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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Top Three's of 2010!

In 2009, on my way to Thailand, God challenged me to "keep asking," to pursue life to the fullest -- asking for depth, for abundance, for more of Jesus....no matter where it takes me. And so it's kind of been my battle cry. How cool and humbling it is to think about 2010 and all the ways God has given me more...and more.

Here are my highlights from the past year. Maybe this is more for me than you, but I pray we can all remember the ways God has spoken and moved as we look to the New Year.


3. Isaiah 61 - God has given us beauty for ashes, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair, a robe of righteousness to replace our sin and shame. What a great reminder this was for me this year. Our life in Christ is one of joy and victory!

2. Isaiah 40 --
"You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout.
Lift it up; do not be afraid.
Say to the towns of Judah, 'Here is your God!'"

We serve the Everlasting God -- may we fearlessly proclaim His greatness!

1. Romans 8 -- This may be one of the most well-known chapters of the Bible, but how many of us truly live and walk in the power and promise of Romans 8? I definitely don't all the time, but I sure want to.


3. The Great Pacific Northwest!!
Okay, so this is nothing exotic or unique, but what joy it was to spend time in the Northwest this summer. Washington has my heart, for sure.

2. Langkawi Island, Malaysia
We barely made it to Langkawi in October, and it took all the Malaysian Rupees, Thai Baht, and USD we could scrounge up to get there. ...But it was so worth it. Beautiful beach, quiet town, tons to do.

1. Himalayas, Nepal.
It's just that nothing can compare with this place and all that God taught me there!


3. Ziplining
Ziplining is a pretty popular thing to do when you come to Thailand.
And I can totally understand why -- My good friend, Perla, and I had a blast!

2. Professional perm
A definite success (and oh-so fun, thanks to dear friends, Amanda and Mu!). I always knew my hair needed more volume. Now let's see if I can ever go back, hehe.

1. Celebrating with my little brothers for their birthday!
Because I've never lived near my little brothers, I had never been with them on their birthday, January 5th! But with our extra long break at ICS, I was there this year!!

Heartfelt moments

3. Karshner Field Day.
I can't tell you how much it meant to me to see all of my dear Karshner/Puyallup friends last June. They have been such a testament of God's kindness!

2. Worshiping with the orphans in Nepal
Anyone who has ever worshiped Jesus alongside orphans
anywhere will tell you, it's life-changing.

1. A brother-planned 25th birthday
Batting cages and catch, lunch out, quality time with the guys...
and dinner made by my teenage brothers? Memorable for sure.


3. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller - This is the kind of book that inspires, ya know? It makes you wanna go out...and do something!

2. Forgotten God by Francis Chan -- I love Francis Chan's passion and conviction. I love that he's okay with stirring things up a bit, for the sake of truth and the Gospel.

1. Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan -- This book changed my view of culture, missions, and The Church as a whole. And hey, follow the link, you can read it for free!


3. Our God by Chris Tomlin -- This year, God has challenged me to take hold of the power and victory He's offered to us all as His children. What a great song proclaiming such truths!

2. Holy Spirit, Have Your Way by Leeland -- Another thing that keeps showing up on my radar is our need for the Holy Spirit in our lives. We should hunger for a more Spirit-filled life, instead of shying away from it!

1. Running by Klaus -- This is my newest favorite, and it actually sums up 2010 really well for me. God is calling us to chase after Him and forget about everything else -- to stop pursuing the things we think we need. All year, it was like He kept proving to me that running after Him is truly the greatest joy and delight we can ever know...and through Jesus alone, we find more than we could ever need, or want, or imagine.

May we run after our God and Savior with reckless abandon as we look ahead to 2011! All glory to Jesus!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Strange things are happening to me.

Not a day goes by here in Thailand without someone asking me, "Where you from?"

I, of course, proudly and emphatically answer, "America!"

To which they nearly always respond, "Ohhh, no. You look like China. ...Korea."

Yeeeah. And if I'm totally honest, it's bugged me since the day I got here. Like, c'mon, doesn't the world know that Americans come in all colors, shapes, and sizes? Didn't the rest of the world get the "multicultural" memo that's drilled into our American minds back home?

For most of my time here, I've tried not to think about it, because I had that nagging feeling (you know the one?) that there are deeper reasons behind my frustration. See, it's not something I advertise, but pretty much my whole life, I've tried to "skirt around" the fact that I'm, well, Asian. I know it sounds like nonsense, but I always felt like emphasizing the "Asian" would somehow make me less American.

But, like I said, strange things are happening to me.

It's been an awesome process full of good conversations, books, thoughts, prayers...but the short of it is, I think God is giving me a heart for Thailand...and maybe Asia as a whole.

I can't fully explain it. Maybe part of me has found some hidden connection within. Maybe I've hit a high point in the cycle of adjusting to a new culture. I could speculate on a lot, but one thing I'm sure of: It is definitely of God. He has directed every thought and has brought forth every new experience and friendship and conversation. He has changed my heart.

So what does this mean? Am I not the girl who just turned in resignation papers for her job in Bangkok? Am I not the girl whose heart beats and cries out for the Church back home? Am I not the same proud American who stepped foot in Asia a year and half ago?

The funny thing is, I am still all of the above. My heart still aches for the Church in America and longs to be a part of impassioning and inspiring hearts back home. I am still a proud American who adores her country and has no reservations about returning to live there. And yes, I am still the teacher who -- as of next year -- will no longer have a job in Bangkok.

In other words, I have no idea what this all means. But I am excited to see what God has in store. My mind can go any which way -- maybe He will open a door for me to stay here in another capacity, or maybe He's preparing my heart for future plans. I don't assume I'll know for a while, so I'm just delighting in the peace of His sovereignty and faithfulness. He is a good God, and as I sang at church today, "Our God never fails."

So please pray for me. My hope is that you won't pray for what I want (oh wait, I don't even know what I want)...and that you won't even pray for what you want...but that we will, together, pray for what God wants to do -- in my life, and in yours too! May we give Him full reign to bring about His plans and purposes among us.

Even if it means...strange things.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

If I could talk to you face to face...this is what I'd say.

Dearest friends,

To be honest, I don't even know who I'm talking to. But to all of you "back home" -- or others interested -- this post is for you. :) It's been a while, hasn't it? I've had a great month or so, but very full and draining as well. I don't know why, but everything I've felt these past few weeks, I have felt deeply.

For one, I think I've been realizing how difficult it is to still feel connected to things "back home" my second year away. And it's so hard to know what I'm supposed to naturally let go of...and what I should fight to keep. In the midst of that, when all home front voices have seemed utterly quiet, I've been wrestling with making decisions about my future...in Thailand and beyond.

Last Friday, I turned in my "resignation" for next school year. It doesn't come as a surprise to me, I guess, and probably not to you either. But it was still a very thought-out, prayed over thing that meant a great deal to me. I have not taken my time here at ICS lightly, and I consider it an absolutely privilege to be serving here. God's peace has been abundant though, and I am SO grateful. As for next year, wow. I can't even guess.

When I sit in God's presence and seek Him, I sense this unbelievable calling to surrender. I sense that He's asking me to be open...to stop limiting Him and the plans He has for me...to pursue Him alone. And do I know what it means? No! Is it a little scary? Yeah, except that I know this loving God who compels me to follow...and I can't even help but trust Him with my life.

So as appealing as it is to assume a return to Puyallup, to teaching elementary and the life I knew before...I can't seem to feel right about it anymore. It really doesn't mean anything either way. God just hasn't made it clear yet. And I guess I'm telling you all this, because I value your prayers and your support and your love in my life. My heart aches in knowing that changes areagain heading my way, and yet I am so moved by God and so hungry for more of Him, that I'm convinced wherever He's leading me is worth it.

...On the lighter side, I've been crazy-blessed with joyful times and sweet relationships this fall (well, rainy season for us).

Here are just a few snapshots of life as I know it in Bangkok!

This is me with me with my dear friends, Kim and K-Dub (Kristi W.) and new friends too. We had just completed Bangkok's "Vertical Marathon" by climbing the Banyan Tree Hotel's 63 flights of stairs. (And just so you know, it's not as hard as it sounds. You could totally do it!)

Me and Miriam at a rockin' costume party the other night, thanks to hostesses Lindsey, Lindsay, Heidi and Miriam! (Cape compliments of my sweet little bro, Nicholas. Thanks, man!!)

A couple weeks ago, I got the awesome blessing of going to Khao Yai, Thailand for the first time. My friends Mutarica, O, and Sumalee took me to this waaaay cool place called, Palio...AKA Thailand's "Little Italy"! So fun, and to make matters better, O and Sumalee took bunches of photos to commemorate the occasion. This one was at the gardens in the shopping plaza.

Here we are, on the streets of Palio. What a treat it was! :)

And these are my wonderful and precious prayer/accountability partners, Catherine and Karly! How deeply I treasure their support and encouragement!

So there ya have it. Holly's life in a nutshell. :) Sending my love to you all and praying you are well. I can't wait until heaven, when distance will never again separate. But until then, may we rest in the grace He has for us.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"If it doesn't break your heart, it isn't love." [Yet/Switchfoot]

[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:7

I can think of lots of things that make loving people hard. Having patience all the time? Hard. Being kind no matter what? Double hard. Forgiving every hurt and every bad decision? Unbelievably hard. Yet when I read 1 Corinthians 13, do you know what line really gets to me?

Love always hopes.

Yes, love always hopes. I don't know the ways people have hurt you or disappointed you in your life, but I do know that, for me, when someone causes pain, the last thing I want to do is hope. I don't want to hope they've changed, or hope things will get better, or hope that the relationship is restored. I just want to guard my heart...and move on.

And what's wrong with that, right? This always hoping thing seems a bit counter-intuitive; it sounds kind of like an I'm-just-a-doormat kind of Christianity that subjects us to a vicious cycle of hope and disappointment.

Yet I know, that can't be right either.

The God I know doesn't want us to stay in hurtful situations or to hold onto destructive relationships. In fact, God allows us space to heal, and He's often the One who provides us deliverance in due time. Hoping doesn't always mean staying, and it simply can't mean enabling...nor does it ever mean compromising what is right.

So what does it mean then?

Maybe always hoping (like everything else, really,) comes down to our hearts. Maybe it doesn't look any certain way. Maybe it means we choose grace over bitterness, even if it's from afar. And maybe it means we choose prayer over apathy, and kindness over revenge. Maybe it means hoping, because we believe in a God who can change the hardest of hearts, who can heal the incurable, who can make beauty from ashes...Hoping, because even after a thousand disappointments, His great love will still be enough.

It's a costly thing to do. But when I look to the cross and the Love that saved me, I'm reminded that really loving people always is.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This one was born in Zion.

He has set his foundation on the holy mountain;
the Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwellings of Jacob
Glorious things are said of you, oh City of God:
"I will record Rahab and Babylon
among those who acknowledge me --
Phillistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush --
and will say, 'This one was born in Zion.' "

Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
"This one and that one were born in her,
and the Most High Himself will establish her."
The Lord will write in the register of the peoples:
"This one was born in Zion."
As they make music they will sing,
"All my fountains are in you."
-Psalm 87
Jesus lifted me out of the mud.
He brushed off the dirt
and carried me in His arms.
He looked in my eyes and said,
This one was born in Zion.

I feel like I don't belong,
because I belong in the City of my God.
Zion is my birthright, my inheritance, my home.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

On being a woman, pt. 3: What I learned from watching The Bachelorette

I know what you’re thinking – really, Holly? Is this what things have come to?

Okay, so I’m the first to admit that reality TV is the last place to look for, well, realistic (or wholesome) inspiration, but leave it to me to find some deep hidden truth while watching a bunch of lovesick men fight over one dramaful girl on a Tahitian beach.

The truth is, after Season 1 (when Ryan and Trista convinced us that maybe one can find true love on primetime television), I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for The Bachelorette. And so, while I don’t agree with all the content, somehow I found myself watching it again this summer.

As I watched, I wondered, what does it take to win a girl’s heart on this thing? And as the number of potential candidates dwindled, I saw one element that every guy left seemed to have. The final contenders weren’t necessarily the most attractive, or even the most impressive, but they were the men who had the courage to open their hearts and just risk it. They didn’t know where it would take them, and there was a good chance that any one of them would be booted off by the next round of dates. But for whatever reason, these particular guys felt the freedom to love (if you wanna call it that) and to pursue the things they hoped for (in front of the whole world, mind you).

And then I started to think.

If these guys can do it, what about us? Shouldn’t we as Christians, more than anyone else, be people who walk in that kind of freedom? The freedom that takes risks and chases dreams and dares to love – even if it’s not returned? We submit to a sovereign God who prepares us for our dreams, who protects us from our own frailty. (Of course, I imagine our dreams won’t lead us to finding a spouse on a reality show… but still.) What does it look like to honor God with our desires – especially the desire to get married?

I think that people a while ago had this great idea of telling young women to stop chasing marriage. They told us that singleness is a gift. They told us that if God wants us to be married, it will just happen. And I’m not being sarcastic; people needed to hear those things. But this God-given grace to find contentment in singleness is the same grace that offers freedom to hope and desire. Either way, we’re in His hands. Either way, He’s the One who satisfies.

So as I sat there this summer, watching the Bachelorette break these poor guys’ hearts, I knew that my own newly-awakened desires just couldn’t be ignored anymore. That’s not walking in faith or freedom. That’s walking in fear. Sure, we may not end up where we planned, but think about it: even the runners-up on The Bachelorette often get their own follow-up show. …So can you just imagine what kinds of things God has in store when we open up our hearts and trust Him with our desires?

Related posts (though they don't go together quite as well as I'd imagined...)

On being a woman, pt. 1

On being a woman, pt 2: the personal spin

Saturday, August 28, 2010

On being a woman, pt. 2: the personal spin

Sorry this second post has been so delayed. As I've tried to put my thoughts together, I've also realized how much I'm in mid-process with a lot of this stuff! To see Part 1 click here.

I must admit, I've only scratched the surface on understanding and reclaiming all that was lost in the "monument shift" of growing up. And as much as I believe in God's love for me, I'm still uncovering old lies from the enemy, especially in regard to my femininity.

In recent years, I quietly backed away from the world of womanhood. I avoided conversations with guys and created excuses to miss formal events. I stopped thinking about how to look pretty, and I turned away from fancy dresses and nice jewelry. Oh sure, some of it was an attempt at contentment and humility, but also some of it was just me guarding my heart and avoiding my fiercest insecurities. To God's credit alone I am getting much better, but as He continues to redeem every part of me, I've realized that those lies not only caused me great unrest, they also took captive my deepest longings.

This summer, it seemed the whole theme of my conversations revolved around being a woman. I talked with wives and moms and newlyweds. I talked with those who are single, and those who are dating, and those who are engaged. We discussed the sweet sacrifice of having a family, the reality of marriage, and the reasons why there are so many single people these days. Throughout those weeks, I also had the joy of living life with many families. I sat at several dinner tables. I watched spouses interact and make decisions. I observed the exhausting yet beautiful ways of parenting.

And in the midst of it all, I realized something.

I want it.

Yes -- the marriage, the family, the kids, the sacrifice. I want it all.

Of course, this is not surprising. I'm a single, 25 year old woman. I grew up like most girls, playing house in my nightgown and dreaming up names for my potential children. Yet while I've never decided otherwise, somewhere in the midst of life and loss, sometime after the "monumental shift" of growing up, I sort of "shelved" those dreams.

But now. Now that I've seen the healing work of God in my life and relationships. Now that I've drop-kicked so many of those fears and insecurities, I am faced with these hopes that all this time were entangled in the lies.

And right away I remembered why it's just so much easier to ignore these types of things.

For, as with any desire so close to our hearts, God can do what He wants. He can fulfill it...or He can wait. And to be quite honest with you all, both of those possibilities scare me a great deal.

Hmmm...it seems I may just need a Part 3...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Great Expectations

Me with several new ICS teachers at Koh Samed!

SO, having an un-working camera means stealing photos from other people. (This is when we say thank goodness for Facebook, right?) Anyway, last weekend several of us took a delightful trip to the beach since we had four days off! And even getting stung by a stinkin' jellyfish-type animal thing my first ten minutes in the water couldn't stop me from enjoying myself!

We just finished our first full week of school. My voice is gone (what else is new?), but other than that I think we made it through unscathed! :) Already we've had some student ministry events too, which I must say, are maybe the most worthwhile things I'm a part of here. It's hard stepping into a world of opportunities overseas and knowing where you're meant to serve. I juggled a bazillion things last year and tried out every possible way I could be useful. And I've come to the conclusion that I just need to bloom where I'm planted. Being a part of ICS and their ministry to students and families here, building relationships with the kids I teach and showing them Jesus -- I think that's enough for me. Maybe not as exciting as other things I could be doing in Bangkok, Thailand...but I really believe it's what God has for me in this season -- and what I have most enjoyed!

Me, Kristi, and Kristi at ICS' Back to School Bash
(square-dancing w/middle schoolers in Thailand = too much fun!!)

And, hey, did I mention the best part about my new place? It comes with a roommate!! It's quite the perk -- especially for an extrovert like me! :D Tawnya and I both taught 6th grade last year, and now she's teaching 4th grade at ICS. (Sorry she's not pictured below, hehe. But, this is our apartment. We just bought the furniture from a teacher we work with.)

Last of all, I just want to reiterate that our God is amazing. I'll save the details for another day, but He has brought me so much healing, and so much hope, and so much growth in the past year. I don't know if I've ever felt more at peace or more secure. I look forward to what He has in store every day, with great expectations.

Friday, August 6, 2010


And we're off! Another fantastic summer has passed me by, and already my second school year in Bangkok has begun this week! It's kind of weird when 17 hour flights become normal and I can jump from one world to the next without hardly thinkin' about it.

So...sad side-note: I think my camera's broken, and so my blog as of now will be picture-less for a time, it seems.

Other than that, just wanting to keep you all at home posted on the latest...

  • My time in America was more than I could ask for (except that I didn't make it to Montana, sad). I got to attend Karshner Field Day, visit with dear friends in Oregon and Washington, spend quality time with my mom, have a brothers-only birthday, and soak in the amazingly mild summer weather! Ahhhh! I never felt hot once.
  • I'm teaching 6th grade language arts/social studies again this year, and YES, it's nice teaching the same thing and feeling ahead of the game for once! (We'll see how long that lasts!) Year four of teaching -- it's gotta get easier, right?
  • I have moved to an apartment building right next to school with my friend, Tawnya. It's convenient and a nice little living space. My bedroom kind of reminds me of college life again -- it has that on-a-budget, this-is-temporary feel, haha.

Ways you can be praying...

  • Pray for ICS, my school. Pray that God moves mightily this year and transforms the lives of students and families as they come to know the love and truth of the Gospel. It's an awesome ministry we have here, and I'm just overwhelmed by the privilege to serve in this way.
  • Pray for Thailand. Pray for continued peace, and for the church in Thailand. Pray that Jesus is made known here and that the hopeless find hope in Him.
  • Pray for me, as I make my decision to stay in Thailand or go back home next year. We have to decide by the start of December, and while I'm rather certain I'm meant to go home, please pray for continued clarity and peace in this decision!
Can't believe where God has taken me since last summer (and I don't just mean the location!).
I pray that He's taking you places you never imagined and increasing your faith too, as you seek and follow Him.

Pics from the summer!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

25 things I’ve learned (or decided) in 25 years…

My fortune cookie from yesterday, can you believe it? What luck!

  1. Extend grace.
  2. Always assume the best until proven otherwise.
  3. Do it when you think of it, or you’ll just forget.
  4. God’s will is not a place, but a state of heart.
  5. There is beauty in brokenness.
  6. Seriously, don’t play ball in the house.
  7. Be frugal so you can be generous.
  8. Eternity changes everything.
  9. I may pretend, but I am not in control.
  10. If you didn’t remember you had it, just get rid of it.
  11. Always have a spare key handy.
  12. Honesty in relationships could actually change the world.
  13. It’s best not to use sound effects in a classroom full of 2nd grade boys.
  14. If you can’t love who they are, love who they were meant to be.
  15. It’s all about balance.
  16. Say what you need to say.
  17. Wherever you are, be there (and not just literally).
  18. Practice thankfulness…every day.
  19. Choose faith over fear.
  20. Peanut butter really does go with just about everything.
  21. Insecurities and weaknesses lose power when shared.
  22. If you’re not sure, just ask.
  23. Valleys never last forever.
  24. Sometimes the process is more important than the product.
  25. The best is yet to come.

Friday, July 16, 2010

On being a woman, pt. 1

In writing this, I’m not trying to be original. In fact, I’ve read enough to know I’m not original, hah. But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this summer, and I believe God is challenging me to relook at this whole idea of what it means to be a woman. In trying to be content with what I’ve been given – mediocre fashion skills, too many cooking mishaps, not enough dating prospects – I think I’ve flipped the switch on my God-given, womanly desires and let them sit a while in the dark. But now, God’s beckoning me to reopen them and, shoot, why not share what I’m learning along the way? Maybe at some point you’ll know just what I’m talking about! :)

I have this theory that something absolutely monumental happens during adolescence -- and no, I'm not talking about mood swings or shaving woes. It's more than that. It’s kind of like “the fall of man” coming to fruition in our own lives and stories.

If you grew up in a fairly healthy environment, you probably remember being that carefree, confident, pre-adolescence kid who didn’t worry about how you measured up to everyone else. You said what you thought. You knew what you liked. You felt just as pretty in your jammies as you did wearing your Sunday best.

And then, the monumental shift.

I was kind of a late-bloomer with all this adolescence stuff, so for me, it wasn’t until about 6th grade. I always had lots of friends and always felt confident socially – you could have even called me a leader among my peers. But things turned on me that year. Instead of thinking I was funny, people started calling me “annoying” – ouch. And then there was that moment, when I looked into the mirror and realized how totally whack my fashion sense was. I stood there in horror, asking myself, Why am I still wearing headbands and turtle necks?

I imagine it’s the way Adam and Eve felt when they realized they were naked in the Garden. All of a sudden, they were aware of every flaw, every inadequacy, every failure.

And from that point on, these nagging insecurities followed them everywhere, taunting them with vicious lies.

You’re not good enough. Cover yourself.

Even your Father in heaven does not accept you. Hide from him.

Suddenly, knowing our family’s love for us is not enough, and we become consumed by a need to feel affirmed and to prove our worth to the world. (Of course, if you grew up questioning your family’s love for you in the first place, these realizations probably happened even sooner.) It seems that once “the fall” has been awakened within each one of us, we spend the rest of our lives combating the lies and recovering what was lost.

And for us, as women, I think one of the first things the enemy tries to steal is our femininity…our identity as cherished daughters and lovely brides.

To be continued...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In His hands

Don't you turn away from me
Because my heart and my hopes, they're in your hands
And if I don't seem certain
It's just a common fear from a common man
But I am in your hands
[Bebo Norman, In Your Hands]

People say that moving overseas is a brave thing to do. They say, Oh Holly, you're so brave -- to travel across the world, to live among people you've never met, to work in a completely new culture. And it's funny, because -- well, first of all -- I'm not that brave. When people are asked to describe me, that word never comes up. Seriously. The other funny thing is, the absolute scariest part of moving to Thailand wasn't about the culture, or the job, or even the weird food. In fact, it wasn't about Thailand at all...but about all the things I was leaving behind.

I've mentioned it before, how special Washington is to my heart. Leaving behind relationships, and my place on the recall list, and my beginnings in Puyallup... Now that was downright scary. Would I come back to things the same? Would I be able to come back at all? It was like leaving all the things that made me feel most secure, which is exactly what Jesus was asking of me. Not because He didn't want those things for me, but because He wanted my whole heart.

Trust Me, He'd say.

So after an amazing year of growing and seeing God like never before, I was still very anxious to get back to Puyallup this summer...and I especially wondered what God would reveal in that time. I had two fears coming into the trip. One, I feared that things had changed a lot in a year; maybe I would sense a disconnect and a beckoning to move on. Though I was prepared for that, I prayed it was not so. Second, I feared enjoying Puyallup so much that I wouldn't even want to return to Bangkok for another year. I tell ya, I just love that place.

Anyway, it's awesome, because instead of those fears becoming a reality, God again proved His faithfulness despite my uncertainty. I loved every moment of my three weeks in Puyallup. I got to spend quality time with dear friends and with families that bring me so much joy. I went to the beach, the zoo, the malls, the Mountain....consumed BBQ-ed ribs, and steaks, and burgers, and chicken...had fantastic conversations and exchanged encouraging words...received hugs from children I adore.

Yet, I didn't feel tempted to stay right there. I didn't even feel a loss in leaving again. Instead, I felt a deep confidence in God's great sovereignty and love for me. It was like He said, See, Holly? Everything you place in My hands is safe. You can trust me.

I still don't know what's to come. I've no idea what life will look like in another year. But I do know that, for now, God has not shut the door between me and Puyallup; instead He's preserved all the things I love most. And while it can seem kind of scary, I'm even more convinced that the only place I want to be...is in His hands.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Now I know.

In just one year...

I have seen the sun rise over the Himalayas…and swam with the sea turtles of Hawaii…and danced alongside Nepali friends…and ziplined through the jungles of Thailand…and sailed around the mountainous islands of Halong Bay in Vietnam.

…Our God is a God who creates in beauty and majesty.

I have heard the stories of a God who sends His people to a hurting world, who redeems trafficked women, who rescues the prisoners, who brings orphans to a long-awaited home.

…Our God is a God who delivers the broken, the hurting, the lonely – and He uses His people to do it.

I have felt the embrace of friends I just met, been lifted by prayers said across the ocean, and worshiped with brothers and sisters of different tongues and cultures.

Our God is a God who binds us in unity and calls us each his children.

I have eaten rubutan and dragon fruit, and curry of every color. I’ve shopped at the markets, and in the eight-story malls, and on the bustling streets. I’ve ridden planes to new continents, taxis, buses, and tuk-tuks in Bangkok rush hour, and even trains, boats and subways too. I have missed flights due to flat tires, and late-arriving visas, and almost due to an overweight suitcase. I have missed school due to flooding, and due to an H1N1 outbreak, and even due to political unrest.

Our God is a God who provides….graciously and abundantly.

I have heard the voice of God in the quiet of my sleep, and I’ve felt the hand of God when letting go was just too hard, and I’ve tasted the goodness of God through the gift of rich relationships.

Our God is a God who pursues us with extravagant love.

Join me in worshiping our God, for He is worthy.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

things we never talk about

I think one of Satan's greatest tactics is to get God's people, or anybody really, to avoid pressing issues and difficult questions. He keeps us from thinking about deep things when we're alone, and he keeps us from talking about deep things when we're together. He makes us feel awkward...or ridiculous...or downright crazy. I mean, think about how many times in a day you stop yourself from saying or doing something simply because you're afraid of how people will respond, or you stop yourself from thinking something, because you don't know where those thoughts will take you. The flow of culture and the social pressures we face have such a powerful hold on us.

It reminds me of that part in C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, when the guy is sitting in a museum (I think?) and begins to wonder about life and God and all the things that really matter. But then, suddenly, he remembers he's hungry, and there ends the pursuit for truth. Later, he says. When I'm not so hungry or when I have more time. He exchanges thoughts on eternal matters...for thoughts on cheeseburgers. Good grief.

Really, though, it makes sense, right? Of course we face the most resistance when thinking about or talking about the things that really matter.

Even as I write this, I must admit, I'm a little nervous. What if I say something that makes people feel awkward, or makes me look like a fool? And, call me crazy, but that right there tells me it's something that probably needs to be said.

You see, I think this kind of fear runs far deeper than we realize. And, I think, it's often the thing that keeps us from experiencing God more deeply and from seeing real, authentic fellowship. Sometimes I feel so attached to the "social norm" of Christianity that when God asks me to think outside of that box, or challenges me to do something different, I'm tempted to just say no. Oh God, doesn't that seem too "radical"? Will I be understood? And really, what will people think? But then, I am cut to the heart, and I realize that I, too, am exchanging the eternal for foolish and fleeting alternatives. Okay, maybe not for cheeseburgers this time, but for the approval of others, or for the sake of fitting in, or to simply protect my own reputation.

I hate the thought of people not understanding me. It's like the worst. But if that's the thing keeping me from deeper intimacy with God, then it'll have to go.

Do you know what I'm talking about? Do you wonder these same things? What is God calling you to think about, or say, or do that doesn't quite fit into the "social norm"? Maybe you're supposed to consider questions you don't know the answers to, or maybe it's all about bringing up conversations that might make people feel uncomfortable, or maybe, you're just meant to stand when everyone around you is sitting.

Whatever it is, you're really being asked to defy the lies of the Enemy and to take a risk of faith, whether other people get it....or not.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

unanswered questions

A strange sight: empty streets of Bangkok after Wednesday night's curfew time of 8pm
(photo compliments of Bangkok Post).

Wow, what a week it's been here in Bangkok! Just a little recap for those I haven't talked to:

...School was canceled Monday and Tuesday, as the downtown protests escalated and the army got more involved in the crack-down.

...Wednesday, we continued with school, but by the end of the day, our classes had dwindled to a handful of students -- mainly the kids who live closer to the school where it's still relatively safe.

...Now, school has been canceled for the rest of the week. At first it seemed a little strange, since yesterday afternoon the protests finally were broken up and many Red Shirt leaders surrendered. But soon after the announcement, we started hearing rumors of fires. Turns out some Red Shirt radicals (or others?) decided to torch several buildings in the city.

...All of the area banks and malls closed Wed. afternoon. Then, a curfew on the whole city of Bangkok was announced for the evening, from 8pm to 6am.

...Several prominent buildings have been set on fire (none particularly close to us, though some of them we visit often). One of the best malls we have in the city -- and one of the largest malls in Asia -- was completely destroyed by the flames. It's unbelievable. (This mall was already empty and has been closed for weeks, because it was very close to the protest site.)

...Things are pretty quiet now, and the curfew will continue for the next few days, just in case.

So that's the latest. Now, what do I think of all this? I wish I knew.

I feel really sad for Thailand. But it's a deep kind of sad that I don't even really understand. I feel like something very monumental happened yesterday, but there's no way for me to grasp what it all means. I want to walk in the unwavering hope and joy of knowing that God surely is moving among us and is doing great things here even though it doesn't look like it. But I also want to honor the loss and sadness of the Thai people who call this place home, for it seems the face of Thailand has changed forever.

And through all of this, even deeper questions have come to challenge my heart. What do we pray for, as we pray for the nations and ask for God's will to be done among us? What do we hope for, as we live in a broken world, and as eternity awaits us? What does it look like to follow Jesus whole-heartedly -- all barriers removed -- and to be broken for the things He is broken for, to love what He loves? Maybe most people never really know, this side of heaven.

And the most haunting question, do I want to know?

*See more photos from yesterday's events at this link: http://www.vaitor.com/?p=1686

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Echoes of Eternity: finding where we belong

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

-1 Kings 19: 11-12

Our last night on the trail, Nirmala, our dear and beautiful Nepali guide, shared with us the kind of impression we made on her and the other porters that week. Her words summed up the trip in so many ways.

“The way you all act, you act like you’re a family,” she said. Then, she added, “and when we’re with you, we feel like part of that family too.”

In that moment, I knew we had been part of something very precious…and very eternal.

I understood what Nirmala meant, for there is just something about the feeling of community that speaks to the human heart. It seems like, within all of us, is the desire and hunger to be part of something bigger than ourselves....to belong. And when that's made real, when love is sincere and hearts are united, there simply may not be a better way to reflect God's Kingdom Come on earth. Such moments are echoes of things eternal. They’re those times when the things of earth – if only in passing – mingle with those of eternity, when our great and powerful God reaches down from Heaven and speaks right into our very souls.

In Nepal, these echoes cried out to us everywhere. God's hand was upon us through the sweetness of Christ-centered fellowship and belonging. Even the first night was memorable in this way. We all came together and sang worship songs by candlelight, sipping masala tea; it was so fun, we could hardly stop. And then, we broke out into a Nepali dance party – including porters, travelers, even the restaurant owners.

For me, all of this struck an especially softened chord within my heart. After growing up in a twice-broken family and moving several times, it seems my whole life has been characterized by this pursuit for belonging. And yet these “echoes of eternity” we speak of have simply never been enough. See, the trouble is, echoes will always only be echoes. They don’t satisfy our deepest desires; they simply arouse them, for they were only meant to point us to something greater. As I considered my own heart that night, I was convicted in realizing how many times I have taken to chasing those echoes, trying to fill eternal places with earthly things – even when I know it’s futile.

In the next several mornings, five words from Paul in 2 Corinthians would not leave my mind: Having nothing, yet possessing everything. I thought about them as I leapt over rocks, and as I marched up the steps of our trail. I meditated on them as I crossed streams, and bridges, and waterfalls…very aware of how accurately the words described my life. It’s true, I have nothing I had set out to find. I have nothing I imagined God would bring to show me His love and answer my cry for belonging. I thought it would come in family, or in a hometown, or in a church. I thought He’d speak through stability and long-lasting relationships. Yet none of those things I have claim to today. And as I skipped down the trail, the core of my being knew that somehow it didn’t matter.

There I was, in the mountains of Nepal with a group of people I didn’t even know a year ago…and my heart was so full. There I stood, future unknown and wide open...yet in the firm and steady hands of my Provider. How could I not trust this God, who brings me gifts I don’t even ask for, relationships I don’t expect, joys I never knew of? While nothing tangible can be written beside my name, my great Father has provided for every hope and prayer and need. What am I doing, chasing the echoes, when I know the One who calls?

And somewhere in the middle of the trek, in awestruck surrender, I gave up my pursuit.

Throughout the trip, and even once I got home, that verse stuck with me: having nothing, yet possessing everything. So when I could, I decided to look it up in the Greek; I wanted to see if the verb “having” was any different from the verb “possessing.”

I navigated my way through…Crosswalk.com…Bible study tools…Greek lexicon…2 Corinthians 6:10….

I read about the first verb and how it’s related more to earthly things, things that one could claim or literally hold – whether property, or a marriage, or a state of mind. Then I read about the second verb, “possessing,” which is more active and all about holding back something, or securing something for the long run.

It was all very interesting, but none of that really struck me quite as much as when the page for the word “having” first uploaded. In fact, I blinked twice, a little confused by what I saw before me. For lo and behold, at the top of the page, in big, bold letters was the word…echo.

The Greek word for that verb, “having,” is the word echo. Echo, can you believe it?

And then it all made sense.

The homes and property and earthly wealth? All just another echo.

Marriage? Family? Friendships? Echo. Echo. Echo.

All the things in our hands and those our senses experience. Simply more echoes.

Our final evening in Nepal was spent at a trust home for over 80 orphans, mostly from Tibet. They had no claim to any country, or home, or family. Yet these children knew the love of God and had each experienced His redemptive work in their young lives. I had the crazy and unexpected privilege of sharing my heart with these orphans that night. And of course, what would God have me say but answer the question, “Where do I belong?” As the Spirit-inspired words spilled from my lips, I knew this message was just as much for me as it was for them. And as we sang in worship with these phenomenal children, I even wondered if a “real” home and family could produce such rich and beautiful echoes of eternity.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nepal in pictures

Hi friends, I just returned from a phenomenal trip to Nepal on Monday, and to be honest, I am even still pretty moved and overwhelmed by all the beauty and joy we experienced there.

So, I know this is a first, but I kind of feel a bit speechless right now.

I know many of you will want to see pictures and such, so I've compiled some pictures my dear friends took of our journey...and I'll let the pictures do the talking...

More to come on Nepal, I promise...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Another day of (un)rest: the situation in Thailand

Hi all! Reporting from Bangkok, here. Maybe you've heard the rumors about political unrest in Thailand, so I wanted to explain the situation...AND especially make clear that WE ARE SAFE. ICS is quite far from any of the demonstration areas. In fact, for us, these major protests have meant a quiet weekend close to home, and now, a day off school (tomorrow).

Here are a couple links about what's happening:

Of course, there is always potential for things to go awry, so do be praying for peace and safety to continue. We also pray that the government here will make wise decisions and that all of this will result in real solutions. As a foreigner, I humbly admit that I don't fully understand all that's going on, or what to pray for regarding politics. So, most of all, please pray that political unrest moves people to spiritual unrest...and that in seeking peace and stability, the people of Thailand find true peace through Jesus Christ.

I'm feeling convicted tonight about how I allow my unbelief to stifle prayers and downsize dreams. Who are we to decide what is possible? How can we even limit our prayers or expectations to what our finite minds can imagine? In other words, may we pray in faith that God is doing something GREAT here in Thailand, and around our world, and even within our own hearts.

Until next time, this is your very own correspondent from Bangkok, signing off...