Christmas in Bali

img4324-3This past Christmas was easily the strangest Christmas I have ever experienced. Having said that, is was also one of the most memorable and possibly my favorite Christmas ever. While I missed the cold weather, the gathering with friends and family, and the general Christmas festivities… I wouldn’t trade this Christmas season with my 20 third graders for the world. Few things bring me more joy than watching people of other cultures sing songs about Jesus and hearing them retell the real Christmas story.

We spent most of the holiday season in our home city of Nakhon Si Thammarat in Thailand but we spent the week of Christmas with my family in Bali, Indonesia. Our week in Bali was filled with adventure, culture, swimming, and relaxing. It was perfect. While the entire trip was perfect, one night easily stands out as one of my favorites. On Christmas Eve we had dinner reservations at the main restaurant at our resort. Imagine sitting outside by the beach, Christmas lights dancing in the pools reflection, while eating the most incredible food. Seriously, the food was out of this world good!! But what made the night so memorable was the live music.

The resort we stayed at partners with a school that provides an education to low income families and orphans. The students are taught to read and write so they have a chance to have a better future. One of the ways they help the students learn English is through song. So we ate dinner listening to 20+ sweet little Balinese boys and girls sing songs about Jesus and the Christmas season. It was beautiful. Bali is a Hindu island- so I know the students are most likely not Christians, but praise the Lord they are at least learning something about Jesus… even if it is just through song.

Are they not the sweetest little things you have ever seen?
And how gorgeous are their true Balinese style outfits?
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I’ll be posting all the details of our trip to Bali soon! If you ever plan on making it out to Bali I have a few contacts you MUST use and a few places you MUST visit!

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Your Ambition, Your Story

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“The ambitions we have will become the stories we live.
If you want to know what a person’s story is about,
just ask them what they want.
If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories,
and if we want a roomba vaccum cleaner we are living stupid stories.
If it won’t work in a story, it won’t work in life.”
-Donald Miller

Anyone else love the start of a new year? It is still January which means we have 12 months to turn this year into a great story- a story worth remembering, a story worth sharing. Caleb and I are currently at a crossroad. We are praying through our story. How does the Lord plan on using our marriage and our lives to further His Kingdom? We both have so many dreams and ambitions. Dreams of starting a family, of serving, of traveling, and of learning.

At the moment we are praying through what 2015 will look like after we leave Thailand. If I am being honest, a big part of me yearns to be in NYC with my family while we start setting roots and begin praying about starting our family. While another part of me wants to continue our adventure abroad. Few experiences have taught me more about God’s omnipotence, His faithfulness, and what it looks like to truly rely on Him than living abroad. This year in Thailand Abba has broken and molded me in some of the most unexpected ways.

As we pray through this next step, there is one fact I am certain of. I don’t ever want to wake up one day and realize my life reflects that I think fancy cars and big homes are important. I would rather have someone watch my life and have no question that my story was about loving others and loving our Heavenly Father.

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So this is my prayer- that my eyes would be set on Him, that He would lead our every step, that our ambitions would be set on things above, that Abba would continue writing a story of love and faithfulness. We would be honored if you would join us in prayer. We have an interview Tuesday at midnight Thai time. Our prayer is for the Lord’s Will to be done- regardless of the outcome. Beyond thankful for each of you!!

What are your ambitions? What is your story about?

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Taking Action in the Waiting

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I adore the month of January. A new year, new goals, new adventures to be had… January brings the promise of new opportunities. As this year begins, I cannot help but think about how our time in Thailand is coming to a close. Words cannot convey my thankfulness for this past year. I am still befuddled that our 1 year contract in Thailand is almost over.

For the past few months Caleb and I have been intentionally praying for the Lord to clearly open and close doors for our next step. I have always yearned to live in Europe and have been praying for direction with this desire. Caleb and I have actually applied to a plethora of locations in Europe- but most schools require an EU passport and won’t begin hiring until April… And the planner in me really struggles with the idea of not having solidified plans when our current contract ends. Caleb and I have also prayed about the possibility of moving to NYC. We love the idea of living in the city while my parents live there. And if I am being honest, saying goodbye to them at the end of the holiday was A LOT harder than I expected.

So now we are in a season of waiting and praying. In this season I have found myself struggling. I am certain I have struggled with this situation before, but I am not sure if I had ever recognized it. The past year and a half have stretched me, molded me. God has taught me what it looks like to wait on Him. Last time I was in this season of waiting God clearly opened and closed one door at a a time. This made waiting on Him somewhat easy. But this season is slightly different.

Proverbs 16:9 states, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” I know that the Lord will establish our steps. He will give us direction. I also know the Lord gives us free will and He requires us to be men and women of action. But what does it look like to balance listening to His direction and taking action? I don’t want to force anything. I yearn for His clear direction- even if it is not what Caleb and I are expecting.

So in this season of waiting, I am praying for balance. I want to fully listen and wait on God while  still taking steps towards our future. At the moment we have no idea where we will end up next. We have no idea what 2015 with hold for us. But we are certain that the Lord is good, His plans are good, and He holds us in His hand. We cannot wait to see what Abba has in store for this year!

If you happen to think of us,
we would be beyond blessed
if you would say a quick prayer for direction for us!
Thankful for each of you!

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Happy New Year!

DSC_3580Happy New Year! Anyone else LOVING 2015 already? God is so good!! I cannot wait to see what He has in store for this year. As you can probably tell by my lack of recent postings, I have been quite distracted the past 2 weeks. My parents and brother flew half way around the world to spend Christmas and New Years with us and my grandparents flew in late last week. {yes, my grandparents… can we just talk about how COOL they are?! Goodness I hope we are like them at their age!}

Warning- prepare yourself for way too many awkward family photos in the near future…
and yes, we did buy matching elephant pants for everyone 

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Well, everyone flew out yesterday and I think I cried for about an hour. {okay, I secretly am still holding back tears}. It was the perfect holiday and we are beyond blessed to have family travel so far to come visit us. I could not be more thankful for my family, for the example they have set, and for the love they share.

Caleb and I are beyond exhausted but I promise once we get a little more rest I will share our travels to Bali, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Nakhon Si Thammarat with you all! And eventually I will try to recover our October photos from Cambodia and Vietnam to share with you all. 2014 was filled with so many blessings and memories… Words cannot convey my excitement for 2015!

Do you have any goals for 2015?

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Christmas Service in Thailand

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If you ever need a good laugh, come to Thailand and attend a Christmas church service. Caleb and I attended a new church this past weekend and could not stop laughing. One of the kindergarten families invited their students teacher to join them at church so naturally we decided to tag along.

After driving up and down the road for a solid 5 minutes we realized the church was tucked away in a little strip of old shops and homes. Honestly, we all stared at each other and laughed while we wondered out loud if we were in the right place. Sure enough, some locals saw the confused look on our face and invited us in. Once we kicked our shoes off outside we entered into the one-room church and found a seat on the floor on one of the rice mats. Shortly after the pastor instructed everyone to walk around the room, meet new people, and say ‘Merry Christmas’ {literally}. The pastor spoke english and told us to only say Merry Christmas as it would be the only english anyone else would understand. After hugging a dozen new friends the pastor informed us foreigners we would be singing Christmas songs and that we must dance. And goodness, THEY DO DANCE. It was quite the sight. Caleb jokingly whispered to me that he was raised baptist and couldn’t dance- we giggled as we awkwardly attempted to fit in.

It was beautiful watching the older Thai men and women raise their hands to glorify God. The room was filled with such joy and laughter. And who doesn’t love singing Christmas songs- even if they are in another language? One of the Thai women even wrapped and arm around my waist and had me dance with her. Despite the non-airconditioned room, it was wonderful. Don’t you love how Christ can turn strangers into friends?

After a short message the service ended with a dance recital. The young boys, young girls, and the moms. One thing I love about the Thai culture, they have no fear of being embarrassed. They simply enjoy life and laugh. Once the recital came to a close everyone at church is invited to stay for the free buffet lunch. We had to leave to run errands for school the next day but the pastor insisted next time we stay for lunch.

The entire event was such an experience and will forever remain one of the most memorable Christmas services we have ever attended. Everything about this Christmas season has been wonderful. Different, but wonderful. Can we talk about how precious some of the students from our school are as they prepare for our school Christmas show?

What is one of your favorite Christmas memories?

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Our 2014 Video Christmas Card

Anyone else LOVE Christmas cards? Is it embarrassing to admit receiving Christmas cards is one of my top 5 favorite things about the holiday season? I know so many of us keep up with one another through social media now, but there is something glorious about knowing a friend intentionally thought of you, wrote your address, and stamped an envelope just for you. Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to get dressed up and have a photo shoot? ;) {if we were home we would have hired Ashley Monogue Photography in a heart beat!}

Growing up my family always put our Christmas cards on {an incredibly cute reindeer} display near our front door. Last year Caleb and I kept the Christmas cards we received and prayed for the different individuals/families/couples after the holiday season ended. I am baffled that we actually received a few Christmas cards this year in Thailand. But we are that much more thankful for the people who took the time to send us a card half way around the world.

img4324-2If we wanted to get Christmas cards to each of our family and friends in America, we would have had to send the Christmas cards out in early October. And let’s be honest… that was just not realistic. So in lieu of sending a Christmas card this year, we created the little video above.img4324

My students and I have a “Bible verse of the week.” And sometimes, difficult words from our “verse of the week” end up as a bonus on our Friday spelling tests. So for the past couple months we have been reviewing a few verses that lead to the birth of Jesus. Can you guess which students are mine and which students are Caleb’s? Hint- Caleb’s students are older.

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My Looney Tune Moment

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Wednesdays have become a bit of a special night for me. Every Wednesday Caleb plays soccer with a bunch of men in our city. While I love spending every minute with him, I have always found this alone time very sweet. I grab the equivalent of $2 USD and my kindle then take myself to one of my favorite restaurants {if a dozen street vendors collected under a tin roof on a concrete slab counts as a restaurant}. I spend just under $1.30 USD on my meal, read, sit and people watch.

It is almost impossible to forget that we live in Thailand. Bugs no longer bother me, cold showers make me thankful we have water at all, I carry toilet paper with me everywhere, driving our bike in the pouring rain is a daily occurrence, and I am now FREEZING when it gets below 85. But there is something so sweet about the hour I spend sitting in my plastic chair eating my Thai soup. My heart is so filled with thanks during my time alone that I find myself sitting, staring, and smiling like some kind of looney tune. Just soaking it in. My heart is overflowing with gratitude and tears form in my eyes. The Lord is so faithful. And the reward is so grand when we just choose to listen and say yes to His calls.

While there are days I am itching for Western comforts, this is home. These people are my neighbors. And I love them more than I could have ever imagined. The Lord is teaching me about a new type of love in Thailand. A love I had never experienced. My heart aches for my new friends- my family away from family. I don’t know if I could love my students more if they were my own. {Caleb has heard me say I would adopt every single one of my little nuggets if I could at least a dozen times}. 

So thank you. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for being part of my community. The Lord has been so obvious in so much of this adventure. I pray that you too find the strength to be still, listen, and say a big hearty YES to the adventure God is inviting you on. Trust me, it might get hard and lonely, but it is worth it.

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You Need This

“People accuse me of going overboard
in preparing for my first ten million years in eternity.
In my option,
people go overboard in worrying about
their last ten years on earth.”
Francis Chan

If you have followed along my journey for any amount of time, you probably know that I love to read. At the moment, I am currently reading “You and Me Forever” by Lisa & Francis Chan. While technically this glorious little book is about marriage and what a marriage between two Christians should look like, I believe everyone should read it. Singles, engaged, married, or any in-between. To encourage you to pick up this incredible little book, I thought I would share a few of my favorite quotes thus far. Get ready- there are A LOT! Trust me, you need this book.

{oh, and as if you needed a better reason to purchase this book- all proceeds go to a village in Africa- learn more here}

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“Think of all the awards, promotions, accolades, and accomplishments you would love to receive in your lifetime. Go crazy in imagining it all. And then answer this: Could anything be better than hearing ['Well done, good and faithful servant'] from Jesus in the first moments of eternity?”

“I am crazy about Lisa, I want her to have a great life. But more than that, I want her to have great eternity. I want get to look back at her life without regret.”

“I love my wife. I love marriage. I love love. They all point to the brilliance of Jesus, who created them all.”

“Christians in America have become experts at conviction- and failure at action.”

“As we get convicted by a message, we should be asking, “What should I do in response to this truth?”

“Why not default to action until you hear a voice from heaven telling you to wait?”

“We criticize the guy who fed too much sugar to starving children rather than critiquing the thousands who fed them nothing.”

“Most people underestimate how terrifying it will be to see God.”

“If we don’t stare at God, we’ll spend our time staring at lesser things. Namely, ourselves.”

“If I could read a manuscript of your prayers over the past month, what would I see as the ‘one thing’ your repeatedly ask for? … Our prayers reveal a lot about us.”

 ”Our prayers reveal a lot about us. Our requests show us what we treasure, and our tone reveals our opinion of Him.”

“Our marriage problems are not really marriage problems. They are heart problems. They are God problems. Our lack of intimacy with God causes a void we try to fill with the frailest of substitutes. Like wealth or pleasure. Like fame or respect. Like people. Like marriage.”

“When we actually stare at Him, everything else fades to its proper place.”  

“What do you pray for? What do you meditate on?”

“Many people forget that after the moment of salvation comes a lifetime of sanctification (the process of becoming holy).”

“Does your marriage stand out in this generation?”

“We either shine a light that makes sense as a child of God or we take part in the crookedness and depravity of the world around us.”

“Marriage is one of the most humbling, sanctifying journeys you will ever be a part of.”

Did any specific quotes speak to you?

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I Will be Fierce

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Anyone else thinking about what is to come in 2015? I certainly have. Thoughts of who I want to be, how the Lord will transform my heart, how I can serve, places I want to see, and so so much more.

As I think about next year I can’t help but think about a podcast I recently listened to. In the podcast my home pastor was listing attributes he hopes to teach his daughters. Matt even goes as far as stating that he wants his daughters to be ferocious, like his wife. Now ferocious is NOT a word normally used to describe a Godly woman. Matt continued to explain that he would not be half the man he is today if it wasn’t for his wife’s strong personality. You see, Lauren (Matt’s wife) is not afraid to call Matt out. She knows that by calling Matt out on his sins (in a loving way of course) gives him the opportunity to become more like Christ.

I am currently reading “You and Me Forever” by Francis Chan and his wife {another book you must read}. Francis repeatedly encourages us to imagine the first time we will stand before our Almighty God. He points us back to the Bible and reminds us of how terrified and humbled some of the most ‘godly’ men in the Bible were at that moment. Francis states that he wants to hear God say, “well done, good and faithful.” But not only does he want to hear it, he wants to be sure his wife hears it as well.

I know I want to hear God tell me ‘well done.’ I want my husband to hear it as well. Quite honestly, I want nothing more than for each of my students to hear our Heavenly Father say the same thing to each of them. And you know what the beauty of this desire is? I have the chance to help them get there. I can be a ferocious, fierce woman of God. As a believer and as someone who yearns to see others succeed, I have to power to call other believers to a higher standard out of love. By being bold with our faith we have the power to make a difference.

So in 2015, I want to be ferocious, fierce, and bold. I want to speak rather than bite my tongue- even when what I have to say might not be the popular answer. I want to show others I love them deeply by showing them I care about their eternity. I yearn to help prepare those  I love for their first encounter with Yahweh.

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Worth Remembering

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Happy Friday everyone! Anyone else thrilled the weekend is almost upon us?  While I am excited for the weekend, I am most excited that in 11 days I get to see my parents and brother! Praise the Lord. Eight months without seeing family face-to-face is far too long. {Praise Jesus for Skype!} I cannot wait to spend Christmas and New Years exploring Asia with them. Then my Grandma and Grandpa are coming out to visit us in January! {goodness, I hope Caleb and I are like them when we are their age!}

While I cannot wait to see them and to travel with them, the Lord keeps reminding me to return to the present. Enjoy the moment I am in- because these moments are fleeting. We will never get to relive this day ever again.

“Live in the moment and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering.”

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