Saturday, September 29, 2012


No, I didn't sneeze. I didn't spell the word wrong, I didn't make a huge typo, I didn't accidentally fall on the keyboard and then bump "Publish" before I meant to. 

That is a real word.


It's Greek. 

And, to put it plainly, it means, "thanksgiving."

Simple word, sure. 

But it rocked my world yesterday.

Sick, coughing, a little too warm, weak and aching, I turned over on my bed again. One more time to try to alleviate the extreme discomfort I was in. God, why am I sick? Why? I've been sick for three days now--and on my bed for two of those days. Why?


I didn't take any notice of God's silence--that silence that held weight--and I continued. And why is everything falling apart around my ears? Why isn't my family in a real house; with funds enough to meet everything that happens? Why am I stuck over here alone, not fitting in, not able to communicate? Why have I been deserted (or at best, lovingly released) by all those I called dear? Are you asleep at the wheel? Surely not... But then, WHY? Tell me why!

Silence again. I really don't blame Him: I wouldn't want to answer someone who was on the other end of the line asking me questions like that. 

But He wasn't silent because He didn't feel like responding. He was just waiting--putting into practice that talent that He's been trying to get me to learn lately. He just waited. And was silent.

I rolled over again. I stared at my computer. 3 o'clock in the morning, Pacific time. No way was anyone awake. No emails, no chats, no Facebook messages. Silence from the virtual world as well. I sighed and looked up above my head, where my row of neatly arranged books sat. I stared at them one by one. Empty journals, almost filled journals, notebooks, sketchbook, Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman, In the Shadow of the Mob, my Strong's concordance, a small devotional book, my Bible... My eyes travelled over each one. I had no energy to do much more than read...and I'd read most of these already.

Then one caught my attention. Not because of a flashy cover, but because I realized I hadn't read that one yet. 

Wow, I don't want to read that one. I started months ago, and her language was just way too heavy and flowery for me. Not going there--especially not when I'm sick.

But something kept my eyes riveted on its spine. Three words stared back at me: One Thousand Gifts. I was determined to win this stare-down...but somehow, the book prevailed (or was it Someone else?) and my hand soon pulled it out and opened to page one.

The writer is Ann Voskamp. I'd only heard of her once before in my life; and that from my friend and roommate, Kezzia. She tried to explain to me all of what Voskamp's theory was, but I didn't pay much attention. I still didn't pay much attention when I was given that book for my birthday. I tried to read it, didn't succeed, and put it back on my shelf. That was that. 

Don't ask my why I brought it to Thailand. Other than somehow, God slipped it in to my packing because He knew I'd need it. 

So, Ann writes of growing up. Of being an adult, the wife of a farmer, mother of six. The pain from a little sister's death in the driveway at maybe two years old, a mother in such insane grief she's locked into a psychiatric ward at a hospital, two nephews die from a terminal disease at less than six months within the space of less than two years: she writes of a hard life. A life filled with doubts, with pain, and with lots of "Why God?!"s. 

In a small sense, I can relate. I'd just spent time asking why myself.

But she's looking for more. And in an email sent to her as a challenge, she finds it. 

Write down one thousand gifts? Gifts from God? A thousand of them? Really?


I walked with her on her journey; the journey that led to this life filled with eucharisteo: "Thanksgiving." Complete, perpetual, wholly-obsessive thanksgiving. Thanking God for everything.


Ann wanted a fuller, richer, more meaningful life. So do I. 

She found her answer in eucharisteo.

Safe to say that perhaps I'll find my answer there too?

Jesus continually gave thanks. At the last supper, right before His beloved Judas will be allowed to escape into the hands of demonic possession; before Peter will deny with sickening oaths and swearing that he never knew the Man; before all His disciples forsake Him; before a cruel mob led by cold soldiers sent by bloodthirsty priests comes and ties Him up (Him, the Creator of the Universes, bound by the work of His own hands!) and takes him into a courtroom where no justice is employed; before Pilate commands Him scourged, beaten; before the soldiers mock Him; before He is finally led to Golgotha and sharp pieces of iron fix Him to a rough piece of wood: before all these scenes of horror He gives thanks.

Don't believe me? 

"And He took the cup, and gave thanks..." Luke 22:17
"And He took bread, and gave thanks..." Luke 22:19
"And when He had given thanks..." 1 Corinthians 11:24

Jesus is about to die. He has only a few short hours left without pain; with a beating heart in His chest: and He gives thanks.

When He raised Lazarus from the dead, He gave thanks. Not after the fact, but before the fact.

Jesus spent His life enacting eucharisteo. He spent His whole life giving thanks, even unto death. He rejoiced that He was to suffer, even! "But for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame." 

Joy. Real, abiding, lasting joy. 


I laid One Thousand Gifts aside later that evening, having read the whole book, cover to cover. Ann made it to her thousand...and then continued on to infinity. Granted, she's still a human: she's not perfect. She still makes mistakes, she's still learning. But she found the key--and she's employing that key to unlock the iron doors that surrounded her imprisoned heart. She's giving thanks.

I looked around. We were in the middle of a power outage. No lights, no fan; the computer was dying, my headlamp batteries were getting low, and I was still sick. 

But something inside me writhed and screamed to be free. Something that said, Give thanks.

I began to write an entry in my journal, struck by the import of what I had read and needing to funnel thoughts onto paper to get them out. As I wrote, I began to realize that I needed to give thanks, not just for everything, but for everything. That means the pain that wracks my heart, the trials that come my way, the mountains I have to climb, and heaven forbid, the waiting I have to do... I need to give thanks. For all of it. 

In all these things. Not some, not a few. All.

I thought I knew what it meant to love. To be a friend. I look behind me and realize that I had no clue. Some of the deepest wounds inflicted on me have been because of love, and I've seen it as a curse, as rejection all over again. I say, with shame in my heart, that those I have accused of breaking my heart the worst have loved me better in doing so than they would have had they not! 

That thought sobered me. It's enough to sober anyone. 

But then, what is love? Where do you find it? How do you obtain it? 



I only brought 4 journals with me to Thailand. Saving space for other things, and really, am I going to fill up four journals in seven months? Apparently so: those empty books keep getting more precious to me as I realize that I've barely been here a month now and my first journal is almost full. FULL. That means I'll start a new one soon. And then another and another and then I'll be out. I can't waste these.

But the thought of Ann's challenge--that of recording, finding one thousand gifts--had filled my vision. Eucharisteo blinded me. I wanted to write out a thousand--or more. But Lord, where do I record all of it? Where? I want to write it--take it with me wherever I go. I want it to work even when the power doesn't. But where do I put it?

Again, God was silent. He seemed to want me to make the decision myself. 

The longing proved too great. One of my precious journals, the one with Psalm 118:24 on the front ("This is the day that the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it"), reserved for my thoughts about life in Thailand, was given another purpose last night. To hold my gifts. To help me learn the art of eucharisteo. To help me learn how to live thanksgiving, and find the real, genuine joy I've been seeking all my life. To help me find that fulness that I haven't been experiencing. 

Before I began, I wrote in my journal these words: 

"So, one of my precious journals is being assigned to a special purpose. To learning how to live with a constant joy, constant thanksgiving. To learn how to wait; how to really love. To really wait. I'm starting my own list. I'm going to make it to one thousand first...and see where I am by then. One thousand gifts of my own. It's high time I learned how to live fully."

I made it to 50 last night. I'm aiming to make it to, tomorrow, next week, next month. It is definitely high time I learned how to live fully. How to live eucharisteo.

And it's not just high time for me. It's high time for you too.

I'm going to challenge you: call it a dare, if you will. Can you write a list of one thousand gifts? One thousand things that bring you unexpected (or expected) joy; things that make you smile; things that bring solace to your heart. Can you think of one thousand things? It doesn't have to be all at once: do it one day at a time. Look for more to add to that list throughout the day. Write it down; keep it in a journal or a notebook somewhere. I dare you. 

I've taken the challenge up. How many of you will take it up with me? 

I guarantee that it will change your life. 

It's high time that we all learned what it means to live fully...

That is, to live with continual, obsessive thanksgiving to the God of glory.


Monday, September 24, 2012


That's precisely how I felt yesterday. And, by extension, this morning, albeit for a different reason.


I'm pretty tall. About 5'10'': I've been taller than most of my friends ever since I could remember. I've been called "Daddylonglegs," "The Gentle Green Giant," and various other things denoting my height. I love and hate my height in turn. But the one thing it does for me, is that I hardly ever feel small. If I feel small, I'm standing next to someone or something who's REALLY tall.

But when we hiked down into that canyon yesterday and approached the massive tree in my pictures, I felt small. When I snuggled into the crevice in the banyan tree, and then looked up, I felt small. When I looked at the huge hill we had to climb to get out of this canyon, I felt small. When Hannah and I rode on the back of the station wagon, the wind whipping our hair and blowing in our faces; and I looked out across the huge valley we could see from the top of that mountain we were on; and I realized that I was in Thailand, not America: I felt small. As I looked at the beauty around me, listened to the sounds of the jungle, and really grasped that the God who made the mountain whose shadow I grew up in had created all of this as well: and then further realized that that same God not only called me here, but loves me enough to carry me through, I felt small.

Small. Me. Only an oxymoron if you aren't taking God into account.

I felt small this morning. The daunting task of presenting the worship talk loomed before me, besides beginning another week of school with my three grades of kids--over 60 of them. I shrank; I cried. I felt small.

I look back at teaching today. Sure, it wasn't perfect. But it wasn't painful, either. God got me through. I look back at worship. I was scared, alright; but again, God got me through. It wasn't so bad.

I told the kids a story in worship this morning. A story whose significance I didn't realize til just now. I'll retell it here.

A certain man managed to somehow capture a baby eagle, just hatched. An amazing prize, sure, but what do you do with a fluffy, downy, hungry eaglet? Well, put it in with the chickens, of course. The farmer did: and the little eagle grew up in a chicken coop instead of in a nest high up in a tree.

Every day, the eaglet would scratch in the dirt with the chickens, eat and drink with the chickens, and go to sleep at night with the chickens. The same thing, every day--and the little bird of prey thrived, and he grew. But once he was the size of all the other chickens, he didn't stop growing. The farmer didn't quite realize what had happened until one day, he really noticed that there was a full-grown eagle scratching in the dirt with his chickens.

The farmer decided that it was time for the eagle to learn how to fly. Picking him up, the farmer did the simplest thing he could think of: dropped him. But the eagle didn't fly. Indeed, the concept of "fly" was almost non-existent for him! He fell to the ground and went back to scratching with the chickens.

Over and over the farmer tried. Each time, the eagle fell to the ground and went back to scratching with the chickens. The farmer tried throwing the eagle above his head, thinking that surely the eagle would spread his wings before he came all the way back down. But no; the eagle simply fell harder, and went back to scratching with the chickens.

At last, the farmer took the eagle to a fence and set him on a post. The eagle blinked, looked around...and then looked up. Above him the blue sky beckoned, the clouds called, and the sunlight shone. Very slowly, the eagle spread his great wings: and then with a scream and a leap of faith, the eagle soared away from the fence post, up into the sky. to fly, he rose higher and higher til he was lost from sight in the shining sunlight.

I felt small this morning, yesterday. Like a chicken.

But God created me to be an eagle

He's tried everything to get me to fly. And every time, I've fallen, felt hurt; and gone back to scratching in the dirt.

I want to fly....

I'm tired of being earth-bound. I want to fly.

But I'll only make it when I look up from this earth and see all that lies above. If I behold the heavenly, and then take the leap of faith, God will mount me up on wings as eagles. I'll be free to fly above the clouds, where the sun is ever shining.

"But I feel so small, Lord..."

That's a good thing, daughter. Only when you realize how impossible it is for you to fly alone will you be able to soar the highest. I am working, Child. Trust Me. Sense your insignificance in the grand scheme of things; but remember that nothing is too insignificant for Me to notice. In Heaven, I knew how to fly. I could've kept it all. But I gave all for you: I left all of Heaven and came to that I could teach you how to fly.


Physically, I'm not very small.

Spiritually? ...well, I'm growing.

I'm a small person in the grand scheme of things.

But I'm not too small to long as the Lord gives me wings.

First stop! Got a take-out lunch to eat in the national park we went to. And wow--I have never seen anything packaged to go like that before. I ordered yellow curry...and wouldn't you know it, they put it in a plastic bag with a rubber band around the opening. Uniquely Asia...and strangely efficient.

Care for a tarp, anyone? Go ahead, dig through that pile til you find the one you like.

A shop selling offerings to be left in shrines or temples. Hence, the color of orange everywhere.

A Chinese blessing plaque, or something like that.

Never in all my life have I seen so many cows being transported in one day. And honestly, I couldn't believe how inhumane the transporting conditions were. Makes me long for heaven, where things won't bear the stamp of evil everywhere you turn...

Drive-by shot of a temple.

An Asiatic black bear. He was in a cage in the national park.

Headed for a picnic place.

The birthday girl!

She turned 21... Happy birthday Sharon!

Hannah, what are you doing?

Sorry! No other way to get this bullet-proof Asian packaging open!

Not sure what kind of flower this is...

A palm frond stem. Wouldn't want to land in a mess of those things.

Harvey and Brenda.

These trees were incredible!

This was the only monkey we saw...


Banyan tree! Well, yes, and me too.

Threesome. :) Some Thai lady mistook us for siblings a little while after this.

The "big" tree.

It was huge. The tree... Wow. Bigger than the Redwoods I've seen.

All of us again.

Another one of Sharon.

Close-up of an interesting vine.

There were probably ten cows packed into the back of that truck. And it wasn't a big truck. They were literally stacked on top of each other.

Ah! Pine trees! Home!

Where we ate our lunch. 

It really was that funny. I promise.

A fig tree! With vines practically choking it. They make big trees in Thailand.

Palm fronds.

By a banyan tree.

Big tree. A different one. 

Jungle beauty.


The first glimpse of the big tree.

The VERY big tree.

The Stecks. 

Climbing the steps out of the canyon. I counted 528 steps--Hannah got to 514. Talk about a climb!

Last stop on the way home! An open market.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Over the River, Through the Woods

When I got into the back of the station wagon, I didn't know what I was in for.

I learned pretty quickly.

What a way to spend Sabbath afternoon!

But wait... Why tell you about it?

...when I can show you instead?

Hannah :)

Michael Ross. We were all sitting on the porch, waiting for Thara Ehkanyaw, who had suggested the outing and then proceeded to fall asleep.

Little Mu Mu Wa. 

A temple/monastery. They're beautiful in the light of the sun, but what darkness they conceal! White-washed sepulchers... And you have to say, the New Jerusalem in all its glory will be more beautiful than the most elaborate temple on earth.

There is no way to adequately describe Thailand's mountainous beauty. We saw alot of it on our way back into the mountains.

Those clouds were something else. I took these out the window in the very back of the station wagon.

Michael Ross drove the truck you see up there, with a few boys in the back.

Words fail.

Brenda taking pictures at the lookout we stopped at on our way up.


Sharon, Hannah, and Daygumo.

Group picture! The four on the right are students.

Michael Ross again.

Another group picture--with me in it this time!

Sharon. :)

The "look." I seem to incur that wherever I go. 

Looking at the scenery.

No caption needed.

"And God saw that it was very good..."

A larger-than-my-outstretched-hand grasshopper.

Back to the cars! 

We passed a waterfall on the way up and stopped the cars again. We didn't get out, but let me tell you, if we had I would've been sitting in the water. Warm and balmy doesn't even fit the temperature well enough.


Not sure how to pronounce that. Give it a try! No, really... Nobody's listening.

That is an incredibly steep hill... and, consequently, a cornfield.

Our destination! We travelled back into the mountains to a little village to visit an elderly Karen couple that were newly-baptized members of the SDA church. We had vespers with them.

And they had gorgeous hibiscus outside their house. You feel awkward taking pictures of everything, but I think I'm going to need to do it more.


We sang with them, prayed with them, and Michael had a worship talk which Ehkanyaw translated.

Michael and Ehkanyaw.

The husband of the couple we visited.

Their hut was like nothing I'd been in yet. No power, no lights, no running water. Barely anything between them and the elements. Amazing...

Sign for a school.

My traveling buddy in the back of the station wagon. It's a miracle we got this picture: that road was so curvy and so bumpy I couldn't hold the camera still to save my life! And actually, on a couple of corners, I had to stop taking pictures to save my life. We got thrown around quite a bit. Seatbelts? Nah. Don't exist here.

More of Thai beauty.

Students in the back of Maria's truck.

The boys that came with us.

Yep. They rode in the back of that truck like that for almost two hours. No joke. Sound like fun?