20 New Normals when Living in Thailand

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Thailand is one of the best countries in the world. Of the 20+ countries I have visited in my life, Thailand is easily in my top 5 favorites. Yes, I may be a bit biased… but I love it just the same. As a tourist it is easy to fall in love with Thailand’s incredible weather, gorgeous topography (hello gorgeous mountains and picture perfect beaches), and delicious food. But as a local in a non-touristy city, we have learned so much more about this country. Some good, some funny, some not-so-desirable, and some just odd.

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Here are just a few things I did not expect to become my new normal.

  1. Squatter toilets… there is just no getting around it. they are everywhere.
  2. BYOTP. that is, bring your own toilet paper. yes, I carry a roll of tp in my purse & in my bike everywhere I go.
  3.  Wild chickens. everywhere. but this also means fresh eggs are cheap & delicious.
  4. Laughing at everything. i don’t know if it is possible to attempt having a conversation with a local without laughing. laughing at our awkward attempt to speak thai, laughing at our daily routine, or laughing with our students. somehow, everything is funny. oh, and in the thai culture, thai people laugh when they get nervous.
  5. Traffic stops for cows. yes, we have found ourselves in bumper to bumper traffic because a heard of cows decided to walk down the highway… not just across it, but straight down the lane {and sometimes going the wrong way I might add}. yes, this has happened more than once.
  6. 2 lane streets are actually 4 lane streets. meaning 3 cars and one bike or some other crazy variation… yes i often ride with my eyes closed.
  7. Men walking their pet cows down the highway. who needs to walk a dog when you can just walk your cow?
  8. Men RUNNING with their bulls on the side of the highway. again, why run a dog when you can run a bull??
  9. Gorgeous homes with A/C next to one room wood or metal shacks. zoning is not a thing here.
  10. Everything is CHEAP.  granted, we get paid on the thai baht so we make practically nothing. but still, who can pass up $1 meals and $0.33 fresh coconut water.
  11. You can pay your bills and buy plane tickets at 7-11. and they are EVERYWHERE!!!!
  12. Non-refrigerated meat. you can buy your meat on the side of the road, at the night market, or in the non-refrigerated section at a western-style market. yes, I have pretty much become a vegetarian.
  13. Fitting a class of 20 + 2 teachers into an 8 person van and calling it a field trip. Or fitting 40 students into a 20 seater bus that doesn’t have closing doors. don’t worry- one of the teachers always sits on the steps by the door.
  14.  Google always reverts back to thai… even when you  change your settings.
  15. Cold showers. even in the heat, i wish our home had hot water…
  16. Wai. a wai is the act of putting your hands in prayer position and bowing towards another individual. it is a sign of respect. we wai everyone and they wai us. truly, i love it. the younger generation truly respects their elders.
  17. Morning & night markets. in america farmers markets are definitely a trendy thing to do. in thailand, they are our normal. if we want food- we go to the night market. and they are such a fun experience!
  18. Running breaks due to the cows/goats/hogs standing or walking across your path. sometimes there is just no getting around them.
  19. Bikes. i never understood the allure of riding a motorcycle knowing how dangerous they  can be. now, i get it. we drive our little motorbike everywhere. to the market, to school, to the beach. and it.is.awesome!!
  20. The joy. thailand is named the land of smiles for a reason. it is impossible to meet a stranger here. we have learned it is almost impossible to go somewhere without meeting someone new. whether someone is wanting to take a picture with us or someone is helping me as i struggle through a conversation at the bank. everyone wants to help and everyone is joyful. the people here are lovely.

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Have you ever found yourself in a transition period with new normals? What did this look like for you?

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Preparing for Goodbye

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I cannot believe this year is coming to a close. Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would live in Thailand. I have yearned to live abroad since I was in sixth grade- but I always imagined my time abroad would be spent gallivanting around some posh city in Europe. I couldn’t have guessed it would be in Thailand, in the land of smiles and squatter toilets. Little did I know, this country would captivate my heart.

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While I would still love to live in Europe one day, I am beyond thankful God brought us to Thailand. We came to Thailand with one desire- our students. Growing up I had never dreamed of visiting Asia. It just wasn’t on my radar. Our sole purpose for moving to Thailand was not to travel, but to love on some students.

We literally began praying for our specific group of students in 2013. And now, almost a full two years later, my heart is breaking as we are beginning our goodbyes. To say I am heartbroken at the thought of leaving my 20 third graders is an understatement. I spent my weekend in tears, praying over each of these beautiful little souls by name. Praying into their personalities, dreams, and potential.

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I pray that the Lord used me to plant seeds. I pray we keep in touch. I pray they continue to grow- spiritually, mentally, and scholastically. I pray they know I love them and will continue praying for them. But above all, I pray they know their Heavenly Father loves them. I pray one day,  in the far off future, I will see them again in Heaven & we will celebrate at Abba’s table.

To me, teaching wasn’t just a way to live in Thailand. Teaching was a way I could build relationships with 20 impressionable students who needed to hear about Jesus. I pray I never take for granted the memories and lessons my students taught me here in Thailand.  I pray my students remember Jesus was loved by me- even if they forget me as a teacher. I pray they remember the love that was cultivated in our classroom. Love for our studies, love for each other, and love of our Heavenly Father.

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Who knows where we will be next or what we will be doing. But whatever our next step is, I pray we can feel His guidance and His presence as vividly as we have here. God’s hand was in every step, every memory. We poured out our hearts and souls into our students. We have loved them with every fiber in our body. I am confident the Lord was present in our classrooms and I could not be more thankful.

Thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement. This year would not have been possible without so many of you. Abba has showed up in BIG ways. Words cannot convey our thankfulness for each of you.

How sweet is this drawing my student Luktan drew?
Can you guess one of our Bible verses of the week?

Luktan

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We have had a plethora of people reaching out to us about our plans for the near future. We will be in NYC the beginning of April and SoCal the end of April. The first week of May we should have more solidified plans. But as of now, we will be in Texas in May then most likely Georgia & Florida around the June/July months. After that… only Abba knows! 

Happy Birthday Mom

imageToday is another day of celebration! Today is my wonderful mother’s birthday! She is the most encouraging, loving, supporting, adventurous, and incredible mother out there!

imageimageimageThank you mom for always encouraging me to dream big and for helping me do whatever it takes to achieve any goals. You have inspired me to do more and be more than I would have initially thought possible. Thank you for teaching me to take advantage of life’s adventures- whether they are in our home city or half way around the world. And most of all, thank you for being such a wonderful example of what it looks like to be a wife who loves the Lord. Love you! Hope your day in NYC is full of blessings and your trip to SoCal is filled with sunshine!

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Ps- sorry for the lack of post lately- Thailand has killed my MacBook and I am waiting until I am back in America to buy a new one! For now, I will attempt posting from our iPad…

Happy Birthday Caleb

Today is a special day! Today is my incredible husbands birthday! Words cannot convey my thankfulness that he was born 27 short years ago. I am so thankful for the experiences he has had and for the man they have made him to be. And most of all, I am thankful the Lord brought us together. There are so many reasons why he is the best husband ever… but here are just a few reasons why I am so thankful for him.

  1. How well he loves others.
  2. His passion. He is passionate about everything from Jesus to sports. Caleb doesn’t do anything half way.
  3. His positivity. He is always smiling and never speaks poorly of others.
  4. He encourages me to spend time in the Word and leads us in our daily devotional.
  5. His spontaneity.
  6. He brings out the best version of myself. He makes me want to be a better person and to serve more.
  7. Watching him teach, love on, and play with his students. He will be such a wonderful father one day!
  8. He supports my crazy dreams & dreams up his own big, crazy dreams.
  9. His sense of humor. No one makes me laugh like he does.
  10. He tells me he loves me all the time.
  11. He is a man- not just a grown boy. He knows what it means to be a man and the importance of living by a higher standard. He is brave, strong, a leader, caring, and humble.
  12. Watching his love for Christ overflow as he interacts with strangers. {we have literally had strangers come up to us while we are eating or walking and ask if they could practice speaking english with us… this has happened at least a dozen times. Caleb lovingly accepts with a smile- even if he is caught with his mouth full.}
  13. His adventurous spirit.
  14. Caleb has never met a stranger.
  15. He loves to celebrate everything- big & small! {almost as much as I do}
  16. He randomly dances with me in our kitchen. Sometimes he even turns on our wedding song, takes me by surprise, and dips me.
  17. How he serves- not only me, but everyone around him. {and he does it with such joy & sincere love}
  18. He knows me and knows how to best love me. He listens to my ramblings and always know when I need advice or when I just need to be held.
  19. Seeing him still gives me butterflies.
  20. Most of all- he loves, follows, and pursues Jesus with all his heart.

So happy birthday to my best friend, my encourager, my husband. {I still cannot believe I get to call you my husband!} I cannot wait to celebrate another 80+ years of birthdays together!  I love you!

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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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