Sunday, February 5, 2017

I hate everything about how 2017 started

2017 did not start off with warm fuzzies and blissful but I'm happy about that.

Maybe I was a little dramatic on my title. I blame the readers who only read blogs with dramatic titles. You know who you are. 😉

I know hate is a strong word but it best expresses how I feel about injustice, being cold, being scared, and cats. Other things I strongly dislike would be being uncomfortable, taking risks that don't make sense, bad drivers...

School was out 31 Dec - 3 Jan. So "the girls" (my older students that are more like friends) wanted to go to Pai Sunday and come back Monday. It had been cool and rainy which wasn't ideal weather for a long bike ride but I agreed to go. I tend to over pack so this time I brought the bare minimum. After all it was just one night. I brought a shirt, 2 pairs of undies, and toiletries. I could wear my hoodie and jeans and socks (don't judge) again.

What should have been a 3 hr drive ended up being 5. That's a long time on a motorbike! The road to Pai has 762 curves. Yes, you read that right 7 6 2 curves. I get motion sickness just looking at the "curvy road ahead" sign. Thankfully, being on the bike with the cold wind on my face helped me to not really get motion sick.

We got to the place where we were going to stay for the night. It was dark by this time but from what I could tell of this place is was basically a hippie/squatter type campground. We rented a couple of bungalows that had bunkbends in them. There were tents all around and open sleeping areas. They did have warm showers and electricity so that was nice.

We checked into our rooms and walked to the night market down the street.

As we're walking around one of the girls comes up to me and puts her arm around my arm and her head on my shoulder. With a sly grin she asks, "Can we stay the night again tomorrow near a waterfall? It's cold and foggy! It will be so beautiful! Please??"

"Cold? Foggy? Another night I wasn't mentally prepared for? I don't have enough clothes for that." All things that ran through my mind. Not to mention I was over being cold.

I asked where we would sleep. She told me we can rent a tent. What??! What about sleeping bags and blankets? We can rent those too.

I told them that we can take a look at the place then I'll decide.

We got back to our room and attempted to get some sleep.

I don't know that I got much sleep if any that night. The tent behind our bamboo room was occupied by some men that didn't know how to talk to the people next to them without yelling. I put in my head phones and tried to settle my mind with some I Love Lucy. If you ask me, the men in that tent thought it was their job to keep anyone around them from sleeping. They were determined to stay awake and stay loud.

Morning rolls around and we get ready and check out by 8am. We couldn't leave that place fast enough haha.

We spent the day exploring. It was slightly warmer than the day before and not raining so that was nice. There were even times that the clouds broke and you could feel the sunshine. I could immediately feel my mood change and was able to enjoy the day. It was a fun day!

That evening we made our way to the top of the mountain to the campsite. It was so cold! And so foggy! There were 5 of us but they decided that a 3 person tent would fit us all. They kept asking me if I could sleep in a tent or if I was able to camp. Of course I can! I grew up camping and I've camped out in the desert of Kenya a few different times. Camping isn't hard for me haha. Come to find out, they have never been camping. They were concerned about me being able to handle but they had never done it before lol!

We rented our tent, sleeping bags, and blankets and got set up. As the night went on the fog rolled in and the temp got colder. At one point they made an announcement warning campers that showering too late in the day could be dangerous because you might not be able to get warmed up. The showers did not have water heaters. The girls and I decided that washing our faces and brushing our teeth would suffice until we got home the next day.

The tent to the left of us was about 10-12 inches away from ours. The one on the right was about two feet away. Around 1am the campers on the right got a phone call that a family member had died. It took them about 2 hours to clean up their campsite. They were yelling and upset and apparently had to make sure everyone around them knew what was going on. (I didn't know their family member died until the morning when the girls explained to me what had happened. They only knew because of how loud the campers were talking.) One guy in the tent on the left, the one closest to me, snored so loud the entire night! So, another uncomfortable night of no sleep and mounting frustration.

We got up the next day and started the process cleaning up the campsite. We brought the blankets and sleeping bags back to the office area. They put them right back on the shelves. No washing or sanitizing them at all. I did my best to not throw up or show my complete disgust and prayed that God would help to not think about how many people could have used those or what could have happened on them. I am so uncomfortable just thinking about that. We grabbed our backpacks and made long trek home.

I hate how 2017 started but not for all of the reasons you think. Yes I hate that I was cold. I hate that I couldn't sleep. I hate that I used blankets that only God knows who else used. I hate that I didn't shower. I hated being uncomfortable and inconvenienced.

Know what I hated more than that? I hated that I almost missed out on having a good time and making memories with the girls. I hate that I avoid being uncomfortable or inconvenienced. I hate that I have missed out on other adventures or memories with people simply because I want to be comfortable.

I had to tell myself, "You're cold, not dying. You're uncomfortable, not dying. You're inconvenienced, not dying."

So I decided to embrace being uncomfortable and inconvenienced. I decided to look for the good and even enjoy the people and the things in those moments. I might have hated how 2017 started but I wouldn't change it. It has propelled me into a new mindset. It has challenged me to embrace being uncomfortable. To allow myself to be inconvenienced for the sake of others.

No, this does not mean that I will do the Flight of the Gibbons zipline here in Chiang Mai lol! But it does mean that I will experience more in life. 2017 is going to be my most uncomfortable year yet!

Here's a short video of our trip!
















Tuesday, July 5, 2016

"P' Sara's Barber Shop. It's Free!"

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to cut hair. It was a dream turned desire turned passion. My Aunt Denise is a major influence behind that passion. She used to cut my hair when I was kid. I looked up to her and when she told me how she started cutting hair it sparked the dream in me.

This dream is much deeper than wanting to be like my aunt. I know in the depths of my being that God used my aunt to reveal His dream for me.

I was in high school or soon after that when I first started cutting hair. I cut my dad's hair, my brother's and his friends, some neighborhood boys, and my friend's kids hair.

As deep as my desire to cut hair is my desire to do free haircuts. I've always had a heart for the underprivileged, the overlooked. Giving the haircuts is payment enough for me.

About 10 yrs ago I accidentally messed up on one haircut. He cried. I cried haha. And just like that I quit cutting hair. I took that as a sign that I should just let it go. I hadn't gone to school for it and I didn't think I ever would.

That passion died back down to just a dream that I once had. Until now.

I've been in Thailand for just over a year now. Last year a boy came to the center after school. It looked like he had gotten in a fight with a lawnmower and lost. I thought maybe he had taken the scissors to his head. After all, he was a 7 yr old boy. They do silly things sometimes.

Turns out, if the boys let their hair get longer than the school allows, the teachers will cut random parts of their hair. They do this to force the boys to go to the barber. When I saw him and heard what had happened I couldn't help but want to set up shop at the center.

In the last month I have done a couple of hair cuts at the center. One was to prevent the shameful chopping of the hair and one to fix it. I'm not sure who was more happy, me or them haha.


After his haircut he said, "P' Sara's barber shop. It's free!" 

Last year before I came to Thailand I traveled around the south with Mary Beth and her dad, Mike. They were itinerating and graciously invited me along. I got to share about #MissionThailand and sold some shirts along the way.

While in Louisiana we stayed with a couple. Very nice, friendly, generous people. They had known me for all of two days and committed to supporting me monthly. It goes to show that God has his own ways of providing.

But that's not the best part. Last week FedEx delivered a box to my house. I got a message from the aforementioned husband that explained the package. God had given him a dream one night that I would be cutting hair. (There's more to the dream but I want to keep that private for now.) Rather than writing it off because he doesn't know me, he instead bought me clippers, scissors, a cape, combs, and barbicide. The moment I opened the box I started crying. It reminded me of my passion to cut hair. Over the last few months I have been thinking about going to barber college when I get back to America next year. It will give me the skills I need to be the "barber" I have always wanted to be. Then, when I get back to Thailand, or wherever I am in the world, I can cut hair with confidence.

Meanwhile, I will be cutting hair at the center. Though my cuts will be basic they will keep the boys from being shamed and will start me on the path to God's plans for me as a barber.

I wanted to share this with you to encourage you to never ever give up on your God given desires and passions. For 10 yrs I let fear, doubt, and insecurity bully me. I can get lost in regret thinking about those years and that I should have gone to school. But my God is a God of redemption. He can redeem and awaken what was lost or seemingly dead. Not just dreams but relationships and anything you may think can't be fixed.

Anticipating all that God has for me as I step up and live out this passion. I've been able to accept that I may never be a mother but I just couldn't accept that I would never cut hair. I'm humbled by the family that was obedient in sending me that package. I'm humbled that after all of these years the time has come for my dream to become a reality. I am forever grateful for Jesus. His love, salvation, redemption, grace, mercy. May all that I do honor Him!

P' Sara's barber shop is now open!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

I Was Just Following P'Sara

I've been going back and forth about sharing what happened last night. It has been on my mind all day.

Yesterday, Saturday, was just like all of the other Saturdays. Until it wasn't. We had Bible story and games at the center. It was my bi-monthly crossfit work out day aka swim day. Everything was going along as usual.

Evening rolled around and it was time for Bible Study with "the girls" (the older 18-21 yr old girls from the center). My co-laborers had a maternity class and weren't able to make it to Bible study. So, the girls and I went to a coffee shop/restaurant down the street.  We talked about the things God has been speaking to us about and the things that we need prayer for.

I confessed that I had be feeling like I'm not good enough to be here or to do the things that I know God is asking me to do. I asked them to pray that I would be confident in why God has me in Thailand and that my faith would be stronger.

The girls took turns sharing. One wants to know more about the Holy Spirit, to improve her english, and to do well as a leader at the center. Another asked for prayer to be brave for the kids that look up to her. To be a good example for them. She is also in the process of getting her Thai ID card. She wants the process to go smoothly and hopes she doesn't have to pay off corrupt gov't officials to get it in a timely manner. The other wants to be an english major and have her own business one day. She shared that the students that have a lot of money or have family members that already own a business are more likely to own a business.

I stopped her and told her something I'm not sure has been told before. The tears led me to believe she needed to hear these words. "God is your Father. He has more than enough to provide for you. He will never run out of money. If He has put it in your heart to own a business He will make it happen. Don't let anything stop you from pursuing that dream. You are God's daughter."

I expressed to the girls that God is the king of kings. The lord of lords. And that makes us princesses. It is important for us to remember who we are. If we know who we are we can do the things that God wants us to do. If we know who we are we won't let lies deter us.

We prayed for each other and ended our dinner with encouraged hearts. It was about 8:30 pm or so by this time. We decided to go to Walking Street market. We got there, walked around and bought a few things, had some good laughs then headed home.

The girls stay at my house every Saturday. We were about 5 mins from my house when it happened. A truck hit a motorcycle with two exchange students on it. We missed it by less than a minute. Traffic came to an abrupt stop. I see a woman on the ground and her friend next to her. Nobody was helping them. I jumped off my bike and ran to them. There was food strewn all across the three lane road.

I get to the woman and see that her foot was cut to the bone. I was looking around for something to stop the bleeding. I contemplated ripping my shirt off but quickly vetoed that idea lol. Next thing I know one of my girls was standing next to me and handed me her sweater. I quickly wrapped the sweater around the woman's foot to try to keep her from losing any more blood.

The injured woman could only speak Chinese. Her friend could speak Thai and Chinese. My student was helping to communicate with them and the EMT that arrived a few minutes after we did. (I'm so proud of her!) We stayed until they got the woman in an ambulance. It was a bit of a whirlwind. One of those instances when you act first think later.

We made back to my house safely but heavy hearted. We started to process what we saw and what we did. We prayed for the girls on the bike and for the man that hit them.

Then, in Thai, the student that was helping me with the woman, says, "I was just following P'Sara. She ran to help her and I went with her."

That was so eye opening for me. I was just doing something most anyone else would have done. I didn't stop to think about who would be watching me or following me. I just responded.

That's what has been on my mind today. Whether I'm helping a bleeding woman in the street or playing with the kids or figuring out life there are eyes watching me and feet following me. What I do and how I respond in any situation will influence the people around me especially my girls.

We are all people of influence and we are all subject to influence. I want to be proud (not prideful) when I hear the words "I was just following you". Last night really challenged me to make sure that I am doing all that I can to reflect Jesus. Not Sara.

If your friends or child or co-worker said "I was just following you" would you smile or cringe?

Monday, February 15, 2016

My New Normal #thelifeofThai

Last month I wrote a blog about how newsletters are hard because living in Thailand is my new normal. This month I would like to expand on that. I want to share with you some of the things that are now my new norm.

Where do I start? Let's start with the food. Thai food is oh so good and cheap! If you didn't have rice with your meal then it was more or less a snack haha. The Thai people like their food spicy. If it isn't spicy then it is bland. Or if you're like me and you can't eat spicy food then you get the child's version of the dish. Yeah, it can be embarrassing but this is my life now ha! Most Thai dishes are around 35 baht ($1). You can't beat that!

If you get your food to go it comes in little plastic bags. It might not look like a lot of food but it is! For you adventurous types, there's an array of fried insects to choose from. I've also seen squid on a stick, octopus leg on a stick, and various other types of sea creatures on a stick. Me, I prefer pork on a stick with sticky rice. One of my favorite things! Another cool thing is that you can eat the food from the street carts. Not something I've done in the other countries I've been to. I could go on and on about the food. But there's far too much to share!














Next, let's talk about driving. We drive on the left side of the road here. It isn't as hard to adjust to if you ride a motorbike. A car is a different story. I've driven both and I much more prefer the bike.

There's another kid between the parents
I feel 10x safer on a bike here than I do in the states. Motorbikes are a very common mode of transportation. So most drivers are very aware and mindful of us bike riders. It is easy to find parking. You get to weave your way to the front of the line at the stop light. And, according to the other drivers, the no u-turn sign doesn't apply to bikes. Sometimes bikes are driving against the flow of traffic. Sometimes you're that guy. Also, sidewalks are more like little side roads for motorbikes. Entire families fit on a bike. Grocery shopping can be challenging but you just find a way to make it work.

The downside to bikes... the a/c stops when you stop. Getting stuck behind a garbage truck is the worst! It smells so bad and you can't plug your nose. Driving behind a truck carrying dirt? Ouch! It's like teeny tiny needles poking any part of your skin that is exposed. I've taken a few insects to the neck, too haha. A butterfly hurts more than you'd think. Also, sneezing with your helmet on is just not cool.

 Kids start learning to ride a bike around 8 years old. Some as young as 12 or 13 have their own bikes.


I can't go into detail and put up pics of everything that is my new normal but here's a list...

 Language school. Two hours of class each day four days a week. It is mentally exhausting but I am enjoying it!
I get to help disciple 5 amazing young women! Watching them grow in the Lord is my heart's delight. Every saturday night they stay at my house. They keep me young lol.
My students at the center. I can't imagine my life without them. I look forward to my time with them every week!
There are no heaters. Not that you need them often but still. Even the cars don't have heat.
I have to miss birthdays and moments with my family. I get to see them on the screen of my phone but I miss hugging them and laughing with them.
We take our shoes off before entering a room, house, building, and some small stores.
There's no carpet in the houses.
Before every movie at the theater we must stand for the King's song. Movie tickets are only about $5 so it's okay :)
People here are calm
If you want to know about anything political or in the news or anything really, you have to look for the information. It is not constantly thrown in you your face.
There's a slow pace of life here. The focus is more on community and less about just yourself.
Spirit houses. Little houses (kind of like over sized, extravagant bird houses) are everywhere. Food, drink, and incense are set out every day to appease the spirits that reside there.
When you greet someone you wai. Hands together just under your nose with a slight bow.
I get 20 liters of water for about 95 cents
There's a festival for everything

I get to teach the bible to some really awesome kids each week
Some students can't tell their parents that they are Christians so they go to the center to study the Bible
I walk down roads where chickens are just hanging out
Line is the app to have
You can wear flipflops 11 1/2 months out of the year
Lots of westerners here with absolutely no regard for Thai culture. It's embarrassing. Tip: if you visit a foreign country do some research on how not offend them.
7-11 is your one stop shop. You can pay your bills, buy food, school supplies, up the minutes on your cell phone. Pretty much everything except buy gas.
If you're at a market and there isn't a price tag on an item the price is negotiable.

Those are just a few of the things that are part of my normal, everyday, life. Wish we could sit down together and laugh about the silly things and pray about the heavy things. I like my new "normal". I like that I get to live here and share the Hope of Christ with a people that are desperately seeking hope.

If you want to know more about any of these things let me know! If you want to make a donation or a monthly commitment to #MissionThailand and be part of #thelifeofThai with me click here!! Thank your for your support!!
Working the rice fields
Bible story time!


Shoes at the entrance of a temple

A view of Chiang Mai



Salty, sweet, spicy, and sour.





Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Truth About Newsletters

Newsletters are hard, y'all. They used to be easier. So much to tell and with such fervor.

But, now I'm living in Thailand. Nearly eight months into my 2 yr term and this is my life now. Driving on the left side of the road. Language school. Playing with the kids at the center. Eating rice or noodles for most meals. Riding a motorcycle. Being mostly disconnected from what's going on in America. Only seeing my family on the screen of my phone. Missing birthdays and holidays and little moments. Wearing flip flops year round. Being 13 hours ahead of my family.

So how do I decide what to write about? What part of my everyday life do I share? There aren't too many things that seem out of the ordinary that scream "people need to see this!". Don't get me wrong. I LOVE sharing #thelifeofThai with you. I really like doing what I can to let you into my new life. It is a fun, challenging, sometimes lonely, happy, fulfilled life.

Imagine, if you will, that you had to write an update about your life...

"I sent some emails today."
"Gave a high five to a coworker that found out he's going to be a dad."
"The kids took a nap today."
"Turned in a report that wasn't due until tomorrow."
"At lunch I paid for my friend's meal."

Lol!

Everyday life doesn't seem newsworthy but I try my best to share with you what I'm experiencing. I hope that you feel like you are part of what I'm doing. If there is anything you want to know more about feel free to contact me. Like I said, most of my life here has become normal.

Though most of it is my new normal, God is doing some amazing things!!

Spending time with the kids at the center and getting to know them is one of my favorite things to do. Seeing the older students become young adults and maturing in the Lord makes me so proud. Nearly every week since I've been here new students have started going to the center. Not because of me but because of what God is doing. They get to hear about Jesus every week. For as long as they go to the center they will know that Jesus loves them. And hopefully they will take that with them the rest of their lives.  I am building a good relationship with my Thai teacher. We even hang out outside of class.

Newsletters are hard. So much has become my new normal and so much is happening. It is hard to put into a short letter but I try.

If you want to keep up with what I'm doing in between newsletters follow me on social media.

Facebook Twitter Instagram

Much love.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Moms

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of having dinner at the home of some of my students.
We all gathered on a deck outside in the cool of the evening.  Us 4 Americans dug in a engaged in fun conversations with the teens.

As the night drew on and we were full beyond the point of gluttony the conversations slowed and the Americans headed home. I stayed a little longer because freedom - I mean I'm single and don't have any kinds!



Then something cool happened. Something my heart could feel but my mouth couldn't find the words to express. All I could do was smile. I felt like what a mug probably feels like when you pour hot tea in it.

All the mothers come to the table to eat. I admired these women. I was humbled by them. I thought of my own mom. And all the mothers I've had the honor of spending time around the table with around the world.

All around the world you'll find mothers being the last to eat. These amazing women made some equally amazing dinner and dessert for a big group of farangs (foreigners). After we ate until our stomachs were near combustion and after we chatted with each other and with the girls and after giving some food to go (not to mention working then coming home and cooking and being wives and mothers) these moms sat down to enjoy dinner themselves.

They might speak a different language or dress different or live in a different country but there is a similarity that connects every mother. The love they have for their families. The desire they have for the children to be full, smart, clean, loved. Putting themselves last.

It is beautiful. Should I have children of my own one day I would count it a great honor to be part of such a strong, kind, caring group of women.

If your mom put herself last for you call her today and tell her thank you. If you are a mother and you sometimes feel unappreciated I want you to know that your hard work does not go unnoticed. Your children will one day see all that you sacrifice for them. If you are a father take the time today to do something special for your wife. Get the kids involved. Don't wait for Mother's Day to love on mom.

To my mom,
Thank you for your humility and kindness and love. Thank you for everything that you have sacrificed for my sake and for my siblings. I can only hope to be half as amazing as you are!! I love you!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Like And Share And God Will Bless You

I want to preface this blog with why I DO LIKE social media.

I like social media because...
I travel the world and social media makes it easy to know what's going on anywhere at anytime.
I can keep in contact with my family and friends.
I can update all of my amazing supporters on how life is in Thailand or wherever it is I go.
I get to see/read the heart of like minded people and those that have different views. It challenges me to know who I am, to know Jesus more, and how to love better.
I get to share my heart and jokes and my missionary life.
Missing children can be found
Long lost family members and friends can be reunited
You can follow along with your favorite actor or author or athlete or artist or speaker
And lots more.

If you are on facebook at all I'm certain you've scrolled across a post that has some sort of God or religious story or quote and asks you to like and share the post.

This is part of social media that I DO NOT like. It literally makes me sick to my stomach the amount of manipulative posts that are posted AND shared. Too many people are using God to get likes and shares. That's the bottom line to these things, likes and shares.

If a bible verse or a story or a quote impacts you then I'm all for sharing it. I do it all the time. When you add "if you love Jesus then like and share" or "I know most of you won't share this but my real friends will" or "type amen and like and share and God will bless you" or anything like that you are manipulating people. It isn't right. It isn't how God works.

Jesus died on the cross because he wants a relationship with us. He loves us. He wants us to know him. He didn't endure the cross so that we can get likes and shares. True Christianity is bigger and more powerful and greater than any facebook post or anything you find on social media. It's easy to share a post. Easy to share a scripture verse. But your social media life isn't going to be standing before Jesus one day. You are. I am. How we loved God and loved others will be on the table. Those posts are going to hold any weight at that time.

This upsets me because there are so many people that misrepresent Christ. It upsets me because I see family and friends falling prey to these posts. It upsets me because these posts portray God as some sort of genie. "Like if you believe in God and he will doing something good for you." It upsets me that people settle for sharing a post rather than surrendering to Christ.

The bible is clear about what our lives should look like if we say we love him and know him. Not one time does it mention anything about social media. It does however talk about our social behavior and our hearts.

Please reconsider sharing and liking these manipulative posts as it only promotes manipulation and the total misrepresentation of Jesus. If someone is sharing from their heart that's different. A person that is secure in themselves and wants to be genuine on social media will not manipulate you into sharing and liking.

Thanks for listening. Back to your regularly scheduled weekend. :)