Wednesday November 14, 2018

John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

Today in class, Anjali taught part of the lesson to the older kids at the preschool. She got up in front of them and led them through the lesson. It was wonderful to see her taking the lead in this project and enjoying herself. She even told us that she would like to come back to teach for a summer. To see her giving her time and enjoying it makes me so happy. I have prayed since we began this journey that they will find joy in serving and that it will somehow be instilled into our children and hopefully create a lifetime of serving others. This doesn’t mean that I only want them to volunteer, I just want them to understand the importance and the impact they make in this world when they are willing to give a bit of themselves to help others. We get so much more out of our life when we share and give to others. Winston Churchill nailed it when he said “we make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” I couldn’t agree more, and I have experienced this myself. My life becomes more full and joyous when I focus more on others and less on me.

Watching Anjali in this class leads me to think that we are doing the right thing for our children. This may difficult for all of us, but hopefully, we are showing our children, by example, how to give yourself in the service of others and they are feeling first hand what you get in return. I just pray this continues to make a permanent mark on their heart!

As parents, this is not an easy thing to teach our children and we need to be examples for them, just they way Jesus was for us. We don’t need to go on a year-long trip to do this, but rather every day and every person we come into contact we can give them some of the love in our hearts. This can mean a warm smile, patience to the barista at Starbucks, a conversation with the homeless person outside our office, serving dinner at the homeless shelter, restocking or donating to a local food pantry, the options are endless. It doesn’t take much, just a commitment to ourselves, to our children, and to our world. When we make this a priority, we change our focus from ourselves to our brothers and sisters. We will feel an immediate shift in our heart and see our world as a big family rather than us and them.

This is not a fail proof plan, but rather just another one of my random thoughts as I read this daily scripture my husband has created for me.

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Tuesday November 13, 2018

Luke 3:10-11 What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Jesus asks us to care for our fellow brothers and sisters in this world and this scripture speaks to just that. I may not have a lot to give at this time, but what I can give is myself and whatever skills others may find useful. In Germany, Jeff worked on a wall that saved the church a significant amount of money in repairs while I helped out at the elementary school, doing my best to use my social work skills helping special needs children who only speak German. Here in the northern rural part of Thailand they need native English speakers to teach and expose children to the language so they have a better chance at attending university. Even if it is not monetary or tangible, it is still our way to caring for our fellow brothers and sisters. Not everyone can or needs to do what we have done, but this works for us. Maybe your way of sharing what you have is at work by providing a comforting conversation to a colleague who needs a friend, maybe it is helping at the local food pantry or shelter, or volunteering at a school, a church or a nursing home, the list is endless. But the point is giving or sharing yourself with those who need it. Most of us can’t make a big difference in this world, but if we all share a small piece of ourselves, together we can make a great impact and truly change our world. I think the biggest piece of this comes in the form of sharing what we have been given with others–whether this is monetary, tangible, or just our time, these small acts combined with the small acts of others is how we make a change. 

Okay off my soapbox, today was such a fun day of teaching. I am so glad that we are here for 2 months because it is incredible how different the kids at the school are now compared to when we first got here. It seemed to take about 3 weeks or so before they warmed up to us, but now the kids are engaging, talking and singing along with us; it is so much fun. It is not just the kids we are teaching that have warmed up either, our kids are actively participating in teaching these kids, leading songs, and sitting next to kids to encourage them to sing and talk. It is such a blessing to see our kids giving so much of themselves in this process. Now there have definitely been some challenging days. I think we all are getting pretty tired and are ready for the break that will be coming as we change over to the work in India. All of the kids at one point (or maybe even several) have said that they don’t want to teach today, but once they get into the classroom they end up loving it and even tell us afterwards that they were happy they went. They really do seem to enjoy it and I am so happy because we are too!

Another riveting game of ‘telephone’ with the kids.

Monday November 12, 2018

Proverbs 15:8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is his delight.

We are now teaching at the preschool and elementary school every day, and we are going to be joined by two more volunteers at the end of the week. This is going to be a lot of fun and I am very much looking forward to seeing these fun kids every day for the next two weeks. They are so energetic and so excited to learn English. As much as I love teaching these kids and spending this time with them, I have a much bigger appreciation for all that teachers do. My voice is really feeling the impact of talking and singing all day long and there is no amount of water that seems to help. I would just like to say, “thank you” to all those teachers out there who do this every day for a living. I couldn’t do it.

Our kids are doing much better with their school work and are actually getting things done on time with little struggle. I sure hope this lasts and that we are more consistently having days like today.

I am also loving our time in Thailand, but just like Germany, I can’t believe it is already coming to an end. We leave here in 15 days and head for India. Time sure does fly. It takes us about 3-4 weeks to get settled and figure out a routine, and then we have about 4-5 weeks of routine before it is time to change things around again. I love it! We get a chance to get comfortable and enjoy it, and then move on to something else.

I have an observation regarding our first 4 months of this year-long journey, keep in mind that I am basing this observation only on the 2 countries we have visited thus far (Germany and Thailand). Everything moves at a different pace, a much slower pace. Plans made are pretty tentative until you are actually doing it. For example, our teaching schedule was not laid out for us prior to getting or even once we got here; it is a constant work in progress, changing as needed. The best way to describe the cultures both here and in Germany is a flexibility to change. I know that when I was home in the states, this would have been exceptionally difficult for me to accept; change was not easy and for some reason I took it as a person failure when I needed to adjust or change things. However, both volunteer opportunities, in Germany and Thailand, have been so incredibly fluid, constantly changing and evolving, and even more amazing is that both places seem to thrive with these constant changes. It makes me wonder, why is change so hard for us Americans? People here seem to be more relaxed and happier given the constant changes happening around them and I wonder if there is a sense of peace and serenity in all the change. I do not feel the same stresses that I felt at home to be constantly adhering to a rigid schedule, but rather a sense of peace to just enjoy the moment and move with the world rather than trying to make the world move with me.

Just a random Monday thought!

I just had to share this picture. I was teaching my 3-4 year olds this morning and we were trying to figure out the game of “telephone” using the word “cat”. You can see the kids laughing as their teacher was making her way around the room trying to explain the game to them. The kids didn’t get it all, but we all had a good laugh before moving on to something else. Flexibility at its best. No one got frustrated or upset, we tried something and it didn’t work, we all got a laugh out of it, and then we moved on to something else. It was wonderful!

 

having fun!!!

Friday November 9, 2018

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up.

Today was our last day teaching the monks. We had three classes to teach today and they all did pretty well while we focused on common phrases that they would need if they visited an English speaking country. We went over phrases like, “can you please help me?”, “where is the ________?”, “what time is it?”, and “please” and “thank you”. They did pretty well, but as usual, it is difficult to get them to speak. I did not sleep much last night and I was completely exhausted. Thankfully Jeff came to the rescue and took over when I was really struggling. I am so grateful for his recognition of my struggles and his willingness to step in and cover for me. We (actually Jeff) finished out the teaching while I helped our kids with their lessons, then we said goodbye to the monks and got a few pictures.

We got home from teaching at the temple and the kids were all done with their schoolwork for the day, they even got ahead a bit with some extra work during our afternoon at the temple. It was awesome, when we got home from teaching their were done for the day and we just got relax. Wat, our host, took us out to dinner in Wiang Sa and it was wonderful. It was a very nice family restaurant. The only downside was that Lucia started complaining that her stomach was hurting and when I took her to the bathroom we realized that she is suffering from Traveller’s Diarrhea.

Otherwise, the day was pretty routine. There is not much I can say about the scripture, as I don’t have any anxiety right now., nor have I felt any recently. I am feeling very calm about my situation and my life, but I fully agree with the scripture, good words can surely cheer you right up when you are feeling low. Anxiety truly does weigh us down and makes our life really hard to get through each day and I feel blessed to not have this as a daily struggle like so many people around the world. There are so many people who are burdened with anxiety and it makes me wonder, if we started to say kind words to the people we come into contact with each, could we help to alleviate anxiety for our world? If we all spoke kinds words to the person in front of us at Starbucks, to the cashier at Target, to the mother struggling with her children at the store, or to the next person you see on the street, would this world be less anxious and more content? This reminds me of the movie Pay It Forward, where one kid does a nice/kind thing for 5 people and the only thing he asks for in return is that they do 5 nice things for 5 new people. Maybe if we all just took a few moments to make someone’s day a bit brighter our world would be a much better place.

Thursday November 8, 2018

Proverbs 1:8-9 Hear, my child, your father’s instruction, and do not reject your mother’s teaching; for they are a fair garland for your head, and pendants for your neck.

The English Camp yesterday was so much fun, but today we headed to the temple to teach the monks English. When we arrived we found out that we would have two classes of monks to teach in the morning and then we are done for the day. We will then have 3 classes tomorrow.

Teaching today went very well for the first class, because they were engaged, talking, and paying attention. However, during the second class I had about 4-5 kids that were actually paying attention and trying to learn, but the rest of the class were on their phones or talking over me. Jeff ended up taking over for me for a portion of the class and he actually scolded the kids a bit. I get the impression that the kids here are not that different from the kids back in the states in so far as there are kids that want to learn and those that don’t seem to care one way or the other. When we got home today, Wat called the temple and then informed us that tomorrow will be our last day at the temple and that we will be teaching at both the schools from now on Monday through Friday. While we were happy to teach at the school, the kids at the school seem to be much more engaged in the lessons and actually wanting to learn.

The kids all did a great job working on their school work today and they actually all got their work done–this was the first time ever! It was amazing. We did school work until about 2:15 and then all the kids were done. It was wonderful. We went for a walk and just relaxed the rest of the afternoon. Today seemed like our kids finally listened and/or understood what we have been telling them about their schoolwork. They were so excited to be done so early and were a bit shocked. Jeff and I took the opportunity to share with them that when they actually get to work and focus, they can finish the work a lot faster than they have been. I am so relieved and I hope that the treats that we got for them tonight and being done so early was enough for this to continue. I am so tired of fighting over schoolwork with them!

Wednesday November 7, 2018

Isaiah 53:1-12 (Follow this link to the scripture for today–It is a long one)

This is an Old Testament reading from Isaiah that professes the coming of the savior who will suffer for the sins of the many and do so with grace and love. I am so grateful that I have found my way to Christ. It has been a long road with many twists, turns, flips, and just straight up chasms in the path. Once I found this path I found peace and grace, comfort and happiness beyond my imagination. I became happy and content with what I had been given, something that was not always as easy. I found myself letting go of things that I couldn’t control and became calmer and mare at ease. I found a peace that I had never known.

My path has been an interesting one for sure, from growing up Roman Catholic to Atheism to the path I now walk with Christ by my side (and sometimes carrying me). There really was no real reason for my departure from my Catholic background other than at the time religion and God did not make sense. I could not explain it and there was no “proof”, so I just could not bring myself to believe it. I just did not understand how one could put their faith and life into something that no one could “prove” actually existed. I mean there is no scientific proof that God actually exists, nor is there proof that He created our world the way Genesis describes. It all just seemed too far-fetched for me; so my atheism seemed to grow and flourish in this reality. It wasn’t until we had our first child, Anjali, that I appreciated religion and the church for the fellowship and support they could provide a family. Both Jeff and I started exploring and reading more about various different religions, from Taoism to Buddhism to Judaism to Christianity. We read more books than I can count, including two that I think really lit the path for me, Where God Was Born by Bruce Feiler and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. After reading both of these books I found myself wanting to believe in God, but I still didn’t have the faith. But nonetheless, Jeff and I joined the Presbyterian Church shortly after having Anjali.

My faith was confirmed when I was at one of my workout classes with Anjali in the stroller while I exercised for an hour. I was 7 or 8 months pregnant with our second child when I left Anjali in the stroller with some of my friends from the class while I went to the restroom. I came back to find everyone gone and Anjali sitting in her stroller, all alone, with an older man who appeared to be homeless just staring at her. My heart just sank with all of the “what ifs” and “what could have been”. I was so shaken by this, I could not finish the class, so I went home and called Jeff to tell him all that happened. But in telling him the events of the morning, I felt this overwhelming notion that the old man staring at her was not as creepy as I first thought, but my mind shifted to the thought that he was actually watching over her to keep her safe. I was on the phone with Jeff and I can still feel that shift in my heart from a desire to believe to an “all-in” faith and belief in God’s power and will. I was still in control of my world, but He always had my back, just as he did with Anjali. This was my tipping point and I have never looked back.

Now here I am, doing what some call radical, crazy, irresponsible, etc. and others call wonderful, exciting, and amazing. We have taken our children out of school for one year to volunteer and serve others around the world. This journey has come with a lot of sacrifice and risk. Jeff left his career, we are homeschooling our children (neither Jeff or I are teachers), we are taking our children to live and serve people we have never met and in places we have never been….all because we believe this was God’s path for us. A random Facebook post sent us spiraling down a conversation of “what ifs” that ended up being “ok, now go”; and little did we know that things would completely fall into place the way they have. Yes, the planning of this journey has been a lot of work, but honestly, it has not been that difficult. Every time we hit a road block or a snag, we stopped to pray and then things just seem to work out. We agreed from the beginning to not push this. If God wanted us to go we would, but if He put up road blocks that kept us from something or somewhere, we accepted it and moved forward.

This whole journey has been a wonderful lesson is God’s steadfast love for all of us. We may not all be believers our whole life, and quite frankly I think most people aren’t. But what I do believe is that we are on our own individual paths for a reason and when you are ready to find God, you will. He will always be waiting for you to just stop and look, and then see. Everyday I give thanks that He was patient with me. I had been a non-believer for a lot longer than I have been a believer, but He just waited until I was ready. What this tells me is that everyone’s path is different and unique; there is no right way or wrong way, it is His way. We may not always see His hands in our lives, but He is there, patiently waiting for us to see Him. This though reminds me of a song I have always loved by Garth Brooks (sorry for all you non-country readers) called Unanswered Prayers and my favorite line from the song is “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”.

This journey was definitely God’s hands at work, we just followed where He led us. We are currently in northern Thailand teaching English to preschool and primary school children and we could not be happier. We have been welcomed at every stop on this journey and Thailand was no different. Today we led an English Camp at the preschool, playing games and learning about animals, an art project and a cooking class. We all had such a wonderful time and are so grateful for the hospitality shown to us by these great people. God has surely blessed this journey.

Here are some pictures from the camp today:

 

Tuesday November 6, 2018

Mark 10:13-16 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

This scripture would have also been perfect for yesterday when Lucia was teaching, though today really was no different as all of the kids, at different times during the day, took the lead with teaching the kids. It is so amazing thing to see how much this is impacting our children. The highlight of their day is teaching these kids (specifically the younger ones because they are no longer helping with the older ones because they are doing their schoolwork). Every time my kids engage with these preschoolers my heart is filled with joy. Seeing them give so much of themselves, and knowing the sacrifices they have made to make this journey a reality is just overwhelming. They have definitely fought us about this journey at various times, but the majority of the time they really seem to be enjoying themselves and gaining a lot of from it in return.

I have also seen first hand how much more the kids we teach respond to our kids then they do with Jeff and I. They just get so excited when our kids are leading a lesson and I really believe that they may even get more out of the experience. Jesus was right when He said that we need to become like the children. Our children are so vital to our world and I don’t think we give them the credit that they deserve. They have a way of bringing people together, like an unspoken language, that only children are capable of doing and I see this when we they teach. Our kids are able to play and communicate with these children in ways that an adult just can’t and I am so grateful for the opportunity that Volunthai has given to us as a family and how willing they were to allowing the children participate in the service.

Tomorrow we have an English Camp at the preschool and we will only be teaching there. There is an art portion of the camp which I will lead and then Jeff will lead a game of (age and language appropriate) Cranium with personalized questions about animals. For the game, the kids will be divided into several teams and will need to answer Factoids (questions about animals), Sculptorades (making the animal out of PlayDough), CopyCat (acting like the animal), Charades (silently acting out clues), and Pictionary (drawing the animals). Jeff has done a wonderful job creating this game for these kids and I think they are really going to enjoy it.

After teaching at both schools we came home to finish teaching our children. Things haven’t gotten much better, but they haven’t gotten worse–so I will call that a win! I really think they just need to get used to this new concept of school with mom and dad. Hopefully that will just come with time.

Every day that we teach at the preschool, Rinya, the English teacher there, makes us the most amazing lunches. My kids love these lunches with Rinya, as do we.

Monday November 5, 2018

Matthew 7:1-5  “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

I have a terrible habit of asking Lucia to be quiet when she is trying to help teach the classes, she is just trying to help and I make the assumption that because she is only 5 she is not able to teach. But boy did she prove me wrong today and I love God’s sense of humor to put this passage before me today!
Today while teaching the 5-6 year olds the colors, Lucia just jumped in and started to take over the lesson. It took me only a moment to step aside and let her take the lead, and she did a great job. We are working on asking questions and then having the kids answer in complete sentences. So I started by asking Lucia to hold up a color while I asked, “what color is this?” and the students would respond with “the color is…”. About card number 2, Lucia raised up the card and before I could say anything, asked the question, to which the kids responded perfectly. This continued for about 5 minutes while they went through and practiced all of the colors. This also happened to be our last lesson, so Lucia went right into leading our “Goodbye Song” and again the kids responded in kind, loving that a 5 year old was their teacher!
I sat back and realized that she is far more capable than I give her credit and this scripture just reminds me to “take the log out of [my] eye” first and not to underestimate or judge my children’s capabilities. It was a really fun day of teaching, but a long one. After teaching at the preschool, we went over to the primary school where the kids are back in normal classes (they’ve been on break the whole month of October and we were teaching a “camp”). We prepared lesson plans just like we have done in the past, but the teachers actually had lessons already planned for us, we just had to teach it. While we were just teaching from the same book they do, I saw how beneficial it was to have us there, being native English speakers, to assist with pronunciation. Pronunciation is such an important part of language and being understood that having a native speaker provides a huge help with the learning process. I also watched the teachers participating in the lessons as though they were learning right along with the students.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to teach the students and people here that desire to learn English; they have been so welcoming that I feel they are giving me more than I can give to them. So every day I try to give my very best and to help in any way that I can. I am so amazed at how much these children know and how much the are able to retain. Thai and English are so incredibly different and I know first hand how challenging learning this different language can be. These children are way more advanced than I am, they speak their language and are learning mine, and while I am trying to learn Thai, I am struggling quite a bit and have only mastered a few words and phrases. These children and teachers are amazing!

Sunday November 4, 2018

Exodus 15:13 “In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode.

I need to memorize this passage. I say a similar prayer for my children every day. Please Lord help me to lead them to you, help me show them Your ways, and help me to be lead them by example. I wish nothing more for my children then to have a never ending faith in the Lord and His ways, and to know that He will always be with them. I try to remind myself of this everyday and I try to remind my children of this same thing, but it does not always seem to sink in with the kids (probably because they only hear a portion of what I am saying and ignore the rest!).

Upon waking up this morning we walked down to the coffee shop again, but this time with the kids to get them some breakfast, which included French Toast and milkshakes! They really seemed to enjoy it. Afterwards we walked to the Nan River and the kids played at the (very old) playground, but they loved it! These are the kind of days that I cherish. The kids played together and we all seemed to enjoy each other’s company. We even got to do a FaceTime with my mom, and despite Lucia’s princess attitude, we all seemed to enjoy the day. I even got a yoga workout in before dinner! I really wish I would make my yoga practice a priority, but I have a hard time setting aside the kids’ schooling and preparing for teaching. I have a difficult time putting myself ahead of my kids. I am so grateful for this day and for the places the Lord has led us thus far. I am also very excited to see where He leads us tomorrow and going forward.

This evening Jeff and I sat in our room preparing for the English Camp that we will lead on Wednesday at the Preschool. We have decided to play a game of Cranium for which Jeff will create the questions. We will also sing some songs. The parents/families of the children will also be there and we have a painting and cooking project that Rinya has arranged, which I will be leading. We are both really excited for this opportunity and I think it will be a lot of fun.

Friday November 2, 2018

Acts 13:2-3 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

I am moving on past the challenges with homeschooling our kids and accepting it as just a part of our daily routine now. I still pray every day that it gets better, but if it doesn’t, He has His reasons for it and I will accept the challenges and frustrations as something that He wants me to learn.

Lucia got to do a video call this morning with her friend, Amalie, which means that David also got to briefly see his buddy, Oliver (Amalie’s brother). Our kids really enjoy these video calls with their friends and it makes such a difference in their moods for the day.

Teaching at the preschool was very fun today. The kids were energetic and engaged. We sang songs and played games with the little ones and with the oldest class at the preschool we were able to play games like guess the letter made out of PlayDough and what sounds do they make. I feel so alive while I am teaching here and it is an affirmation that I am where the Lord wants me to be. He sent us out on the journey, what seems like so long ago, and He did not say it would be easy nor did He say there would not be challenges. To the contrary, I knew this was going to entail sacrifice, frustration, and maybe even a few tears, but I don’t think I was prepared for the immense joy that I feel every time I teach or engage in service of any kind. I feel so alive, like this was what I was meant to be doing at this time. I can not even begin to express how grateful I am that He called us to this journey and that we were faithful and brave enough to five in head first, saying “OK, here we go”! I am even more grateful that He has accompanied us on this journey and that we are never alone.

After school today, we just came home and did some homework and once the kids were in bed for the night, Jeff and I stayed up and visited with Wat. This family has been so wonderful to us; feeding us, housing us, and even entertaining us. They have shown an unconditional love to our children and have accepted us as part of their family. Their compassion and kindness can be overwhelming at times. David has had the opportunity to watch Muay Thai, a mix of boxing and kickboxing and Wat has even acquired some equipment for David to practice with during our stay here. The kids have had a lot of fun using the boxing gloves to spar with one another.