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 

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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.

sequoia-274158_1920.jpg

“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.

Throwing away old bras

I was raised in a frugal family. There you have it.

I have three younger sisters and I can recall in seventh grade only having two “cool” shirts and one pair of ultra cool wide-legged jeans (seriously, “classic” fit or “skinny” jeans were NOT cool!). I always hoped Mom would do laundry on Tuesdays so I could rotate and wear the two cool shirts again Wednesday and Thursday, and then of course Fridays we had to wear dresses to chapel, so I could some how put together a semi-cool looking chapel dress. On one occasion, I remember on a Saturday not having anything clean to wear that was “cool” so I threw on a pair of pink colored jeans and a non-cool shirt to make a trip over to Wal-Mart. To my complete horror and utter embarrassment, one of the popular girls was also there, shopping with her Mom.

Yes, I hid in the aisle.

We were on a budget.

So along these lines, I have this habit of never really throwing clothes away as a result of growing up in such a money-conscious family. I’m not a pack rat, I can throw things away, but clothes, that’s a different story.

Same thing with bras. (Sorry, maybe not so sorry if you’re offended by this post, but it’s true). I have so many bras that have been washed, rewashed, and then worn over and over again. Think about it, you wear a bra every day, so of course it’s going to get used a LOT.

Over time, these rather essential female undergarments get extremely worn out. Stretched. Sweat upon. Then there’s body fluctuations: weight gain, weight loss. All these things play into a bra really being treated poorly. Sorry there little guys.

I have a few bras I’ve been wearing for way too long, but, how could I possibly throw them away? Tossing one of those into the garbage can like a dirty tissue, then letting it sit there so every time I go into the bathroom and see it sitting there I hear it crying out: How could you do this to me after all we have been through? Why are you getting rid of me? Don’t you ever want to see me again? Let me give you another lift!!!

But you see, just like these bras I really need to toss into the garbage, tie the bag, walk out to the garbage bin and say: SAYONARA!, there are also many things like people, attitudes, fears, worries etc that we tend to keep around way too long in our lives, can I get an amen? We keep them around for security. What will my life be like without this person? Or, Can I really live with freedom instead of fear? Or…. the list goes on. Excuses to keep things around that honestly don’t belong in our lives in the first place.

Why do we hold onto these things?

There are probably many reasons, but one big reason: fear.
We humans fear the unknown.
We fear what we cannot control.
We fear that letting go of something that has become a security blanket for us, and we simply cannot imagine living without it. Him. Her. Security. Meaning. Future. Past. Pain. Worry.

So, I cannot promise anything. Letting go is scary, I know this. I’ve walked through this… BUT, we serve a God who is constant. Unchanging. Ever present. WILL NOT LET GO OF US.

Sometimes we are asked to give things up that we think are “good” but actually are not good at all. They serve a purpose of comfort for us, but ultimately may have no purpose in the greater story of our lives. They may be holding us back from what truly is GOOD for us, not just “good.”

This is not a sermon or exegetical paper, so don’t take these verses to mean I’m saying they directly can be interpreted or applied to what I’m speaking about. But let’s consider: God gives only good, that is His determination of what is Good, to us.

Psalm 34:8-10
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!
You who are His holy ones, fear Yahweh,
for those who fear Him lack nothing.
Young lions lack food and go hungry,
but those who seek the Lord
will not lack any good thing.

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

 

Now, I might still get a few more uses out of my old bras – don’t judge me, it takes time for me to let go of certain things!  But, can we learn to let go and trust the Lord in those areas of our lives where He is asking us to open our strong grasp on things that may not be ours to hold onto at all?