To Be Jolly…

It’s here…the Christmas season.

Lovely cooler weather (in the 80s for me), Christmas lights on the street (hanging light garlands on two main streets in town), delicious smelling Yankee candles (from America my parents sent me), and thoughts of home, White Christmas with Bing, and decorating the tree. Sigh….lovely Christmas.

Don’t know what it is exactly about this season…but nearly everyone loves it. I know…there are always the negative things like snow storms and materialism and overeating and and and…but honestly…I think the “good’s” outweigh the “bad’s.”

This year…I broke tradition a bit. Usually I listen to Christmas music on Thanksgiving day, or the night before. I hold out all through October and November, while everyone else starts listening to “Silent Night” on Halloween…not me. I force myself to wait…sometimes it’s hard…but in the end it’s all worth it. Well, this year…I lost control. It’s true…I faltered. I listened to Charlie Brown and Sarah Groves’ Christmas album and a special mix CD a friend of mine sent me…a whole week before Thanksgiving. I couldn’t help myself…the CD was in my hands…the new Christmas candles were on my table…hot cocoa was in my mug…I had the fan on so it was cool on my couch…I just couldn’t say no.

So I caved.

Thanksgiving day was great. I got to spend all day with a family…then cooked some great food (that actually turned out!) and we had about 18 people there for dinner. Afterward we sang some carols while one of the ladies played on the out-of-tune piano (somehow it was kind of classic-y out of tune…it didn’t sound bad even though it was off). Then we helped put up the family’s tree. A good day.

Granted, I did miss home. This was the first Thanksgiving away from family. It was different, for sure, but I was also so reminded how thankful I really am, and need to be, for my loved ones. They are so very dear and special.

Maybe that is the key ingredient for this season. Family. Memories. Loved ones. Traditions. I don’t know…but it is indeed my favorite and generally seems to be “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Loving and missing you all…but grateful for my time I’m given here…

The Thoughts of a Day in Ho Chi Minh City…

Anyone who knows me would completely agree (I think) with this statement…I am random, scatter brained, and often passionate one second, but lazy the next, emotional, sensitive, then hard-core…I’m a mess basically. Today, in this new city for me, I had many of these same feelings. What are the odds?

For starters, this place is much different than I imagined. We are staying in a nice hotel, in the downtown area…Gucci and Pierre Cardin are down the street, yet our room (for two beds) is only about 40 dollars a night…or 800,000 dong. We are here to celebrate with other brothers and sisters 50 years of work here…50 years that the Word has traveled to the people who have never heard before, 50 years of the rocks, trees, and then people crying out in worship to Him. Wow.

We (my teammate and I) met with some leaders who will be a part of a conference held here in celebration of 50 years. One man, we’ll call him “S,” and his wife, served here for about 20 years…when things were not like they are now. Silence was abnormal, gunfire and bombing was a daily, or even hourly occurrence. We met them all at breakfast…he came up to us, gave a hug as a greeting, then walked us over to meet his wife. In her lavender long sleeved shirt and silvery hair, she welcomed us to sit down. She laid a hand on my back and made me feel at home.

We met with a leader in this city, went to lunch and got to listen to “S” speak of his advice to young servants on the field…what an amazing conversation that was to be able to sit in on. I sat there, wishing I had my recorder in hand. Some things I remember…”The doing comes from the filling, and the filling allows the doing to happen.” “You have to meditate and spend time with Him, that’s where He speaks to you” “Your identity lies in Him, not in anything you do or accomplish.” These, and other things discussed, made it perfectly clear why we had come a couple days early for the conference.

Then, while the men met with some officials regarding the conference, my teammate and I were able to visit and have dinner with the wife of “S”, we’ll call her “G.” It made me laugh on the inside, noting the differences between her and “S.” I guess He really does have opposites attract, but with a common goal, in order to work together to serve Him. She was full of stories, great advice, love, just all things really wonderful about a woman of Him, committed to His service, experienced yet humble. All things I really would like to be when I’m 77. I felt encouraged by her words about hardship, her comments on raising a family on the field, struggles she had when she was single and didn’t know where He was leading her in the future.

So…all this to say…I am in awe. I am set on fire…fire to do more, to love more, to meet with Him more, to serve more. To be more like Him…simply to glorify Him as I was made to. I am calmed by the idea that no matter if I’m single forever, or He brings someone to me, I’m useful to Him, simply because He chooses to use me, loves me, and continues to mold me. I am touched by the grace and power He has set in this place over the past 50 years, and before that time…this country has such rich history and is full of turmoil, something you can see on the faces of the people, even now. 75% of the population of 87 million was not even born when the war took place, but the damage remains.

I hope one day, I can look back on my life and realize I did all I could to glorify Him, to serve Him, to love Him and to love those He told me to. I hope that I will be humble, even with age and wisdom. I hope that I will be able to encourage and give advice to those younger than me, like those older than me now do for me.

Oh…sigh…this is more of a journal entry than anything…just wanted to share it all while it was on my heart. I wish you could each experience a little piece of all that I am blessed to be a part of…maybe this just gave you a little glimpse…

And one more thing to share (of course…something to do with music 🙂 ). I read earlier in my quiet time the verses in Amos 5:18-24…about the day of His coming…”I hate, I despise your feasts! I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies. Even if you offer Me your burnt offerings, and grain offerings, I will not accept them, I will have no regard for them…Take away from Me the noise of your songs!….But let justice flow like water and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.”

Then I remembered a song that comes straight from this passage about rituals and the like…oh what a good reminder, especially in a time (much like the past) when we can fall into a cycle of “doing” because we are supposed to, and have no passion or real connection with simply glorifying and serving Him. The song “Instead of a Show” by Jon Foreman speaks a strong reminder…

“I hate all your show and pretense, the hypocricy of your praise, the hypocrisy of your festivals. I hate all your show. Away with your noisy worship, away with your noisy hymns, I stop up my ears when your singing ’em, I hate all your show.

Instead let there be a flood of justice, an endless procession of righteous living, living. instead let there be a flood of justice, instead of a show.

Your eyes are closed when your praying, you sing right along with the band, you shine up your shoes for services, there’s blood on your hands. You turned your back on the homeless, and the ones that don’t fit in your plan, quit playing religion games, there’s blood on your hands.

Instead let there be a flood of justice, an endless procession of righteous living, living. instead let there be a flood of justice, instead of a show. I hate all your show.

Let’s argue this out, if your sins are blood red. Let’s argue this out, you’d be one of the crowd. Let’s argue this out, quit fooling around. Give love to the ones who can’t love at all, give hope to the ones who’ve got no hope at all, stand up for the ones who can’t stand at all.

I hate all your show, I hate all your show, I hate all your show.

Instead let there be a flood of justice, an endless procession of righteous living, living. instead let there be a flood of justice, instead of a show.”

Speaks straight to the heart.

Blessings to you all….

What to title this? “Random Events That Make Up My Time Here?”…

So many things I’d like to share, but I’m afraid it will make this post a bit…scattered? 🙂 If you can stand it…stick with me.

The past week has had many random (and I do mean random, in every sense of the word) activities all piled into one short amount of time. It’s funny, when I first moved here, it was a pretty quiet life…not too much going on. I guess that was before I had some good friends, knew my way around town, and felt comfortable enough to actually get out in it. Praise Him because now I can. Thailand, although it is not “home” and I will never “be” Thai…has become a comfort to me. When I’ve gone on trips, to various places, I always enjoy coming back. What a blessing.

To start…just a funny occurrence that reminded me I’m for sure in Thailand…I was driving to the grocery store the other day, and on the freeway there was this sudden “cloud” of pink. Pink tissues, that is. In Thailand, they have recycled paper for napkins…here we call them tissues…and they are paper thin (usually you need 10 just to clean your hands after a meal). These pink tissues had flown off someone’s car or truck and were swirling around on the freeway. I laughed as I drove through the fog of pink-ness. Yep, I’m in Thailand.

Three new girls have come in the last month, Journeyman program (2 years of service). One works in finance, one will work at the international school here, and the other is a writer that will be in the media department. It’s been fun getting to know them, and hopefully encouraging them as they learn the lay of the land. 🙂

So, last friday was when the crazy week began for me. My house church put on a country-cowboy party. We had all the adults of the house church, plus other friends…there were 30 adults total. So…I offered to teach line-dancing! What FUN! Let me tell you, I’ve never taught that before…but it was a total blast. Good food, good fun, lots of dancing, and hurting feet afterwards…it was an great night. 🙂 The three new girls came along with me…we had fun.

The next day was a field trip with Khruu Panida and some of her other students. We went to Horizon Resort…they had tons of fun and beautiful things! It was a good day, long and hot, but good.

cactus

deer

So weird to see these in Thailand…

fieldtripcrew

Khruu Panida and the other three students who went on the trip…

fence

Had one without the fence, but I liked this one better…

footpaddleboat

Chillaxin’ on the paddle boat…

flowerdroplets

paddleboatkhruu

We look so cool, no? 🙂

rainbow

Check out the rainbow! 🙂

Sunday night was my friend P’Thum’s house warming party….disco! I found a little outfit at Carrefour (a thing kinda like Walmart) and got all dolled up. I sang at his party too….sooooo fun…and encouraging. I wasn’t nervous! Such a big difference for me, as compared to when I was younger. I used to freak out, get all cold and shaky. Amazing what some prayer, practice, change of mind (who I’m singing for) and grace from above can do for you. 🙂

disco

The three new Journeyman girls…

And…this week is Loi Kratong in Thailand. It’s a beautiful holiday…but some sad reasons why the Thai’s celebrate it. Each year, they set off kratong (small flower things with candles) and lanterns (paper hot-air balloons essentially) to let their sins “free.” They pray to Buddha and let go of all their bad things from the year…to bless the next year. It’s good karma for them. I ran into a lady in my apartment building (I see her all the time) and she was all dressed up. I asked her where she had come from. In Thai she told me, “I went to the wat (temple) to pray and now I have happiness and am strong.” If only that could be true…true happiness and true strength from the only One who could give it. My heart goes to those that think this holiday really can do all they think it can…it is fun to celebrate with friends and see all the sights and hear and see all the fireworks, but important to remember there are thousands lost in the midst of it.

bridgeloikratong

eatcricket

Cricket-eating first timer…

ferriswheel

kratong

These little flower things are called kratong (they light them and send them down the river)…

crazybridge

tuktukride

Tuk-tuk time…

lanternletgo

Letting go…

That’s all for now…bet you can’t wait for the next completely unorganized letter. 🙂

Blessings!