More photos…

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Anna holding Baby Gaga at the Hua Hin Wildlife Park.  Not part of the animals on exhibit, but a special moment provided for us that we relished!

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We dined at five-star hotels (that would be Raffles Le Royal) and from street vendor carts (green papaya salad and chicken satay!) with equal delight.

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Held the cutest (real!) baby bunnies in the cutest little dresses at the night market (no, we didn’t buy one)

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Rode an elephant…yep, we’re really on one, but we only got his rear end in the photo.

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Anna just after the monkey gang took her first bag of shrimp chips (rather agressively), and the nice mannerly monkey who got the second bag all to himself.

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Just before lights out and “I love you”, Anna stays connected to friends far away…

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A few shells taken home to serve as reminders of equally beautiful and unique days.

Anna’s Visit

Image Joyous greeting at airport! 

I am hardly able to write about the lovely time Anna and I had while she was here.  It is so precious to me and was such a multi-faceted gift that I resist reducing it to words.  The first thing almost everyone notices about Anna is how beautiful she is.  As her mother, I am only occasionally aware of her outer beauty.  I was with Anna from the moment of her birth and, as a typical mother, have focused on her personality, character, spiritual and mental development.  I am here to tell you…that girl is TRULY beautiful…inside and out!

I confess that I was a little anxious before she came, wanting everything to be just right and wanting her to be glad that she took the time, money and energy to visit me.  I knew she had certain things she hoped would happen…small things like see monkeys, ride an elephant, find some good bargains and cool stuff in a night market, see the famous Angkor Wat and really relax.  While I am learning my way around, I wasn’t sure I could make all that happen and I just did not want to disappoint her.  I did my best to set an itinerary so that stuff might happen; the rest was up to Providence.

Wow!  Together we were taken aback by the way each day delivered not only what Anna hoped for, but beyond what we both could have imagined.  We lived in the moment, relishing each experience and one another’s presence.  We had light hearted moments…getting caught in a rain storm, killing cockroaches, getting our nails done, massages on the beach.  Scary moments…a troop of monkeys aggressively trying to get a bag of shrimp chips from Anna’s handbag, allergic reaction to some kind of fish akin to crab, and every time we crossed the street in this crazy traffic!  Precious moments…holding a docile baby monkey and baby bunnies dressed in cute little clothes, seeing the swimming pool in Bangkok where Anna and Rachel, preschoolers at the time, and I hung out waiting for daddy Hal to  join us when he would arrive home from work, and quietly watching the brief, but glorious sunsets over the south China sea.  We had important conversations about God, marriage, family, cultures, friendship, work and the future.  And it was just so lovely to whisper “I love you” at the end of each day just before we’d drift off to sleep with so much depth of feeling, rooted in a lifetime of old and now new, fresh experiences together.

Of particular pleasure and poignancy to me, was Anna’s genuine interest in my life here.  She met most of the significant players…neighbors, friends, tuk-tuk driver gang, workers at all my frequent hangouts, most of my staff, my boss Bronwyn, even some clients.  In each setting she was engaging and her genuine interest in each person and all aspects left me feeling like she now knows and appreciates my life here.  Beyond what that says about the truly beautiful and gracious person Anna is, it allowed both of us to acknowledge the clear value and significance of my being here, far away from her, for an undefined period of time.  This settled a little heavily on us.  As the facing of harsh reality often forces, we turned to God for the ability to accept the pain that our separation causes.  We agreed together to trust Him, especially in the absence of one another, to be our source of a lasting and deeply satisfying sense of belonging and belovedness.  I suspect that, in His mysterious and merciful grace, this actually produces an intimacy and bond between Anna and me that surpasses anything we could produce of our own will or design. I am counting on it.

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Very serene faces & pretty toes compliments of really wonderful massages and pedicures!

Image  Image Sunrise (with coffee!) at Angkor Wat and “Temple of Doom” ruins

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Really relaxing, my toes on the left, Anna’s on the right…South China Sea in the distance!

More photos to follow….

On Work

In my effort to balance work and the rest of my life here I landed on a scripture from Ecclesiastes 4:5&6 – The fool folds his hands and ruins himself.  Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.  This seemed wise and when set against Paul’s advice in Colossians 3:23 – Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…  Well, the Ecclesiastes advice seemed more reasonable, and a better recipe for sustainability.   So I have been careful not to work overly-long hours, to take leisurely lunches which frequently include a nap and to make sure that I and my staff leave the office at 6:00 promptly, no matter what kind of project deadline we are up against.

I have since then had second thoughts.  When I saw a mouse scurry into my bedroom a couple of mornings ago, it really bothered me.  The more I thought about that little guy in there and anticipated spending the night with him, I became determined to get him out.  That evening I called on the woman who cleans my flat to help me.  She speaks no English and my Cambodian is very limited so I looked up the word ‘mouse’ in my Khmer dictionary and communicated to her that there was one in my bedroom and we set about trying to get him out.  He eluded us several times.  I would go in and close the door and start moving stuff around and spot him, then scream and send her in to get him.  She would look and not be able to find him.  So I would go back in and spot him, scream and get her to come in again.  This went on until I could tell that she was losing interest in helping me.  I started to panic, thinking that if she abandoned me, I might have to do it myself or just try to ignore him.  This was unthinkable to me, so I just insisted that she stay with me.  In the end he escaped and we found him behind the refrigerator, which is close to the back door, which I opened and out he ran.

Afterward I thought about the difference in our motivation to get that mouse out of my bedroom.  I think she had the ‘one handful with tranquility’ motivation.  I had the ‘work at it with all your heart’ motivation, and I really wanted her to have that as well.  My mother used to have a plaque that said something like the difference between how long “just a minute” is depends on which side of the bathroom door you are on.  I think these are related thoughts.

So today, Easter Sunday, when I had so carefully planned to enjoy my Christian holiday in this Buddhist context, I got an early morning call notifying me that our subcontractor had accidently broken a water pipe that flooded our clients entire second floor and the first floor neighbors offices as well.  I was tempted to go the ‘one handful with tranquility’ route and let someone else take care of the problem, but remembered my mouse experience and headed for the job site to help ‘with all my heart’.  It was a good day, and now, as I realize that I didn’t have a minute to think about the fact that I am far from home, not with family or making Hal’s favorite mustard sauce for the Easter ham dinner, I can even see how the distraction was a gift to me.

Daughter Anna arrives in four days!  We have all kinds of plans that will include ‘two handfuls of tranquility’ for a few days on the southern coast of Thailand.  More from me probably after her visit, I plan to soak up every minute of her presence.

Pool Party

Since my last posting I have endeavored to hear a fresh answer to “what am I doing here?”  Our Lord, my Beloved, is so faithful.  It as if He were just waiting for me to pose that question so He could show me at least some partial answers.  I get the feeling that there is so much more He would like to show me, but my capacity is very limited.

The Chapel Hill team returned for a few more days and I spent every minute I could with them.  We continued to enjoy a time of discovery and celebration of what God is doing here in Cambodia.  I relished getting to eavesdrop on their debrief time with our ministry partners in Poipet.  As they shared I felt the Lord affirm my work and presence here and confirm His intentional love for this nation and her people, all of them.  The highlight of this affirmation was a totally wet and wild pool party the last evening the team was here.  Most of my twenty staff and the seven member Chapel Hill team squeezed into the tiny guest house courtyard and ate, drank and made merry.  I had about twenty minutes of thinking I had made a big mistake planning a pool party.  Most Cambodians can’t swim, don’t own a swimming suit and don’t really like to get in the water.  (I know it seems strange to me too since the only urban outdoor relief from the heat during the day is a dip in a pool.) 

With a little coaxing though, the fun-loving group-mentality of their culture took over and soon the pool was packed and the laughing was non-stop.  I so appreciated the Chapel Hill team and their gracious engagement, whether leading games, having quiet side conversations, tidying the food table or just watching the fun with a ready laugh.  In the end, when everyone was totally ‘raisin fingered’ we said our goodbyes and my staff took off one by one into the hot muggy night city streets in wet clothes on their ‘motos’  with wide grins and happy memories.  I cannot begin to explain how this blessed me.  I believe my overflowing sense of joy was of the Spirit.  Somehow what happened is so close to what God has planned for us that He was saying in my heart “That’s it, right there…my Kingdom!”

 

I am homesick.

The Chapel Hill team arrived this week and I spent three breakfasts and evenings with them while they were in Phnom Penh before they left for northwestern Cambodia.  While they saw projects and genocide museums during the day, I worked and then we ended each day in the pint size swimming pool at the guest house where they are staying right next to my office.  I had forgotten how lovely it is to be with ‘my own kind’.  The easy conversation, shared humor, common reference points, how quickly we can go deep, and then lighten-up; it is all so very comfortable.  The playful banter, silly showing off and good natured competition in the pool parallel the relational dynamics.  When they drove away on Saturday morning I fought tears, went to work for a few hours, and finally gave in to the tears when I got home from work.  I just miss home, miss my old life, and miss the fellowship, friends and fun of my old life.  I can’t help but ask myself ‘what am I doing here?’

Of course I can retrace the decision-making process and figure out how I got here, but I need a new, fresh answer to ‘what am I doing here?’  An answer that holds up to ‘why don’t you just go back home?’  I am waiting for that answer.  In the meantime, one of pleasures of the team arriving was all the goodies they brought with them (thank you to all who sent such thoughtful little packages!) and the additional suitcase I packed before I left, knowing they would be coming along soon. 

One of the books that came in my extra, to-catch-up-with-me suitcase is Timothy Keller’s ‘The Prodigal God’.  Regarding our longing for home, he states this, “home is a powerful but elusive concept.  The strong feelings that surround it reveal some deep longing within us for a place that absolutely fits and suits us, where we can be, or perhaps find, our true selves.  Yet is seems that no real place or actual family ever satisfies these yearning, though many situations arouse them…The memory of home seems to be powerfully evoked by certain sights, sounds and even smells.  But they can only arouse a desire they can’t fulfill.”  In the end, Keller explains how Jesus came to bring the human race Home.

I am pondering this as I go through the motions of my day, feeling somewhat detached, and like the novelty of it all is wearing off.  I realize that this report may arouse concern for me, but I encourage you not to worry, but to join me in prayerful pursuit of the answer to ‘what am I doing here?’, wherever you are, for yourself as well.  I suspect your answer might somehow help me to find mine.