it’s about time

… for me to blog again, and break the silence.

Silence is good, but just because my blog has been silent, doesn’t mean that my thoughts have been.

Where do I begin?  I’m not sure… adjustment back to the States after being away for nearly a year isn’t the easiest thing.  I really thought I was doing quite well; I have been back for 2 weeks and 2, almost 3 days now, and it wasn’t until last night that I finally admitted to myself that I was in reverse-culture shock.  I thought everything was going really great. I had been seeing people and catching up, but all the while, I haven’t thought about Thailand much at all.  Though I spent the last year overseas, I spent that entire year wondering and thinking about what it was going to be like once I came back.  Now that I’m back, I just can’t help but think “what’s next?”, and it’s also the question on everyone else’s mind who talks to me, which quite honestly is about the worst question you could ask someone after they come back from being overseas- in my opinion!

So here I am, back in the States.  I’m unemployed, trying to figure out life, wondering what my next goal is, and feeling pretty lost.  It’s like life is happening all around me, but I’m stuck and can’t move.  Like one of those awful dreams you have when something terrible is sneaking up behind you, only you’re frozen and can’t seem to move one muscle.  

My state of confusion is not outside of God’s care, concern, or knowledge, and I need to remind myself of that.  I was comforted the other night in reading Ephesians 1, when it says that not only has God saved us through Christ with his KINDNESS, and GRACE, but he’s also given us WISDOM and UNDERSTANDING.

So I don’t really know what else to say.  It’s 4:10AM, and I have a lot on my mind, mostly things that I’m not talking about right now, if you couldn’t tell.  Pray for me friends, if you think of me.  I’m trying to rest in the knowledge that I’m safe in the arms of Christ, and I’m right where he wants me, but that doesn’t make this valley any easier.

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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23

I’ve been twenty-three, well, for almost a year now, and I was thinking ahead to being twenty-four, and a song that I hope to use for a future blog, but I think it’s time for a blog on being twenty-three, since it won’t be for much longer.  One of my all time favorite Jimmy Eat World songs is called “23”, and I wanted to share the lyrics, but not until the end.

A year ago, around my birthday, as when I first found the job here in Thailand at GES, and so my memories of last year’s birthday dinner were filled with thoughts of Thailand, and wondering if I’d actually be going.  Twenty-three seemed old, but not that old, twenty-four on the other hand, is OLD.  I’ve been saying for the past year that I’ll cry when that day comes, and I still think that will happen.

It’s been a year of new beginnings, growth, and lots of change.  Life after college was all I thought about during my Senior year at Simpson, but as I quickly found out, and have been discovering, it really isn’t easy.  I learned in the time I turned 23 that I should simply take life one step, one day, one moment, and one year at a time.  I can’t expect all the details of my hopes and dreams to happen so fast, many of those hopes and dreams come through experiences and time.

Anyway, there’s more I could say, but the lyrics of this song say a lot.  If you haven’t ever listened to the song, DO IT!  It’s one of the most beautifully crafted songs I’ve ever listened to, as many Jimmy songs are.  Genius.  It’s about living life to the fullest, living without regret,dreaming dreams and growing older…

 

23- Jimmy Eat World

I felt for sure last night
That once we said goodbye
No one else will know these lonely dreams
No one else will know that part of me
I’m still driving away
And I’m sorry every day
I won’t always love these selfish things
I won’t always live…
Not stopping…

It was my turn to decide
I knew this was our time
No one else will have me like you do
No one else will have me, only you

You’ll sit alone forever
If you wait for the right time
What are you hoping for?
I’m here I’m now I’m ready
Holding on tight
Don’t give away the end
The one thing that stays mine

Amazing still it seems
I’ll be 23
I won’t always love what I’ll never have
I won’t always live in my regrets

update of sorts

I feel like the clock is ticking, and sometimes I LOVE that sound, yet other times I hate it.  

This week.. I was glad.

I think I’m coming to a point of exhaustion.. actually I KNOW that I’m at that point.  Most teachers get a summer break, which I was about to have, then I left for Thailand.  I’ve been grateful for our breaks during Christmas and October, but I’m ready for a season of rest (hopefully) when I get back.  I can tell my patience level with the kids is quite low recently… and I don’t want that to affect anything, but it always seems to affect everything.

Anyway, I just realized that for the past 4 weeks, I’ve had something going on every single weekend… this past weekend, we thankfully had Monday off, so I joined my friends at the beach Sunday and Monday, after resting up on Saturday.  

All us teachers are in a routine, for sure… we know our schedules all too well, which makes procrastinating a regular part of every day (at least for me).  I’m really looking forward to being done, and going home, so it’s been a struggle lately to remain here in my heart and attitude.

This weekend we have some big plans, Chicago is here in Bangkok, so on Friday the 13th (yea.. I know!) we will get all dressed up and head out to see the show!  Then on the 14th.. Valentine’s Day, yes, GES has a booth we have to work at and I as the Music teacher have to put together some special music for.  Anyway… should be fun.

Sorry, this blog is way boring, maybe I’ll think of more interesting things to write about later!  Miss you all.

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

reflections

After two weeks of a break, I’ve spent a great deal of time reflecting on the last year, and my time since graduation as well.  It’s almost been two years since I graduated from college!  Hard to believe, really!  Anyway, I was just thinking how at the beginning of 2008, I clearly remember sitting up one sleepless night writing out some hopes that I had for the next year, but never dreaming I’d end up in Thailand, that’s for sure!  Though, I had this feeling that never left me last year, and that feeling was one of knowing there was something HUGE that would be coming.  

Thailand has been such a great experience for me, and from the beginning, I knew there would come a time when I needed to make a decision whether I would come back for a second year here at GES.  Since I arrived I’ve gone through the classic signs of culture shock, and I immediately fell in love with Thailand and everything around me.  Then there came a dip around September, then things evened out, and now I’m just coming out of a huge pit of despair and feeling depressed.  From here on out, according to the models of culture shock, I should be okay.  All this to say, I feel I’ve come to a good decision in light of all the future events to come.  

So much has changed in my own life since I’ve been here.  I’ve learned so much about myself, and grown in ways that I never would have grown if I would have stayed in the States.  Being overseas really challenges a different part of you.  You’ve spent your entire life in enviorments that make sense to you and you can control, but when you remove yourselves from those people, experiences, memories and things, you are literally up-rooted from the ground, and planted in an enviorment that is completely foreign to you.  Just like up-rooting a palm tree and planting it in Alaska.  Could work… but not for long.  Palm trees need sunlight and warm to survive.

Thailand is a place that desperately is in need of the gospel, and missionaries have been here for years sharing the gospel to one person at a time.  The amazing thing about our jobs as teachers in a school like GES is that we can plant, plant, plant and continue to plant these seeds that we KNOW won’t grow for many years.  Because of the Thai culture these kids don’t really understand anything else but Buddhism, BUT our prayer as their teachers and educators is that one day, when they are older and understand more of the world and things around them, that things will click and make sense, and they will know that Jesus Christ is their Savior and is the ONLY way to heaven.  Maybe they will even recall a song I’ve taught them that will make sense… but only later in time.  I feel my work here has been profitable, but the work is also something that you should feel called to do (for long term ministry), and have the emotional support to do, which are two things I do not have at this time.  I feel honored that God chose me this year to work with these kids, and I know I will deeply miss each of them.  (I know this because I miss them every time we’re gone on a two-week break!)

All that to say that yes, I will be returning to the States.  I have spent a lot of time praying about this decision, and I feel such a peace about it.  For those who do not know, I was offered a potential part-time worship leading position at our church here as well (for next year), which I was completely torn over for weeks and weeks.  Worship is something I have a calling and passion for, but I know that the time isn’t right.  The offer was humbling and I felt blessed to feel confirmation in my heart that this in fact is what God is calling me to in the future, but I know that Thailand is not the place for me at this time.

There are many changes not only in my own life, but also in the lives of many I know and love around me.  I know it will be a difficult adjustment when I arrive back home, as it will alter many things that have always been.  Two of my very close friends from high school will get married this coming summer, and I’m so happy I will get to share those memories with them.  But also, my sister Lindsay has also just gotten engaged, and they will be married in October, so that’s a huge change for my family.  All of these life-changes are things that have also lead me to decide to come back to the States.

You will notice I have not said “Medford” in any of my references to coming back home.  Granted Medford will be a “launching pad” of sorts as I will be all up and down the West coast upon my return to the States.  I plan to enter into a season of rest and refilling once I get back.  I look forward to visiting with friends and family, and catching up on the past 10 months.  I can’t wait.  But as for where I will settle down after the excitement of all the weddings and reunions, of that I am still uncertain.

Another big change begins in just about a week for me.  I will be a Graduate student, pursuing my Master of Arts in Teaching through Liberty University.  It’s primarily an online degree, with the exception of 3 intensive courses I will take out in Virginia on campus, Lord willingly this coming summer.  I will be taking 2 eight week courses over the next few months to kick things off, and then next fall take more units.  I’m really excited about this, but definitely nervous also.  I love kids and teaching, so I think this is the right direction for now, but God is in control so if things change down the road, I won’t be worried.  I still would like to pursue a job in vocational ministry one day, or even recording also, but for now this seems like the best option for making money and paying the bills.

Anyway, there’s definitely a lot more I could say right now about our last vacation, and just the excitement of finishing up the school year, but I think this is enough for now.  I pray blessings on you all and that the LORD will lead and guide you along the path he has for you.

In Him,
Meridith

see you in 2009 folks!

Hey everyone,

The  first week of our break has flown by faster than I could have imagined.  I spent a great deal of time just relaxing and taking it easy, it was a nice change of pace.  I spent Christmas day with great friends, great food, and great conversation (both on the phone and in person).  I’m grateful to have people around who care about making it feel just a little bit like we are home with our families… it will be a Christmas to remember, that’s for sure.

Tonight I’m taking off for the beach!  Praise the Lord for the sand, sun etc… it will be awesome!  We’ll be ringing in the new year with strangers, and I’m sure an equally interesting time.  Anyway, we’ll be taking an overnight bus tonight, then spending the rest of the week swimming in tropical paradise.

Hope you all are well… even thought I’ve felt quite tired (still), I’m encouraged knowing that God is still God, and is still in control!

Blessings..
Meridith 

Here’s our destination, Phi Phi Island:

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it’s beginning to… wait, it’s Christmas?

Aside from the glittering glam at all the malls I go to, I would have no clue it was Christmas!  But apparently it’s Christmas Eve-Eve today.  December 23rd.

The songs, food, lights and everything we prepared for the Christmas program have long faded, and the mess from two nights of programs has been cleaned.  Our first program was on Friday night, and it was the younger kids, and then the older kids were on Saturday night.  Here are a few pictures, just to give you a taste of the evening:

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Anyway, it was a good night, but I’m so glad it’s over.  I can hardly believe it.  It feels so weird that it’s all over.  We worked for 6 weeks to get ready, and it was all a whirlwind.  It was a lot of fun dressing up for the programs, myself and two of my roommates got dresses made for the program, and as you can see, they did a BEAUTIFUL job on my dress!  Over here, the tailors, and all clothing makers are amazing.  We all just brought in pictures of the styles we liked, and they made them for us!  I also have videos of all the songs for the younger kids, so eventually hopefully I’ll put those up.

I don’t really know who reads this blog anyway.. maybe mostly facebook people since it pops up!  Anyway, for the past three days I’ve laid low, and haven’t made any huge plans.  Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and as of now, I plan on going in the morning to Hot Yoga at our gym, then hanging around our apartment for the rest of the day.  We have a Christmas Eve service at the church, and I’m singing a special song, so I figure I should get ready for that!

Christmas morning, Tiffany (a fellow teacher here at GES) and I will go over to our friends for breakfast, then we’ll have a Christmas Dinner at our Pastors’ home.  I’m so glad I’ll be surrounded by great people on Christmas day, it’ll be a great great time.  

My plans for this week were to: rest, have alone time, work out, and just RELAX.. which I’ve gotten to do so far, so I’d say it’s been a great break thus far.

This Saturday I’ll head down to the beach with several other teachers, then come back the following Friday.  I can’t believe it’s almost 2009!!  I think my next blog will be wrapping up 2008, and talking about 2009 goals… :).

Hope you are all well (whoever is reading this!).  Have a very Merry Christmas, and may you be reminded of your blessings as you’re surrounded by loved ones and you reflect upon the past year in all it’s trials and victories.  Love you all.

Four more…

days!  We have four more days of school, no school this Friday, but rather prep for our first program (Friday evening), then Saturday will be our second program.  I can’t believe it’s already here!  It seems like just yesterday we got back from our break in October.  

Christmas time here in Thailand feels like any other time in Thailand.  It’s still warm, yet cooler than when I first arrived and also during rainy season.  All the malls are decorated extravagantly, some even more than I’ve seen in NYC.  It’s like magic, or it would feel like magic if it were cold.  Christmas just isn’t Christmas when you aren’t home.  That’s what I’ve come to realize.

I need prayer for this week.  Stress-wise I’m doing just fine, but I have a feeling as the week goes on, it may get worse.  I’m also sick again.  I really need prayer for that.  I’m so discouraged.  I have been sick on and off for nearly 3 months now with one thing after another.  I had to miss our all-Staff Christmas party on Friday because I had a fever (again).  I think my body just isn’t used to being so warm all the time, and not having the seasons.  (Who ever would have thought I would say anything like that!)  Anyway, so just pray for healing in my body, and that I wouldn’t struggle with sickness for the rest of the year.  It really does a lot for well-being.  

We have a two week break again after our programs, and I’m really looking forward to some down time.  For the first week I will definitely be staying here, and enjoying the peace and quiet around campus for that time.  I will be spending Christmas Day with our Pastor and his family, which looking forward to.  Our church has a Christmas Eve service as well, which I hope to be involved with.  My friends will come back from a week in Chiang Mai on Saturday, the 27th, then we will take off for the beaches down south.  Maybe I already mentioned this.. in fact, I think I did, but none the less, I am really, REALLY glad to have a break soon.

Exciting news for Nonthaburi, we just had a mall put in near the school called “Central Plaza Chaengwattana” and I went there last night, but only for dinner, and was BLOWN AWAY!  It’s HUGE!  23 Stories to be exact!  Next time I go there, I’ll take some pictures, but I think it’s potentially one of the largest malls I’ve ever been to.  Downtown, “Siam Paragon” is rather large, so maybe it’s competing with that mall, but for way out here in Nonthaburi, this is definitely BIG NEWS.

Oh, so yesterday in the midst of my sickness, I went with a family of one of my students to a puppet play downtown.  It was actually really well done, and the puppets were controlled by 3 people, and performed traditional and modern Thai dances.  Here’s just a picture I pulled offline.. I’ll put more pictures up when I get them.

01Alright, well the night is quickly passing, and I need to head to bed early tonight.. for REAL!  I hope you all are well, and again I apologize for all the unnecessary concern from the email sent out last week!  I still feel awful about it!

Blessings and peace to you all!