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.