapter Four

Key Verse:

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. Acts 4:31

Highlight: 

Over a period of time God’s Spirit will begin to fill us up, as we receive and depend on Him. He’ll keep filling us up and filling us up until all of the sudden there will be a river flowing out of us. 

Well, what does that look like? It might be boldness. It might be joy. It might be the power to forgive. It might be peace in the midst of a “hellacious” storm in your life. It might be patience around someone who literally drives you crazy. It is about the Spirit of God filling you up and releasing His power through you.

Question: 

In what area of your life do you need God to release His power through you? What are you doing to abide in Him so that you might receive His power?



Monday, December 1, 2014

The Searching Heart

In chapter one the author, Dave Busby, made it clear that we are all hard wired with a thirst.  In the beginning of chapter 2 he make’s it clear that we all have a plan to satisfy this thirst.  So the first question is “what is your plan”?  Or maybe you’ve done life a particular way for so long that this part of your heart is calloused or cauterized?  And your heart has convinced you that not only are you good but you are doing way better than your neighbor.  Some one please look up the verse about the heart being deceitful above all else.

Let me tell you about a phenomenon I see here in the mission field.  It’s what I will call “the Tea bag” illustration.  You see Missionaries are Amazingly resourceful people!  (they Must be to survive) This resourcefulness really is quite amazing and I am learning a great deal watching and being a part of this resourcefulness.  

The other day I was sharing a cup of tea with some of my coworkers.  When one of them said, ‘I don’t need an entire single size bag of tea for my cup, may I dip your bag into my cup just a couple of quick dips should do?’.  I can’t speak for you but when I enjoy a cup of tea, I will squeeze every last drop of the bag into my cup for Full Flavor.  But apparently, this workmate of mine will reuse a tea bag Multiple times before they retire the exhausted tea bag.   My question is “at what point has it stopped being a tea bag and become simply a bag with expired tea grounds in it”?   

Here’s the illustration:  You see for years Missionaries due to their resourcefulness have used and reused the same tea bags for years for many reasons and most of them legitimate reasons.  And at some point have forgotten what the “Tea” taste like.  And when they ask ‘for tea’ and you give them a cup of tea it is easily rejected.  Not because it is a cup of tea but because somewhere along the way they’ve grown accustomed to a plan ole flavorless bag of “tea”.  And by default have substituted the real for a flavorless substitute.  

That is NOT a criticism of missionaries in any stretch of the imagination.  These people have left behind most everything to share with a lost world the saving Grace of Jesus Christ.     

The point of the illustration is “to see how easy it is to become comfortable doing life and not realize just how far we have moved off of center”.   

So when Dave ask, “ what is your thirst or what is your plan?” it is easy to not do the heart work and respond with “I’m thirsty for Jesus and I don’t have a plan”.  I would remind you of the “tea bag” let that set on your heart for a while.  

My people have committed to evils; they have forsaken the fountain of living waters and they have taken shovels and are digging wells, broken wells, which can hold no water.”
Jeremiah 2:13

So What is Sin?

It almost embarrassing for me to confess this (almost).  I’ve always understood as a non Christian that it was the fact that I was a sinner that kept me apart from God (understood).  But as a Christian growing up with a fundamentalist background Sin had become this itemized list of things you don’t do.   And then it becomes a matter of just not doing the things on the list (or polishing the cup)  being careful to always present yourself as “one who has it all together”. Dave’s answer to the question what is Sin?  Sin is trying to meet my inside thirst independent of God.  Good-bye God hello, false well.  Apparently, we all have more in-common with the “woman at the well” then we originally thought.   

Are you tired of Digging?  I say put down the shovel and turn to the “Living Water for thirst quenching” Or to borrow an old soda advertisement “Obey your Thirst”.  

We are praying for you and are truly thankful and blessed that you are a part of what God is doing in Thailand through us.  Our boys are growing in so many ways here in Thailand.  We believe if our boys can in their own way get their heart around “understanding their thirst, and how to quench this thirst” it would be revolutionary.   You can pray with us in this way.  


Preview of Chapter Three

Key Verse  
And on the last and greatest day of the feast Jesus stood and shouted, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 
John 7:37

Highlight
If Jesus Christ pulled up a chair next to you and ask a simple question, “what do you want me to do for you?” What would you tell Him?         

Question
Is Jesus my Only Hope?  
How am I at receiving? 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Thirsty Heart

“If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me,” as the Scriptures said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38

Are you thirsty? The truth of the matter is we are all thirsty. Deep within us there is a thirst put there by God, and it can only be quenched by Him. Chapter one of “The Heart of the Matter,” by Dave Busby, pointed out that we are all thirsty for a love that is free, a love that is strong, and a reason to live.  

Over the years Kevin and I both would say, that we have been doing the dance to earn love from others. If I am to be honest, I must say that I am one heck of a dancer. I spent my childhood and teens as a dancing fool. I danced to gain popularity. I danced to be noticed. The bottom line was I dancing to be loved. I was tired. Then Jesus called me to his side and I began to learn of his great love for me. I can’t say that dancing for others approval stopped immediately but eventually my dancing days became fewer and fewer. Now, most days I live in the freedom and rest of undeserved grace. However, there are times when I find myself exhausted and it never fails, I look down at my feet and realize I have laced up my old habits and the dance has begun once again.  And as we pray for our 3 boys we have found two hearts one that is a ‘dancer’ and ‘bored heart’.  

So what about you? What are you thirsty for, a love that is free, a love that won’t let you down, or a reason to get out of bed in the morning? Whatever you need the answer is clear. The answer is Jesus. He said, “Come to Me.” He said, “Believe Me.” Go to Jesus. Take Him at His word and ask Him to quench the thirst deep within. 

PREVIEW OF CHAPTER TWO

KEY VERSE
“My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken the fountain of living waters and they have taken shovels and are digging wells, broken wells, which can hold no water.” 
Jeremiah 2:13  

HIGHLIGHT
When you are thirsty you look for something to drink. The question is where do go to quench your thirst? 

QUESTION
What is Sin?


CHECK BACK NEXT MONDAY FOR NOTES AND DISCUSSIONS FROM CHAPTER TWO AND A PREVIEW OF CHAPTER THREE.



Monday, November 17, 2014

Join our Challenge!

From Kevin...
I had the opportunity to spend some quality time alone with God recently. Unfortunately it coincided with the 4 days I spent in the hospital, go figure. While there I read "The Heart of the Matter, Moving from the external pressure of religion to the internal passion of Christianity" by Dave Busby.  When I was young man I had the opportunity to meet him.  He was an incredible man who loved the Lord with a passion and intensity that is rarely seen. The things I learned from him changed me and since then I have never met a man more honest and full of the Spirit of God.  

The book is a very simple and quick read but Anjie and I believe that the principals found there can revolutionize a life.  This book has challenged us to examine our hearts, and we have decided to read it to our boys as well. We would like to invite you to join with us too.

If you would like to be a part we challenge you to spend some time praying specifically for God to reveal the condition of your heart.  Then follow along with us while we read and discuss this book.  Anjie and I will create some discussion questions for our family based on each chapter and we'll share them with you each Monday. We would love to hear what God is doing in your lives as well.  The first round of discussion questions will come out Monday, November 17th.  If you decide to follow along we are quite certain you will be blessed!


PREVIEW OF CHAPTER ONE

KEY VERSE: Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” John 37:37-38

HIGHLIGHT: We must begin by looking within. Are you thirsty? The bottom line is we are all thirsty. God created with us this thirst in hopes that it would draw us to Him, but often we look everywhere else to be satisfied. 

QUESTION: With which thirst, thirst for love and acceptance, thirst for a love that is strong, or thirst for a reason to live, do you most relate? Why?

CHECK BACK NEXT MONDAY FOR NOTES AND DISCUSSIONS FROM CHAPTER ONE AND THE PREVIEW FOR CHAPTER TWO!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My First World Heart

Something I have discovered about myself in the last four months…I am a first-world kind of girl. This has come as a bit of a shock to me. I mean, I knew that I loved my first-world country but I didn’t think I was as addicted to the comfort of living there as I am. 

I guess I was fooled because in the states I felt a bit odd. Through out Kevin and I’s marriage we have always had enough but rarely an excess. For ten years we lived in a neighborhood that my children fondly refer to as “the hood.” Over those years we grew accustom to graffiti, questionable people in our alley late at night, and the occasional sound of gunfire. To put those things on paper seems very stark, however, it was home and we loved our time there. Honestly, it was hard to move. 

Another reason I thought I was ready for third-world living was that we rarely had anything that was new. Our last truck was well over ten years-old and had 200,000 miles. We loved that truck.  Most all of our home furnishings were hand me downs or purchase used at GREAT discounts. We laughed (if I were honest I’d say we were prideful) that in 20 years of marriage we had never purchase a TV. We watched the huge and extremely heavy box TV years after the flat-screen came on the scene. I can even say that most all of our clothes were purchase used at thrift stores or were hand me downs. We lived lean, and I was proud of that.

Pride is the key word here. I was prideful and I felt I was better than others because I was content to do with less or even without. This pride came to the surface on a recent trip to Bangkok.

October Break was upon us and we decided to travel to Bangkok on the over night train. When Kevin and I booked our tickets we requested an air-conditioned car with sleeping berths. However, we choose 2nd class because we did not want to be pretentious. I had no idea that this trip would reveal just how much of a snob I really am.

When we arrived at the train station, the discomfort began immediately. There were two trains side by side, the Special Express Train to Bangkok and our train the Express Train to Bangkok. The Special Express train was sleek and shiny with relatively new cars. All I can say about our train…it was NOT. 

Most of the cars on our train where old and rusted. In fact I was pretty sure that the only thing holding one of the cars together was the rust. I envisioned that car splitting in two somewhere between Chiang Mai and our destination. As we walked passed the dining car we saw picnic tables with plastic chairs for a dining room and I quickly shut my eyes so I couldn’t see the kitchen. What I don’t know won’t hurt me, right? The accommodations on the train ranged from simple bench seats, cushioned airline type seats and cars with sleeping berths, and our car was the only one that had the luxury of air-conditioning. 

Our car was the nicest on the train, however I still found myself a bit distressed. I have never been one to worry about germs but I quickly pulled out my hand sanitizer. The car was not as clean as I am used to, and I had to resist the urge to run when I saw the bathroom. It was a squatty potty (see photo). To top it all off it was not connected to plumbing but instead it had a hole where the waste dropped straight onto the track (note to self….don’t ever walk on a train track in Thailand). 

I laid in my bed that night waiting for the train to stop so I could go to the bathroom. Let’s just say the rocking and rolling of a train car and a squatty potty are not a good combination. I kept telling myself, “This is an adventure, I can handle this,” but somewhere along the way the realization hit me…I am not handling this. All I can think about is, “Thank goodness I booked a nice hotel!” I am spoiled rotten. Ouch! 

The majority of Thailand lives in third-world conditions. I am embarrassed when I think about my attitude. I HAVE NEVER EVERY GONE WITHOUT, not really. I have always had food, a roof over my head, and a nice clean, comfortable bed. I may not of had a new car but I have always had a way to get where I needed to be. I am rich.

God has called me here to this land where so many have so little. I am supposed to be salt and light. How can I do that when I get bent out of shape over plumbing? It is clear that God has a work to do in me. I am thankful that He doesn’t require perfection from His servants. He knew how squeamish I was when He called me here. One of the mystery of walking by faith is that even though I am prideful and spoiled God has a plan to use me anyway. I don’t see how, but I am grateful that He does.


DISCLAIMER: We have found the following video to be incredibly insightful, convicting, and humorous, HOWEVER, if you will be offended by a REFERENCE to an inappropriate word…DO NOT WATCH.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Missionary, Really?

The view from my house.
Missionary is a loaded term. Now that I carry that title it seems heavier than it ever has been before. Missionaries are supposed to be super Christians who share the gospel with everyone they meet. They never feel self conscious. They never struggle with what to say. They never shy away from meeting people. They are always willing to sacrifice everything in Jesus’ name and they never ever think of themselves. This is what I think when I think about missionaries. This is who I think they are supposed to be, and I can say with complete confidence that this is most definitely NOT ME.

The past few months I have been afraid to let others in on this little secret. I don’t feel like a missionary. I am introverted by nature. I am self-conscious and I struggle sharing my faith with others. 

I did step out of my comfort zone and meet my neighbors across the street. They are a young Thai couple with a 8 year old boy. Their names are Aiy, Tock, and Cume. They only know a little bit of English and as I have said before I can say hello and thank you and that is about it. So as you can see, trying to have a conversation is out of the question. If I happen to see them outside I cringe. I am so self conscious about what I will say and how I will communicate that I have to fight off the urge to hide. I am not the only one in the family who feels this way either. Jon and I were out front playing frisbee. Cume, the eight year-old boys was watching us through the glass door. I encouraged Jon to ring the bell and invite him out. That idea completely stressed him out. I guess he is like his mother.

Learning the language will make a huge difference and I am committed to working on that, however, we have been encouraged to wait until after Christmas to begin lessons. This has proven to be wise counsel being that I have been overwhelmed with a new job and normal living ever since we have arrived. Knowing some Thai will help, but I know that being able to communicate won’t fix everything. 

All of these thoughts have been plaguing me. In the midst of my turmoil, a friend sent me these words by Oswald Chambers:

“…the challenge (for missionaries) comes from the perspective of the missionary’s own personal relationship with Jesus Christ— “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28). Our Lord unwaveringly asks us that question, and it confronts us in every individual situation we encounter. The one great challenge to us is— do I know my risen Lord? Do I know the power of His indwelling Spirit? Am I wise enough in God’s sight, but foolish enough according to the wisdom of the world, to trust in what Jesus Christ has said? Or am I abandoning the great supernatural position of limitless confidence in Christ Jesus, which is really God’s only call for a missionary? If I follow any other method, I depart altogether from the methods prescribed by our Lord— “All authority has been given to Me . . . . Gotherefore. . .” (Matthew 28:18-19).” 

My focus has been on my inadequacies, instead of the truth that God will work His will through me. If I abide in Him, he will do the rest. After all, its not my job, it is His.

Last night we invited Cume and his parents to come out in the street to watch the boys shoot off some fireworks. No tracks came out, the Bible was not quoted, but a relationship is beginning. For the first time in a while I am not looking for a place to hide, but I am eager to see what God will do.  



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Life in Translation

Thai to English.....it's a challenge
You know what it is like when you are dealing with the phone company or maybe even a credit card company. You spend hours on the phone talking to multiple people just to find yourself chasing your tail. Customer representative number one listens carefully to your problem and they assure you that it has been fixed and you shouldn’t have another issue. You hang up feeling accomplished until the next bill comes and you realize that nothing has changed. You call back. This time customer representative number two tells you that what you need is completely impossible or at least that is what you think he said because you are having a really hard time understanding his thick accent. You hang up and call back another day because surely if you had a hard time understanding him then he probably did not know what you were asking in the first place. The third time you call you get someone who is definitely located on the western hemisphere and with hope rising you begin to explain your troubles. Just when you have found a sympathetic ear and your problem might be resolved you get disconnected…ARGH!!!!! Have you been there? Can you feel your blood pressure rising just thinking about it? Living in a foreign country is like this on a daily basis. In the last week I have experienced all of the above scenarios a couple times over. 

Translating life from Thai to English makes everything a challenge. The language barrier plays a huge role in the difficulties we experience but culture is also involved. Here in Thailand saving face is extremely important. If you ask a Thai for directions to a specific place they will smile and graciously tell you where you need to go, however, it is quite possible they have no idea what you are taking about. Even if they do not know where to go they will make something up so that they will not be embarrassed. Now I don’t want them to be embarrassed but I do not want to drive off a cliff either! 

These things have the potential to get me a one-way ticket to the looney bin! Honestly, I spend most of my time exhausted. It really is pathetic that I need a vacation after simply running an errand. 

God is definitely teaching us to live one day at a time. We have to depend on Him to help us navigate the chores of daily living. Never before have I had to pray, “God I need your help to get through this,” while I am at the grocery store! As silly as that may sound it really is a gift to need Him so much. He is showing Himself strong and helping me accomplish the little things and He is keeping me out of the looney bin when things fall apart. I pray my life show His presence in all the details. Maybe life here will get easier and such difficult circumstances will not be required to foster my dependence on God. In the meantime, I have got a lot to learn and you can bet that naps will be a priority. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hope Deferred

King Midas had a touch that could turn anything into gold. I have a touch that can turn anything green into something that is dead and brown. I call it the touch of death! I would really love to have a lush garden full gorgeous flowers but I just can't keep anything alive. I have always blamed it on living in South Texas where we stayed in a perpetual state of drought, but I know deep in my heart that my location has nothing to do with it. Now, I am living in a tropical climate and there is a glimmer of hope that I would now be able to grow something. What are the odds? Not very good!

I may not be able to grow beautiful flower but my neighbors can. Walking down my street I get to enjoy their gardening skills. The flowers that have mesmerized me are the orchids. They are blooming now and they are gorgeous. Have you ever seen an orchid plant? The plant itself is very unattractive. Long straggly roots hang from the base of scaly brown stalks. It really is amazing that something so ugly produces such a thing of beauty. 

The orchids bloom only a few weeks out of the year if at all. So if you have orchids in your garden you will spend most of your time looking a pitiful and homely plant waiting for elegance to emerge. Isn’t that just like life sometimes. I feel like there is always something in my world that looks like that orchid plant, ugly situations, ugly relationships, ugly sin in my heart. I spend so much of my time staring at these depressing things praying, waiting, hoping that something beautiful will come of it. 
The orchid plant may never fulfill the gardeners hopes of blooms but God always promises to bring good from our difficulties and pain. The waiting can be excruciating. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred make the heart sick.” Have you ever felt heartsick waiting for something to change? I have. There is such a temptation to side with the enemy, give up hope and believe God doesn’t care. The truth is GOD DOES CARE. Psalm 103:5 says, “(God) satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed.” God sees you. God sees your longings. God promises good things will come. All you have to do is just hold on and don’t give up. 


The gardener won’t throw out the orchid because it is unsightly most all of the time. Instead he wait patiently for the beauty that comes in its time. Have faith like the gardener and trust that even in the mist of the ugliness of life splendor is just around the corner.   

Monday, September 15, 2014

Just Breathe

Years ago while at a friends lake house, Jon had the opportunity to catch his first fish. He
This is NOT Jon's fish but this was shortly before he caught his own!
had been watching his older brothers do it for years and it was finally his turn. We operated under a strict catch and release program because a small perch is not worth the trouble to eat and catching was the fun we were after. After Jon caught his fish he stood for the customary ‘first fish photo’ and then we explained that it was time to put the fish back in the water. Much to our surprise Jon had a different idea. There was no way that boy was going to give up his prize possession! We finally came to a compromise and placed the small fish on a stringer and tied the stringer to the dock. Sometime later we noticed that Jon had decided that the fish needed to be closer to him. He took the stringer from the dock and tied the rope to his life jacket. Jon was so proud to have his new friend close but the fish on the other hand was not too happy with the arrangement. The fish, now dead, followed him around as if it were a dog on a leash.  

Jon expected the fish to behave like a dog. The fish, however, was not a dog and could only hold its breath for a little while. I can really relate to that fish. A new country, a new culture, a new job and I feel like I have been holding my breath trying to be the dog that everyone expects but really I’m just a fish who is completely out of its element. Last week the lack of oxygen finally caught up with me. I told the Lord, I can’t do this anymore! As always, He was so gracious to me. He reminded me of two things:

  • HE MADE ME: God has made me who I am, and that is all I ever have to be. I am not perfect and God is still shaping me but I do not have to bow to pressure to be someone other than who I am. For some of you this may be a very easy concept. For me, however, my insecurities scream that I must be what other people expect or need. It has taken years for me to learn to live free from these lies, but sometimes I find myself slipping back into old habits. 
  • HE CALLED ME: God has called me to this place. He wants me, warts and all, in this place at this time. He has a plan and He is in charge of working that plan out for His glory and my good. My job is to rest in that. I do not have to do anything but be obedient. He is the one that produces the results that He wants. 


Setting these two truths back into their rightful place in my thinking has allowed me to exhale and breath. Once I did this, I was able to see that some of the expectations I was striving to live up to where self-imposed. I was my own worst enemy! 


I don’t know where you find yourself. Are you comfortably living where God has placed you or are you like Jon’s fish suffocating under unrealistic expectations? Don’t let anyone or anything pressure you into being someone that you are not. Remember that God has made you as you are for a purpose. Rest in that and take the time to breathe.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Testosterone

You can't see the snakes head because it's flicking its tongue at me!
Shortly after arrival, we were experiencing what the Forongs (Foreigners) call the Thai tummy. Basically our digestive tracks were adjusting to a different bacterial flora in our new country. We had been sequestered at home for several days and finally on day four everyone was feel a little better and somewhat stir-crazy. It was time to get out of the house!

We had yet to do anything “fun” so we hopped in the truck with a map and determination. We located an area that was full of tourist type venues. Being that my children are not of sound mind and completely snake crazy they decided a snake show was what we needed to see. Me, being a mom of three boys, agreed with their decisions. I learned long ago that you can’t fight testosterone. There were numerous shows to choose from but when we saw a sign that one of the snake shows had been attended by “John Rambo,” aka Sylvester Stallone, the decision was made (yeah, it’s that testosterone thing again).

We arrived just as one show was concluding so we were escorted around the snake cages by a Thai young man that told us he was a good boy scout. Boy Scout told us about the different snakes in the cages. He was very informative and funny. He took a ball python out for us to hold. Needless to say, I did not hold it. I must let my boys be boys but I’m still a girl. This fact became very clear when we took a family photo while holding the snake. I made a mistake and stood by the snakes head. It kept looking and flicking its tongue at me. It gave me the willies! Yes, the boys enjoyed my squeamish attitude but the icing on the cake was when Boy Scout handed my camera back to me. Upon my black camera was a black scorpion the size of a Chihuahua! I SCREAMED LIKE A GIRL!! All of the males in my family laughed till they couldn’t see straight and then took turns wearing the scorpion as if it were a brooch! (See insane photos below)

We took our seats in the arena and the snake show began. First they pulled out three Thai cobras each a couple feet long and played with them. They taunted the snakes and then pulled back just out of reach as they struck. They touched their heads and pushed them over. They even kissed them between their beady little eyes. My boys were in awe, I was horrified! 

After the Thai cobras they brought out big daddy, the King Cobra. He was just a youth at 8 feet long. Raised up, his head stood a good two, two and a half feet of the ground. They played with him as well but with a different attitude. After several minutes and many photo opportunities the snake struck at the handler with too much accuracy. The handler looked at the crowd and said, “It’s time to put him up!”

It was a fun time. The boys were happy they had been so close to something that dangerous and I was happy that we had all survived. It is hard for me to understand why on earth anyone would want to play with a snake. I guess it’s that testosterone thing again. It makes boys crazy and it keeps their mamma screaming like a girl!

He looks so proud!

I was holding my breath and praying!

Kevin couldn't be outdone!

Jon stuck his finger in the snakes mouth!




Monday, September 8, 2014

Same, Same but Different

It may look like Hellman's but....
“Same, same,” is something that we hear a lot lately. This phrase is the Thai world’s way of convincing us that a product or food is the same as what we are used to. I respond with a smile on my face “Ka, same, same,” but under my breath I am saying “Same, same, but different.” Different is how I would describe everything. Dish soap looks familiar and gets my dishes clean but it has an ingredient that makes my hands itch something terrible. You can get a fried pie at McDonalds but instead of apples or cherries, they are filled with corn!? We have given up on eating hotdogs, which have always been a staple in our home, because the wieners here are just beyond describing. Things that come in jars or bottles at home come in bags. Ever try to us use mayo from a bag? And if you are concerned about those dark age spots…cosmetics and lotions all have whitening in them, even deodorant. I am all for reducing the appearance of age spots, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why my armpits would need to be white?

I guess it is human nature to focus on things that are different. We even teach our pre-school children by singing, “Which one of these is not like the other, Which one of these just doesn’t belong?” Noticing differences is a very important skill that we must all learn, however, the problem comes when we pass judgement after we have noticed the difference. If you are like me then you suffer from a deeply ingrained bias that says, “My way of thinking is right.” My bias has caused me to pass judgement on my new home. In my heart I have been thinking, “They do it all wrong.” But the truth is, different is not bad, it is just….different.

“Same, same,” is the Thai’s way of making me feel at home and I am the one who has to turn my nose up and tack on…but different. This country has so much to offer I just have to get over myself and predetermined ideas of what is normal and good. It is time to embrace this country and its culture fully. Instead of seeing different as bad it is time to take it as an opportunity to grow a bit. So here I go. Instead of thinking, “Same, same but different,” my new attitude says, “Different, different but good!” I still don’t think I will be going for the white armpits but hey if that’s what they want…to each his own!



  


Monday, August 4, 2014

Unexpected Rest

As I have mentioned in a previous blog driving rules in Chiang Mai are left to each man or woman’s interpretation. You learn very quickly to be on the defensive expecting the unexpected at all times. The cars travel way above to posted speed limit and if you are driving a mere 20KM above what is posted you are likely to get run off the road. This is all unsettling but what concerns me the most are the motorcycles and scooters. They are the Thai people’s primary means of transportation and they go places an do things that make this westerner cringe.

Being that a scooter is some families only means of transportation you will see entire families riding together. A toddler will ride standing between a father’s legs on the foot platform and the mother will riding behind her husband cradling a tiny infant. It STRESSES ME OUT, however, this is all normal to them. 

I can remember riding with Kevin on his motorcycle. I needed to run up to the store to pick up a prescription and I agreed to go on the bike. Now I had cleverly avoided riding with Kevin before this because we only had one adult helmet. We had purchased a youth helmet for the boys but alas, being that I could not wear it, I was always left out of the fun (Aren’t I sneaky!). Anyway, Kevin managed to put on the boys helmet so off we went.

We started out and I fully expected to travel through our neighborhood to our destination but Kevin had other plans. We ended up on a major street with cars whizzing past. All I could think was, “If I fall off this thing I’m dead!” Needless to say I made sure we went home a different route.

As I watch these Thai families with their little ones in tow I am amazed at how calm they look. What astounds me even more is that often I see the little ones fast asleep! Just this morning as I saw a toddler asleep cradled between his father’s legs I thought, “How on earth can they sleep when they are in such a precarious situation!” Almost immediately I was reminded of Jesus asleep in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had wondered the exact same question, “How can He sleep at a time like this. Doesn’t He know we could die at any moment!” When they woke Jesus up He rebuked them for their lack of faith and calmed the sea.   

I can’t blame the disciples for their fear. I face it every day. Right now I have two sick kids. In the states I wouldn’t have worried at about it, but now in a foreign country, I find myself worrying about what strange diseases they may have contracted. 

My fear is a lack of trust in my father’s care for me and my family. He brought us here and nothing will come into our lives that has not first gone through His hand. The toddler can sleep between his father’s legs even when cars are rushing past. My father is the Sovereign God of the Universe. Surely I can rest in His arms.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Days Like These

Mamma warned me about days like these and for us it had been several days of nothing but chaos. We had been in Thailand for just 10 days we I did something very stupid…I left my debit/credit card in the ATM at the mall. Of course I didn’t realize I left it until sometime later. I took the cash and walked away from my card. From the mall we went to the center of town for the Walking Street Bazar. Every Sunday night two streets inside the center of the ancient city are shut down and filled with vendors selling crafts, wares, and all kinds of delicious food. Kevin, Jon, and I had such a wonderful evening that we didn’t even mind when we got caught without an umbrella during a short downpour. Right before we left I bought a purse. I haggled for a good price and payed the vendor. We hailed a SongTow and headed home. On the trip to the house I realized I did not have the purse! I was frustrated but at the moment I didn’t realize that was the first thread of our  calm lives that was beginning to unravel.

The next morning Kevin and I set out to purchase a bed for Shelby and several other necessities. When it came time to pay I reached into my wallet and realized NO CARD!! I did what every woman of faith does in a situation like this, I PANICKED. I rushed home to get online to cancel my card but then realized that our internet was down. Yes we had had internet for an incredible 24 hours before it crashed. WHAT, I don't even know who to call! I pulled out the paperwork from the carrier hoping to find a number. Of course, it was in THAI! I started dialing every number that looked like a phone number. None worked.

I put my computer in the car and headed to a cafe that had wifi. I get there and my computer won’t connect. I head to a friends house and finally get online. I log into my banks website and the homepage reads, “I’m Sorry for the inconvenience but this site is down for routine maintenance,” PLEASE NO! I was beat. There was nothing I could do. Knowing that it would be hours before she would read it, I sent a message to my sister to see if she could help. I spent the rest of the day working to get the internet fixed but the best the company could do was promise a technician would come out the next day.

In the next 48 hours…I got my card canceled and in doing so Kevin’s card was canceled inadvertently. Which means we lost any means to access the money in our stateside account. The internet did come on but my computer still would not connect. At the ICare store a technician fixed it with a couple of clicks, but when I got home not only would it not connect it couldn't even find our signal. The final straw came tonight at dinner. I loaded rice into my brand new rice cooker and guess what…it wouldn’t work! I stood there in the kitchen burning the rice as I tried to cook it in my electric wok and cried. Lord, I am so frustrated! Then I was reminded that these frustrations can only be fought with one thing. I began to praise God. I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t want to but I did it anyway. God is still in control even when we have days like these. Good times or bad He is worthy of praise! The only thing the praise changed was my attitude but that was the most important thing.


PS As I turned on my computer to write this blog, I was surprise to see…I HAVE INTERNET!  I definitely don’t deserve it, but God is gracious to me! 

PSS The internet only worked for about 30 minutes...GONE AGAIN!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

No Feet Allowed

Throughout or preparation time before we arrived in Thailand we were warned, encouraged, and schooled in dealing with culture shock. Basically, we were told that you will experience it and how you deal with it can make or break your stay in a foreign country. Learning to function in another culture can be discouraging and exhausting. After one week in Chiang Mai I am already feeling culture shock, however, it is not what I expected. I am not yet experiencing anxiety over how my family is accepting the Thai culture but instead I am completely stressed out about how the Thai culture will accept my family!

We moved into a house in a neighborhood not too far from the school where Kevin and I will be working and the boys will be attending. We purposefully choose this neighborhood because it is far enough removed from the Western Christian bubble that the school has created. We wanted to be in a community where we would be in contact with the Thai people. We got what we wanted. We live on a street (or soi) where we are the only foreigners. There is a population of GIS (Grace International School) staff and students here as well but they are not next door. 

When we moved I was so excited and began to pray that one day when I know a little Thai that I can begin to build relationships. A week into our stay here the excitement is gone and I am now praying that my neighbors won't hate westerners before we have a chance to get to know them!

You see the Thai culture is a very polite society. When you encounter them they are always smiling and cordial. They keep all other emotions locked within and only show hospitality. Our family is NOT like this. I have been told by people outside our home that my boys are very well behaved and even gentlemen but at home not so much. We are loud, boisterous, full of emotion and my boys take pride in the term redneck. “Oh, Lord, help us!”

We have been working hard to education ourselves on what is considered rude and make adjustments. One of the first thing we learned was that Thai’s consider feet to be extremely dirty. You don’t point at, or touch something with your foot. You especially never show the bottom of your foot to someone. THIS IS VERY RUDE. Got it! Yeah, maybe not. While standing in a restaurant waiting to order, Shelby and Ethan begin there normal brotherly love exchange of  hitting each other. Wrestling, play fighting, this is how we show love. Before I could say anything, Ethan lifts his foot and kicks his brother in the leg! Ethan!!! Remember??? You could see the shock on his face. He does not want to offend but old habits are hard to break and new ones slow to take root.


Yesterday, I was cringing every time my children’s extremely loud exchanges broke the quiet of our very demure street. I thought, “Lord, why on earth did you send us here? Our lives are not a sweet aroma of Your goodness but instead a foul rude stench.” As quickly as I thought this the Lord responded, “I did not make a mistake. I chose you and your family to be right where you are. I will use you there for My purposes.”  Once again the Lord has brought me back to faith. This call, my life, is all about His plan. He will do what He wishes with whomever He wishes. He can even use this messed up redneck family. I don’t see how, but I will trust Him to do what he wills.   

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Quest for Food

Day two, Chiang Mai…When we arrived we were greeted by fiends who were so happy that we were finally here. They graciously picked us and all of our stuff up at the airport and escorted us to where we would be staying. We were elated to find that they had stocked the fridge with all that we would need to get us going. 48 hours later my children have devoured everything in sight and I have to find more food. Easy enough right? Oh wait, there's in NOT and HEB around the corner. 

Today we set out to find the grocery store and the mall. Kevin got behind the wheel and I pulled out the map. The mall was easy enough to find after we got lost a couple of times. Yes, I was navigating but in my defense, the road signs are in Thai and the names on my map are in English, so give me a break. 

By the time we got to the mall it was lunch time so we decided to get something to eat. We walked through the Thai food court. My goal is to one day be comfortable enough to order and eat there but that wasn’t going to happen today. Hopefully we got out of there without offending to many people because my children where having a hard time with the smell. The boys saw a Pizza Hut sign and that was all they needed.

After the mall Kevin asked me if I wanted to drive. Drive? I am still having a hard time being a passenger. They drive on the left side of the road and Thai driving rules are merely suggestions. EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF! As Kevin stood there holding out the keys I decided it was time to put on my big girl panties anad get behind the wheel. The boys were mostly encouraging but I did hear, “We’re gonna die!” a time or two coming from the backseat.

We made it to the grocery store and we were all thankful when I parked. The store we went into was sort of like a Wal-Mart. They had a little bit of everything, or so it seemed. You could buy everything from scooters to dish soap to fruits and vegetables, but there were a couple of staples that I just couldn’t find, bread and sugar. Two aisles of ramen noodles and potato chips but no bread?? Finally, I did find a very (I mean very) small loaf of bread in a specialty shop down stairs. I still haven’t found the sugar. Sorry, Ethan, no sweet tea for you!


Life is going to be different. Right now, it all seems a little overwhelming. I have two teenage boys to feed and I’m not real sure how I am going to do that. They are hungry all the time. All I can say is, “Lord, help us!” I am clinging to hope that a year from now I will look back and laugh. It will get figured out and we will learn to live in a new normal. There is a lot of stress in this process but I think there is a silver lining…I might just drop a few pounds until I learn how to shop!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Note From 36,000 Feet

Well we did it. We sold most everything packed up what was left into 13 suitcases and 3
Just before take-off!
boxes and we got on a plane to a foreign country. Right now we are somewhere over Canada with our home Texas far behind. Before us lies our new home, Thailand. 

If I stop and think about what we are doing I am hit with the realization that we MUST be crazy. We put our three children, two of which had never flown before, on an airplane and now we are jetting off into the great unknown. We don’t even know where we will live! Yes, it is a bit insane but an overwhelming peace covers me. The peace that comes from months of God showing Himself over and over again proving that this journey is all about Him and we are really just along for the ride. 

The past couple months have been fraught with one challenge after another. Some of the challenges have been physical, like trying to dismantle a house after 21 years of marriage. Some of the challenges have been emotional, like walking beside my father in the last few weeks of his life and then burying his ashes the day before I got on the plane. Some of the challenges have been spiritual, like fighting against the fiery darts of the enemy that come not only from outside sources but also from within my very own heart. Nothing that God calls us to is ever easy. We have and enemy who continually seeks to kill, steal, and destroy.


The future is still unclear. What will God do? How we will rise to His challenge and how we will fail miserably? I am sure in the next year we will experience all. Today I look toward tomorrow and I pray, “God, You are our only hope. Please don’t let go!” It may seem a desperate plea but the one thing I have learned following God for the last 26 years…Only when God is your only hope do you truly realize that He is all that you need. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Wheels Fell Off


Telling your children two of whom are teenagers that you plan to uproot them and take them to a foreign country is a challenge. We had been counseled to NOT tell them, “Pack your bags we’re leaving,” but instead we should invite them to be a part of the decision making process. Kevin and I jumped on this idea wholeheartedly because we were confident that going to Thailand was exactly what God wanted. Surely God would instill the same confidence in them if they would just listen to Him. Being who I am I thought all I needed to do was train them how to seek God, listen for His voice and all will be well.

In order to do this I came up with a brilliant plan. I would put together a short prayer guide with scripture to read and questions to ponder. All of which would help them identify their fears and concerns but would also show them how obedience to God is worth facing whatever would come our way. On a beautiful summer day Kevin and I planned to take the boys to our family’s favorite park. There we would all spend some time alone listening for God, talk about what God had said, and then spend the rest of the day enjoying some family fun. It sounded so perfect. It was going to be a scene worthy of a Hallmark commercial, but instead it was the day the wheels fell off the bus bound for Thailand.

The day came for the big family prayer retreat and we never made it the park. Shelby was passed out from exhaustion and we could barely get him to crack an eye. Ethan was in a terrible mood and was adamant that, “I don’t want to go anywhere!” Jon was the only one willing to go, but by this time both Kevin and I’s moods were beginning to implode. It was time for Plan B.

Plan B consisted of dropping the bomb shell, “God is calling us to be missionaries in Thailand,” in our living room. Then we sent the boys to their rooms with my helpful prayer guide and told them, “Go listen to God.” Everyone went to their separate corners in a huff and I prayed, “Please God do something!”

God did do something that day but it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted all the boys jumping on the bus to Thailand with joy in their heart. Instead, God just cracked the door. The boys were honest with us. One said, “God may be calling you to Thailand but my mission field is right here.” Another said, “I’m just not going.” One was in tears. It wasn’t the outcome we were hoping for, but it was a healthy place to start. Over the next few weeks Kevin met with each one of the boys on their terms. Conversations were started and hearts began to soften. Now, months and many conversations later, there is an excitement growing in our boy’s hearts. Moving half-way around the world will still be hard but they are looking forward to the adventure of it all.  

Telling our boys that God was asking us to move to Thailand was not the Hallmark moment we expected, but God taught us a critical lesson that day. On this journey of faith we can’t control the outcome. There will be days when the wheels fall off and when that happens…all you can do is hang on and trust.