Monday, January 28, 2013

I Didn't Come for This...



I didn't come for this. 

And yet, this is precisely why I came.

Sharon came walking up to the house sometime last week. I was sitting on the porch, doing who knows what (after all, it was like, a year ago that this happened right?). Sharon had been out for a walk and she collapsed on the porch, and started talking.

"I feel so terrible." 

Say something like that to me and you immediately have all of my attention. "Really now. Why's that?"

"These boys and their shoes."

Quizzical cock of left eyebrow, comical tilt of the head. "Huh?" 

She laughs. "I was walking over on the hundred acres and I found a pair of soccer shoes in the soccer field. Man, they're just falling apart. I feel terrible, they're out there playing soccer barefoot because their shoes are falling apart." 

I've watched them play soccer on their free time. I've wanted to play with them. But not barefoot. Ouch.

Sharon sighed. "I wish there were some way to fix them. Because I've found pairs of shoes in the trash can before."

I leaned back. "Yeah, get some duct tape and just wrap em all up good."

Eyes light. Face glows. "Hey...."

Sharon was dispatched from the porch. She returned with the same pair of shoes that she had taken to the dorm not 20 minutes before. The boys were all elsewhere. We talked and talked about plans, and then hid the shoes in my room.

They stayed there for about a week.

We gathered supplies and ideas in the meantime. Yesterday, Sunday, we were ready to tackle the job.

I came out on the porch, four rolls of duct tape on one arm, a hammer in the other hand. Paul Adams, sitting up here talking to Harvey, looked at me in surprise. "Wow, she's gonna tackle something."

Harvey laughed. "I think she's gonna nail somebody's toes to the floor."

I rummaged through a box and found a nail, then retreated back inside. 

Sharon and I ended up on a mat under the house. We started to fix those shoes. The toes were completely detached from the sole, stuffing coming out, glue dissolved and gone. They were a mess.

And so, we got to work.



As I crammed twine through holes in rubber and vinyl, I shook my head. "Who's idea was this anyway?"

Sharon looked at me. "Um....mine?"


Each stitch brought with it a feeling of accomplishment. "Ah hah! One more done!"


We worked for a few hours on those shoes. But at last they were finished.


I must admit, they look pretty classy. 

I sat back and looked at the finished product. Sharon and I both laughed. “It seriously looks like something you could buy in a store!”

Now for reality. “You think they’ll like these?”

Well, one can hope.

A moment later. “Sharon, whose shoes are these?”

“I have no idea.”

When the worship bell was rung that night, I made my way down to the chapel with a paper bag in one hand and a handful of butterflies in my stomach. The words of the announcement were ringing in my head: “How many of you like playing soccer?...how many of your shoes are falling apart?...who is missing their shoes?...We’re sorry, but Tharamoo Sharon and I stole your shoes…”

We made an announcement to the boys, along with giving the boy whose shoes we’d absconded with back to him. We told them that if they had soccer shoes that were falling apart to bring them to Sharon and I and we would fix them. The yellow and red shoes made quite the impression.

After worship, I was ready to take Ningha and Juju home when I heard a voice behind me. “Tharamoo Heidi?”

I turned. AhMaySoe, one of the bigger little boys that lives in the children’s home. He pointed to one of his shoes, a regular, everyday croc. Near the toes it was torn bad enough that I was surprised he could keep the foam things on his feet.

“Teacher, when I run, my feet go right through.”

No wonder.

“Bring them up to our house tomorrow, and Tharamoo Sharon and I will fix them for you.”

Sharon and I got another pair of shoes this morning. No, not AhMaySoe’s, but another boy from the children’s home, whose tennis shoes are coming undone in a bad way. They’re in my room. We’re going to fix them today.

We probably will only have time for one pair of shoes per week once school starts, but since this is exam week, we may be able to fix a few pairs, if we get them. I do know that this afternoon, we’re going to fix one more pair at least.

I’m sitting in an empty classroom. I came down just after the second class period, and was swarmed with kids, wanting to know what to study for their English exams, which are on Friday. I answered all of their questions, and now I’m alone, waiting for the next question-asker to find me. Someone will eventually.

I look at the empty rows of desks. This…teaching…this is why I came.

I didn’t come to fix shoes with duct tape and twine, using a hammer and nail for needle.

And yet, maybe I did.

After all, I came for these kids.

And perhaps they need shoes more than English.

And maybe…just maybe…when we’ve been called somewhere, we are never only called to do what we set out to do.

Maybe this is why I’m here.

After all, it’s God who does the planning.

And He’s almost always got a different…and better…idea than I do.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fingerprints




I was thinking about going. Then "Nah, I'll be sane and stay."

Then... "Hm, who said insanity was bad? I'm going."

On Sunday afternoon a group of kids + a few teachers piled into trucks and headed up into the mountains, to a village to participate in and attend an evangelistic meeting. I hadn't heard in time on Sunday to go, and besides that, I felt half awake. I stayed on Sunday.

Monday, however, was a whole different banana. 

I decided I wanted to go and experience what it was like. So I accordingly took my bath and prepared myself to leave at 3:30. 

At 3:30, a group headed out in one vehicle. The rest of us were waiting for a church member's truck to come and get us.

One thing that must be understood about the Karen: a typical Karen will almost NEVER be on time. Never. 

Our driver must be a fairly typical Karen. Because he wasn't on time.

Sometime around 4 or so, he showed up, and we all piled on. I noticed, however, that one student (a choir member who was supposed to go) had vanished. And this wasn't just a choir member. This was my student.

Tee Nee Too. He'd been in the driveway, and then vanished. Obviously, he didn't want to go.

From the bed of the truck, I turned and asked Hannah, "Are we leaving Tee Nee Too here?" 

"Um no... Tee Nee Too! Come!" 

A grinning face peered at us from between the banana trees. I motioned to him to come, and he shook his head with a smile as wide as the Pacific Ocean. The driver was pulling out now, and it looked like we were going to leave the little scapegoat behind.

I had suspicions about why he, of all people, wanted to stay. Due to suspicion and the fact that it’s Tee Nee Too, I was determined to win.

Naw Da Blet called for the driver to stop, and I shook a threatening finger towards the banana trees and yelled at Tee Nee Too: "Young man, if you do not come right now, I'm going to fail you on your English exam next week!"

Naw Da Blet translated my threat for the whole group of students—including the culprit—to hear. Before she even finished, that boy was out of the banana trees, running for the truck like someone lit a fire under him.

Hannah laughed and gave me a smack. "Heidi, you're getting as bad as them!" 

I grinned. Oh well.

Having close to 20 of you crammed in the back of an open-bedded truck, going around hairpin corners and up sharp inclines is quite the entertaining experience. I'd recommend it, actually, with the exception of one thing: motion-sickness.

I haven't gotten carsick since the first time I rode in the very back of our white station wagon. I didn't think I'd get carsick today.

But I did. Of course.

Sitting on the floor of the bed of the truck, with girls on this side and on that, a few boys here and there, and Hannah sitting with Naw Da Blet, Mu Wa Wa and Tee Nee Too on the tailgate, I got carsick. Not enough to feel like throwing up, but enough that I was pretty miserable. Great, I thought, now I'll be like this all evening.  

We arrived at the village and found out that we were waiting to start the meeting til after it got dark. There was a powerpoint presentation, see, and it needed to be dark to work. So they were going to feed us first.

There were only a few of us who were strict vegetarians: Harvey, Hannah, myself, Naw Da Blet and Thara Eh Guh Nyaw. We got situated in a little hut and had the blessing (Eh Guh Nyaw did—and he prayed in English! That's the only time I've ever heard him pray in English. Wow.) and then dug in. 

There were a few things there: a bowl of rice for each of us, a big dish of raw cucumbers and another green vegetable, some veggie curry, a soupy type of curry, and three dishes of this...stuff. It looked almost like beans, but Eh Guh Nyaw said it was eggplant. Ohhh good. I like eggplant.

I took enough to generously mix with all my rice, and then took a bite of it. 

I'd failed to realize that when you can SEE the chiles in a dish, it's going to be hot enough to blow your socks off and change your hair color. 

It was hot. Hotter than anything I'd eaten in...well, a long time. (I think the hottest stuff I ever had was pre-packaged spicy noodles from the cafeteria in OHSU in Portland: remember that, Sarah?) And the problem was that this wasn't flavor with some hot. Hot was the flavor.

I never ate so many raw cucumbers in my life. Ever. I added almost everything to that dish to tone down the flames, and it still didn't help. Harvey looked at me from across the floor and grinned. "Getting a little warm?"

"Um yeah. Just a little."

A few minutes later... "Hey though, I can't say I'm nauseated anymore!"

I felt like I was swallowing a flaming wood furnace, but I finally managed to finish the whole dish. I set the empty bowl down in a bit of triumph and continued to eat cucumber. The final extinguisher was a banana....and then another banana. By then, the carsickness--and the flames--were both gone.

The meeting went well. We sat in a little area carved out from a hillside, on mats and tarps. But even in our secluded, primitive meeting hall, we had power, lights, and a whole powerpoint presentation. I was impressed.

As it got darker, I started noticing the cold. I'd only brought my three-quarter-length jacket with me, and I tried to huddle down into it more. Nothing saves you from this penetrating cold though. I was cold clear through pretty quickly.

It was late when the meeting finished. We piled back into the trucks. I sat on the floor again, with some other girls, one of them lying in my lap. Some girls gave me a handful of huge trumpet flowers, glowing eery in the moonlight. They smelled just slightly sweet—and as I buried my nose in them, I wondered... How many more times will I have experiences like this to remember?

The truck pulled out and as we headed down the bumpy road, the whole truck bed erupted into loud singing. Like, yelling-at-the-top-of-your-voice singing. Oh, they were happy, bouncing along the dirt road, falling around corners. 

I lost a flip-flop to the hoard up front, and tried to keep a little bit warm in the nippy wind. Tilting my head back, I "considered the heavens," something it always awes me to do. The moon, not even full, lit up everything with a pale glow—from faces in the truck to leaves along the side of the road. And a sense of thrill, wonder...and sadness...filled my heart. 

Oh, the things people miss. What if my family could experience this? My friends? What if... But then, what if I never experience it again?  

We got back late. I got sick from having been out in the cold without proper attire. I still say it was worth it.

A group went up again today. Due to sickness, I stayed behind. Some time later, Thara Timothy carried a little girl up to the porch who had fallen while playing a game, landed smack on her chin and knocked herself out. She was having trouble breathing, her mouth was all bloody...and we have no nurse. 

No phones were being answered, so I ran across the road to get Lisa Sharon. She, Travis and Jason all came, the boys running and Lisa at a fast walk to save her back. Maybe a broken jaw, was the conclusion. Maybe a concussion. But hopefully no imminent danger. 

The crowd on our porch dissipated and eventually Sharon, Lisa, Travis and I were the only ones left with the little girl. We got to talking about this and that, telling stories and laughing together. 

And then Lisa looked right at me and said, "Heidi, I just can't believe that you're leaving."

I kind of laughed. But my brain didn't. I can't believe I'll be leaving either. But really, has anyone really noticed I'm here?  

Lisa then asked, "Is there any way that....you know, go home, see your family for a few months and then come back?"

I admitted this was technically possible, because my visa doesn't run out til next August. But I also added that this was technically impossible because I have no money wherewith to get back. 

Lisa looked at Travis and made a face. "That's... disgusting." We laughed.

"I want to come back, I really do," I said. "But I don't know if this is where God wants me again...I don't know if He's called me here."

Lisa smiled. "Well, you were called here..."

"Yeah, and besides, the last chapter of Matthew tells you the same thing," Travis put in, mischief in his eyes. "Actually, Mark and Luke give the same message pretty clearly too."

Again, laughter. But it made me think....

I am going home in March. To see those I love, and to share with a world that is mostly asleep about what God has done in my life...and how they can help to change another life... 

I need to go back.

But there's no law that says I need to STAY back. 

I've already known I want to come back, if for no other reason than to visit. But have I been called to give my entire life for these people, these children? I just don't know.

I do know one thing. God has a special work for me to do, in a special place. No one else can do it. Only me. 

And if I don't do it, no one else will.

I want to do my heaven-appointed work. 

The question is where is it? and what is it? Is it Thailand? Home? Or somewhere else?

Only time...and trust...and the Lord Himself...will tell. 

For now, I know where I am. 

And I still have time to leave fingerprints on this place that's already left so many fingerprints on me. 

The boys playing soccer. Oh, how I wish I could play with them! They're rough on each other, but I get this urge to run out there and play with them every time I see them. Maybe eventually.

 The sign that Brenda cleared bushes away from last week.

Walk with Hannah and Sharon.

Thara Dah Bu (on the left) and Thara Eh Guh Nyaw (on the right) between classes.

One of my sixth grade girls.

July Paw, covering her face in the typical Karen fashion, meaning "Oh! How embarassing!"

Waiting for my seventh graders...

Flowers between the school building and the chapel.

Tee Nee Too, my main antagonist.

I never thought I'd use chalk on a blackboard again after 3rd grade. Now I use it all the time.

Naw Da Blet on the way to the evangelistic meeting.

Found a semi-comfortable place to sit.

Kids.

November Paw, before she hurt herself the other night. Poor little thing...

Pastor Eh Blu Ray, before the meeting started.

Villagers in the foreground, students in the background.

Little choir members...

 Hannah and Naw Da Blet sang a song in Karen for a special music, with Tee Nee Too on the guitar.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Not Finished Yet


It breaks my heart.

So shattered that, in the sayings of an old children's rhyme, "all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put it together again."

I stand on the shores of a foreign land. I'm an English teacher. I teach 60 kids, three different classes, five days a week (unless sick or otherwise incapacitated). I'm hugging little bundles of precious Karen joy every day. Putting bandaids on wounds. Trying to learn to communicate in this strange language better.

I'm a missionary.

But having been outside of this mission field, I know what people think of this place, this work...and the workers that live here.

It scares me.

Because I know that once someone's gone to the mission field to do God's work, the rest of the world automatically lifts them up. Not necessarily intentionally, but it happens. The missionary travelling to darker lands is seen as a herald of the kingdom--invincible, infallible. Good.

I look at things from the inside out now.

I remember what I thought about the people at Sunshine Orchards.

And now, I am one of the people at Sunshine Orchards.

This trip has been one of the hardest experiences of my entire life--that of everything I brought with me, lost, found, have been learning while here. It's been the biggest blessing in growing me--making me older, bringing me closer to God's ideal.

But it's also been showing how unfit I am to be here in the mission field.

I read blog posts of those that are home still. Friends I know well. I read...and inwardly, for fear of detection, I weep.

Because those I see still at home are far more fit to be tending these children than I. To be teaching. To be, really. To just be.

Far more fit to be here.

Not me.

I don't belong here. Not with the failures I've been subjected to, not with the losses of victory I've experienced. I just don't belong here.

Before I came to Thailand, someone very near and dear to my heart told me that they were amazed at my selflessness. They were so inspired with my willingness to come and serve when so few were willing to go.

My friend, there is no such thing as selflessness in this heart.

And the willingness... I shudder to think... may very well have been pride.

The "door" to my little room just opened a few moments ago. Eh Do Paw, one of the little girls, poked her head in. When she saw me, her face lighted up and she came running in to give me a big hug, cold little cheek pressed against mine. I hugged her back, but the heart is still breaking.

I don't belong here. Someone more fit to love this little girl should be here. 

I just got my tickets home a couple of nights ago. I leave Sunshine Orchards the night of March 16, on a night bus, headed for Bangkok, where a missionary family will pick me up and take me to the airport the next evening so I can fly out at 1:20 am on the 18th.

I have less than two months.

Less.

In a way, I can't wait. I want to see my family, my friends I left behind. I want to see those I've missed for months.

In another way, I don't want to leave. The thought of leaving my kids...my adopted family, who I've been living with for these last months...and the thought of leaving hurts.

But what hurts almost more is that I feel a sort of desperation.

Desperation to get out of the way so someone better can come fill my place.

True, I have learned. And grown. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.

At the same time... oh, how I wish a more fit soul had been sent.

Point blank, I don't deserve to be here.

And it's enough to reduce me to tears.

So many other seem to have the fire that I wonder if I lack it.

But then, God doesn't call the qualified.

He qualifies the called.

I know I was called.

Heartache and all, I must confess then that God needed me here.

No matter how much better someone else would've done.

Discouragement may hang overheard...and indeed, at present, it does...

But one thing is sure.

My two more months are not up yet.

...and the Lord is not finished with me yet.

Praise God.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

It Should've Been You


I witnessed today one of the most heart-breaking scenes possible to see in this life.

As I approached the little group along the road, my throat tightened. A little company of villagers I didn't know, a few students, some of the gohlahwa teachers...and one of my seventh grade girls, crouched on the ground next to a small trailer holding the dead body of her mother.

Mah Lah Gee's mother has had a terminal sickness for some time. She was staying here at our school for awhile, but she was transferred to another place some time ago. She had asked for baptism, and Harvey and Thara Eh Guh Nyaw had been studying with her. She was still hanging on, though barely.

And then, this morning, she passed away.

Mah Lah Gee didn't even get to say goodbye.

Sharon was crouched by Mah Lah Gee, holding her, letting her cry. A few other students looked at me as I approached them and crouched down next to them both. Mah Lah Gee noticed my presence, and while sobs still rent her throat, she leaned her head on my knee while I put an arm around her.

Karen don't cry. They just don't. It isn't culturally accepted...but Mah Lah Gee cried. I had to fight to retain my own tears while her cries filled the silence surrounding her, Sharon and I. A huge truck passed us, barely a foot away since we were in the road.

Harvey suggested we move off the road, and we did so, helping Mah Lah Gee over. She stood facing the little trailer attached to the back of the motor bike and started to regain composure. Still, I wrapped my arms around her, and she clung to my arms while we stood there.

I now noticed the little trailer. Her mother was covered with a white blanket, one of the blankets that the kids had been given for Christmas. I couldn't see how a human body could be underneath the white and pink blanket--it was so small.

Thara Merciful asked Harvey to pray, and Harvey did so, voice choked and shaking. As he prayed, the tears now freed themselves from the prison of my eyelashes and blurred my sight. I hadn't known this woman at all...but I knew her daughter, and that was enough.

Harvey finished, and the villagers--which happened to be Mah Lah Gee's family--drove away. Harvey would take the rest of the students who were related up to their village in a little bit. Mah Lah Gee didn't stay, but turned and walked away.

The group dispersed from the side of the road, but I stood there and watched the little motorbike and trailer, bearing their burden away. Wind brushed my face, a bird twittered in a nearby tree and the sun glowed warm. Such beauty...it's almost mockery. 

Later, on the porch alone, I finally shed tears. It's not fair. No child deserves to lose their mother. No 16 year old girl deserves to go through this... 

But it's reality.

And reality hurts.

The picture of the little trailer, and the pink and white blanket flash across the memory again. The scene of a knot of people along the road, and a young girl, crouched in misery, pain, heartbreak as only she could know, next to the body of her mother. And my heart breaks.

It's easy to treat death lightly. We get so numbed in our culture that it becomes everyday, commonplace, ordinary.... Natural.

There is nothing natural about a young girl losing her mother like this. 

But when it's this far removed from you and your comfortable spot in the pew, it's easy to paste a religious smile on and not worry about it.

But this could be you. You crouching by the body of someone you've loved, having to face the pain of losing someone who's loved you.

It could be you.

But, because of God's mercy, it isn't.

Instead, it's a young girl in the jungles of Thailand.

I just saw a white station wagon drive past. Harvey was driving. Eh Guh Nyaw in the front seat. And a large sheet of plywood on top--for a casket.

The whole Steck family went to Mah Lah Gee's village. Due to not feeling well, I stayed home. But my heart is with them still.

Some things touch you in a way you will forever remember.

And some things, though they don't affect you directly, break your heart in a way you will never forget.

But this isn't just another story. Another blog post.

Look at it this way...

It could've been you that let a broken girl cry in their arms.
It could've been you that listened to the choked prayer of a principal for a little family, bereaved of a mother.
It could've been you that watched the little motorbike drive away.

It could've been you.

Now...

...why wasn't it?

Souls die every day. People cry every day.

Oh, yes; it could've been you.

But, more pointedly, it should've been you.

It's time.

Go.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Inheritance

I am horrified.

Horrified to a point beyond appropriate description.

Why?

I caught myself saying the unthinkable not 20 minutes ago.

"It's not really my problem anyway. I should'nt worry about it." 

I sat on the porch, read a couple of blog posts from a couple of friends, and was suddenly washed over with a sense of injustice, cruelty, thoughtlessness, insane depravity.

Not because of what I read. Because of what I realized.

And not because of someone else. Because of me.

It wasn't like I tried to get this sense. It just came.

My mind flew. A knot the size of Montana formed in my stomach. It's there still. My legs feel a little weaker than they did before--and it's not because I climbed the cement mountain home from worship.

How could I say it isn't my problem? 

My reference was to something very different and very far removed from my Thailand home, my mission here. A friend, again in need of the Lord, of encouragement, maybe even a sound spanking, was on my mind.

As I walked to worship I was pleading with God to do something in this person's life, to touch a heart and bring it back from cowardice, from the corner, to light, life, true godliness, and the perfection of the character so full of possibilities that I can see.

My heart was heavy with the sense that it was urgent--that this friend needed to act. That God had to do something before it was too late. And so I pleaded.

And after worship, as I walked back along the trail, that heaviness still in my heart, was when I said the unthinkable. This heaviness suddenly seemed silly. It was reminiscent of my inner agony at the goings on of other friends that had once been in my life. And for a brief moment, the heart rebelled. Then came the words: "It's not my problem. They aren't my problem. I shouldn't worry about it."

Someone who's loved me from birth, from the moment I came into the world, has told me before that I have too big of a heart. It cares too much--and tries to help everyone. When it was said to me, tears filled my eyes and I cursed my love for others.

No, it didn't last. But at the time, I blamed that tendency, that extra capacity to love, befriend, and be that God blessed me with, for all my difficulties, and thus hated it.

I shrink from admitting it now.

How could I say it's not my problem? 

How on earth? How?

I assure you, THIS IS MY PROBLEM.

Whether it's the friend in America who needs the Lord, or the little girl on my porch in Thailand who needs a band-aid, it is my problem. 

Why?

Why does it need to be my problem?

It's my problem because God has brought it to ME. 

Not someone else.

ME.

There have been many times I've been told to just let well enough alone. I've told myself that. "It won't do any good. I won't make any impression. They'll just ignore everything you try, take it the wrong way. It's a hopeless case--they're too stubborn."

Who am I to say someone's too stubborn, when I myself am proficient at the art, and the Lord God Almighty has been dealing with that kind of thing from me and a million others, daily, for thousands of years?

He's considered all of us HIS problem.

And of all, He didn't need to be concerned.

But He was.

Because He loved.

Because He loves.

Because He has a big heart. A heart bigger than we can know.

He's only loaned me a little of it, so I can be His words, His hands, His arms, His love, to a dying race of sinners.

How on earth could I think that shelving that piece of God's heart, and poetically saying that it isn't my problem, is being a good steward?

And this isn't just God's heart we're talking about.

This is my inheritance.

God's given me the best kind of inheritance to use and keep on this earth.

And if I'm faithful, I'll get to keep it for all eternity.

A little of His love, His heart.

And more importantly, a wealth of happy, redeemed souls, brought to the Kingdom because I took the time to consider their tears, their pain, my problem.

Tears fill the eyes, trace paths down a guilty heart. Sorrow chokes. Remorse blinds.

How could I say it's not my problem? 

God forgive this doubting sinner.

My challenge is this.

There are too many out there who say the same thing. Daily. In words and many more in actions.

How can you say it isn't YOUR problem? 

The homeless man on the street, the orphaned child on the cover of the magazine, the dying mother in the jungles of Thailand, the burdened, weary youth in America.

They are all your problem if the Lord brings them to you.

But no.

Don't call it a problem.

They aren't a problem.

This is your inheritance. 

I repeat.

They are your business. Your inheritance.

Get off your couch. Drop the remote. Throw away the bag of potato chips.

Or better yet, get out of your pew, off the platform, out of your neatly starched suit.

It's time for action.

NOW.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Unchained Dreams




I still don’t understand the why. But this has given more purpose to the who; namely, myself.

-------------

Some days ago, I tried to fall asleep with tears in my eyes. Questions seethed in my mind; the unknown, black and ominous, rose up in front of me with cold dread; and my heart cried out to Heaven. I don’t know what You’re doing or what You have in mind as the end of all of this—but whatever it is, it better be worth it.

Tears dried, mind drifted into slumber. The cry was repented of: Of course God knows what He’s doing. After all, He’s God. And too, the pain would pass.

Night deepened…and dreams swirled.

-------------

I was about to fall asleep. Honestly, I was just too tired after a long adventurous day in Mae Sot. But I hadn’t posted anything on Google + in awhile, so why not randomly post something?

Fingers traced circles on the keyboard. Nothing presented itself.

In the silence of thinking, my mind went back to the day before, when I’d woken up and realized I’d had a dream. Nothing too strange—I have dreams once in awhile: sometimes they’re weird, sometimes not.

This one hadn’t been particularly weird—unusual, sure—but it had been painful. A dream that hurt at the first; then overflowed me with joy and peace—probably the worst kind of dream there is. Happiness embraced my final sleeping moments, but as soon as eyes opened to morning, reality’s cold finger stabbed itself in my direction with the taunt, “Wake up. It is not so.”

I woke up. And it was not so.

The dream remained very real for some hours, and from there is waned til I can remember it well enough, but it seems so far-fetched, so ridiculous. Mock-worthy. So much so that my fingers now found a voice and began to speak.

“I’ve come to a conclusion. I hate dreams. Night dreams or day dreams. Those “maybe someday…” dreams. Any dream.”

I looked at the screen, debated a moment, and deleted it. Better just go to bed. I don’t need people asking questions.

I had come to that conclusion though. At that moment, I hated dreams. Any sort of dream.

Oh, I’ve had them for years. Night dreams I couldn’t control, and day dreams that I could. And plenty of those “maybe someday…” dreams. But right then, with that dream fresh in my mind and too many shattered dreams fresh in my heart, I hated them.

Every last one of them.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­---------------

Like the frosting on a cake came that sentence that pierced me to the wall and held me there like the proverbial interrogator. And I’d found it in my own inbox, no less.

Only then can we rattle the chains of those who destroyed us…

Relieve the oppressor. Not just the oppressed.

In other words, help the one who broke your heart instead of trying to heal the brokenness inside you. Make yourself vulnerable to be broken again by the very same one who shattered you. Reach out to someone who’s hurt you like no one else has.

Deliver your own destroyer.

Because only the chained can truly shatter another like that.

And only the victim can best rattle the chains of their oppressor.

It was a little too much for my mind to take in at the time. Lord, how on earth could I even possibly make an impression on my ‘destroyer’? I see no possible way.

Heaven breathed. I have a thousand ways where you only have one…

I, as a member of the destroyed (in a sense, for no one can truly be destroyed who clings to Christ), have a duty, then.

In any way that God leads me to, I am to be a chain-rattler.

Of the chains of the one who destroyed me. The one who hurt me. Shattered me. Broke me.

But I look again. Was it man, a human soul, that destroyed me?

Or was it my dreams?

If there were no dreams, there would’ve been no hurt. No brokenness.

There could be no destroying if my heart had not dreamed. For the loss of a dream would not have destroyed.

But there are people in life that have wounded this heart. Broken me to pieces. Shattered a fragile spirit. People who have very near crushed the life out of me by what they’ve said, done, been—or failed to be.

There are real humans that are my destroyers.

And they’ve only been able to so aptly destroy me because they’ve been chained, too.

I’ve been given a command to rattle those chains. The chains of the ones who shattered me.

But in order to rattle anyone’s chains, I must first rattle another set of chains that belong to a creature very different from the friends and loved ones who’ve hurt me.

My dreams.

Nothing can destroy without it first being chained. And my dreams have been chained. Confined to the premises of my heart, what I want.

Not necessarily what God wants for me.

Once freed, these unchained dreams will reveal so much more—in fact, they become what God has dreamed for me all along. God’s dreams…not mine.

If I want God’s dreams for me, I must destroy the chains that hold my dreams.

And for those chains, I hold the key.

With the help from the One who loves me best, I can spring the lock, open the gate … Unchain my dreams.

Only then can I rattle the chains of those that destroyed me.

 Working on a portrait of Maria Adam's little boy, Jabez.

 Swimming in the river.

It's unavoidable: I sit on the porch with my computer, I get an audience.

 Hiking up into the mountains on a Sabbath afternoon to some caves. What a trek that was! It was a good experience, but I felt dead when we got back.

 We climbed up through this hole in the rocks. In a skirt and flip flops, this is quite the adventure.

 A few of the girls that came with us. The one in the red plaid coat is one of my seventh graders, Naw Lah Moo.

 Leroy Sharon, having climbed up the rocks in a way I can't imagine having done myself.

 Three seventh graders in a row: Maung Soe Thin (Maw Soe Thay) in front, and the two girls behind him (which I haven't been able to put names with yet.)

 I forget his name. He is one of the few that speaks extremely good English.

 Thara Timothy climbing a vine.

 These trees are positively dangerous. Especially when you're running downhill and then reach out to slow yourself down by grabbing a tree...OUCH.

 The beginning of a Sunday adventure.

 Rachel Perry, who visited us for a little over a week recently.

 Erick Reeve, who's joined us here at Sunshine Orchards and is working on learning the language currently.

 Flag pole.

 On a hike to "find a waterfall" that we weren't sure was there...

 
Counted only 87 concrete steps on this uphill hike. Kinda pitiful compared to the 866 from our last one.

 We found the waterfall!

 Its almost an unspoken rule now--every waterfall we visit, I have to get wet in somehow.

 Bless Hannah: she figured out how to slow the shutter speed down on my camera.

 Cold? Nah. Just comfortable.

 Ready to head back down the trail.

 Back we go...

 We'd stopped the car in the middle of a Karen village, and found these boys here playing soccer. They seemed to enjoy the fact that we were watching them.

 Now then, Hannah: if you ever call me the local embarassment again for riding on top the car, you'll have to call Erick that too...

 Ready to find a picnic spot.

 When the top of the car is taken, the back works just great.

 Someone commented that Harvey was the only one on the inside of the car, so he got out. Well, sorta...

 Rachel and Brenda in the windows.

 Hannah in the other window.

 There's no better way to ride.

 Found a little wildcat in a cage at a park. He looked so pitiful--as well as the small bear that they had caged there too. Poor little things.

 One of the strangest plants I've seen in Thailand so far.

 I finally got on top. Just sounded like too much fun--although sitting in that luggage rack makes me feel sorry for the luggage.

 Stopped at a place where they had a few monkeys...

 Monkey see, monkey do...

 This white gibbon was really friendly. She liked to touch us and be scratched.

 Inge and KooKooPaw in the river.

Destiny Sharon.

 Landon Meyer, after proclaiming to me, "I don't smile for pictures." Okay then; grimace. That's fine.

 NiKoToo, one of the IMM students, after swimming across the river and back.

 One of the little girls.

 Just hoppin' around.

 Part of my Christmas box... *grin*

 Headed to a church service in Mae Salit.

 We were there for a long time. Boy, was I tired when it finished!

Special music by the choir.

 Yes, they fed us after the service. That was really good stuff.

 Hannah.

 Little Eh Do Paw.

 A Sabbath afternoon trip with some visitors to a waterfall. I don't know if they would've got in except I stormed right in with Sharon.

 They enjoyed it, although there were two other who hadn't been convinced to come in.

 He finally came in, but the other young man stayed on the rocks, high and dry.

 Even the dog got dunked.

 Paused at a couple of viewpoints on the way down. I'd been riding on the back of the car the whole time, but after the second stop, I climbed on the top to ride home. Brenda must've looked through the back window, cuz I heard her yell, "Where's Heidi?" 

One of the visitors probably pointed upwards. "She's up there."

Yes, I am. 

God grant I never come down.

Some photos taken by Hannah Steck, Brenda Steck, Sharon Steck, Erick Reeve and Rachel Perry.