Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Hope of Loy Krathong

As the saying goes, " When in Rome, do as the Romans do"....or something like that! Anyway, last night, Sam and I joined with what seemed to be all of Bangkok and headed for the nearest body of water in order to offer thanks by the light of November's full moon for water. In truth, I offered thanks for so much more as I prayerfully stood on the banks of the Queen's Park lake.

The traditional festival dates back over 700 years and finds it roots in a Hindu festival where the water gods were thanked for their help throughout the year by floating a krathong (a beautiful floating bouquet lit with candles and incense) on the river. Today, in addition to offering thanks, pushing the krathong downstream is symbolic of washing away the previous year's sins and hoping for good karma to come. There's even an official song that children learn from an early age much like we learn Christmas carols that is translated something like this-

November full moon shines,
Loy Krathong, Loy Krathong,
and the water's high in the river
and local klong,
Loy Krathong, Loy Krathong,
Loy Krathong is here and
everybody's full of cheer,
We're together at the klong,
Each one with his krathong,
As we push we pray,
We can see a better day.

It was a beautiful sight seeing families praying together, then watching them as they gazed at their krathongs float away so full of hope and anticipation for a bright future. The collective beauty of the candle light on the lake and the sweet incense filled air made a lasting impression. However, on a deeper level, the festival has left me wondering and questioning...

I wonder if God heard the prayers of each precious person's heart even if they called Him by another name... I wonder if I had been born in Thailand to a Buddhist family, would I be a Christian today?... I wonder why it's so hard to accept the gift of forgiveness and the hope of eternal life God gave us through Christ's sacrifice...

Christ said that we as Christians are the light of the world...I can't imagine the beauty that would fill the earth if we all shined with our God given potential like the lit krathong candles on the lake last night...Surely, then the whole world would bow down and worship the one true God.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Counting the Days!

10 more days and I'll be home! Can you tell that I'm just a little excited? It's not that I need to get away from Bangkok...I'm really becoming quite accustomed to this humongous city and it's bizzare sights, but rather that I can't wait to be with family and friends. I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz...the Emerald City was beautiful, but there's no place like home!

I know it's a busy time of year, but I'm hoping to snatch as many times as I can at Starbucks or maybe even El Jarito/Los Cucos...just to enjoy the moments with everyone. Once I'm in town, I'll be available on my cell# 832-248-5352.

FYI- So far this is what our schedule looks like...

Dec. 1 Tracey arrives in Houston at 5:36PM
Dec.2-15 Flexible...a portion of this time will need to be spent regrouping in Corpus Christi, but of course I'll want as much time as possible with Vanessa, family, and friends.
Dec. 15 Sam arrives in Houston at 5:40PM (S&T Holiday Inn)
Dec. 16 Baby shower for Vanessa (S&T Holiday Inn)
Dec. 17 Sam and Tracey drive to Missouri
Dec. 18-21 Visit family in Missouri
Dec.21 Sam and Tracey drive back to Texas
Dec. 22-25 Christmas with Vanessa (We'll be at the Reeds as they've graciously let us borrow their home while they're in Big Springs with Lauren's family)
Dec. 25-27 Corpus Christi...Sam needs a day to putter at "home"
Dec. 27 Spend the night in Katy at Holiday Inn...very early flight on the 28th!
Dec. 28 Sam and Tracey travel back to Bangkok...I don't even want to think about leaving again. Wish you all could come with us!
Dec. 30 Arrive in Bangkok at midnight
Dec. 31 Happy New Year!!

I guess I'm getting a little ahead of myself wishing you all a Happy New Year...instead I need to be sure that you know that as I'm counting my blessings this Thanksgiving, you can be sure that you'll all be lifted up in prayer. Sam, Vanessa and I are very grateful for each of you and the blessing you are in our lives.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A New Day...A New Adventure!

I'm a bit rushed for time, but wanted to write once more before I headed out to Udon Thani, a city in North East Thailand where the Voice of America was broadcast from during the Vietnam War. First of all, each of my days since my very bad day have been absolutely wonderful in every way! Thank you so much for keeping me in your prayers. I've now officially taught English for a week and am in heaven. The pre-k and kindergarten students are like little sponges. If I can sing it, they can learn it...or at least repeat it!

This weekend, I'll be experiencing several new right after another! The first adventure will be flying an "off brand" Thai airline to my destination of Udon Thani. Fortunately, I'll have lots of women from the American Women's Club to keep me company. I'm not really nervous. Just trusting that if the airline wasn't safe, the club wouldn't have selected it.

The next adventure involves teaching English again, but this time to high school girls who have received scholarships from the club to pay for this year's tuition. The club works together with the Peace Corp to sponsor this annual English camp for about 200 girls. I'm excited to be seeing a new area of Thailand and to be working with the Peace Corp. Many of you will probably remember that it's always been one of my dreams to be a PCV (the local lingo for Peace Corp Volunteer). This may be as close as I'll ever get to fulfilling that dream so of course, I'm bringing my camera to record the moments. Be on the look out for new pictures some time next week.

Speaking of being on the look out, Sam should be home in about 30 minutes. Yeah! It'll be so good to see him, however we're going to have to visit fast since I'll be leaving tomorrow morning. I'll be back on Sunday evening, but he leaves for Batam on Monday morning... just ships passing in the night! I guess it's all part of the wonderful adventure called life. (22 more days !!)

Friday, November 2, 2007

It Was a Terrible, Horrible.....

...No Good, Very Bad Day! We've all had them. They're the kind of days that seem like if anything can go wrong, it the extent that it's laughable. I did laugh, but mostly just cried. I'm writing about it this morning only because I don't want to forget the blessings a bad day can bring.

It all started on Thursday evening. When I got home from school, I was met with a horribly strong paint smell. The wood floor in the next apartment was being refinished or something like that. Anyway, within minutes, I had a headache so I decided I needed to leave. With really nowhere to go and no one to go with me, I went shopping for school stuff. That went well until it was time for dinner. I hate to eat alone, but decided to brave the food court. The tacos I ordered were the worst...yet I felt guilty for being ungrateful as there are children on the streets around the world, for sure here in Bangkok, who literally are starving, so I ate the them.

During the night, I got a phone call from Vanessa. She'd had a scary day trying to navigate a county hospital in order to get some test her Dr. had be honest, my heart keeps breaking over and over. In the morning, I was lonely, had a headache and worst of all, had that fragile weepy feeling....I really wanted to stay home with the covers pulled over my head, but I'd promised a friend I'd give her a ride to school as she doesn't have a car and driver.So I got myself together and headed off for another day of preparation at school (I start my regular schedule of teaching on Tuesday).

Well, I ended up crying all the way to her house, tried to act as though nothing was wrong...that didn't work and was blessed by her sweet encouragement. Leanne knows what it's like to be so far away from friends and family as she and her family moved here from Australia about 8 months ago.

After I got to school, I got busy on setting up my room and was OK until in a quiet moment with another friend, the floodgates opened once again. This time, there was no holding back. Again, I was blessed. Jody prayed the sweetest prayer over me...I gave her permission to share with the team from UNOH and I know they'll also be lifting me up. They are mighty prayer warriors.

As I was leaving, I crossed paths with another friend, Anjie, who could tell something was up. Of course, the tears started again. After a quick hug from her, I was in the car and headed home all the time wishing for the privacy of driving my own car. My poor driver, Ton, had seen me upset earlier and now again. Well, once we got to the apartment, I realized I'd forgotten my backpack at the school. Wanting to help in any way, Ton offered to go back to school and get it. I let him go alone as I just needed space. By the way, earlier in the day, I'd realized that I'd also forgotten my cell phone in the apartment that morning.

Since I didn't have my key, nor my cell phone to call my friend Gini (she's a blessing fact since she hadn't heard from me as we had planned, she was ready to contact Sam in Australia and organize a search party!), and not wanting to bother the office, I sat by the pond in the lobby. The only bad thing that happened there was I got a glass of water from the cooler and proceeded to pour it in my lap...don't ask me how, but this time I laughed. Not long after that, I crossed paths with Mindy. Mindy is from Utah and is mom to Jack (3) and Jane (2). I explained my key predicament and jokingly asked her if she knew the book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. She was familiar with the story and also could relate to the day...she said she'd had plenty of them! Later in the evening, once I'd made it back into my apartment, Mindy delivered a plate full of warm cinnamon rolls....another sweet blessing!

The final blessing of the day came in the form of a text message from Ton at around 9:00. I'm not sure how he did this because up until now, my cell phone has only displayed Thai script. Anyway, he wrote of his concern for me and offered to do anything he could to help. As his English is very limited, I know he must have sought help or spent hours using a dictionary.

Reading back over the day, nothing really that bad or horrible had happened. The bottom line was that I was feeling lonely and vulnerable. As in the past, my first response was to withdraw and tough it out on my own. But yesterday, not wanting to let someone else down, I forced myself to try and rise above the feelings. Obviously, I failed. But it was in my failure that I was blessed. I think that's when God can do His best work...when we finally let our defenses down and say, "I can't do it." God answers with, "I can."