Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
You are my God, and I will exalt you.
Psalm 118:28
Merry Christmas! Wishing you love, joy, and peace from all of us:
Eng, Ethan, Linda, Eric, Eli, and Evan.
After Eric and Evan arrived last week, we immediately left for a scheduled camping trip to Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand. Aside from our family of six, there were 68 other campers (all together we were 33 adults, 28 teens, and 13 children) so we were a huge bunch. All the children went to the same school so they particularly enjoyed being together. Doi Inthanon also has the highest peak in Thailand (8415 feet above sea level) so it was cold with an average nightly temperature of 8 degrees centigrade. We enjoyed the cold weather, the people, and most of all, our surroundings. We took a two hour hike up the peak of the mountains where the view was simply spectacular. We hiked to waterfalls

and had walks into the woods. In between meals, we played games (board games, card games, and volleyball) with one another. There was enough for us to do and the freedom when to do it so we tremendously enjoyed our time. We praised God for the opportunity to be a part of the trip. It was such a blessing!

For our Christmas celebration, we slept by our Christmas tree in the living room last night. We’d been doing this for the past 16 years to remind ourselves that we were gifts to each other. Eli started us on this family tradition when as an 11-month old baby; he crawled under our artificial Christmas tree and slept on his tummy. Since then, it’s something we’d always done as a prelude to opening our presents on Christmas morning. I was amused when I took their picture this morning because although all of us slept under our covers, Ethan slept above his and without his shirt on! We turned on our air conditioner in the living room and it was set to 18 degrees centigrade. Also, during the quiet of the night, we again took turns saying “Goodnight,” “Merry Christmas”, and “love you” to each other. It’s my favourite and for me, the best part of our sleeping together. =)

Today, Christmas Day, we hung around the house and ate, played ping pong and card games, watched movies, and used the gifts we received. We listened to Michael Buble's Christmas CD as he bridged the generation gap in all our taste in music. =) We do thank God for His kindness and goodness to us for giving us one another. We had a wonderful Christmas. Thank you, Jesus, for coming as a baby and giving us a reason to celebrate. Most of all, we thank you for the salvation you offer because of that coming. Happy birthday - with love from all of us. =)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Recent Arrivals

first time flying alone, and my flight's been delayed... Lord have mercy.
please close your eyes and extend your hands heavenward in petition for me
to make it home safe and soon.

Eric’s post on Facebook, December 17, 2012
I should have listened to what Eric asked and prayed as intently as he requested. Although we did pray for him and his flights, little did we know that the delay he mentioned would literally mean over a day of waiting for him.

At right is Ethan when we welcomed Eric at the airport and below while relaxing with Evan at home.

Travelling separately from Toronto, both Evan and Eric arrived in Chiang Mai, today. We are extremely pleased but most relieved as Eric was actually due 26 hours before he actually got here. His first flight was delayed so he missed his other connecting flights. Delays are a normal part of air travel and because we’ve travelled so much, we normally dealt with the added “wait” as best we could. In typical fashion, Eric did just that and simply told his younger brother to tell us that his flight was delayed. We were then left
wondering what became of him for a whole day as we waited to hear when he would get here. Without him connecting again, we didn’t know whether he managed to get on other flights. We anxiously awaited his arrival which was thankfully tonight, over a day late. He ended up staying overnight at a hotel in London and the whole day at Heathrow Airport while he waited for his 10 p.m. flight. Sometime while moving about from terminal to terminal, he lost his passport, too. He said it provided a scary excitement to his day as he spent a fair bit of time retracing his steps until he found his passport with the people looking after the transit trains. Praise God. =) While all that was happening, I had people at the school I teach in and the staff at the OMF office in Canada, praying for him. Thankfully, God graciously answered and looked after him.

Eli obviously looked very happy to see Evan at his school. They hugged first!
Evan left half a day later than Eric but got here half a day before Eric. His flights were uneventful. Both of them spent long hours watching in-flight movies. All together, they watched close to 10 movies while on their flights! Too much! Both met people they enjoyed chatting with. The Lord’s hand was upon them as we asked for in prayer. We are so grateful to have them back and look forward to spending time with them for the next two weeks. We realize that it could be a very long while before we all spend Christmas together as a complete family in Chiang Mai. We praise God for this wonderful opportunity! It is such a precious gift. In light of all the sad and horrible deaths caused by shootings, we are not taking this for granted and thank God. He is good. =)

Friday, December 14, 2012

A God Who Speaks

You have permission to speak for yourself.
Acts 26:1
The Christmas Plant on the right is indigenous to Chiang Mai. It is usually green throughout the year. When the weather becomes cool and it gets closer to Christmas, the plant turns white. Upon closer inspection, it hugely resembles the red poinsettias.

Today, my Thai teacher asked me how I knew how much to give when I read her my written Thai story about giving. It’s the same story that was posted two weeks ago. In the past, my former Thai teacher and I got it translated in Thai so I could read it to different unsuspecting Buddhist people who spoke the language. At the time, I thought it was great to practice my reading and spoken Thai while sharing my God stories. I still do! I hope to continue to be able to do this in the future. As my language teacher said repeatedly, it is so encouraging to see how God works in our lives. It sure is!

In answer to the question posed, I talked to her about how we’re made up of three parts: spirit, soul, and body (1 Thes 5:23). Our physical body is the mass that gets left behind when our spirit leaves us when we pass away. Our soul (or mind) is that part of us that isn’t the body or the spirit. =) I think I’ll leave it there so as not to get into a theological entangle or explanation that could take up half the post.

I explained to her that I didn’t hear anything audible. There was no booming voice nor soft whisper that said P2,000. I just knew it was the amount like a thought that I didn’t think up. It wasn’t like I was there choosing a number from one to infinity. All of a sudden, I knew it was 2,000! Because I was praying and seeking God to know how much to give, the Holy Spirit communicated with my spirit and gave the answer. My mental mind eventually caught up and received the same answer as my spirit communicated it to me. I hope that made sense! =)

The manger scene on the left is a rare sight in Thailand. It's displayed in the playground of the school I teach at.

We have a God who speaks and He wants us to hear Him. The more time we spend with Papa God, the easier it becomes to hear Him. We are His sheep and we do know His voice. We can recognize Him. Sometimes, He's there when someone says something and their words resonate so much within us. Sometimes, we can’t even explain why we are so touched by what we hear; we just begin to tear up (even with music!). It's Him! Sometimes, we just know that what the person in front of us is saying is what God wants us to hear. We feel encouraged, full of hope, and know His peace. We feel affirmed and loved. We seem to bubble from within and become exhilarated by His joy. =) Ahh, what a wonderful God we have.

And I do want to add that it wasn’t always like this for me. There was a time (close to 20 years ago) when I couldn’t hear God. I didn’t know how to! Back then, there was a major change in my life that greatly affected how my extended family would relate with me and I wanted God to affirm that I was on the right track in what I needed to tell them. I locked myself in a room with my Bible and read and prayed for hours to know what to do. Finally, they were about to arrive and yet I still didn’t know what to do. Should I say what I felt God wanted me to do? How could I be sure? What if I was wrong in hearing Him? “God, please!” I implored. “Help me!” Nothing, there was only silence.

In desperation, I closed my eyes tightly and flipped my Bible to a different page. I prayed under my breath and asked God to please show me what to do. I took my fore finger and still with eyes closed, made it land on a section in the Bible. It landed on the first verse quoted above and it was the perfect word for me. My family all knew how I grew up (in verse 4). My Lord was giving me permission to speak. Yes! =) And speak, I did!

The Lord will do that for you, too. He will answer you. If you seek Him, you will find Him. Go ahead and try. Don’t give up until you hear because He will speak. He is a God who speaks.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Still Amazing Grace

Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.

Psalm 115:1
Yesterday, I sat on top of the table as I watched the children running around the track while they participated in the school’s “Track and Field Day”. It was a moderately hot day with just a slight breeze to cool us, somewhat. I don’t know how my sitting under that tent was singled out by that butterfly but it came. Possibly, my tent was a quieter one as I was alone. The other ones periodically had the kids cheering and screaming in them as they broke out in concerted yelling whenever their teammates passed them by. I didn't want to be in there either =) which was why I was on my own in another slightly way off tent. And, it was then that a multi-colored orange and brown butterfly fluttered around me and by my right leg. For a while, I thought it contemplated on whether to land on my shoe but it danced this way and that way, then flew off as my eyes followed it. IT was a beautiful sight and it reminded me to write about the week-end and my time of quiet at the resort I’d gone to. Why was I blessed to have a butterfly fly right around me? I honestly don't know. The Lord’s goodness puzzles and amazes me.

The painting on the right is Eli's work for "Scarlet Letter." The fine print are the words from the chapter. =)

Last week-end, my usual once-a-month 24-hours of time on my own happened. I enjoyed it tremendously. It was precious to me and allowed me to see the goodness of Papa God as I reflected on what was happening in my life. I had just finished writing my research paper and today, the course ended. =) I was relieved and I learned a LOT! There were sides to God that I wouldn't had known had I not taken the course. It was on the Theology of the Old Testament so Papa God and His plans for us then made more sense to me. He is such a compassionate God and has such a BIG heart for us! I’m sitting here wishing I could express myself better than that! Papa God is just too good to be true and His grace is AMAZING.

Although I didn't think I could do it, I know now that I’ll pass my second online course. I praise God for His help. With my mother’s passing, it was so hard to get started and to be on the right track but I made it. Still, in my being quiet, I realized that the busy life I had wasn't what I wanted. I didn't like the ways my prayer times, my relationships, my work, and my sleep, were affected! I weighed what mattered to me and although hard, I decided that earning my Masters of Divinity in Counselling wasn't worth it if I didn't handle my times with God and my family better. I saw God’s goodness in allowing my dream to come to pass but I am choosing to give it up if my relationships suffer. Please pray for me as I take the next course on the Theology of the New Testament and use that as a gauge on whether I should keep going. It will be from mid-January to mid-April, 2013. Thank you!

The finances for the courses' tuition will also need to be provided. If the funds don't materialize, I’ll take that as Papa God’s answer that I am to give it up. Thank you, Lord, that Your wisdom, leading, and guidance for me will be there.

At the resort when I checked in, the receptionist gave me her personal gift. It was a DVD with everything in Thai script except the words “Amazing Grace” on the cover. She said many things (all in Thai!) so I’m not sure what it’s about but she did say it was from her family. What a sweet gesture! Then, the next morning, their manager presented me with her gift (on left). With a journal notebook, she gave me a scarf full of different coloured butterflies. =) Amazing! I don't know why they both gave me gifts and she didn't know anything about butterflies in my life. [Please read the post “Transformed” on September 2, 2012 for this to make more sense.] The next morning, we were singing “Amazing Grace” at church. I get it, Papa God. You are AMAZING and full of GRACE! Thank you, for being you.