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.

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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.

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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).

When You’re Homesick for a Place or People who are No Longer There

I’ve been reading my way through the “Anne of Green Gables” books and earlier this week I came across a great quote from L.M. Montgomery in “Anne of the Island.”  It was the scene when Anne and one her good friends and roommate from the past three years, Phil, were taking one last walk through their rental to say goodbye to the house. 

Anne wondered if old dreams could haunt rooms – if, when one left forever the room where she had joyed and suffered and laughed and wept, something of her, intangible and invisible, yet nonetheless real, did not remain behind like a voiceful memory. 

“”I think,” said Phil, “that a room where one dreams and grieves and rejoices and lives becomes inseparably connected with those processes and acquires a personality of its own.  I am sure if I came into this room fifity years from now it would say ‘Anne, Anne’ to me.” Montgomery, L.M.. “Anne of the Island.” Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc.. 1943. pp. 221-222.

There was something about that house and those rooms and the lives they lived in there that made it seem like their happy little existence would go on living forever, despite empty rooms and absent friends.

I feel the same way about my mom’s house.

Before my mom had passed last September, she told us that she wanted us to sell her house.  There were many reasons why she felt that way, and, at the end of the day, she would let us decide what we would do but she wanted us to know how she felt.  In the end, we did sell it and it sold quickly.

The new owners have been busy making it their own, so our former neighbours and dear friends tell us.  They’ve been tearing out flooring, bathrooms, a chimney, redoing the electrical system, getting rid of all the brick downstairs, and the wooden panelling, converting the kitchen to a mud/laundry room and moving the kitchen back to what used to be our old kitchen before our family renovated the house 24 years ago. 

While I’m sad that the house will have changed so much, I am curious to see the finished results.  I like knowing that new life has been breathed into it.  I’m also relieved.  My mom’s house is no longer the same and forever it will, in my mind at least, be the last place where our family lived and loved and pressed on despite the sorrow that enveloped us.

I can’t go back to her old house.  She’s no longer there.  And the house is no longer the same.  Life has changed.  But there’s a conversation I dream I can hear from the other side of the hedge and fence.  I dream there is laughter and a face full of joy.  I’m homesick but it’s for a place and a person who are no longer there.

As I think about my situation, I’m sure there are others, involved in missions work and or in secular vocations, who can identify with me, as well.  For those serving cross-culturally and preparing to go back to your passport country for the summer or longer, you may be facing the reality that loved ones are no longer in your hometown.  Friends and family may have moved away or, in some cases, have passed away.

So what do you do when you’re homesick like this?  What do you do when you’re homesick for a place and people who are no longer there?

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1. Grieve your loss(es).

There’s so much that could be said on this point that I could write a book.  And maybe I will.  But not today.  For now, I’ll suggest that you give yourself space, time, and self-care as you grieve the loss of your significant people or person and your special but changed places.  Be kind to yourself in this season.    

2. Take time to pause and express thankfulness to God. 

Thank Him for your past, present and future and for the people He’s put into your life and will put into your life.  When I thank God in this way, I’m able to grieve with hope and joy.  Despite what seems like an oxymoron, joy and grief can and do co-exist.

3. Redeem a place with new memories.

The pain of your loss may be overwhelming and paralyzing, at times, and may be heightened when you are back in that place and your person or people are no longer there.  Don’t be afraid to enter those spaces again, but, when you’re ready, begin to make new memories there.  Initiate creating community and new adventures.  Invite friends to meet for a picnic at a park where you used to go for walks with your loved one.  Start a new Christmas tradition, while infusing some of the precious traditions you shared with your loved one.    

4. Create your pile of stones.

In the Bible, God’s people often built or did something to cause them and their descendants to remember a specific act of God.  In the book of Joshua, chapter four, the people of Israel constructed a pile of twelve stones as a testimony of what God had done to bring His people into the promised land.

“And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:2-24, ESV)

There are a lot of ways to remember how God has helped you, provided for you, counselled you and shown his love for you.  You could make a physical object, like a pile of stones, or a painting or sculpture.  You could take a picture of a place, person or event, frame it and place it somewhere in your house where you would take notice of it frequently. The bathroom?  The kitchen near the sink? On your bedside table?  Choose what works for you.  Another way of remembering is through words – journaling or writing a poem or even a book.  Ask the Lord how to show you how to commemorate your loved one or place.

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This list has no time limit and there is no one method for accomplishing each of these steps.  They do not need to be done in chronological order and may even be done simultaneously.   

I suggest that you invite a friend to journey with you in the process.  Find someone who can listen well and love you as you share about your loss(es).  You may find it helpful for them to keep you accountable for some aspect of your journey.  Try journaling as a way to process each step.  I find writing a cathartic experience and I appreciate looking back and seeing how I’ve grown and what I’ve learned along the way.  Maybe you will too.

But most of all, know that you’re not alone in missing someone who is no longer in your life.  You have good company with people who are also grieving various losses.

We may be homesick, and that’s okay.  May it not end there.  Let us look to the future, into Christ’s face.  

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:16, ESV

The Perspective of Returning Home

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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?

Keeping Your Eyes Open

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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?

Mom Chronicles: Traveling Internationally with Very Young Children

Roughly one month ago, my friend and former roommate from my Sop Soi days, posed a question to her Facebook friends:

“…has anyone ever done the international flight with a lap baby? How did it work out? Doable or terrible? We’re talkin’ 20 months lap baby.”


I am certainly NOT an expert of all children, and I’m still becoming an expert with my own children, BUT I have flown internationally with my littles quite a lot since becoming a Mom a little over four years ago.  And when I say flying internationally, I’m not talking about between USA and Canada.  I’m not talking about a 4-5 hour flight.  I’m talking about approximately twenty hours of flying, not to mention the layovers.

So here’s what I wrote in response to my friend:

“Totally and completely doable. I flew with Jesse at 15,16 and 18 months old, as a lap baby (also with Kate when she was 12 months and 23.5 months), between Toronto and Chiangmai and here’s what I found worked better: choose a family friendly airline like Korean Air (they are absolutely amazing and worth saving your sanity), chose normal seats and not bulkhead (and not bassinet). There is a weight/height restriction for the bassinets and Kate had maxed those out by 12 months old. Also, you have to remove them from the bassinet every time there’s turbulence. Also, those bulkhead seats don’t allow you to have bags stored under the seat in front of you (only overhead bins).  

Bring lots of go-to snacks and fruit/veg or yogurt pouches.  Cheese sticks. Goldfish crackers, etc. 

For around 20 months old, my kids were/are interested in stickers (them peeling and placing on paper), Colour Wonder markers and colouring books, Melissa and Doug water paint books (where the books are reusable and colour shows up on page when wet and disappeared when dry), playing with buckles on Ergo carrier, using plane magazines to look for things on various pages (e.g. “Can you find a flower?Can you show me a dog?” Etc)  

Walk up and down the aisles (either in carrier or walking themselves).  

Don’t worry about your kid’s sleep schedule. Jet lag will throw everything off anyhow. Just do a routine like this: eat, play, walk, eat, magazine search, snack, sleep. Then repeat and vary it up. 😉 

Let your kid watch some movies, etc. My kids at that age didn’t care about hearing the sound, they were happy to just watch a bit here or there.  

Above all, DON’T let yourselves look at the time. It will only make the trip feel super long. 🙂 Just relax, keep your expectations low and know that it will always go better than you anticipated.”

The SOLD Project featured in the Bangkok Post

The Bangkok Post just published a short video and a wonderful article (which was front page of the “Life” section of the paper version of the Bangkok Post!) featuring Tawee and The SOLD Project.  You can find both the article and the video here.

I’m so proud of my husband, Tawee, and all those at The SOLD Project!!!

For more information about:
The SOLD Project http://thesoldproject.com
The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation http://www.helpingelephants.org/home.html

then and now: an exercise in remembering

This post is a little walk down memory lane – something that a friend on Facebook initiated.  Upon liking her status of her own memories, she assigned me an age to reflect back on.  Here goes!

Then
Age given: 22
Lived:  In a room shared with 3 other young women, while attending a Discipleship Training School (DTS), with Youth With A Mission (YWAM), in Turner Valley, AB.  Living on campus at the training centre/base was certainly a stretching and growing experience for me!
Drove: Nothing.  I didn’t have a vehicle.  Lots of walking during that time!
Did: Participated in the DTS, learned more about my relationship with the Lord, grew in my faith, and understanding of the role of missions for the body of Christ.  Travelled to S.E. Asia for the first time (Thailand and Burma), had some serious culture shock, met some lovely Shan women in Burma and was pretty sure that Asia was a nice place to visit but I never wanted to live there.

Now
Age: 34
Live: In a small, cosy house with my Northern Thai husband, on the edge of a small village just south of Chiang Rai, in Northern Thailand.  I’ve been living in Thailand since 2005 – almost 8 years now!
Drive: A Ford Ranger XL pick-up truck.
Do: Growing a cute baby girl (that’s a lot of tiring work, let me tell you!), and serving with a different international missions organisation, involved in various ways in church planting among the Thai-yai (and other closely related Tai groups) in this area and beyond.  Growing in my walk with the Lord in this new stage in life: as a new wife (1.5 years of marriage!) to a wonderful, loving man; and a soon-to-be (June 9th!) Mum to a sweet little flower of joy.  Amazed and grateful at God’s goodness in my life, and thankful for this journey that He’s been leading me on.  Looking forward for how He’ll continue to guide our little family.

a BIG thanks from the team at The SOLD Project

A HUGE thank you to those of you who read my blog post the other day and responded by helping in a variety of ways: spreading the word about the competition that The SOLD Project was in through Global Giving (The Girl Effect Challenge), and even by donating $10 to help The SOLD Project win the competition.  Not only did they win, but they came in first place!  AND you helped raise over $18,000 for SOLD!  The prize money (at least $30,000) will be ON TOP of what you helped raise during the competition!  That’s a massive contribution to fight against child trafficking in Thailand through prevention, education and empowering a community!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tawee and his teammates here in Thailand were Skyping with their teammates in the USA as soon the Girl Effect Challenge finished on the weekend.  They are all SOOOOO encouraged and grateful by everyone who went out of their way to help them in this competition, thereby helping the kids and families here whom we love dearly.

Thank you.

To keep updated with The SOLD Project, check out their website, or their blog, or their Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter!

opportunity to prevent trafficking, provide education and empower a community

The SOLD Project is the foundation that my husband directs in Thailand. They’re currently in a competition from November 1-30, with Nike’s campaign of The Girl Effect Challenge (through Global Giving). The top 6 organizations with the highest number of unique $10 donors will win! Winning would lead to significant exposure, increased credibility, and enough money to fund the running costs of The SOLD Project for an entire year!

 Please help them out as you’re able: checking out the competition website, donating $10 within the last 24 hours of the competition, and also by spreading the news on Facebook, Twitter, etc. about how you can help prevent trafficking, and help provide opportunities for youth in Northern Thailand to get beyond a grade 9 education.

Thanks for empowering this community!

[For more information on The SOLD Project, stop by their website at http://www.thesoldproject.org or their blog at http://thesoldproject.wordpress.com ]

child victims of AIDS/HIV in S.E. Asia

I knew a little girl up in the Mae Hong Son area whose parents had both died of AIDS.  She was placed in the care of her grandparents but when it became known that she was HIV positive, out of fear her grandparents made her sleep on a small porch, just outside of their simple bamboo house.  At this point she was only six years old.  She washed her own clothes; Monday to Friday wore her browning school uniform but daily wore the stigma of one with HIV. 

The details of her story from that point on are not for the weak of heart.  Upon meeting her you would never know the pain that she’s experienced.  And she is just one – one of too, too many afflicted by AIDS/HIV.

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The Thai-yai are very much affected by AIDS/HIV and the problem is only growing.  Lack of education regarding STDs and other health issues and lifestyle practices certainly contribute to the problem, as do the lies and fear that spread through gossip and social channels.

Recently on Facebook, a friend posted this story about a six year old boy named A-Long who is also an AIDS orphan in China.  I highly recommend reading through the article when you have a chance.  A-Long’s story is one that could be repeated hundreds of thousands of times over in any location in Asia. 

I strongly believe that it’s in these kinds of stories that we as the body of Christ can have a huge opportunity to do that which the communities that surround children like these fail to do.  We can love these children, these victims of AIDS/HIV with the love of Christ.

We can love them because He first loved us (1 John 4:10).  We can literally and figuratively embrace them.  We can love them, and their families and support them and help educate their communities so that fear no longer reigns.  We can partner with national believers and learn how to help children such as A-Long, as well as their families.

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The little girl I mentioned earlier in this post doesn’t stand alone anymore.  Some Thai-yai believers and a small ministry reached out to her and her grandparents many years ago now and are providing emotional support, a little bit of finances to help cover her school expenses, and, most importantly, love.

Please pray for:

  • The victims of AIDS/HIV in Asia and among the Thai-yai people.  
  • Believers to overcome their own fears about AIDS and to break through the cultural norms and live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ among those who are victims of AIDS.  
  • Missions organisations, ministries and missionaries involved in this type of work to learn from national believers so that they can know how best to help and love those who need it so very much.
  • The body of Christ to grow in Asia – including among the outcasts, the sick and the unlovable.