20 September 2012

no one said this was going to be so hard.

so i think its safe to say that the past month has been the hardest.  between the busyness of life here. learning how to read & write.  the ups and downs of ministry.  moving.  weariness.  apathy.  sickness.  and just about every single thing you do being 10x more difficult than you could imagine.  it's been hard.  i think this is probably about the time on the chart that they show you before you move overseas where you take a slow quick dip down out of the honeymoon phase.

no matter how many times i looked at that chart and no matter how much i mentally prepared myself and told myself this day would eventually come, it still came.  and it was still hard.

several weeks ago i suddenly came to the realization that my life here is significantly harder than it was back at home.  (not to say that life is easy in america, its just personally for me, my life was easier).  i also don't write this to make you feel sorry for me or anything like that.  my heart is just to be real.  to be honest about my time here.  to be truthful about what this really looks like.

a few weeks back i was talking to my friend about how i was just having a hard time and how i didn't even really understand my emotions, because they tended to be so conflicting.  i love it here.  i love our church.  i love the thai people and their genuine kindness and hospitality.  i love that things are new & exciting and unknown.  i want to be here, but i also long to be at home.  i love america.  i love spending time with my family.  i love the ease of going out to get what i want.  i love that i know things and they are normal.  how could i be feeling all those emotions at the same time and begin to make any sense of it?  my friend, who has lived here for over 10 years, told me that she completely understands and if i could put words to those feelings then a lot of people overseas would be able to resonate with them.

the longer i live here the more i realize that even when you live here for over a decade its still hard.  yes, it does get easier after time, but its still not remotely similar to the first 25 years of our lives and what we are used to.

so i've decided to write.  to write my blog about my real journey.  the hardships.  the joys.  the celebrations.  the victories.  the ups & downs.  and the wide range of emotions.  because i don't want to just depict the awesome and the fun.  i want to depict the truth.  both the good & bad.  i want to write so people can resonate with my words.  so others can be affirmed when they feel like the very worst missionary too.  because i promise you we all do at some point.

in my hardship.  in the good times.  god has taught me a lot of things.  but probably the most important thing is that i cannot do this without him.  i would have no grace.  no help.  no one that could sustain me.  and i would have gone home.  i need him more than anything.

"for i, the lord you God, hold your right hand; it is i who say to you, 
'fear not, i am the one who helps you.'" 
isaiah 41:13 


so i'm okay. and i'll live.  if god is for us, then who can be against us? but i guarantee i'll be stronger and more refined when i'm finished.

so this is the start.  the start of my reality.  my experiences.  the good, the bad, and the ugly.  let's start this journey.    

28 June 2012

the start of summer...

...well technically it feels like summer all year round here but the start of what I will always classify in my mind as summertime. The last few weeks have been jammed packed with craziness as we hosted our first team from America and began teaching English at Kaset University.  It's been the busiest, craziest, and most fun weeks I've had so far here!

Last week we also started teaching English at Kaset and had over 80 students at our first class! Almost everyday we head to the huge cafeteria to eat lunch and just sit down and talk with students.  It has been really awesome getting to know them and meeting so many new people.  It has definitely been a good break from going to language school and transitioning to something new.

Our first team was from Perimeter Church in Hotlanta, Georgia and they brought 11 people, mostly high-schoolers.  They stayed for 2 weeks and we totally had a blast with them.  They were such servants and really blessed me with their love and encouragement during their time here.  I think I got too attached because it was definitely hard to see them go!  It was interesting being around them and being reminded of my first feelings when I got here 4 months ago.  After hosting them and bringing them around everywhere it definitely made me feel like for the first time I knew what was going on and it finally felt like I actually lived in BKK.

Here's the goodbye video I made for them with the highlights of their trip.  Check it out....because its awesome.  And so are you for watching it.

25 June 2012

michael jackson and conversations with a 2 year old.

In memory of Michael Jackson's death a few years ago today, I thought I would share a little about my cutie boy nephew Alex.

I think God really did have a plan to have this little guy in our family because he loves Michael Jackson just like his Aunt Fer.  We share the same affinity for dancing and singing loudly to the King of Pop.  Back when I was in High School I found this MJ shirt at Goodwill.  It was so little and cute that I had to buy it having no one to give it to because at the time I had no little cuties in my life.  I kept it all these years and little did I know that one day I would have a nephew that loooooved MJ too.

This is how our Skype conversation went the other day...
  Alex: "Michael Jackson's hair caught on fire"
  Me: "Oh really I actually didn't even know that."
  Alex: "Michael Jackson got sick"
  Alex: "Michael Jackson had too much medicine, too much medicine"
  Me: "Hahaha. Ok, I heard you the first 10 times. Yes, he did take too much medicine."

Gotta love the things that come out of a 2 yr olds mouth. How he knows these things I don't know but he is a little obsessed. 

Before I left I gave the shirt to him and he was pretty excited as you can tell. 

pretty sure it doesn't get any cuter than that. miss that little cutie.

08 June 2012

double take.

I was looking on the UWM website today and had to do a double take when I saw this...

I was so surprised! Oh, hey it's me.

I guess that is one of the small perks of being at a small agency.  You never know when you might become the front page of the website.  I'm on the slow road to fame.  So everyone go check it out and check out the other cool things going on at UWM, because UWM is where its at: http://www.uwm.org/

06 June 2012

terrible, awful, awkward, and just plain awesome.

because you know you love those kind of stories right?

because this is the awkwardness i feel then things like this happen to me...
This post is a long time coming but it's not always easy admitting all the ridiculously funny and embarrassing things you say and do.  But for the benefit of everyone and to lift people's spirits, I've decided to share. I'll definitely say that being overseas and learning a new language and culture will just humble you to the max.  It will throw you right off that little pedestal you had yourself on and you'll find yourself on the ground.  One thing I know for sure is that if you can't laugh at yourself then you don't need to move overseas because you will mess up, fail, and embarrass yourself more than a few times and you just have to learn to laugh about it.

Let's begin with the worst or the terrible, awful as I like to call it...

A month or two ago our friend, Dang, invited us to go to visit his work.  He works at a ministry that shares the Gospel in schools around Thailand.  As we were leaving, Dang was teaching us the phrase "God bless you" in Thai.  Well, when I heard it I thought it sound like a word in English so I repeated back what I thought I heard.  Then this awkward moment happened where the Thai people's eyes got all big and Dang politely told me that what I said was wrong, but they didn't really make any kind of big deal about it.  Later that night we are hanging out and I think I hear Dang tell his roommates the story of what I said, but I could only make out a little here and a little there.  So that gets me thinking that it probably was a bigger deal than I think but Thai people are just really nice and wouldn't want to call you out.  A few days later I decide to ask my friend, who lived in America for a while so she knows whats up, if she could tell me what I really said.  I told her and she literally screamed, doubled over, and told me she was blushing up to her ears.  Not exactly the reaction I was looking for!  She then tells me what it means and all the while is super embarrassed from saying it.  Then I go to my Thai-English dictionary just to make sure of how it is said so under no circumstance do I say it again and right there in parenthesis it says (extremely vulgar).  So basically I unknowingly said a highly offensive word.  (Now I know what you're thinking. What is the word, but to be proper I will spare you all from it.  Just know on a scale of 1-10 of being offensive, its an 11)  And what is the worst part about it?  I said it in the same sentence that I said the word "God" and to a group of people I just met.  Awesome.  I mean probably one of the most embarrassing things I've ever done but now I will always be able to laugh about it.

Then there are like 4 other words which are very similar in sound to this terrible, awful word!  I mean who does that, who makes several others words sound just like a super vulgar one?  So I live in constant  fear of saying those words and I often in class refuse to say them.

And I wish I could say that was the only thing, but it isn't.

I also successfully managed to say s*** to our Thai friend when studying the word for banana.

Before the Songkran holiday(see this post to learn about it) we had a substitute teacher one day in class.  She was talking about traditional Songkran and how the Thais would take a bowl of water and add in perfume and flowers before they blessed others with it.  It is a very sacred and old tradition.  I had recently learned the word for perfume so I thought I would be all awesome and say it, but instead I said "bathroom" because hey the words sound the same.  So basically I said they pour the bathroom water into the bowl of their most sacred ceremonies.  Our teacher lost it for at least 5 minutes.

The first week or so we were here we went to a retreat with our church and I really wanted to learn some Thai songs afterwards.  One of my friends wrote out how each word sounded to certain song and gave it to me so I could practice.  Well I started singing it and would go up to all my friends and sing it to them.  Come to find out like 3 weeks later that I was totally singing the wrong tune to the song.  I was confusing two completely different songs and my Thai friends were just too nice to tell me.  What is that?  After I go up to everyone thinking I'm all cool knowing a Thai song and it was completely wrong.  Humbled...yes.

One day in class our book 2 teacher was talking about dancing or shoulders or something like that so just being myself I stood up and literally did like a 1-2 second dance.  I mean I barely even moved my body and she completely lost it.  Full out giggles for like 5 minutes.  She could not even contain herself and I had to get class back on track because she was unable to get it together.  Now when she sees me she will randomly ask me to dance just to make her laugh.  Oh the joy you can so unintentionally bring to others!

Another day we were learning the word for stop (for cars, buses, taxis, etc.)  Well in our language class we use the phonetic alphabet to learn the words until we learn the Thai alphabet.  In phonetics the written "c" is the "j" sound. The word for stop is "cot".  And its very hard to train your brain to say a "j" sound when you see a "c".  So I was practicing what I would say to a taxi driver and instead of saying "cot" I said "khot" which means hug.  Basically I was talking about being in a taxi and telling the taxi driver I wanted a hug.  My teacher thought that was hilarious and now we always joke about randomly asking the taxi drivers for hugs.

So those are just a few of the word vomits (as I like to call them) that I've had since I've been here and they will not be the last!  I guess if I can bring someone joy by making them laugh at my mistakes then that's cool with me.

25 May 2012

a big fat Thai/Chinese/American wedding...

Last weekend I got the privilege of attending my first and probably only Thai/Chinese/American wedding.  I met the couple at our church when we first got here and they have been good friends ever since.  Kate is Thai/Chinese and Joel is from Texas, and its definitely a small world because we went to A&M together and graduated the same year from the business school.  We didn't know each other at A&M but both thought each other looked familiar and turns out we have a lot of mutual friends...crazy!  They met when Kate came to America as an exchange student in high school.  She became a Christian here in America because of her host family.  They dated long distance for a couple years then Joel moved here to Thailand last year.  The wedding was all day long 7:30am-10pm with a small break, but it was a blast.  I even had the opportunity to direct the night part of the wedding at the ceremony!  I had to make sure people were in their places and when to walk and such.  It was a great experience to learn more about Thai and Chinese culture and interesting to see all these cultures collide.  It was one of the most beautiful weddings I've ever been to and I was so honored to be a part of it.

If you're interested in the culture, which you should be because its so very interesting, here is a little glimpse of our day...

7:30am - early yes I know. The Thai part of the wedding festivities begins. In Thailand it is custom for the bride and groom to get engaged on the same day as the wedding.  In order to do so the groom has to find his bride and pass through various points where the bride's family is waiting.  At each stop he has to pay some of the dowry to the family in order to pass.  After he has paid the dowry at each of the stops he can finally see his bride.  The groom first lines up outside with all his friends and family behind him.  Each one of them get to carry a piece of the dowry (oranges, umbrellas, money, and even a banana tree)!  It is so cool to see this tradition played out.  At first I was like what? that is crazy! But then when I saw it I realized that him and his family were together going to get their new family member and it is a big family affair with both families working together.  It is sweet to think of how precious Kate is portrayed as the groom has to sacrifice in order to get her.

the dowry.
this is what i like to call cultures colliding....confused anyone?

and we got it....

the line of friends a family. 

oh yeah that's a banana tree.

We were able to see Joel go through the first couple of stops but after that he went by himself.  Once he found Kate they came back into the main room for the Engagement.  They seat the parents, grandparents, and close relatives of the bride and groom.  They ask questions about why Joel wants to marry Kate and the bride and groom pay honor and respect to their elders.  They give more of the dowry including the biggest part, the money.  We've heard that sometimes the parents of the bride end up giving it back to the bride and groom and sometimes not.  Then the rings are presented and they're engagement is official!

paying honor to parents, grandparents, and friends

they put the dowry money in a bag and put it over their shoulders (because apparently its really heavy)

right after the engagement. isn't she ravishing?

paying honor to the parents.

our whole church group. yay!


so very precious.

9am - The Chinese part of the wedding begins and Joel and Kate pay honor to all their relatives.  Each one of their friends and families comes and sits before them and the bride and groom bless, present gifts, and honor them by giving them tea to drink.  This was probably one of the neatest times to me because it wasn't just about Joel & Kate it was about honoring everyone in their lives who has poured into them.  The amount of honor and respect that the Thais have for their elders is so beautiful.  It was a time to thank their parents for all the sacrifice and hard work they had done on their behalf. 

giving grandparents the tea.

her 3 sweet sisters paying them respect.

6:00pm - We break for a few hours, go home and change, and return for the American/Christian part of the wedding.  This part was very similar to a normal American wedding except for that part of it was in Thai with an English translation.

jumping through a ton of hoops they finally found kristen a cello to play. it was beautiful.

my sweet friend maew (and my language tutor)

let's hear it for the boys.

the girls.

the farangs (the white people)

our church group!

8:00pm - The reception begins!  They have two emcees that share about Joel & Kate's story.  They had a really sweet slideshow and played a game to see how well the bride and groom new each other.  They then brought the parents of the bride and groom up and let them share and then again Joel & Kate went a paid honor to their parents.  The bride and groom even got the chance to share what they loved about each other, which I feel at most weddings everything is so rushed and you don't get that opportunity.  Then Kate's sweet sister came up and sang a surprise song.  Then they literally had the biggest knife to cut their cake...awesome.  Later, the group from our church came up and did a surprise song & dance to "I will follow him".  (believe it or not it may or may not have been my idea).  Lookout because I may be busting out a choreographed dance at your wedding too!

i mean really with that knife sword.

kate's sister, fon, busting it out...


All in all it was one of the most fun and enlightening weddings I have ever been to.  Kate was definitely one of the most breathtaking brides I have ever seen.  And she is just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.

Thank you Joel & Kate for letting us be apart of your special day.  It is a blessing to know y'all!

25 April 2012

the narrow road.

so last night was hard.  i was burdened.  burdened by the stories of my friends, but so encouraged by the faith of them.

in thailand knowing Jesus is the exception.  its rare.  its even more rare to know a Christian who comes from a family of believers.  last night in our weekly bible study we were all in prayer for our friend.  a friend who became a Christian after her sweet sister shared the gospel with her.  after a long time, in fear of what her parents would say, she decided to tell them she became a believer and they didn't take it well. they told her she was no longer their daughter and her and her sister were stupid for believing.    she could have very easily abandoned christ and gone back to buddhism.  then her parents would accept her.  but this 18 year old girl chose Christ.  she chose life and the narrow road.

after hearing this story my heart was broken.  broken that my friends have to endure this.  broken that they have to live with the feeling of disappointing their parents.  broken that this is common and that most of my friends here have the exact same story.  broken that in no way can i even fathom what this may feel like because my parents have supported and encouraged me my entire life.

but the thing i'm realizing more and more is that the road i've chosen is not an easy one.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.(Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

the way to life is hard and, if anything, this experience is teaching me that everyday.  as i look at the rest of my life i realize that its not going to be easy.  so right now i have the chance to decide.  do i travel the road ahead knowing what is in front of me or do i travel the easy road that leads to destruction?  god never once promised that following him was easy, but he did tell me that it would be worth it.  worth all the pain, hardships, and afflictions.  and he is worth it.  and he promises me that he will be with me on that road.  he'll carry me when i need to be carried.  he'll encourage me when i need encouragement.  

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed..."
(2 Corinthians 4:7-9 ESV)  

so i have to ask myself if my life isn't hard then what's wrong?  am i really walking on the narrow road? because if i am then it shouldn't be easy.  

as much as my heart is broken, i'm encouraged.  i'm encouraged because i serve an almighty God who is far better than anything in this life.  a God who promises to bless me a hundred times over for following him and the promise of eternal life.  and i get to experience a love that is worth more than treasure.

"Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
(Mark 10:28-31 ESV)

so god made a promise.  and he's a pretty good promise keeper.  please join me in praying for the thai believers.  pray for those who have to abandon everything they know and their identity to follow Jesus.  and be encouraged by them and be thankful for the Lord's promises in your life.