Celebrity Status

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{the one time we actually had a camera when asked for our picture}

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a celebrity? When I was a little girl I thought I wanted to be an actress and thought I wanted all that came with the title. Well, after living in our little city of Nakhon for 5 months I believe I can officially say no- I do not want to be famous.

Technically, our city is quite large. But there are very few foreigners in our city. There is absolutely no reason why a tourist would ever come to Nakhon. Because of the limited number of foreigners, it is impossible to walk down the street or drive through town without having at least a dozen Thai people yell “hello” or “farang” (which means foreigner). Each week a minimum of 5 people come up to us and either ask to take a picture with us or sneak an awkward selfie with us in the background (yes, peace signs are often included). At first we found this hysterical. We absolutely loved the attention and found it too funny that the locals found us so strange/entertaining. It is like we are some kind of aliens. But now, after 5 months of living here… let’s just say it gets a bit old. This past weekend Caleb and I were sitting at a restaurant waiting for a food and were asked (through gestures) to get up and take a picture with 3 different groups of friends… during ONE meal!! Days like this do get old. Days like this I would really love it if everyone would let us be so we could eat our mystery meat in peace.

But then the Lord whispers reminders to me. He placed us here. He has made us stand out. We don’t have to try to get attention. We don’t have to try to initiate conversations. Locals naturally flock to “farang.” And as annoying as it may be at times, this attention makes it that much easier to share the love of Christ. There are always eyes on us. The locals have nicknames for us. Could we ask for an easier stage to share Jesus?

Regardless of where we are- in Thailand, in America, at work, at the store… there are always eyes on us. We are always reflecting who we are and what we believe. The Bible tells us that we are called to be ‘strangers and aliens” in this world. We are called to stand out. It is easy to stand out physically here, but it is my prayer that we also stand out because we are filled with His Spirit.

I pray our lives prove we are different. I pray our actions and our words make us strangers and aliens in this lost world. It is my prayer that the Lord will fill me with an abundance of patience and extravagant love. I pray each moment reflects Him. I pray His light shines through each of us. Because life is too short not to laugh at moments that should make us frustrated. Life is too short to hide the light of Christ. Every moment should reflect Him & His unconditional, unfailing love.

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Thai Kiddos

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Kids are cute. There is no denying it. But there is something especially cute about Thai kids. The precious little ones here have captivated our hearts. Not only do we adore the students we teach during the week, but we have come to love the students from our church and the children of our local street vendors.

Many of the kids in our city live in ‘homes’ that we would consider ‘unlivable’ in the States. Literally, I think 90% of the homes in our city would be condemned. But these sweet kiddos have smiles on their faces. My heart would love to adopt each and every one of them. But at least for now, that is not our calling.

The Lord has begun to stir some dreams in our hearts. Over the past 4 months Caleb and I have had the opportunity to learn more about our new home city while also traveling to nearby cities. In each city we have found that many of the kids share the same struggles- and it is heart breaking. In the next few months Caleb and I have a decent amount of time off and we will be traveling to other countries. We are curious to see if other countries share the exact same struggle.  But until then, we will continue playing with and loving on the local little ones.

{And watching my hunk of a husband love on each kiddo brings so much joy to my heart!
Praise Jesus for a husband that loves and serves so well! How precious is this little girl we met at breakfast?}

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Answered Prayers & Precious Students

10455857_10152141273536821_1793109554009914368_nThank you for all of prayers on my birthday! They were truly felt! As the day progressed my homesickness dwindled. I am not traditionally a fan of being the center of attention so I did not tell anyone it was my birthday. But my husband and Facebook pretty much told the world. Which in reality ended up being pretty sweet.

My co-teachers all made sure my students knew it was my birthday which meant a few of them would burst out in the ‘happy birthday’ song every time I entered the room. Could they be any cuter? Throughout the day the Lord kept blessing me with precious moments. My third graders kept giving me hugs and kept trying to hold my hand while we walked down the hall. While this is pretty normal, the Lord kept using these moments to whisper truth to my heart. Abba kept reminding me that my students and my co teachers are the reason I am here in Thailand. My students are the ultimate birthday present and I am blessed to spend my special day with them.

My precious first and second grade swim kids also took every moment possible to yell “Happy birthday Teacher Chloé,” even when they were half way down the hall (good thing our halls are indoor/outdoor style). Chloé is hard enough for many American children to say, so hearing the cheeky little Thai kids attempt saying my name is absolutely precious. One student has resorted to calling me Teacher Chocolate or Teacher Swim Club- two of his favorite things. All day their love and affections melted my heart. Thank you Jesus for sweet reminders, answered prayers, and friends/family who are prayer warriors!

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My Birthday & the Blues

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{Ashley Monogue Photography}

Well, today is a day to celebrate. Today is my birthday. And unfortunately I am homesick. Growing up my family always did birthdays in a big way. Our house was covered in balloons, streamers, signs, and confetti. The day started out with a delicious breakfast served on our special birthday plate (growing up I usually had my mom’s homemade blintze/crepes with greek yogurt and fresh fruit or my dad’s homemade waffles- both are absolutely divine). The day ended with champagne, our favorite restaurant, and of course- mint chocolate chip ice cream and some type of cake made from scratch. And usually there were many fun activities in between. Since getting married we have added a few new fun traditions too- but sadly we have access to few Western resources here so none of these traditions can be implemented in Thailand.

Yesterday Caleb and I went on a hunt for birthday goodies. We did find a Prosecco, but no luck with anything else. Today, what I would really love is to be surrounded by my family and friends- to be surrounded by the people I love most. While I absolutely love our lives here in Thailand, I miss our family, friends, and Home Group (what our church calls our couples Bible study). I miss Christian community. (our church community here consists of a handful of people who speak very little english.)  I would love to trade squatter toilets for proper Western toilets. I would love to trade this thick-as-mud humidity for consistent air conditioning. I would love to trade rice for chips, salsa, and guacamole. Most days I love how simple our lives are here in Thailand. We really only need the basic necessities and it truly is a blessing. But today, I miss the luxuries of the Western world. I miss the convenience of it all. I miss lazy evenings cuddling on the couch, watching a movie in the air conditioning. I am feeling blue and am longing for all things Western.

So my birthday wish for today- prayer. Prayer for comfort, peace, joy, and love. We have wonderful friends here whom we adore- but no one can replace family and lifelong friends. Please pray for this homesickness to dwindle. Pray for Jesus to shine through me, even when it is hard to choose joy. Pray the Lord fills me with so much of His love that it overflows, so I can love my incredible husband and neighbors well.

I am beyond thankful for each of you- those I know in person, those of you I have met online, and all of the in-between. Words cannot convey my thankfulness for your prayers, support, and encouragement on this journey! Praying for each of you as well! xox

What do you do to celebrate birthdays?

a little family love below :)
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Lessons from 2 Years of Marriage

6 lessonsHas it really been 2 years since we said ‘I do’ in front of our friends and family? August 24, 2012 feels like a lifetime ago and like yesterday all at the same time. The emotions and the memories from that day are still so fresh. Yet in 2 short years we have made more memories than I could have ever dreamed.

I am by no means a marriage expert. In fact, I am a broken sinner who managed to snatch up the best man on earth- seriously… how did I get so blessed? We are absolutely still newlyweds and soaking up every moment of marital bliss. Despite our newlywed status, the Lord has been gracious enough to teach us so many valuable lessons about life and marriage in 2 short years.

71. Marriage is fun.

Marriage truly is fun.  Yes, we have a boring routine- just like 99% of the world. But each day is an adventure spent by my best friends side. Caleb knows how to add magic to each day. Whether it is a spur of the moment dance party in our home, long walks in the park, or Caleb simply reminding me to laugh rather than cry when rain begins to dump down on us as we drive our motor bike home from the outdoor night market. Each day should be filled with laughter and extravagant love.

22. I am selfish.

I am far more selfish than I would ever care to admit. In fact, I don’t think I realized just how selfish I am until we moved to Asia. I’ve been rereading the book “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller. I would recommend everyone read this book twice. Yes, twice. I read it when we first got married and am reading it again now. While I enjoyed it the first go around, I have learned so much more about who I am as a wife and as a person this year. The book points out that our selfishness and our partners selfishness becomes much more apparent after about 2 years of marriage and this is often what leads to marital issues. Immediately my heart sank. I think I can literally count on 2 hands how many times I have been truly frustrated with Caleb for being selfish. I, on the other hand, don’t know that I can use 2 hands to count my selfishness in a week. I married a saint- seriously. This is something I need to work on… daily.

43. Marriage makes you more holy.

I almost feel awkward making the statement above because my life is often far from holy. But it is true. Marriage is supposed to make you holy. As believers we are called to give up our personal, fleshly desires and strive to imitate Christ. As a wife we must realize that we are a single unit in a set. Decisions cannot be based on our needs or wants. We need to put others before ourselves. And sometimes it is rough. Sometimes I want to be stubborn and selfish. But then I have Caleb to hold me accountable and to call me to a higher standard.  Proverbs 27:17 says that we need to be like “iron sharpen[ing] iron.” And therefore heat, friction, and sparks are sometimes necessary. Luckily we know that it is all out of love.

14. Conversation is crucial.

One of my favorite weekly dates is the time we spend going over our Weekly Questions. They take all of 20 minutes but they bring such joy to my heart. I always feel like a burden has been lifted on my chest because our struggles, our goals, and our prayer requests have been not only verbalized, but they have also recognized by our spouse. This year I have learned the importance of confessing my sins to Caleb. Yes, we have learned to share the dirtiest, ugliest part of ourselves with each other. It is often shameful and embarrassing. But I know that Caleb loves me unconditionally and the point of our marriage is to become more like Christ. When sins are confessed, accountability and prayer are provided.

65. Say I am sorry often.

I will say it again, I am a sinner and I sin often. Many times I don’t even realize I have done something to hurt Caleb. I’ve learned it is imperative that we not only apologize for our mistakes, but that we also ask for forgiveness. And when your spouse apologizes to you- forgive, forgive, forgive. Life is too short to hold a grudge.

86. Spend time digging into the Word together.

This has easily become one of my favorite lessons from our second year of marriage. Our first year of marriage was spent at a school literally studying the Word of God at least 5 hours a day. But when we entered the ‘real world’ our quiet times suffered. This year we have found a routine and we adore it. We wouldn’t trade our morning coffee/breakfast and quiet time for the world. Each morning we dig into the Word on our own. Afterwards we share what the Lord spoke to us in our readings and share some of our favorite verses from the morning. Then we read our ‘Jesus Calling’ devotional together and end in prayer- as a couple. There is nothing more attractive than watching your husband pursue the Lord and few things warm my heart more than hearing him lead us in prayer. I still get goosebumps when he prays about our future family {key word- future}.

{see our 1st year of marriage post here}
{see our engagement story here}

What have you learned from marriage?
Any other tips or advice?

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Am I Belittling God’s Gifts?

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When Caleb and I first arrived in Nakhon Si Thammarat, everything seemed magical. Everything was beautiful and new. The warm sun shined brightly everyday and we soaked up every sight, sound, and smell- the good and the bad. Every experience was new and felt worth documenting. Now, after 4 months of living here, the once magical experiences have become routine- they are our normal. While I am still humbled that the Lord invited us on this adventure of His, I am no longer overwhelmed with the little beauties of each day. I no longer feel compelled to photograph and share little moments. I still cherish the conversations and talks about Jesus more than words can explain. But what about my surroundings?

And you know what? That is sad. Honestly? It kind of breaks my heart. I didn’t even realized this had happened until someone asked for updates on our lives in NST. How did I let the things that once filled my heart with such joy become so expected? In a way, I feel as though I am belittling God’s gifts by doing this. So I am going to begin being intentional about noticing and sharing these daily blessings again.  Because each moment spent with the local kiddos, with our Thai friends or acquaintances, and our students are magical little blessings.

It is time to be wowed by the rustic “charms” of our city again. We may lose electricity and water, but each day is filled with infinite little blessings- little treasures. I no longer want to just be wowed by the new sights, sounds, and places we experience on vacation. It is time to be wowed by our normal. Because in reality, each day is filled with magical moments. We just have to choose to recognize them.

While it is too rainy to bring my camera out in our city (rainy season is in its early stages. last nights thunder storm could have rivaled those in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma), I can try to bring out our new GoPro (thanks mom & dad!! best anniversary gift EVER!!). I am thankful for the little reality check and reminder to see the beauty in our city. Right here, right now. Because there is always beauty around us. But it is our choice to recognize the beauty and blessings. Starting today, I am choosing not to belittle God’s gifts. I am choosing to recognize and cherish each little blessing- each piece of magic.

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Try to be Alive

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“Try to learn to breathe deeply,
really to taste food when you eat,
& when you sleep, really to sleep.
Try as much as possible
to be wholly alive with all your might,
& when you laugh, laugh like crazy…
Try to be alive.
You will be dead soon enough.”
Ernest Hemingway

Life has been absolutely hectic lately. Most of it is a good hectic- but some of it is simply annoying Thai third world problems… Either way, we are busy. Caleb and I have so many things to do before September 20th. Big things, small things, fun things, research things, school things. Having all of these things on our plate has put me in a bit of a stand-still. I have been frozen and I don’t know where to start. On Friday I realized  this overload has caused me to complacently coast through the days rather than to live intentionally in each moment. And you know what? Life is far too short to not embrace each moment.

So this week I am making it my goal to live intentionally. I am crossing items of my to-do list that are not time sensitive. This is the week to soak up every moment. I want to breathe deeply, savor every flavor, laugh till my stomach hurts, and love extravagantly. It is going to be a good week- I am deciding that now. Let’s (you & me) decide to make this week a week to remember!

Praying your week is filled with blessings as well!

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We are All Sinking

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Grace. Where would we be if it weren’t for grace?

This past week I have been overwhelmed by the beautiful gift of God’s grace. You see, until about 5 years ago I was openly living a life filled with sin. I claimed to be a Christian and I knew all the “right” Bible answers, but my life had not really been transformed by the blood of Christ. I was living for me, my fleshly desires, and I yearned to be successful in the eyes of the world.

Words cannot convey my thankfulness for grace. 5 years ago the Lord completely humbled me and captivated my heart. I learned the beauty of grace. Thinking back to my prior life brings a flood of mixed emotions- praise for His redeeming, sorrow for my lack of desire to seek Him first, overwhelming thankfulness for grace, and overall peace.

While I wish I had a clean testimony of loving and pursuing Him my whole life, the Lord has blessed me by using my broken testimony to come alongside others as they struggle. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  I don’t believe I will ever be confident enough in my walk to say follow my example as Paul stated. But because of grace, I do feel I can now say stumble with me as I stumble after Christ.

I have opened my heart to the saving grace of Jesus. I have allowed His grace to consume me. He has filled my heart with an all consuming joy. And now I cannot imagine ever turning back.

Praise the Lord, His grace is new every morning. I can boldly sing, “great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
-David Crowder Band

 

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Our 3rd Honeymoon in Koh Samui

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A lot can happen in two years of marriage. In two years we have lived in 3 homes, 2 different states, and 2 different countries. In 2 years we have traveled to 6 countries, 8 states (technically more if you count simply driving through them on road trips), and countless beaches. But of all our travels, our recent “3rd honeymoon” trip is among my top favorites.

If you ever have a chance to visit Koh Samui, Thailand- go! Honestly, it wasn’t even on my list of places to visit while living in Thailand. I figured it was overly touristy and there were far better beach options. While Thailand does have a plethora of incredible secret beaches, I now understand why Samui is so popular. The water is perfect, the weather is incredible, and the views are breathtaking. We did not want to leave! Oh, and did I mention you can get coconut oil massages in serene beachfront bungalows for $12/hour? Yes, we did get more than one.

We stayed at the Marina Beach Resort on Lamai beach for about $26/night- score! Our resort was located near the end of the beach strip which meant we were close enough to walk to all the shops and restaurants but not deep enough in the strip to be overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle- and our part of the beach was quieter! Lamai is considered the second prettiest beach on the island but we love it for the incredible night markets! The street vendors here have THE best food, fruity drinks are available everywhere, and you can buy all types of gifts and goodies. And the local artists are phenomenal. If we had an actual home, I would have bought far too much art! When we return to Samui, we will definitely have to keep Lamai as a home base option- it will all depend on prices :)

If you ever visit Samui, we highly recommend visiting Chaweng for the beach- best at sunrise, it is empty and the sunrises are INCREDIBLE {which you may have seen on my instagram}. We got our first massages on this beach. Chaweng also has endless shopping and dining options. Although, I would avoid this area like the plague at night… It gets quite rowdy. When visiting Chaweng you MUST drive to the viewpoint between Chaweng beach and Lamai beach. It may be one of the prettiest views I have ever seen. Caleb and I brought a bottle of champagne and some goodies there and just soaked in God’s glorious creation during sunset. And a local Thai woman sells homemade coconut ice cream up there for less than $1- need I say more?

One of our other favorite beaches was Mae Nam. This was easily the quietest beach with the prettiest resorts. It is much more family oriented and much more our style. We even became friends with an Italian couple on this beach. While the water is not quite as breathtakingly blue, it is still spectacular. And you can see a plethora of the surrounding islands while you lounge in your hammock or beach chair. Caleb and I spent the day walking the beach, playing paddle board in the water and basking in the sun- oh, and of course getting a couple more massages.

Our time in Samui was filled with infinite ‘I love you’s, too many breathtaking views to count, moments of pure bliss, and endless praises to our Heavenly Father for creating such a gorgeous little island. If you visit Samui rent a motorbike- I promise it is THE best way to get around the island. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

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A Time to Celebrate

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“Then she began to breathe, and love
and every moment took her to a place where goodbyes were hard to come by,
she was in love, but not with someone or something.
she was in love with her life,
and for the first time, in a long time,
everything was inspiring.”

R.M. Drake

One thing you may have noticed about me is that I am a celebrateholic. I love to celebrate anything and everything. And lately, we have been doing a lot of celebrating. Because let’s be honest- life is too short not to.

Today we are off to Koh Samui and the beautiful surrounding islands here in Thailand. We will be leaving behind computers and cell phones. We will be completely disconnected from the world and soaking up every beautiful moment focusing on what matters most. It is time to celebrate. We are celebrating the big and the small- from wedding anniversaries to glorious sunrises. Life is sweet and God is good. Praying you all have a fabulous week! I will return to blogging regularly soon- I promise! xox

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