"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, oh Lord..." Psalm 19:14

Saturday, December 19, 2009

America, here I come!


Merry Christmas, everyone! I got to go ice-skating today, with my friend Tawnya, and even though I was dressed for summer (*sigh* 85 degrees today) ...it really felt like Christmas. Here's just a quick update on the latest happenings...
  • I am flying to L.A. on Monday morning -- can't believe it's been five months since I was in America. Wow. Looking forward to family, cheeseburgers, socks, clean(ish) air, white mochas, Target...
  • Even more wonderful than that, during our school's Christmas chapel, two of our sixth grade girls came to know Jesus! So stinkin' exciting! We're praying for them, as they grow and learn what it means to follow Him!
  • Last weekend, I got to talk on the phone with a bunch of you at the Karshner Christmas party!!! (For those who don't know, Karshner is the school I worked at last year. My friend, Sarah, passed around her phone so I could chat a bit with everyone!) It meant so much to me, catching up with you guys and hearing your voices! I miss you, friends!

a little bit of life in pictures...
Friends at the ICS Christmas party. (I helped decorate, what fun!)


Christmas pancake party! Complete with fresh fruit, great company, and The Muppet's Christmas Carol!


This about sums up my school week. Parties and book reports.
Out of control.

Love you all and am praying that you are filled with joy and peace this Christmas, as you remember the One who came for us and showed us real love. How I wish to know that Love more fully every day.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I don't need a dating service: confessions of a Christian single

I'm 24 years old (and yes, I realize that's not very old). I'm a Christian. I'm single. And I'm tired of it. No, I'm not tired of being single. And of course I'm not tired of being a Christian...but put them together, and it just wears me out. I'm gonna try not to be cynical here, because quite frankly it's against my nature, and I'm kind of anti-critical. But...the church is deeply failing the singles population. That's just the plain truth.

I got so into this topic, I decided to do some research, Look at what I found:
  • 41% of the US population is single (US Census 2005).
  • 51% (yes, over half) of all US women live without a spouse (NY Times 2007).
  • If I'm doing the math right, over 46% of 20-40 year olds in America have never been married (US Census 2008).
Right away, we realize: 1) There are more of us than you think. 2) Singles cover a wide range of ages. 3) Just because you're older and single doesn't mean you're divorced. And yet, when you're single in the church, what are your options? Staying up late with the lively college group, going to "singles" events that translate into dating services, recovering with the older, single and divorced population... All great ministries, but is that really what most singles are looking for? I'm just one person, but if I'm anything like other singles, there are a couple things that need to be cleared up...

Just because I'm single, it doesn't mean I want to hang out with single people all the time. In fact, it probably means the opposite. At least for me, being single makes me crave stability all the more. And yet, we're placed in these "singles only" groups with a revolving door of people who move, or get married, or get bored. We're only invited to families' homes on holidays, when family is what we long for. I know it's awkward for single people to hang out with married people, but have you ever wondered if it's just because we're not used to it?

Marriage is not the solution. Yes, marriage is good, and who wants it? We all do. But, it's condescending and disrespectful to the singles population when we're expected to swim around, disconnected from the church body until we get married and "graduate" into the regular world of families. It seems more like people feel sorry for us all the time, instead of believing that we, too, have something to offer the church.

What's funny, the Barna research group finds that four out of five single adults would say they are Christian (2005). And yet, how many thriving and successful singles ministries can you think of?

Maybe it's about time we try something new and rethink the church's strategy (or non-strategy) in reaching the singles population. I mean, when I read about the New Testament church, I don't see anything about dividing the single and married people up. I don't see anything that says it's better to be married. In fact, many of the greatest early church leaders were single (and Paul even advocated for it). And the early church was all about community. It didn't matter if you were single, or married, or anything. If you were a believer, you were cared for and had a place to belong and serve.

I know that is still the message the church hopes to give singles. I know there's no one to blame for this failure and that all of this has come about by accident.

But it's time people do something.

So, singles, don't give up on the church. And married people, don't give up on singles. May it begin with us.



Wednesday, December 2, 2009

simple joys


...Like decorating my own little plastic Christmas tree (pictured above), even though I'm miles and miles from "home." I bought the ornaments from the Thai craft fair, and I strung the popcorn myself (only took like THREE hours, haha).


...And continuing the holiday spirit right into my classroom, where the kids and I listened to Christmas music and made paper chains and snowflakes (not to mention the fake fireplace!). These kids are awesome! The room looks great --I gave them the plan and they made it happen! My students...they give me joy every day!




...Or celebrating with a dear friend (Karly) our common Korean heritage at ICS's annual "International Day." I even learned how to really say my given name: Mee Seong Lee = "E Mee Song" There were 26 different countries represented at the festival, which also included some fantastic performances and, of course, unbelievable food.



...Reconnecting with old friends in a foreign land. (This is me with Jill, the girl I knew in college who just happens to be living in Bangkok too right now!)



...Bonding with 6th graders. (That's my adorable homeroom class. Oh maybe adorable isn't a good 6th grade word...) In fact, we spent lots of time together this week, including a lock-in for the whole middle school (yes, that means they stayed all night and tried not to sleep, haha). What amazed me more than the kids' excitement were all the staff members who came, volunteering so much time and energy. ICS staff, you are legit! If that's not love, and if that's not serving Jesus...I don't know what is!


They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
The eyes of all look to You,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
Psalm 145:7-9, 15-16

I just love this picture of God, opening His hand and setting before us all of our needs at the proper time. It tells me that He has purpose and timing in each gift He gives. It tells me that what I want and don't have is still securely in His grip. I know each of these really are such simple things, but to me, they have been little evidences of God's tender and thoughtful love for me. May we delight in the joys God has poured out to us, and may we proclaim His goodness to a hopeless and hurting world.

(Pictures below for those of you who don't have facebook! ...Or don't check it. :)




Saturday, November 21, 2009

Love's covering


I don't know why, but there are a strange number of things we say and do in the name of maturity. Like, for some reason, it feels good to say we've grown out of this or that...and as "mature" adults or "mature" Christians we talk less and less about our battles with insecurities and doubts. (I think C.S. Lewis had something to say about this in Screwtape Letters, but the exact words aren't coming to me.) Oh sure, my insecurities are certainly not what they were during adolescence, but it seems to me that as long as my pride remains...there they will be also.

So what is it for you? I know it feels silly to even bring attention to them, but one such insecurity in my life is shopping. I know, ridiculous, isn't it? This should be the pinnacle of a woman's enjoyment (you get the point), and yet it's something that gives me so much grief and stress. I feel like somehow I missed the boat. I can never find the sales or the right size. I never know what's trendy or in style. And even when I find something I like or when I scope out a great deal, I'm too indecisive to do anything about it! Ugh, the frustration! This may sound so dumb, but to me it's just more evidence that I am failing as a woman. Just add it to the list of womanly things I can't do: shop, bake, cook, fix my hair...

Maybe some of you know what I mean. It's like, I know those thoughts are irrational, and I am utterly confident that Jesus adores me no matter how I shop, and I know that someday, even, my future husband will really appreciate my shopping inabilities. But, it's just hard because the lies still taunt me and my feelings don't always follow logic.

Well, at any rate, I say all this because today -- can you believe it -- I had a wonderful day of shopping. I went to the weekend market. I finished Christmas shopping. I even bought some things for myself (like the scarves pictured above). And, it just felt good. Not because it really does add any worth to my name or make me more of a woman. It feels good, because I know that Jesus is gently telling me that He cares about these silly insecurities too (simply because I do), and He's got me covered. He understands, and His grace reaches even into my futile shopping efforts.

Praise God.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

de-bugging


Hello friends, just an update. I was a bit sick last week and, for the record, it was not H1N1...though I did get my share of drugs from the doctor -- only two of which I actually took. :) Clearly, they're a lot more generous with their medication here. Kind of nice, considering I only saw the doctor for like five minutes.

The swine flu has been quite present here, and because there have been five cases in the 6th grade, our whole grade was canceled for this week -- Tuesday through Friday! Can you believe it? When I announced it to the kids, oh my word, they were ecstatic. (Until the homework came, that is, haha.) And even I was trying not to smile, expressing the rather serious nature of this kind of thing. (Everyone who has been sick has recovered well.)

So yeah, been filling my days with some planning and grading and extra sleeping...been rather nice! And only four more weeks until Christmas break now...the halfway point. Wow!

Thinking of you all and hoping all is well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

something's just not right

This is not how it should be.
This is not how it could be.
This is how it is.
Our God is in control.

This is not how it will be,
when we finally will see.
We'll see with our own eyes,
He was always in control.

-Steven Curtis Chapman, Our God is in Control.


Does it get to you? Because sometimes, it just gets to me. I look at my life and my own brokenness. I look at the world. And I know. This is not how it should be.

And yet, I keep looking for things that a broken world can never produce. And I can't stop trying to make "how it should be" out of "how it is"...instead of waiting for "how it will be."

This is not how it should be means there's a better way, a grand design, a chance for redemption. This is not how it should be means that injustice is heard and loss is counted.

This is not how it should be. And I am so glad.


*These lyrics are from a song on Steven Curtis Chapman's newest album, "Beauty Will Rise," which was produced in the midst of his deep grief after the loss of his daughter, Maria. Powerful, moving stuff. Check it out.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

And the winner is...#1 Halong Bay



Okay, so you're maybe tired of hearing about Vietnam by now (sorry, I haven't traveled much, hehe), but I have one more place to share about...Halong Bay!

It's actually one of the "Seven Natural Wonders of the World." What that title means or exactly who decided it, I have no idea. But it sure sounds important. :)

Again, the weather didn't particularly cooperate, but still...over 1,000 mountainous islands towering over the deep sea below? Yeah, pretty spectacular to say the least.

Not only that, but we got to enjoy it all from the comforts of The Classic Sail, our fabulous little "junk" boat thing. And to call it a "junk" just doesn't do it justice. :)




We were so stinkin' blessed on this little outing, because The Classic Sail was amazing, and we had the boat all to ourselves -- aside from a lovely Spanish couple on their honeymoon!




The rooms were beautiful -- and the beds so cozy!














And the meals were over the top! Course after course of unbelievable food...fresh sea food and even this vegetable bouquet Heidi is showcasing here.





I guess I just didn't expect such wonderful accomodations. It's not like we spent that much money, and you just never know what you'll get for what you pay.

Anyway, the Halong Bay cruise was certainly the highlight of our trip. We spent one night aboard the boat and even got to kayak around and swim and tour a huge cave too!

Check it out...


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

#2: Sapa


Ahhh, here we are in the lovely little mountain village of Sapa, Vietnam. We loved this place! Maybe it's because we finally got to wear sweatshirts and socks, can you believe it? Or maybe it was the charming little cafes and shops all over. Or...could it have been this beautiful view right outside our hotel room?

Well, to be honest, that view only lasted one morning (the joy of coming during the rainy season). But for us, even that was such a treat. We spent three days and two nights here, hiking and shopping and eating, hehe.

We met many women from the hill tribes of Vietnam. Flower Hmongs, like this lady below, and Black Hmongs, and Red Daos.







At first, we enjoyed these overly friendly women. They eagerly posed for pictures...





And as we hiked the trails, they even held our hands.
(Okay, maybe not so heplful, but kind anyway.)



Yep, all to swoon us into buying some of their handmade crafts.





And then, it was like, we couldn't get away from them. They followed us down the street...and even peeked through restaurant or store windows with their goods in hand.




By the time we left, we were haunted by little voices calling out...

"You buy from meeee?!"

"You promise!"

Rain and stalking tribal women aside, Sapa was absolutely beautiful. We so enjoyed relaxing together and taking in the fresh mountain air.



Here are some other Sapa highlights...


Monday, October 26, 2009

The countdown continues...

#4: Hanoi


This, my friends, is where it all began. We landed in Hanoi on Friday night and really only spent Saturday here, walking the streets and touring the city. I think I mainly enjoyed the break from Bangkok's crazy traffic and overcrowded streets (remember, I'm a small-town girl at heart!).




This is a photo of the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, which is where the first university in Vietnam was established. It was also a great spot for photos (lots of red doors, gotta love 'em). I guess the turtle is a symbol of nobility and good luck in Vietnam...so people like to come up and rub their little heads. :)








One last thing to mention. Check this out. This is what happened when we befriended a couple little girls selling postcards on the street. Yeah, before we knew it, a whole crowd had gathered. Who knew we were that interesting? Hehe...


Here are some other shots of our time in Hanoi...




#3: Meals and Wheels...or something of the sort

Number 3 on my "Top Five" must be shared by two rather unrelated things (sorry to combine). This section is dedicated to the very eclectic varieties of food and transportation we encountered on our journey. To start, our means of travel...

We went by train.

(...and could never quite regulate the temperature. Needless to say, not our favorite.)

We went by boat.

...which you'll hear much more about later!

We even went by bus, taxi, plane, and motorbike (not to mention, by foot of course!). It kept the trip moving (quite literally), and kept things interesting too! I won't even try to count up our hours of travel time. I think it's best not knowing. :) At any rate, onto food...


If you're like me, you maybe didn't remember (or never knew) that Vietnam was occupied by the French for...a long time. I'm sure the Vietnamese people are glad they're gone, but I kind of appreciated some of the things they left behind. Cafes, for instance...and baguettes. What a treat! (Good bread is not something you find on every corner in Thailand, you see.)

Here we are below, at one of our favorite little cafes we stumbled upon -- "Baguettes and Chocolates"...and yes, it surely lived up to its name!




French fries with chopsticks? Only in Vietnam!


And, of course, the Vietnamese food was unbelievably good as well. Pho (noodley soup), fresh spring rolls, and our favorite...boon tick neung (a.k.a. bowl of yummy goodness -- order it next time you're out for Vietnamese!).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Vietnam's Top Five


Kristi, Heidi, and I escaped our flood-covered lands and ventured off to Vietnam last Friday night. And, you know, I expected it to be good...maybe even great...but the trip was really just phenomenal. We got to see so many different parts of Vietnam and its culture -- all packed into one crazy week!

In fact, there's just so much I want to share, I've decided to break it up into the "Top Five" highlights of our fabulous trip. So, without further ado...


#5: Ho Chi Minh City



One thing you must know: the people in Vietnam love their motorbikes. They were everyhere! And even when it rained, they just pulled out their ponchos and carried on. Ho Chi Minh City was actually the last leg of our journey (which is probably why I didn't take as many pictures...). We flew in from Hanoi on Thursday night and left Saturday night, leaving us two short days to shop and explore. And that we did!

We visited both the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels while we were there. The museum was filled with photos, quotes, and statistics on the Vietnam War that, of course, seemed rather anti-American. But I felt compelled to look beyond that and see the message they were trying to convey. And it's true, some of those things should have never happened. Ever. It was sad to see the many faces of the war and better understand the loss and destruction...on both sides. As for the tunnels, wow. We were just amazed by the brilliant strategies of the Vietnamese soldiers. We got to tour the tunnels a bit, too, which was really neat.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feels like home...



And I don't just mean the rain.


Though, I guess you could say that's part of it. Over these past weeks, I've found lots of little things I miss. You know, like the feeling of lush carpet between my toes...or taking a stroll through Target...or the joy of wearing sweaters on a crisp, fall day. Sigh. So when I see the clouds roll in and as the downpour begins (and as I throw on my rain jacket!), it's kind of...comforting in a way. Familiar. Wet. Just like home. :)

I say that lightly, but the truth is, I am feeling more and more at home here. It's so nice falling into a routine, getting to know people better, and watching "new" finally become "normal." And while there certainly are things I miss, I'm growing a deep appreciation for this place. Mainly it's the people. I'm inspired by the people I've met -- the teachers I work with, the missionaries in the area, the Thai friends I've made. I feel so welcomed and cared for here.

(Sorry, I meant to post this before I left for Vietnam, but my Internet connection was having issues!)

On a serious note, the floods were actually pretty bad in our area, entering many teachers' homes and giving us an EXTRA long October Break! Thankfully, the waters have receded, and it looks like life and ICS will finally be back in session tomorrow.

Here is just a peek at our lovely flood days...


Saturday, October 3, 2009

ballets and breaks and bugs...in Bangkok

Here we are after an Italian ballet we got to see this week. Because we've had some bad luck with taxi drivers as of late, I think we spent more time in the taxi than at the ballet, hehe...but the evening was still a real treat. (We even had pasta for dinner and gelato for dessert, to carry on the Italian theme!)

Other happenings this week:

  • I booked plane tickets for...Vietnam! A couple friends and I are headed there for October Break. (We get a week off, which is just perfect for a little traveling. :)

  • We're amazed by the many disasters that have struck Southeast Asia this week. It's like all around us here! By the time the "storm" hit Bangkok, it was more like a light rain. In Social Studies class, my students and I took some time to talk and pray about all that's happened. It blessed my heart to hear their sweet prayers for all those involved. May we continue to pray.


  • Look who I found in my bathroom! Luckily, whatever bug spray I bought works fabulously. He didn't stand a chance, poor lil guy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

all I need

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
-Philippians 4:12-13

Wow, I'm feeling so many things, I don't know what to write about today!?! I think that God is truly doing a work in my heart, and I want you all to know that He has conquered my fears of the future and brought me to a place of contentment and peace in that area. In fact, He is stirring in me a real love for my new home, and I am struck by His grace in this. I feel like, for the first time, I can whole-heartedly say that I am in Thailand...and I very much want to be here.

Of course, in my lame-o humanity, I've found myself in the midst of other fears. All of a sudden, since I want to be here and to begin establishing my new life, I am starving for connections and deep relationships. So I'm like freakin' out, as if it's all up to me. Again, God is so crazy-good in encouraging my heart and reminding me that it's a process, that this awkward, "I-hate-being-new" stage is only a season. God will bring about friends and relationships simply because He is faithful and He loves us, so I can just...chill out.

I feel like no matter what I'm struggling with, it's always just a question of contentment. And the answer? Paul is clear -- we can have victory in all things, simply because Jesus is enough. So when I'm longing, or waiting, or wishing...may I rest in that promise.

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:19

Monday, September 21, 2009

I need a Teacher.

They say that educators are supposed to be life-long learners. I think Christians should be too. And I don't know about you, but if I am to learn...I need a teacher. Oh Father, teach me.

Teach me how to love...and how to be loved.
Teach me how to pray...and how to ask.
Teach me how to listen...and how to follow.
Jesus, teach me how to give...and how to receive.
Teach me how to lose myself...and be found in You alone.
Teach me how to walk in Your freedom.

Teach me your way, O Lord and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
-Psalm 86:11

These are the prayers of my heart today, but if you have some as well...please share.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Seeing God's hand at work


Sometimes I fail to see what God is doing. Even in my short two months here, I have already felt insecure, and incapable, and..well, in over my head. I begin to wonder why God brought me here, of all people. Me, Holly, who thrives on routine and predictability, who longs to be settled and stable. If only I were more adventurous, or more confident, or more mature.

But it doesn't take long before God gently reminds me why I'm here. This week, it was during chapel, when I heard the testimonies of several students who have experienced God in real ways and are coming to know Him personally. And again, when I sat and talked with a missionary from Colombia who left her home to live in the slums of Bangkok. And once more, when one of the students at The Well told me (mostly through hand motions) that she's excited to learn guitar because she loves Jesus, and it gives her a new way to worship Him.

I am humbled by God's grace in allowing me to come here, and to be part of Thailand's story. I know it's not because I'm super-spiritual, or hyper-talented, or overly-brave. It's simply because I'm willing...and He's faithful. What an amazing God we serve!

Be praying for Thailand. I'm coming to love the people and the culture here. Dear friends, this land is broken by drugs, sexual exploitation, political unrest, and poverty. My friends and I were noting how different it is to serve here. Back home, you have to fill out background checks and applications and jump through a ton of hoops just to volunteer somewhere (and I understand there's good reason). But here, all you have to do is show up. There are a bazillion opportunities to serve and give, and not nearly enough hands or resources or funds to fulfill the needs. May Jesus bring deliverance and healing and truth to this nation. Already there are so many missionaries and ministries here -- may there be more!

Other randomness...
  • I am officially going to California for Christmas! I'm excited to spend over two weeks with family, enjoying the holidays American-style! :)

  • Way cool, I have a friend from college who's also teaching right now in Bangkok. We're far from one another, so we hadn't seen each other until...a couple weeks ago ,we spotted each other at church! It turns out we'll be going to the same church downtown and last week, our friends converged and we all hung out afterwards -- so crazy!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

a weekend getaway

We rented chairs like these for 30 baht (about $1). Sweet deal!

There's nothing like taking a weekend getaway...to an island! This, my friends, is the island of Koh Samet. To get there, we had to take a taxi to the bus station, then a bus to the pier (about 3 hours away), and then a speedboat to the island! (The speedboat was totally my favorite.)

Because it is the rainy season, we didn't know what the weather would bring us, but it only rained minimally, and the overcast sky was kind of a nice break from the hot sun. We spent our time relaxing on the white sand beaches, eating at fun restaurants, and catching up with one another after a long week of school. On Saturday night, we even got to see a fantastic fire show!





So, craziest thing, we met up with some teachers from another school in Bangkok, and as we were going through introductions, I realized that one of the teachers was actually a friend from high school in little Eureka, Montana! Hailey and I were shocked to see each other (and surprised we still recognized each other too). We had a good time catching up on the last seven years and hope to meet up again sometime. Too fun!



I almost didn't go this weekend, because it always seems like there's so much to do at home, you know, but I am sooooooooooo glad I did! (I'm realizing more and more that God knows what we need way more than we do!)

Enjoy the slideshow below. It's all quite beautiful. As you'll see, it's the wrong season for bright skies and clear-blue water, but I'm sure I'll see it in its full glory another time! :D



Thursday, September 3, 2009

When it rains, it pours.


That is the way of Thailand, at least! Yes, if you didn't know, it is the rainy season here -- and that also means ridiculously loud thunderstorms! Cuh-raaaazy! Just wanted to take a moment and update you on the latest happenings...

  • Kristi and I got to go for the first time today and teach guitar and piano at The Well. It was so fun, and it gave me loads more motivation to really learn some Thai! I'm possibly going to start taking lessons soon!

  • The past two Fridays, I've been going to Friday Night Fellowship and hanging out with the middle schoolers from ICS. It's been a joy seeing the kids outside of the school context, and getting to worship God alongside them!

  • I am still in awe of my students -- how respectful and responsible and motivated they are! So many are getting A's in my class, I feel like the easiest teacher EVER. (Part of that is probably because I am easy. Like, I'm used to 2nd graders, c'mon.)

  • I am better understanding the stress of grading 60 students' writing...and also planning for two subjects I've never taught before. (I feel inadequate in many ways, but isn't that just how we teachers feel so often?) I think it's kind of fun inputting grades and making up quizzes and powerpoints...if only it took less time!

  • I'm going to the beach this weekend with some friends. It'll be the first time I've left Bangkok! Yippy!

When you think of me, please pray for a couple things that have been a real challenge here: One, learning the language (it's the sounds I just can't get). And two, finding my way around Bangkok. If you know me, you know that I never know where I am. (Sometimes when I walk out of a room, I don't even remember which side of the hallway I was on. Yeah, that bad.) It's hard depending on people all the time to help me with directions, and being so slow to understand. Clearly I need God's grace in these matters. :)


I love you all so much, and I pray that God is making Himself known in your lives today!

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith...(Hebrews 12:2)

Friday, August 28, 2009

a choice was made

UGH! (That's my favorite interjection right now. :) Honest Holly-moment...I miss you all a lot (and that's an understatement!). The Puyallup School District contacted me and told me that I'm being recalled...and it just brought about a lot of feelings. I mean, I knew I'd be recalled eventually, and I knew I'd have to pass at least once or twice. But, I don't know. It's like, all of a sudden, I'm in Bangkok...and it feels more like a choice than before. I just chose this life over my old one. Just makes it harder.
(Karshner friends, I cannot believe it about Sarah -- wish I could have at least seen everyone's reaction to her return. Amazingly AWESOME!)

So first, let me tell you what I don't feel. I don't feel regret, or disappointment, or frustration. I don't feel like I made the wrong decision. In fact, God has been gracious in making very clear that I am supposed to be here right now. No doubt. I'm at peace with where I am and so delighting in all I have here in Thailand.

Yet at the same time, I am feeling deeply sad that I'm missing out on life with all of you, and I'm kind of afraid of what the future holds (I know, this I shouldn't feel). I want so badly to trust God in these next few years...but it is so hard. I always knew I was a planner, but I didn't realize a synonym for that is control freak. I have to know what's happening all the time.

So I will find rest in what I do know. I know that God will make clear my next step when the time comes. I know that God is in control (even when I think I am). I know that God's plans for my life are far better and greater than my own. I know that His love for me is unfathomable.

I am hoping, pleading that I can go back to Puyallup in the next couple years and, in a sense, continue what was started there. But, this too, He knows. And though my battle cry sometimes turns into a weak, hesitant whisper, I will still surrender...for He is worthy.

Jesus, my life is yours.

One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard. That you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.
-Psalm 62:11-12a

Monday, August 24, 2009

One month to the day!

Me and Karly with our matching Thai phrase books!

Yes, on July 24, 2009...exactly one month ago today...I stepped foot in Bangkok, Thailand for the very first time. In honor of this momentous anniversary, I am going to teach you all the Thai I know so far. Which...isn't much.

Okay, you ready?

Sawaddee Kha! (or Sawaddee Krup if you're a guy)....Hello!

Mai chai cohn Thai...I'm not Thai. Oh, you might not need that phrase.

Poot passat Thai mai dai...I don't speak Thai. Probably won't need that one either.

Kahp Kuhn Kha/Krup.....Thank you

Djeng ma!...That's cool! (My Thai friends taught me that one. :)

Aaaaand...that's about it. I know a few more, but really, pray for me, because this whole "learning Thai" thing is pretty stinkin' hard. (It's not essential to learn, but I'd sure like to know a little!) I hope to get a tutor sometime, which the school will reimburse us for -- awesome!!

Lastly, though, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you, for letting me share my thoughts and my heart and my story with you every step of the way. Thank you for reading (aka listening), sharing comments (helps me know you're there), and for praying too! It is a tremendous blessing to me and encourages my heart whenever I miss home.

And, this whole blogging thing, I love it so much I actually believe this is one reason why God sent me here!

Friday, August 21, 2009

I was moved...before I moved.

The truth is, I am a radical at heart, and there’s this thing in me that knows I am just waiting, waiting for…for what? For a leader to follow passionately and boldly? For someone to go first? I look at the church in Acts, and those who followed after You – and it cost them everything. And even if doesn’t cost me my life here – shouldn’t it cost me more than I’m giving? Is it that I’m unwilling? Is it that the time is not right? Is it that I am afraid? Jesus, I pray you show me. How do I give my all? How do I live this life radically for You?
- journal excerpt [January 10, 2009]

Sometimes, when I look back, I can fool myself into thinking that what I left just four weeks ago was exactly the life I wanted. But the truth is, even though there was so much to love back home, the core of me always knew: I was destined for different things. And I don't mean "bigger" things, because every place and every role has its significance in God's eyes. I really just mean different things.

God is fulfilling in me now desires, and passions, and joys that I've tried so long to satisfy...but all the while, He was simply moving me...before I even knew I was going anywhere.

Monday, August 17, 2009

answered prayer...and other less important tidbits

Got to visit The Well today, which is a ministry that reaches out to some of the sex workers in Bangkok. (If you didn't know, this is a huge problem in Thailand. Many women fall into it, because it's the last option for making decent money.) The Well helps these women create new work (like making greeting cards and jewelry), educates them, and shows them Jesus. I actually found their website before I even got the job officially at ICS. I was inspired by the work they do (check out the link above to see the site), and I knew I wanted to somehow be a part of it.

As I've been praying about where to serve, I got in contact with The Well and found out they actually have ways that I can help!! Many of the students would love to learn some musical instruments, so I'm going to go once a week and teach a little guitar. My friend, Kristi, also is going to come and teach piano at that time. We're not uber-talented in these areas, but it gives us an opportunity to build relationships with these special women. What a huge privilege and answer to prayer! So amazing that we can be answering their prayers (for needed help) and they could be answering our prayers (about where to help)...at the same time. I'm soooo excited! Please pray for wisdom as we try to connect with these ladies and show them God's love.


Anyway, onto the less important tidbits:


  • Had a great first week of school. It's so fun getting to know my students better. If I could only get all 61 names down...
  • I get to help at my first Friday Night Fellowship with middle-schoolers this week. Pray that I can build deep relationships with students, and for good conversations.
  • Yesterday, at church, we got to see several people baptized...from Thailand, the US, Camaroon, Vietnam, and China, I think. They shared their testimonies first (in many different languages!), which was a real blessing.
  • I enjoyed my first massage here in Thailand. One hour foot massage for 200 baht (or about $6). Lovely.
  • Last of all, I've been seeing some elephants around my home!


...Except, I haven't gotten a good picture of 'em yet! Just not quick enough with the camera. But hey, good thing to end on, yeah? :)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tourist for a day


Yesterday was the Queen's birthday, aka Mother's Day, in Thailand...which, for us, mostly meant no school! So we went out and explored. From taxi, to skytrain, to river taxi, we ventured through some of the most touristy parts of Bangkok. This nifty boat, from a ritzy hotel nearby, even picked us up for free! Then we went inside the hotel...but didn't stay long, because we couldn't even afford dessert in this place! Check it out...



There are more pictures of it in the slideshow below. This was just the room for tea and such.

Once we reached our destination, Ko San Road, we ate some fabulous Indian food at Heidi's favorite place. Ko San Road is crazy-busy and overflowing with vendors and shops and restaurants and tourists. It was weird to be around so many tourists. I think I like it better in our part of town, where Thais are excited to see you...and not so annoyed. Speaking of annoyed, the bug-cart guy freaked out on me because I took a picture of his cart. (Actually, he just made a pouty-face and pulled at my camera cord, but still.) I felt really bad, and I wish now that I would have paid him (some bug-carts actually have signs that say "photo 10 baht"), or at least asked him first. Oops!


So count yourself lucky, I risked my well-being for these two pictures:






















Was a fun, and exhausting, day all in all, but we were all glad to come back and go to bed! Here are some more pictures of the day...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The "whoa's" of middle school



It's only been two days, so I can't really say what exactly teaching middle school at ICS is gonna be like. But, this I know thus far...

Whoa...I have so much less to plan!! Two subjects? I figure I plan the same amount in a week that I used to plan in one day.

Whoa...I have so much time to plan. Seventy minute planning periods? Sometimes more than one in a day? Can this be true?

Whoa...6th graders in Thailand are so much fun! They even laugh at my jokes still (I thought I'd only see eye-rolling, ha.)

Whoa...These kids really, actually, truly want to learn! One wrote on his get-to-know-you survey that he doesn't like it when teachers play around. (I hope I never fit in that category! :)

Whoa...And I get to share about Jesus? I'm supposed to take time to build relationships with students, and put up Bible verses on the walls, and pray for them, and talk about my faith?

It has honestly been a joy, being a part of this school here. I am so encouraged by the students' enthusiasm. They've loved everything I've thrown at them so far -- from the sound effects on my powerpoints to the signal words I introduced today (Karshner peeps, you know what I mean! They are eatin' up those GLAD strategies!). One teacher I know put it very well -- You can still be cheesy with 6th graders in Thailand. And it's true, they like that stuff! Plus, as we all know, I would be cheesy whether they liked it or not!

I've also been so impressed with ICS's commitment to ministry. They have small groups, and chapels, and worship nights, and retreats, and outreaches all for students. I'm hoping to be a part of Friday Night Fellowship for middle schoolers. I also volunteered to help with the 2nd graders during Good News Club every week. (Thought I might miss those lil guys.)

I'm still praying about how to use the rest of my time. (To be honest, I'm getting kinda antsy.) I really want to be involved in some sort of ministry here in Bangkok, but I don't know what that means yet. May I have eyes to see what God has for me in every moment.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

sharing life

This, my friends, is Chatuchak Market (JJ's for short :). We went shopping there today, and (though it's hard to tell from the picture) the place literally has everything -- from Thai silk and t-shirts, to fluffy dogs and chicken kabobs. It was super fun, and we all came home with something, or thingsssss, I should say. On the way, we rode the Skytrain, and afterwards, we ate lunch at a nearby park. Below are some more pictures taken throughout the day.


I had to go to the Immigration office yesterday, to extend my visa. Two of the office people, Charlie and Sujimon, took me. They pretty much took care of everything -- which was just fabulous -- and when we finished, Sujimon and I even got to stop for coffee. Sujimon grew up in Bangkok but can speak English quite well (even though she wouldn't say so!). She was so kind to me -- buying my coffee and grabbing my hand when we crossed the crazy-busy streets -- but the best part of all was hearing a bit of her story. She told me about the friend who first invited her to church...and how she was just amazed at the love these people had for the poor and needy, so she kept coming back. She told me how after she accepted Christ, so did her brother...and her mom...and her dad...and eight other family members too. And then, she told me about the people in her family who don't believe...and how she just needs to pray for them more.

We weren't at the coffee shop long, but our short conversaton was enough to encourage me...and humble me too. Man, I wish stories like that were more common. Maybe they would be, if we prayed for the lost with that kind of faith and urgency...or if we just shared our lives and stories more often with one another. We serve an amazing God -- may we never forget.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

a pilgrimage


"Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts
on pilgrimage."

-Psalm 84:5


I think maybe I got homesick for the first time last night. It was like, I started to realize I am here to stay. (This is not bad, it's just...wow.) I hate that I don't know what's ahead, and I don't really know where home is anymore. I hate that I'm not in control. :)

May I remember that our lives are not about finding stability and belonging -- for those things are reserved for eternity. I'm trying to be two places at once, and I need to just let God have all of me. In perfect timing, I listened to a podcast of Calvary's service last weekend, and Pastor Ray encouraged us all to declare to Jesus, "I'm all in!" Like the guys playing poker. So that's my cry tonight. No matter where it takes me and no matter what happens to my own plans, I'm all in.

On a lighter note, I am WAY excited about teaching next week! The planning has seemed much easier in many ways, because I only have to focus on two subjects! We've been getting our rooms ready, and I got to meet the rest of the staff. My classes will range from 16-20 students each -- pretty awesome. And maybe you noticed the picture above, of my classroom door. It says "Miss Holly," because in Thailand, last names are so long teachers go by their first names.

I found a really great church last weekend. Please pray that I am able to discern how to use my free time well. Church involvement? Other ministries? Outreach? Relationships? Also, be praying for us as we prepare for our students. May our hearts and minds and classrooms be ready!


OH -- one more thing to note: I met a teacher this week from Puyallup!! Kristin's a PHS grad, and has often attended Calvary too. Encouraged my heart!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

overflow



I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.

-Jesus (John 10:10)

Sometimes it's good to pick a kinda long book of the Bible and read it all in one sitting. Of course, the trouble is finding the time to do that. I found the time (and then some)...on an airplane...headed for Thailand. I picked the book of John, because it is my favorite Gospel, and it sort of does read like a novel.

And I think there was some divine intervention involved too, because this running theme surfaced that I had never really noticed before. It wasn't anything new, but I think it was God's gentle whispers to my heart on a very eventful, very important day.

See, the book of John (I've now decided) is all about abundance. This is the book where Jesus says those famous words I quoted up there. He gives us life to the full. This is also the book where He tells us He's like water that forever takes away your thirst, and the bread of life that fully satisfies. Pretty cool. But, then, read on, because the stories in this Gospel also point to a God who is all about abundance.

Take the story of Jesus miraculously feeding 5,000+ people with five loaves and two fish. Amazing, right? I mean, even if they each got one tiny piece of bread, that would still be amazing. Yet, do you know what the Bible says? It says that Jesus gave them as much as they wanted...and there were leftovers. Again, this is a God who satifies in abundance.

I'll give you one more example (though there are more). Jesus sees his disciples, and they're struggling to catch just one fish on their boat. He tells them to throw down their nets, and -- as you can guess -- they catch some fish. But it's not like they catch 10 fish, or 20 fish, or even 50 fish. No, they caught so many fish, they couldn't even haul 'em in (153 in all). Our God is a God of abundance.

You'd think I'd be done, but the theme continues (can you believe it?). The best part of this book (I think) is Jesus' last moments with his disciples (ch. 13-17), his last moments before the cross. The Bible says that Jesus shows them the full extent of his love. He washes their feet. He prays for them. He comforts them. All right before He dies for them. Love...overflowing. Love...in abundance.

That part always gets to me. I read it often, but I never before noticed this phrase that Jesus keeps saying to his disciples during all of this. He says, "ask anything in my name, and I will do it." Four times in his final conversation, He tells them to ask and they will receive. Our God loves to give...freely and abundantly.

Two things came to my mind as this theme unfolded before me. First of all, I was deeply comforted, knowing that the God who put me on this plane and led me to a foreign land, is the God that gives and loves abundantly. His plans for my life are complete, fully satisfying, and overflowing with all of God's best.

Secondly, I wondered why we fail to ask. His love never runs dry, and He willingly gives to all who ask, so why do we fail to ask? Is it fear? Is it pride? Is it unbelief? Maybe it's because we're afraid of getting what we really want. Maybe it's because we know that this life of abundance is not about more stuff, or more self, or an easier road. It's so much greater those things. Are we receiving all that God has for us today? Or are we afraid to ask...limiting Him and the love He desires to lavish upon us?

I don't know what it all means, really. I don't even know where it's gonna take us. But I can't help but follow. So I'll keep asking, and seeking, and loving the God who loves us so abundantly, so extravagantly that He came and died on a cross that we might have life...and have it to the full.




Thursday, July 30, 2009

meeting the culture

We've had the privilege of seeing some of the sites around Bangkok this week. Yesterday, we went to a floating market, where people like these ladies sell produce and plants from their little canoes. We also got to ride one of the canoes down the canal!



Enjoy the slideshow below to see more pictures of our outings, including our trip to a nearby park. That's where we rode the cool swan pedal-boats. And that's where we followed around the monitor lizard, who was like 4 feet long, head to tail. (He never did get out of the water like we wanted him to!) I also saw my first elephants yesterday while riding the bus!

Thanks for your love and prayers! Praying for new relationships to be built here, and for God's work to be done at ICS. He has been so faithful to this place -- I feel deeply privileged to be serving here!