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 

Breaking silence, silently breaking

Last Friday evening I returned to Seoul after a long, hot week in Bangkok partnering with and learning from ministries deep in the trenches of the Red Light districts.  I’ve never been more thankful to flop in my own bed and simply be in silence (8 high school girls and 3 leaders all staying in one room is an experience too much for anyone – especially an introvert).  I have also never been more touched experiencing God at work in some of the darkest places on the planet.

Many stories and books lie unwritten (for now) after this intense trip, but today I write just one of them.

Jill* attends our school and is a Junior this year.  An extremely intelligent, sheltered 16-year-old with kind eyes and a compassionate smile holds a bright future in front of her.  This bright future, surely pushed on her by her ever-achieving Korean parents, consists of ivy league schools, some lucrative career she probably doesn’t want, and high academics along the way… this girl is now friends with a prostitute.

Jill confided in our team earlier during the trip that she doesn’t like to cry,
especially with people.
She only cries alone.
When told that this trip “makes you cry” she questioned, “What if I don’t cry?  Does that mean I don’t care?”

I assured her everyone’s response to injustices like trafficking and prostitution is different.  Some people respond with tears, others respond with anger and even some respond with silent breaking.

As we cleaned up the nail polish, put away the chairs and swept the room that evening, I noticed Jill was not with the rest of the team.  Our team threw a party – a party for prostitutes!  A prostitute party.  The blue hairs at church would change the subject at hearing about this kind of a party.  No one talks about prostitutes at church.  (Yet the Bible seems to be brimming with prostitutes – and what a horror to see that one of them, Rahab, even makes it into the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s Gospel!  This, my dear readers is for another blog.)

During the prostitute party, we laughed, oh how we laughed.  Laughter always seems to extend beyond language and cultural barriers.
The gift of laughter breaks down walls.
Laughter reminds us we are all the same, we are all human.
We played games, we worshiped together, we experienced the Spirit of God at work in the lives of these precious women.  The only difference between “us” and “them” is just perhaps that life experiences somehow forced them to make a living in this way.  To be exploited and sell their bodies to survive.

Jill became friends with a prostitute.  A bleached-blonde, 40-year-old beautiful Thai woman.  This woman waited patiently to talk to Jill.  She waited patiently to have Jill, and only Jill, paint her nails.  They laughed together trying to bridge the language gap and made a strong connection that night.  The 16-year-old Korean girl and the 40-something-year-old prostitute.

After the women left and we continued cleaning, I discovered Jill in the corner, alone, with crocodile tears streaming down her eyes.  She looked away from me as I approached her, embarrassed.  This young girl who doesn’t like to cry in front of anyone; so I simply wrapped my arms around her.

“Yesterday when we saw the women standing in front of the bars and on the streets I was numb.  I didn’t feel anything.”

“But tonight, I realized these women are people.”

 

* Names changed to protect identities, of course

There are many ministries who work to provide jobs with dignity to men and women who are in vulnerable situations, especially in Bangkok.  For more information, or if you’d like to donate any amount please visit:
http://www.dtonnaam.org/
http://www.nightlightinternational.com/about/

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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“you know just enough to be dangerous”

Those words still echo through my mind, spoken by a professor friend of mine.

I walked (maybe even skipped) across the big stage to receive my degree from Dallas Seminary in May but in that moment, I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t done yet.  There was more left to know and learn.

I know enough to be dangerous, but I know I need more.

Which is why I’m up blogging at 2:49am instead of sleeping.

from death to life

Let-Go

Letting go.
Letting things die
so i can live..
so I can really live, again.

There is life, even in death
because some things need to die, so other things can live
like dreams

But why do we keep praying for clarity?
We are never promised clarity
But … but
we can walk by faith, and not by sight
we can choose trust instead of the questions

And somehow in the mess
there is beauty
in the ashes
and in the end
we may experience a joy that only comes from Him in the midst of the
madness, chaos, confusion and doubt..

and a seed of joy is planted
growing bit by bit
sprouting into a tree.  A tree of life.  Again.