Thursday, July 30, 2009

Getting Settled Back In

It's been a whirlwind this week. The motto for our return trip from Thailand? "Hurry up and wait." That basically sums up my entire week.

We got home much later than anticipated on Monday after lovely Delta canceled our final flight to RDU. So, we hurried up and waited for an extra 9 hours to get home. Tuesday I took a day to recuperate from 50+ hours of traveling and clean up my apartment and get re-settled into life in the Forest. After MONTHS of being here, there, and everywhere, there is a break in the clouds until the end of August or so! Praise God.

To celebrate the break and being back, and to celebrate our 1 year anniversary, my man is coming into town. I'm anxiously awaiting 5 o'clock and the beginning of a surprise date night! Tomorrow holds engagement photos, and Saturday is Registry Day and then I have a wedding to go to. It's going to be nuts.

I had a wonderful trip. God taught me a lot, and is continuing to challenge me and my thinking on things. I hope I can continue to live purposefully for the gospel - especially in the midst of the next 3 months of wedding planning. Praise the Lord for magnificent opportunities, and praise the Lord for bringing me home safely to those I love dearly.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Last blog from the Land of Smiles

Well, I'm sitting in the airport waiting on flight #2 of 4. We have a 6 hour layover or so here in Bangkok, so I have been taking this time to reflect a bit, upload some remaining photos and trying to tie up some loose ends on the blogs.

Becky and I went and met with Kavipiya from Burma/Myanmar, a monk Adrian met last year, to follow up with him and share the gospel message with him. He is at the point of knowing that it will change his life drastically if he accepts Christ, and he is counting the cost. Pray he turns to the Lord and that God grants him time to make that decision. We also went to dinner with two girls we met at the mall, Pom and Tue. They are both very sweet, and were very kind to take us out and introduce us to traditional Thai food that is (somewhat) tastier than what we had been eating the rest of the time! It was a good time, a different side of Chiang Mai, but they were fairly closed to the gospel message, it seemed. Tue is very into mysticism and Pom often seemed to not listen or be interested. Alisa (our sweet Thai friend) told us to keep sharing - sometimes people listen but do not want to seem like they are.

We also had more fun activities, in addition to getting to share the gospel several times. I went and played with tigers (I only played with the 4-5 month old ones!) yesterday. I also spent all my baht on some wonderful things at the market....and on massages. I got my last Thai massage yesterday (4 in all this trip!) and enjoyed the last bit of relaxation.

It's been a great trip, and I have been so thankful to have had this opportunity. The Lord has blessed me with a great job, and a wonderful support network of prayer and encouragement to enable me to get my job done. I've met some wonderful people with beautiful hearts - pray they come to know Jesus. I've seen a lot of darkness and lostness - pray the Lord continues to remind me of this and break my heart for His people.

Thanks for all your prayers thus far - keep them coming, please! We board a "short" flight in an hour - 7:15 am at home Sunday morning, and then board our long flight at noon (at home) on Sunday. It will be midnight my body's time as I board for 15 hours of flying. Please pray for continued safe travel and quick recuperation. Love you guys! See you soon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How great is our God? AMAZING

Do you ever have days where you feel like you're kind of wandering aimlessly and not really sure what you're supposed to be doing? I don't mean what you're supposed to be doing with your time, though that plays a part in it. I mean days that feel like you're adrift and not sure where God is leading. Today started out as one of those days.

I was feeling kind of aimless and not sure what the Lord required of me or what I was supposed to be doing as part of this trip.

As I was sitting in my hotel room this afternoon, a series of events landed me at Monk Chat again this Wednesday, this time with a small packet of pictures I had brought with me to Thailand. The grabbing of the pictures, the invitation to Monk Chat and even the fact that Becky and I both went were such God-things. Even more so, as I was sitting there asking about a monk Adrian met last year, "my monk" tonight pointed to another one sitting there and said, "That's Kavi!" I had asked about him last week and was told he lived at another temple and wouldn't be at this temple, so I had given up hope of seeing him, although I really wanted to meet him, since Adrian had me praying for him during his trip last year and since, because they e-mailed for a while. So I showed Kavi pictures of Adrian and he remembered him and asked lots of questions about him and told me he was still reading the Bible Adrian gave him. He then invited me to come to his temple tomorrow so he could give me a present. He's then going to take us to the zoo (he lives there so he can be close to nature!) and show us around. Please be in prayer for that meeting tomorrow!

God also opened the door for Becky and I to share the Gospel with two monks in clear, uncertain terms NUMEROUS times tonight, and one of them is very open to hearing about Jesus. He told us originally he didn't like Buddhism (though he's a Buddhist monk) and he didn't like Christianity. At the end of our conversation, he asked us to come back so he could ask us more questions about Jesus Christ. It was such an emotionally draining and yet incredibly uplifting 2 hours! I was on such a high afterwards.

We then went to dinner and then to get massages at a new place I hadn't been to. As we were talking and trying to become friends with our masseuses, we found out that not one, not two, but three of them were believers! The one girl had a really neat story and it was so good see how God is moving in the Thai people's hearts - regardless of my efforts or non-efforts. However, it was SO NEAT to be involved in him moving in the hearts of the monks tonight!!

All in all, it was an incredible night. After a good day with the Lord and learning things from Scripture and other believers, it was an amazing way to end the day with such a great time of sharing with the monks and then finding believers and hearing their stories. God is SO good.

Please pray for:
1) Lunch at an Indian restaurant with the purpose of sharing the Good News with the Muslim owner.
2) The meeting with Kavipiya. He said he would be thinking of questions about Christianity to ask me, so pray for wisdom in my answers, that the Lord would be working on him tonight and open his heart, and that tomorrow's meeting would be another great time of seeing God move.
3) Dinner with one of the girls who works at our hotel. Her name is Bandita.
4) A sweet new friend named Alisa. She became a believer last year and will be staying with Becky and I tomorrow so we can study Scripture together and talk.
5) Our last time to talk with the monks on Friday. Pray we would be able to share with the same monks and that God would open their eyes and hearts to the truth of the claims of Christ.

Thank you, friends. Tomorrow will be a BUSY day for me, and spiritually draining to be sure. Since I'm 11 hours ahead, I'd appreciate your prayers in your today! Thank you!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Weekend in Chiang Mai

It's been several busy days here in Chiang Mai, and so, although I have a lot to post about, I also desperately need rest!

Saturday, we went and rode elephants. The whole experience was great. It started with an elephant show, where we watched baby elephants and some older elephants do tricks, play soccer, dunk basketballs, paint pictures, etc. I even got picked up by an elephant by his trunk and climbed up one's legs and sat directly on it. So cool, although I felt pretty grody afterward!

We also rode in an oxcart, did an actual elephant ride, and rafted on a bamboo raft down the river. Afterward we went to the orchid farm and the silver factory. Enlightening, but we were whipped. Thus, when we got back to the hotel, we ordered pizza and crashed for a while. Then, while the student studied for their exam for Monday, I went and got a 1 hour Thai massage for about $12. I admit, not the most relaxing thing. She banged and hit and pushed and prodded in ways that were highly uncomfortable, but overall, it felt pretty good. I was definitely sore Sunday though!

Sunday we got up and went to The Gathering, a largely Western church in Chiang Mai, and then ate lunch at the Sizzler - It was a western Sunday. We then went to Doi Su Tep, a big, important temple at the top of a mountain overlooking Chiang Mai. The view was beautiful, the people were beautiful, the temple was sad. SO much idolatry and hope in man-mdae things.

We then went to the jade factory (where Americans idolized the jewelery) and then Becky and I tore it up at the Sunday night market. Seriously, I am spending way too much on stuff - some of it's for gifts, some for me. I just love markets - the culture and the bartering and getting good deals). So, all in all, a fun weekend.

Alright - nothing too deep in this one, and I'm burnt out. Here are the links to my pictures: Hopefully what they say is true and the pictures are worth 1,000 words because I can't give any more!

The original album, with pictures through Sunday.
The second album, with even more pictures.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Please pray for Thailand

Hey friends - Just wanted to ask you to pray for this country. There have been riots over the Prime Minister the last couple of days and the country has been in a bit of unrest, though I haven't seen any of it.

Also, as I'm sitting in the hotel lobby, I'm slapped in the face with the ease of prostitution and abuse of women in this country. It breaks my heart. As I'm sitting here, an old man is with a young Thai woman, explaining where his country is (Holland, nonetheless. He's used to the prostitution, I guess) and they're discussing pricing. I want to say something, but I have no spine. Instead I sit here and blog about it, and ask instead for prayer, that the people of this nation would be set free from their chains of darkness and see the light, found only in Christ.

I'll post later about my adventure with the elephants, et. al., but my heart is heavy with that and I wanted to share. Thanks for your prayers. Love you all.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Culture: Elephants and Buddhism

Hi friends and family who are reading my blog! Hope you're all doing well.

It's been a long day here for me, and more is yet to come. I woke up (un-planned) around 4:30 am after a restless night and was unable to go back to sleep. So, here it is 5:40 my time and I'm drooping. Please pray the Lord would refresh and restore me, as I haven't been feeling 100% the last couple of days.

In non-health news, the trip is going well. It's been busy working and spending time with the team. I haven't really interacted much with the Thais, something I'll be trying to correct tomorrow. I want to soak up this culture while I'm here.

Speaking of culture, tonight is the cultural dinner and show here in Chiang Mai, complete with sitting on the floor to eat and cultural dancing. You know I love these kinds of things ;) Saturday is more culture, albeit a bit "touristy." We're heading out for the bamboo raft ride, elephant ride, watching elephants play soccer and paint, the botanical gardens and the jade factory. Should be a long day, but full of fun.

In non-cultural news, I met with several monks yesterday and was able to talk about Buddhism and Christianity and the differences, etc. I can't say I felt like much headway was made with any of the Buddhists - they were so blinded they didn't even see the irony in much of what they said, nor did they care. Pray for them, and also for Eddie, a California boy who is on a "spiritual journey" here in Thailand and was there are Monk Chat last night. He asked some good questions and we were able to have some really good conversations with him.

The interesting thing is that though most of the monks aren't Thai, they are all from traditional Buddhist cultures. Their Buddhism elicits very little passion, considering that they are giving their lives for it. Buddhism and elephants just seem to be another part of the culture, without much of a second thought.

Sorry this is short and choppy, but I'm burnt out and needing to get ready for dinner. To keep up with me more in-depth, check out Southeastern's blog that Courtney and I are in charge of, and my photos in my Facebook album. Love to all!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wow. What a place.

Today was my first FULL day in-country and the first day in Chiang Mai. We flew into the city this morning and promptly began eating. These are my kind of trips - Food-focused :) It's glorious.

Anyways, we went to this place called The Imaginary Jungle tonight ("Welcome to the jungle!"). The three things I can say about this place:
1) They have incredibly tasty food.

2) They have incredible scenery.

3) They have incredible bathrooms. See below.

Who wouldn't want a waterfall in their bathroom to help encourage them to go? I'm sorry if that seems silly and if you'd rather be hearing about the rest of the day...I'm honestly too tired at the moment to think more deeply. All I can think about is how fun and unique that place is!

Tomorrow is a new day and I will hopefully be more rested and thorough thinking. Have I told you guys about the SEBTS blog? Check it out here. I'm writing and Courtney is doing the photos and it should be updated (albeit a bit more sedately) than here. Anyways. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

We've Arrived!!

Hi friends - The team has landed safely in Thailand after approximately 33 hours since I last was in bed. Praise God I am about to head that direction now!

The last day/days have been brutal - not going to lie. I asked someone earlier what day it was - I'm so off. I'm currently 11 hours ahead of my east coast friends and family, so it's not only the opposite side of the world I'm on, it's also the opposite time of day for me.

I think my jet lag is doing OK - I'm about to hit the sack now, but I feel fairly on the right schedule. We'll see how tomorrow goes :)

We have another flight in the morning into Chiang Mai and then a scavenger hunt throughout the city to familiarize ourselves with it :) Can't decide if I'm going to be documenting or participating!!

One thing I have been participating in and I need to stop with right now is all the negativity. For those of you who know and love me, you know I get cranky when I'm tired and I'm feeding off everyone else's bad moods too, so I'm just makign snide remarks that are neither edifying nor Christ-like. Please pray for me.

I'll try and keep updating, later with some pictures! Love you all. Please be praying :)

P.S. - You can keep up with us, too, on the Southeastern blog: I'm the voice of the trip :) Hopefully I'll be wittier and more interesting throughout the journey than I have been!

Friday, July 10, 2009

To-Do list

Within 12 hours, I will hopefully have finished my invitations, finished the invitation inserts, printed them all off, cut them to size, packaged them, mailed them home, mailed my car payment, paid two bills, filled the turtle tank, gotten money from the bank, gone to Wal-Mart and bought some things, packed my suitcase, packed my carry-on, called Adrian - his mom - my mom and dad, driven to Courtney and Laura's and gone to bed.

Please pray for diligence in finishing what I need to finish! My Thailand departure is imminent.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What is yet to come...

I was standing in line waiting to exchange a few things tonight at TJ Maxx when I saw a cookbook that said nothing on it except "Thai."

It was only $2.99, but I strictly didn't want to purchase anything - only exchange what I had. So, as I just flipped through it and decided not to buy it, but still, it gave me visions of the next two weeks.

As most of you probably know, (or maybe didn't know, depending on who you are) I'm heading to Thailand Saturday morning. It will be about 2 solid days of travel on either end of it, and 2 weeks spent in-country. If I wasn't excited before about the prospect of new cuisines to try, markets to shop at, massages for SUPER cheap, elephant rides, river rafting excursions (not whitewater...just a nice little float), new people to meet and an entirely new culture and continent to become acquainted with - that cookbook would have done it for me.

Although I didn't buy the book, it definitely "whet my appetite" for the taste of things to come. I'm growing increasingly excited about what the next couples of weeks will hold! God has blessed me graciously with this job of mine - which I often take for granted. I ought not do so for I realize when I stop to think about it how richly I have been blessed.

I ask for your prayers over the next few weeks. I may be posting again on more mundane "this is what I've been up to" kinds of things, or wedding-related things, but for tonight, this is what was on my heart. I want this hard heart of mine to be broken and humbled by my experiences. I want to see God's glory and hunger after it. I want to manifest it in my life.