Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sometimes it just isn’t enough

I love that I can write e-mails, blog, skype with friends and family half-way across the world and see their faces on webcams. But sometimes it just isn’t enough. Sometimes I just want to give that person a hug, have a face-to-face conversation, watch their face as we burst into uncontrollable laughter from an inside joke, eat a meal together, or simply give their cute pregnant belly a rub.

I just found out that one of my good friends from our church back in MN is pregnant. This is a lovely lady that I spent hours with at the softball diamond as we watched our husbands play on the church softball league, talked to about fun things, challenging things and difficult things, ate dinner with, went to DQ a few too many times with, played games with, cried with, snuggled up with, and just goofed around with. She is a confidant, a sister in Christ, an encourager, a prayer warrior, a wife, and a soon-to-be mother… and I miss her.

It makes me sad to know that I’m missing out on this season of her life—her first pregnancy and all her ridiculous cravings, baby showers, physical changes, and emotions— because I’m here and she’s there. And even though technology makes it easier to be half way around the world… sometimes it just isn’t enough when you simply want to be there.

When I'm missing some things and people from home, it's hard to focus on/remember why I'm here. It's even hard to remember how much I really don't like MN winters! But I know that God has called us to this ministry in Thailand and I will consider that pure joy. It's always hard when you have to sacrifice something though: your church, your friends, your family... but it's hard to focus on my sacrifice when I know that God's sacrifice was much greater. Perspective.

"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him… " Philippians 3:8-9

I could easily change this verse to say, "what is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Chirst Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that [my students/Thailand] may gain Christ and be found in him..." And that's the ministry that God has called us to... whether technology is enough or not.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A lesson in patience

This morning I started out with a “full basket” of patience. As I went through my day today, it was quickly depleted by students a) asking me questions that they already knew the answer to (yes, there is such thing as a stupid question), b) doing poorly on a quiz only because they didn’t read the directions (sometimes I wonder if it is even worth putting directions on a quiz, since they just ask me what to do anyway), c) feeling paralyzed when reading a text in Spanish because they don’t know what EVERY SINGLE WORD means (instead of just trying to get the gist of something), d) expecting me to have their quiz graded at the end of the day (since I have nothing else to do). (Please excuse the sarcasm, but those were my thoughts as I went through the day).

Most days I love my life as a teacher, but today was one of those days where my patience wore thin and I found myself pleading with my students over and over again to try their best, to not rely so much on me (AP students), to READ and FOLLOW directions, and that I never have had quizzes graded until their next class day because I am simply not super woman. I felt quite snippy, and I felt JUSTIFIED in my snippiness too, which is even worse.

As I reflect on my attitude today, I am embarrassed by my flesh… the Bible praises patience as a fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22, which should be developed and exerted when in new life in Christ, and I did not let patience overflow in abundance today when interacting with my students.

James 1:2-4 encourages us by saying that trials (like silly questions from my students) are God’s way of perfecting our patience and making us complete. Yet here I was acting snippy all day instead of letting God teach me, mold me and sanctify me. My ministry here at ICS is to be an example of Christ to my students… to be a light in the darkness… to reflect His goodness. So often my flesh gets in the way of being a Christ-like example though, and I am suddenly the one that is a) asking God silly questions like “Why me?” b) not reading His instructions (the Bible), c) feeling paralyzed when I don’t understand EVERY SINGLE thing that God allows in life, d) expecting God to answer my requests/prayers by the end of the day. See? I’m not any different than any of my students, yet God kindly demonstrates His patience towards me... and I'm pretty sure He doesn't tire of my ridiculousness and get all snippy on me! :)

Lord, despite my sinfulness, I pray that you would continue to teach me and sanctify me that I may be more like you. I pray that I would rejoice in the lessons and the trials that you bring my way, that I would find joy in my students no matter how punky-funky I think they are being, and that you wouldn’t just “give” me patience, but that you would TEACH me patience so that I might be a better reflection of you to my students.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Christmas cooking class

I never blogged about Christmas simply because I was too busy and tired. My mom and brother were here from the states visiting for two weeks, so we played host and hostess and tried to wear them out doing as many touristy things as possible. I don't know if WE wore THEM out, but we were always pooped out after each day.

I am sure I will eventually post more of the activities we did, but I wanted to write about my favorite activity: a Thai cooking class. Mike semi-enthusiastically went, and actually enjoyed it more than he thought he would... which speaks volumes. :)

After researching a few different cooking schools in Bkk, we decided to go with the Silom Thai Cooking School, simply because it was the least expensive. The school promised to take you to a market to get fresh ingredients, teach you traditional Thai cooking techniques, prepare 6 dishes and give you the recipes, as well as let you eat the food you made... all this over the course of 5.5 hours for only $32/person. You can't beat that! But what the website didn't say was that we would get a very funny, flamboyant teacher named Nusi, who was quite the entertainer with his comments, reactions, and ridiculous faces/poses.

We made:
fried bananas
fried rice
deep fried spring rolls
green papaya salad
musuman chicken with curry
spicy shrimp soup

We learned how to make:
fresh coconut milk from coconut shavings
sticky rice (did you know it was steamed)?
homemade curry paste

Enjoy the pictures!



Prepping some of the ingredients

Squeezing freshly chopped up coconut to make coconut milk

Making soup


Stuffing/rolling spring rolls

Frying bananas and spring rolls

Fried bananas and spring rolls

Fried rice

Chicken curry

Papaya salad

Papaya salad that is eaten with sticky rice

Steaming sticky rice

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Praying for babies...

…an insight into my fears, but how it has caused me to pray and reflect on God’s desires for me…

So, apparently one of my students is praying that God would give Mike and me a baby.

His mom, a middle school teacher at the school, informed me of this the other day. Over break they had been talking about how many teachers/wives of teachers are pregnant and how many babies have been born recently. He was asking his mom why there have been/will be so many babies. Essentially, the average age population of teachers at this school is in-between 25-35, which is “the prime time” to have a baby. Upon discussing the age make-up of the teachers at ICS, my student then proceeded to say to his mom that he hoped that I would have a baby.

As she was relaying this story to me, I immediately asked, “Why? So I can take maternity leave or stop working for a while?” No, he simply just thinks I’d be a good mom. It’s funny to think about a 9th grade boy saying something like that.

So later that evening after their mother-son conversation about babies, my student then prayed aloud with his mother that God would give me a baby.

I laughed as she relayed this story to me and told her that he could stop praying that prayer. Her reply was, “Okay, well, maybe next month then.” HA! (To which I immediately responded, “MAYBE in 2-3 years… but I’m not sure”).

The conversation/his prayer has been running through my head all day though, and as I have thought about it time and time again, I was reminded of a conversation that I had with Dayton, a high school colleague of mine. During our conversation, Dayton was telling me about how God encouraged him to pray for not just a baby, but for twins. So he prayed for twins and twins were what he got. I revealed my heart to him, telling him that I wouldn’t have the courage or the faith to pray for something like that because there’s part of me that is afraid that I don’t want kids.

My biggest fear is feeling inadequate. I simply don’t feel like I would be a good mother. What if I mess them up by denying or giving them too much, loving them too little or too much, not listening enough, not being patient enough, not extending enough grace, being a push-over, not being able to admit that I’m sorry or wrong, or being too stubborn, bossy, arrogant, demanding or self-centered?

What if I don’t want to quit my job? So many moms in the ICS community stay home with their children and it makes me feel bad about not necessarily wanting to stay home… what does that say about me?? Does it mean that I value my job and money more than family? But what if I DO want to stay home… will I consider it pure joy to give up teaching Spanish to my high schoolers? Will I find contentment at home or will I feel bored/stuck/resentful/jealous? Am I stuck on what the world thinks and expects? Am I stuck on wondering if I will be the only one on both sides of the family that will bear children to make other family members grandparents, aunties, and uncles? Am I afraid of losing my flexibility and freedom/way of life as I know it? Yes to all of the above to a certain extent...

The one thing that Dayton said that really stuck out to me was simply to pray: not to pray for children (or twins), but pray that God would at least give me the desire to one day have children if that is what He wants. That He would make it abundantly clear to me what His desires for me are, that He would soften my heart, bring about peace, and that I would be obedient to Him. (Dayton didn’t necessarily WANT twins, but was obedient to God asking him to pray for twins… and now has two lovely little girls that he loves dearly).

When I was little I always imagined that I would get married and have children, but just being a teacher presents its own challenges. Challenges in discipline (I know, I know, they aren’t MY kids so it’s different… so everyone says), loving the unlovable, extending grace, being patient, forgiving, etc. so how would it be any better/easier with my own child? I think it’s hard to want to be a parent when you’re a teacher for a few main reasons: 1) you spend your entire day with children, why would you want to come home to more (that is, if you decide to continue working) 2) you know how naughty they can be and you VOW that your kid wouldn’t be one of those kids… and you even cross out certain names from your baby name list because you had a naughty student named so-and-so before so you couldn’t possibly give you child that name 3) you are acutely aware of all the things that your student’s parents do/don’t do and you VOW never to be like so-and-so…but what if you are? Because if you are or ever were a teacher, at one point in time or another, I bet you’ve been afraid and you've wondered if you are/will be one or a combo of the following types of parents:

a. Helicopter/hovering parent
b. Over-bearing parent
c. I’m going to coddle you forever parent
d. Hands-off, I don’t care about you parent
e. Sure, go ahead and fail school parent
f. You must get straight A’s parent
g. You must be involved in every extra-curricular activity or else you will never be accepted into any university parent
h. You must go to an ivy league college school parent
i. Non-communicative parent
j. Overly-involved parent
k. I’m my kid’s best friend parent
l. Don’t tell my kid or me what to do parent
m. My child has a LD, but I’m not willing to admit it parent
n. It’s not my fault that my kid is failing, it’s the teacher’s fault parent
o. My kid has more control over me than I do him/her and they trample me parent
p. Worry about everything parent
q. Be who you are/do what you want/it’s a free country parent
r. Rule/behavior oriented parent
s. I give up on you parent
t. Control-freak parent

But while you’re busy vowing not to be one of those parents, vowing that your child would never be one of those kids, or vowing that you would never name your child one of those names… do you turn into "Parent P”: the worry about everything parent?

I was telling my friend Holly about my student’s prayer for me to have a child and the first thing that she asked was, “Has it kind of softened your heart [towards having children]?” My immediate response was no. However, as I have had time to reflect upon it today, I think I would change my answer…. I think it has softened my heart to begin to think more and perhaps act upon what Dayton encouraged me to pray about.

I’ll be honest and say that I already read Christian parenting books. Weird? Maybe. I’m in the middle of reading this book called, “Shepherding a Child’s Heart.” I read these types of books mainly because in many ways, being a teacher is similar to parenting. Maybe subconsciously there’s part of me that hopes that there is the slightest possibility that God would maybe change me through them too though…?!

I’ll also be honest and say that that I haven’t really been praying about what Dayton encouraged me to pray about. I haven’t been praying about God giving me any peace or desire in the matter; I’ve simply pushed it out of my mind… because it’s easier that way. It’s easier to keep telling people 2-3 more years when the “when are you going to have a baby” question comes up, instead of saying, “Actually, I don’t really know if I ever want to be a parent” and then answering the long list of "why" questions that follow. It’s also easier to keep saying 2-3 more years, even when 2-3 years has already passed. It’s easier to say 2-3 more years and laugh it off than to pray for/about something that terrifies you.

I am confident that God never gives us more than we can handle, and maybe God will never give me children because of my fears, my sin, and my lack of desire, or maybe He will change my heart… I don’t really know. However, I do know that He is Emmanuel, God with us, and that through Him all things are possible, and so whatever comes my way (children or no children), I know that He will abide in me. So here’s me... praying that God would soften my heart and reveal His good and perfect plan for me, and that I would find peace and contentment in His desires for me.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Man, lady and dude

We live in Bangna, this small little district about 20 minutes (in good traffic) from the heart of Bangkok. Bangna is growing, but it is small none-the-less and sometimes we have a hard time getting taxi-drivers to understand where it is we really live, or finding taxi drivers that want to take us "aaaaaalll the way to Bangna." Despite kind of living in "the boonies," we love Bangna. We love it because we are forced to try to learn a little bit of Thai here and there since people around here really speak NO English. Additionally, it is not nearly as polluted or busy as downtown Bangkok and we really have everything that we need within 10 minutes of us.

As we have gotten to know Bangna a little bit better, we have started to recognize different vendor's faces and food places We frequent getting grilled fish, soup (see soup haiku) and fruit from local vendors in the area, but due to our lack of conversation Thai, we haven't learned these nice people's names. Instead, we have affectionately referred to these three people as: "Fruit dude," "Soup lady" and "Fish man."

Within the past few weeks, "Fruit dude" has become a "friend" of ours. He greets us on the street, even when we aren't buying fruit from him and will wai us. He has also taught us the names of the different fruits that he says. He revels in calling us "farong," which means "foreigner" or "guava," depending on the tone. He was the first person to call me a foreigner too-- which makes me like him even more since he didn't assume that I was Thai. I finally got around to learning how to ask someone's name, so we found out that his name is Tong Soo. Don't ask me which tones to use though. I've said his name to him several times and I am sure that I have botched it up every time, but he just smiles and says yes that is his name. I think he just likes that we try... that we try to get to know him, that we try to learn the fruit names, that we try to make it a point to say hello even if we aren't buying fruit.

And isn't that what everyone wants from others--to feel acknowledged, appreciated, payed attention to, loved, and valued?

Pictures and names of "Soup lady" and "Fish man" to come! :)

Soup haiku

Soup from down the street
I could eat it every day
Less than a dollar

Where's waldo... I mean, monk-o

Where is orange monk-o
We counted more than sixty
At the pantip mall

Apparently monks like their electronics?! Pantip is a mall that focuses on electronics of every kind. We went there with two other friends the other day and turned it into a "game" of who could count the most monks during our time there. It was rather entertaining and even funnier that we were more focused on surveying each store, level, and escalator for orange monks than paying attention to the amazing technology that surrounded us.