I’m back! Or more specifically, I’m trying again. Life got very overwhelming last year, and I had to make some cutbacks, so unfortunately this blog had to take a backseat as well. This year looks like it will be pretty busy as well (I’m looking forward to my wedding, as well as up to three potential international trips), but I will make a strong attempt to keep this going, even if I have to cut back to once or twice a month instead of every week. You wonderful people deserve it! So sorry to keep you waiting this past year.
This week’s picture makes me think of reflections. As I looked out those windows in Indonesia, I thought about where I had been and what lies ahead, and now I am doing the same. This last year has seen Andy and I losing employment, gaining it, losing it, etc. Currently he has found a job and I am still looking (yet another reason why I actually have time to write again!). We are planning our wedding for this spring (finally!) and hope to be heading overseas again shortly afterward.
Together, we’ve had quite the year! Both of us have been very involved in our Toastmasters clubs, with me becoming an officer and taking part in a humorous speech contest, and Andy becoming the very first non-inmate to join a prison club! Andy has kept busy ministering in the prison in various ways, as well as leading tours and working on archive preservation at the historic Harrison House. Of course I can’t mention Andy without his favorite sports, running and archery. This year, he has been teaching me to shoot with him, and he completed his 10th full marathon and 20th half-marathon, earning himself a place in the Marathon Maniacs club (Think: hotel discounts for life!). We’ve also added to our respective families. I took in a stray black cat, Ninja, and adopted a second kitten to keep her company (Leo). And yes, that means there will be occasional cat pictures for you as well! *giggle*
For 2014, we don’t know what it may hold, but we do know God is faithful to lead us. We’re excited for the new adventures that await us… and hopefully they will come with plenty new photos to show you! Thanks everyone for sticking with me. Here’s to a great 2014!
What’s your biggest hope for the new year?
What impression of this woman do you get from the picture? Is she tired? Lonely? Deep in thought? Does she have friends or family nearby she’s waiting on? Now go a little deeper… what’s her name? What’s her home life like? Does she believe in God? What does she do for a living? What are her dreams?
This leaves a lot up to the imagination, doesn’t it? If you assume she is homeless or a beggar, it’s easy to believe her family could be dysfunctional. What if you assumed she was just tired, worn out from a long day at the market with her friends and needing to rest her feet? Her life would seem joyful and exciting. What if you believed she was praying? Would you see her as a woman of faith? Any of these could be true.
Now think about the people you meet every day. What assumptions do you make about them? We often get partial information about people – we know their names, jobs, or families – but how often do we dig deeper? Do we really see what motivates those around us? Or do we make our conclusions based on what we’ve seen, coupled with the reasons we make up?
Ninety-nine percent of conflicts are the result of mismatched expectations. Often, we expect people to react to life based on the unconscious assumptions we make about them, whether they are close to the truth or far from it. So it’s wise to continually re-evaluate our opinions of others. Let them tell their story. Let them share their dreams & passions. Maybe you’ll see them from a different perspective.
When was the last time you made an assumption about someone and were proved wrong?
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 200 • f 3.5 • 1/1000 sec (both photos)
(Note: This panoramic was created by digitally stitching two photos together)
Everyone needs time to relax, and this globe-hopper is no exception! I took this photo at the Suan Bua Resort in Chiang Mai, Thailand, during a week of rest (and more exploration). While scenic pathways, Thai massage, and colorful butterflies & flowers are a good way to relax, Chiang Mai offers many more options for the more adventurous traveler.
Chiang Mai is the unofficial captial of northern Thailand, and a haven for Western tourists and retirees who want to visit somewhere with a temperate climate, good exchange rates, and lots of people who speak English. I had a tour guide who obviously loved her job, and she showed me some of the usual tourist destinations like the Tiger Kingdom, Maesa Elephant Camp, jungle zipline tours, a hill tribe trek, and a butterfly & orchid farm.
“The locals say you’ve not experienced Chiang Mai until you’ve seen the view from Doi Suthep, eaten a bowl of kao soi, and purchased an umbrella from Bo Sang,” claims one tourist site. When I was there, the locals talked about visiting the ruins of the old city wall and moat, shopping at the night bazaar, getting an authentic Thai massage, and checking out their most famous Buddhist temple, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. All of it sounds good to me! 😀
What is the most unique tourist site you’ve seen while traveling?
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 7.0 • 1/220 sec
This week’s picture reminded me of the journey we are all on. Life can take us through both good times and hard times, and both are needed to grow. Several months ago, I wrote a post about the goodness of God in natural disasters. What about when the struggles are personal? Is He there for us then as well?
This past week included some of the hardest moments I’ve had in years. I spent hours begging God for answers, getting upset at His silence, or waiting quietly in expectation. Finally, despite my frustration, I took time to worship. I’m a music freak, so for me that means cranking up the volume to 11 and dancing. I barely made it through the first song before I was at His feet, crying. I saw that in my time of struggle, I had simply forgotten who He was.
“He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”
(Psalm 146:7-9 & 147:3-4 NIV)
God does all these things, but not always on our schedule. Sometimes His healing takes time, and sometimes His justice comes to the world when we are not there to see it. Other times, He just holds us close and lets the pain help build character in our lives. IMHO, brokenness sucks. Yet sometimes I need to remember that Jesus went through the same things – willingly! – in order to be there for me when I’m hurting. Not only that, but He promises to use it for something good… someday.
What pain are you going through right now? Can you see God working through it?
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 400 • f 3.5 • 1/1600 sec
Cruising the streets in Thailand, I kept seeing these flooded fields everywhere. I thought it was just the after-effects of monsoon season, but soon I learned the flooding was intentional. These Thai people we saw were rice farmers.
Rice is an interesting and essential crop, second only to corn (maize) in production worldwide. It is so important to some Asian cultures, that they even have annual celebrations or gods devoted to rice. Growing rice is such a labor-intensive process, it is most common in countries where workers are cheap and easy to come by. Many Asian communities still harvest rice by hand, though machinery is become more commonplace.
What makes rice-growing unique is the need for lots of water. Rice plants thrive in wet and hot environments, so part of the growth process involves keeping the seedlings under water for most of their early life. This also minimizes the amount of weeds and pests that can attack the young plants. Most of the rice paddies I saw did not need a complicated irrigation system to pull this off. They just built dirt walls around sections of the field, and let them fill up with water during the heavy rains. I got the chance to walk out on one of these walls, and was amazed at how strong it was, even though it was only about a foot thick.
Ok, fess up! What’s your favorite flavor of rice?