Brief Thoughts Before I Go Home

Last night was rough. A team member was really sick. Then my stomach finally caught up with the fact that everything about everything is different here. It decided to wake me up to remind me of it. Many times. In a not pleasant way. I’ve been living on the edge of an icky stomach for a few days and seem to have finally jumped into it full-fledged.

So I’m here in the air conditioned hotel, where the plumbing works well and the potty doesn’t require strong quads. (Did I tell you about the squatty potties? They are real. Squatty. Potties.) The team and the kids from Grace Place Cambodia are swimming all day about an hour away. My phone says it’s 93F today. The air conditioner in my room says it’s 18C.

Good Morning, Battambang

We leave Battambang, Cambodia tomorrow around noon and will return to Siem Reap where I will get on my return flight to home, USA. I am so ready to see my family! I miss them so much!

Grace Place 1 hanging out

I am not, however, ready to say goodbye to the beautiful people I have loved for years but have only just now begun to know. Each home has a few kids who’ve pulled off pieces of my heart as they’ve dragged me around, led me to a seat, hugged me till I almost fell over. And, in all honesty, I don’t know how we will say goodbye.

I also have no idea how I will even begin to process all of what God has let me take in, everything He’s shown me and taught me since I left home. I expected to write my way through it. I was wrong. Time and my body’s need for rest haven’t allowed for much of that.

Here are some of the preliminaries I hope to write through as God allows me to process them and filter them through the truths of His Word and His love.

  • Buddhism pervades the culture here. There are shrines nearly every place we look. The other day as we played with the kids all day, chants from a Buddhist funeral surrounded us all day long. Literally all day and into the night. It struck me rather sharply how amazing it is to witness the freedom of children playing and laughing and tickling and running. Children who would likely be forced to worship a dead idol were it not for Jesus Christ and the story the Father has given them here in this safe place called Asia’s Hope. The story of mercy and grace and life.
  • As soon as we finished lunch on Thursday, one of our team members got word that a very special friend had suddenly passed away. It was literally moments before the children joined us after their meal. (We were eating in separate rooms that day.) So when they saw the tears, they immediately ran to her and surrounded us. They stood there and grieved with us. They let her grieve. Some cried. Some just touched a shoulder of whomever they could reach. And all together we bore that burden of grief’s beginning with our sister in Christ. It was seriously one of the most poignant moments I have ever been a part of.
  • God’s mercy keeps showing up in new ways. Time after time after time. And I just can’t seem to grasp it. Like the Ephesians, I need Paul’s prayer. “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:18)

So keep your eyes peeled. I will visit these soon. I hope. Maybe you can help me process.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my eyes open for more of God’s gifts as our team finishes the work He gave us to do. (Even if it looks like a day inside with air conditioning rather than swimming with His kids.)

Southeast Asia

That Time God Let Me Touch a Miracle

I started praying for them about six-and-a-half years ago. This place and these kids and the staff who gives their all every day to be the safe family they were created to be part of. I knew neither their names nor the place that they lived. But I prayed.

I prayed mostly when I walked that first year I knew about them. I was training to walk a half-marathon for Team Hope International and raise money for this place, these kids, this staff and the dream of rescuing more of the children whose lives are in the thick of evil, unsafe in their own homes.

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I walked two half-marathons in that first year because I wanted to be part of snatching children out of evil’s grip, and walking and running to raise money was all I knew to do. That and praying.

It was not easy. But it was nothing compared to what these children lived.

A year after I walked my second half-marathon, I learned how to run, so I ran/walked a 10k and raised money and learned a whole new level of challenge and dedication as I prayed for them during that time.

That was more than six years ago. 2009.

Storage shed on the property

Storage shed on the property

So last night when I met these children, and literally saw with my physical eyes some of what God has done with my prayers, it was nearly more than my little mind could absorb.

We worshiped God together. The God who used little old all-I-know-to-do-is-pray me to break chains of abuse and raise flags of true victory in 18 lives, and I couldn’t not cry. Literally, tears fell down my face because I couldn’t keep up with them. My chin quivered.

Bie led worship with his guitar and his beautiful heart that loves this unconventional family more than I might ever know. He led us into a song I didn’t know. It was Thai, so I will probably never understand it. I watched and praised God as eighteen children and six adults expressed their love and praise to the One who set them free. The One who picked them up out the mire and placed them here where they can ride their bikes and giggle and eat healthy good food and go to school and play soccer and be cared for when they are sick. And worship Him.

We sat in a circle after expressing our love and praise to the God who’s done all this stuff I couldn’t have imagined six-and-a-half years ago. Then we each introduced ourselves, and I could hardly talk at first because of the lump of this-is-more-amazing-than-I-dreamed kind of tears that had taken residence inside my throat.

I told them I had prayed before I even knew their names. And I remembered God’s promise in Psalm 139.

Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in Your book and planned
before a single one of them began. -Ps. 139:16

Several of the kids here weren’t even born when I walked those half-marathons and ran that 10k. But God saw their days. He had already planned out their lives. And for reasons beyond any thoughts I can ever hope to understand this side of heaven, He used me to pray for them.

I think sometimes when we hear about what God is doing somewhere we might never go, we tend to think praying for it is the uninvolved part, that those on the ground getting their hands dirty are the only ones God is using. But getting our knees dirty is just as effective.

He wants to develop passion in our hearts and faith for things we might never see this side of heaven. He somehow uses our prayers to accomplish His purposes. I don’t know how. I have no idea why. But I believe it with all my heart.

I witnessed it last night.

Southeast Asia

A Quick Update from Chiang Mai

So we made it to the other side of the world on Monday night. It was Monday morning at home, but somehow (God’s beyond-my-understanding-grace) I haven’t been struck with jet-lag yet. At least, not too badly. I have been sleeping really well.

A market in Chiang Mai, Day 2 of Chinese New Year

A market in Chiang Mai, Day 2 of Chinese New Year

We have been in Chiang Mai since we arrived. Shopping for Jesus. (Somebody’s gotta’ do it, right?) The people here are so kind. So friendly, even to strangers like me. It’s so very different form Europe in that way.

I have way more things to write about than what I have time for. Jeana and I will go today to Northern Thailand. Doi Chang. We will be there tonight, visiting Pat, the coffee guy who’s a pastor. He grows coffee and shares Jesus with people. Coffee and Jesus? Yes, please!

I will take lots of pictures!! Wish I could somehow capture the smells too.

So sorry I don’t have more time. Maybe I will tonight.

Just know that God is using your prayers to give us strength and energy beyond explanation. Please keep praying for unity for Jeana and me. Please pray that God’s Spirit rests on us as we encourage Pat and the G.R.O.W. kids and staff this weekend. Please pray that I hear His promptings and respond with faithful and instant obedience. And please know that you are amazing! God is using you in my life by continuing to remind me that the only reason any of this is so awesome is because of Him and because so many of you are praying!

Southeast Asia

36 Hours, Three Planes, and a God Who Loves Orphans

In 36 hours, I will leave my home to board a plane in Cleveland, Ohio. I will board that plane and land in Atlanta before stepping foot onto two more aircraft that will take me to Southeast Asia. I’m going to be on an airplane for a very long time.

Two weeks later, I will retrace my steps and re-enter life with my family in the U.S. I will come home to my family.

A few months ago, I started reading Jennie Allen’s book Anything (affiliate link). It kicked my butt. It’s the story of how she and her husband told God they would do anything He asked. Any. thing. I told God I wanted to be ready to tell Him that, but there were still things I wanted to hold on to.

About a week later, I committed to join my friend on a 15-day trip that would literally take me to the other side of the world, without my family, to serve some of the ones God holds dearest — orphans. The next day, my 93-year-old grandma died. She was more than my grandma. She was my dear friend. It was hard.

We drove through three states to get to her funeral, and as we drove, I knew God had my back. I sensed an undeniable affirming that He wanted me to go on this trip and show orphans how much He loves them.

I was beyond blessed to have my grandma in my life for more than 43 years. But the children I will serve don’t have that privilege. They don’t have moms or dads. But they know Jesus. They are the fatherless God talks about in the Bible. He has a special spot in His heart for the ones who have no daddy. And He’s invited me to love them on His behalf.

My friend, Jeana, and I will go to Thailand first, where we will help serve in various ways at the home that is run by Grace World Outreach Worldwide (G.R.O.W.). She helped found this organization that rescues kids from horrible situations. We will be in Chiang Mai and Wang Pa Pao. We will also get to visit two Asia’s Hope orphanages sponsored and loved by our church. We will be in Thailand for nine days.

Then we will fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where we will meet up with eight others from Grace Church and serve the two Asia’s Hope homes in Battambang for five days. As the team and Jeana travel (back) to Thailand, I will fly home to my family. And I know I will never be the same.

Because I am expecting God to open the floodgates of the love I have not known for the needy and the helpless and the ones God holds dear. I am expecting Him to show me how very good He is, despite how many things I try to hold back from Him.

I write this for a few reasons.

  1. I was wondering if you would pray for us?
  2. Consider this a heads up for what’s about to happen here.

Will You Pray?

Pray for God to throw open the doors of my heart and love people like He wants me to. I will ask you to pray for my family’s role as they stay home and fill the roles that He has purposed for them while I’m gone. I will ask you to pray for Jeana and me and our friendship from Jesus. Will you pray our unity shows off how awesome God is? Will you pray that for the team, too? Will you pray for our travel and our health and our luggage?

There is so much more I will ask, if you’d like me to. Just let me know in the comments, and I will be happy to give you more details.

Heads Up

I plan to process through these finger as often as I can. And, of course, I will photograph my way through the other side of the world. So if you’d like to join the adventure, make sure you’re signed up to get my posts in your inbox so you don’t miss any.

See you on the other side of the world!

Southeast Asia

A Flash Sale I Hope Awakens the Healthy Living Monster

Healthy living. I’ve been wanting to rightfully claim it as my own for several years. The trouble is, I lack motivation to get off my hiney and start it. Mostly because, well, I hate exercise. I just like the end of it, when it’s all over.

When lazy stands in the way of healthy, it's a spiritual thing.

In my mind, there are few things nicer than a well-deserved shower. I love being all sweaty after I’ve worked really hard at something and then taking a shower because I need to.

It’s why I called myself a wannabe runner for all those years. It’s also why I gave up sugar, dairy, grains, legumes, gluten and comfortable eating for 30 days last June when I took on the challenge of The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom.

Because healthy is better. But exercise and conscientious eating have never been huge priorities for me. I mean, I love knowing I’m doing what I can to treat my body well. But my lack of discipline (translation: laziness) stands in the way. It’s a spiritual thing. One God is slowly moving foundations of my life to get me to change.

So today I did some research. And I found this exercise program called the Thrive90 Fitness Plan.

The main founder of it (Tony DiLorenzo) does a podcast with his wife, which I sometimes listen to. It’s about marriage, and I love that — a cool couple talking about and helping people have more intimate and committed marriages. So I’ve heard of him, and I know he’s a super-into-exercise kind of guy.

Well, he developed the Thrive90 plan. It includes 90 days of workouts and a bit of nutritional guidance kind of stuff. So — I could feasibly work out in my own house and take major steps towards more healthy living. And the best part is, each workout is no more than 30 minutes long.

(Did I ever tell you about that time my man and I started P90X but found the sometimes hour-and-a-half workouts rather overwhelming as we tried to keep up? I’m pretty sure I never told you. Because it felt more like a joke than an attempt at healthy living. My man stuck with it. He did awesome! But I thought it was ridiculous that anyone would expect me to spend that much time working out EVERY DAY FOR 90 DAYS. I told you I hate exercising, right? So I blamed Tony Horton and gave up.)

Yes, with the Thrive90, I will still have to get off my butt for 30 minutes, but that’s much less intimidating than AN HOUR AND A HALF!! Can you feel me?

So this workout program normally costs $47, which is actually not a bad deal. But I’m going to visit and help show Jesus’ love to orphans on the other side of the world in six weeks, and every $47 we have laying around needs to go toward that trip. Know what I mean?

That brings us to the actual reason I’m telling you about this Thrive90 thing today. As exciting as it is to know that healthy living is a possibility for me because of Tony DiLorenzo and his friend, this is even better! (Also, what is it with the name Tony and 90 days of working out?)

See, there’s this company called Ultimate Bundles. They put together tons of books and resources and then sell them a few times each year for like fractions of what each would cost separately.

So today and tomorrow (December 28 and 29), they are running a Flash Sale and calling it The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle. And the Healthy Living topics are more than just the exercise stuff. There are resources on Paleo Living, Allergy-free Eating, Real Food, Healthy Kids, Homesteading, Home Remedies, and Natural Home stuff.

It includes over 90 ebooks and resources and classes, (hello, Thrive90 Fitness Plan), and it only costs $29.97! Um, so basically even if I buy it and only use the Thrive90, I save money. Hello, no-brainer.

Here are the other fitness and healthy eating resources it includes —

The other cool thing is that I’m an affiliate, so if you decide you want to join my quest to not hate exercising (yes, please!), you can buy the whole bundle and help me earn $11.99 for every bundle I help sell. That will greatly help me go on my trip. (I promise to tell you more very soon!) And it won’t cost you any extra dollars or cents. Just click this banner.

You can find out more about the bundle and all that’s included by clicking here. I truly think you will find the whole thing to be a super great deal! But it only lasts until tomorrow night. So you might want to hurry.

Books I Love

How Discipline Can Nourish Our Souls {Day 30}

The thing about discipline is it’s not about to-do lists or rules. In fact, Galatians 5 says if we let the Spirit lead us, we can follow Him right out from underneath the Law. Straight to food for our souls.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:18)

When we walk in the Spirit, when we let Him invade our lives and lead our every step, He brings forth fruit in us that looks like love and joy and peace and patience. It tastes like kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. This fruit comes as we keep in step with His Spirit.

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And the keeping in step happens as we practice spiritual discipline. For, how can we hear the Spirit of God if we don’t listen in the quiet? How can we know His utter love for us if we don’t let Him know our whole hearts in worship and in private prayer? How can we truly trust Him for our every need if we don’t step out in faith through fasting?

When we live by the Spirit of God, when we trust Him for every next step, we become fully alive.

It means dying to ourselves on a regular basis.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

Practicing discipline requires death to our own desires and obedience to His. Seeking God’s way in the details of the every day. Finding Him inside the quiet of the private moments.

We get on our knees every day and ask the Lord of our lives to show us where to step.

Then we stand up, and we take the next step.

Because it’s one thing to say we live by the Spirit. But it’s an entirely different thing to actually stand up and walk in it.

Nourish Your Soul

Jesus’ Bounty {Nourish Your Soul: Day 25}

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Abundance of God, Nourish Your Soul

Where To Find All You Need {Nourish Your Soul: Day 22}

God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.

God My Shepherd

True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.

 You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.

 Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.

I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.

Psalm 23, The Message

Abundance of God, Nourish Your Soul

What Thirsty Souls Can Find in Jesus {Day 21}

If anyone thirsty quote

When Jesus said the words, He used the word dipsao to ask if we were thirsty. It means thirst for, desire earnestly.

Figuratively, those are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened.

When Jesus said drink, He used the Greek word pino. It means drink, imbibe.

Figuratively, to receive into the soul what serves to refresh, strengthen, nourish it unto eternal life.

Here’s why it matters . . .

Because if you and I drink what only Jesus offers, if we let Him and only Him quench the thirst in our souls, He will refresh, strengthen, nourish them unto eternal life. If we come to Jesus and drink, we will never again painfully feel want of and eagerly long for those things by which our souls are refreshed, supported, strengthened.

And we will find true living, real nourishment, genuine life in Jesus Christ.

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Abundance of God, Nourish Your Soul

When Life is Loud and You Can’t Hear God {Nourish Your Soul: Day 20}

Nourishing our souls is a great idea. Except when life is loud and our minds overwhelm with demands that don’t end and schedules that never let up. So today let’s think through some ways to get quiet and intentionally place ourselves in a position to hear from God and let Him do the nourishing.

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Just three tips for when you just don’t know how to shut up and listen for the only One Who can actually bring the nourishment you know you need.

1. Stop. It takes time and strong intention, but just stopping what you’re doing for even five minutes is essential when it comes to nourishing your soul.

So stop right there. Stop the over-thinking, the second-guessing. Stop the self-doubt, the outside noise, the overhwhelmed lie that tells you it’s impossible to quiet your soul and rest, that you have too much to do.

Take a pen and some paper if you need to. Do a brain dump and write everything down that comes to your mind. Then hand it to God and ask Him to show up. Ask Him to quiet your mind so you can hear His whispers, feel His hand when it touches you.

2. Drop. Drop to your knees. Literally. Maybe even your face. Lay flat on the floor and remember.

Remember Who You’re listening for. He’s the King of the Universe, Maker of Life, the One Who thought this whole thing up — this living and breathing and being who you are. He is the One Who invented your dna, strung it together and put you into motion. And He whispers in quiet stillness and humble hearts.

3. Listen. Wait. Look. Keep watch for His hand. Turn your focus to the expectation of His whisper.

Pick up your Bible and turn to a Psalm or a chapter in John or maybe something that caught your ear from last time you listened. Maybe you have a devotional book or a blog you follow that keeps you on track with the study of God’s Word. Just pick up the Bible and listen for His voice right there in His Words.

Question for you: What would you add to this list? How do you find the quiet you need for nourishing your soul? Let’s talk in the comments or over at the Facebook page today.

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**We’ve been challenging ourselves to take care of our souls this month. Know someone who might need to find the quiet? Why not let them know about our challenge over here? I would be so grateful if you’d share it with them on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or Instagram or even through email. :)

Abundance of God, Nourish Your Soul, Praying