Goodbyes Are Hard, My Darlings

Going for a run in my neighborhood…biking to coffee shops…baking something rich and ooey gooey in a REAL oven…Texas sunsets and sunrises…AIR CONDITIONING!… straightening my hair…morning coffee while sharing stories with my family…snuggling Lucy our family dog…these are all things I am looking forward to doing soon.

Yet, I look back on the countless things I will miss in Thailand…the freshest, sweetest, most exotic fruit I have ever tasted..sleeping with the windows open…hearing the frogs and geckos chirp as I drift to sleep…waking to the sounds of the birds..Thai Coffee (sweetened condensed milk in everything)…evening walks with the kids through our “moobon” (neighborhood)…

But Nothing will compare to how I will miss my kiddos in Mae Sai.


As I ponder and process these last weeks in Thailand, my mind feels blurry. What just happened? What did I just do exactly? 

I’m still not sure. In a way it seems unreal, another distant world. Yet, I am still in the thick of it. I can’t process it. I know it will take time…



In my processing, however, I realized how the children pointed me towards the Lord. They were full of life. I LOVED being in their presence. It felt like home. 

A friend of mine, who is a new mother, posted that she couldn’t imagine life before her baby boy. I didn’t understand at first. I was perplexed by the statement. I dismissed it. Later that week, I said my final goodbye to the kids…

I understand a little better now what my friend meant. What was life like before these kids? They forever changed me. 

Monika, the other house mother, said, “You don’t realize how much room our hearts have for love until God expands it.” My heart was expanded. I felt like the Grinch after his heart grew three sizes. 

On my last night in Mae Sai, we had a sleepover movie night complete with popcorn, sour mentos, and cookies that we rigged up pancake style on a stovetop skillet since we don’t have an oven. Everyone piled in the living room with their pillows and blankets. I was still covered in grime and blue paint, my hands blistered from painting the older girls’ room earlier that day. How pathetic! I think I got more paint on myself than on the wall. Feeling dirty and smurf-like I desperately needed a shower. 



Melody, who is seven, had been following me around everywhere. When I went to the kitchen to make dessert, she followed. She was glued to my side the whole night. After the movie, when the kids were all starting to doze off I went to my room to write a goodbye note to each of the kids before taking a much desired shower. Right as I sat down to write, in walks Melody. She didn’t want to go to bed. I told her to go lay down and I would follow in a few minutes. Reluctantly, she obeyed. 
I finished writing the notes, and shuffled to the shower. I turned on the water and let it pour over me as I processed the day…the weeks. I scrubbed and scrubbed my skin, but the stubborn blue splatters resisted. Oh, well. I thought to myself, “Looking like a smurf with blistered hands was well worth the look on Mary and Abby’s faces when we surprised them by painting their bedroom.” 


After showering, the exhaustion seeped in and spread across my body. I walked into the living room ready to sprawl on my mattress. Melody had beat me to it. Her spindly body splayed out on my mattress, fast asleep. The other kids were spread out all over the floor. I loved it. I snuggled in next to Melody and breathed in the remaining moments of my last night with the kids – precious gifts. 
I whispered prayers of blessing over each of them. My heart was full of both joy and sorrow. I knew I was leaving a piece of my heart behind. How could I possibly leave them all? They became a part of me. 

The next morning, Melody was her normal bouncy self on the ride to school…until we were a few minutes away. She became pensive and somber. At the time, I wasn’t really attuned to her sudden mood change. When we hopped out of the truck to say goodbye for the last time, she turned away and started walking towards school. I said her name, “Melody.” Immediately, she started bawling. 

The entire time I was in Mae Sai, I had never seen her shed a tear. She is a tough little girl. This cry wasn’t just a sad sob. Her heart was breaking. 

My heart wrenched. It welled up into my throat and then my eyes. Tears spilled down my cheeks uncontrollably. My heart physically hurt inside. The pain was real and almost unbearable. I had to keep the goodbye quick or else I would lose it completely. I hugged and kissed her. I told her I loved her. We parted ways.

This was by far the hardest goodbye I have ever made. It is still painful to think about. 

My heart grows anxious inside leaving behind my Melody and all the other children. I want to scoop them in my arms and protect them. 

What’s next? I don’t know. I don’t know what the Lord has in store. I’m still sorting through the summer weeks. But…I do know one thing for sure: God takes care of His children and He has all of “my” precious kids in His hands. He loves them more than I do. I can trust Him and that is enough to rest in for now. 
I was reading in Acts when Paul stayed in cities for days, months, years at a time discipling, ministering to, and loving the people until the Lord called him to another place. Although I am no Paul, I could relate to a specific passage in Acts 20:32,38:

“‘And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified’…And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him…grieving that they would not see his face again.”
Goodbyes are hard, my darlings. But they are not forever and can never break the ties of love. I will love you forever and always, Mary, Abby, Sarah, Aliza, John, and little Melody.

Traffic Like Water

I was agitated in the van on the way to Cambodia. I wrote in my journal,  “Our cab driver’s driving SUCKS!!! I’m going to be sick. He’s driving standard without using cruise control. It feels like he hasn’t shifted out of 2nd gear and his foot on the gas pedal is like lead. Lord, have mercy!

He just stopped to buy crickets at a roadside stand…

Now he’s blasting Thai music…”

I couldn’t do anything but close my eyes and count the minutes until we arrived to the border of Cambodia.

When we got to Thai immigration things only got worse. My backpack, stuffed with clothes for 9 days, was killer. Monika and I were trying to get our visa and connect with the ministry that would be hosting us in the midst of chaos. I tried to take in the culture around me, but it was only chaos!


Everything was nuts. So thirsty and feeling sick from the van ride, my shoulders grew even more tense from the unrelenting weight of my backpack. Men kept jumping in our faces offering this service and that service: “Need help with visa? Need luggage cart? Need a picture for visa?”

I wanted to respond, “Actually, I need you to get out of my face before I scream!”

The walk from Thai immigration to the border of Cambodia is known as “no man’s land”. Neither Thailand nor Cambodia own this slice of earth. People take advantage of the territory. Piles of garbage line both sides of the street. Carts of questionable street food are available for those willing to compromise their good health. Unsavory characters approach without hesitation hoping to trap unseasoned travelers with conniving schemes. I thought Mexico’s traffic was nuts. Then I thought Thailand’s was worse. But nothing compares to the madness of traffic in CAMBODIA.


A dirty, tattered little girl holding an infant walks up to me with an empty bottle and asks if I could buy baby formula. Having been warned of such things, I ignore the somber face knowing this is a scam. My heart, however, is pricked with feeling for these children.

Talk about culture shock on top of fatigue.

When we finally make it to our hotel in Poipet, the front desk informs us they are currently going through renovations and they hope our room is satisfactory.

Oh, boy. Yep. They were right. The hotel was definitely going through major renovation. Our room might have been a prison cell. The walls and floor were concrete and there was not a single window. The lights flickered. And…no toilet paper. I didn’t know such a hot and humid climate could feel so cold.

Thankfully, there were two water bottles on the table. We guzzled them and tried to get settled after the full day of travel.

My heart felt sick. I missed familiarity. I missed comfort. I missed my family.

My initial thoughts of Cambodia: Dirty. Gross. Trashy. Crowded. People everywhere (and not just everywhere…they were everywhere in your face!). Utter CHAOS. As soon as I got into the country, I wanted to get right back out.

“No, Claire. You are here for a reason. Be tough.”

The Lord reminded me that He is present and dwells even in the coldest, darkest of places. Though I was no where near the coldest and darkest place, it felt like it at the moment. He goes before and behind His people and we can rest in His presence.

After my solitary sulk session, I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. My heart grew lighter. The Lord was present and I was to press on.

Monika and I had the opportunity to partner with Cambodia Hope Organization (CHO). CHO’s main office is based out of a cafe in Poipet called Destiny Cafe. The cafe helps fund the ministry. CHO’s primary focus is helping improve the education and life of the people of Cambodia, specifically in rural villages. They build wells, provide cows, agriculture, and education for village children who don’t have the means to go to school. Cambodia Hope Organization also opened up a private school called Safe Haven.


On our first couple of days, we bagged up rice, sugar, and oil to distribute at a village church. We ate at CHO’s Destiny Cafe for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Experienced their “School on a Mat” project as well as different village projects CHO established. I also had the opportunity to lead the a devotion for all of CHO staff one morning. 



I was invited to visit and observe a few classes at the Safe Haven school. CHO wanted input and help in creating a new curriculum for the school. They asked me to start creating an activity packet of ideas, tips, lessons, and activities the teachers could implement in their classrooms. This was a project they planned to do, but hadn’t started. It was work that I did not at all anticipate doing. But I was thrilled and thankful to be using my skills and degree in elementary education to help the ministry. It was a wonderful honor to serve them this way. The Lord was using me in ways I never anticipated and I loved it.

Initially, I considered Cambodia as chaotic, madness, lunacy.

The founder of CHO and a native Cambodian provided a different perspective, however. In talking about the traffic in Cambodia, he said, “The traffic here is like water. Everyone just flows around one another.”

Hmm. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Traffic like water in Cambodia.

After pondering this statement I realized that it described not just the traffic, but the culture and people of Cambodia and much of Southeast Asia. Things might be in complete disarray, but people don’t see it as an inconvenience or agitation. They simply flow around one another. And it works for them!

The Lord used Cambodia to open my eyes to the messiness of this world. People are a mess. Life is a mess. I’m a mess. BUT…the Lord is in the mess. He is the water that makes everything flow. He is present and working even when we are confused and cannot see straight.

I don’t mind Cambodia traffic so much now…

A Moment in the Market

On the way home from picking up the kids at school, Monika (the other house mother I work with) and I stopped by a local outdoor market to buy some onions for dinner. She was driving, so she stayed in the car with the kiddos while I ran to get the onions. I hadn’t been to a Thai market and was completely out of my element. I wanted to take everything in, but I was on a mission. This was a business trip. I had to focus.


“What am I looking for again? Oh, yeah. An onion.”

I start looking around at foreign and familiar Thai vegetables.

“Wait, what’s an onion look like?”

I remind myself that onions look the same everywhere.

“Good grief. I’m looking for an onion, not a person! Why is this so hard?”

I’m overstimulated by the colors, the people, the hustle and bustle. The eyes on me, all around, sting as I walk past. I try to ignore their obvious stares.

I spot a bucket filled with water…and dozens of long silvery creatures. Snakes? Eels? Whatever they are, they’re very much alive and slithering violently.

Bleh! Alright. Moving on.

Finally, I spy some onions. In line I wait impatiently, knowing there are four fidgety little girls with Monika in the truck. When it was my turn, I resist the urge to speak Spanish – my natural tendency in a foreign country.

UGH! I know NO Thai except a few basic phrases. And none have anything to do with making a purchase.

I point to the onions, hold up two fingers, and say, “Can I have two?”

The lady working the vegetable stand stares blankly at me. I awkwardly stare back and grin. I repeat, “I want two onions”, again showing her two fingers. Again she stares. Then, she begins shouting to the other market vendors around us trying to find someone who can interpret…to no avail. She starts laughing, but not a light chuckle. I had this pressing feeling she was laughing, not so much at the situation, but directly at me!

The few people who were not already staring are now gawking. Great.

The lady continues to laugh and mutter to those within earshot. What the heck was this lady saying?!

I pick up two onions, one in each hand, and say, “Two!” She stuffs handfuls of onions into a plastic bag and begins weighing them. “No, no, no!”, I don’t want two kilos of onions..only two small onions. I pick up two onions and show her again. We do this back and forth about three times before the problem is finally solved. I don’t know what is going through her mind (probably, “stupid foreigner”).

The only foreign language I have experience using is Spanish. Out of habit, I keep reverting back to conversational bits I know. When she grabbed the two onions to put in a sack, I said out of exasperation, “Si! Si!”.

Oops.

I shrink back, embarrassed at my airhead-self. Thankfully no one in Thailand speaks or understands an ounce of Spanish. No one that I am aware of caught my blunder. It’s not like I hadn’t already made a fool of myself any way. What did it matter at this point?

She hands me the two onions. I pay the 5 baht, smile, and say, “Kob-kun kha.” The lady and I were both smiling and laughing out of frustration. We were both glad to be done with the transaction. And all were back to business as usual.

I walked away with the strange sure feeling everyone knew a secret I didn’t. I left the market feeling every ounce American.

And I decided to learn the Thai phrase for “How much does this cost?”

It’s “Née Tao Rai?”.

Jesus Loves the Littel Children

Wow. It has been almost two weeks since I’ve been in Thailand. How can time fly by so quickly, yet so slowly at the same time? I am homesick and miss my family. I identify with Rapunzel in the movie Tangled when she leaves her tower for the very first time: 

“I can’t believe I did this…”

“I CAN’T BELIEVE I DID THIS!”

“I have to go back…”

“I am never going back!”

Oh, gosh (rolling my eyes). 

Being around these kids provides so much laughter, fun, and amusement that I can’t bear the thought of ever leaving them. They are wonderful and make life colorful. Although it is impossible to communicate how incredible they are, I want to share just a snippet of each one, their personality and life.


Mary is a sweet hearted beauty with twinkling eyes and a gentle smile. She is eager to ask questions about my home, family, and culture. Mary loves to do makeup, crafting, and girly things. She dreams of one day, “moving to Korea to go to all the concerts!”. I get to share a room with her while I’m here and I love our nightly routine of reading before bed.


Abby has the best questions and stories that bring smiles and laughter. She can play volleyball all day without rest and handily beat me in a swimming race last weekend. Abby is motherly and cares deeply for her family. She is a gem. 


Sara is very helpful around the house and loves her two sisters, Mary and Abby. Being the youngest of the three, she often coerces her sisters into giving her whatever she wants. She is never afraid to speak her mind and offer her two cents. We had breakfast for dinner the other night and she quite enjoyed learning to fry eggs! 


Aliza is pensive and quiet. She soaks in and absorbs all the activity of the other girls. She seems somber and in her own world until…you get her in the pouring rain or play competitive games with her! She is goofy, giggly, spunky, and playful. What a cutie pie.


John is adventurous and easy to be around. Whether it be joining the girls for a pedicure night, playing volleyball, or gutting out a catfish, he’s one you can always count on for a good time (on a side note: he got quite the kick out of me when I freaked out while he was killing and cleaning the catfish). Being the only boy with 7+ other girls around, he puts up with a lot without ever complaining. I absolutely love his smile and lighthearted presence.


Melody – Oh, Melody…she is the bouncy, busy bee who is always up to something. Although she doesn’t live in the house I’m in charge of, she prances in early each morning or late each evening to join our party. She is smart, energetic, and will always provide a good laugh or smile. I love that she lets me kiss her face as much as I want! 


Nissi and Maya are two little mischievous balls of silly and sweet. They love to sing songs in the car on the way home from school. When I blew bubbles with my gum and popped them, they rolled with laughter and said, “again, again!” I love how they throw their arms around my neck as if we have known each other forever. 

All of these kiddos come from village parents who have either died, struggle with opium addiction, or cannot afford to keep them. Each child’s story is unique and beautifully redemptive. They are a precious gift. Through their stories, the Lord is showing me how He truly provides for His children.  

Jesus loves the little children!

Sawatdee Kha from Thailand

What day is it? Sunday…Monday? No, actually it’s Tuesday…or maybe Wednesday. Whatever. I have no idea. My brain and my body are not sure if it is morning or evening. What a whirlwind these last few days have been – full of travel, airports, sleeping on planes, walking from gate to gate, and jumping from time zone to time zone.

I drank my “morning” coffee in Doha, Qatar while I watched the sunset after a 15 hour flight from DFW. It felt like 10am to my body while it was actually 6pm in Doha. Good grief. Thankfully, I am now starting to get adjusted to the 12 hour time difference since arriving in Thailand a couple of days ago.

Mae Sai is the small town where I’m working as a house mother at a small foundation started by Brenda and Charlie Pillon. This foundation consists of two houses side by side in a small neighborhood. The Pillon’s live in one house with five children from Burma. Next door is another house where three Burmese sisters live with a house mother named Monika and her daughter Kahlan, who is five years old.

When I arrived at the foundation, Monika showed me around the house. It is clean and simple. I put my luggage in the bedroom I’ll be sharing with thirteen year old Mary. We headed out the door to do some grocery shopping before picking the kids up from school. We went to a Costco-type grocery store called Makro. The vegetables were GIANTS–one carrot might serve 3-4 people! I was quickly warned about ants, snakes, and huge cockroaches infiltrating any trash or food left out. And leaving the shower drain open is an invitation for unwanted bathroom guests. Oh, and I almost forgot the chirping geckos; they sound like monkeys and might share your bedroom. What an adventure!

Our daily routine so far consists of:

5:15 am – Wake up, read my Bible, and message family or friends.

6:30 am (ish) – We all sit down to breakfast. Monika and I have eggs while the girls prefer noodles similar to Ramen.


7:15 am – All nine children pile onto two benches in the back of the tarp-covered truck, and we head to school.


8:00 am – Monika and I head to a local gym for about an hour while Mrs. Pillon runs errands.


9:00 am until afternoon – Back from the gym, we shower, and do whatever tasks need to be done. We have packed a suitcase full of clothes and supplies for our trip to Cambodia the first week of July. We’ve also been preparing activities, songs, games, etc. for the Vacation Bible School we’ll host for children from villages in Burma.


3:45 – After picking up the kiddos from school, we head back to the house where I get to help them with homework. I enjoy the opportunity and have fun getting creative tutoring the girls.

We have an early dinner around 5:30 or 6:00ish. After dinner, the girls help clean up, play a game, do a craft, have a bible lesson, or do some other activity. Last night, the girls gave Monika and I makeovers. They got a good tickle putting purple mascara on my strawberry blond lashes.



I am still learning how I can best relate and interact with the girls. We have countless cultural and language barriers that make relating difficult and awkward at times. They are full of joy and color, and it is so fun to watch them interact.

I am soaking in Thai culture like a sponge. There is such beauty and simplicity here.  The day I arrived had my mind spinning. I was trying to take in all the sites, smells, and people around me. I definitely experienced culture shock, which was not helped by my jet lagged body. The first day out of my element and comfort zone left me feeling weak, inadequate, unworthy. My need for the strength of Jesus is more apparent than ever.

I am so thankful to be able to live and experience life in such a way. What an opportunity to be challenged and stretched. The Lord has shown me to take it one day, one moment at a time, and rest in His grace when I fall short.

For now,

Sawatdee Khaa!

Conversing with the Man in Black Converse Shoes

 A tall, foreign-looking man wearing black Converse shoes made his way along the waterfall and found a fallen tree log to sit on by the water. He sat in stillness, closing his eyes for an unusual length of time. His demeanor seemed so intentional, reverent, prayerful. He was breathing in the moment with such unique purpose it seemed divine. I was ridiculously fixated from my perch on the boulder above him. I was curious. No other person was taking in the moment like this. He stood out. I was perplexed. Was he praying? Meditating? Who was he praying to? What was he praying or thinking about?

I had a pressing urge to ask him his story. I stood by the water nonchalantly, cool-like…okay, whatever…anyone who knows me knows I was looking anything but cool. Weird and awkward as I am, I didn’t want to freak him out with my curiosity or inquisitiveness, but I had to know what he was doing. I waited until he was done with his moment and had joined a couple of friends by the water.

Something stirred inside me. I had to talk to this guy and knew it was now or never. Ah, what the heck…I decided to go for it. I just had to think of a way to non-awkwardly start up the conversation. Then I noticed he had been timing his friend to see how long he could keep his feet in the ice cold water.

“Perfect!” I thought. I knew what I was going to do. I approached him and his friend with a new confidence. 

“Is it cold?? How long did you last?” I asked. 

They responded that it was indeed freezing and he only lasted about a minute. Then, they asked if I was up for the challenge to see how long I could keep my feet in the water. Being accostumed to frequent ice baths as an athlete, I wasn’t too concerned about the icy temperature. I was more concerned about stirring up a meaningful conversation. I dunked my feet in and began asking the questions that had been pestering my mind. 

The man’s name was Sonny, born and raised in Chicago. His family was originally from Punjab, India and was of the Sikh religion. He explained it as a monotheistic religion that is accepting of all religions and beliefs – no one’s beliefs can be defined as wrong or untrue. When I asked why he had been so intent by the water he said, “I  was contemplating. Being from Chicago, I don’t  have the opportunity to soak in places like this.”

After a short chat, I told Sonny I would be traveling to Thailand soon  for a mission internship. He explained that he actually spent a month in Thailand teaching English. 

“What! No way. He taught English in Thailand??” I thought.

Mentally, my jaw dropped. It’s been my dream to teach overseas on the mission field. I held myself somewhat together (I mean, I AM cool after all). He explained he had wanted to travel somewhere by himself. He didn’t care the place. He knew he liked Thai food a lot, so he thought, “Why not go to Thailand”. He shared part of his story, his experiences, his beliefs, and his family. I learned so much in the span of about fifteen minutes. I knew this wasn’t a simple coincidence. The Lord orchestrated this encounter.

In that brief moment, our lives overlapped. The great, wide world was made a little bit smaller. Although we claimed different faiths and backgrounds, we found something uniquely in common. 

Spontaneous moments to relate with and learn from others is like touching the Divine. The Lord weaves intricate patterns revealing His love and compassion for the little things. In these moments, His ultimate power and purpose shine brighter. 

I have no clue what Sonny thought or if our conversation meant anything to him. I do know I saw the glory of the Lord in meeting Sonny, the man in the black converse shoes. God was glorified and honored and present in our meeting.

I leave for Thailand in less than 24 hours. I pray that whatever the Lord has in store in the weeks ahead – the people, the conversations, the circumstances – He will be magnifed and put on dispaly for the world to see. 

Habakkuk 2:14, “For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, As the waters cover the sea.”

The King’s Business

In just mere weeks, my bags will be checked, ticket scanned, and I will board a plane bound for Thailand. When the opportunity to partner with a missionary couple in Northern Thailand first arose I knew next to nothing about the country. I was first introduced to the disparaging need for Jesus in Thailand when I was in high school. I learned that roughly 90% of Thailand is Buddhist, 10% Muslim, and less than 1% Christian. My sixteen year old self, however, was most drawn to the beautiful lantern festival held annually. I thought it would be incredible to see the “floating lights” illuminate the night sky and hey, why not share Jesus while I was at it. I dreamt about going to work as a missionary in Thailand. It was an idea I had fun with over the years. My heart truly did have a deep desire to share Jesus with the unreached peoples of the world, but I still wasn’t sure what that meant or looked like in reality. So I prayed and trusted the Lord to direct my steps. 

During college, I had the opportunity to take a worldview class called Perspectives. This brought me insight into the mission field, church planting, and revealed the desperate call of a dark and lost world. I learned about different cultures and religions of the world. I learned there were over 7,000 unreached people groups all over the world…people who had never heard the name of Jesus. The candle that was a flicker in my heart, ignited and became a burning flame. This was more than just an adventure, dream, or idea. I had a part to play in God’s kingdom and I wanted to know what that meant. My journey continued.

It took a substantial amount of patience and trust in God’s timing to pursue international missions. The schedule demands of playing basketball in college did not exactly provide much freedom or flexibility in time. I was itching to explore the possibilities and the opportunities available, but it simply was not the right time. I knew it would be after college before I really had the chance to explore ministry on a long term basis. 

My hope, even before college, was to do an international mission-internship where I could gain ministry experience and cross-culture exposure, while at the same time serving a need. My hope was to one day go on the mission field long term. It seemed wise and fitting to take baby steps in that direction. Prayerfully, this last January, I looked for summer mission opportunities.  The Lord opened the door…a missionary couple in Northern Thailand needed a nanny/house mother for ten Burmese orphans!  One benefit of this role would be that during my time as a house mother, the missionary couple would provide opportunities for me to gain experience through different ministry outreaches in both Thailand and Cambodia. I was so excited, but I didn’t want to impulsively commit before I knew this was truly the Lord’s will. I feared imposing my own will out of impatience, which I have been known to do at times. So, I prayed. Amy Carmichael, missionary to India in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, communicated well the prayer of my heart, “And shall I pray Thee change Thy will, my Father, until it be according unto mine? But, no, Lord, no, that shall never be, rather I pray Thee blend my human will with Thine.” 

Ultimately, with the prayer, support, wisdom, and guideance of my parents and the missions committee at church, everything fell into place. I had peace and knew Thailand was the Lord’s will. He orchestrated it all. And it all transpired in a way I never would have planned myself, typical of how God works, I’m learning. 

I had a conversation with someone the other day that really opened my eyes to something the Lord was trying to teach me. We were talking about change. Life is full of change. Many changes take place little bits at a time, fluctuating with the ebb and flow of life. Other changes – and these are the doozies we dread the most – are the ones that require us to let go in some way: school graduation, marriage, having a first child, or taking on a new adventure that requires leaving everything else behind.  All are beautiful parts of life that are to be treasured. Yet, they often bring with them an element of sadness, because it means something else must end in order for something new to blossom and begin. These are what we often call “bittersweet” changes. The transition of leaving the familiar behind and taking on the uncharted waters of life ahead. 

When facing such changes and transitions, I find myself anxious, holding my breath and clinging to the familiar with a death grip that turns my knuckles white. I am not ready for this. How do I prepare myself? What should I expect? My mind swirls. Everything is a blur. I can’t walk in a straight path. I sway to the right, then back to the left before I ultimately collapse and fall to the ground in disparage, hopelessly lost. It’s then that I realize I’m trying to do this on my own. I need the help of a sturdy Rock to balance me, a North Star to guide me.  

I reject and lose the Divine gift of a Kingdom Focus.  Instead, I have set my focus on what I think is best. Pridefully, I assume that all of my ideas and thoughts must be Divinenly inspired. After all, I do have the Spirit dwelling inside me…(and, I have great ideas too, duh!). So, of course this plan must be a go. Oh how I am dreadfully mistaken when I believe I have it all under control. 

Amy Carmichael prayed often that she would not lose sight of what she calls the “King’s Business” or as she abbreviated it, “KB”. What a beautiful phrase. The King’s Business. What a privelege it is to set about the KB. This idea brings about a renewed sense of purpose and injects divinity and holiness into every task at our hands. If we claim to be followers of Christ, we have some Kingdom Business to attend to that is of a divine and holy nature. No longer do we have the excuse to work for ourselves and tend to our own needs. Jesus told His disciples repeatedly, “feed my sheep”, “feed my sheep”, “feed my sheep”. We are called to feed His sheep. 

Many people talk about what a “big, brave adventure” this is to embark upon. I suppose in some ways it is. But that is not my the heart or purpose for traveling to Thailand. The prayer of my heart is, “Thy will be done,” and may I ever be faithful and obedient to the Lord’s purpose, seeking to build His kingdom and glorify His name alone. In all honesty, I have no idea what I’m doing. But I have peace and trust the Lord is gracious. He is in control. He is working in spite of my doubt, inadequacy, and shortcomings. This is for His glory and His kingdom. It’s the King’s Business.

Amy Carmichael put it more beautifully:

“Give me the love that leads the way,

The faith that nothing can dismay,

The hope no disappointments tire, 

The passion that will burn like fire, 

Let me not sink to be a clod; 

Make me Thy fuel, 

Flame of God.”

Amen. 

Sugar Brown’s and Bike Rides – Lubbock, Texas

Today, one of my closest friends and I biked to Sugar Brown’s coffee shop, which is one of my absolute favorite places in Lubbock. Every Tuesday this semester, my sister and I and a couple of close friends go to sit down with a cup of coffee, work on homework, and talk (I must admit, we usually do more talking than homework). People watching is often an accidental means of distraction during this time as well. People are so fascinating to watch as they go about their daily lives. So, we are often caught in an unattractive trance as we take in the bustling activity of those around us.
This afternoon, we were working on homework with surprising diligence at a long wooden table. At first it was just two of us, but a few of our other friends mentioned they might meet up if they got the chance. Slowly but surely, my sister, her boyfriend, and our three close friends trickled in to join. Our group filled the long wooden table. Never had such a group formed on a Tuesday afternoon. This was the coffee day! Everything happened so spontaneously and naturally. We all had different projects and assignments to do, but it was such a gift because we were all together laughing and enjoying one another.

On the bike ride back after coffee, I was pondering the little gathering and began listing in my head all of my favorite things and a couple of words that best define this place of Lubbock, Texas:

Lovely:

Lubbock is lovely. Now, let me define what I mean when I use the term “lovely”. Lubbock is dry, flat, and you could probably count the number of trees we have on your fingers. Springtime brings days of dust storms (Or, “haboobs” as we call them) that leave the teeth gritty and the skin grimy.  These are the obvious characteristics of Lubbock that make people cringe, halt, and turn a complete 180 direction. Yet, many people neglect to see the beauty in this place I call home. No, we don’t have many trees…however, we have the biggest sky that forever sings joyful praises to the Lord. There are no trees to stifle its sweet voice. Wherever you find yourself in Lubbock, look out and take in a sea of vibrant blue speckled with white, cottony billows. In the morning, the horizon looks as if it is ablaze with flames. The evening sunsets are a water color painting of shades no one even knew existed.

Yes, we have dust storms and winds that quite literally might blow your socks off…however, the very next day brings the clearest, cleanest air that speaks of the pure nature of the Lord. Breathing deeply of this air, fills the lungs and soul with a cool refreshment.

Friendly:

My most favorite thing of all about this place though, is the people. Lubbock is a friendly and inviting town. A place where you can make friends wherever you go. Whether it’s with the grocery store worker arranging tomatoes in the produce section or someone standing in line at the coffee shop, there is a loving and neighborly feel to the community. The warmth and love in people is other-worldly and comes from a Divine presence. There is a lightness in the air – a feeling of safety and comfort. The Lord is truly in our midst and it is evident in the sky and the air, but most of all in the hearts and eyes of the people. These are just a few of my favorite things about the place I love and call home.

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.”   – Romans 15:5
At Home in the World

Tell Your Heart to Beat Again 

The buzzer sounded. The last basketball game of my career had ended. I felt numb all over. We filed in line to shake hands with the other team. I searched the face of each opposing player as I went down the line. Did they have a clue of the magnitude of this moment…that they had just ended the basketball career of five of our seniors, me included? The reality of the ultimate end came so sudden and abrupt. The moment I had been dreading my whole life had finally come. Now, I had to deal with it and the emotion that came with it, but I had no clue how to begin to cope with such a loss.  

Yes, I know there are good things ahead. I know there is more to life than basketball. I’m thankful for how God used this sport to challenge and shape me to be more like Him. The Lord provided opportunities to shine for Him when things were going well or not so well. But the pain is real. It hurts. My heart aches. 

In the locker room, I didn’t want to untie my shoes. I didn’t want to take my jersey off. Because I knew once I took them off, I would never put them on again. It would never be the same. 

I’m not sure how much time passed before I began untying my first shoe. Most of my teammates had already left the locker room. Reluctantly, I began to untie the first shoe with precision and purpose. Once untied, the reality set in and I broke down. Am I really taking these off for the last time? It took another few moments before I could start on the second shoe. Then, I simply sat there looking at my feet. Over the years, there were countless times after a hard shooting workout, practice or game, that I would just sit and stare down at the basketball shoes on my feet. I wouldn’t move. I would just think. This moment was no different. It was just like any other day of basketball…except today I knew it was my last. 

I removed my shoes, then took off my jersey shorts and laid them on the chair in my locker spot. I just looked at them. I took my jersey top off and laid it on top of my shorts and stared at the last jersey I would ever wear as a college athlete. There was something sacred and ceremonious about the process. I had to let it all sink in slowly, savoring the moment as painful as it felt. 

My sister and two close teammates, Bailey and Caitlyn, were patiently waiting as I packed up. Together, we soaked in the final moments we would ever share in this setting that had become so familiar — an experience we shared for years. We huddled together and embraced. Each of us feeling the heartache and heartbreak of the last of the lasts. Our last game together. Throughout the years, we were usually the last ones to leave the locker room together. Today was no different. We all linked arms and held hands as we departed. I was so thankful not to have to carry this burden alone. I had three sisters by my side.

On the long van ride home, I could only sit and ponder it all. My jersey sat folded in my backpack at my feet. I didn’t want to think about taking it out or washing it. I wanted to hold on to the sweat and tears enraptured in the fabric that symbolized so much. My mind played pictures and scenes of times in practice doing drills, the many hotel shenanigans with teammates, bus rides, story telling, game day rituals, and yelling for one another during a hard post season weight lifting session. 

Then, I felt everything all over again– an overwhelming sense of loss. It truly is over. 

It feels like a loss, but not just a loss of a game or season. It feels like something has died. It is gone forever and I will never experience or enjoy it the same way here on this earth. There is heartache and pain. The feelings are so deep. Life is going to be different from here on out. Even though there are good things ahead, it does not take away from the fact that there are good things being left behind. Similar to climbing the monkey bars, I must let go of the bar behind to reach for the bar ahead and move forward. 

There is joy in every season. The Lord has shown me to search for it. When it seems hard or impossible to find, He tells me to ask Him and He willingly provides true joy. This is a gift. The season of basketball has come to an end, but these memories and relationships are gifts that will be treasured forever. 

I’m so thankful for the people and relationships the Lord used to make this an incredible and glorious journey. When discouraged, He used someone to provide encouragement. When there were tears, the Lord used someone to provide laughter and smiles. When there was weakness, He used someone to provide strength. When confused, He used someone to provide wisdom and perspective. He kept my feet on solid ground and used the people around me as an anchor. 

There is more to come and more life to live. The journey to glorify His name and put Him on display continues. Although the basketball chapter has come to a close, the journey of love, trust, and worship continues.

Only a few weeks have past since I played my last game and I am still dealing with the pain. As I am driving in the car a song comes on the radio by Danny Goaky, Tell Your Heart to Beat Again. I have heard the song before, but this is the first time I have actually felt the words and lyrics. The tears pour out and stream down my face. The truth of the words set in, the shadows are still present, but I take the next step forward. It’s a new adventure beginning…

Listen: Tell Your Heart to Beat Again

You’re shattered
Like you’ve never been before                                                                             
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you’re never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

    Tell your heart to beat again
    Close your eyes and breathe it in
    Let the shadows fall away
    Step into the light of grace
    Yesterday’s a closing door
    You don’t live there anymore
    Say goodbye to where you’ve been
    And tell your heart to beat again

    Beginning
    Just let that word wash over you
    It’s alright now
    Love’s healing hands have pulled you through
    So get back up, take step one
    Leave the darkness, feel the sun
    ‘Cause your story’s far from over
    And your journey’s just begun

    Tell your heart to beat again
    Close your eyes and breathe it in
    Let the shadows fall away
    Step into the light of grace
    Yesterday’s a closing door
    You don’t live there anymore
    Say goodbye to where you’ve been
    And tell your heart to beat again

    Let every heartbreak
    And every scar
    Be a picture that reminds you
    Who has carried you this far
    ‘Cause love sees farther than you ever could
    In this moment heaven’s working
    Everything for your good

    Tell your heart to beat again
    Close your eyes and breathe it in
    Let the shadows fall away
    Step into the light of grace
    Yesterday’s a closing door
    You don’t live there anymore
    Say goodbye to where you’ve been
    And tell your heart to beat again
    Your heart to beat again

    Beat again
    Oh, so tell your heart to beat again

    Finish Well.

    The candle flickers in the morning light. A wad of tissue paper hides underneath the bookshelves in the living room. The Christmas tree skirt is slightly disheveled and sprinkled with pine needles. All bits of evidence remaining from yesterday’s messy Christmas morning. The morning after Christmas brings a hint blue. All the excitement and magic of the joyful season begins coming to a close, and the inevitable schedule demands and responsibilities start to loom overhead. Life starts back tomorrow. And I am not ready. I dig my heels in, catch my breath, and desperately try to  hold onto the laughter and joy of having the whole family together for a spell. Drinking hot chocolate, reading by the fire, baking, decorating cookies, opening presents, worshiping, and dwelling in the gift of Jesus with the ones you love is a gift. Time together without distractions. A true gift. A gift that provides the opportunity to breathe and relax my mind.

    Having a break from the everyday responsibilities and demands of this season of life brings about a hope for the next season that is soon to come. I am ready and wait eagerly for something new, yet I am still in the middle of the old. I value and cherish where I am at. I hold the memories and time dear. But I grow weary. I grow anxious. There are moments when I do not want to continue on, I just want to move on. As I battle these longings within, I hear the faint whisper of the Lord, “Finish the race. Finish it well.” He has called me to run the race and finish it. So finish it I will. Not by my own strength but His. Not for my own glory, but for His alone. In the weariness, He brings refreshment. In the pain, He brings joy. He fills our emptiness with His fullness. He gives the gift of Himself. Is that not what I just acknowledged at Christmas? I am reminded again. Jesus came for me. Every day is a chance to relish the gift of His presence. In every moment there are gifts. In every season, there is purpose. My goal: find the gift of joy in every moment. Praise Him in every moment. In the pain, in the discouragement, in the weariness, there is always an opportunity to glorify Him. More often than not, our hardest and most painful moments are the moments when He is most glorified.

    “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ of whom I am chief…For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” 1 Timothy 1:14-17.

    The Christmas tree gleams with warmth and my family is eager to bake cinnamon rolls together. I hold onto these moments of Christmas. As life starts back tomorrow, I treasure the precious gift of Christ within me and find purpose and joy in the season of “now”.

    Finish this season well.