Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Golden Triangle!

Run, Huy, Me and Kyla - ready for the boat ride around the Golden Triangle!

Golden Triangle?  Never heard of it?

Me neither...until I moved here.  

Imagine boating down a large river, with Thailand at your back, Burma on your left and Laos on your right.  The same sun beats down on these three lands.  The same rain falls, and the landscape looks entirely the same.  But, the people, languages, government, religion, culture, etc. are so wildly different.  It was slightly awesome to literally be caught in the middle of these three countries - knowing that each one is desperately in need of Hope.

Last week, we had to make a "border run" for visa purposes, and went across the border of northern Thailand into Burma.  It was quite uneventful, and we didn't stay for souvenirs.  Maybe next time.

After we were through, we met Nick and Steph's family in a nearby town for a quick retreat...and it was prime opportunity to "scout the land" for future work.  We went to the Golden Triangle because, frankly, we are so close to these two Restricted Access Nations, that it would be crazy not to make the trip. 

Run, Treav and Huy enjoy the windy ride.

Burma on the left, Laos on the right.  Me in the middle!

A casino on the Burma side.  Definitely wouldn't call Burma "paradise" to anyone living there...
We weren't allowed to enter Burma from the boat, so we turned around to the Laos side.  Another casino on the riverbank?  You got to be kidding me!  The boat driver said it is funded by the Chinese.  Interesting...
The S-clan being helped out by the Laotian kids.
In this boat "tour," we were allowed to get off in Laos to visit a walking market.  When we arrived at the boat dock, about 10+ kids ran to help steady the boat.  Our boat driver said that they were likely orphans, and they begged for money as we stepped onto the dock.  Lord, please find them a home...and be their need-meeter.

Some of the kids waiting around for new tourists

Whisky bottles filled with scorpions and cobras

One thing I saw on a tourism video before we went were these bottles.  Yes, it isn't just cheap whiskey in those bottles.  There are scorpions and cobras, too!  Appetizing, right?

King Cobra on the menu?

In the biggest jars were an assortment of wildlife - said to give power, strength and healing to those who drank it.  Ok.

The salesman proudly lifted up the King Cobra for us to see.  Needless to say, our eyes grew wide.  No, thank you.

A Laotian woman walking with her baby

Antique opium pots

These opium pots were being sold as "decorative items" along with pipes, chess boards and random antique figurines.  Nothing like an opium pot to get a conversation going about the decor of your home!  I passed on these beauties...

The Golden Triangle in view

We packed up and headed back to Thailand after a trip through the walking market, and on our way back to the shore, the three countries came into view.  We prayed over them and asked God to bless these nations and reveal the Truth to them.  He has been merciful to us, so we pray that He will be merciful to them, too!

A faithful witness

On our way back, we spotted this sign and cross witnessing faithfully to Laos.  Praise God!

A Thai Buddha

We are so thankful for our trip.  To see the nations.  To reach across borders and intercede for God to move.   

We pulled up on the Thai side and Treav took out his guitar for a quick time of worship.  There was nothing more appropriate than that.  We all prayed and asked God to dare to use us to impact these nations.  To make bridges for Hope to spread.  To be used by Jesus to show His unending love for all people.  

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." 
Isaiah 6:8

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Steps!

Kyla having a blast playing outside at our hew house!

My little nugget took her first step a few days ago!

She is now 14 months, and was an early crawler, so we were wondering when she'd finally start walking.  We were tucking the kids into bed the other night, when she let go of the side of her pack 'n play and walked two steps to the other side.  Yay!  Just wanted to share that fun news with everyone.  Before we know it, she'll be running, riding a bike, and eventually walking out of our house to start life on her own.  Well, maybe I am getting ahead of myself.  It isn't that soon...

Go Kyla!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Encountering Two Nations That We Love

Run, a Siamese crocodile (can you see it?), and Huy
Rainclouds were moving in quickly this afternoon as we took an ice cream break during our day at the zoo.  We had seen gibbons, the only Indian Rhino in Thailand (given by the king of Nepal to Thailand over 20 years ago!), elephants, macaws and so many other wonderful animals.  It was coming on 2:30pm and we needed some refreshment.  Refreshment for us equals...ice cream!  Thankfully here in Thailand, drinks, snacks and such aren't as obscenely over-priced as they are in America, so we bought a lot of snacks! 

We sat down under a tent to enjoy our popsicles and lime soda, and happened to notice a fun family sitting next to us.  We overheard the (obviously) foreign guy speaking French to his (very) Thai son, who was conversing back beautifully in his father's native language.  The woman next to them was Thai and was stirring up her Mama instant noodles.  Treavor commented on the man's French and our conversation had begun...

This scene is quite common to observe here in our new city.  There are more Thai/Western couples here than we've seen over the past few years in the South!  Everywhere we turn, we see these beautiful and intriguing couples. 

But today was a bit different and much more intriguing.  The husband here was French, married to a Thai, and their son didn't speak Thai or English!  We later learned that they were on holiday from France and were here for a bit. 

If you know my husband and me well, we have had a heart for French people even before we started dating.  It is (almost) even the reason we started dating in the first place.  One day, we hope to move to France to share about the God that changed our lives for ever.  That is another story...

But, today, at the zoo, we encountered a national of the country we love married to a Thai woman - a people that we currently are hoping and dreaming for to encounter Jesus!  I was thrilled!

The rain started to fall as we conversed and finished our snacks...and though I was anxious to get on to the next section of the zoo (snakes and crocodiles! seriously, my boys are in love)...God kept tugging at my heart.  I wanted to move on because the afternoon was already late, but He brought the rain.  The only retreat for all of us was to sit and continue our conversation under the refuge of the picnic table's tent.

As the rain fell and my plans were washing away, God reminded me about a book I've been reading, One Thing You Can't Do In Heaven by Mark Cahill.  Cahill states that although we're going to get to enjoy lots of things in Heaven, one thing we won't be able to do is invite anyone else to the party!  That is what now is about - inviting others to encounter God in a real way.  Once we're there, our chance is gone.  Jesus was speaking to me to this afternoon about how we got caught in the rain with two nations that we wildly desire to enter into Heaven.  Here was my chance to invite them to the party!

Jesus even set it up for me: a while back, the Thai woman was going to a church to study French.  I love it when churches meet practical needs like that - to bring in so many to have an opportunity to hear!  She wasn't going there any more, though, because her husband forbade her to.  She said that because he doesn't believe, that he wanted her to stay away from there.  Like the church is really a threat!  We chatted some more about her language study and then I asked her about what she thought of Jesus.  About what she knew of Him. 

We talked for a while about Truth, sin, perfection, Heaven, religion and such.  Our kids were right there with us.  I don't have to be alone to witness, I can do it with my family.  At the zoo.  In the rain.  (On a boat...on a train...with a house...or a mouse...Sorry - went a little Dr. Seuss on you there!)

I was surprised for how willing she was to talk about her beliefs for such a short encounter.  I challenged her with the truth that even though we all try to be good, that we really can't.  Really.  And even if we could attain perfection, or enlightenment, that when we meet God one day, we have to account for all the sin we've already committed against Him.  She still has her Bible from the church she was studying at, and is (she says) still reading it.  I shared with her again about the reality of God and about how He has spoken to us through His word.  Kyla was on my lap, squirming.  Kids were loud, and we were all getting a little wet from the downpour.  But, why let that ruin a good chance to invite them to the party in Heaven!

I no longer have any excuses for not sharing. 

My Thai isn't great - but it is good enough. 

I have kids, but hey - that's reality!  People like to see us living life - it is what makes me more relate-able.

Even if God is rejected, which He was this afternoon, I did my part.  God can take care of His reputation.

And all it took was a little time.  And a lot of smiles.  And, a risk to go deeper. 

And a trip to the zoo!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons

It is the end of an era.  Or, the beginning.  Either way - we're excited!

Jeshurun finished his 100th reading lesson today.  100 lessons.  Hours and hours of work.  Sweat, tears, joy, laughing, the pulling out of hair.  Frustration, perseverance...breakthrough! 

Working through this book was eye-opening for the both of us.  Eye-opening for him because he started out this process as a 3 year old.  He'll be 6 in November.  If you do the math...it obviously took us MUCH longer than we anticipated.  This past fall, we "started" at lesson #1 for the third time around.  The first round, he was (I think!) a whiz-kid with his letter sounds; we had already worked through the alphabet and he was remembering every letter and could recall them perfectly.  I thought that, surely, he was ready to read.  So did he!  We quit at our 50th lesson, and he was thrilled.  "Simple" lessons that were supposed to take about 20 minutes were dragging out to be around 40-45 minutes each sitting.  I was bullying him to finish them and nagging him when he got stumped because I knew that he "knew" the answers already!  He would groan when we sat down for school on the couch and on the inside, I groaned, too! 

I finally had to just let go and trust that he wasn't going to be illiterate if we quit for a season; that we needed to wait until he was actually "ready."  I had heard of how great this program was from several other moms and through using it, believed in it's method.  But just because I loved it, it wasn't a sure-ticket for my pre-schooler.  I had to give up my fears that Jeshurun wasn't going to be a super genius who could quote great works of literature at 4 years of age.  I had to realize that in my efforts to get him "ahead," I was actually setting himself up to hate reading.  Hate school.  Hate learning!

Fast forward to almost a year later.  We started again, this time, with a more relaxed Mommy and a more willing son.  We got to lesson 60 and quit again.  Weren't these lessons advertised as "easy"?  We came to the realization again that Run still wasn't ready.  Emotionally, we were both getting very frustrated and dreading the daily (or weekly, let's get real - sometimes it is hard to be consistent!) lesson. 

Between the second and third round of these lessons, I had to get over a mental hurdle that I assume is common as a homeschooling mom.  I had to believe that it wasn't just good materials, intriguing books, cutesy art supplies and a big world map that make a classroom (or couch - if you teach like I do!)...it takes a whole lot more: Love, Patience, Kindness, Willingness, Diligence, Humor, Vision and Perspective.  There are countless other virtues that are needed, but these are a start!  Having all we need in the natural really isn't all we need.  We need heart.  And, we need to know where we're going. 

Today was a glorious day.  The "heart" was there.  The vision was there, too.  It seemed to both of us that although he was finishing the program that challenged him in so many ways, it was opening up so much more possibility for the future.  Now, he can begin to tackle any book about anything that interests him!  His learning isn't limited anymore to Mommy's time availability, or lack thereof.  It feels like the end of an era for us, something always hanging over our heads.  And now, the race has been won...and we're off to run another one! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Amazing What a Little Paint Will Do

Hello!  I am Alina's kitchen.  Until recently, I had dorm-room colored creamy-white walls.  I was not very pretty to look at.  In fact, I was downright ugly.  I had smoke stains from the previous renter's cooking experiences gone bad.  I had unsightly holes and greasy grime to adorn my lifeless color.  That is, until I decided to have a face lift, courtesy of Treavor, Alina's hero-husband.  Nice to meet you.  I look a little different these days.

What color am I now?


(move over, kitchen, Alina has returned)...

To celebrate Thai Mother's Day, Treavor took me paint shopping so we could attack the kitchen with color.  Wait, did I say, we?  Oh, I meant, HE attacked it with color.  I mainly watched and commented wisely about an assortment of things.  The fact is, really, Treavor painted the kitchen.  I am merely the color-picker...and, frankly, the one who will be working IN the kitchen for quite some time hereafter.  So - it was a joint effort...of sorts. 

I am no where to be found in these pictures.  And not just because I was the one taking them...ahem...Treavor did it all.  Thanks, honey!

Action shot!

What a stud.  Did you know he used to be a professional painter?  It is true.  Just sayin'.

Up close shot of this green.  Steph and I were trying to figure out what to call it.  Avocado?  No.  Lime?  No. The best I could come up with was "Martha Stewart Green."  Agree?

Where there used to be smoke stains...

There is beauty!

I love my new kitchen.

It is amazing what happens when you combine a twelve-dollar can of paint and a super-hero.  Wonderful things.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

You Know You Live In Thailand When...

I was going to do a post about how hard being a mother is...blah, blah blah...

Instead, I thought I'd compose a new "You Know You Live In Thailand When..." list for old-times sake.  I used to add these in our emails out to friends and family but have gotten out of the habit. 

You Know You Live In Thailand When...

1.  ...the ants here can find and eat almost anything; a roll of Tums in the upstairs bathroom, my herb garden, a lonely grain of rice that fell minutes before on the kitchen floor.  One of my friends once had her undergarments eaten by ants.  No kidding.

2.  ...power outages are just a way of life.  I am sure that in other third-world countries, that they are more frequent and longer, but here they seem to not even be an annoyance for Thais.  In the U.S., I remember my neighbors and I knocking on each other's doors and throwing up our arms and complaining that we couldn't watch our shows anymore or sit in the a.c. all day.  Here, I notice that people just shrug and go sit outside to hang out with everybody else or just get on with their days anyway.  I am working on being so flexible.  :)

3.  ...the marketing here says that skin-whitening is the coolest.  Skin-whitening chemicals are found in so many personal care products that it is baffling.  Lotions, face wash, I can see the obvious placement there.  But, deodorant?  Last time I checked, NO ONE was checking out how white my armpits were.  And, the latest I've seen...juice.  Juice?  What is that supposed to whiten?

4.  ...you can find a bunch of flowers at the market for 30 cents, a wonderfully delicious fried fish for a dollar and a trendy new shirt for 3 bucks. 

Living here is an adventure, day in and day out.  I love it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Goodbye Sweet Grandpa

Grandpa and (baby!) Huy - three years ago

Our sweet Grandpa, Treav's Mom's Dad, went to be with Jesus over a week ago.  It is so hard to imagine life without him.  He and his wife, who passed away earlier this year, were some of the most influential people in Treavor's life.  I can remember Grandpa's quick wit and endless ream of stories.  He was a hard, diligent worker and retired from CAT with a retirement plan that he had proudly earned through years and years of devotion to his company.  He struggled with different ailments later in life, so when I became acquainted with him, my memories of him were of him sitting contentedly in the family room rather than tinkering around in the garage.  By one look at his garage, it was clear that in his earlier years, he was always out fixing up something or doing something with his hands.  He had more tools than I could count!  I do remember the hilarious and oddly comforting sound of his many hand-held games as he played for hours in his favorite chair.  Grandpa and Grandma were gamers.  But, before you picture them shooting ducks on Nintendo or playing PS2, imagine a quiet morning first...

Grandma wakes early to prepare breakfast for her and Grandpa.  Their house was always full of light, warm and clean.  After breakfast was cleared from the table, they would play a few hours of board games.  How sweet were these two, still happily in love, playing Rook, Dominoes and Peg.  Grandpa would retire to the living room to watch sports or beat Solitaire on his hand-held game for the umpteenth time while Grandma set to work cleaning, making homemade noodles, pies or casseroles.  Anytime we dropped by for a visit, we got the feeling like we were returning "home" again.  Always welcome.  Never a bother.  Never a burden. 

Grandpa was a great story-teller and also, importantly, a great listener.  He was comforting, encouraging, and showed his faithful love to us time after time as he patiently listened to us and our children.  After every meal, he would encourage his wife by telling us how much Grandma loved him through being the best wife she possibly could.  She would grin and clear the table, offering up some of her delicious pie and trying to get the attention off of her.  Their love for each other was apparant.  And, their faith was as well.

Grandpa loved Jesus.  His humility concerning his need for God every day was so refreshing.  He knew that he had nothing if he didn't have Jesus, even if it did seem like had "everything" else a person needed.  A comfortable home.  A loving wife.  Financial security.  Friends and family that cared for him.  But, at the end of the day, he knew, and proudly proclaimed, that the grace of God was what he needed. 

Without God's grace, Grandpa's death would be hard to bear.  But, with Jesus, we have tremendous hope.  Hope to re-unite!  Hope to see his face again when we meet in Heaven.  In Jesus, we have that hope.  Thank you, Lord. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Home Educating Family Publishing

Home Educating Family Publishing

I am entering to win one of these fab day-planners for homeschooling moms. Check out the link if you're interested, too!

(definately not a paid advertisement...I just wanna win a free planner - and this is one easy way to up my chances!)

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Reason to Celebrate

This picture is of the amazing team of friends that came to help us move out of our house just over a week ago.  Without them, our move, our home, our lives, would have been lacking.  They are a reason to celebrate today!  Amidst tears, hugs, and promises of meeting again in the future, last Saturday morning was an emotional culmination of our past year living in our little country town in southern Thailand. 

We miss them all so much that it is sometimes a bit painful to reminisce.  Though, the most meaningful goodbyes are made even "better" because you have something to mourn over; deep relationship, seasons of joy, sadness, trials and pain, "life on life."  What a blessing to miss people rather than look forward to leaving them!  We get excited for the future even though we honestly don't know when we'll return for a visit.  We have Heaven to look forward to - and that lasts much longer than this momentary life.

Goodbye, friends!
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