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

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I finally did it.

So I did it. It's finally done. I've moved my blog to Wordpress. It's better, nicer, has an ipad app, and it could even transfer all of my old posts and comments to that site.

See you there!!

www.hollyslifeoutloud.wordpress.com





Wednesday, June 29, 2011

living in two worlds

"Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones."
-Puddleglum in The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis*


So I've been in America for two weeks now, and it feels more like I've been here for months and months...or that I never left at all. In some ways, it almost feels like I press the "pause" button when I leave, and then just hit "play" again whenever I'm back. I mean, I know things have changed, and I know I have changed a ton over this year...but sometimes it feels like all that happened "over there" doesn't even count in this world.

It's hard, because I come back and I see things with different eyes and Bangkok remains on my heart every day...and yet all it takes is a little bit of "normal" and I find myself questioning everything all over again.

Did all that I experience over this year really happen?

Am I just crazy for believing, crazy for staying, crazy for choosing that life over this one?

It breaks my heart that things come at a cost, and I wish everyone could understand and experience all that God's done -- around me and inside of me. But the bottom line is, deep down, I know. Even if it looks strange or selfish or foolish, I know that God has called me to follow His heart. And I know that He is worthy of my trust and worthy of my life. And I know that, one day, when we all look back on this, there will be no regrets.

I know.








*The above quote is from The Chronicles of Narnia. This is part of Puddleglum's defense to the Witch's claims against Narnia and all they believe in. To see this quote in context, click here.






Friday, May 20, 2011

capturing the heart of God

This photo was taken by my church friend, Benjima, at our last beach baptism party!


Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Luke 15:3-7

We've finally reached my favorite part about teaching 6th grade social studies, when we read in our history books about the rise of Christianity. I try my best to be objective, I really do, and our textbooks aren't Christian or anything...but the awesome thing is, no matter what you think about church or Christians even, you have got to admit that the God of the Bible is compelling.

We just learned about the life of Jesus, and so the students are learning different parables He taught. As I explained the one mentioned above, I was just moved by the heart of our God. What kind of God is this, who aches and longs to rescue every single soul...that no matter what else is going on, He is consumed by the hunt for his lost sheep?

It's made me think of all the breakthrough I'm seeing in my friendships and at my church...Why does this surprise me? Is this not the heart of God? That we ache and hunger to see the lost saved? That we are found on our knees, praying and fasting for our friends who don't know Jesus? That the Church -- His Body -- is obsessed with sharing God's love, with seeing more and more people saved and baptized? And if that is the heart of our God, then, of course God will bless this. Of course God will answer our prayers. Of course God will use us to reveal Himself.

It must be what He was talking about when He said, "Ask anything in my name, and I will do it." When we join God in His heart and purposes, nothing can stop us.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

the harvest is plentiful

"But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”
-Jesus (Jn. 4:35b-38)


Paulina (Pastor Daniel's wife), me, and our new friend, Daeng

I had the immense joy and privilege of seeing two new friends come to know Jesus this week!!! One of these friends I met on my flight back home from Jakarta last month (crazy, right?)...and then yesterday, she brought her friend to church and he decided at dinner last night that he needed Jesus too! Unbelievable. My heart is so overwhelmed....that You would use me, Lord?

One of the hardest things about following God is never really knowing when breakthrough will come. We never know when we will see the lost saved, or when revival will break out. And yet we are called to pray and believe that it's coming -- whether that means in days, or months, or years and years. And by praying and believing towards it, we are helping bring it about. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that breakthrough comes when we say and do exactly the right things, but really, it's a battle won by faith and obedience. The role we play is not up to us. Sometimes we get to actually "see" the fruits of our labor...and sometimes we don't.

As I spend my days here in Bangkok, I am convinced that this is a very, very special season for my church and for this city. I believe that God is stirring up something big, and that breakthrough is coming. Hearts are open, and there is a longing for truth among us. Oh God, that You would call me here for such a time as this? I am humbled and honored and amazed.

Please keep us near to your thoughts and join with us in your heart and prayers.

  • Pray for Thailand. God is opening ways for the Gospel to be proclaimed to those who have never heard...and it is a beautiful thing.


  • Pray for my church, Life Center, as we prepare for the official opening August 4-7. Pray that we will find the perfect new venue...a place where we can grow, and meet often, and create a welcoming ambiance. Already we have about doubled in size in the past couple months. Pray for vision and provision and a continued outpouring of His Spirit among us. God is doing great things!


  • Pray that I am able to sell my car this summer, and if you know of anyone who could use a 2006 Mazda3, pass the word along -- $9,000...about 50,000 miles and still under a bumper-to-bumper warranty!


  • Pray for God's favor in empyting my storage in WA. I've been tottering back and forth about keeping it or not. But the bottom line is, I am spending $70 a month...to store a bunch of stuff I never use. To be honest, the main thing holding me back is the logistics of manpower, time and energy, a way to sell things, etc. If somehow you could and would want to help, please let me know. I'd be ever, ever grateful!


Friday, April 22, 2011

just let it all out

This past week, my dear friend from Washington, Jody, asked me why I haven't been writing much lately. I replied by saying that, strangely enough, I just haven't had the words to express all that God's been doing in my heart. But as I thought about it more, I realized that's only partially true. The whole truth is, God has been doing some radical, life-altering things inside of me...and I'm a little shy to talk about it. So lately, I've been kind of selective in what I share and who I share it with...but that's not me! God has given me a calling to share my heart and life freely, and so here goes nothin'. I'm letting it all out.

Most of my life, I've felt a little bit radical, and I've never really known what to do with all this passion inside. At times, I've felt really constricted by the boundaries of mainstream, conservative Christianity, but I had huge doubts and fears about exploring outside of its safety.

Last spring, God really challenged me in all of this and asked me why I limit Him and how He wants to reveal Himself to me. So one night, in the privacy of my classroom, during a personal worship session, I surrendered my pride and fears and said, "God, do what You want. Reveal yourself however You want to." And that night, he gave me the gift of tongues.

At first, I was excited, because for the first time ever, God gave me a gift that could only be explained by Him. And in that moment, all of my assumptions and expectations of what is possible were suddenly ripped to shreds. But then, as reality set in, I started to feel really sad. I realized that I've experienced God in a way many people -- even within the church -- won't understand and many won't accept. I had left my safe place of neutrality and would be forever labeled by this supernatural gift.

So for a few months, I decided that, really, nothing had changed. And it's true in a way, because praying in the Spirit is a lot like praying normally; you just don't know what you're saying. But as I kept walking forward and letting God move me, it became clear that many things had changed. Everything had changed.

It's not simply because of the gift, but it's because a people-pleasing, hungry-to-conform part of me had died when I received it, and for the first time, I was open to everything God had for me. In the past year, God has revealed Himself through prophetic word, through speaking specific scriptures to my heart, through crazy, divinely appointed friendships. Even the way I ended up at Life Center (my current church) is totally of Him. I had just fully surrendered my plans to God and told Him I'd even stay in Bangkok or go to a completely new place if that's what He wanted. And that same night, I heard in my heart, "Go to the Brolin's church." I knew of it, because the Brolin family attends our school. So the next day, I went there and I haven't stopped since. Life Center fits my heart in ways only God could have planned, and it was really the main factor in my choice to stay in Bangkok for longer.

I don't share all this to boast of my new experiences. In fact, I say it all with hesitation, because I know some people may think I've now gone off the deep end. And I hate that. I don't want to be misunderstood or judged. But goodness, I don't want to live in fear either. I am grateful that God continues to answer my prayer for more of Him and that He completely blows me away with what that looks like.

More to come. Thanks, Jody, the seal is now broken and my thoughts are again free to flow!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

catching my breath



Spring Break 2011: Bali and Jakarta

This year for our April "Songkran" Break, I had the joy of traveling to Indonesia! First stop: the island of Bali. We started out in an over-touristy beach town called Kuta. Didn't love it. Pushy people, swindling money changers, crowded beaches... Maybe a good place for aspiring surfers, and maybe it all would have been more exciting if we didn't come from Thailand --the home of many beautiful beaches.

Such colorful seafood.

Some of the most beautiful sites around Bali are the temples. I think it's partly that the colors and styles are so trendy right now. It'd all fit in nicely on someone's patio or something.

I traveled with two teacher friends, Heidi and Sheila. Traveling is always a great way to get quality time with people you don't see often enough!


After a couple days, we headed inland a bit to a place called Ubud. Praise God for Ubud. Quiet, beautiful landscapes, and instead of pushy, the people were friendly and helpful. Our first night, we took an Indonesian cooking class. First dish, the ever-delicious gado gado salad, featuring (yum, yum) this tasty peanut sauce stuff. Kind of like sauce for satay, but not so sweet.

We also learned how to make a curry chicken and another popular Indonesian dish, mie goreng (stir-fried noodles), both fantastic. AND then we topped it all off with fried bananas!! Ahhh, as you can imagine, we kind of rolled ourselves up to our bungalows that night.


These are the bungalows we stayed in while at Ubud. My favorite parts were the intricately decorated doors (sorry, forgot to get a close-up) AND how they brought us up hot tea every morning on our terrace. How lovely!

So, super fun, we went on a downhill bike ride beginning near a well-known volcano in the area. LOVED it, even though we experienced a DOWNPOUR about 20 minutes into the ride. And once it started raining, it never stopped. Great fun, you know, when you get so drenched you don't even care anymore?

On the ride, we ran into a ceremony going on involving this strange pole-like thing that the people were swinging around near their temple. We asked them what it symbolized, and (uh oh, I never remember this kind of stuff) I think they said something about a river...not sure. But I guess it only happens a couple times a year or so. The funny thing, while they were swinging this around, it fell over -- nearly on top of us all! We then backed away and for the next 20 minutes or so, watched the men work together to get the thing back up.

We also had the opportunity to take a batik-making class! It was fantastic!! (Batik is this kind of fabric painted in layers to create a really cool and unique design.) We got to take part in every step...drawing on the canvas, using the hot wax, and painting it over and over again. That's mine, drying in the sun. It got a few more layers of paint after that. Maybe I'll post a completed photo of it later. I realized then that I just love sitting around and creating. It was so relaxing and engaging too.

My last few days in Indonesia I spent near Jakarta with some old college buddies, Jessica and Evan Brammer. It was so nice to see them after four years. Loved seeing them be such wonderful parents to their three little kiddos. And we all enjoyed swapping overseas stories and sharing all that God has done in our lives these past years. What an encouraging time!

Admiring the clouds on my flight back home to good ol' BKK!

Friday, February 25, 2011

lost in translation...or just plain lost?


I have to say I’m just a beginner when it comes to understanding cultures outside of America. I mean, two years ago, I hadn’t even left North America before. So as I try to engage with Thai culture here, it’s seriously like stepping into a whole new world. And while the language barrier of course is a huge part of adjusting, language is just the beginning.

So in typical Holly-fashion, I kind of freaked out last week. What am I doing? Am I walking where I shouldn’t? Doing what I can’t? What if what I’m doing and saying means something totally different in this culture? And vice-versa? What if I just completely mess up, or offend someone…what if I’m rejected? And if I am accepted, does this culture replace my own?

Then I read this:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Ephesians 2:14-22

Culture is a beautiful thing, but our first allegiance is not to our country or culture…but to our God and the members of His household. In Him, we have a new culture, a new family, a new identity.

This all makes so much sense to my heart, because in deciding to stay here, I feel like people wonder if I've become passionate about missions, if that’s become my “thing.” Overseas for life, “called” to the mission field? Yet, my passions have not changed one bit. My longing is still to see God known and glorified in His Church; He’s just expanded my view of what that means…and who’s included.

After floating around in my deep thoughts for a while, I talked with my good friend, Mutarica, who knows a thing or two about different places and cultures. And instead of helping me analyze things further, she cut through everything and reminded me that it’s really quite simple.

“Just be you,” she said.

Oh…right.

I’m not in Thailand to find belonging in a new culture, or to collect diverse friends and experiences. I just want to know these people I’ve come to love, and to know their love too.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

silence.


If you know me well, you know that I have trouble with silence. Words, tapping, strange sound effects...I'll use whatever it takes to fill the empty void in a conversation.

Silence.

It's funny, because lately, the enemy has been using silence all over the place to drive me nuts and awaken these dumb fears and insecurities. Since I'm an over-sharing, over-communicating creature, I think it's a real weak spot for me. I send an email, or a text. Silence. Maybe they don't care? Maybe I said something wrong? I ask a question. Silence. Maybe I'm bothering them? Maybe that's a stupid question? I post something on Facebook, or on my blog (I hate admitting this). Silence. Ahhh! Maybe my words don't make sense, or people think I'm crazy, or I shouldn't have talked about that!

And it's beside the point that usually all of those lies are simply, truly lies, because really, the core issue here is -- What's really at stake anyway? Shoot! What if I do say something wrong? What if I do embarrass myself? What if I do mess up? I'm pretty sure I can trust in the faithfulness and kindness of God to cover me...and I can even trust that He'll give my friends grace to extend over my mistakes as well.

Phew. I feel better now that it's been said out loud. Haha. No wonder I hate silence.

And speaking of silence, please forgive me for my blogging-silence these past several weeks! It's partly due to a busy schedule, but mostly, I think it's because my linguistic skills are overspent on learning Thai right now! I'm taking lessons twice a week, studying every day, and trying to speak...whenever I have the courage to! Loving, loving, loving it...but my English writing output has been pretty pathetic since. Strrrange.

Anyway, here are some highlights as of late and things you can pray about if you happen to think of me! God is absolutely blowing me away with new opportunities and such clear affirmation that I am where I'm supposed to be. Praise His Name!!

  • The past few months, I've been attending a new church called Life Center. It's a young church plant started by a passionate and God-loving couple from Sweden. It's mostly made up of younger, Thai people -- a lot of them university students and most of them new Christians. I am crazy-excited to be a part of their ministry here, and I can't WAIT to see what God is gonna do!
  • God has given me favor by bringing me SO much encouragement as I try to learn Thai. I feel like every time I try to use it, I battle with fear. I know I've just started studying hard core, but I am praying for 1) a supernatural ability to pick it up quickly! and 2) patience and a teachable spirit, as I stumble through learning.
ทุกอย่างเป็นไปได้กับพระเจ้า
Everything is possible with God!
  • The transition. I truly don't know what God has planned for me beyond next year, but I have a deep conviction to commit myself here and to give Him free reign to use me as He pleases. SO, I've decided it's time to sell my car and try to empty out my storage in Puyallup, hopefully by this summer. It's maybe harder for me emotionally that anything, but I take this step in faith, and I know I don't need tangible "roots" in order for God to bring me back someday. Please pray for the logistics with all of this, and for a heart at peace.
And if you know of anyone interested...please let me know!!

Love to you all, whoever you are reading right now. Thanks for letting me...break the silence! :)



Saturday, January 1, 2011

Why I changed my mind – and does it really have to make sense?


I always said that my tentative plan was to go back to Puyallup when I finished my two years in Bangkok. And then I’d add at the end, “but in humility, I know that God could change my heart at the drop of a hat.”

I didn’t know how right I could be.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve noticed God stirring new things within. And every time I thought about leaving Thailand in June, I just felt sick inside. At first, I just chalked it up as sentimental fluff (I mean, it’s always hard to say goodbye), but then I found myself awake at night, praying to God and pleading for a reason to stay, if only for one more year.

But at that point, I just couldn’t consider it. My last year on Puyallup’s recall list? All of my friends back home, my possessions in storage? My resignation already signed and turned in? And 18 months of feeling good and right about returning, all turned around in a matter of weeks? No way. That just wasn’t gonna cut it.

…So, I’m sure you’re dying to know, right? What was it? What was the big turning point, the grand and perfect reason for changing my mind and choosing to stay?

The thing is, I’m not sure if I have one. I mean, God definitely chipped away at each doubt and fear that came up, and He persistently affirmed different thoughts and passions within. I could probably give you a pretty detailed play-by-play if you wanted it. But it definitely wasn’t the flashing billboard answer that would make the choice easy. And as much as I was hoping this decision would come with a five-year plan, or would at least guarantee me some of the things I desire, that’s just not the way God works.

I don’t know what this all means. I don’t know if I’ll be here for one more year…or for many. I don't know how God will use me, or in what ways I can be useful. I don’t even fully know why He’s compelled me to stay. All I know is, I am so moved to be a part of what God’s doing here in Thailand…that I just can’t go.

And darnitall, maybe by all earthly measures, it doesn’t make sense. But I think I’m okay with that.


“If you want a religion that makes sense, go somewhere else. But if you want a religion that makes life, choose Christianity.” –Rich Mullins