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?

Coming up to honey season in northern Thailand. Shan friends in Mae Hong Son will be selling their honey again to help provide for their families, including the cost of their children’s school fees (local village school).

And THIS is how they collect the honey! Eeeek!

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!]

from last week up in Mae Hong Son

I had a chance to take a short (Tues-Fri) trip up to Mae Hong Son last week; wish I could’ve stayed a bit longer as I was really encouraged by my time with PT and others as well.

Last Thursday, August 12th was Mother’s Day (the Queen of Thailand’s birthday) and it was fun to be around for a Mother’s Day celebration that the church in NPJT held for anyone in the village who wanted to come.  PT preached about a mother’s responsibility to her child and then a child’s responsibility to their mother.  She encouraged everyone then to verbally tell their mothers and children, “I love you.”  PT said that it’s not easy for a Thai-yai person to say those words and acknowledged that it might be hard to do but that it was important.  Later on, even Grandpa Naan, the oldest believer (number of years as a believer) in that village, told me that he had a hard time saying, “I love you” to his kids (who are all adults).  Interesting cultural insight.

The youth group and a few adults put on a short play in which a mother had two kids who were completely unappreciative of their mother.  In the end the mother died and the kids realised how horrible they’d been to their mother and how they never got a chance to change their ways and love and appreciate their mother who loved and tried hard to look after them.  At the very end of the play, the cast began to sing a Thai song about mothers and all that they do for their children and I think nearly all the women (and I’m sure a lot of the men) in the ‘sala’ were in tears.  Then all the mothers or mother figures who were there were presented with a small jasmine corsage.  [The jasmine flowers we had were fake but in other instances I’ve seen real flowers used.]  I was encouraged to give a corsage to the wife of the village headman – which I guess was just seen as a sign of respect.  Then a few of the kids in the youth group gave me a corsage.  Sweet.  🙂  Anyhow it was nice to be there for all of that.

And it was PT’s birthday on the 12th – great to be there for that as well!

perspective, adjusting and growing

I have written this blog post in my head as many times as I’ve driven on the road between my village and town. There are several ways to get from Sop Soi to the town of Mae Hong Son but the way I take, brings me past a long stretch of road along which an older man stands each day, late in the afternoon.

The first time I saw him, I pitied him. He doesn’t look too old – maybe in his 70s or so – but he has a cane… or rather a cane with four points on the bottom – I don’t know what that’s called. The first time I saw him, he was maybe 5 or 6 feet out from the edge of the road and it looked as if he was trying to cross the street. On I drove, past him and into town. The next several times I saw him, he was in the exact same position, at some point along that stretch of road. Again, I pitied him but, I have to admit, didn’t stop to offer any assistance.

It took me a fair amount of time to really see what this old man was doing. He had a cane. He was clearly out on the road. He was positioned perpendicular to the road – as if he was trying to cross the street. But finally I realised that he wasn’t trying to cross the street, he was edging his way down the street. Shuffling along with his cane he moved sideways down the road. All that time I’d seen him and driven past and it took me this long to realise that he was a man, out for a walk.

He moved slowly – like he was relearning how to walk again after a stroke. He was determined. And as time has passed, I can attest that he has gained both strength and speed.

Years ago, on one of my trips in or out of town, God spoke to me and told me that I was like that man. From one perspective, my perspective, I was like him as when he seemed to be trying to cross the road and was barely moving. He WAS moving – just in a different direction.

There have been many times during my time here when I’ve struggled to see my progress. At times, the same struggles seemed to be constant, language learning had plateaued, day after day the same frustrations arose, nothing changed, culture shock would still get me – again, village living would be hard, having less privacy would still be hard… and my list of woes would go on.

Then I’d see this man out walking and the Lord would say, “You ARE moving. You ARE making progress. You ARE growing. You HAVE overcome certain struggles or culture shock issues or whatever… But new ones have come up and there are new things I want to teach you…Keep going…Press on…”

I saw that man out walking this evening. He was posed like a statue at the top of the road, cane in hand. His stature is taller, and stronger now. I don’t know how he sees himself. Maybe he doesn’t even think about that. But seeing him always reminds me about perspective… and how sometimes it may look like we’re standing in one place but in actuality we are moving forward. Or sideways. But from God’s perspective, we are moving along on the road He’s marked out for us.

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I have one week left in the village – thereabouts. Still a lot to be done with the house but I will stay in town from the 25th until the 28th or so, when I head off to Chiang Mai. I still can’t believe that my time here in Sop Soi is nearly done. I went to pay rent for the last time this week and when I arrived at my landlord’s house, his 7 year old daughter bellowed from out of the house and into the yard saying that I’d arrived. Then she promptly went back to watching tv. Oh Nong Boom – I’ll miss you. Uncle Phut and his young wife Kham Lu came and when I told them that I move out at the end of this month, Kham Lu said that she’d miss me. I’m not sure how sincere she was but I’d believe it more from her than I would from other people in the village. They told me to come and visit them when I come back to visit Mae Hong Son.

Although I’m ready to leave the village, I’m not ready to say goodbye to my close friends in Thailand. Although I’m looking forward to going back to Canada for 9 months, I’m not ready for what those 9 months entail. Still much to pray about and process and entrust to the Lord.

I guess the Lord’s words to me can still apply: “You ARE moving. You ARE making progress. You ARE growing. You HAVE overcome certain struggles or culture shock issues or whatever… But new ones have come up and there are new things I want to teach you…Keep going…Press on…”

masks, smoke and popping trees

I slept with a mask last night. The smoke was particularly bad since one of the hills beside the village was on fire.

As I was going to sleep I opened my eyes and thought that there was a weird glow from outside. There was. Looking out across my backyard and the large field beyond that, I saw the hill on fire. I was worried for the houses near there and prayed that if it was out of control and if people were in danger that those who should be made aware would wake up or something. But I had a feeling that it was “normal” burning and nothing to worry about. Judging from things this morning it was totally normal.

As I was drifting off to sleep last night I could hear the “popping” of banana trees on fire. Did you know banana trees make popping noises when they’re on fire? Yeah. It can be really loud too.

Anyhow. Last night I slept with a mask that my friends Vincent and his wife Judy (from Singapore but will be living in Isaan (NE region of Thailand)) gave me. I randomly saw them in Chiang Mai at the beginning of March and they had some extra masks with them. Thanks Vincent and Judy!!

Thai people can be seen wearing masks like these while on their motorbikes, etc. because of the pollution in the city (like Bangkok or Chiang Mai). Up here in MHS, it’s more because of the smoke this season that people might be wearing them. I don’t really know how much the masks help. Maybe a gas mask would be better… Oh well. I’m thinking about putting the mask back on while I’m at my house today.

I miss fresh air. In a couple of weeks it should start raining more. Or at least by May… Once the rains come then the smoke will go away.

smokin’ and hot

Each day sort of blurs into the next one these days. It’s hot and smoky and sometimes all I can think about is how hot and smoky it is. And I complain. Hot and smoky weather does not bring out the best in me I have to say. I’m reminded to rejoice in ALL circumstances – even the hot and smoky ones. But it’s hard.

I don’t know how people back in the day did it. I mean, I don’t have any air-con in my house but there’s one coffee shop in town that I can retreat to (and to which I have retreated quite frequently the last few weeks). Once the coolness of the mornings disappears like the mountains on a smoky day, there’s no relief from the heat – even with the fans. I know that many people live in very hot places. I just don’t thrive in hot weather. I come alive in cooler weather.

Sometimes when I’m venting I ask myself, ‘why oh why did God call me to a people group who live in a region with a very hot “hot season?”‘ But my question doesn’t really require an answer. * The point is that He often calls us to difficult situations, people, living conditions, etc. and intends to use these circumstances to refine us – like refining a precious metal.

I still have much to work on… as this fire goes on.

*[Please note: I really am happy to be where God has called me. Sometimes I just need to vent.]