Monday, April 30, 2012

why i love keeping it local...

 I just wanted to make a post about why I love what I do and why I love working with local people and seeking to empower them. 
Over the past month I have been doing some training with new staff, and it has been such a stretch for me. It is not that I am unfamiliar with the material I am teaching. I actually feel pretty confident about that...most of the time. But, there is something to be said for conducting training in a language that is not your mother tongue. I will be honest and say that I was quite nervous to do some of this training without the assistance of a translator, but it seemed silly to hire someone to translate something that I knew most all of the Khmer words for...or at least could explain a concept well enough for others to understand.
 So, I have spent much time with my English-Khmer dictionary, my markers, and my computer creating lessons about working within families and communities. And, it has been such a blessing for me to be able to empower Cambodians and showing them such honor to learn their language enough to support them in this way. I still do not claim any level of fluency, but I get by with a little help from my friends! 

And, last week, I had the joy of going to a provincial village where we conducted a training on child rights for potential foster families. It was so much fun to engage with these men and women and see their excitement about adding a child to their family in this way. These men and women are not extraordinary by any great standard, but they are choosing to humbly do what they can to make a difference in the lives of children. Awesome!

 And, riding in a Toyota Camry with 6 other people for a few hours and sweating my body weight under a hot tin roof were completely worth it. Why?

I will go ahead and say it. I love the countryside. I grew up on a farm, and I did not think that I loved it as a child. I have since changed my mind. I love the slower pace of life. I love green things. I love the smell of dirt (and marvel at how clean that smell seems). I love being able to run and climb trees. I love open fields and starry evenings. My childhood is filled with wonderful memories from a farm, and now, it is sometimes really difficult for me to live in the concrete jungle of Phnom Penh where security guards blow their whistles if you walk on the tiny patch of crab grass in the "park."
So, I love going to the countryside. And, I love seeing families in the countryside who work together and play together and eat together.

I love the clothesline filled with t-shirts drying in the sunshine while the chickens peck the ground.
 I love the ball that sits and waits for the sun to drop in the sky and the children to come play.
 And, I think to myself, "Why wouldn't we want to keep things local?" Who wouldn't want to grow up in this beauty?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I am convinced that life is all about perspective. There are so many possible perspectives. There are so many daily choices that we can make to improve the quality of our lives. We choose to endure a rough day or week or month...or year, or we choose to enjoy the challenge and rejoice that our character is being sharpened. We choose to be annoyed by inconveniences, or we choose to laugh about them and take the opportunity to just slow our lives down for a bit, to enjoy the moment.
If there is one thing (and there are many) that Cambodia has taught me, it is to shift my perspective. On days (like today) when the heat is stifling and I am sweating just sitting in front of the fan, I can be thankful for that fan that at least keeps the warm air moving, for the ice in my freezer, for my power not cutting out in the hottest part of the day, for my motorbike that allows me to get places quickly, for the mango banana smoothies I have for breakfast, for air-conditioned cafes when the heat starts to make me delirious. And, the truth is that this too will pass. The rains will come soon, and the temperature will drop a bit and jeans will once again become a tolerable clothing choice.
I think this is the way life works. I choose my perspective. I can choose to enjoy everything I can about today, about this season, because the truth is that it will pass. Good seasons, bad seasons. Neither last forever. I much prefer to remain positive and enjoy the moment than to grumble and complain and wish things were different or that I could fast forward through the not-so-lovely times. Believe me, there are times when I am tempted, but I am confident that whatever this day holds can and will be a blessing, not a curse.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

karaoke? yes, please!

A few weeks ago was my friend Kelly's birthday, and she opted to have a karaoke birthday bash. As you do.
Karaoke is VERY popular in Asia, and the options are vast. We went to a local mall for pizza, and then headed upstairs to the karaoke studio where we had reserved an air-conditioned (what a treat!) room called "The President" where we engaged in an hour of ridiculous singing (being careful to choose songs with lyrics in English).
The birthday girl laughing at our rendition of Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy."My friend Vicky serenading us with some Taylor Swift.
And, of course, what is karaoke without some Abba?!? Go ahead, and "Take a Chance on Me."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I love Easter. I love the joy of knowing that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ conquered death, that a grave could not hold Him, that a stone could not stop Him. His resurrection is what sets Him apart from all others throughout history, from all those who have claimed to be "the way." I love celebrating Him and again being in awe of His power and greatness...and His love for me.

Additionally, I have great childhood memories of Easter. I remember waking up early every year and bustling about the house to put on a new dress and being allowed to wear the special white Easter hat. I remember hurrying to the car and racing the sun in order to attend the Easter Sunrise service (before we had even had a chance to hunt for chocolate filled Easter eggs, though I think my brother secretly made note of where they were all hidden). I remember shuffling in late to the service and squeezing into a pew that was likely in the front (so everyone would see us arrive late). And, I remember joining in choruses of "He Arose" and "In the Garden." I remember the sunshine breaking through the stained glass windows and an inexpressible joy filling my heart. I remember big breakfasts and fellowship following the service, and I remember preparing for the "regular" service. For many years, the church in which I grew up has had a tradition of transforming an ugly wooden cross into a beautiful living cross by placing flowers on the cross (which has been covered in chicken wire). Every year it is breathtakingly beautiful. Every year it is new. Every year it is filled with color. Every year it reminds me of the transformed life I have in Christ.

For the last few years I have been in Cambodia for Easter, and unfortunately, for the last two years I was not able to do much special to celebrate. The first year I spent the day on a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh, and the second year I was helping a friend with an emergency situation. But, this year I was intentional about my Easter celebration. I rose early to go for a run with a friend and watch the sun rise over the city. I went to church and celebrated with my brothers and sisters, and then I went out to lunch with some good friends. But, the best part of all is that I was able to "tune in" via Skype to the Easter service in Argos and watch the cross's transformation. What a gift and a great reminder!

Thanks for letting me join in the celebration of the transformation!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

in our hearts

"For God, who said, 'Let there be light in the darkness," has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ." ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6

Have you ever wondered just want the face of Jesus Christ looks like? I don't mean what color Jesus' eyes were or what kind of beard he was sporting. I mean, the face of Jesus Christ. The one that reveals God's glory. The one that attracts people, even though it was not strikingly handsome (Isaiah 53:2). The one that shines lights in our hearts.

Several weeks ago I listened to a Khmer friend of mine share about his elderly grandmother. He shared about how she used to take him to church when he was a little boy and how he came to know Jesus because of her. He spoke about the example of faith she had been to him and how she never wavered in her belief even when other family members and neighbors thought she was foolish. And, he shared that now, as his grandmother is aging and suffering from dementia, she rarely recognizes him or any of his family members. She no longer knows the names of her neighbors. But, she still knows Jesus. She sees Jesus everywhere, in every person's face. The only name she knows is Jesus. She looks into my friend's eyes and thanks Jesus.

Maybe this is what Paul spoke of when the light of God would shine in our hearts and we would see the face of Jesus Christ? I hope that I am able to cling so tightly to Jesus that He is in every face I see, even when I can remember nothing else...

you can have all this world, but give me Jesus...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

being vs. doing

"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

This story has been resonating with me lately. I think maybe it keeps coming to my mind because I just feel busy. It seems as though every time I sit down, I am overwhelmed with the amount of items left to be scratched off of my "to do" list. No matter how diligent I am in a day, they never seem to get done. I have been asking myself if I am just piddling away my time, if I am a master of procrastination, if I am easily distracted, or if I am just expecting entirely too much of myself. On any given day the answer could be any one of those. But, regardless of any of those things, I feel like the Lord keeps reminding me that He is more concerned with my being than my doing. God does not care so much about the tasks I accomplish each day or how many things get scratched off my list. He cares more about my being vitally united to Him as my source for all things. He keeps reminding me to come and sit at His feet, to learn from Him, to discover what really matters, to see people and not worry about making sure the chicken is roasted to perfection or the rolls are perfectly browned. He reminds me that some things are lasting...and usually not the things I find myself worrying about.

So, the goal is to focus more on the being than the doing...