Tag Archives: childhood

Yes, Virginia, there is a God

“Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”

As I sat on my balcony this morning, sipping my gingerbread coffee and sampling my scrambled eggs, I realized I couldn’t see the mountain that’s just a few miles from my apartment. The mountain, except for mornings like this, is always visible and is my landmark in Chiang Mai.

I woke up to mist, rain and clouds. The rain is what obscured the mountain from my perch. Do I doubt that the mountain is there, just because I can’t see it right now?

No.

This mountain has been a stalwart in my life. From when we first moved to Chiang Mai when I was a 10 year old who wore jumpers and side ponytails, to my 17-year-old self who wore Soffe shorts and Grace International School athletic gear and finally, to my 23-year-old self who wears wrinkly shirts and flip flops, the mountain has been a reminder of God’s majesty. I’ve learned a lot about the Lord from this mountain.

Virgina O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun, asking if Santa Claus existed. Her friends told her he didn’t exist. The only place he seemed to exist was in and on “Miracle on 34th Street.” Virginia had never seen Santa, so how was she to know he existed?

I’ve heard many people say, how do I know God is real? I have never seen him.

“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see,” Francis Pharcellus Church, the editor of the New York Sun, wrote.

“They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge,” Church continued.

Skepticism has taken the place of a child-like faith.

I couldn’t see the mountain this morning. Yet, it is there. I’ve had mornings when I sit and gaze at the mountain, feeling so close to God. I’ve had great times spent in the Word gazing at the mountain. It’s easy to believe when everything is spelled out, when we are having a mountain-top experience.

When the rain comes, when life isn’t as clear and spelled out, it’s harder. But the rain is needed, just as the earth needs rain to grow and flourish, so also do we need rain.

Rain nourishes. It isn’t always pleasant. Times of growth in our life, where we are stretched and when hard lessons come, help us become more like our Creator. They are for our good. The mountain is still there in these times of growth, during rainy seasons. God is still there during hard times. He may feel farther away than He did when you were on the mountain top, but He is so close, He is always there, as a strength and support.

He’s proved this is all of our lives, if we are willing to be honest. We choose to ignore the mountains sometimes, or forget they are there. But they are there. You can’t pretend the Himalayas aren’t there. You may forget, but they’ve been there much longer than you have. Just as the mountains have always been in our world, since God created them, God has always been there. He wants to have a relationship with you.

“Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see,” Church wrote.

Isn’t that true though? The most real things in this world are things we cannot see.

“Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

Yes, Virginia, there is a God. He exists because He IS love, generosity and devotion. These qualities exist in our lives to give our lives its highest beauty and joy.

“Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

God lives forever, ten times ten thousand years from now, God exists, and makes glad the hearts of children, men and women. Let’s remember that this Christmas. He is the reason for the season after all.

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treasures in teak houses

*I wrote this while in college. I’ve edited it some and added a few elements.

Childhood is now a silhouette, masked by adulthood. It comes back, my childhood, that is, quite often. It sometimes feels as if I’m living in a world of un-lockable memories. Well, they aren’t really un-lockable. I’ll be driving down Chiang Mai’s “super highway” and a memory will play before my eyes, like it was in real time. Just as quickly as the memory came, it leaves.

Allow me to relive a memory of my first home in Thailand.

It was a beautiful, Thai teak house.

Our first house is now a distant memory even though I now pass by the road leading to the green gate that encloses our former sanctuary.

Thai houses are covered in windows to combat the tropical weather. Central air and heat do not exist in Thailand. Heat is never artificially needed because heat composes every season. Window-covered houses are wonderful because of the amount of light they allow. I will never get used to the lack of windows in American houses.

Wood is an essential part of houses in Thailand. Wood floors, furniture and beds are staples.

Our kitchen in that house remains one of the largest I have ever seen.

There are no such things as garages in Thailand. Each home had a “carport.” Come to think of it, that sounds awfully like a Star Trek invention. Carport? Taking off somewhere? Not quite sure…

Our yard seemed as if it came from a child’s dream. Taylor and I romped daily  in the vast green expanse bordered by  mango and jackfruit. The yard truly  was mini-botanical garden — complete with tropical flowers. I wore frangipanis in my hair as my accessory of choice.

We held Christmas pageant in that yard. Mary was pregnant with a basketball. And the crew, a motley one at that, are now all adults.

I can’t tell you how many different worlds I traveled to in that yard. Imagination limitless, I sometimes lived in an alternate reality. Having just seen the movie, Inception, I would have imagined myself superior to the architect, Ariadne, in my ability to sculpt alternate realities.

My imagination never failing, I would get “in character” and try to trick Taylor into thinking I was a villain, or Zorro. It didn’t really work, but it upset him to no end.

We shared the yard with our cats. It started out with four–then they had babies. I believe we had 12 at one time.

One time, several of the kittens decided to climb in the gas canister. Someone turned on the gas stove and we found then blackened and with whiskers singed. These same kittens I dressed in doll clothes and kept my closet as a ward for. This closet cause the death of one of the kittens.

My room was huge. I had two double beds and a chest with a mirror that I would sing Testify to Love and Backstreet Boys’ songs in front of.

I played with my American Girl dolls, paper dolls, Polly Pockets, Pound Purries and Petshop animals on these wood floors.

On the wood floors in the den I watched Cartoon Nework. On those floors I received my first CDs.

My parents gave me a classical CD one Christmas and an extended family member gave me a WOW CD. That was the beginning of the WOW obsession and my love of music. I didn’t appreciate the classical CD then, but now I wish I had it.

There is something about listening to classical music that aids you in writing. I don’t know what, because I am just discovering this.

Does music make memories surface? Is it music that enlivens the writer?Do we have a way with words, or do words have a way with us?

We lived in four houses in Chiang Mai and I still think of that house with a sense of nostalgia.

This memory surfaced as I sat in my apartment in Waco, Texas, and listened to Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninoff.

I’m now sitting in my own apartment in Chiang Mai. It’s concrete, not teak, and I’m an adult now. Before, I’d banish the thought of ever becoming or calling myself an adult. But it has come. It’s the weekend before my 23rd birthday. I’m not sure how I got this old.

I do know that memories are funny things — they surface without a whole lot of notice. Memories surface for a reason and a season.

I also now know what treasures teak houses hold.

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Thaichinese, Chithai

That’s what I’ll do.

I’ll create a new language that’s a glorious hodge podge, or potpourri if you’ll allow for it, of the two languages I flutter back and forth from to study. I’ve studied Chinese and Thai since I was little but haven’t seemed to master either language. Just when I get to a point of good standing it’s time to move back to the other language.

During my younger years, (approximately years 3-10) we lived in Chinese-speaking countries. Well, there was Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong, but that is an entirely different blog post. From ages 10-17 we lived in Thailand. I took Thai in high school and one year of Spanish.
In college, I took two years of Chinese. My junior year of college, I studied abroad at Tsinghua University in Beijing for eight months. Now, I am back in Thailand studying Thai.

Sadly, now I fear my Chinese is fading. It almost has to be pushed to the back of my mind because in language class my sentences are coming out half Thai and half Chinese. Sometimes it takes a confused look from my teacher to realize I must have used a Chinese word in my sentence. Thai and Chinese are both tonal languages. Thai has five tones and Chinese has four tones. The second tone is said differently in Thai than it is in Chinese. This has caused a few problems.

I’m not complaining–but I’ve realized that in studying one language I inevitably forget the other language. What’s the remedy? Since pushing a magic button for fluency in languages isn’t feasible quite yet, (maybe it will be in 2012 if the Mayans aren’t right in their predictions) my only other solution is to propose the creation of a new language. This new language would be a combination of Thai and Chinese. I’m thinking of possible names, Thaichinese, is one choice, but I do feel that is slightly predictable. Here’s another Chithai. Thainese?

Thoughts? I am open to suggestions.

สวัสดีค่ะ , 再见 Sawatdii kah, Zai jian!

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Popping in and out of chalk drawings

It’s so great to be back in Thailand.

Coming back really has been like stepping back into a movie of my past. I have been regaling my roommate with old recollections I have as we explore the town (It’s more of a re-exploring experience for me). I am sure she is tired of it.

Everywhere I go, my old high school, the night market, the mall–I watch a newsreel, black and white yet oh so colorful, of memories from my past. I stand in a place and the clip plays and I watch the younger version of myself. It sometimes feels like I am Mary Poppins, popping in and out of chalk paintings into a different place and time.

Don’t worry. I am not going crazy or hallucinating nor do I have a mosquito-born illness. Bear with me.

I went up to a look out spot on Doi Suthep (a mountain here) and stumbled upon a little rustic dorm-like retreat place. I can’t place the memory I had there. I vaguely remember going to a youth group camp there back in my early middle school years. But, I am not entirely sure. I very well could have made that memory up.

It’s neat to remember how God grew me here. I feel like such a different person now. Walking through the memories reminds me of His faithfulness, how He has answered prayers and promises that were fulfilled.

I am thrilled with the prospect of making new memories here that I will remember when I am older. (Older as in at least 35).

Someone asked me if I was disappointed I didn’t move somewhere new. The answer is most certainly no. Chiang Mai has been the one place that has consistently felt like home in my years of moving. I can’t describe what a blessing it is to come back.

Now, if you had asked me as a middle or high schooler whether I could have ever imagined myself back here as a 22-year-old, I probably would have told you I couldn’t fathom what it would be like to be that old.

My brother Taylor thinks I am old. You see, when you are in high school, graduating college seems like eons. College goes by faster than high school though. I think he wonders why I am not married yet. Twenty-two is not that old, I tell him.

“Suurrrrreeeeee.”

30 is the new 20. Right?

Don’t every underestimate the God’s ability to use past haunts to remind you of His love, lessons and faithfulness. Maybe take time to revisit places from your past. You may find healing, find a misplaced newsreel memoir and maybe you’ll learn something about yourself.

“We all feel the riddle of the earth without anyone to point it out. The mystery of life is the plainest part of it … Every stone or flower is a hieroglyphic of which we have lost the key ; with every step of our lives we enter into the middle of some story which we are certain to misunderstand,” G.K. Chesterton.

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