I started to write a post on Sunday morning... I honestly had every intention of just writing about and sharing about our amazing Sabbath adventures. However, Sunday afternoon happened, and changed all my plans.
All? Okay, some.
I would tell you to buckle your seatbelts, but they don't use such things over here. In fact, I think I may have forgotten how to use one after all of this. In that case, just grab the nearest available object and hang on for dear life.
Why, you ask?
Because when God gets going and He starts changing a life, it can be spell-binding. Blinding. Weakening. Overpowering.
Whose life, you may wonder aloud to yourself?
How's He doing that?
One step at a time.
Part 1--Into My Heart
You must understand this one thing fully: this missionary has not been to a church service in probably close to a month.
Very nearly, yes.
Sickness took me out for a long time. But not today. I got up (or rather, was awakened by a trusty alarm clock with two feet who came into my room chattering something about breakfast and other interesting tidbits til I was fully awake), got ready, and ended up down at the chapel just on time. It felt strange to be ascending those stairs: I felt like a stranger as I took my seat on the side, on the floor. The night before I'd given the worship talk there, so I had been there before now, but I still felt awkward. The stares of hundreds of little children (and big children!) fixed on me, it seemed.
And yet, I was strangely at peace. Strangely happy, and content--like I hadn't been since arriving in Thailand. God, what are You doing? I glanced heavenward, looking a little wry. You're starting to break those chains in earnest, aren't You?
Church went well. Long, but well. By the time we were finished, however, and I had scaled the concrete mountain back to the house, exhaustion had overtaken me. A mild headache throbbed in my temporal region, and all I wanted to do was lie down and sleep.
But sleep was not destined to be my refuge that afternoon. Not at all. God had much bigger, higher, and more beautiful ideas for me.
Plans had been made earlier in the week to have Sabbath lunch at Michael and Inge Ross's house, with all the "gullawa" families and their respective little ones, as a sort of farewell for Mark and Kim, a couple who has been here a few months and are leaving on Tuesday. People bustled around, getting food ready to take over and carrying things out to the car. I sat in my room and took some ibuprofen, seriously considering just staying there. But then, destiny called.
"Heidi! We're ready to go!"
"Coming!" a almost-less-than-enthusiastic young lady replied.
I grabbed my camera and headed for the door.
Am I glad I got up and went? Affirmative. Riding on the back of the station wagon with the wind in my hair, combined with the ibuprofen from earlier, seemed to banish the headache, and by the time we got to the Ross's, I felt pretty good. And when I saw the kitchen, I felt even better.
What a feast! Unlike any Thai food I've had since coming here... I could go on and on about it. Now that you're dying to know, we had spaghetti. No, I'm not kidding. Spaghetti....and garlic bread and hummus and carrots and peas and tapioca pudding and coconut ice cream popsicles... I confess I think I ate too much. Not that I didn't normally eat that much at home, but it's certainly more than I've eaten for awhile! American food like that was like a window to home from the middle of the Thai jungles, and oh, how I loved it.
The Steck clan packed up a little while before 2:00 pm, and headed back for the house. Several of us were wanting/needing to go on the branch Sabbath school outing, which would take us back up into the mountains to a little village, to visit and have studies with a newly-baptized couple there. (If you haven't seen my other post on going to this same village once before, it's called Over the River, Through the Woods.) When we got home, we already had a crowd waiting and ready to go.
I had no intention of really going at first. But all my fifth graders...the 5th graders I hardly have seen and hardly know and who hardly know me at all... were going. And when Jaw Nyew Aye asked me if I was going too, I said yes. Call it fate if you will. I call it GOD.
I got in the car, and decided that rather than sit in the backseat like a normal person, I would sit in the open window with my camera around my neck and hang onto the rack on the top of the car and let the wind make a mess of my hair and take pictures along the way, like a normal Heidi. I got situated in the window, snapping a couple of pictures, and then everyone was ready to go.
However, as the Adam's truck, full of my students, began to pull out, the kids noticed that their English teacher was sitting in the window and that she had every intention of riding that way! Talk about shock. I saw a mouth fall wide open when Eh Paw Shee saw me sitting there; the boys all stared at me, nudging one another and talking about "Tharamoo" with these looks of amazement and amusement. We headed out after a prayer.
As we pulled out of the driveway, we passed a little group of students, including one of my seventh grade boys. As our car passed, I smiled at all of them: and his mouth came open, his eyes got wide, and he stared after his crazy English teacher with a look of shock, and a smile that was irrepresible.
(On a side note, on our way back from the branch Sabbath school, a bunch of my 5th grade girls wanted to have Sharon take their pictures with me. After having seen me in a crazy moment, am I not so scary anymore? Maybe... But I think God is working in my life, personally. And praise God for that.)
I say with all the conviction I can muster: You have not experienced Thailand until you have ridden on the outside of a large moving vehicle for an extended amount of time. The things you see! The things you, hear, smell, feel... It's incredible. I rode for about an hour that way, wrapped up in the beauty surrounding me and feeling it as if it were a divine hug of love from my Father in Heaven. Revel in the beauty, My child. Soak it in: and realize that you're in the process of being freed. I brought you here not to break you, but to make you.
We arrived at the village, and I clambered out of the car. A few thunderheads approached on the distant horizon as I rounded the front of the station wagon.
It didn't take me long to notice him: wandering around in the dirt, in puddles of nasty water, barely big enough to be walking--a tiny brown puppy. A few of the students stopped to pet him, but they all filed back towards the hut where we would have our study. I couldn't take my eyes off the little pup, however, and when Maria stopped to show the puppy to Jabez, her adopted little boy, I stopped too. And after Maria had picked him up and looked at him, she handed him to me.
The man who owned the place began to talk to Maria. She smiled and almost laughed. "He wants me to take him home." He said that the puppy was part of a litter of three, two of which had died just the day before. The mother was also dead. "He's a month old," Maria told me, translating. "And he says he eats rice."
The puppy fell asleep in my hands after chewing on my thumb for awhile. Worship finished, it started to pour down rain, and everyone ran for the cars. I was one of the last, with my camera...and a little puppy, still clutched in one hand.
I jumped in the car and Harvey looked at me. "What is this?" I grinned.
I have a plastic tub in my room with a blanket in the bottom. Tucked into that blanket is a tiny brown puppy that we've started calling "Camo;" namely because he blends in with the floor so well he's nigh been stepped on a few times, and because a better name hasn't been forthwith in coming. He's sleeping.
What can I say? I've never had a dog before, especially not one that was mine. But you see, there's a problem. It seems I'm destined to fall in love with something everywhere I go that makes it hard to leave when the time comes. I'm only here for five more months. And I have a puppy.
What is God doing?
I'm not entirely sure...
But one thing I know.
He's using a little handful of puppy to teach me something about how He loves me, and how I ought to love others.
Because, see, He found me wandering in the dirt and slime of this world. And He picked me up and held me close....and in a way, like this little puppy, I snuggled down into God's heart, and He hasn't let me go since.
Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. Has Camo made mistakes? If you call walking right off the porch and falling a good five feet down onto concrete a mistake, or having accidents all over the place a mistake, then absolutely. But I haven't given up on him... And my Father hasn't given up on me.
Oh, the things we learn about love...
...when something like that snuggles into your hands, and right down into your heart.
I call him "little one" at this point. It's pretty easy to see why.
Food! He's eating rice and pumpkin right there.... He's had that and rice milk, tofu pieces, and yes, he loves papaya.
Although he's technically mine (namely because I'm the one who took off with him), he's really everyone's puppy. We all love him.
Being kept awake at night was something I didn't reckon for when I put his plastic tub/bed in my room, but hey--it must be something like having a baby in the room that's yours. It's a good experience...although I found myself wishing I could get more sleep, and asking myself, "Now, remind me of why I did this again?"
Looking at that is all the reminder I need.
Koo Koo Paw! Sweet little girl, and my goodness, what a personality!
I believe she was sharing Inge's tapioca pudding here. Boy, that stuff was good!
"Go, Koo Koo Paw; go!" The other baby is Timothy.
When you're little like that, the best option sometimes is to just look up and pucker your lips.
Koo Koo Paw: "Look at that!"
"Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord..."
"Um, excuse me?"
Jabez, Maria's little boy, decided to join in the fun.
Miss Sharon. :)
Everything is fascinating.
Jaw Nyew Aye saw my camera; hence, the face.
Off we go! Hanging out the window to take pictures was a challenge, but amazing.
Stopped just outside of Mae Salit, waiting to head up the mountains.
You have not lived til you experience something like this.
Kids; singing, making faces at me, staring at me, you name it.
On our way back, we stopped at a lookout. On side of the valley looked like this...
...and the other side looked like this.
My 5th grade girls who wanted pictures with me.
A 5th grade girl, and the cook, Daygwemo.
Me, "little one," and Eh Paw Shee.
Another 5th grade girl. Thankfully, the boys aren't asking for pictures with me....yet.
Hannah, Maria, and Jabez.
I'll admit I was jealous of these guys: they got to ride on top of the pickup.
Words fail. We had Harvey stop the car in the middle of the road so Brenda and I could run to the edge of the trees and take pictures.
There is nothing like a Thai sunset. Nothing.
No, I'm not kidding. We saw so many cows on that road, strung across it, lying in the middle of it, and meandering along the edge of it, that I lost track of them all.
Part 2-- When Dreams Breathe
A story in pictures will suffice for this, I think. We got a bunch done on Sunday morning, and headed into Mae Sot for lunch at a restaurant, after which we headed up into the mountains again. What for?
We drove up into the mountains and stopped here. Can you read the sign and tell me where we went?
The most reliable source of running water in this country: waterfalls.
Did Brenda call this a trumpet flower? I don't remember...
Look again. He was as big as my thumbnail: and I assure you, it is a spider.
Standing on a bridge, taking pictures. I had the puppy in my Karen bag, fast asleep by now. That water looked so inviting. The water-lover in me screamed to be allowed to immerse itself in the falls, but common sense prevailed...for the moment.
These trees will never cease to amaze me. Never.
I wish you could see what a cloud of yellow butterflies, reflecting the sunlight through almost-transparent wings, fluttering around you in a myriad of wings and motion, looks like. In person.
Miss Hannah. :)
Poor Sharon: forgot her crutches for the day's activities. She's been having to battle a sprained knee lately. Good thing she had her knee brace with her.
Hannah and I are sitting on vines. Yes, they're vines, even though I didn't think so at first. Incredible!
View from my perch on the vines.
Yes, he's everyone's puppy.
Now that your jaw is lying on the floor, let me explain. Hannah and I stuck our feet in the water, discussing the potential of actually just getting in. The urge was getting too great for me, and Hannah wavered. I was told that they've brought students here before and that the kids slide down the waterfall. I was also told the pool was incredibly deep, so there was no chance of my hitting the bottom. I had no intentions of sliding down that waterfall... but I had to take a peek at it from up top, you know.
Tempting myself and fate.
Hannah, down below, told me to just go. I held up my shoes by way of response. She told me to throw them. You can't see it well, but the look on my face in this picture is one of complete puzzlement. I wonder if Hannah is speaking to me in Karen again...
Well, now that I'm up here, I may as well get a little closer and a little more wet.
Okay, or alot.
Exhilaration unlike any I'd felt before. For me, this really was a dream come true. Ever since I was little, I wanted to slide down a waterfall... I imagine God must've been smiling while He watched.
Oh boy, here it comes...
I resurfaced, eyes wide and mouth unable to speak proper English. Such a thing as I ever knew existed!
This is my "that-was-so-awesome-I-am-so-doing-that-again-and-Hannah-you-should-do-it-too" look.
Thankfully I didn't have to drag her up there, even though she was hesitant.
Harvey took some pictures, and he also took videos, which for the sake of slow internet I am not going to attempt to post. But they really show what it was like... You all missed out.
There she goes!
As a side note, we got Brenda to come up and do it as well, but Harvey shot video of it. Guess you'll all have to wait to see those til I get home--but let me tell you, it was amazing fun. We did it a few times, then decided to head out and run up to one more waterfall by the road.
Thailand may not have alot of wildlife, but they sure make up for it with insects. It's a spider!
Speaking of spiders...
Will someone please tell me that I'm justified in thinking that that is huge? It's not the biggest one I've seen, though. On our way up to the branch Sabbath school the day before, I was sitting in the window and happened to look up at a tree top and saw a spider web there: and a spider sitting in the middle of it, with a leg circumference big enough to circle my head! *shudder*
It doesn't look like a very tall waterfall from the road, but believe me, if someone tried to slide down that, that would be the end of them.
Up top I rather expected to find a pool of water. I found instead shallow water running over and around one flat rock, smooth like tile. Oh, it was beautiful...and shame on me for not getting a picture of it. We had Harvey bring my camera up, as you will see evidenced in the coming photos, but I forgot to get a picture of the top there where I'm standing in this one.
Hannah and I, looking less wet and a little wind-blown after having ridden on the back of the station wagon for 15-20 minutes or more, up winding roads and through hair-pin curves and over potholes so big you almost needed a bridge to cross them--well, almost.
We had to climb a little higher than I originally intended, just for curiosity's sake. And this is what we found.... :)
My partner in adventure (can't exactly say crime, as we weren't really being naughty).
Just beautiful... and way too tempting to stay out of, especially after having been wet already.
At the edge, contemplating a plunge.
"Hannah, will you hold my camera a moment?"
Ever sat in a waterfall?
Ever sat in it like that?
I sat up, looked at Hannah and went, "What are you doing over there? Get over here!" She handed the camera to Harvey, who served at photographer for the rest of the time we were up there.
"Honest, Hannah, you have to try it..."
Notice that I was sitting where most of the water was flowing. I was telling Hannah that she needed to switch places with me so she could really feel the water...
She did, I guess.
Anyone have an appropriate caption for this?
We were laughing so hard... SO hard. Oh wow...
Okay, time to go dunk in the pool. We're already soaked to the skin..
We crossed the pool, which was about chest deep, and rocky on the bottom, and stood in the other waterfall. This one felt like a back massage...a really really poundingly hard one.
Hannah: "Oh wow. That was amazing."
Heidi: "I wanna get out and jump back in."
Hannah: "Um...isn't it a little shallow for that?"
Nope. Not at all.
"Hannah! Come find me!"
There was a rock ledge there that I was sitting on, and Hannah sat there too. For a moment.
Hannah: "Eee there's water in my ears!"
Heidi: "Really now."
Imagine our surprise when Brenda showed up. But oh, you should have seen her face! I wish I could've taken a picture of her when she saw Hannah and I swimming around in the pool there. Priceless. But she came in too...
...and that was a scream. Literally.
Hannah says, "Mom, you've got to come sit under the waterfall..."
Brenda says, "What are you doing to your poor mother?!"
We all laughed so hard at the facial expressions that came out of that exploit. I haven't laughed so hard in ages.
I wanna jump again!
Hannah stood up there and shook her head. "Heidi, I have never done things like this before, ever." I grinned. Welcome to the world of having Heidi around.
Oh yes; c'mon in, Brenda!
Everybody, all at once!
View from up top.
We clambered back down the rock face and found Sharon, puppy asleep in lap, enjoying the beauty of the falls on a rock. Her knee wouldn't allow her to climb up with us, but depend on it: we'll get her up there eventually.