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).

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?

Day 15: Remain #write31days

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

In the last few months of Mom’s life, she wanted and needed to be reminded about who she was in Christ and where she was in relation to Christ.  I would read the above verses to  her often and I’d sing hymns with reminders as well.  

She had to be reassured repeatedly that she remained in Christ, despite her circumstances, despite how she felt, despite the false voices telling her otherwise.  She was a child of God and could have confidence in that relationship and position.

I have needed to remind myself of where I stand and to whom I belong.  This past season has been particularly hard in our family’s lives and it feels sometimes as if the battle around us will cause permanent damage.  And, in a way, I guess it has.  But it cannot and will not change who we are in our Creator and our Saviour.

Day 5: Trust #write31days

Mom’s doctor described the palliative floor Mom was in as a house.  She usually went on to say that no one was ever alone, because it was one big house and so no one ever really died alone because other “family” members were always somewhere in the house.

The more I thought about this, the more I saw how there were other family values demonstrated from the doctors, nurses and PSWs.  One of the big things I saw them work on building was trust.  Mom went from not wanting anyone to help her at the beginning of the summer, to needing complete care within a month’s time.  By the time she was at Parkwood Palliative, she needed A LOT of care.  She had to reach out and receive the hands that the nurses offered when they helped her.  She was forced to trust them but, at the same time, they were so lovely in the many ways they cared for her and worked on building that trust and relationship in as much a natural way that you can, when you’re in that sort of environment.

By the end of Mom’s time there, we felt that Mom’s nurses were like family.  We had trusted them with our Mom, but also with our own hearts.

Day 1: Worship #write31days

I was going through papers in my Mom’s basement yesterday and came across a letter she wrote to my Dad two years after he had passed away (also from Cancer).  Reading it sent me on a sad wave that rocked me for the rest of the day and into the night.

I mentioned it to my friend who is helping our family declutter my Mom’s house and as I told her about it, I had some perspective about my Mom’s grief 18 years ago, and her current state in heaven.  I was able to move past the picture of her in the midst of her intense grieving period and imagine her in heaven worshipping the Lord forever.  Worshipping her Creator.  Her friend.  Her counsellor.  Her healer.  Her joy-giver.

That’s a better picture to hold onto.

I can choose to hold onto the deep grief, or the One who can hold me through this grief.

yearly miracles

“Waiting, trusting, and hoping are intricately connected, like golden strands interwoven to form a strong chain.  Trusting is the central strand, because it is the response from My children that I desire the most.   Waiting, and hoping embellish the central strand and strengthen the chain that connects you to Me…” 

-p.75, March 12, “Jesus Calling”, by Sarah Young

One of the things I LOVE about Thailand is that no matter what season you’re experiencing – hot, rainy, cold, and, of course, smokey season – there are always new flowers blooming.  Bursting in colour along roadsides, mountainsides, in your garden, and in the ditch by the dirty canal.  From the lowest level next to the dirt, to the highest branch and beyond.  The continuous stream of buds of various sizes, colours, intricacies and smells are not limited to only one short growing season each year.

But many of these flowers only bloom once a year.  They take turns being quiet while their neighbour blooms, taking centre-stage.

As a gardener, caring for the plants in your yard, you plant, water, fertilize where applicable, and wait for the crop to yield its produce.

Tawee’s the gardener in our family.  It’s his therapy of sorts – spending time out in nature, silently praying conversations with God, hanging out with our dog and two cats and creatively cultivating the vegetables, flowers and other plants in our yard.  He is constantly grabbing seeds, branches or other living items from wherever we happen to be (or stop along the side of the road) to plant in our garden.  I’m amazed at how a leaf planted in dirt will produce roots and the eventual entire plant.  Or how the stick planted by the small creek that runs beside our property will leaf, grow in size and become a small tree.  He loves the surprise of seeing whether or not something he brought home will thrive in our yard, and what it will look like when it flowers or seeds or spreads in a certain area of the garden.  I love it too.

The biggest surprise is when he doesn’t suspect a plant to behave in a certain way and then it tricks us all.

The latest example is a leafy, rooty orchidish (but not) type plant that he expected will just have nice green leaves and hang from a basket in the tree.  But all of a sudden there is a cluster of small, white, strangely shaped buds.  What will happen next?  What did he bring home?  Several days later, the funny buds pop open and a friendly little white flower with some pink detail smile broadly and boast a beautiful yet delicate fragrance.

A little miracle in the garden.  A once a year miracle.

90. Miracles in all shapes and sizes.
91. Blooms in every direction and colour.
92. A dear husband with two green thumbs (and a love for flowers and all things that grow!).
93. The surprises of nature.
94. The Ultimate Artist, Gardener and Creator.

[Note: I’ve since discovered that these are not orchids at all but are hoya!]

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.

old windows and reflections

77. Time with new and still newish friends over food and laughter.
78. Time to remember the past with gratefulness to God.
79. A full heart.
80. Loving arms to be enfolded within.
81. The miracle of life.
82. Our first year of blessed marriage.
83. Our covenant of marriage – first with God and then with each other.

84. Fun projects to do together.
85. Exploring new areas together.

86. Old windows.
87. Metal twisted pretty.
88. Faded paint.
89. Wood with a face of a happy and long-lived life.
79. Reflections of sky and tree lines.
80. Popping in to visit friends just on a whim.
81. Provisions that bless.
82. Sweet baby smiles being big brothers’ favourite thing of their new sister.
83. Excitement of new bugs and their unexpected movements.

84. Boys running, jumping, leaping up, down and everywhere they can find space.
85. Discovering new community.
86. Palates overwhelmed with scrumptious anniversary food.
87. Spontaneous dance parties in our living room with just us.
88. A saved treat shared at last on a fitting occasion.
89. Friends and mentors who have spent time with us and encouraged us in how to grow.

Reflections of the past week – August 6th

63. Twilight over water-filled rice fields.

64. Discovery that friends from our favourite coffee shop became believers 5 months ago! (We’ve been gone 4 months so it’s new news to us!)
65. Reflections of His creation in light.

66. Raindrops falling into puddles like someone plucking a tune on a piano.
67. New found friends.
68. Being present with children needing love and affection.
69. Feeling the cold clay of a dirt road with barefeet.
70. The grooves in the road made hard from heavy machinery – a different kind of art work.
71. The way sunlight makes an ordinary cement building brilliant.

72. Discovery of mushrooms in our neighbour’s yard to help feed their family.
73. Opportunities to lean more on Him.

The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. The harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away – J.I. Packer

74. Answered prayers in the works after 3+ years.
75. Generous friends offering shelter, hospitality, love and friendship.
76. Celebrating memories of our first year of marriage.