Thursday, December 31, 2015


Always a girl who enjoys lists, goals, reflecting, and pinching the most meaning out of every moment... it is no surprise that New Year Resolutions are an important part of my annual calendar.

Mark isn't always so eager to join me in (yet another) five hour conversation about the meaning of life and if we're living intentionally enough, and plans for setting practical goals daily to get where we intend to go 15 years from now....and so on and so on.  I don't see why he doesn't leap at the opportunity to discuss these things weekly with me. =) But the beginning of the new year, he's always ready to indulge me at this goal-setting time.

Last year we spent New Years in Burma. We shake our heads still in wonder at that vacation-it was so beautiful and perfect, a wonderful culmination to a wonderful year. When we returned we spent some time thinking about our goals. We decided to do it a bit differently, and chose only five things for the month of January. Five things to pray about, intentionally work on improving, five things to focus our attention on. The intention was to come together monthly with new "5 things", but when February came around, we both felt that we needed to keep praying about and working on the same five things. And in March, April, May, still we were not ready to change our focus. And, a whole year has passed now and it was these five things that we wrapped our year around.

We chose one overarching phrase for 2015, and we wrote it on our walls and in our hearts."May Love Abound".  I whispered it to myself when I dreaded another day of giving, giving, giving. We said this phrase to one another when we struggled to make a decision. Sometimes love did abound and it was beautiful. Sometimes we chose more sacrifice and more love and it was hard and we didn't want to. Sometimes I did not choose love, and my husband, and friends, and kids bore the brunt of it. Love did not always abound this year, but we tried to lean in to this idea-to open our hearts in bigger ways and I believe we grew and were blessed because of it.

I am blessed to think of our years' goals and see so clearly how God has moved.

1.  Grad School for Mark

Last year we began praying about if and when Mark should pursue his masters, at what university, and with what program. At the close of 2015, I am incredibly proud to report that Mark has received his first two A's in his first two classes.

2. That our house would be used, and the rooms filled up

Our house has been a constant source of joy and frustrating. It is just... big. And empty. And we have often wrestled with the choice we made in moving here as it doesn't align well with our values of simplicity. So we prayed and prayed and prayed that our house could be used. And we have been blessed to have friends, and a missions team, and family, and couch surfers in our house on temporary occasions, but it did not seem enough to warrant the extra rooms. But for several months this last year we had a great friend live part-time at our house, which gave them the opportunity to pursue a job and broaden their world. And we are so happy that we got to be apart of that in some small ways.

3. Friendship

We prayed for deeper connections and friendships. And then an amazing couple joined the ICS family this year and we "clicked" instantly. We are incredibly thankful for them. We continued to be intentional with prioritizing our church community, and our relationships continue to grow and grow. It has felt a whole lot more like home this year as we continue to invest in this community.

4. Abiding

We prayed and sought to abide in Christ. We read books and the bible. We had talks and we prayed. This year has been a hard year for me spiritually. Sometimes God does not seem so good when the world shows all its bad. But other times it is the truth that he has and will overcome that allows me to start over every morning.

5. Baby

Beginning last January we started praying for a baby. And, well, baby comes in May. I'm sure many more prayers will be uttered. =)

Mark and I have a few days "off" together this next week. And we are talking again about our resolutions. There is a lot of unknown ahead, a lot of ways we will need to grow, a lot of things to prepare for. 2016-bring it on, we are excited for all that you will hold!

The Glamour of Pregnancy

1st Trimester:

(Must sleep)

2nd Trimester:

(Must Eat)

Not Pictured: my closet, where piles upon piles of clothes lie from the 15 different outfits I try on every morning before finding something that fits and doesn't look ridiculous.

I would be embarrassed by these photos if I didn't think they were so incredibly hilarious. Bring it on third trimester- I'm ready and waiting!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


I've been angry these days. Bitter and hardened. Quick to anger, quick to question, quick to doubt. Too quick to judge, not ready to listen. I am incredibly snappy and I'm quite certain my face is set in a perpetual frown.

And so I've tried to take a step back, take some deep breaths, slow down. Why am I so full of hate? Why is anger what is flowing out?

I think there are a lot of answers to these questions. I am selfish and sinful. I brood over my hateful thoughts and selfish desires. I'm not so good at choosing to think on what is true, good, right, and noble. That muscle needs far more development in my life.

And then I think that, I'm just a bit disheartened. Okay- a lot. So much that the tears stream down my face just to say it.

The thing is, friends, I'm surrounded by death. Not the literal death (but sometimes that too) but Death. You may believe in the devil and you may not. But I see him every day.

He's at work- spreading hatred and fear, discord and violence.
I listen to these stories and I wonder how it is possible for a human to do these kinds of things to another human. Kids chained up like dogs, sold for their body parts, mother's raped before their eyes. Then I wonder about my own humanity, when I actually have to actively remind myself to acknowledge this pain, this evil, so I mutter, "I'm sorry" and then get back to business- I've got quotas to make and deadlines to meet people!

I sit in my office trying desperately to catch up- so of course there's a steady stream of kids coming in. They come. They complain. They cry. They question.

And I just want to shout from the rooftop- "yes! everything sucks for you! And NO, it is not going to get better! And yes, everything that has happened to you is so bad and it isn't fair. And No, I can't do anything to help you!"

Don't you get it, you silly 15 year old, we are all losing this battle. You experienced hell and you ran away. And now you're here in this other hell. And I am so sad for you, and I am keeping notes on all the messed up stuff that is happening to you, but I can't actually do anything about it.

And- really- I'm just not as strong as them. I'm so privileged. I'm so spoiled. Because I can't help but think- this is not my problem- I can walk away. On the bad days I dream of just walking away from it all. Pretending it's not happening. As if these atrocities and injustices would no longer exist if I didn't have a desk in a certain neighborhood. I don't want to care about these things anymore. I am numb. I am raw.

And don't even get me started on the Syrian crisis. On the boats in Lesvos. On the American christian response. The hate rises up in me and is spilling over- I'm so burdened, so sad, so ashamed. Oh yes, Death is everywhere, and he often seems victorious to me.

I was looking out the bus window earlier this week. You have to understand my views- Bangkok is ugly- a serious concrete jungle. Pollution of every kind- air, noise, odor. The bus stopped to let some passengers on and I caught sight of a small bush growing in a crack in the sidewalk. In the middle of the bush was a big, bright, beautiful butterfly. Just sitting there- slowly moving it's wings up and down.
For some reason it struck me so deeply, this living thing amongst all of these "dead" things, this beautiful thing amidst all of the ugliness. My heart quickened and tears filled my eyes- something beautiful, so very small that on most days I would have missed it.

I got to my office and started putting together an excel sheet of all the kids who would like to access family tracing services- who have lost contact with their mothers or fathers. Who literally have no idea where they are and if they're alive. A little hard to imagine in this day and age.

For a few minutes I felt so overwhelmed by the bleakness of it all.

But then I thought of that butterfly. One very small beautiful, living thing amidst the ugly and the dead.

Yeah, I see Death every day. But I see Life too.

Sometimes it is so easy to find- in the smiles through the tears, in the insane perseverance of these kids, in the way they serve each other. In their dreams to be doctors, their plans for their children, their grace towards their oppressors.

What I'm paid to do is produce a certain amount of certain assessments, make referrals and run programs. None of that hardly matters. What I'm not paid to do, what I do that can't be assessed or measured or known is to find Life.

So I'm purposefully looking for it these days. I carry with me close to 300 tragic stories from the last year and a half. Close to 300 have come through my office door, have shaken my hand, have told me their tale. It is easy to carry all of the despair and Death from all of those with me, to let that be the center of my thoughts, to feel beaten and worn down, angry and broken, so sad sad sad sad. But if I look closely, when I remember fully- I can catch a glimpse or two of Life. A little bit of hope, a little bit of beauty. If I let him, God can use me to create these moments. But I don't think he can use me when I'm so full of anger, so full of hate-when I forget that he is the victorious one in all of this.

As I'm writing this blog, I keep thinking about this certain client. She had the most messed up story-you wouldn't believe it if you heard and, trust me, you wouldn't want to hear. There were all of these things that she needed- tons of health treatments, psychological treatments, etc, etc. But all that she wanted was a gas cooker so she could cook her own food. At first, I was often irritated with her. I would call to discuss test results, doctor appointments,etc and she would be always be like, "ya, ya, ya- what about my gas cooker?!". Even when she finally got recognized, I called to congratulate her and her response was, "get me a gas cooker yet?". One day, finally, we got the money to buy her a gas cooker. We took it to her and she was ecstatic. The next time I was in her neighborhood she had me over for lunch, cooked me some traditional food. We laughed and laughed about the gas cooker.

It's always so amazing to me the things that can make a person feel human again. The things, however silly or simple or ordinary they seem, that can offer hope. Sometimes it's a gas cooker. Sometimes it's remembering their name. Sometimes it's calling them on the anniversary of a hard day and letting them know you remembered. Sometimes it's playing a game, or buying a coke. Sometimes it's a smile.

There's so very much that I can't do. But every once in awhile I can buy a gas cooker. Gas cookers and butterflies- that's what I'm fixing my thoughts on these days, that's what I'm holding tightly too.