reflections on taking chances

I was 23.
April 2008.
Nearly a year of wonderings and wanderings after graduating from college.
I was ready.
Ready to spread my wings and fly,
ready to take a chance.

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In 2007 I graduated with a degree in music.  In my young, naivete I thought I would immediately be hired in full-time music ministry and that church job offers would simply flood in as soon as I walked across the stage with my diploma.

(I was wrong, by the way).

That summer I travelled to India for a two-month long mission trip.  In many ways, that trip changed my life.  My first time overseas, my first time fully immersed in an eastern culture, and the first time I really caught a glimpse of life abroad serving a God who isn’t American.  A God of all nations.

I returned home more sick than I’ve ever been in my life, and still had no job and no direction for my life.

The difficult months that followed shook me to my core: extreme culture shock, depression, meandering and wanderings…  but then in April of 2008, everything changed.  You see, when I returned from India, my team spent several days in Bangkok, Thailand debriefing.  I had a distant feeling in my heart, a feeling that I would return to Thailand one day.

Ten years ago, in April 2008, I interviewed for a Music Teacher position in Bangkok, Thailand.  A few weeks later, I boarded a small airplane with 2 large suitcases (and a very heavy carry on) and moved to the other side of the world.

I didn’t know a single soul.

But that decision – that chance.  It changed my life forever.

The friendships forged during that year forever changed me, the students I taught showed me what compassion looked like with hands and feet, and living in another culture taught me how to be empathetic.

That chapter of my life opened up doors for me to later serve in full-time Worship ministry, and the relationships there inspired me to pursue seminary.  Many of the co-teachers I taught with are still my friends today.

The thing about taking chances is this: when the Holy Spirit of God prompts us to take steps of faith, or “chances” in our human thinking, the greater chance to take is to ignore that prompting and taking the wider, easier path.

I’m so glad I took that chance.

S6300051India, June 2007

S6300243.jpgKolkata, India, July 2007

IMG_1493_7Thailand, October 2008

IMG_5313Our street, Nonthaburi, Bangkok, Thailand

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And we’re back…

I’ve been away from the blog for a while – well to be honest the last year (or more) I’ve struggled to keep up because life is busy, and my constant thoughts rarely make it on to paper (or a word doc).  However, a lot has happened over the past few months/couple years, so I DO have good reasons for my absence.  Instead of telling you, I’ll show you life in photos…

I shall soon return (I promise).  I can’t NOT blog… with my constant stream of theological thoughts and discussions forever in my head, or out loud with my husband.  I’ll be back!

Malaysia, January 2016IMG_2998.jpg

Home in KoreaIMG_3584.jpg

Looking down from BukansanIMG_3127.jpg

Family, December 2016IMG_6701.JPG

Scott and I at the North Korea boarder, Spring 2017IMG_7299.jpg

Saying goodbye to Korea, my home for 2 years, June 2017IMG_1310.jpgIMG_8231.jpg

Most certainly the best day of my life, with many more to come, July 8, 2017AnnabelMayPhotoArt-134.jpgAnnabelMayPhotoArt-293.jpgAnnabelMayPhotoArt-267.jpgannabelmayphotoart.com 

instead, pray

“Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray.” Philippians 4:6 (The Voice)

I love trees.  Green, vibrant leaves.  Tall, dark brown trunks.  Nestled in a quiet forest.  This is calm: staring and examining them in stillness.

Growing up in Oregon only fostered my love for trees, and I am still fascinated by the redwoods – the tall, strong redwood trees.  Standing still and ageless, lining the long, winding roads between central Oregon and the coast.  (I confess my obsession with these trees could also be because Return of the Jedi was filmed in Oregon in the redwoods.. I digress.)

When I turned ten we moved into a new house with a backyard full of cherry trees and apple trees.  I dreamed of waking up early and picking fruit each morning – of course this dream quickly dissolved when we discovered birds ate all the cherries, which were only really ripe about two weeks out of the year, and the apples were filled with worms and all sorts of other creatures that shouldn’t be consumed.  The fruit produced by these trees remained uneatable.

Anxiousness often overcomes us and we discover the fruit born of our anxious thoughts are fruits of worry and fear. Thoughts planted in our minds blossom into something – thoughts of lust, fear, greed, pride, and a whole host of other fruits that are more flesh than spirit.

Instead of anxiousness and worry, Paul tells the Philippian believers to instead pray. No formula, no article entitled: “10 Steps to Worry Less.” Just a simple solution: pray. And the fruit of this action?  Peace.  A peace that “(is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.” Philippians 4:7 (The Voice)

Paul goes on to list what the seeds of our thoughts should be: the seeds to plant that will produce the fruit of peace: “Fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praise worthy. Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me – do it- and the peace of God will walk with you.” Philippians 4:8-9.

Seeds of beauty, truth, that which is lovely, good, virtuous and praiseworthy produce those fruits, which ultimately guards us with the peace of God.

Picturing those tall redwoods, or imagining the cherry and apple trees of my childhood, I see wormy apples and cherry pits left behind by the birds.  Uneatable fruit.  But today in my own anxiousness and worry, I pray.  Seeking to plant seeds of truth and goodness, producing not fear or multipied anxiousness, but instead peace.

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146,000 silent nights

Malachi 3:1  “’I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

These were last words God spoke.  For 400 years.

The people waited.
And they kept waiting.
400 years passed;
God was silent.
146,000 silent nights.
But all the people were watching and waiting,
and watching some more.

They were not fighting each other.
They were not worshipping other gods…
for the first time in a LONG time.

They knew God was with them as they watched and waited,
but, the promise…
from the prophet Isaiah:
For unto us a son is born
Unto us a son is given
The peace, justice, righteousness…
they knew these were coming.
They knew HE was coming.

But, do you think the people wanted to give up?
Did they get tired of waiting?
Did they think God’s promises weren’t going to come to be?

Maybe.

But the next time God spoke, it wasn’t through a judge, king or prophet.
It was in the cry of a Baby.
God would break the silent nights, with a not so silent night,
through the screaming cry of a baby.
The Son of God,
Emmanuel,
GOD WITH US.

Two people waited expectantly day and night in the temple worshipping God, waiting for the Messiah, or the Christ.

Luke 2:25-32  “There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law, Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said:
‘Now, Master, You can dismiss Your slave in peace, as You promised.
For my eyes have seen Your salvation. You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples— a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your people Israel.'”

Luke 2:36-38  “There was also a prophetess, Anna […] . She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and was a widow for 84 years. She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Simeon and Anna both were waiting,
and after waiting so long, they finally gazed into the eyes of God-
a baby.

Someone asked me last week – why do we celebrate Jesus coming at Christmas time so much? What’s so special about it?

Jesus was and still is the hope of all mankind.
Jesus was and is God – who came to earth to live as one of us,
to share in our sufferings, our struggles,
to live as we live,
and years later – this baby, now a man
would die on a cross and rise again
because of one reason:

LOVE.

God’s love for us – you and I and this entire world
is so big that he didn’t leave us alone,
He didn’t leave us to walk this life alone
He came to be with us,
He came to rescue us.

And that indeed is good news,
the good news of love
that was worth waiting for all those years.

Love.

 

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leavin’ on a jet plane

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A week from today, I will be finishing my packing, saying last good-byes, and getting ready to go to the airport.  It’s so weird, honestly, and in many ways it still seems really far away, just because there is so much to do between now and then.

I’m filled with so many emotions, and my heart is pulled and torn so many ways.  I knew this day would come, but it doesn’t make it any easier, and it doe

sn’t make the future seem any clearer, it just gets scarier and makes me more afraid, to be honest.  

I’m also confronted with questions about God, his character, and who he is.  I know that he is so good, and scripturally we know he never will leave us, but I question his involvement in our lives, free will, and how much control he really has in our lives.  I think these are healthy questions to ask, and frankly I don’t have answers for them.  I believe that there are a number of paths to choose for my life at this point, but I do want his best, and I suppose in faith I need to trust in the leading of His spirit inside my heart, and trust his voice.  I knew that peace and his voice when it was time for me to come to Thailand, so I need to trust for that same peace when looking at the future.

Easier said than done.

 

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a fire deep within

I just got back literally an hour ago from a conference that wasn’t even for me, but I was deeply touched and God began to tug and pull strings on my heart during this time.

So, here’s a little bit about how all this came together.  Darin Pust is a friend from the old days of the Simpson University Music Department, and we were in choir and other various things together.  Anyway, he contacted me maybe in October and let me know that he and a team of people would be coming to Thailand for a conference; he was leading worship and the rest of the team would be doing child care.  He later let me know that he was trying to talk Becky Levy, another good friend  from Simpson, into coming to help lead worship as well.

Time quickly passed, and before I knew it, they were here, and it was time to go!  I met up with them on Saturday to do some sightseeing with them around Bangkok (it was refreshing.. I haven’t ever been a tourist in my own city!).  As things came together, and it came time to leave on Sunday, I FINALLY understood what kind of retreat this was.  For some reason I had thought it was for Christian Chinese leaders in China, but rather, it was a forum for all the CAMA (Christian and Missionary Alliance) leaders in China.  Obviously since the only tie I have to CAMA is Simpson, I did feel quite out of the “circle” as you might say, but from the beginning I felt that I was getting just a small picture of this intricate network of people and I felt so blessed to be apart of their ministry, and to get to feel like I was stepping into their shoes for just a few days.

This retreat happens once a year, and always outside of China, since it is still against their government to have large gatherings of believers.  The entire time, I just was struck with the truth that these people rarely get a chance to really worship like this, and hear encouragement from God’s word.  I was just struck.

Last night, all the women attended a nice banquet.  I wasn’t totally looking forward to it, since sometimes these gatherings tend to be unnecessarily tear-filled and super emotional.  Not to my surprise, there were tears, but I found myself crying and just being struck with conviction and just looking at these women and being filled with such awe and respect.  

I guess my idea of a “missionary” were families who came to churches and dressed really weird and spoke.  That’s all I really knew of them.  Then, when I began attending Simpson University, my eyes were open to the needs in the mission field around the world.  I was struck with the concept of learning about other cultures, and learning that other cultures didn’t have the same values that we had.  My idea of being a “missionary” was totally turned upside-down.

Now, yes I’m in Thailand right now, but sometimes I don’t consider myself a “missionary”, but I realized during this conference that I really am a missionary, and it just looks different for everyone.  

The other thing that really struck me was the strength that these women have.  There were all ages in this room, and many of them aren’t much older than I am, and have families of 3 or 4 children.  I was struck with the deep, reverent faith they all had.  Sure, it had been a year of trials for them, but still, their deep faith that God is their provider and the one who will care for all their needs completely blew me away.

Faith has been a huge theme of my life, especially this last year, but when I looked into the eyes of these people and heard about their ministries in China, it made some of the trials I have experienced here in Thailand just fade away.  I get to go home in two months, and some of these families still have years before they will get to be on home assignment again.  Wow.

There’s so much more I could say, but I feel a fire burning deep within that won’t go out.  I know that I’m supposed to be exactly where I am right now. I know I need to finish this degree with Liberty; teaching will really bring so many options for me in the future.  I’m not saying anything definitely right now, but after this conference, I realized: 1) how much I will really miss Thailand, 2) how much I will miss being overseas, 3) what an adjustment it will be for me to go back, and 4) that I’m willing and open to go literally wherever God wants me to go.

I would like to say so much more now, but this is all I have time for!  Homework and lesson plans need to be done!

so much

There’s so much I could say.

I survived my first week of EDUC 500: Educational Psychology, and I’m just going to keep on going.  It’s honestly really difficult to take classes while working full time, but I can’t imagine it working with any other job.  Everything I’ve been learning directly fits in with what I’m doing during the day, so it’s very helpful.

So the countdown:
Educational Psychology last day (with a 15 page paper and reading over 400 pages of studies on Educational Psychology with annotated bibliography): Friday, March 6 (PLUS I have an extra 12 hours on everyone in my class).

Last day of school at GES: March 27; last teacher work day: March 31 

Arrival at home: around April 6th (yet to be confirmed)

Pear Blossom Run: April 11, 8:30 AM (call me crazy, I KNOW I am already!)

Second class: EDUC 518 Educational Research: Begins March 16, and last day: May 8 (extending into my time back in the States).

Anyway, life is crazy right now.  I can’t even tell you.  Luckily we had Friday off for “Teacher’s Day”, and got to lay on the beach for a few days so we don’t lose our tans ;).  This weekend will be insane.  I have lots of familiar faces I will see, which will really be nice!  I’m also leaving on Sunday to help lead worship with a team from Roseburg Alliance who are serving at a “retreat” I guess you could call it, but it’s Christian leaders from China who will be conferencing here in Thailand.  I’ll be taking 3 days off next week, so I have SO MUCH to do to prepare for subs, get caught up on lesson planning, and on top of that finish with my weekly stuff for my class.  It’ll be crazy, but I think that’s part of what makes me feel alive these days.

There’s a song I just haven’t been able to get out of my head.  Brooke Fraser is an amazing songwriter, singer and worship leader with Hillsong, and her song “Shadowfeet” really describes my thoughts as I think about the future, going home, and finishing up my time here in Thailand.  Here are lyrics, and I’ll put the music video up for you to check out!  I just love how it says, “I am changing: less and less asleep”, because how many times do we live life like we’re asleep?  Like it’s not really real?  Or we’re waiting until… we’re waiting for something to happen to us that will cause us to feel like we’ve really begun life, but the truth is: THIS IS LIFE.

And the other truth is: HE MAKES ALL THINGS NEW.  I feel like I’ll be leaving Thailand a different person, but made new.  I’m changing, I’m less and less asleep.  I’m walking, stumbling.

HE makes all things new, and when the world seems to fall apart, I’ll be found in him, and that’s a truth that cannot be taken from me.

“SHADOWFEET” by Brooke Fraser

Walking,stumbling on these shadowfeet
toward home, a land that I’ve never seen
I am changing: less and less asleep
made of different stuff than when I began
and I have sensed it all along
fast approaching is the day

[CHORUS]
When the world has fallen out from under me
I’ll be found in you, still standing
When the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees
When time and space are through
I’ll be found in you

Theres distraction buzzing in my head
saying: in the shadows it’s easier to stay
But I’ve heard rumours of true reality
whispers of a well-lit way

[CHORUS]

You make all things new

[CHORUS]

[CHORUS 2]
When the world has fallen out from under me
I’ll be found in you, still standing
Every fear and accusation under my feet
when time and space are through
I’ll be found in you