Friday, April 29, 2011


There are so many things that I am constantly learning, and the other morning I was reminded of how resourceful we can be when we have to be. What reminded me of this? Well, I saw a couple men trimming a tree...with a meat cleaver.
I chuckled to myself as I watch this man stand on a ladder hacking away at a mango tree with a meat cleaver, but then I started to think about the many things I see (and do) each day that I wouldn't in the States because we have more "sophisticated" tools to accomplish certain tasks. I was thinking the other day that I have no desire to ever own a microwave again. Go ahead, let your jaw drop. But, I haven't used a microwave for months, and I don't miss it, and I think I am better for it. I have learned how to do so many things since coming here, everything from making my own cream soup base to making great homemade tortillas and pita bread. When I want any kind of beans, I have to think ahead of time so they can soak overnight and then I have to have enough time to cook them. (By the way, did you know that pinto beans take almost 3 hours to cook?!?!) I am working on perfecting the art of carrying anything and everything on a motorbike. This week I successfully carried a box with a birthday cake, but in the past I have balanced multiple bags of produce, packages from the post office, iced coffees hanging from my handlebars, etc.
I think when given the opportunity, people can be incredibly resourceful and imaginative, but I think our "sophisticated" tools stifle that a bit. I am so thankful for all that I have learned and continue to learn about using what I have available to create something or to accomplish something. I mean, really, why go to the trouble of buying a hedge-trimmer when the meat cleaver does the job just as well?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

faint not

Sometimes I find that life gets a bit overwhelming. I love my life. I really, really do. And, I cannot imagine doing anything else or being anywhere else right now.
And, most days I don't think too much about the smell of sewage assaulting my nose or the perpetual state of sweat or the chaos of navigating the streets.
Most days these things are all overshadowed by wonderful things, such as taking cupcakes to a friend and then sitting on the floor of her house with her and her husband and their new baby talking about life and love and thanking Jesus or being so excited to see my language teacher/friend for the first time in weeks that we hardly get any real "studying" done because we are just talking about life or seeing my "little brothers" grow and learn.
But, there are some days when my prayer is this...
"o my soul, faint not, no faint not
o my soul, keep up, up
in love
where there is hatred, let me sow love
where there is injury, let me pardon
where there is darkness, let the Light come, come
o my soul, faint not, no faint not
o my soul, keep up, up
in love"
~ jenny & tyler, "faint not"

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I love to run. I started running about three and a half years ago, and though prior to that time, it was not something I really enjoyed, I quickly fell in love with it. I loved the way it made me feel. I loved the fresh air. I loved running along trails. I loved the time it gave me to just think, to pray, to clear my head. Running has become a great source of stress relief for me.

I love the way a new pair of running shoes feel. I love breaking them in and making them mine. I love the blood and sweat involved. There aren't usually tears, but it has happened on occasion.
I love racing! I love competition. I love pushing myself to do something. Running has taught me a lot about pushing myself. I am always amazed about what my body can do if I just push. I love the feeling of achieving something, of accomplishing something great.
I am not sure I ever expected to be a competitive runner. And, truthfully, I don't know that I would call myself a competitive runner. But, I miss the competition. I miss the challenge. I have still been running over the last few months, but I was just telling a friend the other day how much I miss training towards a goal, how much I miss racing. Running on a treadmill for 30 minutes a day while staring out a window is just not the same. I miss being challenged and pushed. I miss knowing that someone is timing me, that someone is chasing me, and that I am chasing someone. I am so thankful for a friend who encourages me to occasionally rise early, before the traffic chaos ensues, and run with her. A few weeks ago we ran about 8 miles, and it felt so good!!!! I cannot even tell you what it did for my soul...
And, speaking of my soul, there is another race to be run. Sometimes I think there are a lot of parallels between the races--the competitive running race and the race of life. There are so many things to be done, so many people to be loved, so much world to change. And, it is easy to get lazy, easy to get on the treadmill and run 30 minutes, get off and go about your day. Some days I feel like that is exactly what I am doing. I am going through the motions in my own little corner of the world but not running the race to win, not looking ahead and pushing myself to pass the next obstacle. Instead, I think about my overworked lungs and tired muscles. I think about how nice it would feel to just stop, and really, who is going to really notice or care if I stop and walk?
But, I realize that it does matter. I notice such a difference in me, both physically and mentally, when I take a break from running, when I get lazy. And, the same is true when I get lazy in running the race for eternity. There isn't time to be lazy, and it is time to lace up the shoes and ramp up the speed. There is a race to be won...

"No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling me." ~ Philippians 3:13-14

Saturday, April 16, 2011

beautiful things

There are so many beautiful things, and sometimes I forget to notice them. I really try to remember to look for them, but I live in a land of concrete, littered with plastic bags and pollution and dust and poverty. So, most days it really does take a valiant effort on my part to see the beauty. But, other days the beauty has no problem finding me...

Thank You, Jesus, for a beautiful sunset cruise down the Tonle Sap River...
...and for green trees and fresh air and rushing water just a few hours from home...
...and for bright-colored flowers weaved together in a crown fit for a princess...
...and for changed hearts and lives.

You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of the dust.
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of us.
~ michael gungor

Sunday, April 10, 2011

two hours

one day last week in the span of two hours, I was...
yelled at
spun in circles
tugged on
pinched...hard enough to draw blood
sat on
...and smiled at.

one day last week in the span of two hours, I had the most awesome opportunity to love a boy whose feet are stained black, who digs through the trash in search of snacks discarded by others, who dances to music that only plays inside his head, who wanders the streets alone. I love that boy, and I am sure he doesn't know how much...but it is certainly more than two hours worth...

Friday, April 1, 2011

bee bahk jeut

"if you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. you are not that important." ~ galatians 6:2

some things are not pleasant. some things are difficult. some things are awkward to talk about. some things are uncomfortable. some things are ugly. some things are twisted. some things are disgusting. some things make us feel sick to our stomach. some things give us "bee bahk jeut."

i find that i often go through cycles of frustration. sometimes i just ignore feeling like i am alone (or in a very small minority) of people who genuinely care about trying to make the world a more beautiful place by living love. other times i want to (but rarely do) scream with frustration because i can't understand why anyone with the power and ability to help and love another person would choose not to do so. and, occasionally, i make an attempt at pulling out my soapbox to encourage others to "learn to do good. seek justice. help the oppressed. defend the cause of orphans. fight for the rights of widows" (isaiah 1:17).

i have learned that expressing strong emotions is not something that cambodians tend to do. i recently had a discussion with a friend about how she has had some cambodian friends of her disclose that it is better for them to not ask someone who is crying or clearly upset about what may be wrong or why he/she is feeling sad. it is better not to ask because they might share about a sad or difficult experience, giving the listener "bee bahk jeut."

learning this gave me new insight, but i was also discouraged. what is so ugly within us that we would rather watch someone suffer alone and in silence than to possibly expose ourselves to feeling sadness, to having "bee bahk jeut"? i had thought to myself that surely this is just a difference between cultures, something that must be worked through. but, as i thought about it more and read frustrated emails from people who were really excited to make a difference in the world but were now ready to throw in the towel because of the discouraging responses they had received from people, i realized that not wanting to expose ourselves to "bee bahk jeut" has nothing to do with any culture. maybe we call it something different in america but the principle is the same. in khmer, they call it "bee bahk jeut" which basically translates to "sad/difficult heart." it speaks of those things that make our hearts ache, that cause us to feel pain.

nobody likes to feel sad. nobody likes to have a broken heart. nobody likes to be in pain.

but, i honestly believe that if we share life (and all the loveliness and ugliness in it), we would find more joy than sorrow, more healing than pain, more beauty than ashes, more strength than weakness, more justice, more righteousness, more kindness, more goodness, more gentleness, more peace, and more love...