Tag Archives: life

front porch

There’s something about sitting on a front porch – a porch that’s older, much older, than you and most anyone you can presently think of. It’s a porch that’s heard many a secret, as the house’s inhabitants, and those who simply pass by, rock gently in red rockers and share stories from time’s past and time present.

There’s something about sitting on a front porch that makes you feel like the Time Traveler in H.G. Well’s The Time Machine. Stories of buggies, family trees and family mishaps are remembered. Children listen wide-eyed to the matron share of a time they’ve only read about in worn textbooks.

The present is discussed, of course, at length. “Did you hear about …” and “I wonder what … is up to.” The future is hypothesized — what will become of the family in the years to come, who so-and-so will marry, what will the grandson, niece or daughter become when they grow up.

Sitting alone, on this same porch, does the soul and spirit good. It soothes the worries, the aches and rejuvenates the weary.

Jus’ sit a spell, I can hear my aunts and great aunts say. So, I do. I sit, I think, I wish and I pray. I read too, I’ve decided nothing quite can top a good book on a front porch.

There’s something healing about the gentle rock, the bees humming among the hydrangea and the hummingbird’s thousand-calorie wing work out. Birds call to one another among the pine and magnolia trees. For a spell, one can hear the distant drone of machines tending to the tobacco a mile down the road.

Old glory, hanging from one of the white house’s columns, persists in tangling herself and getting knotted in her own affairs, much the mirror of the country she represents.

The wind flows gently, through the blueberries, waiting for their debut. The crape myrtle mingles. The surroundings are awash in green, thankful for the recent rains.

Peter Rabbit came to visit, though not to sit a spell. Bambi too – his mother nowhere to be seen, just like the movie. A turtle makes his slow journey across the country road, praying the pickup trucks will manage to maneuver around his slow journey.

Spanish moss, hanging from the tree that’s as old as the house, is tickled by the same wind that tangles the Stars and Stripes. Chinkle, click click. The beach shells, attached to a homemade chime, awaken when they wish and remind the rockers of days spent in beach chairs, with toes dug into the sand and arms extended for a suntan.

I sit next to the tiny rocking chair, reserved for the children, grandchildren, now adults, and the great-grandchildren. I sit next to the wooden angel whose expression never changes. Her dress changes with the season and holiday. Her spirit never sags.

1668. The Lyons. The house that’s remained the constant in my life of world travel. I’ve moved often and lived in more residences than most. This house has stayed the same.

The magnolia tree remains – the one I climbed and sat in, watching the country coming and goings, giggling and how I was hidden. The dirt road, where I squatted on many an occasion will always be “the dirt road” a road that harbors my doodles, dreams and prayers.

Granddaddy’s old store still sits, eclipsed by the trees, drooping with age and memories. It holds memories I wish I could be a part of — how would that work, you ask. Well, I am reading The Time Machine. Perhaps Wells’ secret works in the 21st century in the Lowcountry.

The fishing pond out back remains, though it is fish-less now.

Then, there’s the path through the woods, coated with fallen pine needles, that leads to more family land. Look up, I say, the pine trees swish and sway to make room for unknown lofty passersby. Crunch, you stepped on a pine cone. Ah! Don’t worry, as arms flap, fighting an invisible enemy, it’s just a spider’s web, newly spun this morning.

Walking down this path transforms me into a character from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia — I’m discovering a new land, don’t you know, and Reepicheep awaits, I’m just sure of it. No, it’s just the fox.

Rhythm. Motion. Wood on wood. Rocking. Thinking. Reading. Cogitating. Remembering.

It’s the front porch at 1668. Residence of the Lyons.

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closing chapters

How do you close a chapter in life?

I think it’s similar to finishing a really superb book – the kind of book where you eat up every line until the last line, consuming and enjoying every word and minute. It’s the kind of book you get lost in, where the characters seem as real as the man sitting next to you in the songtaew (Thai taxi). Great books make you feel you’re a part of the drama.

When the last chapter ends and the last line is digested, there’s a sense of sadness that it’s over, that the journey you were just on has ended. You close the book, thinking, wow, that was good. You close it half wishing you hadn’t read it so quickly.

This happened for me recently with “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens. I’m not sure why I’d never read it before. Well, actually, I do know why. I think God had me read it this year.

I finished Dickens’ masterpiece on the Thai Airways flight home from my last media coverage as a journeyman. I sat between two coworkers and friends and ooh-ed and ah-ed over the last scenes and sentences (they can attest to how verbal I was).

Now I realize how symbolic my reading and finishing the book was. I’m closing a chapter of life – just as I closed out on my final voyage with Dickens’ book about two cities and the adventures held within them.

During my almost three years here, I’ve spent time in more than just two cities. I’ve been a part of stories that are in some ways just as dramatic if not more so than “A Tale of Two Cities.”  Sans the guillotines, of course, but these stories had dangers just as real as the French machine of death. It’s been an awesome “book” and I feel so blessed to have lived it. Thank you Lord, for the lessons learned, the adventures had and the challenges I’ve learned from.

Finishing “A Tale of Two Cities” felt a little like grieving. It’s that good. I was sad to say goodbye to the characters, action and drama. Finishing my time here as a journeyman feels like grieving.

The feeling of the loss of something great happens with some TV series too. My brother and I were immersed in a British TV-series called “Foyle’s War.” When we finished the last episode, our shared memories seemed to end. We finished something great – something we’d spent hours together watching over Christmas. This happened to me when “Lost” ended too. All those years spent, waiting for resolution and it never came. We won’t get into that.

While some people may feel like instantly reading great books and watching TV series again, I’ve found that I don’t. When I say this, I mean, I don’t feel like closing the book then re-open and start reading it again or watching the TV series again. I do re-read and re-watch and I want to do this, but I’ve found I need space in between the reading and watching – time to absorb and remember. For me, re-reading and re-watching are never quite the same as reading or watching the first time either. The suspense and mystery are known.

It’s the same with my time here as a journeyman. I can’t and won’t go back to “re-live” it right now that it’s over – as good as the past three years have been. The adventure won’t ever be as fresh as the first time living and experiencing it. And it shouldn’t be.  You can’t live in the past. You can remember the past and you can re-visit it.

I’ve found that after reading a great book, I’m inspired to find and read another that’s equally as epic. Great books have a tendency to do that. Excellent books put you on a manhunt to find and discover a book that have the same immersing effect on you.

I think it’s the same with life. I’ve just closed out the last chapter of a “book” of my life – my time here in Chiang Mai as a journeyman. I’m inspired to find the next book that will so move me as the past three years did.

Yes, I will be returning here next year, but the “book” will be different. I lived here in Chiang Mai as a elementary, middle and high school student and that book was VERY different from my “journeyman book.” Little did I know when I graduated from high school that I’d be returning to Chiang Mai for a very different adventure.

In the next saga of “Tessa’s life in Chiang Mai,” there will be new drama, new characters and new challenges.  I don’t know what these are yet, but just like you don’t know the ending to a great book, you wouldn’t want to because it’d spoil the journey of reading it.

Now, I know of some people who read the ending of books first. I have plenty to say about that but I’ll save it for another inspired-blog-writing-moment.

In a few short days, I’ll be closing the final chapter of an epic book. There will be grieving at its end – at the end of this fine adventure. But, I’m inspired to see what God’s written in the next book of my life.

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oh oswald

Oh Oswald.

I love how Oswald Chambers always has just the words I need to hear.

It’s really not him, it’s God and the Holy Spirit using the daily bits of wisdom to speak to my heart.

April 29th’s entry is about gracious uncertainty, and boy, did I need to hear (or in this case, read) it.

“Our natural inclination is to be so precise – trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next – that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing,” Chambers writes.

Though I don’t consider myself a scheduled, detailed person and my Myers’ Briggs personality has me as a “P,” I like to dream and plan for the future. Forget about today and this week, let’s think about what could happen in six months or a year. Or two years. To-do lists? I usually get bored writing them and start actually working.

I do like to sit and think about the future and dream about what if I were in a certain circumstance. I love daydreaming.

“Our common sense says, “Well, what if I were in that circumstance?” We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.”

I know I’ve exasperated my parents with “what if’s” and my excessive need to think and plan for the future. Sometimes I focus so much on this I get lost in the present.”What if I don’t get into Baylor, what if I don’t get the writing job I want overseas, what if …”

My questions now are, what do I do after this three-year assignment? What if I come back right away, what if I stay in the US, and if I stay, will I be able to come back? What if I chose the wrong seminary?

The questions are endless and typically end up with me overwhelmed and exasperated.

“We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are uncertain in our certainty.”

I’m the type of person who likes surprises, but when it comes to planning the rest of my life, I like to have clues. For example, if I could just know that going back for seminary is what I need to do, I could be patient with everything else being revealed later.

But, as Chambers says, the nature of our spiritual life is uncertainty.

“To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring,” Chambers writes.

Yikes. I think I’ve been taking certainty into my own hands. I want to know what tomorrow will bring, now.

“This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation.”

I love this line. Breathless expectation. I don’t want sighs and sadness in my life. I want to take hold of the breathless expectation Chambers writes about. It’s like a kid that’s so ecstatic for Christmas morning they sometimes forget to breathe.

Life is a divine adventure and I fear I’m so worried about the future I am missing the adventure with all my sighing. God, I want to live in breathless expectation. I don’t want to schedule out my future and schedule you out of it.

“We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and to the task He has placed closest to us,  He begins to fill our lives with surprises.”

I’m even more in love with those two sentences. I cling so tightly to life and the future that I’m not joyfully doing or completing the tasks closest to me. Right now, the tasks I feel God has placed in my life are my job as a writer and social marketer and the ministry in the red light district.

The tighter I cling, the less God is in these tasks and the fruit of them isn’t juicy. Who likes dried, juice-less fruit? Hopefully you didn’t say, “Me!”

I obsess over my writing. I cling to the words in Microsoft Word. Writing is what I’ve wanted to do since I was 12. I want so badly to succeed. I want to do justice to the stories of the men and women who follow God in the midst of persecution most of us can only imagine.

I want to see souls freed from bondage in the red light district. I want them to know Jesus like I do. I want to be a better friend to them.

I take these burdens upon myself and it’s a burden I cannot bear alone.

The beauty is, I don’t need to.

I’ve placed them before God before, but I somehow seem to keep picking up my offering off of the altar.

“When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God – it is only believing  our belief about Him.”

Chambers continues, “If our certainty us only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled.”

As Chambers so beautifully put it, once we abandon ourselves to Him, “He begins to fill our lives with surprises.”

I love surprises. My parents started a tradition where on Christmas Eve, after we were asleep, they’d leave a small present under the mini trees in our bedrooms. I loved waking up to find what it was. I loved running out to the tree to see the presents they’d placed out under the bigger tree.

I want my life to be filled with godly surprises. I’ve been clinging to certainty too long.

“We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next.”

I don’t know where I’ll be after I head back to the U.S. this October. I don’t know the next step in my life.

“But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy,” Chambers writes.

I do know that I am going to focus on my relationship with God and I’m looking forward to the spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.

“Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in – but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.”

Yes sir, I think I shall.

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Scrabble : triple word score

It’s easy to give up. It’s even easier to mope – especially when a seemingly debilitating and career-ending injury makes it look like you’ve reached the end of your dream.

Drew Brees didn’t give up or mope for too long. I’m taking notes from him.

This NFL player incurred a shoulder injury that almost ended his career. He had to re-learn how to throw a football. In his book, “Coming Back Stronger,” Brees shares about his injury and how he came back from it.

The book is also about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The book chronicles the NFL and city’s comeback from devastating circumstances.

It’s a good lesson in perspective for me.

Sometimes it’s easy as a writer to take one defeat – a poorly written story, or multiple poorly-written stories – as signifying the end of a career.

This story is a great reminder to continue in what you’re called to do. Where it gets tricky is allowing God control and not taking control for yourself. When you work with words, it’s hard let the Lord lead you and not keep typing your own words.

It’s like playing Scrabble. Sure, you can put together words, but are they going to be a triple-word score or a five-point concession?

If I let Him guide me in Scrabble, I’ll be dancing in triple-word scores.

It’s the difference in one letter sometimes – coping and moping. Coping means accepting the tiles you’ve drawn and making something of it, moping means pouting and resigning yourself to your fate. The difference is between the “c” and the “m.”

I don’t have to know the next play in the Scrabble game either. You see what letters you have to work with after you commit to a play and are able to draw two new letters. In life, committing to a “word” or “play” that the Lord has revealed will lead to the next wordplay.

Sometimes there will be low-scoring word plays. Not every one will be a whopper. But, we’re promised peace that passes all understanding and direction better than we could supply.

So, like Drew Brees, don’t let the shoulder injury keep you from pursuing God’s calling on your life.

Tyndale Media Center provided me with a copy of “Coming Back Stronger.” My thoughts and opinions are my own.

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lions and tigers and bears. oh my.

I loved watching “The Wizard of Oz” as a child. Those ruby red shoes were so cool. I loved watching the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion interact. The line from the movie, “lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” still sticks in my memory.

I think “The Wizard of Oz” was a crucial part of growing up for many people my age. Granted, the movie came out in 1939, but most people I know have seen it. Many people can relate to one of the characters in the movie, whether it’s that we think we don’t have the capability to have good ideas or aren’t smart enough (the Scarecrow), or whether we don’t have the heart to love or be loyal the way we should (The Tin Man) or maybe we struggle with fears and insecurities (the Cowardly Lion).

As I morphed from a child to an adult, I first became a tiger, a Grace International School tiger. During that time I struggled with fears and insecurities, but overcame them with the power of friendship. Then, when I went to Baylor, I became a Baylor bear. I found that I did have great ideas. When I joined Alpha Delta Pi, I became a lion and learned more about love and loyalty.

I still have a lot to learn about friendship, ideas and loyalty. The yellow brick road hasn’t ended. I’m just going to keep following, arm in arm with lions, tigers and bears. (Oh my!)

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Grace

Grace, she became my mother.

Jimmy Needham’s song, “Moving to Zion” has a line that resonates within me. “Grace, she became my mother.”

Grace is my mother. And my grandmother.

My mom’s name is Grace Lyn. My grandmother’s name is Grace. If I have a girl, I want Grace to be a part of her name.

Grace is my heritage–in my earthly family and my heavenly family.

If there’s a theme, a thread or trace of an element in my life, it’s grace. Through Grace and Rudolph, my mom came into the world. Through Grace Lyn and Jim, I came into the world. Through God’s grace, I am His child.

Reading Andy Stanley’s book, “The Grace of God,” and listening to Jimmy Needham’s song, I am reminded of how crucial grace is in all of our lives.

“Grace is bigger than compassion or forgiveness,” Stanley writes. “Grace is the offer of exactly of exactly what we do not deserve.”

Sometimes I forget this. I try to earn grace, but grace can’t be earned.

“It is the knowledge of what we do not deserve that allows us to receive grace for what it is. Unmerited. Unearned. Undeserved. For that reason, grace can only be experienced by those who acknowledge they are undeserving,” Stanley writes.

Stanley says grace is understood best when viewed within the context of relationships. I agree.

In his book, Stanley outlines grace throughout the Old and New Testament. It’s part of our heritage as God’s children.

Stanley’s book reminded of me the ways my parents showed me grace throughout my growing up years, mirroring what our Heavenly Father does.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

I love that grace is the undercurrent in my life.

How is grace playing out in your lives?

Thomas Nelsons’ Booksneeze program provided me with Stanley’s book. My opinions are my own.

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assuming asaph, living like levi

I attended a meeting last week and the Lord used a devotional a brother in Christ led to really speak to me. He shared from Psalm 73, a prayer of Asaph.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know a whole lot about Asaph before this week. It sort of sounds like you are sneezing when you say it, especially if you say his name quickly.

This brother in Christ I mentioned above and Google helped me sketch out who this guy is. Asaph wrote several psalms, 50 and then 73 through 83. He was one of King David’s musicians and was a Levite. The Levites were the only of the 12 tribes to not have land. They were the tribe of priests–their home was with the Lord.

Home, for me, is a word that has no boundaries, no nestled yard or cement walls that stay constant for too long. Home, for me, changed often with each move. I didn’t grow up living in the same house or even the same country. Sometimes I struggled answering where home is. When in Thailand, I’d say Texas. When in Texas I’d say Thailand. Saying I was from Texas brought on the “what-high-school-did-you-go-to” question, and since I’m not Thai, saying I’m from Thailand in Thailand doesn’t usually work. Where is home? Home is where my heart is–with my family, immediate and extended.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the Rock and firm Strength of my heart and my Portion forever,” Asaph writes in the Amplified version of Psalm 73.

He is my portion. He is my portion forever.

Go back and read that last line again. Savor it. Do you believe it? Do I believe it?

The Levites found their home in the Lord. They had no land to call their own. Their portion was in the Father.

I am a 21st century Levite. Is that OK to say? And really, as believers, we should all be Levites. Land doesn’t matter. Houses don’t matter. As Christ followers we should find our portion in our Creator.

“But as for me, how good it is to be near God!” Asaph continues in verse 28. [NLT]

Being near to God also takes in another step toward our glorious destiny. I wish I could say I came up with that poetic statement on my own, but ole Asaph already did.

“You will keep guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny,” Psalm 73:24 [NLT]

Part of being able to be led toward that destiny is letting our portion be in God. When we hold our portion in our hands, our destiny is only as big as our palms will flex. Now, unless you have super duper mammoth hands, you probably won’t be able to handle much portion.

It is so easy to want to tie our portion down and to find it in the familiar. We want the familiar. It’s easy to want land assigned to us. But our portion is in a Rock that will never crumble, fade or decay.

He is my portion. He’s enough. I’d like to assume Asaph’s attitude and live like a 21st-century Levite

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