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


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!