When Queens Ride By

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Growing up on a farm, I was a very independent young lady and would ignite into something similar to a volcanic eruption if told that I was not able to do something that a male could. I cringed away from the idea of a woman being a wallflower, something beautiful and helpless, something to be taken care of, and petted.

While I still rise to the challenge if told I am incapable of doing something, my outlook on life as a woman has changed since I was a 15 year-old harum scarum.

The question for me now is not “Am I capable of doing this?” but rather “Is it the best option for me to do this?”

It is rare that I can point to a certain time, event, book, or person and say, “That changed my life.” Most changes have occurred slowly, like water wearing away on a rock. There are, however, several times when I can look at a certain point in time and say, “That book, or that person, or that event changed my life.” Or was a trigger for that change.

One story that was such a trigger for change was the story, “When Queens Ride By.” It chronicles the life of a couple struggling to make ends meet in their Midwestern farm. The wife sacrifices all her time in an effort to make ends meet on the farm. Life becomes a drudgery until she meets a “queen” riding by.

I am not sure how old I was when I first read this story, but it woke up a sleeping something inside of me and challenged my way of thinking. After rereading it while I was home this summer, I was again challenged. I have always been a bit of a “do as many things as possible” kind of person, trying to help here, trying to help there. While I love and appreciate beauty, it usually is not my first instinct to make my environment look beautiful or tend to details pertaining to the quality of life if there are pressing things to do, for example, as the story says, bring in the tomatoes. My first instinct would be to go without combing my hair to save time, skip breakfast or eat it on the run to save time, not bother buying a mixer if I can do it by hand and save money, etc. While my motto still is to live as simply as possible, there are times when spending a bit of time or money on the finer things of life can be an investment.

What kind of investment? An investment toward the quality of our emotional well-being. According to the University of Minnesota, living in a clean, beautiful environment can “influence your mood… impact your behavior and motivation… facilitate or discourage interactions… create or reduce stress” (Halcon).

This story challenged me, and while I still have a long way to go, it brought me to the realization of what the power of beauty and the power of a woman’s support can do. Even as a single, it made me rethink the way I live life, and the way my life affects those around me.

Read it. Savor the excellent writing style. Listen to what it speaks to you.

Here is the link:

When Queens Ride By

 

photo credit: pixabay

Source: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/environment/your-personal-environment/how-does-your-personal-environment-impa

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Impressions of a Journey

  1. Goodbyes are heart-wrenching and color my entire trip from Wichita to Dallas to Los Angeles to Guangzhao to Chiang Mai.
  2. The lady at the counter furrows her eyebrows as she searches for my visa in my passport. “We can’t let you get on the plane if you don’t have a visa and a reentry permit,” she says. I flip through the passport and find it, breathing an inner sigh of relief when she nods her head and wishes me the best.
  3. The floor of the new Wichita airport is shiny, even in the bathroom. I find it interesting that as I sit on the toilet, I can see the reflection of the person in the opposite stall. This is funny and hilarious until I remember that they can see me just as well as I can see them. I finish my business quickly and leave the room.
  4. I watch the last of Kansas soil disappear from the window of the airplane and cry. The girl beside me is heading home after a year in Ghana, working as a volunteer with agricultural projects.
  5. The plane landing in Dallas is rough. After we land the little girl in front of me loses her lunch. I offer her a bag to put in some more of her lunch, and try to hold my nose shut inconspicuously. Her mom thanks me and sighs. They have only a few minutes to catch their next flight since this flight was about 20 minutes late.
  6. In Los Angeles, I check the screen to see my flight’s schedule. Someone sneezes in the distance. An airport worker sitting close to the screen shouts out, “Bless you!” I grin at him, thinking this is probably the last time in a long time I will hear those words in relation to a sneeze. (you don’t say “bless you” when someone sneezes in Thailand. I don’t know why. You just don’t.) He grins back.
  7. 6 hours down. 8 more to go. The air is dry, the quarters are close, and I wonder if I will go crazy or not. I sleep instead.
  8. The Chinese man on the one side of me and the Vietnamese man on the other side enjoy their food with great relish and sound effects. I block it out and enjoy my food with great relish and zero sound effects.
  9. The toilet paper in the airplane bathroom has somehow unraveled several squares and is on the floor. I freshen up quickly and head back to my seat, only to look down in dismay at the foot-long trail of toilet paper that has stuck firmly to my shoe and followed me back to my seat.
  10. Someone sneezes on the plane. The Vietnamese man says, “Bless you.” I giggle inwardly.
  11. I feel good when we land in Guangzhou, China, better than I have ever felt before after a 14 hour flight. This airport and I, however, have trust issues stemming from a 17 hour layover, flight cancelations, and exorbitant food and coffee prices when I flew home in May. I begrudgingly buy a yogurt parfait since I have some Chinese yuan I have no other place to spend, but dig out my Vietnamese coffee filter I brought specially for this occasion. The airport has no cold drinking water, but hot and warm water instead. I make my coffee with the hot water and chuckle an evil chuckle to myself as I drink it and enjoy my little rebellion and protest at ridiculous coffee prices.
  12. The parfait is delicious, perfection in itself. The coffee is…. ok.
  13. I meet a Belgium man and his Thai wife. We become friends as I help him connect to airport wifi. His wife, when she learns I speak Thai, begins to ask me questions about my lifestyle and dress. Thinking I am a sister, she asks, “Can you get married?” “Yes,” I say, and wonder at her reaction. “Really?! Really?!” I don’t wonder for long. It turns out that she has very serious matrimonial designs for her 30 year old half Thai son and feels that I would fit right into that design. She goes down the checklist: I speak Thai. I speak English. I even speak some Northern Thai. I have good manners. I study at Payap, (her son is a graduate of there). She asks my age and date of birth. I fit the specifications exactly. She cannot understand why I do not jump at the chance.
  14. I still am not sure if I am ready to land in Chiang Mai yet or not, but my flight is leaving and I must board.
  15. The flight to Chiang Mai is made interesting through conversation with my backpacker seatmate. He is an intelligent conversationalist and talking with him is fun and easy. He has traveled the world extensively.
  16. The sky is beautiful. The Chinese boy in the seat behind me looks at it and says, “Hen piao liang!”
  17. Doi Sutthep greets me as we land. I feel a thrill of happiness. Eight friendly faces greet me as I come out of customs. Eight hugs make me feel welcome.
  18. I am glad to be back.

*photo credit: pixabay

Dispelling Commonly-Believed Slightly Exaggerated Myths about Young Anabaptist Females Living in and Working in a Cross-Cultural Setting in Southeast Asia

*Disclaimer: Not all of these myths or the shattering thereof are applicable to all mission workers or others in volunteer service around the globe. I speak of my own personal experience and those in my household in Asia.

*Disclaimer 2: This is not to prevent people from asking me about some of these myths. I don’t want people tiptoeing around me, afraid of saying something for fear that they voice a wrong assumption. This is only an effort to put some light on the truth of what it is like to be a young Anabaptist female living in and working in a cross-cultural setting in southeast Asia. People tend to put workers of that mold on a pedestal. Pedestals can become very lonely at times.

  1. We are strong, independent and don’t need others.

While we may appear strong and independent, it is because there may be a slight element of truth to that. We have been forced to become strong and independent or at least appear so because there are others looking to us for guidance. However, seldom a day goes by when I do not check my email, wishing for an encouraging email or a simple “hello, I am thinking of you.” I also am grateful for each and every one of the older couples on my Asian side of the world who offer me a comfortable shoulder to cry on if I need one. 28 year-olds can feel a lot like 5 year-olds at times.

  1. We don’t have personal problems or doubts

WRONG. Mission workers can be some of the most messed up people in the world. Your problems do not magically melt away the moment you step foot on foreign soil. In fact, they are usually compounded. Working in missions usually means working with people, which means the junk inside of you gets stepped on. A lot.

  1. We don’t want to get married.

This is a big one. I’ve had various friends over the years make the statement or assume that I am so focused on my work and I have so much purpose in my life that I don’t want to get married and that is why I am not married. Sure, back when I was 13 years old, I drew a picture of what my life career was going to be and it included sitting at a desk writing with cats on my shoulder and in every part of the room. I labeled it “Old Maid Writer.” While it looks like I am well on my way to that goal, I can also say that I have grown up a bit since I was 13. Yes, we are passionate about what we do, but we are also women with personal dreams and desires. While giving up work to become a wife and mother would require some refocusing of the mind, we also believe that the calling of being a wife and mother is every bit as important as being a full-time mission worker.

  1. We are living in mud huts and eating plain rice every day. We are usually scared for our lives.

Sadly, no. While I would at times prefer the mud hut to the city life I live, it’s not the case. Yes, there are some conveniences we miss about living stateside, but we really are a pampered lot. We have a microwave, internet access, mail from the other side of the world that can be delivered in about 10 days (ok yes, it does get lost at times), fast food restaurants, shopping malls bigger than anything I have ever seen in small town Kansas, coffee makers and beds to sleep in. We do experience the occasional rat or snake and food poisoning, but majority of our lives are not spent looking over our shoulder to check for a tiger or a guerilla (the human kind), and the main things that keep us up at nights are the cats fighting on the roof and the spicy Northern Thai Larb that we unscrupulously devoured at 8 PM. We even forget to lock the gate at times.

  1. We don’t get cynical or discouraged about the work we do.

Nope. See number 2.

  1. All our prayers are answered on a daily basis and we see miracles happening every day

God is the same God on that side of the world as He is in America. Sadly, we are also the same people and if we don’t let God have free rein in our lives in either place, He will not work like He wants to. Yes, sometimes more miracles may seem like they happen in foreign countries, but that usually happens when we place ourselves in situations that require a miracle. The main miracles that I see happening on a daily basis is the sun coming up and me being able to breath and live out another day without losing something or forgetting something. (ok, so that last miracle doesn’t necessarily happen on a daily basis.)

Are there any I missed?

The Train and the Little Blonde Boy

wyoming-397901_1280“Where is it going?” asked the little blonde boy.

“I don’t know,” I said.

And we stood watching as the train thundered past

On the black tracks that split the prairie in two;

Rumbling,

Streaking,

Shaking,

Shouting,

Clattering,

The vibration of its going pounding in our hearts,

Its whistle swallowing our voices,

Heading for cities, and skyscrapers, and brickyards, and stations, and cattleyards, and streets teeming with people,

Where horns honk and traffic runs thick and smog lies low on the skyline.

 

And then we were alone again, the last car a speck on the horizon

And only the echo of the whistle shivered the prairie around us,

Among the “sshhhh” of the wheat field in its heavy ripeness.

 

“Where is it going?” asked the little blonde boy.

“I don’t know,” I said.

One Year Down

Finally.

One year and 39 credit hours down.

Three more years and 87 more credit hours to go.

I had 4 exams this week. Some really stressful and some not so stressful and some that I made more stressful than I should have. Today after my last exam I crashed in the living room, slept for 2 hours and dreamt strange dreams of the randomest people coming to see me and friends at Payap getting lost, and then getting found again. I then woke up long enough to zombie my way to my dentist appointment, barely able to even enjoy the fact that the sky was the bluest I had seen in months, and that the rain of the past few days had cleared off all the smog and the mountain was entirely visible. After my appointment and some lunch, I zombied back home where I spent the afternoon sprawled on the couch, trying to revive myself. And not succeeding.

Down deep beneath the fog somewhere is a feeling of satisfaction and victory. I can’t really feel it now, but it’s there. And sometimes I just want to cry.

I kept on thinking thinking today that I felt rather top heavy. That if I moved around too fast or if someone would poke me with a pin, random information would leak out, like what the Chinese character for “mian bao” is, or what the definition is of “brand equity.” (In case you’re wondering, Chinese and Marketing are not a part of my major, but a GE course and a free elective I took this spring. My major is English Communications.)

I still have a final paper to submit next week, and a few other projects that need to be wrapped up. But tomorrow I am heading to the mountains to dip my feet in a quick-rushing stream while I sip on some hot tea or coffee. And think about absolutely nothing.

And then in about a week, I’m off for home for the summer. Home, where in a little over a month the fields will be yellow with waves of wheat and combines will be droning in the distance late at night and Chinese and Marketing exams are far, far away.

Which makes me think of this poem:

Harvest Song

And I must go down to the fields again

Through the shimmer of summer heat,

And walk through the waves of deepening gold

The oceans of ripening wheat;

Then I’ll stand on the edge where the grass still grows

Green by the amber shore,

And feast my eyes with a fierce wild joy

For the harvest is once more.

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And I must go to where the sky is pinned

To the earth like an up-turned bowl

Where the hot wind sighs its searing breath

Against my face, and I’ll feed my soul

By the wide expanse of dying wheat

That moves and ripples and flies

And sings the song of my native blood

Harvest beneath the Kansas skies.*

 

Soon I’ll be there. I can’t wait.

But for now I am grateful. Grateful for a family to go home to, and grateful for friends here who have blessed me and stood beside me, and grateful for the way God has blessed me tangibly in the last few weeks, whether in ways big or small.

Only three more years to go! 🙂

*First published in Echoes of Eternity  in 2013.

Picture from pixabay.com.

 

I Think I Shall Still Remember

When I am old and gray-haired and stooped

I think I shall still remember

How we sat on the balcony tonight

Beneath a cloud-shrouded moon

In an ocean of sky;

How our spirits sang and swooped and soared

In awe,

And how the lights glimmered on the mountain

As it listened to our song

As all mountains do.

 

Yes, I will remember how the rain, light-footed

Came dancing down, teasing us

While the wind played in our hair, sweeping

To the tune of the songs we sang.

And the raindrops rested on our glasses

Forming little half-moons in the glimmer of light

Fairy lights,

While in the distance the mountain slept

Yet in its sleep still listened to our song

As all mountains do.

 

And there was laughter and there were tears

Spun together in harmony of song

And our prayers floated up like dandelion dust

Caught in the night wind; driven by worship;

Our hearts soared to heaven and our spirits blazed

With fire,

While the mountain sighed in its sleep

And listened to us dream of heaven

As all mountains do.

My Baanies *

To the fine bunch of ladies that I do life with…. I live in a house with six other girls, all of who are volunteers at Wisdom Tree Home, where I used to work. This is a glimpse of what life looks like in our creaky old house. 

 

Oh, we live in a house of seven girls

And bonny lassies are we

Seven girls and a dog (who cries when we leave)

All footloose and fancy-free

 

Where we’re from…

Lori and Crystal speak Dutch with each other

But Lori speaks it more to the dog

Nancy speaks Platt Dietsch when she talks with her mom

And leaves the rest in a fog

Kim hails from Canada, and so does Melissa

And Brit is a Buckeye at heart

She tries to speak Dutch but Thai comes out

Her brain can’t keep them apart.

Judi comes from where it’s cold all the time

And we like the way she says “sawlt”

We mimic the Canadians and the Thais and each other

And don’t always speak as we ought.

 

On Saturdays…

Brit goes to the market

And Judi goes to the mall

Where she walks and she looks

And buys nothing at all

Melissa goes to a coffee shop

Kim goes out with a friend

Crystal goes to the pool, and Lori,

Lori does homework till her hair stands on end.

 

Oh, we live in a house of seven girls

And bonny lassies are we

Seven girls and a dog (who cries when we leave)

All footloose and fancy-free

 

In the bathroom…

When Lori’s in the shower, she studies Chinese

And Brit plays songs in Thai

But Kim and Nancy play ukulele on the floor

By the tub where the echo rings high.

Judi sings songs like “Country Roads”

And also sings the song about the rose

But the dog outside outsings us all

When he misses his friends and howls out his woes

 

What we’re like…

Judi likes to kill things like mosquitos and snakes

But spiders make Brit turn white with fear

She’ll stand on her bed and shiver and shake

Till someone comes to smash it. Oh dear, oh dear!

Lori’s in a rush and can’t find her keys

Where Kim left her laptop is quite unknown

Brit wants to take a picture to send to her dad

But now she can’t do it cause she can’t find her phone

 

At a coffee shop…

Brit likes to journal and Nancy watercolors

And Kim always makes a new friend

Crystal studies Thai and Melissa writes an update,

And Lori does homework till her hair stands on end.

Kim swigs coffee, all black, by the pot

But Judi likes hers with cream

Brit walks the line between coffee and tea

But Melissa drinks just water, or so it would seem.

 

Oh, we live in a house of seven girls

And bonny lassies are we

Seven girls and a dog (who cries when we leave)

All footloose and fancy-free

 

At night…

Brit and Melissa go to bed early

Where Brit dreams amazing things

Crystal hums in her sleep, and all the rest

Wait to go to bed till the dtukae** sings

Lori sleeps up top at the end of the stairs

Where the others fear she’ll fall out of bed

Kim sits on her balcony where she sings all night

And Crystal smacks roaches in her room till they’re dead

 

In the future….

Melissa will get married and have 8 Chinese boys

That keep her on her toes and all look alike

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Brit will adopt kids, and kids, and kids

Half of which will be two-year old tykes

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And Kim will lead worship in a Chinese town

With her husband who’s 6 foot 4

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While Judi sips coffee at her own little shop

On the edge of the Grecian shore

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Nancy will marry and move to the States

Where she’ll make fajitas like a very fine wife

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Crystal will move to Africa’s horn

Where she’ll look after orphans all of her life

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While Lori  rides her horse from village to village

As she teaches in the mountains of PaiS_4927041878515

But for now we live in this shaky old house

Together and happy, here in Chiang Mai.

 

Oh, we live in a house of seven girls

And bonny lassies are we

Seven girls and a dog (who cries when we leave)

All footloose and fancy-free

 

* “Baanies” is a play on words that comes from the Thai word “baan,” which means “home.” Instead of saying “homies” when referring to our housemates, we call ourselves the “baanies,” which is another play on words in the English language, since it sounds like “bonnie.”

** a dtukae is a large lizard like creature that likes goes “Dtu! Gaa! Dtu! Gaa!” at night.

Voiceless

Words burn within me

To tell all the others

The beauty I saw today.

The mountain’s high crest

The forest’s red haze

The foam of the river’s spray

 

A piercing of light

A wind tossed swallow

The mist of a mountain’s shroud

The boldness of color

The caress of a breeze

The wisps of a wind scattered cloud

 

But the deepest things

That are caught in my soul

In muted aching cry

Are the flash of a smile

The gleam of teeth

The light in a villager’s eye

 

A faint shy smile

A word exchanged

And laughter quick and keen

These are the treasures

That I long to share

From all that today I have seen.

 

Originally written in February of 2017, this poem came to mind after my day today.

God Hunt

I am on a God hunt.

I grab my friend’s camera, and set out on my bike, impatient, thirsty, and expectant. The western sky hangs heavy with soot red smoke and the dust stings my eyes as I drive first down the winding path behind our house, where suddenly the road pops out into a gap where a rice field lies, green and spring-like in the dying evening.

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Then I drive on, through choking Friday evening traffic, and wait at stoplights that are stonily unsympathetic to hunters who know the sun is steadily dying in the west. I watch the people around me and wonder if any of them are on a God hunt. Finally, I find it, a pocket of green field with a smoky view of the mountain and the silhouette of a church cross painted on the sky.

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I breath in deeply the greenness and savor the glimpses of the setting sun. We leave with whetted appetites and wander on and on, down twisting alleys and darkening streets, seeking for more. I find it where cows graze on withered grass in the dusky evening, and two dogs bark menacingly at the strange foreigner pointing a black thing towards their charges.

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They escort me out the alley at a furious pace, satisfied that they have succeeded in disposing of me.

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I find a place, where the country and city meet, where the light from the street lights gleams over the rice fields and calls me home.

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Soon it is too dark to snap anymore photos, which is good since I am thoroughly lost and need to focus on finding my way. Finally, I pop out on a large road close to a major university, about 15 kilometers from home. I make my way home, turning in the last road where the cool air nestles in a pocket of trees, and reach our gate, where our dog greets me.

IMG_5639 My eyes are dry and burnt by smog, my back is tired from driving, but I have found beauty, and where beauty is, God’s hand has been.

Beauty is God’s poetry.