Thursday, December 29, 2011


I don't really have a good title for this post. I am not sure what it is really about except for the surprising ways beauty sometimes sneaks in and overwhelms us.
I lived in Indiana for the first 23 and a half years of my life. And, I am still convinced that some of the best sunsets in the world have been seen standing next to the big red barn in my parents' backyard. Reds and yellows, oranges and purples, pinks and blues. Absolutely breathtaking. I am not sure what those sunsets really represent in my life, but I do know that they continually remind me that the beauty of God transcends all time and space. I know that sometimes beauty is so overwhelming that it makes you rush out the back door wearing mismatched flip flops and no coat, despite the frigid temperatures. It makes you grab your camera in a vain attempt to capture the brilliance of color that cannot be contained. It makes you shiver in the cold and silence just to enjoy the secret that lasts but a few moments. *sigh*
And, then, the snow. I am not a lover of snow. It is cold. It is not fun to drive in. It melts and gets slushy. It gets dirty from exhaust and mud and becomes ugly. But, I cannot deny the wonder of a silent snowfall. I cannot deny the awe that comes when I climbed into bed knowing that it was brown and dead outside only to arise to a powdery, white world. Snow and I get along pretty well if out interactions take place in the manner that the above photo was taken--looking out the window with a hot cup of coffee or tea in hand. It is unfortunate when the beauty is spoiled with the mud and the dirt and the busyness of life. *sigh*

Sometimes I think beauty is meant to surprise us. Sometimes it only lasts a few moments before it is spoiled. The sunset is only really beautiful for a few minutes before it disappears. The snow is only stunning until the cars drive through and the flakes begin to melt. However, their beauty remains the same, whether I can see it or not, whether I appreciate it or not. I suppose that is reason enough to store up the beautiful things in the recesses of my heart, so I can pull them out after the sun sets and the snow melts. *sigh*

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I may have an obsession. It is certainly a weakness. It could be a personality flaw.
I love books. A lot.
I can't seem to help myself.
I love the scent of libraries. Used bookstores give me thrills. I like turning pages. I get lost in novels. I hunger to learn about the lives and experiences of others.
Generally, I would not consider this a problem, regardless of what others may think.
However, I am not sure this pile of books (along with my brand new Kindle!) are going to manage to fit in the limited suitcase space available to me. As I started adding up the books I got used, received as gifts, or purchased for the classes I will be starting in January, I was a bit overwhelmed. I had hoped that receiving the Kindle as a gift would help curb my need for physical books. I am still hopeful that it will, but for now I am stuck deliberating between shoes or novels, jeans or nonfiction, hair gel or classics.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

a lot of talk

"For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God's power." 1 Corinthians 4:20

Oh, those verses that just stop you in your tracks. This verse was one of those the other day. I was reading along, and all of a sudden, Wham! That is absolutely right. The Kingdom of God is not just a bunch of talk, but we make it that way sometimes. We learn all the right answers. We can regurgitate them at all the right moments. We can tell people who are having a rough time to "just have a little faith" or "God won't give you any more than you can handle." We can talk about how all the world is filled with sunshine and roses...but it's not.
The world is not all as it should be. There is ugliness and darkness and pain. Life is hard, and it hurts sometimes. Things happen that we don't have any way of explaining. There isn't enough "talk" to make these things right. There isn't enough "talk" to bring comfort to the hurting. There isn't enough "talk" to answer the million questions that race through our minds.
But, there is still a Kingdom with an almighty King sitting on the throne. God's power is greater than our questions, our pain, our struggles. Living in God's power is what it is about, and living in that power is the only way to bring even a glimpse of the Kingdom of God to this earth...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


death can be so inconvenient
you try to live and love
it comes and interrupts

Death interrupted just over a month ago. My beloved Grandpa passed away. I wasn't expecting it. No one was. I think I thought he could never die. And, really, he didn't. He just moved on. And it happened exactly how he would have wanted it to...working on his farm, with his hogs.
He worked harder than anyone I have ever met.
He was tough as nails (though you may not know it from the pink hat and giant shades).
He was full of wisdom and life and knowledge and love.
He is what legacies are made of.
And, he was mine for the last 25 years.
Inconvenient, yes. Blessed beyond words, absolutely.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Leaves. A few weeks ago I was wandering about Paris. It was stunning. I took an obscene number of photos of leaves. Yes, leaves.
Living in Cambodia, there is not much difference between seasons. The options are pretty much rainy or not, hot or hotter. At least those are the only weather seasonal shifts.
There are always seasons of life. I have always loved autumn for that reason. Autumn teaches us how to shift seasons well. Never has death looked so beautiful as orange and yellow and red. Summer is filled with sunshine and fun and happiness. Then, autumn comes sneaking in. It smells so good and feels so crisp and looks so beautiful that we forget all these things are signs of dying.
But, dying doesn't have to be ugly. Dying can be beautiful. Sure, the death itself is usually pretty ugly (think barren trees, gray skies, and brown grass). However, the ugliness is really just a precursor for the beauty around the corner.
It was such an unexpected blessing for me to be able to enjoy the beauty of autumn this year. I loved crunching through leaves in my boots. I loved sitting on a park bench with a scarf around my neck smelling roasted chestnuts. I loved watching the leaves flutter to the ground. I loved the brilliant glow of the sun as it set. And, I loved realizing that the changing of seasons is stunning and meant to be enjoyed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Some things in life are just awkward. I feel like maybe I am one of those things. And, for the most part, I am completely ok with being awkward, but sometimes awkward equates to difficult.
Nearly two years ago, I moved to Cambodia. For the first several weeks it was pretty awkward. I did not know where I was, where I was going, how to do simple tasks on my own. I did not understand what was being said around me. I was left in awe walking through the "meat" section at the "supermarket" seeing things like pig intestines and coagulated chicken blood. (Seriously, what do you even do with that stuff?!?!) I stuck out like a sore thumb everywhere I went with my white skin and pointed nose. I was perpetually stared at.
And, some of those things have not changed in the past two years. I still get stared at. I still stick out with my white skin (though I regularly get comments from Khmer friends about how "black" I am becoming). I still don't know what to do with coagulated chicken blood (but I think it is often put in soups...). But, I have learned to navigate my life here. I have learned how to weave through traffic, how to use the sidewalk as an extension of the road, how to effectively use cars as shields when making left turns. I have learned to find things on my own, to bargain in the market, to have full conversations with people. I have learned patience and flexibility and how sometimes it is necessary to push your way forward rather than wait in a non-existent line because I am the only one who gets offended when someone cuts in line. I have learned so many things that I can't articulate or explain, so many things that are only learned by firsthand experience.
Soon I will be in America to visit. And, I think I am going to be awkward...really awkward. I know that things will be familiar, but I am not sure they will feel "normal" anymore. Driving in lanes? Cold weather? Everyone speaking English? No Korean soap operas on television? Fixed prices? Aisles full of all different types of cereal?
I know it sounds silly. I spent 23 years with all of those things being completely normal, but they aren't anymore. So, bear with me in my awkwardness. Don't laugh at my wide-eyed awe in the cereal aisle. And, try not to roll your eyes at my rice cravings...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

the freedom project

This year CNN launched "The Freedom Project." It is an effort to bring attention to the issues of modern-day slavery and to get people thinking about what they can do to end it. There are many things being done around the world. And, this week happens to be about Cambodia, about places I know, about people I love, about things most people would rather not think about.

So, take a look here and pray with me for these beautiful people. Be forewarned that the content is intense.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Shoes are not worn inside homes in Cambodia. The results of this include shoes of choice being of the "easy on, easy off" variety (usually flip flops), and it usually means that you can guess how many people are inside a house based on the size of the shoe pile in front of the door.
I will admit that one of my subtle fears in living here has always been that I will come outside and my shoes will have disappeared.
This week my fear came true. After my language lesson the other day I walked to the door to slip on my favorite pair of black flip flops only to find that they were gone. There is a huge gate and several parked motorbikes between the front door and the outside world, which meant that another student or teacher had walked off with my shoes. And, as soon as I looked at the shoe rack, I knew it was true. There was a pair of black flip flops sitting on the shoe rack out front, but they were not mine. They were close in size, but they didn't fit my feet properly. There were no little teeth-marks where a friend's puppy had attempted to steal them from me over a year ago. They were not mine. *sigh*
But, sometimes it doesn't hurt to walk around in someone else's shoes for awhile. Sometimes it makes us realize just how someone else feels, how they see the world. Sometimes it is really easy to grow accustomed to our own shoes, to the way they have molded to fit our feet, to the calluses that have developed in all the right places, to the comfort and familiarity. Walking in someone else's shoes can be awkward and uncomfortable, but maybe it is ok to get a little bit awkward and uncomfortable sometimes, maybe when our feet go places they have never before been, our eyes and hearts and hands will go to new places, too.
And, here's to hoping that I can swap back my shoes on Monday...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Honestly, I don't think of myself as naive or extremely gullible or unwise.
But, I do think of myself as someone who chooses to believe the good in people rather than the evil. I really try not to make quick judgments or sweeping generalizations about people. I take great effort in really trying to understand people and learn rather than go about thinking I have it all figured out. Admittedly, I fail at this sometimes. Sometimes I make false assumptions. Sometimes I am sure that I know the best way to do something...and I don't. Sometimes I just get carried away.
Ok, so that sets the groundwork for my thoughts today.
I have lived in Cambodia for nearly 2 years, and even before I arrived, I was repeatedly warned about the selfishness and ugliness of Cambodians. I chose to just take the warnings in stride and employ wisdom. I had no plans of staying out until all hours of the night (or morning). I knew that I should watch my purse regardless of what country I live in. I was aware that my white skin was pretty nearly every time require me to pay more in the markets. All those things were ok.
But, as I try to be a positive person, it bothers me when I hear so many stories about people having their purses stolen or pulled off their motos at night or having their phones and wallet stolen if they are in a traffic accident. I know those things happen. I know people to whom they have happened. They happen everywhere. They happen in all big cities. And, thankfully, they have never happened to me.
Instead, I have had Khmer people run out to the street with iodine and gauze when I have fallen off my moto, saying "I clean for you. You go to doctor. Doctor help." I have had sellers in the market give me the "Cambodian price" and throw in extras because I "stay here long time." I have had Khmer friends drive alongside me to get home at night if they think it is too late. I have friends who have passed out on the street and rather than raiding their purses, people stopped, rubbed their temples vehemently with tiger balm (as you do) and called the last number dialed on their phones in hopes of finding a friend.
And just today, I walked outside the gym (sweaty and smelly) to find that my moto would not start. I tried to start it. The young Khmer girl who works at the gym came out to help me. But, our attempts to kickstart the bike were fruitless. So, I called a friend to come meet me (and bring me money because I didn't have enough to pay a mechanic on me) so I could take my bike to the mechanic. As I was waiting, three Khmer men (moto-taxi and tuk tuk drivers) came over and offered their assistance. They all looked at the bike intently, tried to start it, attempted to kickstart it, tried to push start it. They told me that in their expert opinions that it was possibly a problem with my battery. After my friend arrived, I asked the men where the closest mechanic was and they pointed to the end of the next block. (There are "mechanic" shops everywhere along the side of the road.) I pushed my bike down the street, and looked expectantly at this small man who had been changing the oil in a Toyota Camry. After a few futile efforts, he also concluded that it was likely a problem with my battery, but unfortunately, he couldn't fix it for me because he works mainly on cars. He points on down the road to the next place. So, I push my bike on. Before finding another mechanic, I get to a fairly main street and look around, not seeing where to turn. Fortunately, a group of moto-taxi drivers are gathered near the street corner and see me pushing my bike. They call to me, asking if I have run out of gas. I inform them that I have gas but that my moto won't start, that maybe there is a problem with my battery. So, with five of them gathered around, they again make several futile attempts to start my bike and conclude that indeed there is a problem with the battery. (I am still doubtful that any of these men know anything about the actual mechanics of a motorbike.) One of the guys tells me to hop on my bike and he will push me to the mechanic down the street. He is not planning to push my bike himself but rather drive his moto slightly behind me with his foot on my exhaust pipe pushing me down the street. And, hey, it was not as terrifying as I thought it might be! And, after the mechanic finally looked at my bike and changed my sparkplug (I think. I don't claim to actually know anything about the mechanics of a motorbike either.), I was out $3.25 and a good hour and a half. But, I was so blessed by those men. I was blessed with their willingness to help me, without expecting anything. I was blessed that I was able to talk to them and understand them. I was so thankful for their help because without it I may still be pushing my motorbike through the streets of Phnom Penh.
So, maybe some would call it naivete that allows me to see the good in people, to not always assume that people are out to exploit me or steal my purse, but I think I would rather be naive and thankful than suspicious and judgmental.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

malaysian madness!

A couple of weeks ago I took a vacation to Malaysia with a few friends. It was so nice to get away and have some fun in a beautiful country with green parks and beautiful beaches and jungle and shopping malls...and delicious food. We pretty much ate our way through Malaysia, and it was amazing!
There were four of us that explored Kuala Lumpur for a day and a half before we headed in opposite directions to beaches!
Chinatown offered some fun and laughs!
And, we felt like we spend much of our time in KL waiting for buses, so what else do you do when you sit at the bus stop for 30+ minutes? Take crazy posed photos, of course!
Our experiences in Little India were less than amazing... I was at least in a good enough humor to smile about how our orders of diet coke somehow turned into tin cups of beer, but Kelly was less than amused after hours of searching for where to buy bus tickets and putting off lunch until 3pm! (And, we did have to pay for the beer we did not want or drink...and never got our diet cokes...)
Danielle and I actually have an embarrassing amount of photos with poses very similar to this one. This was at the top of the KL tower, looking out over the city.
After a couple days in KL, Danielle and I took a bus to Penang where we stayed with a very gracious family. We explored Georgetown and stumbled across some amazing Cafe Amelie. It was the cutest vintage cafe!!
We took a jungle hike...
...that ended on a beautiful beach.
And, we just wandered and relaxed and had an amazing time of refreshing!
Malaysia is a land of incredible diversity. It was so interesting to walk down the streets surrounded by Chinese women wearing stiletto heels next to Arabic women in burkhas with Indian men selling curry and roti in a corner shop. It is such a unique taste of Asia, and one that I was glad to experience.
But, I will say that as nice as it was to have a holiday, it was even better to arrive home again. I love the feeling of flying into a familiar place with a language I understand (most of the time), with sights I know. Oh, Cambodia, how you have wrecked me...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

new grip

"So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong." Hebrews 12:12-13

Have you ever had the experience of reading through your highlighted, marked up, scrawled in Bible and discovering a gem that is completely untouched?
I had that feeling earlier this week as I was reading a passage in Hebrews. I will admit that I tend to be a person who errs on the side of over-highlighting in my Bible. People often look at my Bible and ask if I left any verses un-shaded. I just can't help myself. It is all so wonderful and powerful and alive!!!! It gets me excited! Anyway, back to my point. I was reading through a passage in Hebrews, and somehow I had highlighted all around these verses but left these out of the fanatical coloring. As I read them over again, I was shocked that I wouldn't have colored them and underlined them and made notes in the margins around them!
Because taking a new grip with my tired hands and strengthening my weak knees is something I have to do daily. I will be the first to admit that I am completely unqualified to do what I do, that I have so much to learn, that I am just trying to fumble my way through life in an effort to help more often than I hurt. I don't want others to fall as they try to follow my wild and crazy path. I want to make the path straight and clear, that others may be strengthened, empowered, encouraged.
So, as I read these verses, I wanted to shout, "YES!" Tired hands and weak knees. I have those. But, sometimes a new grip makes all the difference, and that is where I am right now. I am taking up a new grip on life, a new grip on my work, a new grip on what I do in Cambodia, a new grip in my relationships with others, a new grip on my Savior. And, the path is becoming straighter and the strength is washing over me...

And, if you are wondering, there are now marginal notations surrounding these verses.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I recently read To Kill a Mockingbird again. It is one of my favorite novels. It is chock-full of wisdom and insight and beauty and truth. I think if I could choose any literary character to sit down and have a chat with it would be Atticus Finch. In the book, Atticus shares about what courage really means.
"Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do."
Sometimes I find myself hesitating to stand up for truth, not wanting to make unpopular decisions even when they are the right ones. Sometimes I find myself feeling defeated before I even begin. Sometimes I want to shy back and just prepare in advance to lick my wounds. Sometimes I wonder if it is worth the effort and heartache of fighting when it seems that the results have already been determined.
Yet, I find myself fighting on. Sometimes I feel like I am skillfully wielding a sword, slaying my enemies. Sometimes I feel like I am crouching behind my shield, just trying to avoid the major blows. And, most times, I am somewhere in between.
"I can't just fight when I think I'll win...that's the end of all belief." ~ sara groves
And so, I fight on because sometimes you do win...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

coping mechanisms

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a foreign land?
I dreamed of living in a foreign land from the time I was young. I envisioned myself in a dusty village with grass huts and red dirt roads. I imagined myself carrying baskets on my head and wrapped in colorful sarongs.
But, that is not exactly where I have found myself. Instead, I live in a dusty city with thousands of motorbikes, cars, tuk tuks, and the occasional ox cart battling for space on the roads plagued with giant pot holes. I do not carry baskets on my head, but I do often have a backpack strapped on my shoulders. I can more often be found in jeans and flip flops than in colorful sarongs (ok, let's be honest...I never wear sarongs, though some women do).
It is not what I expected, but I love it. I have grown and changed so much as I have lived in a foreign land that no longer feels so foreign. I have learned to live here, and live here well.
And, one thing I have learned is new coping mechanisms. Coping mechanisms are things we use to handle stress and difficult situations. When I was living in America, I had a myriad of coping mechanisms that I employed when life was stressful. I remember coming home many times after a stressful day at work and making a beeline toward my running shoes. After a 3 or 4 mile run, the world was a better place. Or, when my mind was filled with thoughts and questions, I could get into my car, crank up the radio, and roll down the windows, and even if answers did not come, life was happier. And, I have also been known to aimlessly walk about bookstores or Target or dollar stores and pick up various items I don't need and then circle the store placing all the unnecessary items back on the shelves and leave with nothing. Why? I don't know. Sometimes I just like looking at things and thinking and dreaming and not having to talk to anyone.
But, none of those things are options here. It is dangerous to run in the afternoons with the crazy traffic. While I love driving my motorbike, there is not a whole lot of open road on which to drive. And, well, stores are just different here...and people follow you around the store (literally follow about 3 feet behind you). So, I have had to learn some new coping mechanisms, and in the process, I have found that I have become a much more patient, more tolerant, more loving person. I have become slower to anger, more relaxed. I have become more dependent on the Lord because I realize how much is entirely out of my control.
So, what are my new coping mechanisms? I think they are continually changing, but I would probably place early (like 5:15am) morning runs, coffee (there are worse things, right?), and much to my chagrin...facebook. However, I find that above all other things I am daily realizing my need to be vitally united to Christ, to seek Him in all things, to glorify Him with the way I live wherever I live.

"I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from the vital union with Me] you can do nothing." John 15:5

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

eyes to see

I want to have eyes to see. I have prayed to have eyes to see. To see people. To see needs. To see truth. To see justice. To see beauty. To see pain. To see love.
And, I know that God has heard my prayer.

I am blessed. I know this. I don't doubt it. Sure, I have "suffered" at different times in my life, but God is faithful. I can push through difficult times and endure suffering because I am confident of God's goodness. I want to be like Paul when he says, "Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little" (Philippians 4:11-12). Contentedness is something I feel I maintain most of the time. My feathers just don't get ruffled about too many things. Traffic jams? No big's good to slow down sometimes. Ants in my cereal? Just stick it in the fridge...they'll die. Sweating through my clothes for the 6th time in a single day? At least I have a shower with running water.
But, there is one thing that really stirs me up, one thing that really grinds my gears. It makes my blood pressure rise. It makes my palms sweaty. It might even make steam come out of my ears. I get incredibly upset when I see others suffering unjust treatment. It has bothered me for as long as I can remember. As an elementary school student, I remember being confused and upset when teachers treated other students poorly. Teachers tended to like me because I listened and obeyed well, always finished my homework on time and correctly, and was willing to help others. So, I don't ever remember being treated badly by a teacher. I do, however, remember other students being called inappropriate names, having their desks taken away from them (and given a cardboard box to put their schoolbooks and supplies in while they sat on the floor), being accused of cheating without any grounds, and being humiliated in front of their classmates for asking questions.
Those things upset me then. I remember praying for a long time that God would heap other people's pain on me, that I could take it, that they should not have to suffer, that I would still trust Him regardless of what happened to me.
I think that I had hoped that maybe as I grew older, I would find more justice in the world, that my eyes would see more joy and less pain.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case. I do see joy. I see it everyday. I feel it everyday. But, I also encounter injustice. People are still called inappropriate, shameful names. People have their homes ripped away from them. (Check out this link.) People are still accused of things they did not do. People are still publicly humiliated. People still stuffer unjustly. And, it still upsets me. Every. Single. Day.

O, LORD, may I always have eyes to see people as You see them...and a heart to love them as You love them...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

inside out

"The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ would take the slums out of people, and then they would take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature." ~ Ezra Taft Benson

God changes hearts. He just does. I am living proof of this. He gave me a heart of flesh for my heart of stone. That is how He works. He starts on the inside and moves outward.
Romans 10: 9-10 says, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved."
Heart. That is where change happens, where belief happens. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I have been thinking about how Jesus lived and interacted with people, about how He chose to help. And, I have wondered what Jesus would do now, what Jesus would do when faced with the things I see before me. Jesus does not fit into a nice little box. He cannot be pegged. He cannot be generalized. Why? I think it is because He saw people. He saw people from the inside out. He did not see lepers and thieves and prostitutes and officials. He saw hearts. When Jesus saves, He doesn't take people out of the sin. Rather, He takes the sin out of the people. There is a difference.
When you take people out of the sin, nothing happens on the inside of them. They just learn to live in a trouble-free bubble...if such a thing existed. But, when you take the sin out of the people, their hearts are changed. They see the world differently. Just ask Zacchaeus.
"Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, He looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name, "Zacchaeus!" He said. "Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today." Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. "He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner," they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, "I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!" Jesus responded, "Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost." ~ Luke 19:1-10

Zacchaeus was changed from the inside out. His heart changed first. He had an encounter with the Savior of the world, and He was forever changed. Jesus never asked him to give money away or make amends with those he cheated. Jesus didn't have to ask. Jesus cares about our hearts, and when our hearts are after Him, our outside reflects that. Jesus is far more interested in taking the slums out of people because then the people will walk right out of the slums.

"The LORD doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." ~ 1 Samuel 16:7b

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Today is September 14. And, as I looked at the date this morning, I remembered.
I remembered an amazing woman.
My Great Grandma Lola was born on September 14, 1904. And, I am confident that the world changed for the better on that day.
She lived the most extraordinary life doing maybe some of the most ordinary things--playing sheet music at the local dimestore, learning to drive her father's car at the age of 14, raising 2 children and gaining 5 more, crocheting and giving away more afghans than should be humanly possible, loving grandchildren and great grandchildren and great great grandchildren.
I have great memories with her. I remember dancing to old records in my grandparents' family room. I remember staring into a painting of a lake together and imagining stories of mermaids and friendly sea monsters.
I remember sitting next to her on the porch swing at her old house on Lynn Avenue, looking at the flowers and listening to her stories.
I remember where the secret candy drawer was. I remember her wall of cards and family pictures. I remember never being able to sneak out the door without a hug and a kiss.
I remember watching her live with a deep love of people. I remember that she never met a stranger.
She left a legacy. She had such an amazing impact on so many people, and I know that her influence on me has helped to shape me into the person I am now. I have had people compare me with her before, saying that we are similar in some ways, and that is one of the greatest compliments I could ever receive. I sincerely hope that I am able to love and to influence as she did. I count it such an honor to have such a wonderful woman of God as my great grandmother, and I hope that someday I am able to leave a legacy behind that will honor her and, more importantly, honor our God.

I want to leave a legacy
how will they remember me?
did I choose to love?
did I point to you enough to make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
a child of mercy and grace who
blessed Your name unapologetically
and leave that kind of legacy
~ nichole nordeman, "legacy"

Monday, September 12, 2011


Cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream.
Desserts are, uh, a bit different in Cambodia.
On Saturday I went to see a movie with a Khmer friend.
*Side note: Cambodia just got its first movie theater in July--a real movie theater with cushy seats and popcorn and non-pirated movies.
Ok, back to the story. After my friend and I watched Cars 2 in 3-D, we decided we should have a snack. As we wandered through the "mall food court" (it does not look anything like what you are picturing), she pointed to a stall and asked if I had ever had those. Now, I knew they were supposed to be desserts. And, I was not entirely sure what they were or what constituted the dark syrupy stuff over them. But, I had a a pretty good hunch that there were potatoes. Yes, potatoes. (I forgot to take my camera, so you will just have to imagine with me for now.)
My friend assured me that I was correct. And, she proceeded to buy a plate of a mixture of 4 different desserts, including two different types of potato, taro, and some banana, all with different syrups and coconut on top.
I will be honest. While one might think the banana would be the tastiest to the American palate, I think it was my least favorite. The potatoes were yummy!!! There was one that was served kind of caramelized. It was delicious!
So, I may have been converted into thinking that potatoes can be a good choice for dessert, but I am not sure I will ever voluntarily choose the ever-popular coconut milk "pudding" with corn, mushrooms, and other unique choices for my after-dinner delight.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Sometimes I feel like this is a good word to describe my life.
Side by side. This is how things go. My personal space bubble has grown much smaller since living in Asia. Many things are just close together, sometimes very close together. I remember the first time I realized that it was not in the least bit awkward to scoot myself up against a strange man who was driving a motorbike taxi so that my friend could squeeze on behind me without her rear end completely hanging off the back of the seat. I stand closer to people in lines now because I have learned that if you leave even the slightest gap that someone will cut in front of you. I have grown accustomed to touching the people sitting on either side of me at church, despite the fact that we have separate chairs. Yes, side by side is a normal thing to me.

But, sometimes side by side is not so comfortable. Sometimes side by side is never something that you get used to. Sometimes side by side reveals only contrast. Sometimes side by side is a barefoot child trying to sell flowers to the driver of a Lexus at a stoplight. Sometimes side by side is a family living in a fishing boat next to a new eco-resort. Sometimes side by side is a woman finding treasures in my garbage.
Sometimes side by side is floating wooden houses just a couple miles from artistic latte pours.
Sometimes I wonder what God thinks of juxtaposition. Sometimes I wonder if He intentionally places contrasting things side by side. Why? Maybe so we can see the ridiculousness of the grandiose. Maybe so we can be appalled by the injustices. Maybe so we just stop and remember that regardless of our differences or preferences we are living side by side.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


There are some things in life that just ooze an indescribable beauty, an inexpressible joy, an incomprehensible love. This little girl is one of those things.
She is my friend's daughter. I was visiting my friend a couple weeks ago, and as we were chatting, this vibrant little girl began pulling all of the kitchen staples from the shelves, all of the spoons, a pile of wooden chopsticks, and even a few random flip flops. She announced to us that she was a 'neyeck looah' (seller). Then, she held up a spoon, looked at me with the most serious face and told me that the spoon was 3000 riel (75 cents), ok? I told her that was too expensive and asked if 1000 riel was ok. She refused to drop her price. Instead, she picked up a smaller spoon and asked for the same price. Shrewd businesswoman, that one.

But, spoons. I have been thinking about them lately. Some people are born with silver ones in their mouths. Some people aren't. Some people have spoons on the less fancy side, or even the disposable side. Some people opt for chopsticks instead of spoons. Some people prefer to use their hands and some bread as a scoop. It is interesting to me how our "spoon" choices can sometimes divide us. I think sometimes we are dreadfully afraid of diversity, of change, of something new. We are content to be around people who are just like us, who use the same spoons we do. Is it because we don't want to be embarrassed when we don't know which of the 12 spoons on the table to use? (Just start from the outside and work your way in...thanks Pretty Woman.) Is it because we are afraid we are too clumsy to use chopsticks? (Practice makes perfect.) Is it because we don't want to get our hands messy? (Allow me to introduce you to a little something called soap and water...) Perhaps there are many reasons spoons cause us anxiety, whether we realize it or not. But, really, spoons are not meant to be a point of division. Spoons are about scooping and combining and stirring and including.
So, that and 3000 riel will buy you a spoon from this precious child...
3000 riel, ok?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


A large crowd soon gathered around Him, so He got into a boat. Then He sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore. He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: 'Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn't have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.' Matthew 13:2-9

Last Saturday I joined some of the teachers and other students at my language school for a field trip to the countryside. We drove about an hour and a half outside of the city to a beautiful village. I LOVE the Cambodian countryside. Really, I love any countryside. As a child I took for granted that I lived among green grass, clean air, wildflowers, crickets chirping, starry skies. I never thought too much about the sensation of mud squishing between my toes or about the art of being able to identify poison ivy from several yards away. And, I didn't realize how important those things are to me, how life-giving they are to me until I moved to a city. A city with few trees and lots of concrete. A city that regularly smells of sewage and where grass is for looking at not for walking on.
All that to say, I was excited for the opportunity to get out of the city and see some green. The added bonus was that we were going to be learning more about the rice-planting process...and maybe even do a bit of sowing ourselves!
I love the simplicity of country living in Cambodia. I mean, why not take your cattle for a walk through the neighbors' yard while they sit outside and a snack of green mango dipped in chili salt? And, they will probably share with you while you pass by!
After learning a bit more about the rice planting process, Muyteang and I are heading toward the rice paddy, which we were assured was both leech- and snake-free!
Dany wanted a picture, too!
I love the brilliant green of rice paddies. This field was already planted. Gorgeous!
Our rice-planting instructors demonstrating proper technique. Be sure to roll your pants up well!
Much of the rice-planting done in Cambodia is done without the aid of machinery. The majority of farmers cannot afford modern machinery, so it is a lot of hard work. My understanding of the whole process is a bit limited, but I will explain to you the process as I understand it. At the beginning of the rainy season, fields are plowed, typically using a team of oxen and manual plow. Seeds are then sown in one field, or part of a field. After about a month, the seedlings are uprooted, tied into bundles (like the ones in the picture above), and transported to the other fields, which have been plowed and prepared for the seedlings. The seedlings are then planted in rows in the WET fields with enough space for them to grow and spread. This transplanting process is what we were doing last week. After this, the seedlings will grow for another 3-6 months, depending on the type of rice, before being harvested. There is the very brief version of (my understanding) rice-planting.
So, after our demonstration by the local experts, we slipped off our shoes, hiked up our pants, and in we went!
My friend Becki and I were hard at work, but our teacher Anin had a few suggestions for us.
Some children from around the village came out to watch all the foreigners try their hands at rice-planting.
I am pretty sure this hat made all the difference in my rice-planting abilities.
And, seriously, how can you not fall in love with this beautiful land? God certainly did make some beautiful countryside in Cambodia!
After about 20 minutes of planting and feeling as though we had made enough crooked rows in this poor auntie's rice field, we waded out of the rice field, washed off the mud, and walked back to the village church where we played Khmer games together, chatted with the local kids, ate rice (what else?!?) together, and visited some homes in the village before heading back to the city. It was a beautiful day! It was such a great experience to share in something, even if for a short time, that is so much a part of people's lives here. And, I was reminded of the importance of intentionally sowing seeds in fertile soil. It is such a painstaking process to produce a great harvest of rice, but the returns are amazing. The Kingdom of God is no different. Sometimes sowing seeds is a painstaking process, but the returns are well worth the work and the time. Because God has the perfect place in His Kingdom for ones just like these...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


During my language lesson today my teacher and I shared our testimonies. For the past several weeks, we have been talking about Bible stories and praying and talking about how Jesus changes hearts and lives. I have shared parts of my testimony with her before, but we really talked about it today, and she asked me questions. She asked about difficult times in my life, about what things occurred in my life to bring me to a place of really believing and trusting Jesus, about how I knew Jesus was real. And, as I shared with her, I was reminded of this post that I wrote more than a year ago. I was reminded of my scars. I was reminded of how much God changes hearts, how He changed my heart and still does. I was reminded about how much I prayed that God would take away my scars...and He said no.
I remember being baffled as I cried out to the Lord to take away my scars, especially my self-inflicted ones, and He refused. I knew He was more than capable of doing something so small.
But, He said no.
Many times throughout the Old Testament people built altars to the Lord. They often served as reminders of God's faithfulness,of God's goodness, of God's promises. And, even though these reminders were built, they were not usually enough to prevent the people from forgetting. God knows us all too well. He knows we are merely dust and have the memories of goldfish sometimes. And, it seems that many times we have an impeccable memory when it comes to things we should forget but cannot seem to recall the things we should store in the very front of our memory banks. Maybe that is why Proverbs 7:3 says, "Tie them [God's commands] on your fingers as a reminder." God knows that if we don't attach them, they will be forgotten.
And, so, He said no to taking away my scars. He told me that I needed them. He told me that they were my "altar." He told me that they were my forever reminder of His faithfulness, of His goodness, of His promises. They are attached to me, and I cannot forget them.

And, besides, in God's hands the pain and hurt look less like scars and more like character...
Thanks, Sara Groves.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


"A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other....It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have." 1 Corinthians 12: 7, 11

Gifts. We all have gifts. We all have God-given abilities. We all have hopes, desires, dreams. We all want to do something or to become something. We all want to do something that we love, something that makes our hearts leap with joy, something that brings us satisfaction and peace. Right?
I have been thinking a lot about what gifts God has given me, about what abilities I have. Now, I want to preface what I say with stating that I believe God can do anything through even the most unlikely vessel. He enables and equips even when it makes no sense to our carnal minds. I can attest to this in so many ways in my own life. "God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful." (1 Thessalonians 5:24) If God says to do it, He will make it possible for you to do it, whatever "it" may be.
But, God also distributes gifts to us. He loves us so much that He has gifted every person in unique and individual ways that His Kingdom might be furthered, that more may know His name. And, there is no greater joy than to know the Creator of the universe, the Lover of souls. While I do think the primary reason that God has gifted us is for His glory, I also think it is because He loves us, because He desires good things for us, because He has abundant life planned for us, because He wants joy to overflow in our hearts. As I seek to develop the gifts God has placed inside of me, I find so much joy, so much peace. I have spent a lot of time over the past several weeks and months meditating on what gifts God has given me, trying to sift through the desires of my flesh and the desires of my spirit, which desperately wants to honor my Father. And, over the course of the last several weeks, I have had several dreams and gifts re-awakened in my life. Many times it has come in unexpected ways--conversing with a friend, coming out on the other side of difficult trial, sitting in silence with the Lord, reading Truth, seizing opportunities. When I sit back and observe what has taken place, I am awestruck. I am simply amazed at how God has worked everything in me together for His good. His gifts are good.
"You fathers--if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Of if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him." Luke 11: 11-13
God understands what it means to give good gifts to His children.

So, God's gifts are good. But, there is this part of me that has been wondering if it is wrong or selfish or silly of me to focus my energy on only pursuing the use of those gifts that bring me joy and satisfaction. As a follower of Jesus, shouldn't I be willing to do anything? Shouldn't I be willing to joyfully clean toilets every day of my life, knowing that I am working as to the Lord and not as to men? Shouldn't I be willing to step up and "do what needs to be done" because there doesn't seem to be anyone else doing it? Shouldn't I just humble myself a little more and ignore that this isn't what I thought I signed up for? It is all part of dying to yourself, right? It is all part of taking up that cross daily, right?
Or, is it?
The flip side? Does God enable me to do things well that He has not called me to do? I mean, I know that I can fumble my way through things. Given some time and direction, I can figure most things out, and I might even be able to do something competently. (This would be where my determined spirit comes in handy.) But, simply because I can do something competently, that does not mean it is what I want to do or would choose to do or is what I should be doing. And, as I have been thinking through all of these things, weighing out (and repenting for) my own selfishness, desiring to please my God first and foremost, making choices that have not been popular, I have come back to this.
"Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, 'I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,' that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, 'I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,' would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where He wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, 'I don't need you.' The head can't say to the feet, 'I don't need you.'...If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad." 1 Corinthians 12: 14-21, 26
Selah. Pause. Calmly think of that.

If God has distributed us as the parts of His body, if He has put each part where He wants it, if He has deemed all parts necessary, why are we striving to "serve" in positions He never intended for us to be in? A foot will never be sufficient as a hand. Sure, you might be able to adapt and learn to do some things that a hand can do. Maybe you learn to pick quarters up with your toes. Maybe you can learn to press the volume controls on the television. But, you will never be a hand. It will never be natural to do things a hand does...because you were never supposed to. And, so long as you are striving to figure out how to do what the hand is supposed to do, you are not able to do the job of the foot that you have been appointed to do, gifted to do, enabled to do. Additionally, the hand is not able to do what it has been gifted to do...because your striving, your desire for control, your selfishness has crowded out and silenced the hand's gift to the body. It is not wrong to choose to operate in the gifts God has given to us. It is best. There is nothing wrong with joyfully scrubbing toilets. There is nothing wrong with sitting in a cubicle analyzing endless data. There is nothing wrong with teaching children to read and write. There is nothing wrong with planting and harvesting rice and corn and wheat. There is nothing wrong with offering listening ears to those in distress. There is nothing wrong because it is right, it is true, it is what God intended...

Father, forgive us for our striving that has not honored the gifts You have given us, and forgive us for all the ways we have disabled our other parts...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Bread. It is arguable that the house in which I grew up was never without bread. It was typically an accompaniment to a meal, if not the basis for the meal. There are so many ways to eat bread. It is a great filler, a great way to supplement some meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Bread is a staple, which must always be kept on hand.
At least that is what I grew up believing.
And then I moved to Asia. The land of rice. And, somehow over the last year and a half I have grown to love rice. Rice has replaced my bread. It is a rare occasion for me to have bread at home, which could potentially be attributed to the fact that sometimes within minutes of bread entering the house a swarm of ants has laid siege or the extreme humidity causes bread to go stale and mold in about a day. But, I do love rice, and it is a rare day for there to not be rice in my house.
And I have been reading Exodus. Manna. God provided the Israelites with manna. What is this? That is the exact question the Israelites asked. Manna was the substance that God gave to sustain the Israelites, to fill their bellies, to accompany their meat and veggies. There was always enough. The shelves of Heaven were always stocked.

And now I read the newspaper. I view pictures. I have a deep ache in my heart...over this.
Where is the bread? Where is the rice? Where is the manna?
There isn't enough. The bread box is empty. The rice sack is void of a single grain.
People are starving. Beautiful, beautiful people are dying. Mothers and fathers. Sons and daughters.

I have a terribly difficult time reconciling all of this in my mind and heart. How can it be that there is so much bread, so much that gets discarded at the end of every day? How can it be that there is so much rice, so much that gets heaped on my plate? How can it be that I have watched so many people dig through garbage in hopes of finding some of that "old" bread or "wasted" rice to satisfy the rumbles of their stomachs? How can it be that there are little girls and stooped grandfathers whose skin cracks and hair falls out because there is no bread? How can it be that there are baby boys and wrinkled grandmas whose eyes are sunken and ribs protrude because the rice is gone?

How can this reality be so far from my own?

I ache for these people. With all that is in me, I want to help them. I want to offer them my rice, my bread. But, I wonder if my bread will make any difference.

"As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, 'Take it, for this is my body.'" Mark 14:22

Broken bread. Jesus, the bread of life, broke Himself to pieces. He always broke the bread because one single loaf might feed a hungry little boy, but broken to pieces, a single loaf can feed thousands. I am not sure if this post is really about bread or about brokenness, but one thing I do know is that the shelves of Heaven are still stocked...

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Redemption. This word, this concept, this gift has been on my mind a lot lately. I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to wrap my mind and heart around it. It is so big, so all-encompassing, so free.
O Israel, hope in the LORD;
for with the LORD there is unfailing love.
His redemption overflows.
He Himself will redeem Israel from every kind of sin.
Psalm 130:7-8
Unfailing. Overflowing.
That is how my God operates. He only does things in abundance. He consistently overwhelms. He restores completely...and then adds some on for good measure.
I have been taking a look at the book of Exodus, at the lives of Moses and the Israelites, at the faithfulness of God, at the deliverance of God's chosen people. And, as I have been reading and studying and meditating, I have been learning so much about what true redemption looks like. Somehow in all of my previous study I have overlooked some profound gifts the LORD gave to the Israelites, some beautiful ways that He provided for His beloved children. He never forgets. He notes every detail.
And, the following is something that I love, love, love about God's provision...
And I will cause the Egyptians to look favorably on you. They will give you gifts when you go so you will not leave empty-handed. Every Israelite woman will ask for articles of silver and gold and fine clothing from her Egyptian neighbors and from the foreign women in their houses. You will dress your sons and daughters with these, stripping the Egyptians of their wealth. Exodus 3:21-22
Seriously, God? The oppressors are really going to look favorably upon their slaves, sending them out of their country with all of their silver and gold and wealth? That is really hard to believe...
And the people of Israel did as Moses had instructed; they asked the Egyptians for clothing and articles of silver and gold. The LORD caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the Israelites, and they gave the Israelites whatever they asked for. So they stripped the Egyptians of their wealth! Exodus 12:35-36
Yes, seriously. Redemption. The Israelites must have looked like some kind of procession leaving Egypt, having replaced their shackles with solid gold bangles. The juxtaposition of their fine robes next to their dark, leathery skin probably evoked a bit of confusion among those they met on the road. Their sun-kissed skin and calloused hands would be a sure sign that they were laborers, that they were not strangers to hard work under the hot sun, that they were likely property of another. But, their fine clothing would suggest something quite different, something like redemption.
But, it seems that as time marches on we forget the blessed redemption in our lives. We turn aside. We avert our eyes, searching for something different. And, when we do, life somehow blows up in our face. This is not a new occurrence.
When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. 'Come on,' they said, 'make us some gods who can lead us. We don't know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.' So Aaron said, ' Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.' All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, 'O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!' Exodus 32:1-4
Fail. It happens to the best of us. We are really excited. We are marching on the right path, wearing our fine clothes and beautiful jewels, walking in freedom. And, then, life explodes. Things are taking too long. Things are not going the way we planned. Surely, things need to change. And, so, we try to force our own change...sometimes using the very abundance God gave us when He redeemed us from our past errors. Have you ever wondered where the Israelites came up with all these gold rings? Yes, Egypt. God brought them out of their oppression wearing crowns of victory...that they then melted down into a worthless idol.
I want to shake my head at their foolishness. I want to judge their stupidity. I want to (not so gently) remind them from where they have come. I want to implore them to have patience, to wait on the LORD, to remember how He has saved them, to hold fast to His promises, to don their gold rings as a reminder of God's redemption.
But, who am I?
How many times have I forsaken the redemption that is mine? How many times have I forced my own way? How many times have I melted down my reminders and shaped them into something I felt I could better understand, something I could wrap my mind around? How many times have I looked back and thought, "Maybe that wasn't so bad. And, the future looks too hard, so maybe I will just try to squeeze myself back into that familiar place where at least I know what to expect"? How many times have I rushed ahead and wasted opportunities and gifts? How many times have I questioned how this wilderness could possibly be where God wants me to be?
When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, 'At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, 'Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.' So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.' But his father said to the servants, 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.' So the party began. Luke 15:17-24
There are those fine clothes and gold rings again...

Monday, August 1, 2011

rainy afternoons

I love rainy afternoons, provided that I don't have to go anywhere, of course. I like to listen to the drops ping, to watch puddles grow, to smell the crisp air, to feel the mist and breeze. I like to pick up a good book and a hot cup of tea and just enjoy it. I like to bake cookies. I like to just be. Rainy afternoons are good for my soul, and there have been a lot of them over the last few weeks.
But, like all things, rainy afternoons lose their luster after awhile.
I know there are some things in which I am a creature of habit, but I don't normally think I am prone to extremes. I find that I never have answers when asked extreme questions.
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Do you think you will live in Cambodia forever?
What is the BEST book you have ever read?
What is your favorite thing to do?
If you could do anything for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
I don't have good answers to any of those questions. Do others really have answers to these questions? There is so much that I don't know, so much that I want to know. How could I possibly choose one food to eat forever when there are so many that I have yet to try? My favorite thing to do? There are so many factors that come into play. The rest of my life? I don't really want that kind of pressure in my life. I will be satisfied to know about tomorrow.
There are seasons in life. There always have been.
for everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
a time to be born and a time to die.
a time to plant and a time to harvest.
a time to kill and a time to heal.
a time to tear down and a time to build up.
a time to cry and a time to laugh.
a time to grieve and a time to dance.
a time to scatter stones and time to gather stones.
a time to embrace and a time to turn away.
a time to search and a time to quit searching.
a time to keep and a time to throw away.
a time to tear and a time to mend.
a time to be quiet and a time to speak.
a time to love and a time to hate.
a time for war and a time for peace.
ecclesiastes 3:1-8
And, right now, it is the season of rainy afternoons. It is a season of change for me, a season of transition. And, I may get tired of the rainy afternoons before the sunshine returns, but my God remains the same. His goodness and faithfulness does not change. And, so, I will welcome the rainy afternoons and rejoice both in this season and in the one to come...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


God is speaking.
He is speaking to my heart. He is challenging me. He is loving me. He is changing me.
I didn't expect to be in this place, but here I am. And, it is good because God is here. And, it is difficult but God is here.
"As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord's feet, listening to what He taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, 'Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.' But the Lord said to her, 'My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.'" Luke 10:38-42
The truth is that I am God's beloved child above all else. I am His. He has a lot to teach me, to show me, to speak to me. And, I don't want to be too distracted to listen. I want to be quiet before the Lord. I want to listen to Him speak.
I tend to be a slow reactor to things. I like to think things through. I like to choose my words carefully. I typically do not make quick decisions, and even though it may look like that from the outside sometimes, it is often something that began stirring in me long before others may know.
And, I am confident that I am on the brink of a new season, and I keep hearing,
"Shhhh... I am speaking. You need to listen and listen well."

And so, I am waiting and listening.

"somewhere in the back of my mind, I think You are telling me to wait, and though patience has never been mine, Lord, I will wait to hear from you..." ~ sara groves, "hello Lord"

Sunday, July 17, 2011

latex gloves

sometimes simple things make the most difference in the world. i try to remember that, especially on days that are difficult. i have had a lot of difficult days recently, so i have spent a lot of time remembering simple things, praying that God will show me simple things, small things.
last week, one of those simple things involved a latex glove.

please note: i am not a doctor. i am not a divine healer of wounds. but, i have a Savior who is.

and last week, i sat on some dirty concrete with a clear plastic box containing band-aids, gauze, nail clippers, iodine, and latex gloves. pretty professional, eh?
i had clipped some long, dirty fingernails earlier and distributed a couple band-aids, but after it looked like all the needs had been met, i started jumping rope and chasing balls with the hoard of children that had gathered for our lesson that day.
but, as things were winding down and crafts were being finished, someone walked up to me and cast her eyes at a little girl sitting on the side with her mother. the mother wondered if we could clean her daughter's wounds. so, i made my way over. and, the 8-year-old girl immediately began to fidget, telling her mom "no, no, no" as tears welled up in her eyes. she knew it would hurt and she was scared. i sat down with her and asked her name. i told her my name. i asked her what had happened and if it hurt. she told me that 6 days before she had been burned with hot water. and, yes, it hurt. i showed her my big toe and the sore that remained from an accident earlier in the week. i told her that i understood that it hurt. i asked if i could help her, and she timidly nodded in agreement. her mom helped her unbutton her pajama top and take it off, revealing more burns.
it was at this moment that i realized my absolute inadequacy and prayed for wisdom, for mercy, for compassion. and, as i started to put on my latex gloves, i pulled one off again. i put it to my mouth and inflated it. i tied it closed and handed it to her. i told her that if it hurt, to squeeze the fingers tight. so, she did. as i swabbed her open wounds, i told her she was brave and strong. and, she smiled through the pain. i cleaned her chest. i cleaned her neck. i cleaned her forehead. she had already been to the doctor and previous bandages had been removed leaving sticky residue. so, i used wet wipes to remove the stickiness. and, after i was finished, i helped her put her yellow pajama shirt back on. with the help of a khmer co-worker, i told her mother that the wounds were healing well and to just keep them dry and clean, that they would be all better soon.
and, i watched them walk away toward their home...holding an inflated latex glove.

"we cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love." ~ mother teresa

Lord, teach me to love well in small things...

Sunday, July 10, 2011


There are many, many things that I love about my church here. I love worshipping alongside my brothers and sisters, and I love that it happens in more than one language every single week. I love that services always allow for time to pray for the nation and to genuinely pray for the person sitting next to you, really finding out what his or her individual needs are. I love that people dance like fools during worship, and when I say dance like fools, I mean the whole room is sometimes bouncing like a mosh pit. I love that time is fluid, and if the service needs to go long because the Spirit is moving, no one minds. I love that there is time to mill about the room and meet new people...and there is never a week when there isn't someone with whom to chat. I love that somehow there is always room for another row of blue plastic chairs in the back.
But, one things that I have grown to love so much is the weekly welcomes. I say I have grown to love this because the first time I experienced it, I was slightly embarrassed and uncomfortable. Every week after the week's announcements, someone takes the opportunity to welcome those who have come for the first time--first the foreign guests, and then the Khmer. They play music and everyone claps as, much to their chagrin, the foreigners rise to their feet and are met by the ushers to receive information about the church's programs. Then, the music changes and the clapping changes rhythm as the Khmer guests are invited to stand. I have never been to a church where people are so welcomed and honored as guests...every single week.
And, today I was so incredibly blessed by this because there were cheers.
There were cheers when the Khmer guests stood up to be welcomed. There were several Khmer people who came for the first time today, which always makes for a great day. But, 5 of these guests were extra special. They came with crimped hair and make-up. They had ponytails and painted fingernails. But, they weren't women. And, everyone in the room knew it.
In Southeast Asia, "ladyboys" are very common. In Thailand, they walk the streets freely, but in Cambodia, they often only come out at night. They are marginalized. They are abused and beaten. They are known to be violent. They are a rare sight during the day. They are not accepted. They are hurting. They are broken. And, they are loved by God.
And, they are loved by the body of Christ who cheered for them this morning. Today was the day of salvation for some of those boys, and freedom is here...and so is an amazing network of support in the body of Christ.

Friday, July 8, 2011

tigers and airplanes

The door has been open all day, every day for the past week and a half. On Tuesday he showed up at the front door. He inched his way inside a little at a time--inside my heart, that is. He came in the door with a few other boys from the neighborhood.
On Tuesday we sat on the dusty floor and bounced balls back and forth to each other, laughing when our balls would crash into each other and go flying. Then, after an hour of that, he produced a huge stack of miniature cards deep from within the pocket of his navy blue shorts--the remains of his school attire from studying in the morning. We then sat for another hour surrounded by stacks of cards, carefully cupping our hands and slapping the floor trying to flip the stacks of cards over. I am pretty sure that I was losing miserably after several rounds as my stack of cards was dwindling, but I made a sad face and noted how many more cards he had than me. So, he gathered together a stack from his pile and added them to mine. Pretty sure that goes against all the rules... Then, it was time to go home. We waved good-bye and said, "see you tomorrow."
On Wednesday he popped right in the door after lunch. He came running to meet me. He found the balls, and we started playing again. We bounced balls. We laughed. He told me that tomorrow we would play the card game again. Ok? Ok. But on Wednesday, I had to leave early. I had a class to get to, but I assured him we would play tomorrow. So, I waved good-bye.
On Thursday he came to the door and ran inside. I saw his eyes scan the room before he saw my face among the sea of white faces. We found balls and played basketball with hoops made out of cardboard boxes and duct tape tied to the grates of the front gate. We found rackets and a birdie and played badminton. And, as promised, we played the card game again. I was still not very good at it, but he taught me a new way to do it that is a little easier (and might be the way 3-year-olds play). We chased each other. We growled like tigers. We laughed. A lot. He pretty much has the best giggle ever. Seriously.
On Friday he came back. We played some cards. We drew pictures. He drew a picture of me, and a picture of his house. We bounced balls. We growled like tigers. We did puzzles. But, then I had to go out for a while because I had work to do. So, I made sure to tell him that I had to go but would come back. In the meantime, he could stay and play with others.
An hour and a half later I returned and was greeted with an attack hug while I was still standing in the doorway. I was pulled inside. I was shown the many "tattoos" that had occurred all over his arms and legs (and the other boys) while I was out. (Maybe we should have put those markers away...) Then, he drew a brown airplane on a sheet of yellow construction paper and asked me where I wanted to go. He assured me that he knew how to fly an airplane, and he could take me anywhere I wanted to go. So, we went to Australia and China and America and England. He would ask where I wanted to go, and then get up and "fly" his plane around the room and come back and ask where next?
But, there is no airplane that can take me to a place that my heart would be happier than sitting with this new 9-year-old friend growling like a tiger.