Transition Discomfort

Several weeks ago, I decided I would move away from hosting my blog on WordPress. I had researched several other options and decided on a host with a good reputation. The reviews I had read made it seem like the transition would be easy peasy lemon squeezy, like the saying my five-year-old has recently picked up. I filled in the forms, gave consent to make the switch and almost immediately regretted my decision.

After furiously reading more in-depth about transferring my domain to a new host and my website to a new server, I was still grasping to understand what I was attempting to do. It felt like it was a big mess and I began to doubt my decision to move. I looked up the 30-day refund policy, while still communicating with the technical gurus at the new server.

It took some time, lots of calming essential oils and tweaking but it finally seemed like my website would happily survive in its new place.

Just over a week ago, our family made an international move from our place of service, and my husband’s home, in Thailand, to my homeland of Canada. We both felt led by the Lord to make this move and had peace despite many details that were not yet clear. We had good goodbyes, a lovely send-off at the airport, fairly uneventful flights, and warm embraces when we eventually arrived back on Canadian soil.

The messiness of adjusting to something new can be uncomfortable or confusing or both. But if the Lord is in it, we trust Him that the outcome will be worth it.

_________________

I remember that when I first moved to serve in Thailand in 2005, I was so overwhelmed.  On the drive from the airport, through the busy city to my organisation’s office and guesthouse in Bangkok, I felt panicked and flooded, like the streets, flooded from the late afternoon’s deluge. Days later, after sorting out my visa and work permit in the capital, we drove north for a few hours to Lopburi.  I felt like a fraud.  There I was in Thailand, where I felt for YEARS that God had called me to be, and I DIDN’T WANT TO BE THERE.

There.  I had said it – in my head, at least.

We were orientated to our new city and language school, and my roommate and I were given the keys to our new home.  I cried each day.  Wept quietly.  But I knew, without any doubt, that the Lord still wanted me there.  He still wanted me to follow Him.  He still wanted me to serve Him in the on-going work in seeing the Lost come into His Kingdom in S.E. Asia.  He was still with me.  But it was uncomfortable, lonely, and I was still overwhelmed.

Years later, another female colleague shared with me her story of when she arrived on the mission field.  Our stories were very similar.  She wept regularly in that first year.  And, like me, she pressed on.  In fact, both of us, unlikely missionaries, ended up marrying nationals and forever entwined our hearts and lives with Asia.

_________________

Sometimes the move to something different, to somewhere new is as easy as changing your shirt to bear the cooler weather.  Sometimes, it’s as difficult as clinging onto the Lord’s hand as you, begrudgingly, inch forward.  Sometimes, there is immense joy as you enter into a season of change.  Sometimes, there is unexpected grief.  Sometimes, it’s a combination of all of these things.

Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission (CIM) in 1865 once wrote, “I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize the Lord is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult, His grace is sufficient.”

Just as the sun paints an everchanging picture on a landscape, so will we grow and adapt in whatever it is that He has called us to.  There is beauty in each new scene, even though darkness is not absent.

As Paul gave encouragement in his letter to the Roman believers,  so I include this verse to encourage you and me both: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (15:13).

The Perspective of Returning Home

img_0298

I recently looked back at some of my early blog posts, dating back a little over thirteen years ago. I was in the middle of preparing to go to the mission field and, as I read, I was reminded of the many ways that the Lord prepared the way for me. I was single, young, determined, adventurous, and possessed a heart full of faith to follow the Lord where He was calling me. Now, all these years later, I am married with two small children, not as young as I used to be, just as determined, more cautious than adventurous, but still with a heart ready to follow Jesus as He prompts me through His Spirit.

We are heading back “home” to Canada this coming August and I am unsure whether to call it home or not. My mom passed away last year and my dad twenty years before that. My sister and her family live two hours away from where we’ll plant ourselves, and many of my close friends now live scattered across Canada.

Someone asked me recently about what was waiting for us in Canada, assuming we had jobs lined up and a place to live. “Oh,” they replied when my response was negative towards both of those things, “so you’re just waiting on God to see where He’ll lead you?”

The unknowns in my present are just as intimidating as they were when I was anticipating moving to SE Asia. But the difference now is that I have almost thirteen years of experience of walking through unknowns, following the lamp that the Lord’s provided to show the path in front of me, and the regular discipline of reminding myself of what is true.

I know He is El-HaNe’-eman – “faithful God” (Deut. 7:9 ESV). He never changes and, despite circumstances around us being uncertain, He is unwavering in His character.

I know He is Eliezer – “my God is help” (Exodus 18:4 ESV) – and Ebenezer – “stone of help” (1 Samuel 7:12 ESV). I’ve experienced His provisions countless times and often in the most surprising ways. Like Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:12, I have set up various stones – some real, some in my journal, and some through a picture or other creative means – in my life as a way to honour the Lord and remember how He has moved to help me and others around me.

I know He is Immanuel – “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, and Matthew 1:23 ESV). This has been the biggest reason why I’ve been able to persevere in serving the Lord. I have never had to tackle any task, assignment, follow-up visit, language and culture lesson, visa trip, immigration question, sickness, home assignment, dangerous road, sermon or annual reunion conference by myself. He has always been with me and will always be with me. Despite Satan’s attempts to convince me otherwise, I was never alone in that village in the wooden house, never forgotten in that mountainous assignment, never left behind when my husband went off to work and I was home alone with our children. His presence has satisfied my soul, calmed my anxieties and empowered my heart.

So, I anticipate returning home with great expectations of the Lord to remain the same. I know He will lead us through new challenges and adventures, He will provide exactly what we need (and sometimes what we may think we want) and when we need it, and He will remind me that He is with us and will continue to be with us through it all.

Home has changed. And I’ve changed too. I don’t know what home even really means anymore except for it to be the place where God invites me to be, too.

If you’re returning home for the summer or for longer, which testimonies of God’s goodness is the Holy Spirit reminding you of so your soul may be strengthened?

Accepting a Slice of Chaos

A few weeks ago, I entered the kitchen to get a cup of milk for each of my two young daughters.  They were waiting for me in their beds, nearly ready to sleep for the night – or so I was hoping.  Suddenly, I noticed some movement on the white tiled counter.  Ants.  And not just a couple of them but a long trail of busy, black ants.  I followed their path over to the far side of the kitchen where they were disappearing into a tiny hole in the counter.  I stepped back and decided to return to my original task of the cups of milk.  The ants would have to wait until tomorrow for me to deal with them.

img_9855

In every house I’ve called home in Thailand, there have always been ant problems.  For this reason, we (initially my roommates and I, but now my husband and I and our children) have always limited any food to the dining room and the kitchen.  The ants don’t need us to generously bring them crumbs and spills to other areas of our house – they’ll go there on their own anyhow!  We also need to have our house helper or a friend keep an eye out for ant invasions when we go away for vacation or return to Canada for Home Assignment.  Ants like unlived spaces even more than places invaded by humans. The last thing we’ve had to do over the years is to simply accept that the ants would never go away completely and that we would have to learn to live with them.  Those ants in the bathroom?  Sure.  You can stay there guys.  The ants traipsing across the steps of our front porch?  Well, just don’t cross the threshold into the house, okay? Okay?

I desire to be used by God but that also means I need to follow God in whichever direction He leads.  Does this mean that I must embrace an element of chaos if I want to follow Jesus?

I think that embracing the chaos can look different for everyone, and, it may not be the challenge that God is asking you to embrace.  My husband and I are nearly totally opposite people – for him, embracing chaos is exciting (or normal – because what’s chaotic for me is not for him since he is Thai and this is his home culture!) and he enjoys the challenge.  For me, I am a natural homebody (which is quite ironic considering how the Lord has called me to be involved in Kingdom building) and I like to plan things so I know what to expect.  Accepting the unexpected opens the door for both potential failure and success.

The ants in my kitchen represent something stressful and unmanageable.  They are unpredictable and potentially destructive.  They are my storm, whereas a clean, antless house would be my calm.  But if I let the ants blow me down, increase my stress and invade my peace, what will that mean for bigger life challenges?  Sickness?  Death?  Loss or disappointment of any kind?

No, as the Lord is leading me, I must embrace a portion of chaos and ask the Lord what He wants me to look for, listen for and learn in the process.  Because stepping out of the boat to walk on water to Jesus? It’s only possible if I first step out of the boat.

What is the Lord inviting you to embrace in this season?

Keeping Your Eyes Open

val-vesa-263572-unsplash

Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

Ever since that snake incident many years ago, when I was out for a walk outside of my village in Mae Hong Son, I’ve tried to be very aware of my surroundings.  As a deep thinker, I easily get absorbed in my thoughts and I’m not as aware of what’s around me as I should be.  My husband jokes that I am not a keen observer, which I vehemently deny, of course!  But, all joking aside, I have made a point of watching where I’m walking (I can’t tell you how many trails of biting ants have I accidentally walked through!), what may have come up through the drain in the shower in the bathroom (that story’s for another day) and keeping my eyes open for whatever else may be around.

It’s easy to fall into a navel-gazing perspective when you experience hardship, no matter your context.  Whether it’s visa challenges, discoveries of ant nests in your washing machine, interpersonal problems at work or with your neighbours, or sickness in your family – even terminal sickness – there’s value in keeping your eyes open for a shift in perspective.  Is Satan out to discourage you?  Maybe.  Is it your own sin that contributed to the trial?  Possibly.  Is the Lord at work in all circumstances?  Most definitely.

Keeping your eyes open means being aware of what is going on around you physically, but also spiritually.  It means to take notice of circumstances the Lord allows you to experience, and to rely on Him to help you persevere.  It means to trust that there’s a bigger narrative at play than what is simply in front of you.

In 2 Kings 6:8-19, Elisha and his servant found themselves surrounded in Dothan by horses, chariots and a great army from Syria.  This took place as a result of the King of Syria having learned that Elisha, the prophet in Israel, was informing the King of Israel of classified intel – “the words that you speak in your bedroom” (verse 12, ESV).

What is significant in this passage is that there are several narratives going on simultaneously.  We read of what is typically seen to man’s eye (the servant’s perspective) but we also get a glimpse of something else.  Someone else’s narrative.  God’s narrative.

Elisha could peer into that narrative and knew God’s army was there to fight for them and protect them (verses 16 and 17).  It wasn’t until Elisha prayed and asked God to show the servant what was really there that the servant could see this spiritual army.  But, it had been there all along.

What narrative am I listening to regularly?  Do I ask God to show me, tell me, reveal to me His narrative?  Do I really and truly believe that there is another narrative?

Keeping my eyes open means to not just be aware of my surroundings – what I may step on or into – but to believe wholeheartedly that the Lord is not only present but that He is defending me in ways that I will never be able to fully comprehend.  It means faith in the midst of darkness, hope in the midst of confusion, and joy in the midst of suffering.

What do you need to believe about the Lord’s presence in your life?  Which narrative do you need to put aside so you can take up God’s?

Day 4: Hope #write31days

“I remember after my Dad died,” I told a friend at the Mom’s Bible Fellowship this morning, “that the depression was so bad and it was so hard.  And I’m afraid of that happening again…”

I went on to tell her that I wanted my people back in Thailand to know that we will need support for the days ahead, and I can’t go back without that in place.  When we live in a small village, with few close friends nearby, I barely can think about going back.  But yet I know we have to go back.  And get on with life and live the life we feel called to live there.  And I know Mom would’ve wanted that. But it’s still hard to go back. And I desperately hope that my grief journey is different this time round.

I want to permit myself to feel what I need to feel as I grieve, but I really want to keep the perspective that I KNOW, without any doubt, that my Mom is in heaven rejoicing, is fully healed and is with Jesus for eternity.

Five Minute Friday (FMF): Help

Help late in the evening while on the road for work.  Help with a baby fussy in your arms.  Help with a toddler challenging you at every turn.

The Lord is near.  He is mighty to save.  He is my Helper, my Strength, my Wisdom, my Friend.

On the edge of a village, I feel like I could be on the edge of the world sometimes.  Who can hear my cries for a friend?  Who can hear my cries for help?

I called to the Lord and He heard my cries.  He sets my feet upon a rock.  He gave me firm place to stand.

I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from?  My help comes from Him, Maker of Heaven, Creator of the earth.

The Story of the Lost Sapphire

I always joke with Tawee that I need to attach a tracking device to his keys, glasses, earbuds/headset, and phone.  Somehow, something always goes missing temporarily everyday.   It drives me nuts! And then, about twenty times a day, Kate can be heard asking, “Meemee, Susu, where are you?” (Her lovey and her soother.)  Fortunately, Kate’s misplaced items/friends are fairly easily found.

Misplacing something common that you use everyday is an annoyance.  Losing (potentially forever) something precious and meaningful to you can be heartbreaking.

The one time we LOST Meemee on an impromptu trip to the beach this past fall, Tawee and I went into super detective mode, nearly DESPERATE to find Meemee before Kate relised that Meemee could be gone FOREVER.  [And no, we didn’t (and still don’t) have a backup Meemee.]

Tawee became the (super) hero that day, when an older couple told him they had, indeed, spotted a green blankey on a bench down by the beach.  Meemee was recovered, we were relieved and Kate had a happy heart once again as she snuggled her lovey.

Today, mid-morning, in the middle of a meeting in our living room, I realised that the small sapphire stone from my wedding band was missing.  I didn’t know when it had gone missing, and had no idea where it could be.  While it didn’t have a large monetary value, it was special to me because Tawee had designed the rings, bought the gems and arranged to have our wedding bands made.  It was a symbol of the covenant that we made with God, on our wedding day.  It was precious to me for those reasons.  

After that meeting this morning, we had to rush to eat and get out the door for an appointment and some errands.  Kate napped in the car and was still asleep by the time we got home and slept a bit longer.  When she did wake up, I put some fun music on and we were being silly.  I was crawling around pretending to be a horse.  I paused,  looked to my left, and saw something like a black fleck of dirt on the off-white carpet.  The fleeting thought that it could be the missing sapphire didn’t cause my heart to be overly hopeful.  But I still flicked at it with my finger.  I picked it up and examined it closer.  It was the sapphire.

To say that I was amazed is an understatement.  I couldn’t believe it!  I hadn’t even looked for it and yet God put it RIGHT THERE in front of my eyes.  It hadn’t been washed down a drain.  It hadn’t tumbled somewhere in the car or outside in the snow.  God put it right there.  Right in front of the Mommy acting silly with her daughter, crawling around on the floor like a horse.

What a gracious God we have.  Gracious to provide down to the minutest detail what we need or even with what our hearts would be blessed by.  Gracious to meet us where we’re at.  Gracious to withhold what we think we need, as well.  Gracious even when we’re not.  HIS mercies are new every morning.

Of course, I’m reminded of the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son in Luke 15.  How could I not?

All those sapphires out there, God sees them.  All those precious souls He longs for, for them to become His children – to be found, to run home, to be celebrated over.  Some of them don’t even know they’re missing.  But God sees them.  And the reunions will fill hearts to overflowing.  The repentant hearts will be embraced by their loving, heavenly Father.

mold and perfect laundry days do co-exist

Discovering mold growing in your house is pretty much the opposite of waking up to find the sun shining so brightly that it couldn’t be anything but a perfect laundry day.

Last night was the mold (again).  And already this morning our washing machine is tumbling, tumbling, tumbling.

If life was less complicated, being a missionary and sharing the Gospel and leading the Tai peoples of S.E. Asia into His glorious kingdom would be a piece of cake.  There would be no mold (if it were up to me).  There would be sunshiny days and cool nights and people would have open hearts to hear the wonderfully good news of Jesus Christ.

But I’ve been realising in new ways lately that as true as the riches and richness of Christ is a part of the Gospel message, so is the truth of the suffering of Christ.  The two go hand in hand.  To preach a Gospel that only tells of good laundry days and no mold wouldn’t be a half-truth; because it’s incomplete, it would be a lie.

Being servants of Christ in this place and telling of the Good News of our Lord and Saviour means that we are responsible to tell the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, as well as the cost of following Him.

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”” (Luke 9:23 ESV)

While persecution may look different from place to place, the very real reality of facing rejection from family and community cannot be ignored.  Ostracized, rejected, misunderstood.  Like with any decision, there are consequences for whichever direction you move.  The Tai, like so many other people groups, must choose to accept this risk when they choose to follow the One who created them to be a part of His kingdom – who offers both eternal life, and the opportunity to lose your life for His sake.

So to embracing the life that God has called us to.  To sunshine even when there’s mold.  To life in Christ with ALL that that includes.  To taking up our cross and following Him who makes all of life worthwhile.

tonsillitis and “One Thousand Gifts”

I’ve been sick with a bad bout of tonsillitis for the past week or so.  On the way to the doctor last Friday (my second visit of last week), I was waiting at a traffic light and a patch of bright blue caught my eye.  Beyond the moat and old wall around the old city in Chiang Mai, my gaze became fixed by a brightly painted balcony and wall amidst a scene of drab. 

I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp‘s “One Thousand Gifts” lately and have been challenged to say the least.  Her writing style is unique and beautiful; her words thought-provoking and heart-wrenching.  But full of reminders of God’s goodness and His grace.  Graces.

I recommend the book.

On her blog she continues listing her “One Thousand Gifts” – she’s well above 2000.  Going into these gifts and graces in more detail in her book, she includes not just the happy feel-good gifts and graces but the ugly things turned beautiful. 

So on the way to the doctor last Friday when I saw the blue blue balcony jumping out of the tired row of ‘hong thaew’ (row houses/buildings) I knew it was a gift.

So here starts my list of One Thousand (and more) Gifts:

1. Blue balcony in a lackluster view.
2. Phone calls and Skype calls from the other side of the globe.
3. Co-workers going the extra mile to help another.
4. Dear Dear serving me in the midst of a busy day.
5. Fresh mangoes and flowers brought with love.

praying in faith and expecting change

“Believing without seeing, for which we are to be blessed, is not only believing in the existence of God, in His love and compassion, and in the truth of His promises, but it is actively and repeatedly showing confidence and trust in calling upon Him in our times of need, and expecting something to be different because we called.  To be able to dissect and analyze and make a mathematical formula of what happens when we call for God’s help is not what we are promised.  God is God, and He remains God  We are human beings and we remain human beings.  We can have a relationship with, be children of, be friends of, come to know in a very real way the living God, Creator of the Universe, but our relationship, our friendship, our communication with Him does not lift us out of the finite and make us a little bit infinite.  A mystery of being remains.  The mystery of existence remains.  The mystery of life an death remains.”
-Edith Schaeffer, “The Tapestry”, p. 22