Between Here and There

The sky slowly begins to dim and turn shades of blue until blue is black and black is as black can be.  We live on the edge of a small village in rural Northern Thailand and when evening comes the sky is brilliantly full of the shine from heaven – unless it’s rainy season, of course, and then the clouds block the brilliance from physical sight but not from imagination.

Cicadas hum for a long phrase and then stop.  Hum and stop.  Our dog returns home from his daytime adventures in the rice fields and plops himself on our front step.  He’s ready for his self-appointed nighttime duty of keeping watch.  A tukae lizard calls out.  Our neighbours are quiet and have either gone to bed – it IS seven thirty already – or are busy watching the new Thai soap opera series or Thailand’s The Voice.

Day is done.  Nighttime is coming.  I’m here in this middle space of neither here nor there.  

We are transitioning from our home in Thailand to my homeland of Canada.  My daughters claim they’re “not Thai but English” – this is where the language and culture and nationality lines blur.  I remind them gently that they are both Thai AND Canadian, despite their protests.  

It’s a hard concept to grasp and I feel confused about those blurring lines in my own identity.  I can never be fully Thai but I’m not the same Canadian who left thirteen years ago for the mission field.  Does it really matter though?  My true citizenship is in heaven, I know.  But between here and there, what does it look like to live? 

We dream of what life will be like in Canada.  We plan, we brainstorm, we pray, we hope and we eventually give it all over to God.  We submit and surrender what our future will look like.  

Like the brilliance beyond the obscuring clouds, the future holds something so beautiful that we can’t even begin to fathom it.  We trust and believe in His goodness to both clear the clouds and carry us through.  We surrender our wills for His which is better than we can ask or imagine.


“How long will you be gone?” my husband’s grandmother, Uay, asks days later in Northern Thai.  She pauses and wipes tears away from her eyes.  She wasn’t looking at me when she asked but we were sitting next to each other on the bamboo platform, watching my youngest twirl with delight in her “princess” dress.  Uay laughs as her great-granddaughter dances around, playing games with her shadow.  “About three years,” I reply.  She wipes her eyes again and she holds my hand as we sit in silence.  

Transitioning means leaving where you were in order to arrive somewhere else.  The bridge linking those two places, whether physical or cognitive, is complicated.  How can one cross while their partner lags behind?  How can one cross while the pull to remain is strong?  How can one cross while the crossing pains a loved one?  

My husband assures Uay that we will be able to video call her and that her son or one of her grandsons will certainly help.  “Oh, I’m not good at that kind of thing,” she says, brushing off the attempt to console the upcoming loss.  

The only way across is through one step at a time.  We don’t have to jump across, only to land in the water, but simply put one foot in front of the other and walk.  

“Let’s go inside,” Uay finally says, putting her cane in position to help her stand.  Slowly, we begin to walk together.

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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.

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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?

Five Minute Friday: Adapt #FMF

One of the first things you may hear when you’re preparing to go to the mission field is to be ready to adapt.  Obviously, when you move to a different country and a different culture and a different language, you will NEED to adapt.  I’m not talking about that.  Yes, that’s important and yes, that will be something to work on but I’m talking about a different adapting.  I’m talking about adapting your expectations.

You’ll be faced with a barrage of situations where what you understood going into the situation will not be how things will turn out.  You’ll need to be flexible and – wait for it – adapt.

It will require you to be humble, take the position of a learner and listener and observer (because how often is communication something done instead of something said) and release your understanding and preconceived ideas.

Adapting in this way will require you to accept a level of ambiguity but it will allow you to receive opportunities to deepen relationships and cultural understanding that will only aid your ministry.

It’s a small thing with the potential for a big impact.

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?

Day 24: Revise #write31days

If you could go back, what would you change?  If my Mom could go back and take care of herself more, would that have led to a different outcome?  If we had pressed for answers back in April when she was hospitalised twice within one week for pneumonia, would we have been able to do anything?  If I had returned to Canada sooner to live closer to my Mom, would we be aching in the same way from time that we never had but should’ve?

It’s easy to think of what ifs and assume that the outcome would’ve been different or perhaps better, but it’s too tiring to think about it all because the reality is here and my Mom is in a far better place, with no more pain or suffering.  Her faith was renewed.  The Lord graciously met our needs in ways that were… how they were meant to be met.  Of course, I would like to revise this last year, but at the same time, I trust that God is sovereign.  Am I really so presumptious to assume that I know better than my Creator?  Than my Mom’s Creator?

Five Minute Friday: Depend

I am not the sort of person who naturally wants to live an extremely spontaneous life.  I like schedules and plans.  I like to know what to expect.  I like to prepare.

And yet God called me to be a missionary and to live in Thailand and to have a Thai husband and to be a Mom.

He called me to live outside of my comfort zone to the nth degree.

And while I like having schedules I can depend on, the only thing I can really depend on is that life will not be predictable.  And the only One I can depend on is totally trustworthy and yet I struggle to trust Him as life throws me unexpected balls (or bomb) that I have to try to catch or avoid.

Five Minute Friday: Accept

There’s a book that a friend photocopied and gave to us that attempts to explain eternity to a child.  It’s about a baby who begins in her mother’s womb, and also an old man who is sick.  They are both in the hospital and they are both expecting a major life change.

There is one page that my four year old kept wanting to return to last night as I read her the story again.  It was the one with two pictures: a doctor with waiting hands on the left, and a figure, like Jesus, on the right, standing there with open arms.  She kept saying it out loud, “It’s Jesus, Mommy!” Just like Grandma had experienced.

She was so happy to know that this was the welcoming committee for her Grandma’s home-coming.

Five Minute Friday: Support

This afternoon, while sitting with my Mom who was just so exhausted, Matthew 11:28-30 came to mind. “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest…”  That’s my Mom.  That’s me.  That’s us all.

I read the verses for Mom and was quiet again.  She sat on the bed, trembling and so unsure of what to do with herself that she couldn’t even lay back on the fluffy pillows behind her and rest.

So I sang.

“Oh gently lay your head, upon my chest, and I will comfort you like a mother while you rest…”

Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest,
And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest
The tide can change so fast, but I will stay
The same through past, the same in future, the same today 

[Chorus: ]
I am constant, I am near
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears
I am holy, I am wise
I’m the only one who knows your hearts desires
Your hearts desires 

Oh weary, tired, and worn
Let out your sighs
And drop that heavy load you hold, ’cause mine is light
I know you through and through
There’s no need to hide
I want to show you love that is deep, and high, and wide 

Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest
And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest 

-Jill Phillips

At some point in the afternoon, Mom said, “This has all been so hard on you, hasn’t it?” This.  Cancer.  The diagnosis.  The prognosis.  The expected death.  The up-coming and anticipated home-coming.

“Yes.”  But I added how if we don’t have hard times in life, we don’t grow.  I added, to reassure her, that our family has supported one another throughout this time.  When one is weak, the strong encourage.  When that person is weak, the once-weak-now-strong-ones do the strengthening.  “And we’ll keep doing that, Mom.”

Five Minute Friday (FMF): Work

It’s been a long, long time since I last wrote on here.  I remember when I first came to the missions field and I had no lack of things to write about.  I also didn’t have children or a husband and did have such a thing as “me time” outside of my work responsibilities.  Somewhere along the way, it became work to carve out time for things I used to enjoy doing.  I guess life is like that.

My Mom has been sick for a while now, although we only found out in June.  It’s a job in itself to be caring for someone else, even when that someone is one whom you dearly love and it is actually a joy and a gift to be able to serve her in these ways.  But that shift from daughter to caregiver is a hard switch.  It’s a flip that is too abrupt and liable to cause whiplash if there was even time to think about it.

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.