Monday, October 29, 2012

One Year

(The October newsletter I sent out was a bit different than my previous months' updates. I wanted to reflect back on my first year here. Most of you that read my blog probably receive my newsletter as well, but I wanted to put this out there for those who don't receive my newsletter. Also, sorry for the lack of posting on this blog...the internet connection here hasn't been working well with trying to upload pictures & update with pictures. I'll try to do better from here on out. :) )

I can’t believe my first year in Thailand has come & gone! WOW! I know I say it every month, but the time really has gone by fast. 

Each month I have given you stories & a look into what my life here is like. For this newsletter, I want to reflect on the past year & tell you what it has been like for me, personally. 

To say it has been a year of learning and growth is an understatement – I can’t quite put into words just how much I have learned and grown from my time here. I can probably best compare it to infanthood & childhood. When you are born, you come into this world knowing nothing. You first learn who your family is – who you can depend on to get you through each day. Over time, you learn how to crawl and then walk. You coo, then babble, and finally talk.

My time here has mirrored that – I left all that I knew, my family & friends, my job, the culture I grew up in and started over here knowing nothing. I’ve had to find & build a support system. I’ve had to learn my way around a new city & try to do that riding a motorcycle on the left side of the road! I’ve had to learn a new culture & language that some that have lived here five plus years still can’t fully communicate in.
I haven’t had to do it alone, though – God has been with me every step of the way. One thing I have learned is how to fully depend on God. The experience that sticks out most in having to fully depend on Him in this first year is when I had to have surgery. I clearly remember being wheeled into the operating room & knowing that at that moment, all I had was God & that He was enough. I didn’t have my family by my side to help me get through surgery & recovery, but I had God and because of Him, I made it. 

One other learning and growth process that I’m going through has come from being away from everything & everyone I’ve known and been surrounded by my whole life. This has really given me an opportunity to reflect on who I am – both the good & the bad. We are shaped as we grow up in both positive and negative ways. In the time I’ve been here, I’ve been able to look at who I am, why I am that way, & if that is in line with who God says I am. This has not been an easy or pleasant experience, but one I am very grateful to have and to be going through. I’m still learning & growing in this area and know that it will continue in my second year here and on after that.

Above all, this year has brought me so much closer to God.

Shortly before I came here, God gave me a passion for studying His word & knowing His truths. I’ve had the time here to devote to studying & learning. I’ve had more time to just spend being with Him. 

More than anything, I just want you all to know that it’s because of Him I am on this journey. All praise & glory should be given to Him for anything that results from it.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature & complete, not lacking anything.”
James 1:2-5

“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Romans 5:3,4

Monday, May 21, 2012

Like a Child

Another lesson I learned came to me when I was exercising one day. (I know - such a random time!)

Right in the middle of my work out, this verse popped into my head:

"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
(Spoken by Jesus & can be found in Matthew 18:3)

In the past, I've heard this verse many times, mostly in talking about approaching God as a child - pure and innocent. This time, however, I got to thinking about children - how they behave, things they do & say. (Now, I don't have kids, so I'm not going to say I'm the expert on this, but I have been around small kids in one situation or another all of my life, so I've picked up on a few things.)

The first thing I thought about is that kids, especially really young kids, are very inquisitive & are always asking "why". I don't think they are constantly asking "why" just to annoy whoever it is they are with at the moment. They're asking "why" because they want to know something new; they want to learn, and asking "why" is how they learn & how they grow.

So, how does this apply to approaching God as a child? We, like children, should be constantly asking "why", seeking to know more & to learn more. As a child goes to their parent, we should go to God, our Father, to learn more by spending time in His word and by just spending time with Him.

Following this thought of the constant "why", I thought, sometimes after the 500th "why" of the day, the only answer left is "because." ("Because" is sometimes followed by "I'm the mom/dad & I said so.") From a child's perspective (because I'm not a parent), "because" can be frustrating! You just want to know an answer. 

Why is "because" from a parent acceptable? Because that parent loves you unconditionally & only ever wants what is best for you. They aren't saying "because" just because they can or to hurt or frustrate you. They are saying it because they don't want you to get hurt & only want good things for you. (This lesson may have taken me so long to learn because I'm still a child & not yet a parent!)

So, what happens when, as children sometimes do, we hear "because" from Father God? We need to know that "because" is good enough. Why? Because, even more than our parents do, God loves us unconditionally. He only wants good for us. He's not out to get us or to see how much we can put up with. He has a plan for each one of us & knows what is to come. That is why "because" is good enough.

When you're only hearing "because", know that it's all you need to hear at that moment because God loves you & is always with you. It's enough.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


In coming to Thailand, I knew & was anticipating that God would teach me many lessons - lessons on myself, lessons on Him, lessons on others. I didn't know that I would learn so many lessons so quickly in the short time that I have been here. It makes me excited to see how much He will continue to teach me and the ways I will continue to stretch & grow in the rest of my time here.

I've been writing these lessons down for myself mostly because I have a horrible memory, but also because I wanted to be able to look back someday on my time here & remember how far God has brought me - not just physically in the distance from home to here, but in my relationship with Him and in becoming the woman He's created me to be.

A few weeks ago as I was thinking of all of these lessons I've already learned, God spoke to me & basically said to me (my paraphrase), "These lessons aren't just for you to learn. Yes, I'm giving them to you to learn & to grow from, but I want you to pass these on so that others can learn from them & grow."

Here's how the conversation followed (again, my paraphrase):

Me: (per usual when God wants me to do something out of my comfort zone) "Really?!? I can't do that."

God: "No, you can't; but I can & I'll help you. (per His usual :) )

Me: "Well, how am I supposed to share these lessons? I can't talk to everyone! And besides, You know how much I love talking (sarcasm)."

God: "Remember that thing called your blog? Write them there."

Me: "Well, no one will want to read them."
God: "Let them decide that. You just put it out there."

So, here's me putting it out there. From now on, when I've learned something that I think God wants me to share with others, it will show up here. (A lot of what I'm learning has been really personal, so it may or may not show up on here.)

I'm not very good with putting big, fancy words together & making it into some eloquent statement that makes sense like a lot of blogs I read. I'm not going to start trying that now. I'm just going to be real, to be me, & to try to make what I'm learning make sense to others as I put it out there. (I was going to write "put it down on paper", but this clearly isn't paper & I don't know what this is called. :) )
I think one of the reasons God brought me here was time - to give me more time & to learn how to better spend the time I'm given. Because of having more time, I've spent more time in His word, more time to talking to Him, & more time studying and reading some other helpful books. So, I've learned these lessons in different ways - books I've read, Bible studies & devotionals I've done, & from God in time spent with Him.

Here are a couple lessons I've already learned & re-learned (I'm not perfect, I tend to need to learn something a few times for it to stick):

* Shortly after I got here, I finished a book that I'd started at home called "Captivating" by John & Stasi Eldredge. (It was REALLY good!) When I picked it up to finish reading it, the first thing I read jumped out at me. It said "He (God) often takes us aside from every other source of comfort so that He alone can have our heart's attention." He had definitely taken me aside from every comfort source & now definitely had my attention! This is when I really knew that I would be learning A LOT of lessons.

* God is big & mighty & everywhere! This is what you learn in Sunday School & hear repeatedly growing up in the church, but in coming here, I now know it. This truth, God being everywhere, is His omnipresence. (This may be the only big word you ever read on my blog, it just means "present in all places at all times", and yes, I did have to google it to find the definition to describe it to you. :) ) Knowing that God is omnipresent has given me a lot of peace & comfort. There are so many ways I've learned this truth here. I know that when tough things are going on at home that I wish I could be there for, God is there. He can do so much more in that situation than I would ever be able to if I were there. And just because He's there, or here, doesn't mean He's in the other place less. As much as I've needed Him here, He's been there that much for everyone back home. This is probably turning into rambling because it's such a hard thing for me to wrap my mind around, but I know it is true & amazing!

So, there's just a couple lessons to start with. I already have two more lessons learned that God has put on my heart to write here, but you'll have to wait for those. :)
I'm looking forward to what God will teach us & where He will lead us if we let Him!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What do you do?

What do you do...

...when God puts something on your heart?

What do you do...

...when that something is so strong it literally makes your heart hurt & takes your breath away just thinking about it?

What do you do...

...when you feel so strongly about this something, but you don't know why exactly God has put it on your heart or even what you're supposed to do with it?

For me, this something is orphans.

God first gave me this heart for oprhans when I worked in the NICU. When we had a baby come in that had been placed for adoption, if it had been a possibility, I would have taken each one home.

Lately, God has specifically placed on my heart orphans with Down syndrome. I came across this site, Reese's Rainbow (, a short while ago & haven't stopped thinking about it since. They are a ministry that helps raise funds for families to adopt children with Down syndrome & other special needs.

The other night I was looking through the website & my heart was breaking for these kids. I was sobbing. This is the part where all of my questions started - what do I do now?

Though I don't know yet why God has placed this on my heart - and in such a way that it literally hurts - I do know that I'm not supposed to just let it be.

So, what can I do in the waiting time?

I can pray. I can pray every day for these kids that God would provide for them what they need each day, that He would provide each one with a forever family, and that each child will know His love every day.

And, I can tell you about it. Tell you so that you, too, can join me in praying for these kids who are waiting for a family. Pray for these families wanting to adopt them. If you have a few minutes, visit the website.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Field Trips & a Holiday

The beginning of April was full with field trips with my Thai language school & a major holiday in Thailand.

It all started on the 6th with a field trip to go bamboo rafting. Teachers, students, & their families all went for a day of rafting down the river, swimming, & eating lunch together.
It was a fun time!

Getting on the rafts to begin our float journey

My friend, Sunny, & Me

Most of the rafts were "guided" by students, which made for some very interesting & exciting moments!

There were little stands set up along the way where you could buy snacks & drinks.

The view was amazing!
(I wish my pictures turned out better so you could see, but a not great camera + LOTS of sunlight = poor pictures.)

Bamboo growing beside the river

There were areas along the way where you could stop for lunch.
(This is my raft - with a guide :))

At the end of our hour-long ride, we stopped for swimming & lunch.

On the 11th, we had another field trip. April 12-15th was Songkran Festival in Thailand. It is a celebration for the Thai New Year. The day before, my school went to two temples to learn about the Thai traditions & culture.

Wat Phan On

The tradition for ringing the bells is that the louder your ring them, the more favor you receive.

These are full of sand. The tradition was that people would bring in sand to the temple to replace the sand that sticks to their feet as they leave. The flags are placed in the sand & the higher you place a flag, the more blessing you receive.

The flag with the animals are the animals that represent the years.

This is the 2nd temple we went to.
(I didn't get the name of it.)

There were a lot more tourists at this temple. There were food & souvenir stands set up here.

Inside the 2nd temple.

A monk statue made of wax.

These were a place to make an offering according to the day of the week that you were born.
The day of the week has a special meaning.

Teachers from my school
The Songkran Festival celebrates the traditional Thai New Year. When it started, people would bless their elders by pouring a little bit of water on their head, shoulders, or hands. The water blessing has evolved into a city-wide water fight!

 I went out on Friday just to get groceries & by the time I got to the store, I was soaked! On Saturday, I ventured out with my friend Sunny to experience the "blessing of water". We were only out for a couple of hours & that was plenty for me. There were SO many people! I'm glad I got to experience it, though!

Half a block from my apartment & we're already getting "blessed"!

People rode in the back of trucks throwing water on those they passed by.

Tuk tuks were also full with people throwing water.

This is in front of the mall near my house, Kad Suan Kaew.
The street was open to cars at this point, but was closed when we were going back home.

We walked along the moat, where people got the water from that they were throwing.

Some of the water I was "blessed" with was FREEZING - and this is why - blocks of ice!
As we were walking, I looked over to see this temple. It struck me how blessed I am to have been called to & given the opportunity to be experiencing all of this & living in this place, to just be able to experience a new place & new culture. It also re-affirmed to me why I'm here - to show people the love of Christ & tell them about Him. This place really needs Him, which I'm reminded of every time I drive or walk around & see all of the many temples.

I'll leave you with a picture of my walk home - walking along the wall of the old city that runs along the moat.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My New Place

A big thing happened here in Thailand last week...well, big for me...I moved into my own apartment!

I love it! It's within walking distance to my school & many different shops & restaurants. I love being able to get out whenever I need or want to & use the language that I'm learning.

Cheryl, ACMI's Office Manager, was here visiting last week, so she was able to help me move & shop for some house stuff. I am SO glad everything worked out & I was able to move while she was here! We had fun! :)

I'll give you a tour of my new place in pictures:

Don't mind the messy hair or tired look...
This was after we'd just returned from a trip to the village & then moved & unpacked everything!

My front door & little courtyard
(It's my laundry day...hence the clothes drying on the right)

The lady who lived here before me left a few plants in the courtyard
I hope I don't kill them!

One half of the living room...

...the other half of the living room.

One half of my bedroom...

...the other half of my bedroom.

Thai style kitchen

That's the end of your tour.

Hope you enjoyed it! :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I've never celebrated Lent. In fact, I don't even know if that's what you call it - celebrate? observe? participate in?

I haven't ever really known the purpose of Lent. For as long as I can remember, it's been my understanding that it's a time before Easter in which you give something up, sacrifice something, as a symbol of the sacrifice God made in sending His Son to earth and the sacrifice Jesus made in giving His life for us. The things that I'd seen people give up were things that they didn't really need, wouldn't really miss, & wouldn't know they were missing anything had they never had that thing in the first place.

I'm still not sure if I fully understand Lent, but this week, I've seen the purpose of Lent in a new light - a time in which you give something up for the purpose of drawing closer to God. This (drawing closer to God) has been weighing heavily on me lately. In fact, for the past five mornings, I've woken up with this song playing in my mind:

These past four months in Thailand, I've gotten better at managing my time to include time daily to spend in God's Word. However, this time has evolved into exclusively Bible study time. I think for lack of know-how & maybe a little fear at what He might reveal in me, I've turned the time I set aside to just be with God into a time where I'm studying & reading the words of other people about His Word. I'm not at all saying that studying the Bible is a bad thing - I need that just as much, but I've let it overtake my time with Him.

I think this heaviness that I've had lately is God wanting to draw me back to Him - just to Him - not to spend all of my time studying & reading the words of other people. To just be still in His Word & listen to Him. To pour myself out each day so that He can fill me. To ask Him to reveal to me where I need to change, what I need to let go of. To just be with Him.

I don't think it's a coincidence - the timing of what God has put on my heart and the beginning of Lent. So, I've decided to give something up for the purpose of drawing closer to Him.

That something is facebook.

I know to some this may be a trivial thing to give up, but for me, this is about the only way I have to stay connected with everyone at home. But, right now and always, I need God more.

(This isn't to say I don't want to stay in contact with everyone at home - I do! You'll just have to reach me through e-mail or my blog. :) )

So, how am I feeling about this?

Excited? Yes! I'm excited to see where God will take me during this time.

Anxious? Yes! I'm anxious to see what He will reveal in me - areas where I need to change & let go of things.

But mostly, I'm fully anticipating the joy, the peace, & the contentment that will come from just being with Him.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Day Full of Gifts

I want to start teaching the kids in English class about sentences. We've learned quite a bit of vocabulary words that I think they should have a good base to start learning how to make sentences. In preparation for this, I thought a week of review would be good...and what better way to review than with games! We played hangman and pictionary. The kids hadn't heard of either game, so explaining it so that they understood was a challenge in itself. They had it figured out, though, after the first "example" game. I think I finally found something that will hold the attention of the older kids & younger kids & that both age groups can learn from!

They were really concentrating during the first real game...

They were looking through all of their notes from class trying to figure out which word they were supposed to be guessing!

Even the little kids got in on the action & loved it!

 By the end of class, they were REALLY getting into it...standing, running around, & yelling! :)

It was such a gift to just stand back and watch them use what they had learned and have SO much fun at the same time.

Another gift was that they are finally opening up to me. Rarely have they asked me directly a question & if they did, they were very shy about it. Today, they were very open!

And then...

After class, we were sitting around the table having snack, when Mary came in with a Lisu picture book of many Bible stories. Up until now, I've been trying to figure out when & how to introduce & incorporate Bible stories & lessons in class in a way that the kids will understand & in a way that, when their parents find out, they won't keep their kids from coming back to class.

After today, I no longer need to worry about that.

As we were sitting around the table, Mary began sharing Bible stories with the kids using a Lisu picture book. 

My first thought, as the sinful human that I am, was "This is what I'm supposed to be doing." I wanted to be the person to share the Gospel with them...that is, afterall, why I'm here. In the next moment, I realized, it doesn't matter who shares the Gospel with them, but that they hear it at all.

And, Oh!, the looks on their faces as they heard of His love for the first time...

I feel like God was giving me a gift in not being the one who told them these stories first because I could watch their faces as they heard of Him for the first time!
(It still takes my breath away as I'm writing to you now...)

And this little boy... 
It was his first time attending class. He was so enthralled in the stories & asked so many questions. Truly amazing!

Yes, today was a day full of gifts for us all from Him.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

By Your Side

This morning, I attended church at The Gathering, an international church with an English service. Every time I've attended church here since I've been in Thailand (not even a handful), the message is exactly what I needed to hear on that day. Today was no different.

The third song of the service brought me to tears. Have you ever heard a song that felt like it could have been written for you in that moment? This was that song for me today -

Just singing these words would have been enough, but God didn't stop there.

The sermon was about discouragement and 2 Corinthians 1:1-11, the "God of all comfort." This has definitely been something I'm learning by experience in being here, but was re-affirmed & re-enforced through the message.

There were three main points pointed out from this passage.

First, remember who God is - the Father of compassion and God of all comfort. It's in discouraging times, trials, emptiness, etc. that we meet the God of all comfort. This doesn't mean that everything will work out OK immediately, it may or may not. It means that God is always there by your side throughout the whole time. He always is - in good & bad times.

Second, my trial, suffering, etc. may not be about me at all, but about how God will be glorified through that trying time and use it to reach others. One statement that really jumped out at me was "it's tempting in these times (trials, suffering, etc.) to make it about me & to stop becoming a channel of His grace to others"! This is where Satan really works on me - pity parties! I constantly am reminding myself of Who brought me here & why He did.

Third, imagine what God can do in you through this trial. Verse 9 says, "this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God." How true this is - God brought me halfway around the world to learn how to completely depend on Him! And how I have had to! I'm learning that the big changes and shifts that God works on the inside of us come through trying times.

As I was reflecting on this message, I also had a thought that trials bring about communion. They draw people together in prayer and thanksgiving and through that draw people closer to God.

This is what I learned today. I wanted to put it here so I wouldn't forget it and for anyone else who needs to hear it.

As I look back on the two and a half months that I've been here, I can see the many ways God is working in me - changing me & shaping me into the woman He created me to be. If he can do this amount of work in not quite three months, I'm SO excited to see what He will do in two years! It may be (probably will be) painful, but SO worth it!

Serving Him,

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Eve Service

On New Year's Eve morning, we had a church service here at Stephen & Mary's. It was a service to thank God for all of the blessings of the past year and to look ahead to the New Year. There were around 100 people that came from Chiang Mai & different villages. There were four languages spoken during this service! This always amazes me when different people groups come together as the body of Christ to praise & worship Him! Even more amazing is that even though we can't understand each other, God understands & knows every language & every heart!

Seating in the outdoor classroom...

...and under the carport!

This little girl started the service with a special song - so cute!
In addition to the hymns that we sang together throughout the service, there were many songs sung by each different village that came, in their respective language.

A song sung in Lahu

A song sung in Thai

A song sung in Lisu

Another song sung in Thai
Chris, a man from Australia, preached the sermon with Stephen translating into Thai. (After the sermon, a man translated the whole message into Lahu, then another translated it into Lisu.) His message pretty much summed up everything that I had been thinking about & reflecting on the previous week! I LOVE when God does that. :) He talked about reflecting on where we are with Jesus - looking back to see where we've come & where we now stand, but not stopping there, growing deeper in our relationship with Him & looking ahead to where Jesus will take us. A great place to be going into the New Year!

Chris preaching & Stephen translating
After the service was over, we all enjoyed lunch together. There was A LOT of food! (Sorry, I didn't take any pictures of that.) After lunch, everyone slowly left to go back to their homes. I had a small clinic and saw six people.

It was a great day thanksgiving, praise & worship, reflection, & looking ahead! 

May God bless each of you in 2012!