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:

 

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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.

Thursday November 1, 2018

Genesis 28:15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Homeschooling was a challenge again today with both Anjali and David at different times during the day fighting the work assigned to them. This is so frustrating because they are not given too much work, they just are not doing it. The amount of the work we giving then can be completed in about 4 hours, but these assignments are taking them about 6 hours because they are dawdling. They are staring out the window and front door or at the TV, they are changing their avatars on the IXL program (a computer program helping us to teach the common core standards), or they are just staring at the screen. It is so frustrating because when they just work they complete a lesson in about 5-7 minutes, but these lessons are taking them about 25-30 minutes to complete a lesson that they totally understand. We are still just doing review work, we are not even introducing new information. I could understand if they took longer to complete these lessons if the material was new, but this is all review and they are just not giving it the time and energy it needs. This is very difficult to show them that they can complete the assignments we give them when they consistently are coming up short.

Teaching the kids at the school went very well and all three of our kids were engaged and being helpful. Anjali and David are leading a song and they really seem to be enjoying the kids. This afternoon we didn’t teach at the primary school, but just went back to the house to work on school work for our kids. I am trying so hard to be patient with my children, but the constant fighting over school and fighting amongst the girls is exhausting. Our girls have lost all sense of kindness and respect towards each other which, as you could imagine, is causing more fights and bickering that I care to admit.

I take solace in knowing that these behaviors are not related to this trip and that we would have experienced these same things abroad or at home. Homework has always been a struggle with the kids, unless it was exciting. Scripture like today also gives me comfort because I know that the Lord will always be with us and He will help us on this journey. He called us to it and He will lead us through it. I firmly believe this and He has shown this to be true from the very beginning of this journey. Whenever there was a challenge or problem, He came through with the answer or solution. I know the solution and the answers or coming, and if not, He has His reasons.

Tuesday October 30, 2018

2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.

School went pretty well this morning for our kids and when we started teaching all three kids were actually engaged and helping at both schools. We also seem to have had a breakthrough with one of our preschool classes that rarely spoke or engaged at all; today they were laughing, talking, and totally engaged. It was a really fun day and it was awesome to see these kids come out of their shell and participate.

The program that arranged this station for us is called Volunthai and you can sign up for as little as a month. We chose 2 months and I am so glad we did. It would make me so sad to have to leave these kids so quickly after they started to engage, but we have another month with them. Don’t get me wrong, if you only have a month to give, that is wonderful and still an amazing opportunity to teach these children. We only had one class that was so shy, whereas the rest of the classes were much more engaged from the beginning, so one month is definitely better than nothing, I am just glad that we have more time here.

It is also neat to watch our children open up too, which is another benefit to staying for 2 months. They are becoming more engaged with the younger kids and, with a little encouragement (maybe even some pushing), they are also starting to engage more with the primary school students.

But the honeymoon of the vacation is now over for our girls and we have emotions running very high. I really just want to them to find some peace with each other; it is so hard to watch them constantly at each other. Lucia has been very difficult to manage because of the overwhelming amount of attention she receives from the Thai people around us. She has found her place in the center of “their” world, but in the process has lost all sense of humility. She also is failing to see that she is not at the center of this family and is no more important that any of the rest of us. This is very difficult to manage because the attention continues every day and there is no getting ahead of it. In one respect it is wonderful to see her so engaged with the people around her that, for the most part, don’t speak her language, but the constant attention has made her a bit too big for her britches. This is thus causing a rift between she and Anjali because Anjali is lacking any patience for her little sister. Anjali’s emotions are all over the place, but she doesn’t even realize it until it is too late. I am sure this too will pass, as all parenting difficulties do, but this has been exhausting to manage.

I have memorized this scripture and I am going to try to remind myself, and all of us, of it when things get difficult, stressful, frustrating, etc. God is always there for us and He will grant us the peace and comfort that we need wherever we are.

Monday October 29, 2018

Daniel 6:23 Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

Today we were back to the routine, with a slight change. We are now doing homeschooling in the morning from 7:30 – 9:00 am for our kids and then getting a bit in during our lunch break and an hour or so after we get home from teaching.

We are also looking forward to celebrating Halloween at the schools on Wednesday and sharing this fun holiday with these wonderful kids. It should be a lot of fun. Jeff had a wonderful idea to make pumpkins out of paper that we could staple candy to, so the kids could go trick or treating. When we realized that there were 135 kids at the preschool we teach we were already 40-50 pumpkins in and it was too late to change our minds. These were going to be a lot of work, but they were going to be so cute. The kids even helped us out, though a bit reluctantly. As awesome as these were going to be, I will admit that I was a bit overwhelmed at the quantity of pumpkins we were going to have to make in such a short period of time; these all needed to be done by Tuesday night. We needed to trace the pumpkins, color and decorate them, cut them out and then staple candy to each of them. We were able to finish a fair amount tonight, leaving us with only 40 to do tomorrow.

I again have my husband to thank for pulling me back to ground as my anxiety and stress started to take over my joy in making these pumpkins for the kids. He gently reminded me that we will finish them and that these are going to make the kids so happy, which makes all this work worth it. This quality in him makes me a better person and I am so grateful that God brought us together through a persistent friend! This scripture passage is just what I needed to read today, as I could feel my stress melting away when Jeff reminded me that we will complete this project as a family and that all the work is worth it to bring Halloween to these wonderful kids here in Thailand.

We have some really fun plans for the kids on Wednesday for Halloween, including Trick or Treating, Halloween songs, showing them decorated houses, and bringing in a Jack-O-Lantern! Today was quite tiring, but it will be all worth it.

As for the homeschooling aspect of the day, the kids all agreed that they really liked the schedule for spreading the work out over the day, and Jeff and I agreed. It was a lot less stressful for us to not have to be doing so much work so late into the evening. This process is really about trial and error and thankfully we are also showing our children the importance and benefit of flexibility.

Friday October 26, 2018

Psalms 37:7-9 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil. For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

After a full (and fun) day of teaching, we took the short drive (Wat was kind enough to arrange the van that drives us to and from school for us) to the Nan Season Boutique Resort for a weekend retreat to celebrate Jeff’s birthday. The place is amazing. It’s small (only 9 bungalows) and just outside of Nan City. But it is so relaxing and peaceful. The kids loved the pool so much so that we spent the rest of the evening here. The kids swam and we had food brought to the room for dinner, which by the way is absolutely amazing. It also just so happened that they just came off from being fully booked and we were the only reservation for the weekend.

While we played at the pool Jeff and I decided that we were 100% content with just being here the whole weekend. Neither of us had any desire to go into town and leave this serene and beautiful place. As long as the kids were happy in the pool, we were happy too.

God is truly amazing and this place is a testament to his great works in this world. We are surrounded by a National Forrest with trees, flowers, and plants native to this area that were all created by Him. I am in awe of the beauty here, surrounded by rice paddies and jungle makes it seem like all the world is at peace (if only that were true!). But I will enjoy every moment of this weekend here and will soak in all the peace so I can share that peace with the people that I meet when we leave.

If you are ever in Nan (northern Thailand) and you are looking for a quiet and peaceful retreat topped with amazing food and service, please visit. You will not be disappointed.

Thursday October 25, 2018

Colossians 1:29 For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.

My toil and struggle today has to do mainly with my children, specifically with the girls. While David did cause a bit of frustration today, that is not a regular occurrence so it is easier to handle, but the girls are continuing to test both my patience and Jeff’s with their fighting and bickering and rudeness to one another. Today was no different, I just felt drained and seemed to lack the energy to deal with all that came. On top of my children’s behaviors, we had haircuts for the girls to get and a 5 person birthday party this evening to celebrate birthdays in October and November.

Thank goodness the Lord had my back today, just as He always does and I was able to muster up some patience while dealing with my children. It is just so frustrating that they battle the homeschooling aspect of this trip. They embrace the fun and the play and the teaching beautifully, but as soon as we ask them to do their schoolwork they change their tune and no longer want to do this trip. Now this is not every day, but it happens enough to be extremely irritating. For the most part we are able to get done with their actual school work pretty efficiently, when they actually put their energy into it.

Additionally, the older kids at the primary school can make teaching quite difficult, they can be very loud and disruptive during lessons. We are trying to make it fun by playing games and such, but it just seems that there are 8-10 kids that really want to learn and that are fully engaged in the games and lessons, while the other 30+ students are just there to be there. This doesn’t both me nearly as much as it does Jeff, but it really makes teaching a bit more challenging. I think that there are just too many kids in this class, but this is basically school during break for them and beginning again in November they will go back to their normal classrooms and I assume (hope) things will be different.

The birthday party was a lot of fun with wonderful food, lots of laughter, and a bit of dancing! But for us that quickly ended when David and Lucia were showering and they proceeded to play with the shower wand like it was a hose and they were in our backyard back in Madison. According to Jeff there was about 1 inch of standing water in the bathroom because of their antics. In hindsight (I am writing this Friday morning), it is pretty funny and it is great that they were having so much fun playing together (I mean they were not fighting), but the way the went about playing was just not okay/acceptable. And then to fire Jeff up even more their bedroom was a complete and utter disaster. So all electronics were taken away from the children (except for school work) until they demonstrated a respect for the belongings of others. Now this did not go over well and we had sad/angry children until they fell asleep around 10:30 pm.

I really needed God’s patience and understanding tonight. I was hot, tired, and truly not wanting to deal with children until 10:30 pm–I wanted to be an adult for a little bit today, but I guess that is where this scripture lesson comes into play. We sometimes have really challenging days, days where frustration and aggravation seems to be more prevalent, and it is in these days/moments that we really need to relish God’s path for each one of us, especially the difficult ones. He has His reasons for making this day so challenging, and while I would prefer days where my children are respectful and loving towards one another, we also need to learn to embrace and be joyous in the moments that make us want to snap. We need to dig deep to find His energy inside of us because it is that energy that will bring us through even the most difficult of situations with grace, peace, and patience.

Here are some pictures of teaching today. The younger kids were great and totally engaged; it was a true pleasure to spend the morning with them. Here we are playing Duck, Duck, Goose (and practicing those difficult “d” and “g” sounds).

And our Crazy Train (practicing left, right, stop, go, fast, slow, hop, walk, etc.).

It was a fun birthday party too.

 

Friday October 19, 2018

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

We got up this morning and headed off to teach the little ones, which was a lot of fun. It is great to see our kids engaged with these kids. David even helped by leading an improvised game of Simon Says and did great. We are now able to get most of the kids repeating after us and actually speaking, which is great.

After getting home from school we were able to do a bit of schoolwork with our children and then Wat took us into Nan to see the night market and to get some dinner. It was so funny because Wat dropped us off in the front of the market and then went to park the car, we didn’t even get out of the car and two soldiers where trying to snap a pictures of our kids. So we were able to get a posed picture with them!

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There were so many people and different vendors that the options for dinner were limitless. The first thing we got was a watermelon smoothie (served inside a watermelon). This sounds as wonderful as it was, but because it was so large and we needed the kids to still eat dinner, we only ordered one for the kids to share. We should have known better…this became a constant fight over who got to hold it, who was drinking more, who spilled it on someone else, etc. But we were able to distract them with a (kind of) waffle. This was not a traditional waffle but rather little pods (honestly they looked like a honeycomb) filled with whatever you chose (we got one banana and one strawberry). These were incredible! The kids (and us adults) devoured them. As we moved on through the market we stocked up on various different Thai foods and then sat down at a table to eat. There was music and dancing happening up on the stage, as well as various vendors selling clothing and toys, shoes, and anything else you can imagine. This was such a happening place to be and I can’t wait to come back again soon.