Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fill Me Up

"Come away with me,
Come away with me
It's never too late, it's not too late
It's not too late for you

I have a plan for you
I have a plan for you
It's gonna be wild
It's gonna be great
It's gonna be full of me

Open up your heart and let me in"

-Come Away by Jesus Culture

There is a whole, inside of all of us, and it is empty. We attempt to fill it with acceptance, and love, two things that we view with great worth--but I am beginning to learn that the only thing big enough to fit into that hole, big enough and worthy enough to fill it completely forever, is Him. The size of that hole, of that emptiness, is the exact same size as our Father and all the love and all the wild plans He has for our life. We were created by Him, for Him.
It's incredible.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My mother's blog post ( on our fundraiser to send us to Africa next summer:


Last night, six year old Little Miss M came in while I was doing some stuff on the computer and saw a photo of Africa that I was looking at. She immediately said, "text someone and tell them that I love Africa".


The Lord knows how much this blesses my African-lovin' mama heart.

As Jim and I make plans for moving to Swaziland to love and live, one of our main prayers and desires has been that our children also feel called to live and love in Swaziland. When my kids tell me that they dreamed about Swaziland or one of them asks if they can take their blanket to the cold children there, I know that God is answering our prayer. He is turning their heart towards our calling.

Just as God wants us as His children to love and care about the things that concern Him, so I want my children to love and care about the things of God. I want them to learn from an early age that this life is best spent when it is spent for the good of others. I want them to see that it is not the stuff they can get that brings fulfillment but it is the gifts they can share with others. I want them to see that it is actually in serving others that they will find the kind of deep contentment that only God can grant.

I want my children to be totally sold out and passionately in love with Jesus. And I want that passion to pour out of their lives for the least and the lost.

I still struggle with this area. Despite what I've seen with my own eyes --- families living in mud and stick shacks, girls left parentless and unprotected from predators, small children walking alone for miles for a simple meal of corn meal mush and beans --- I still fight against being wrapped up in what I want. I still desire for more stuff than I need. I still eat more food than my body requires. I still cling to material possessions and my rights. I still fight lazyness and complacency.

The secular American Dream for parents has been for a long time that their children would be better off financially than they were. We see this played out as house and closet sizes increase, as pricy vacations that used to be seen as a luxury are now viewed as an annual need. As more and more people are opting to have less children because they want their kids to "have it all".

This totally flies in the face of the truly Biblical worldview. Yes, we are called to be wise stewards of what God gives us. We are called to care for our families and work hard for our daily bread. But we are not called to live first and foremost for the things that we want.

Christianity is, in its essence, dying to self. It is following the example of Jesus. Jesus had it all but He gave it up for us. He lived a life of sacrifice that eventually led to death on the cross.

Where in the world do we get the crazy idea that Christianity is about living our life the way we want, being "good" people, going to church, and apportioning a part of our time and resources to God's kingdom. Our whole entire lives are supposed to be lived for His glory and His kingdom. Pure religion is to visit the orphans and widows in their distress. It is not to follow a bunch of legalistic rules, show up for all the church services, and dress ourselves up in Christian-themed garb.

I firmly believe that the American Dream of financial prosperity is a seductive lie that is leading us to spiritual death, and even financial death, as a nation. Yes, God does bless and when we follow Biblical principles, we will usually do fine financially, maybe even get rich. We see that with various Biblical characters such as Abraham.

But God doesn't give to us so we can just be fat and happy, He blesses us so we can bless others.

The American church must get their eyes off of their selfish dreams and desires and get them on to what matters most to God --- setting the captives free, feeding the hungry, setting orphans in loving homes, helping the widows in their distress, visiting the sick, fighting against injustices, and loving those who think they are without worth.

The NEW American Church dream should be that our children's generation should have a better grasp on what it means to see God's "will be done on earth as it is in Heaven". We should want our children to not have more stuff than we had but more of God. We should want them to walk at a depth and intensity with the Lord that is so much more than we have. We should want to see them serving more passionately, giving more radically, living more fearlessly, serving more unselfishly, changing their world more fantastically. Ultimately, we should be more concerned about investing in their relationship with the Lord, not in a million extra-curricular activities, trendy clothes, and pricy trips.

Giving them more of God and more of God's desire to bring the world to Him should be our very first goal as a parent.

I want this for my children and as time goes by and I see the consequences of shallow Christianity, I become more and more motivated to do what I have to do to make this a reality in their lives and then in their children's lives and down through the generations. I say "no" to generational curses and "yes" to generational blessings.

And when my little girl comes to me and tells me she loves Africa, it is to my ears, God's way of telling me that He is putting in them the love He has for that continent and its precious people.

And it is all just a part of why we are taking our kids to Swaziland to serve and discover for two weeks next year and then to live in two years.


A darling, new friend of mine, Brooke Reece, is a culinary arts major at Mississippi University for Women. She loves to bake treats as sweet as she is. She is donating a lovingly made pumpkin cheesecake to help us raise the money for our Swaziland trip.

Brooke lives in Starkville while she is in school but her family lives closer to Jackson, in the Conehatta/Newton/Decatur/Meridian area. For that reason, we are opening the auction up to anyone who lives in the Starkville-Columbus area, the Jackson-metro area, and near her hometown. Once the auction is over, the winner will be contacted by Brooke to decide on when they want the cheesecake made and delivered. If the winner is not living in the Golden-Triangle area then she'll need to deliver it on a weekend.

The 8-inch pumpkin cheesecake has a graham-cracker crust and is topped with caramel and pecans. This seasonal treat would be great for a harvest tea time, fall festival offering, autumn birthday cake, or even a Thanksgiving dessert.

The bidding on this luscious baby will begin at $15. Considering how amazing it is going to taste and the fact that Brooke will deliver it makes this quite a bargain!

To bid, just leave a comment with the amount you are offering and some way for us to contact you. The auction will end this Sunday evening at 5:00.

Also, it would really help us if you were willing to tell others about this auction via facebook, twitter, or your blog. This is a way you can support our trip even if you can't make a bid.

Thanks and happy bidding!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Him Fighting For Us+Being a Princess+Galatians 5:1

Last Sunday night, we girls all went to a pottery place for youth group. After painting frogs and mugs, we went to Dairy Queen for dinner and our lesson. I sat in between my new friend, Victoria, and the leader of the week around an outside table underneath a starless, city sky while she told us about our identities in Christ: princesses. (And I now have a sticker-ed notecard with "Princess Betsie" writeen all curlicued tucked into my mirror frame to prove it.) See, because He is our Father, and He is the King of all kings, then we are princesses. We are who we are because of Who He is. Plain and simple.
Now, the world's and our culture's definition of a "princess" is a diva. Privileged. Spoiled. A lot of times, too, in our eyes, a princess and her worth is judged upon the grounds of who her Prince Charming is, or if she even has one. Without Prince Charming there to sweep Cinderella off her feet and take major part in the magical transformation of a scullery maid turned future queen of an entire kingdom, would we even care for the tale? Without Prince Charming, Cinderella would just always be a girl sitting in cinders. Without Prince Phillip there to climb through the thorns and brambles, overthrow the cruel witch, and smooch Aurora with the "kiss of life", she'd still be sleeping. No happily ever after. No story at all, really. Just a pathetic girl who pricked her finger on a needle. Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame.
However, we as the Lord's daughters, we are defined by the world or our culture. As His daughters, we must be a completely different sort of princess; His definition of the word. We aren't who we are because of wealth or family blood or a ridiculous prince with a savior complex--we are who we are because of who He is and who He has made us.
Therefore, our leader explained, a true princess must focus more on inner beauty than outer; be willing to be different, possibly an outcast; a "lily among brambles" (Song of Solomon 2:2); value her Father's acceptance over man's; give up the world's good things for the Lord's great things; sometimes be alone.
Our teacher shared how she had similar conversations with her son. (Except on how to be a prince, not a princess...) She told us that she was always telling him she would fight him forever. She would fight with him even when he was eighteen, even when he was grown and out of the house. She would still fight him when he was married and had his own family, fight him until the day he died. Why? Because, her voice choked a bit, he is worth fighting for. That's exactly how our Father feels about us, except so, so much more.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!.."
-Galatians 5:1

Now, I have another best friend who is cool enough to be studying Galatians with me, and we discovered this mind-blowing verse during our our very first Bible study two weeks ago. "For freedom Christ has set us free!..."--wow! WOW. For freedom, He has set us free! However, even though I had discovered the verse, I hadn't yet discovered the complete and full potency, its full mind-blowing earth-trembling potency, until then. That's when it made sense. I saw the parallel in an explosion of beauty, and I realized you couldn't have one without the other.

Him fighting for us + being a princess + Galatians 5:1 =

He died for us. Jesus died for us. He looked at us, and He saw something so beautiful--the daughter, the princess His Father created you to be. He saw that, He saw us, and it,us, was more than worth fighting for.
So He died for us; He died for us! He died so that we might have a choice. A choice to never come to Him, to never accept everything He has planned for us, to never acknowledge what He did that day, never love Him. He died, though, that we might simply have a chance to. He died knowing that we would most likely reject Him, yet He still died; just so that we might have the chance to love Him back. That's how much He loves us, that He would die for us while we were yet still in sin so that someday, we might not be and we might come to Him.


My heart and head nearly exploded, so impossible is it to wrap both around His incomprehensible, all-consuming, universe-big love for us! Ahh, He just blows my mind. The end.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Enduring Faith

What I've Been Learning Through James: Enduring Faith

My best friend since 1st grade is very cool. Deuteronomy 8:3 and John 15:4-8 changed our lives and now we're spending our Friday mornings with the Word and frappes that think their eggnog (they're not). I adore it. Our first day, I Googled "commentaries on James", and, feeling ambitious, I printed out a commentary on the first chapter. Sit down, eggnog frappes and all, Bibles and window booth, an hour and a half later--guess what? We went through four verses. And one in Isaiah. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Look at us.

"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." -James 1:1-4

Did you know that James was Jesus' half-brother? Because I didn't. Yet he refers to himself as the Christ's "servant"? That's pretty incredible, that love and humility. I don't know if I could willingly be my younger brother's "servant", Prince of Peace and King of Kings or not. Also, did you know that James wasn't even a follower of Christ while he was yet still alive and walking among us? James thought his brother was insane; James was ashamed of Jesus. Wow. Fast forward a couple of years and some redemption later, James is one of the top dogs of the Jesus MOVEMENT. Oh James, James, James. He's something.

Four verses (plus one in Isaiah). One week. I should've known that as soon as we sat down that one Friday and opened our Bibles, letting Him and His life-changing beauty out and into our lives, that neither of would ever be the same. Two weeks later: we aren't. Thanks for asking.

Besides James being the brother of Jesus and all that, one of the main things that jumped out at me--it is the Living Word, after all--were the verses about faith. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." I don't know about you, maybe this is just me, but I have a bad tendency that when the Lord lays something on my heart or calls me to do something--pursue a relationship, forgive, love like Him, reach out, reach in, fold the towels not only with a good attitude but with joy, etc.--I do it, for a day. Maybe a week. Then stop. First obstacle, first rejection, first shut down and this is me: "Well! God obviously didn't call me to do that! Moving on." First breakthrough? Me: "Well! Happy, God? 'Good and faithful servant' for a whole week! That's me. Now, what else would you like for me to do?"

I apparently never paid much attention to the last bit of that passage "Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Finish it's work...finish it's work...finish it's work... Let's chew on our straws and discuss this one for a half hour or so, shall we? I did, too, for an entire week; it led me around in circles in my mind, and then it led me to Genesis and the story of Noah.

"So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring flood waters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them. Noah did everything just as God commanded him."
-Genesis 6:14-22

Noah did everything just as God commanded him. 55-75 years later after the Lord spoke to Noah, Noah was still fulfilling the call, obeying his command. 55-75 years later! And, if you noticed, during those 55 to 75 years, the only recorded time that the Lord spoke to His faithful servant Noah was once: When He was telling Noah what He wanted him to do. The Almighty God spoke, Noah listened, and for 55 to 75 years afterward he was still fulfilling the task the Lord had given him--until he had finished his work, so that he was mature and his job complete, not lacking of or in anything. Can you wrap your mind around that kind of faith? Can you picture what your life might look like, might be capable of, if you applied that kind of brilliant faith to it? Oh my God, I wish I could. To hear the voice of the Lord once, call put on your heart--that would take you a lifetime to achieve! You would do it, too, until the flood of His good-favor swept over you and you knew you were done, He was pleased, the commission fulfilled. Mission accomplished.

James' joy and Noah's 55-75 year huge faith makes my week-at-best perseverance and faith rather sad. It's like when you're inspired, perhaps by a breathtaking landscape or a pool of gold sunlight beneath your windows, and you take up a blank white canvasing which literally screams potential, and you begin to paint. And paint. And paint. This commission is all-absorbing and life-consuming, and it is beyond brilliant and it's not even completed yet! Look at it now, ha! Look at it when we're finished. ...Except then, right in the midst of splashes of vibrant colors and a palette that has to be alive, you set down your brush. One shade isn't cooperating, the red isn't turning out how you saw it in your mind, and you're discouraged. You set the easel aside for the day, just for the day, promising your conscience that you'll start back up the morrow, just give you a break for a second. The next day comes, and the next, and the next. Your easel stays in the corner, the brush in the jar, and your motivation in nonexistence. You think about finishing it, but you know--you know--you never actually will. You've given it your best! Surely, what more can you do? Yeah, you feel guilty, but why should you? It's your life, that stupid painting doesn't affect it, why not say you're done with it and be done with it? After all, what more can you do? The shading is hopeless and the red won't cooperate.

This is me. This is me when my Father whispers in my heart "That girl, she needs a friend. Be a friend to her as I have been a friend to you." So I call a few times, get in the habit of hugging her every time I see her, maybe even invite her over for a sleepover. No, thank you. "'No thank you'? 'No THANK YOU'?!" I persevere, though, for about a week more, asking how she is, always smiling. Get brave, invite her over again. Like I'd ever want to do something with you. "'Like I'd ever want to do something with you'?!" Nope, got it wrong. God obviously meant I was supposed to be friends with that other girl I know! No, no Betsie. You got it right the first time. That girl, the mean one. I'm always so quick to listen the first time, but I usually cover my ears when He speaks the second time. I give up, I mean, what can I do? I've tried, given it my best, honest! She's just impossible, hopeless. I did what He asked and since I'm no longer going anywhere, I'm done. Move on.


What would my life look like if I persevered? If I "considered it pure joy whenever I faced trials of many kinds, because I knew that the testing of my faith produces perseverance. If I let perseverance finish its work, then I would be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4, paraphrased) It might be brilliant. And all those hard tasks, those messy callings--they have the potential to be incredible, beautiful things (Ecclesiastes 3:11), for that is our Father's greatest desire and goal, if only I had the faith to let Him finish them. If I had the faith to finish what He called me to start. If I had the faith, they wouldn't be blank canvases screaming "potential!", they wouldn't be a masterpieces that will never be recognized fore they were never completed.

I've been learning a lot about enduring faith through James.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Joyfully Dedicated

"And Betsie, don't be too harsh in your judgment. Remember, you wear a wedding ring that symbolizes you're married to Christ, and yet, a lot of times, you don't act like it. I would hope that if you were really married you wouldn't act like this!" Mom and daughter heart-to-hearts while washing dishes are the best, I totally recommend it at least once a month. Week. Day. The statement above was just a snippet from one of ours earlier this week, and the honesty was so needed. My mom and her friend Wisdom, everything they said was true, brutally so; but she was also wrong. "I would hope that if you were really married you wouldn't act like this"?
But I am really married...

Betsie Joy. That's my name. "Betsie" is derived from its lengthier sister "Elizabeth", and "Elizabeth" means: Dedicated to God. Then there's Joy, my middle name.

joy (joi)
a. Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness.
b. A source or an object of pleasure or satisfaction.
1. To enjoy.
2. Something causing such a feeling: a source of happiness.
a: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires: delight.

Betsie Joy--Joyfully Dedicated to God. Joyful "by the prospect of possessing what one desires'; joyful because I am dedicated to Him, I am His and He is mine. (Song of Solomon 6:3) No matter where I go in my life, no matter who I do or don't know in twenty years, I will never be able to run away from His for His name is my name and not only was I created to be His, but my own parents have given me to Him.
Before I was born, before I was even conceived, my parents were pregnant with a younger sibling for my older sister. That sweet child--it died while still in the womb, coming and going without even living. However, because that child never began its life, I began mine. I was conceived, knit together, mere months after my mother's miscarriage. Yet, even though they had already lost one sweet baby, without even holding them once, and I really shouldn't have existed in the first place--they still named me Betsie. Betsie Joy. They still joyfully dedicated me to our Lord, the One who created me and kept me alive in my mother's womb, just like Hannah did Samuel. ("And she said, 'Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.'" -1 Samuel 1:26-28)
For my trip to Thailand, my mom wrote me a letter which I read during my fourth week there. It was a beautiful letter...letting me go. My mom and dad were the ones who bought the golden wedding band which I haven't removed from my ring finger for nearly a year now. They were the ones who prayed for the Lord to give them a child, and then once they had me, they prayerfully gave me back to the Lord. My parents have always encouraged me to follow my dreams, whether that was running a Bed & Breakfast when I was twelve, or being the Queen of England when I was nine. I'm beginning to learn that they mean what they say, even when those dreams lead me away from them and to Him. Because as my mom said to me through blue words on a notebook page, I am His before I am theirs. I am His daughter, and I am dedicated to Him.

After fifteen years of bearing and carrying it, my name's meaning finally means something to me and now I want to live my life in such a way so as to live out my name. Joyfully dedicated to my Lord for He is my Maker and my Father and in Him, if I drink deep, I will forever be satisfied.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them."
-Psalm 126:5-6

His plans are so much higher than ours, His thoughts beyond our capacity to comprehend. He orchestrates everything, and is the universe's Conductor. I yearn to possess the faith to always trust and believe in this. Not just when I've harvested and am returning rejoicing, but also when I first set out with seeds to sow. It is my desire that there would never be tears shed out of hopelessness and despair, but only joy joy joy.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Beautiful Things

"We're Christians--what does that look like?" Mrs. Amy Lancaster, who lives at WeWillGo, the homeless outreach ministry my family and I have been a part of for several years now, asked us this morning. Well, on July 9th, 2011, it looked like over a hundred brothers and sisters in Christ, the body of Christ, joining together to read the entire Bible over the course of a few hours. Today, being a "Christian" looked like a group of five reading passages out of Ezekiel, literally speaking life into and over a 21st century Valley of Dry Bones, prophesying and believing that the Lord would bring life where there has been death. It looked like children, black and white, sitting without the bondage of racism and fear on the porches of abandoned crackhouses, houses in which fugitives have hidden and alcoholics have wasted their lives, helping their parents slay Jackson's Goliaths of drug addiction and poverty through faith. It looked like people with controlled, suburban lives allowing the Lord to control their lives for a few hours, and, by doing so, they found themselves becoming a part of the lives of the sweet, bewildered homeless men and women wanting to know what all these crazy white folk were doing babbling on their corners and blocks.
It looked like reading the Word of God on streets that had truly never heard it before. Not once. And those streets, those people--they were parched. Cracked pavement from the heat and from lack of attention; streets that, in people's eyes, lack worth. Houses that once were homes for families, a refuge. Families once dwelt there, put up Christmas trees there, married there, gave birth there; but now they are only dark caves for people who have run away from their families to crawl into. Once man-made streams are now man-made dumps for used syringes, cast-off-falling-apart right sneakers, garbage, etc. This is my city, the very heart of my state--can the body possibly prosper when the heart is so...sick?
It's not the Lord's plan for it to be parched, and, thankfully, it was His city before it was mine. So if it is His city, and it's always His desire to make all things beautiful (Ecc. 3:9-11) in His perfect timing (Isa. 55:8-9)--what does that mean for Jackson, Mississippi?
It means that restoration, that beauty are coming to flood over the streets, blocks, and crackhouses of Mississippi's capitol.
I walked up and down my group's assigned--practically abandoned--street, and as people in my small group took turns reading aloud passages out of 2 Chronicles and Ezra, I held my youngest sister's hand and we played a game. It's called the Let's-See-How-Many-Beautiful-Things-We-Can-Find game, and the only rule was that you had to find the beauty that was around you; because it was there. Veins of lush green shoots running all criss-cross over the cracked lane; mimosa flowers still in bloom above our heads that sunshine danced through; an empty lot that with just a cutting could be a superb baseball lot; wild bushes that could bear fruit with a little tender and care, a polluted stream that, maybe someday, could run clear and be a place where children could splash during summer without fear of broken glass shards and bare needle points. We counted those beauties, the ones that were already before our eyes--the pink mimosa flowers, the strong grass shoots breaking through the concrete--, and we counted the ones that we could see would come to be, by faith and hope.

"You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”
Isaiah 55:12-13

I prayed this verse over the street I walked, and I prayed in absolute faith that these things would come to pass in Jackson because I have already seen them come to pass in other cities, in the lives of others, and in my own life. Where I had planted briers, I have watched Him prune in a hurt-so-good kind of way and then lovingly and tenderly sown seeds of beautiful myrtle, and then water them with the Living Water that only He can offer and the blood that only He shed. Where I had allowed thornbushes to grow in my life, which, over time, cut me savagely and mercilessly, He has completely removed them so that a mighty and strong juniper could spring up. He has made a beautiful thing out of me so that I can better give Him the glory, and He has made beautiful things out of all of His children because He just absolutely adores us.
He doesn't just stop with us, with you and me. He can make beautiful things out of everyone. But why would He just stop there? He could make a beautiful thing out of Jackson, a beautiful thing out of Mississippi, a beautiful thing out of our country, a beautiful thing out of our nation...He could make a beautiful thing out of our entire world.
Oh. He can. And He does.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You Are Here

I had been in the United States--I had been home--for only six days after being gone for two months, when I found myself standing with my family in our second row spot during worship at our church. Standing there for the first time in two months. I felt like that bloke, what was his name? Rip Van Winkle, right? The one who wandered up into the mountains, drank liquor with some hoodlums, slept for over twenty years, and then returned to his village to find that no one knew who he was, believed what he said had happened to him, and everyone he loved had either moved away or died. Honestly, I felt a little like Rip Van Winkle that first morning in church; a little bit like a traveler returning after being gone way too long.
That day, I signed a paper saying that I was now an official member of our church. Which basically just means that I'm serious about going there, about investing in our church body, and whenever they need help with a ministry they can ask me for assistance. I wouldn't have signed my name if I didn't love my church, or prayed about it first--but I do love my church and I did pray about it first, so I crossed all my 't's and dotted all my 'i's and signed my name quickly and answered all the questions. However, with that said, I still felt a little melancholy while doing it. That penned signature made it real, that I was actually back. And for a while. Thailand was a short season, I know that, and now the Lord is leading me to spend a season or two just pouring into my church family. But still, watching that first season fade away as the days pass is a little sad. Like the heart sinking when the first burned orange leaf falls, signifying the End Of Summer. The leaf is beautiful and the season it brings in with it is gorgeous--but we all miss summer just a bit, deep down.
I miss the season I spent in Thailand. I miss how it was almost like for two whole months, I was all His and He was all mine. Up on an Asian mountain, motorcycling through a valley, praying underneath the vast night sky and constellations--I was able to just spend time marveling my Maker's creation and my praise song to Him wasn't interrupted by Big Life Decisions or Make-up Biologys or This Girl Said That And What Are YOU Going To Do About Its. He was there with me, like Moses on the mountaintop with the Lord for forty days and forty nights. Except, I had fifty-eight days and fifty-eight nights in which the Lord showed Himself to me. I miss my Thailand season.

Seasons may change, winter to spring, but I love you.

Um, was that God using the lines from one of my favorite songs to soothe my sinking heart? I do believe it was. You know what? God was there that first Sunday, in that church, in me. He was there with me just like He had been with me while I was in Thailand, and He is the same God here as He is there. He is the same, and He is here.
No matter what season He leads me to walk through--winter, spring, Romania, Thailand, high school, etc.--He will still be there, and He will still be showing Himself to me. How could I possibly think that our Father would be constrained and controlled by the changing seasons, or two months, or the sea separating land when He created each one?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Everything I've Been Missing Without Your Eyes

May 27th (Friday) 2011
3:36 p.m.

Yesterday, Pii Phet and Kara and I visited someone in Chiang Rai's government hospital. Translation slip ups and language barriers gave me the impression that we would be paying a call on a grown man; I was utterly unprepared to end up wandering through the children's ward. To visit a girl hardly younger than myself that was diagnosed with the life-stealing disease of HIV/AIDS.
Like I said, it was the government hospital, so treatment for all patients was free. Bad bit was that the patients would wait, sometimes days, for that free treatment. And there they were, the sick, lining the corridors with their blank, hopeless gazes and dirtied sheets. Absolutely no privacy, and--a lot of times, it appeared--absolutely no company. In pain, alone and humiliated--my heart ached with compassion.
Grandmothers with lifeless eyes; old men with black gums and black soles. Kara was upset because of the conditions: swarms of flies ruthlessly bombarding the patients, soiled sheets, dirtied hospital robes, etc. etc. What upset me was how unmistakably familiar it all was. I saw, and I remembered mornings spent walking the hallways of nursing homes back in the States with my family and/or homeschool group. I always secretly hated those visits. The weird, old people lining the rooms in their wheelchairs, just staring at you. Some of them were hateful, some O.C.D., others just...senile. I was always selfish, snobby, and awkward during those visits... Yet, the people I waled past yesterday--the skeletal frames, gappy mouths, and sad eyes--, I wanted to help them?

But they're just like the people back home. This is nothing new, you've seen this before. Why do you care now?

That's all I could think about as I made my way up the stairwells. Not the flies, not the living conditions, just how everyone was so lonely--and how I never cared before.
Why? Why have I never cared before? I wanted to grab a good Jane Austen novel, right then and there, and plop down among all those old, sick grandmothers and grandfathers and read to them until they didn't feel lonely anymore. I wanted to dance into the children's ward with a bright skirt, bells along the hem jangling around my bare feet, and maracas in hand and bring some joy where there was so much remorse, so much sorrow. Why? Why have I never cared before? How could I not care? How can I even claim to be a Christian (a "little Christ"), like Christ, and yet have so little compassion for so long? How could I go there, and then just...leave? How could I not leave completely changed from who I was just a few hours before?
I was not prepared for yesterday. I have never seen so many lonely, sick and hopeless children before. I pray it brought joy to at least one of them, or else my heartache would be in vain. The girl, hardly younger than myself, and her mother who we visited--did we encourage them? The Buddhist couple whose ill infant we prayed over--did that mean anything to them?
Well, it meant a lot to me.

"Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity"

Friday, June 10, 2011

Greater Things

Last night, I stood in the center of Chiang Rai's Night Bazaar--a sea of handmade crafts; sketch tat shops; postcard racks; and young men selling their dignity up on a stage every night for the public's enjoyment, boys raised from childhood to be girls. Lame, maimed women and men curled up on the sidewalk, begging for their living, for life; precious salespeople and artists with heartbreaking, hallow lives; Christians on vacation who forgot to pack their compassion--this is Chiang Rai, this is the city I'm living in right now. I stood amidst it all last night, and a trio band sang through two huge speakers and over the entire square, describing the despair they were witnessing with the help of the Eagles.

"Welcome to the hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the hotel California
Any time of year, you can find it here

Her mind is tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes Bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

Welcome to the hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
They livin’ it up at the hotel California
What a nice surprise, bring your alibis

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
’relax,’ said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!"

I felt neck-deep in evil, in injustice. Despair was in every face I saw, hopelessness impregnated the air. The beggars without a future, without self-dignity; the lady boys, stripped even of their God-given self-identity. Oh God, my heart ached, and I nearly wept for the tragedy that was alive around me. But, I know that it is man that looks, sees, and sings the ballads of hopelessness, of giving up. I, in my lack of faith, also look and see and feel overwhelmed in hopelessness. But God, God--I know He sees and sings another song, and He is teaching me to sing it over Chiang Rai, Thailand, and to believe in it.

"You're the God of this City
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You are

You're the Light in this darkness
You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God

There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City

There is no one like our God

There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here

There is no one like our god

There is no one like our God

Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here."

God has greater things in store for Thailand.

Monday, June 6, 2011

You Know You're On The Mission Field When...

Your mom clicks "like" on every single picture/comment/status you post on Facebook.

You know how to mismatch ten different clothing items into twenty completely different outfits. Yay for recycling clothes!

Peanut butter is a cuisine.

And Nutella? Nutella is heaven on earth.

Skyping your family is something you crave (even more than the lack of peanut butter in your diet).

Letters from home--even ones talking about who's dating who and who got their hair cut such and such way--make your month.

You realize that you have forgotten what it feels like have a seat buckle securely around you. Seat buckles? Pretty sure I've basically forgotten what those are. I think maybe the king of Thailand wears one. Maybe.

Everyone stares at you. And talks about you. And they think you don't notice.

You no longer seem to care about personal hygiene. Things like showering on a regular basis and oh, say, applying deodorant daily suddenly just aren't that big of a priority.

You find yourself driving an elephant. Not a car, those are so yesterday (or I should say 21st century).

Using newspapers (or blank journal pages, if you forget tissue) make for smashing toilet paper. Or leaves. Leaves are nice, too.

You avoid the mirror like it's your ex and things did not end well. I got a love/hate relationship going on with mine. Needless to say, most days it's hate.

Being super pale is super attractive. Got to love the Asian culture.

You see a white person and immediately assume that they're American, making them your very best friend of the moment.

You stay up till 3 a.m. and wake up at 7 to work. Hey, when you have a TV and your favorite TV show in English, you take advantage of that.

You simultaneously discuss your body functions and personal baggage. All in the same conversation. It's impressive.

You only have 50% of the things you started out with. But it's okay because all your important things like jeans that don't smell like squid juice and tank tops were replaced with essential things you need to have to live. Like stone elephant trinkets.

You look at pictures with remorse and remember the days you used to actually try to look nice.

You plot super complicated and absolutely foolproof plans on how to kidnap little orphans that steal your hearts.

You want to blow up pimps. But you have to remember grace, so you pray for them instead.

It's normal to have five geckos chilling out with you in bed and while you use the bathroom. Or bats. On the mission field, it's normal to have bats throw a slumber party in your bedroom.

You catch the bats hiding in your room and keep them as pets for a day. And name them.

You miss your family so bad it hurts.

MP3Player worship sessions... Did you ever have anything else?

Crying out of compassion and pain for the hurt around you is okay. Sometimes crying daily is okay.

You love your life, you love being alive, you love just life more than ever before.

You love the Lord more than ever before.

You are humbled daily, and you learn daily. When you start to learn to love the Lord's plan more than your own life.

When every single day is an adventure.

You're only fifteen and you're teaching English classes all. by. yourself. four days a week.

You rely on your cool, older sister's Tumblr to keep you posted on the fashion scene back home. Hey, that's important.

You see boys younger than your baby brother committing their lives to serving Buddha.

You camp out in churches on the tops of mountains so as to pray for the believers on said mountain village.

You start downloading popular Korean stuff to your MP3Player. (Or maybe that should be on "You Know You're On The Asian Mission Field When...")

Being a Christian makes you less than one percent of the population.

You can buy handwoven scarves for $3 dollars.

Foot massages become a whole new currency of their own. On the mission field, you'll do anything for a free foot massage.

You crave trashy gossip magazines.

You know the names of all the clerks at the Seven Eleven down the street and their college major and are basically their best friend because you see them, like, twice a day, every single day. Seven Eleven and their packs of Oreos become your anchor.

You can no longer remember the days when you thought romantic, fleeting love could compete with God's overwhelming, all-consuming love.

You learn to finally see the hurt the Lord has always been able to see in the hearts of those around us, and to have compassion.

Even if you fight it, you will never be the same.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Found What I'm Looking For

In a few weeks, this will all be over. I will be flying above the North Pole--Thailand and everything and everyone that makes it what it is just a speck on the horizon in the rear view window. Thailand behind me, the Lord's daily unfolding purpose and plan before me.
You know, I used to hate the months in between mission trips. I thought of myself as exiled; how ridiculous is that? I would spend the entire year daydreaming and impatiently awaiting those ten days, that one month, two months in the summertime when I would run away with the Lord to read His word on flowery hills during sunrise, to hold and love lonely children. (I have to ask myself, though: How many times when I left was I actually running toward my God, and how many times was I just running?) So many years with three hundred and thirty-four days rushed through and wasted for only thirty-one, fifty-eight, ten days to come. It's funny, but I never noticed before the hills soaked in morning glory outside of my Mississippi bedroom window, or the beautiful children in my own life who ate just as starved for love as the kids I have to hop on a plane to see.
At least, not until now.
I'm not really quite sure what I was expecting, y'know, deep down inside when I put my usual life on hold to come to Thailand for two crazy months. Maybe I was expecting/hoping to learn a little bit about life itself--and me. Maybe I was expecting to come and fall madly in love with the country and just know know know that I would move back someday and live here forever, adopting millions of Thai babies. For years now, I've been searching for where my heart is (or is supposed to be). My mom's is in Swaziland, and my older sister's in seeking justice for those who cannot on their own. But until Thailand, I didn't know where mine was. In Romania, where I spent last summer? In Swaziland, with the children living in the city dump? In Mexico? In inner-city Jackson? In art? In what? Had I already discovered what and where, and just missed it? I guess, really, I was just looking for something I hadn't found yet. Like U2's beautiful ode to longing, "I have climbed highest mountains/I have run through the fields/Only to be with you/Only to be with you/I have run/I have crawled/I have scaled these city walls, these city walls/Only to be with you/But I still haven't found what I'm looking for."

"...Only to be with You, only to be with You..."

Ah. That's it, isn't it? Four mission trips, one hundred and nine days away from home (one hundred and twenty-one if you count summer camp), and I'm finally beginning to learn. Maybe I don't have to find my heart in jungles of the rain forest or in the Sahara of the African plain--maybe it's just enough to find my heart in the open palms of my God. Maybe being in His will and wherever that may lead (China this summer, Russia the next, etc. etc.) is enough.
There's a prayer my family and I say every morning after breakfast and morning devotions. After doing it for so long, we can recite it without looking at the book while we peek at one another and early morning sunshine floods in through the east window.

"May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you; may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you through the storm; may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you; may he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors."

I will be sad to leave Thailand because I have grown to love it over this past month and a half. But I will leave it because the Lord is calling me away, back home, and I am growing to love Him more than everything else and above all else.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What It Is; Who He Is


Love is not proud. Love does not boast. Love after all, matters the most. Love does not run. Love does not hide. Love does not keep locked inside. Love is the river that flows through. Love never fails you. Love will sustain. Love will provide. Love will not cease at the end of time. Love will protect. Love always hopes. Love still believes when you don’t. Love is the arms that are holding you. Love never fails you. When my heart won’t make a sound, when I can’t turn back around, when the sky is falling down--nothing is greater than this, greater than this. Love is right here. Love is alive. Love is the way, the truth the life. Love is the river than flows through. Love is the. arms that are holding you. Love is the place you will fly to. Love never fails you.

Brandon Heath is kinda the best. Last Wednesday, as I prepared for my Level 3 class--writing the seasons of the year in blue marker on the board--, I played worship music through borrowed speakers and appreciated the peace. The empty classroom might as well have been a cathedral, the way that the notes and acoustics filled the space. I discovered Brandon Heath's love song that afternoon.
This Sunday, a girl sang the same song during church. It was like a personal "I love you" from God. A personal "I know what you're thinking and what's going on in every bit of your life, even the Wednesday afternoons, and hey, I care." It's moments like Wednesday afternoons before class, sunlight and the Holy Spirit's presence streaming in through the big window across the room from my desk; standing amidst a congregation of brothers and sisters in Christ of all nations; singing Needtobreathe songs with English students--that remind me that God is love.
God is not proud. God does not boast. God after all, matters the most. God does not run. God does not hide. God does not keep locked inside. God is the river that flows through. God never fails you. God will sustain. He will provide. The Lord will not cease at the end of time. He will protect. He always hopes. The Father still believes when you don’t. God is the arms that are holding you. The Lord never fails you. When my heart won’t make a sound, when I can’t turn back around, when the sky is falling down--no one is greater than this, greater than Him. God is right here. He is alive. He is the way, the truth the life. God is the river that flows through. Our Father are the arms that are holding you. He is the place you will fly to. He never fails you. And thank goodness He reminds me daily of this, because sometimes outside of the Wednesday afternoons and worship sessions before class, I forget it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

C. S. Lewis Brilliance

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."
-C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

My best friend and my sister each wrote twenty-nine letters, so that I would have one from either of them every other day of all the days I spend in Thailand. Today, that was what my friend wrote. Through those words, and C. S. Lewis' God-given ability to see things as they really are, I saw that that was the misunderstanding of my heart.
I think that we (meaning "I") push our own low-expectations onto God. From the very first cruel insult heard on the playground--all the way up through the cruel insults heard in high school, college, marriage, etc.--, we continually hand our Creator the lying words that we have grown to accept as truth everyday for the entirety of our lives. "Inadequate", "loser", "incompetent", "ignorant", "good-for-nothing"... all these words written on our bodies and self-esteem, the Lord's creations, by ourselves. We do this until we truly believe with all of our miserable heart that our Father thinks just as much (or little) of us as we do.

"You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace..."

"A decent little cottage" might as well be "a friendly lady with exceptional skin that is the leader of the youth group and whom everyone likes"--it's all the same if that's all it is. "A good enough mother that manages to train up her children to not be hooligans and never loses a sock behind the dryer." It might seem lame, but these are the things I want to be someday when I'm grown. A wonderful mom like my own, a wise woman like the women in my church, joyful like them, too. When it comes to wanting to be like someone, you could definitely do far worse than those ladies (in fact, I don't think you could do better)...but they're not me, and I'm not them. They will always be so much more than I could possibly copycat, and I...I will be so much more than them, in my own way.
He is the King, and I am His daughter. So I am a princess, we all are. But not because we deserve the title or have somehow earned it, but because of Who our Father is. Only because of Him. Always because of Him.
"He intends to come and live in it Himself..." A locked, enclosed garden; a holy temple--isn't that what we're supposed to be? However, only holy because of His presence inside, and only a temple for Him. Jesus said that we Christians should be as visible and unmistakable as a city on a hill; but the only things on the hills here in Thailand are temples, visibly and unmistakeably honoring a god people have made for themselves. A god who cannot hear they chants or anguished cries, for it has no ears to hear with. Nor can it ever answer, for it has no tongue, only molded, cold gold. And it cannot possibly love, for it has no life and never will. Yet they still bow down to it, chain themselves to it every single day.
Just as we do ourselves to our man-made gods.
My body, the chambers of my soul, are not supposed to be a home for selfish picket-fence dreams; for money or a passport with every blue page stamped; for ourselves or anyone we know. It is supposed to be a home not for my gods, but for my God.

"But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards..." Build, tear down--why shouldn't He do with it (with us) as He sees best? After all, didn't we say we were His clay? And a cottage is nothing compared to a palace, and He wants all of us to be palaces. Houses of God.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

You Give, And Take Away

Blessed be Your name
in the land that is plentiful
Where your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be your name.

I have a beautiful family. Really, I do. And thank God for yearly long mission trips that help me to remember just how blessed I am to have each of them in my life.
Once upon a time, there was a girl that moved across south with her mother, father, and younger brothers. Her brother would kidnap her Barbies, and she occasionally bathed in a river. There was a boy, across the country, chasing girls around the school playground, demanding kisses from the poor, terrorized things. They grew twenty-something years, both into beautiful people of the Lord emerging from broken stories. They met in college, but she graduated and chose Africa over him. The Lord led her to Africa for two years as a Journeymen missionary, and then at the end of it, He led her back home and into the young man's awaiting arms. They married.
They're my parents.
My father has always pushed me to be better than my best; and my mom has always been there to let me know that no matter what, I'm good enough for her just the way I am. A Captain Kirk on the schoolyard and a missionary--obviously they were going to have quite the life together. They did, and they gave life. Seven times. That's me and my siblings.
I have this quirky baby sister, who we allow to dress herself so that she can express herself, and be independent. More than a few mornings a week she'll stomp down the stares, modeling her scrunched up freckle smile, motorcycle boots, and black tulle "rock girl" miniskirt. With a kitten t-shirt. (My parents let me express myself in a similar fashion when I was thirteen, through the wonders of violet purple hair.) That same stomping and rocking sweet little sister will spend endless hours in my room with me when the middle students shun her, flipping through TeenVogues and Elles. More than once, I have come home from work or a friend's house absolutely exhausted, to find my bed--which I left in a I-just-rolled-out-of-you-and-left disaster for I had no time to give it any attention--made, compliments of her.
I have a little brother that is a ladies man. He's only seven. (I think...) He always has a grin and less-than genuine compliment (but a compliment all the same, so I'm not complaining!) prepared when I'm grumpy. I don't think anyone thinks I'm more beautiful than him.
I have a brother that puts ketchup on everything, and a sister that hates me, but actually loves me. Even though I pull her hair during meals. I have another brother that I can spend hours wandering through topics of universe-big things, like God and girls (for him) and guys (for me) while perched on the kitchen counters. He's always on my side, unless it's him I have the problem with. Then I'm always wrong, obviously. (Ah, sibling love.)
And then there is my older sister, who is just as quirky as the youngest. She gave me a reason to invent the word "cool-edge", and when Webster's finally recognizes its legit word validity, she will be the definition they put next to it.

1. Someone's behavior, way of life, or appearance.
-The girl's wardrobe could only be labeled as cool-edge

That's her. My sister. Anna is Anna is Anna.
I have a life full of Scrabble games and missions, of homeschool curriculum and very Walton memories. I am blessed to be a part of my family, which seems to grow every year, even after my mom was unable to have any more children. Thanks to my parents open arms, I have a wonderful "brother of another colored mother" and two girls that started out as just my friends, but now I count as sisters. But my family also grows outside of the boundaries of our hobby farm--I have boys I have grown up with that I count as my brothers; young girls that I mentor as my older sister mentored me; incredible Godly women that I can spend hours with, cappucinos and simple conversation enough to satisfy us for hours. My family spreads across the plains of Africa, snuggled in the valleys of Romania, the streets of Thailand, all of us joined by hand in our common love for Christ.
Yes. I am blessed.
But that's the thing about Scrabble games and hours perched on the kitchen counters--the kitchen counters won't always be the same over the passing years, and the Scrabble games will be pushed to the back of the closet as there is no time for it anymore. Sisters turn eighteen and move out, and then on to college. Entire families, ketchup eating siblings and all move overseas to Africa as missionaries. Or at least, mine does. Will.

And blessed be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name.

And through it all, these last years of homeschool curriculum before college textbooks; of Scrabble games and scanning TeenVogue issues while my baby sister is still really a baby; of afternoons spent in a cafe, in fellowship with mothers and sisters I've--unfortunately--lived most of my life without, the Lord calls me away. From all of it. Yes, it is only one month, two months at a time, but still. You miss your brother dealing with a crush, your sister getting her first ticket, your ketchup maniac brother looking after a litter of newborn kittens. It's not a lot to some people, I suppose, but it is when you love and cherish all of those people a lot.
For the first time in my life, I, world-traveler-can't-stand-to-stay-in-the-same-place-for-too-long-and-risk-actually-getting-attached-to-someone-to-many-someones me, misses home. Maybe it's because I never really saw how much there was to miss...

You give and take away
You give and take away
God, you give and take away
But my heart will choose to say,
Lord, blessed be Your name!

Just like Abraham once, or Joseph, the Lord calls us away with Him because He has things He wants to show and teach just us, on our own, individually. But in the end, our paths always lead home, whether that is our temporary home, or our heavenly one. And our families are there waiting, with open arms, and we can run into them, bringing with us all the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon us. Our Father's ways are greater than ours, He can see all and He works everything for our good, so obviously His plan is the best. I will strive to learn that being in His will is home enough for Him, being in the palm of His hand is enough. I will choose to love my sisters in Christ in Thailand as much as I the little girl in motorcycle boots, to love my family in Christ here as much as I love the family on the hobby farm. And, through all this, even when He takes away, I will choose to bless His name.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Time To Be Found

I recently played a part in a theatrical version of Peter Pan. I was Tinkerbell, a little girl's dream role. (Or a fifteen year old girl's dream role, too...) I was a part of a beautiful and--surprisingly for the drama department--undramatic cast, who all wrote me letters of encouragement for me to read every day while I'm here in Thailand. Reading these and the letters that my other friends, family members, and church family wrote has become the highlight of my days. Some nights I'll stay up till midnight just so I can go ahead and open a new one, guilt free.
Last night was no exception. It was a letter written from one of the Lost Boys (actually played by a girl, believe it or not) in Peter Pan. Among all the words of encouragement, she quoted Tinkerbell, my character. Now, Tink has two defining and memorable lines. The first, "You silly ass!" And then the second is an indifferent retort to an insult that Wendy flung at her. "Tink is an abandoned, poor little creature!" Tinkerbell's haughty reply? "I know I am! And like a true woman, I glory in it!" The writer of the letter reminded me of that last line.
You are an abandoned, poor little creature...and like a true glory in it! That's what she wrote. A little harsh if you were expecting fluffy promises of vigilant prayer and "you'll do great!"s, but sometimes you need a little more substance than that to comfort your soul. Sometimes you need truth. Harsh truth.
Yes, just like everyone at one time has been or will be, I was once abandoned. Rejected. And I wallowed in it. Oh God, I was abandoned. Every view, every thought I possessed--poof!--changed, transformed, because of one instant, five words. Trust failed. Beauty tainted. I applied that wound to everything, and looked at everything else and everyone out of my wound's eyes, Bitterness. It was rapidly spreading, unchecked and coming up against no resistance, throughout my every limb, my very marrow, my organs, my whole body.
Yes, I was abandoned, and yes, I gloried in it. I chose to stay abandoned. And the Lord knows all this, and He gives me free will. But thankfully blessed Jesus loves me too much to abandon me, even when I want to be. He is whispering daily in my heart, This is a new time. This is a new time. A new season. What season, though? A new time for what? For what, Lord? I have been asking this question, crying it out in desperation to my Father ever since I got here. What season is Thailand? What is it time for? What, what, what? I have spent hours scanning His Written Word, trying to find an answer there since I could not find one in my soul.
And then! Last night; Isaiah, Ecclesiastes, a feeling of a burdened lightened... I saw not through my bitterness, but through the hope of the Lord, and I saw that maybe...just maybe...I knew what season I was in, what time it is...

"Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not
perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert."
-Isaiah 43:18-19

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up
what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to
build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time
to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain
from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace."
-Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven... I finally see it, I finally accept it: Maybe, just maybe it is time for me to be found. Maybe it is the beginning of me finally seeing that I am His beloved. Maybe it is time for me to instead of glory in my self-pity, glory in His unfathomable love.
I am so glad that that Lost Boy reminded me how lost I was without my Father, because until last night, I was completely unaware.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Culture Immersion

Sunday night, seven of us squashed damp into a five-seater tops, typical Hello Kitty decorated Thai car, and headed to my very first professional "football" [soccer] game. Chiang Rai United vs. Pattaya United.
We parked, schlepped through rich, red dirt transformed into man-eating mud, bought pineapple wedges and squid-on-a-stick, and then made our way inside of the stadium. As our we filed through the metal detector and our faces were peered at to make sure we weren't escaped convicts trying to sabotage a football game, it was beginning, those few minutes leading up to the match that drive your excitement insane. A ticket-taker next too me abandoned his post so as to dash up the stairs ahead of me and get a glimpse of the action that was about to ensue on the field below. He was what you would call back in the South a "punk", or in the seventies "a greaser." Black hair gelled up an impressive six inches above the head in a shark fin, skinny jeans, leather jacket, all that jazz. He was the poster kid for a Thai teenager boy enjoying a football game. I wished that my camera was in my hand, ready to frame that moment, instead of buried deep within my raincoat.
Chiang Rai United's color is orange, and we made our way through a crowd that wore it proudly, uniformly, and patriotically to find seats. As we ate our common Thai game food (i.e. squid-on-a-stick), the game began, and the crowd became alive in an instant. About five seconds in, I realized: Thais are passionate about their football. Total maniacs for it. The crowd around me displayed feelings of comradeship and ownership toward Chiang Rai United, their team. Comradeship because deep down, every die-hard Thai fan counts each player as their very best friend. After all, hadn't they always supported them? Been to every single one of their games? And then ownership because they didn't think twice about shooting up and flinging outraged curses at their "very best friends" when they goofed a play up.
Thais are proud of their team. Most of the football teams' names in this country end in "united", and that's exactly how they feel. Our team scored the first point, and the crowd was ecstatic, jubilant. They chanted "Chiang Rai!" like it was a war cry underneath a shower of orange confetti, threw their hands up in triumph and emotion. With each pelvic thrust--which there were a lot...--, they staked their claim in this celebration. With each happy dance executed they proved that they were just as much a part of the victory as the player himself that had sent the ball flying into the goal.
It only took two points, and then the orange jerseys began to be ripped off and waved round and round above heads and bare backs like lassos. I don't think even Shakira can shake her hips quite like an aged, Thai father celebrating at a football game. With each point scored, the crowd showed that they were just as much a part of the action by jumping to their feet as if they had won a personal victory.We had the joy of an entire stadium roaring around us, and a legitimate Brazilian in our party with childlike enthusiasm; the excitement was contagious. We were soon singing the cheers along with the impromptu band near the bottom of the bleachers, outcries of "Chiang Rai"s shouted by over a thousand people pulsed through the sound waves around my head.
When your specific job, appointed by the organization you're partnering with and your mom, is to immerse yourself in a culture and to build relationships--being in a foreign country halfway around the globe for two months can be a blast.