A gift.

Psalm 31:10 says, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” And while I’m confident that is true, let me tell you what is hard to find and worth more than rubies in my book…a TRUSTWORTHY car mechanic.

I’m no gear head and certainly did not marry one either. We were fortunate and grateful to have several family members that helped us with our cars when we lived in Minnesota. When we moved to Thailand, we loved the freedom of not having a car, and didn’t have one for four years. Life with twins changed everything for us. I’m actually not sure we would have jumped on the car bandwagon if we had had a singleton babe either. Car maintenance and repair just stress me out, even more so living overseas due to the language barrier and just finding someone you can trust. With Mike busy at work and me being the one who has had Thai language lessons, the car has been primarily my responsibility. Joy.

Let me tell you about Khun Tawee though. Oh my gracious…is he ever a gem. He is the simply the sweetest. He is probably in his late 50’s, essentially knows NO ENGLISH except for, “God bless you”, which he regularly says whenever he says goodbye to me. He lovingly laughs at my horrible car Thai…which basically consists of me guessing what’s wrong with the car, looking up a few words, butchering them, and then making awful car-like sounds to help him diagnose the problem. Sometimes it is me showing him a video I took of the car doing something weird and simply asking if he can fix it. He is patient and kind, knows his stuff, is trustworthy, and goes out of his way to help me.

This past week, we got stuck on the highway due to an unknown radiator leak. Thank goodness it didn’t happen on our beach trip a few days earlier. We are also so grateful it happened right next to the roadside assistance highway office too! We were able to temporarily fix the problem and then bring it to Khun Tawee the following day.

When I called him the next day to see if he was in and told him I’d be there in just a little bit. I had already explained that the radiator was having a problem and that we had gotten stuck on the side of the road, so when I didn’t come right away, he called me to make sure I was okay and not stuck somewhere! When I finally did get there,  he quickly diagnosed the radiator problem and told me it was an easy fix but would take a while because he needed to take the engine out of the car to reach the problem. I anticipated being without the car for the rest of the week and started mentally preparing myself for that. I also told him about the tire leak we started having and asked him to check that out too.

Now here is where he goes above and beyond…whenever I drop the car off, he ALWAYS gives me a ride home. It’s only a five minute ride, but man, I’m so grateful for his kindness. This time though I needed to go get some school work done at a nearby coffee shop and then go grocery shopping, so I just asked him to bring the end of the street where I could catch a taxi. He was having none of it. He drove me to the coffee shop.

Khun Tawee called me THAT NIGHT to tell me the car was done and that I could pick it up in the morning. He later texted me the cost. The next morning, the kids wanted to make brownies and pictures for him before we got the car. When we arrived, he was so excited to see how much the kids had grown and LOVED getting the pictures (and maybe the brownies?! Hard to say since Thai treats are so different than American treats). When I told him I was so surprised he was done with the car because I thought it would take a long time, he said, “I have a lot of cars to fix right now. But I did it special for you because you have small kids and you’re pregnant, so it’s hard to be without a car.” I could have hugged his neck right then and there. When his wife handed me the broken down bill, it was 120baht more than what he had texted me (about $4). Khun Tawee told me the extra 120b was for the tire patch, since there had been a nail in it, but never mind paying him for it because he had already texted me the price and because he had just received pictures and brownies. He kept telling me, “It’s a gift!”  Bless his heart.

In a country where I can feel so very out of place and uncomfortable, especially when dealing with things that are stressors, I’m so grateful for people like Khun Tawee that make those stressors feel manageable. He is gift.

 

 

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Christmas Thoughts.

5 years ago around Christmastime we had an early miscarriage. It was devastating. We had walked a long journey and wondered if we would ever be able to have children of our own. A few months later, God graciously gave us Owen and Emma, and our lives were forever changed.

We find our lives forever changed again with little Addie-girl. We were surprised and caught off guard by her (quite miraculous) appearance. As I’ve struggled with these unexpected changes, this Christmas season has been a particularly sweet time of deep reflection–primarily about Mary.

Mary was surprised and caught off guard by the angel’s news. The Bible even says that she was troubled by his words.  As I’ve walked through stages of grief during this unexpected new season, I’ve considered how Mary must have done the same. How could this news possibly be good news?! She was young, unwed, and culturally speaking–she could rightfully be stoned to death at the news of expecting a child. How can one not grieve the death of dreams and a future?

And yet, eventually she was willing to be used by God. I wonder how much she battled inside and fought it. I wonder how scared she was to tell Joseph and their families. I wonder how much people gossiped about her because they didn’t understand. I wonder how long it took her to reach full acceptance of her new role. Surely she must have felt deathly afraid and confused, tired and exhausted, angry and bitter, frustrated and resentful, while simultaneously feeling delighted and joy-filled at times. I can relate to you, Mary…I’ve walked the whole gambit of emotions too.

God had a clear plan and purpose for Mary and for Jesus’ lives. But what would have happened had Mary said “no”? If she had disobeyed? If Joseph had had her stoned to death? Thankfully, we don’t have to dwell on that. Mary’s unplanned pregnancy, that probably rocked her right to the core and tested her faith in abundant ways, saved us all.

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Clearly, I am not growing the Savior of the world, but I do wonder what plans and purpose God has for sweet Adelyn, our unexpected surprise miracle baby. She may have been a surprise to us, but she certainly wasn’t unplanned by God. We pray big things over her life.

As Christmas has come and gone here in Thailand, I can’t help but be thankful to be pregnant during this time of year. It has been redeeming after that first miscarriage, but it has also helped provide perspective in a season that has been a mix of uncertainty, grief, joy and wonder.

Learning to embrace change.

We went through a lot to have Owen and Emma. It was heartbreaking and emotional, and an emotionally high stress pregnancy…but in the end, we ended up with two beautiful and healthy children. God is good.

Over the years, I’ve come to accept that Owen and Emma would be our first and last children…but it took a lot of grieving. I grieved that we went from 0 to 2 so quickly; I just didn’t feel that I had the chance to enjoy their infancy because I was in constant survival mode as a new mom and a mom of twins. I honestly hardly remember their first year of life. I felt like I missed out on a lot of “normal” mom life and activities because having two babies felt like such an insurmountable task. Play group as a chance to visit with other moms? Forget it. Play dates? Heck no. Spontaneous anything? No way. An event downtown that would require me to take the BTS? Never. Grocery shopping? Tell me first how you pull a double stroller and a cart while dealing with crying babies…or where you put the food you’re buying if you only have the stroller…or how to get home in a taxi (we have a car now, thankfully) with all the food, 2 babies, and a stroller that is too big to fit in the trunk of a taxi that has a natural gas tank. A morning at the coffee shop with a sleeping child? Whatever. Even as a mom, I envied other moms; moms who “only had one child.” And while I adore my children and have grown into my role as a “twin mama,” life just SEEMED infinitely easier for most new moms of singletons.

I had finally gotten to a point where I had accepted that and simply was grateful instead of bitter about certain things. Life has clearly gotten easier as the twins have gotten older and I think we hit our stride when they turned about 3.5 years old. I have said numerous times to friends how we are finally reaping all the benefits of having twins because they are finally playing well together and need less and less intervention from me. Most mornings, I spend my time on the couch reading while they color or play together and brew up new imaginary adventures. It’s pretty rad, actually. I remember wondering at one point in time during their infancy if I’d ever read again. 😂 Travel from Bangkok to Minneapolis (24-30+ hours) and back again was a breeze this past summer. Taking them places alone and not worrying about one running left and one running right is no longer an issue. Play dates and play group has become a regular and fun part of their lives (and mine). Their personalities and interests have emerged and entertaining them with coloring, crafts, and “school work” (all things that I love) is a breeze. Honestly, I’ve really been enjoying my last year at home with them before they start K4, but was also getting mentally ready to jump back into the teaching world again at ICS. Life has been good, stable and predictable…exactly how I like it. 😝

And then God moved and surprised us all with a new plan.

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I confess, it has taken time to wrap our minds around this surprise. When I found myself taking a pregnancy test and two lines popped up, my first thought was, “Waaaaait….two lines means not pregnant, right??!?!” The shock was so tremendous that I honestly found myself grieving all over again. We were done. This was not part of our plan. I grieved my own plans and expectations of what I thought life held for us. I grieved having to start all over when we had purged everything baby related. I grieved going back to infancy when we had finally hit our stride. I grieved not returning to ICS to teach. And I grieved that as I have not felt well, I haven’t been able to give more time and energy to the twins in their last year at home with me. This was SO not part of the plan.

The extreme grief and shock lasted about three weeks. And then when a close friend found out we were expecting, her words bubbling with excitement for us hit me hard. She simply said, “Wow. God must have extra big plans for that baby…I can’t wait to meet him/her.” And she’s right… I have always asked God to let me witness a modern day miracle to help bolster my faith. Her words jolted me out of my grief and helped me to realized that God not only allowed me to witness a miracle, but to even be a part of it. A baby…a baby against all odds. This baby may have been a surprise for us, but s/he certainly was not for God.

And then there’s sweet Emma girl. I joke and say she prayed this baby into being and that she’s not allowed to pray anymore. For many months this sweet child has tenderly prayed every single night for a “real live baby in our home.” I had never told her “no,” but had always said that Mama and Daddy were done and it would take a miracle for that to happen so that it probably wouldn’t ever happen. Mind you, that little girl kept praying anyway. Prayers have no boundaries.

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And so here we are…over a third of the way in. Some moments I still waiver. Some moments I still wonder if this was just a test of faithfulness or a dream that I’ll wake up from. But we are learning to embrace. To embrace this good gift. To embrace this new life. To embrace the changes that will come. To embrace this modern day miracle. To embrace growing pains. And to embrace God’s clear plan and sovereignty.

“Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses.”
-Ecclesiastes 3:1 (GNT)

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And the things of earth will grow strangely dim: learning to live simply.

Sometimes goodbyes are hard, but not this time. We said farewell (or as it good riddance!?) to this one today…

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We bought it as an upgrade from our very very old Toyota Corolla. We were excited about the space that the new car would provide for our family and the reliability of being a good 10 years younger than the Toyota.

But as with many things in life, circumstances involving this car did not go as expected and we found ourselves pouring tons of money into it from the very start. I found myself wavering between anger, frustration, exasperation and tiredness. We didn’t even have the chance to try to sell our other car since the new one was constantly in the shop.

Starting in April, we tried to sell the car and had several serious buyers fall through at the very last minute. It was so frustrating. Then we brought it to a mechanic/dealership and found out that there was actually so much wrong with it that we couldn’t possible sell with integrity. So they bought it off us today for a ridiculously little amount of money to fix all the problems (at least I really hope they will fix all the problems first ) and then re-sell.

Now we are at the end of this journey, and while I am bummed that this was how it unraveled, I confess it has taught me a lot and has revealed to me (and to my husband 😳) ugly parts of my heart:
-I crave reliability
-When things don’t go the way I expect, hope or want, I am easily frustrated and angered.
-I don’t trust God enough with my finances.
-I cling to too many things/idols that I shouldn’t.
-External circumstances shake me.

Things I had to remind myself of/was reminded of during all of this:

-Nothing is truly mine; all things are gifts that I have been given/entrusted with.
-It’s just stuff/money, none of which I can take with me to heaven…so hang onto them loosely.
-Having things (a bigger, newer car) do not define me
-God provides–we have never been in want this year.
-Consider it a bad investment (all investments take risk) and move on.
-The amount of money we get back from the dealership today is “x” amount more money than we had yesterday.

So today we walk away with a little money in our pocket, feeling relieved and trusting that this was all a part of God’s plan to help us not cling to things of the earth so tightly and to live simply.

As we’ve thought more about what it means to live simply, we have started purging toys and clothes, but I’m trying to find other ways I can cut back and live more simply. What does living simply mean to you? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Funeral planning and roots.

I haven’t blogged for ages. The majority of this post was actually written this past October, but I just couldn’t publish it. Part of it is just that it is a busy season of life with 3 year old twins. The other part of it is that this blog post has been a long time coming…but I just have needed time to continue to process.

A high school acquaintance of mine was found murdered in her home in February 2015. Her death was tragic, unexpected, and continues to be a mystery. The news of her unexpected passing stirred the hearts of many, and people came out of the woodwork to share memories, give their condolences and unite in their grief. Her Facebook wall, even 13 months later, continues to be flooded with messages for this sweet soul. Former school friends and acquaintances, college friends, peers and co-workers all echo the same sentiments–she was one of the most kind and sweet people one would ever meet.

This outpouring of love from people around the country, and maybe even in different parts of the world has been so beautiful. What struck me most though was the idea of roots. She grew up in Minnesota, went to college out of state, and then ended up living in said state post college—so her roots in those two states were seemingly deep. She was connected. She was loved. She was in community.

As I grieved for her and her family, and continued to process, it made me wonder how deep my roots are. They often do not feel deep. Part of it stems from the insecurities I have faced over the years of having been adopted, and wanting to feel grounded and connected to others because it equated to acceptance and love to me. Other factors contributing to these feelings of uprooted-ness include studying abroad my junior year of high school and taking a few post secondary classes at the U of M my senior year (so not being super involved at my high school beyond 10th grade), going to college out of state (but graduating in 3 years so not getting as connected),  each summer during my college years were spent elsewhere (Alaska as a camp counselor, New York for a medical program at Columbia University, and Louisiana as staff for a Youthworks site in New Orleans), and then later moving overseas to Thailand.

Come March 2015, my life was turned upside down by a very sick husband with meningitis. I will be perfectly candid: The first few days, I was literally funeral planning in my head, and thinking through what life without him would entail. (It’s hard to believe that this was a year ago…)

And in the midst of funeral planning in my head, 3 things happened. 1. God graciously, and in His loving kindness, met me where I was at and showed me that my roots are deeper than I thought: I was OVERWHELMED by all the emails, messages and texts, the offers to help with our kids, meals prepared, groceries purchased, the prayers, the advice from friends in the medical field, the people who came to just visit with me while Mike slept to make sure my heart and soul were not withering, and the general concern of friends and acquaintances from literally AROUND THE WORLD–from Africa to Asia, to Europe, and to North America. 2. God reminded me that this world is not my home and that no matter where I live or what I do, my roots will only go so deep. 3. He also gently reminded me that if I am firmly planted in Him, my roots are therefore in Him…and He is always more than enough. He brought to mind a few verses that talk about being rooted in Him.

Plant your roots in Christ and let him be the foundation for your life. Be strong in your faith, just as you were taught. And be grateful. -Colossians 2:7

Stand firm and be deeply rooted in His love. -Ephesians 3:17

I think there will always be a part of me that struggles with the idea of roots. My humanness longs for security and depth, connection and a place to call my own. But I’m continually reminded to look heavenward, because that’s really where home is.

Belly up, belly laughs.

It was one of those mornings. The kind where my child wakes me up much earlier than I want to be woken up. The kind where I was awake in the wee hours of the morning with child #2 for 1.5 hours, and then child #1 is outside the door ready for his day to start when child #2 and I have just barely fallen back to sleep again. The kind of morning where I just want a re-do when my feet haven’t even touched the floor.

I tried to get the two to snuggle in my bed, hoping that MAYBE, just MAAAAAAYBE they’d fall asleep again. Giggles ensued and I knew the day had started with me dragging my feet and rubbing my tired eyes. I sent the two hooligans to their bedroom to play and read books for a few minutes while I re-focused the start of my day.

Over the monitor I heard fits of laughter, happy screams and squeals, and some thumping noises. I left them be as I continued my typical morning routine. A handful of minutes later, I hear the pitter patter of little feet running my direction. I meet expectant and excited eyes in the living room…belonging to the sweatiest little boy ever. I mean seriously DRENCHED in sweat. “Why are you so sweaty, buddy?” “Mama!” he yells in his excited (not at all indoor) voice. “Mama! We got a gecko!”

Great. I hate geckos…they jump out and scare the daylights put of me (and leave poop trails everywhere). “Mama!” squeals my little girl. “Mama! Come see! Come see! Come see the gecko!” she begs, as she tugs at my hand and pulls me into the bedroom.

I enter cautiously. Where is this gecko? Did it run away and hide already? Will it jump out and scare me? “Where’s the gecko, sweetie?” “Mama! It’s over there! We got it! It is dead! We got it with the big blue ball. It just fall over, Mama…just like that.” And there he is…belly up…and all that can be heard the rest of the morning are my belly laughs, because seriously, that is SO stinking hilarious.

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When there aren’t enough words.

Found this blog post from last February…

There are just not enough words to convey the heavy sadness that my heart feels.

Last week, a high school acquaintance was found murdered in her home. She was 31.

Last March, a college friend lost a battle to cancer. He was also 31.

This past fall, a former student whose life I had been heavily invested in, was sentenced to life in prison for mistakes he made. He is 23.

In all honesty…I’ve been wrestling with God in the unfairness of it all, screaming at Him for his seemingly ridiculous plan, running at Him with closed fists–ready to throw punches, tantrum throwing, crying and wondering why He, who is supposedly omnipotent and sovereign and just, did not intervene.

Last Sunday I was reminded by a friend how we are only able to see a minuscule part of the whole picture. In my heart of hearts, I know that. But the prideful part of me says, “I could write this story better if I had the control.”

Another friend has been encouraging me and holding me accountable to reading truth in this time where I have simply wanted to run the other way. We’ve been reading the “she reads truth” Lenten series together. The text for day 8 is from Mathew 6:33-34. The Message Bible version says,

“Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

I love how it talks about steeping your life in God-reality, God-initiative and God-provisions. When I think about how a tea bag steeps…it just simply rests. All too often, I don’t rest and steep my life in His goodness. I think it comes down to me not trusting that somehow good will prevail. It’s me not believing that somehow these circumstances will bring Him glory. It’s me doubting that these situations are part of a bigger picture. It’s me wanting control of life circumstances and wanting them to measure up to my ideas of what “fair” is.

I’ve seen Him deal lovingly and generously with my unfaithful heart time and time again. I know he’s holding my heart in his hands now, when grief seems to know no bounds and there simply are not enough words. Grasping onto the giver of hope.

I need words as wide as sky
I need language wide as this longing inside
And I need a voice bigger than mine
And I need a song to sing you that I’ve yet to find
I need you, oh I need you
I need you, oh I need you
To be here now, to be here now
To hear me now, to hear me now

-David Crowder I need words