I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

One of my favourite things to do is sit at my sewing machine and work on a new article of clothing while listening to a podcast.  My sewing area is outside so I get a little bit of a breeze and if I get a full twenty minutes of uninterrupted work, I am in heaven!

Today, I listened to a speaker talk about suffering and what it means to follow Jesus.  It’s something that is near to my heart at the moment as I am praying through how to disciple my kids in a way that God is real to them.  I want them to understand from a young age about what it really means to follow Christ.

I’ve been listening to a lot of teachings on suffering and it’s the first thing I want to share with my children – following Jesus does not mean that you will never suffer.  It doesn’t mean that bad things will never happen to you.  The Bible even goes so far as to say that we should consider it pure JOY when we face suffering.  It might seem a little doom and gloom to teach this to a first grader and kindergartener and of course I will point them to the truth that God is always with us and promises that He will never leave us but I think it’s really important for kids and young Christians to know that life will not be smooth sailing once you decide to follow Jesus.

It kind of reminds me of marriage in some ways.  It does young people absolutely no good to extol the virtues of marriage without ALSO telling them how hard it will be.  I’ve witnessed this too many times and our culture is literally saturated with false expectations of love.  I listened to a lyric this week in a pop song (we’re so out of the loop here culturally I have no idea who actually sings it! haha) that basically said that the love interest was going to save the person’s life.  Yikes!  No wonder so many young men & women are sorely disappointed once they get back from the honeymoon and real life sets in.  And we do it in the church too.  We talk about the excitement of the wedding and about where the couple wants to honeymoon and we might slip in a “Marriage takes work” but do we really get into the nitty gritty?  Young people…get thee to a mentor!!  This should be a prerequisite to getting married!  Older couples….be available!  Be honest; share the wonderful things about marriage but don’t, please don’t, leave out the hardships.  They will come and if all we ever talk about are the advantages….our young people will think there is something very wrong when the storm hits.

The same principle applies to following Jesus.  We have to be honest and real and hopefully our honesty will prepare our young people for the times when suddenly following Jesus isn’t so easy and there are things happening in their lives that are difficult and painful.

I had to learn this myself recently as I walked through a period of hardship where I just didn’t understand what God was trying to tell me.  My thought was that something was obviously very wrong if we were experiencing such hardship.  I invented all sorts of problems in my mind before God finally said “I told you you would endure trials.  There doesn’t have to be anything wrong.  You just need to turn to me and learn to rest in me.”

As per my last post, I have a hard time “resting”.  I like to tackle problems.  I am a list-making, google-searching, article-reading problem tackler.  And God has been telling me to stop.  Stop and seek Him.  Stop and rest.

I’m looking forward to talking about some of these things with my kids this week.  It’s a big responsibility to disciple our children in a way that makes them want to know more about Jesus and to stick with this thing throughout their lives.

 

 

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Let the Little Children Come

Thursday nights are chaotic around here.

The neighbourhood kids start showing up around 4:30 for English class and usually stay til around 6:30.  We can keep their attention for studying for about a half an hour so the rest of the time is games, sports, crafts and just all around craziness.  It’s perfect.  I love having a house full of children; laughing and chasing each other.  It’s awesome for our kids too; they’ve made some great friends and I love hearing them trying out their Khmer as they attempt to communicate.

I know each of these kids by name.  They call me “Ming Ashley” – Aunt Ashley – and come running to hug me when they arrive.  They love to watch me bake or sew or do just about anything.  They always have lots of questions and I am happy to chat with them.  They are patient when I mispronounce a word and helpful when I don’t know one.

I’ve always been a “kid” person.  I volunteered and led Sunday schools and kids groups as a teen and young adult so I’m not the kind of person you have to remind about how precious kids are.  Except that it just kind of hit me again.

 

I guess I found myself measuring success by other standards and I got a wake up call today.  There’s a push in our “work” for results.  We have to relay what is happening in our ministries to supporters and partners and there should be some evidence of “fruit” – or some indication that something is happening.

I listened to a teaching this week from Francis Chan about “The Vine”.  At one point in the video, he says “the branch/vine does not have to work to produce fruit; it simply stays attached to the tree and fruit happens”.  I don’t know if that hits you like it hit me but I was really struck by that.  I am a doer by nature.  I kind of love projects.  I always have a list of projects on the go – sewing, painting, rearranging the entire house (Chad frequently comes home and asks “WHAT did you do?!”)

Sometimes, I want to approach ministry/serving the same way.  “Ok God, this is what I am going to do.  These are the results I want.  I’m going to make this list and raise these funds and do this and that and etc etc….”.  I’ve learned quickly that God’s timeline is not always our own and the things that we characterize as valuable are sometimes not what He sees as such.

We had visitors here recently and while we were talking about what we do and the presence we have in our neighbourhood and the neighbourhoods that we are involved in with Asian Outreach, our friend remarked that it’s a long, slow process – a life journey if you will.  It’s not flashy or glamorous; it’s every day life lived with intention (with a cow crossing here and a fried frog on a stick there).

We’ve always kind of known this;  that we’re in it for the long haul.  But to hear it said brought to mind two things for me.  One, our journey is relational in nature.  We will be involved with projects but it’s the relationships that we develop that truly matter.  Those relationships will give us the opportunity to speak life and hope into people’s lives.  Relationships take time.  And two, we need to constantly be searching our hearts to make sure our “results” are the ones that God wants.  Not ours, not even our churches, supporters and friends…but God’s.

To bring it all around again, the push for success or results can sometimes bypass the little things that are important.  Like kids.  I was reminded tonight about what every children’s worker already knows….kids are precious and the chance to speak into their lives should never be taken for granted.kids

Tell the Story

Today I sat with four young ladies from the States who are in Cambodia to research and study fair trade and how it works (and doesn’t work).

We walked down the dirt road to SreyRohm’s house waving at neighbourhood kids who greeted us with chorus’ of “hello!”

SreyRohm and I shared with them about how the sale of Hope Family’s products directly benefit the lives of the women that are involved.  They asked lots of great questions and we talked about the demands on women in developing nations, and encouraging national leaders, and creating sustainable business that values the women & families involved.  We also talked about consumerism and the drive in most developed nations to have “stuff”.

They admitted that they had taken in so much in the last six days that they were just still trying to process it all.

I realized as we chatted that many of my thoughts have been moulded by our time overseas.  On a small scale, I have a deeper understanding of the value of something.  I know the woman that made that dress.  She has a husband and three small children to care for.  She has to go to the market daily as she doesn’t have a refrigerator to keep her food.  She is expected to make all her meals from scratch and keep her house clean and look after her children and than, when everyone is bed, she will stay up til 1:00 or 2:00am to be able to do some sewing to bring in an income for her family.

On the larger scale, God has shown me something about our role in relation to the people He has sent us to serve.  I am not a foreigner.  I am a sister in Christ supporting and encouraging my brothers and sisters in Christ and being a light where He has placed me.  I expected to feel like a stranger here…but I don’t.

The girls today mentioned that they loved the organic way in which our life and relationships were playing out in response to a need that was identified in our community.   It reminded me that we do have a story to tell.  I forget that sometimes.  It’s kind of a part of our job description…..to tell the story.  I wish everyone could visit so they could see firsthand but since that’s not possible; it’s up to us to share what God is doing in a way that impacts and touches people.

And so, we will endeavour over the next few months to share stories of how God is moving and what it means to serve in a context such as ours.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

You Matter

I apologize in advance as I don’t know exactly how this entry will end.  I usually have a plan when I write but this morning I will write simply from my heart.

This week I received news of the suicide of a young girl I once babysat.  She was 20 years old.  I haven’t stopped thinking of it since; it seems impossible.  She was young and beautiful, was studying at university and had oodles of friends.  From the outside, she led a charmed life.

I started jotting down some ideas a few weeks ago about how we matter to each other.  People I mean.  I meant to turn it into a blog entry but I just never got around to it.

You know, life can get hectic.  I know…I have 4 children under the age of 6.  Our jobs, our homes, even our ministries and projects can consume us.  It’s not that we don’t care, most of us do truly care, it’s just that we’re busy and distracted.

Friends, some of the things we put the most energy into are things that will pass away.  The ONLY thing that matters in the end is people; relationships.  Your spouse, your children, your neighbour, your co-worker, that girl sitting on the sidewalk crying…THEY are what matter.

How we love is the most important thing we can do in this life.  I believe it was how God intended for us to reach people.  To care, truly and deeply.  To ask the difficult questions and to listen to the answers.  To expend ourselves for others; to be available to those who are hurting and need encouragement.  To look outside of our circumstances and see who God is putting in our paths to reach out to.

Those of us who have lived through the questioning years, through the unsure years and have come out the other side…we OWE it to the younger generations to be there for them.  It is God’s own design.  Never underestimate the impact you can have on a young life and never get too busy to be a mentor or a friend.  Talk to them, listen to them, take them seriously.  LOVE them.

It was my own children clamouring for the attention of a young friend of ours that really drove this home for me.  Now, I do A LOT with my children…I mean, I spend every day caring for them, listening to them, engaging them in conversation, planning activities, going on outings, I even homeschool!!  They are not lacking for attention by any means.  Yet, I watched as they hopped eagerly from foot to foot, each one trying to talk over the other to keep our friend’s attention.  We matter to one another.  YOU matter!

I wish I could have been there for Jenepher.  In that moment, when she believed that she just couldn’t take it anymore, I wish I could have held her and told her how precious she was and how valued she was by our Father.  God, help me never to miss an opportunity to show your love to someone who needs it.

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U is for Unity

Just a quick thought for this evening (day, if you are in the western hemisphere)….this past Sunday we sang “Did You Feel the Mountains Trembling”.  An oldie but a goodie.

But this time these lines jumped out at me:

“When all the saints join in one song”

“And all the streams flow as one river”

It impressed upon me again the importance of unity.  Unity within the BODY…not just the church or the denomination…but the Body.

I used to love playing in streams as a child.  We have one on my parents’ property that meanders through the fields.  I loved taking the kids to the stream to play when Evie was a newborn and they never tired of throwing pebbles into it’s clear waters or chasing water spiders in it’s shallow curves.  It was a gentle stream but not all are alike.  Some run quickly and cascade over waterfalls and rapids.  Some are murky with sand bottoms while still others are cold and clear.

I’m sure you can see where I am going with this.  Just as the streams will flow as one river so too are we, believers, different as we all are, to join together as one in purpose.  The next line in the song says that we shall wash away our brokenness.  What a beautiful picture.  In our unity, we will be renewed.

Blessings, Sacrifices & Horse Manure

I hesitated before I titled this blog but it just stuck in my mind so I decided to go with it 🙂

It’s a lovely Saturday morning here in Cambodia.  There’s a cool breeze which has been lovely.  The cooler weather starts at the end of November and lasts until about mid-to-end of February.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve had a bit of writer’s block.  There’s no shortage of things to say and perhaps, maybe, that is why I’ve struggled to put things into words the last couple of months.

I wanted to share a little story with you though.  I don’t know if it will be as profound to you as it was to me; one’s own revelations seldom are, but I will try anyway and hope that the essence of it will speak loud enough.

I have always loved horses.  I grew up in a horse family.  My siblings and I spent our childhood on horseback, gallivanting all over the countryside.  It was bliss.  It was freedom.    It was hard work.  Horses were not a luxury for us; they were a lifestyle.  We mucked stalls and hauled water buckets and tended injuries.  I thought I would always be a horse person.  It was in my blood.  I thought I would carry on in the family business and ride and teach for a living.  I actually couldn’t imagine any other life.

I won’t bore you with all the details of how that did not come to pass.  It was very difficult at times but somehow I came out the other side satisfied and fulfilled and not regretting anything.  Save for one thing.

Our move across the world meant that my children would not have those hazy, summer days on horseback; slogging around the farm, learning the value of the outdoors, of caring for an animal, of hard work.  It was all those things from my childhood I remembered so fondly.  The smell of horse in your hair, pieces of hay stuck in your clothes, bone tired from working outdoors all day.  It burned in my chest a little but I knew the sacrifice and I knew where God was calling us.

We spent our first year in Cambodia without ever seeing or touching a horse.  Oh there was lots to discover and a new life to carve so the absence wasn’t really noticed.  That life was no more.  Or so I thought.

Two weeks ago we met a French/Khmer man who is the landlord of a house that we are looking to rent.  He wanted to meet our family so invited us to a BBQ at his house which is about 5 minutes away from both the house we currently live in and the house we are hoping to move to.

While there, he asked us to take a walk around the grounds.  He owns several parcels of land that are all connected.  As we are walking, we notice that there is horse manure on the ground.  Surprised, we asked him about it and lo and behold, he has two horses and a little barn out back in one of the adjoining properties.  You can imagine the horse talk that went on for a while after that as my sister Scarlett, who runs the family horse business back home, was also with us.

Our new friend admitted that he enjoys horses but doesn’t really know much about them.  He also went on to say that he wants someone with knowledge to come out and teach some of the kids in his neighbourhood about horses and how to ride.  Mr. V, I will call him, has a big heart and a big love for his country.  Some of the kids in his neighbourhood, too poor to continue to go to school, need something to occupy their time and give them some purpose.  Already, Mr. V has put aside some land and cleared a volleyball court and riding area for the kids to use.

So guess who is now teaching riding lessons twice a week?!

I really wanted to add a huge line of exclamations to that last sentence!

First, I want to point out how unusual it is to find riding horses ANYWHERE in Cambodia (save for a few ranches spread far & wide around the country that do horseback riding for tourists).

Second, most horses are in the provinces.  Not a 5 minute drive from the edge of town.

And lastly…..isn’t our God so good?  I hope it doesn’t seem too trivial from the outside.  This was a desire that I had; that my kids would be able to have all the benefits of being around the farm and around horses, and I had resigned myself to the fact that that was something that we were leaving behind.   Seriously.  Blown.  Away.

And the best thing about it is that even in this small, seemingly unimportant thing…God will be glorified.  This is an amazing opportunity to build relationships in this community.

It drove home to me again that our Father, the creator of the Universe, the One who put the stars in place….He cares about the small things.  He sees our hearts.  He knows our desires.  And He cares.  It’s such a little thing; probably even a little baffling to others and not even something I would outwardly talk about but my God….He cared.

Oh, and Mr. V said we could come out any time to ride 😉

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Happy New Year!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and since I’ve had a bit of writer’s block this past month…here you go 🙂

Hope Family Christmas party

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Christmas celebration at Sen Sok village

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Pizza party at Teen Challenge centre

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New Christmas Eve tradition – building a nativity

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Christmas morning

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Christmas celebration at Teen Challenge men’s centre

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SreyRoat, the onsite director at Teen Challenge women’s centre, and her son David

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It would not be Christmas in Cambodia without a dance…or two….or three!

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Little friends

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Checking out the countryside at the centre

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Daddy and the kidlets

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Malee

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Photobomb by Nene

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Birthday party on New Year’s Eve

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Evie wasn’t so sure about sitting on Yiay’s lap

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Pic with the birthday boy, his mom, and great-grandmother

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Chad & Hun

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Sharing some special time with Nana

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Fun in the sun with Clicker

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