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