End of the Year Reflections

Another school year has come to an end. While this was my third year working as an EFL English teacher, this was my first experience working with the bigger kids. This seemingly small change came with a myriad of ups and downs. When reflecting back on the  beginning of the year I have to laugh at how stressed and overwhelmed I felt at times.

To be honest, I ended the school year still feeling stressed and maybe a bit overwhelmed, but no longer was my classroom the source.

My previous two years teaching experience was working with first graders. The first grade classroom is filled with its own unique struggles and the beginning of the school year with first graders is no walk in the park–but the kids are so freaking cute that I was always able to just push through. By the time the kids are in level 4 English their cuteness factor has decreased substantially and their emotional baggage has matured an equivalent amount.

The first three or so months of this school year left me feeling inadequate leading a classroom full of students carrying incredible amounts of emotional trauma. I was overwhelmed by the emotional burden of my students–feeling the need to not only teach them English, but to also fill the needs of their young hearts and maybe take one or two home.

My trying to ‘mother’ and ‘heal’ my students may have been sustainable if the majority of my class was made up well adjusted students from loving families. That, however, is not my teaching environment. Very quickly the burden became too much and super star Samara began having emotional breakdowns right alongside her students.

**Lets take a moment to remember that amid all this, I was also writing my research proposal, implementing my in class research and collecting data, writing my thesis and trying to get my advisor to meet with me.**

Breakthrough happened a couple months into the first semester when the Still Small Voice reminded me He loves the students in my classroom infinitely more than I could ever begin to and that while He has me in their lives for this year, I am only one of the many other people He will place in their paths throughout the rest of their lives. I am not their savior.

It amazes me thinking back to how quickly that simple reminder was able to lift such a huge burden off of me.

What also amazes me is that friends and family were telling me this all the time, but to no effect. It wasn’t until the truth came from the Still Small Voice Himself that the self-inflicted burden was lifted.

Now that the school year is finished, my research has been written and my thesis has been defended, I feel like it’s a good time to think back and reflect on a few of the successes and failures of the year. I’ve decided to share those reflections here.


THINGS I DID RIGHT:

1. Asking you to adopt students to pray for.

Once I realized I was not The Savior of my students I felt free to ask for help. So here is a hearty THANK YOU to those of you who adopted a student or two and committed to praying for them over the course of the year. There were dramatic changes in particular students and situations and no doubt some of that is due to your prayers.

2. Moving away from the Bible curriculum.

Pretty early on in the semester, I made the executive decision to not focus our Bible time on the weekly verses that the rest of the school was memorizing. Most of my students had been at the school for at least four years, meaning they have practiced the same Bible verses every year for those four years. Instead we did class declarations. We would talk about characteristics of God and the implications of being His child; then we would stand on our chairs and shout those truths out. My class would fail Bible memorization test, but they will be able to talk about God’s faithfulness in their lives.

3. Creating a safe environment.

The bulk of my research rests on the assumption that the teacher has taken certain measures to create a safe atmosphere. Alls good in theory, but when actually putting theory to practice, things get interesting. Because I was deliberately setting out to do things differently than what happens in a ‘traditional’ classroom, I had a lot of groundwork to build, but by the end of the year the fruit of my labor was apparent. Our classroom became a stress-free zone, even when stressful things were happening. We worked together to problem solve and help each other out. The students were free to share their opinions and give suggestions in the class.

4. Promoting speaking skills.

The research I was doing was specifically about enhancing my class’s speaking skills. So, instead of spending the year working on vocabulary, spelling and grammar, we worked on speaking. This again, was not easy. Thai students are trained to memorize and recite, therefore, I had to re-wire their malleable brains. For the first weeks of our time together my students moaned and groaned about all the presentations and speaking I was requiring them to do. Flash forward to the last week of class… unexpected things interrupted our schedule and their final presentations were cancelled and you know what–they complained. My students were unanimously disappointed that they didn’t have to stand up in front of their peers and talk about their States.. in a foreign language. My research had been long done by this point, but I was astounded at how far they had come. My prayer now is that this confidence in speaking English sticks with them throughout the rest of their English learning career, regardless of their teachers and method of instruction.

5. Using authentic materials.

Again, my research made the claim that real materials should be used in the classroom. If we are learning about fruits, we should have real fruit in the classroom. Over the course of the year we made cakes and frosting, smoothies and ugali; we packed bags to go camping and set up a tent, we took pictures of each other using real, fancy cameras (not just a smart phone), we learned how to make a pour over cup of coffee and drank too many cups of it; we built paper maché states and created our own, fully playable board games. I probably spent too much money, but our classes were memorable.

6. Building the classroom around my students.

My research had to be done according to the very particular timeline and specifications that had been proposed to my advisor, so I didn’t have much flexibly there, but once that was completed, I let the students decide what we learned about. The result was that the English language classroom turned into a world geography classroom. Students voted on regions, countries and what we would research about those countries. I gave up an amount of control but gained a class full of interested students.

THINGS I COULD HAVE DONE BETTER:

1. Teaching the other communication skills.

While I ended the year with a group of students that are able to speak better than many of the college-aged students I come across, I really didn’t focus on reading, writing or grammar. I can clamor on and on about the theories backing up my speaking skills focus, but that doesn’t negate the fact that all four communication skills are important and that in Thailand…grammar is king. I probably could have been a bit more well rounded in my approach, maybe especially after my research was complete.

2. Building my units once my research was complete.

Well, after my research was finished I had the **astonishing** realization that I still had a semester and a half to teach. I had spent a year writing the curriculum for my seven-week research period and didn’t give any time or brain power to thinking about what I would do when I was finished. Once this dawned on me, I kind of had to scramble. While interviewing my students I found out that they were interested in learning about the rest of the world… this is how our class turned into a geography class. And all in all, it was a success. HOWEVER, it could have been so much better. If I would have spent the amount of time planning the geography units that I spent planning my research, those units would have been amazing. As it was, they were very surface level. I could have done better.

3. Lesson plans.

This kind of falls in line with point number two. The lesson plans that I wrote for my research are impeccable. They are pristine. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more detailed lesson plans…ever. Well. Those amazing lesson plans, that anyone could follow, were short lived and replaced with bullet point lists of activities and mysterious phrases that only I can decipher. At the end of the year, when I had to turn in all my lesson plans for the year…I just kind of slipped the ‘sticky note’ lesson plans underneath the beautiful crafted ones that earned me a masters’ degree.

4. Consequences/Follow Through

At the beginning of the school year I had the class create a ‘consequence jar’. Each student wrote consequences on slips of paper and put them in the jar. The consequences could be as lenient or severe as the students wanted and as a result, most were quite severe: run around the field ten times, do fifty push-ups, stand facing the back wall all class. All way worse than I would have given out. Well, while I thought this was an amazing idea…what ended up happening was that the kids were so excited about the element of surprise within the consequence jar that they WANTED to get in trouble. I even had a student–who never got in trouble–ask me if she could have a consequence. Fail. From that point on I had to revamp my discipline policy and it changed multiple times over they year. In the end, I landed on a ticket system. The power of tickets over little children’s behavior will continuously amaze me.


I’m sure there are WAY more highlights (and lowlights) that I could add to this list. It seems like every year spent as a teacher offers its own areas of challenge and room for improvement. The end of each year makes me excited to start the next year, to try again and do better.

However, instead of doing it again next year and perfecting my practice, I am taking a year off of the School of Promise and will be giving my time and expertise to Chiang Mai University.

Working at the university puts me with yet another new demographic of students and a whole other learning curve to conquer.

Wish me luck.

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A Fourth Valentines Day Treat: Tinder.

After nearly four year of living single in Thailand–where the only visible bachelors around were either socially challenged or self-proclaimed eunuchs–I got on Tinder.

A lot of thought went into this decision and I wasn’t quick to make it. I mean I have been one of the noisiest ‘Tinder is the hook-up app’ shouters that I know. I was not a fan and up until this very recent point I hadn’t even given thought to online dating–let alone Tinder. Plus there was the added hurdle of needing Facebook to be on Tinder.

Would I really be willing to break my ‘no Facebook’ vow in order to find my one-true-love on Tinder?

Yes. I would.

[PSA: I have a Facebook account. I dare you to find me.]

The beloved Jaem, whom I trust as a 21st century dating guru, very clearly expressed to me that getting on Tinder would increase my likelihood of meeting single men in Chiang Mai 100 times more effectively than  constant sulking and lamenting. However, during the same ‘dating advice’ session, he also suggested that ‘Christian Mingle‘ or ‘Celibate Passions‘ [it’s a thing] would maybe better suit my unorthodox ideas about sex. (A truer statement has never been.)

After much deliberation I made a profile.

I came to the conclusion that an app is what you make of it, Tinder can only be a hook-up app if I am using it to hook-up, I wouldn’t be… so I’m good.

The thrill of scrolling through the endless ocean of pictures lasted all night. Millions of attractive, age appropriate men–all in Chiang Mai–suddenly at my fingertips! Being the Tinder virgin I was, I literally swiped right on every. single. scruffy faced man bun I found.

Heaven.

I was matching with with men left and right. The line ‘it’s raining men’ had never been a more true statement in my life. By the end of my first night on Tinder I had two dates scheduled for later that week.

Oh poor, naive soul.


After my first Tinder rendezvous (about which I am in the process of writing a hyperbolic account of) I learned that in order for Tinder to indeed not be a hook-up app, certain modifications to my approach needed to be made.

These modifications were as follows:

  1. My profile needs to include more than a picture of my hot self.

a. specifically my devotion to Jesus needs to be made known.

b. my profile needs to explicitly say that I am not interested in meeting men that are in Thailand on holiday.

c. ‘not looking for hook-ups’ should also be stated.

2. I need to look at the guys’ profiles before swiping right.

a. don’t judge a book by its cover. duh Samara.

b. no travelers.

c. no information in profile = no date with Samara

d. profiles including photos with high quantities of alcohol and/or shirtless photos will not receive a right swipe.

3. First dates will not consist of ‘getting drinks’–unless, of course, said drink is coffee or water or non-alcoholic smoothies.

The changes were made. If I were to switch now to academic writing and consider my whole Tinder dating experience a social experiment, the implementations of the treatment resulted in the following:

a. A decreased number of matches.

-As I was being much more selective about the men I swiped right to, the endless ocean of eligible dudes was transformed into a murky puddle of potentially ok dates.

-Likewise, as I was no longer just a pretty face to be swiped, but suddenly had standards and criteria, the dudes were no longer swiping me.

b. Sudden out breaks of anger.

-The inclusion of the statement “I love Jesus” seemed to press some sort of religious non-acceptence button within my few matches. Whether or not these matches swiped my picture without looking at my profile or swiped right solely to have the opportunity to let me know how much I offended them, I will never know. But suddenly, instead of offers for drinks I was receiving messages full of angry anti-christian rants and rude comments about my mention of Jesus.

-Someone did send me a message asking me if “Jesus was my dog” to which I responded with “Yea man, we’re real tight.” Not sure if that’s what he was going for. We ‘unmatched’ shortly thereafter.

c. The guys *lucky* enough to actually meet me in person still had some sort of strange expectation of me.

-Despite my efforts, I still had to deflect unwanted kisses from total strangers.

-One person went so far to text me weeks after our one 30 minute lunch and tell me he was ‘disappointed in me as a person’ (direct quote) for not contacting him again. He told me that he expected more from me. …??  I did not respond.


Needless to say, after two weeks of really trying to ‘give it a go’ and putting my pre-conccieved notions aside, I deleted the app.

Jaem was right. Tinder is not for me. Celibate Passions, here I come.

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A Third Valentines Treat

It seems that I may just keep this Valentines theme going until next Valentines Day.

I started leading a ‘creative writing’ workshop at CMU today.  I promised the class that I would do all of the exercises and activities alongside them in hopes of getting my own creative writing juices flowing again. Two years of writing one [very dry and dull] paper has  seemed to destroy the sparks of creativity that once flowed so nicely out of my pores.

Anyway, today we wrote a sonnet and while mine is by no means amazing, I decided to post it.

So once again,

Enjoy.


“Unrequited Love” by Me 🙂

Hair the color of a summer fruit,

Eyes like the sea, so clear, so blue.

He fights my enemies like a brute,

He dances, in a way, so honest, so true.

He speaks the language of many peoples–

Making jokes that touch even the hardest soul,

With a smile so wide there are no equals.

We talk for hours without a lull,

Our connection is one that’s hard to find.

A friendship with potential of something more,

Though he has set an answer in his mind–

Romantic love belongs only in folklore.

So while I lay and think of he,

I know, of course, this will never be.


#lol

#maybebasedonreality

#maybenot

#dontthinktoomuch

#itssupposedtobeoverlydramatic

#happyvalentinesday

#aloneforever

#childrenofthedirt

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Another Valentines Treat

Valentine’s Day has long past, but as I have not been creating my own, incredibly unique and totally original work for this blog, I felt like I should share another short story that I have recently stumbled upon.

This one brings about a whole myriad of emotions for me, which is probably why I like it so much.

So once again, enjoy.


The Children of the Dirt by Simon Rich

According to Aristophanes, there were originally three sexes – the children of the moon who were half-male and half-female, the children of the sun who were fully male, and the children of the earth, who were fully female. Everyone had four legs, four arms and two heads, and spent their days in blissful contentment. Zeus became jealous of the humans’ joy so he decided to split them all in two. Aristophanes called this punishment the origin of love because ever since, the children of the earth, moon and sun have been searching the globe in a desperate bid to find their other halves. Aristophanes’ story though is incomplete because there was also a fourth sex – the children of the dirt.

Unlike the other three sexes, the children of the dirt consisted of just one half. Some were male and some were female and each had just two arms, two legs and one head. The children of the dirt found the children of the earth, moon and sun to be completely insufferable. Whenever they saw a two-headed creature walking by, talking to itself in baby-talk voices, it made them want to vomit. They hated going to parties and when there was no way to get out of one, they sat in the corner, too bitter and depressed to talk to anybody. The children of the dirt were so miserable that they invented wine and art to dull their pain. It helped a little, but not really. When Zeus went on his rampage he decided to leave the children of the dirt alone. They’re already fucked, he explained. [sorry about the word, but I don’t believe in censorship]

Happy gay couples descend from the children of the sun. Happy lesbian couples descend from the children of the earth. And happy straight couples descend from the children of the moon. But the vast majority of humans are descendants of the children of the dirt. And no matter how long they search the earth, they’ll never find what they’re looking for because there’s nobody for them, not anybody in the world.


#happyvalentinesday

#again

#aloneforever

#atleastihaveartandwine

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A Valentines Treat

Most of you know that I have started working at Chiang Mai University.  I work with Caleb and one other colleague to assist the teachers and students in the International College.  We each have teachers and classes that we are specifically assigned to and aide in whatever way necessary, as well as run ‘workshops’ in hopes of enhancing the students’ English abilities.

Because my life is constantly hilarious, one of the classes that I am ‘assisting’ in is Lan Na History and Culture. Why is this funny? Well, because while this is an extremely interesting subject matter and is enriching my life here in the land of a million rice fields, the professor has no interest in teaching the class and has therefore handed it over to me. (Not completely, not every class… but many more classes that I was prepared for at first.)

This being said, I have had to do a lot of reading in order to learn the subject matter I am teaching.

This weeks class is about the ‘Sacred Mountains of Northern Thailand’ and while I was reading the legends of this area, I came across this story and thought I would share it.

Consider this my Valentine’s Day gift to you all.

Enjoy.


The Legend of Prince Chao Luang Kham Daeng

(from “Sacred Mountains of Northern Thailand and Their Legends by Donald K. Swearer)

Early the next morning a forest rooster was heard and as the sun rose crows flew out from the thick of the forest, after Chao Luang Kham Daeng awoke he went for a walk in the forest. Admiring the beauty of his natural surroundings he felt refreshed. Suddenly he spied a golden deer happily nibbling grass around a large tree. The prince called the soldiers to come and confirm what he saw. “Yes,” they exclaimed, “it’s a golden deer.” Chao Luang Kham Daeng ordered the soldiers to make a circle around the golden deer. “If the deer comes toward any of you,” he said, “grab it and prevent it from escaping.” When the soldiers made a circle around the golden deer, it was startled and began running back and forth, sometimes stopping and at other times going around in circles.

The prince was entranced by the deer’s beauty. Seeing that Chao Luang Kham Daeng was in a trance-like state, she ran towards him and jumped through the cycle where the price stood. Chao Luang Kham Daeng had his soldiers surround the forest in an even smaller circle. The golden deer saw no way to escape [if she stayed where she was] so she emerged from her hiding place in the dense woods and continued her flight. Chao Luang Kham Daeng followed her until the golden deer began to tire. The prince then ordered his solders to advance quickly. As the deer continued to flee she was intercepted by the soldiers. The the golden deer ran into another forest with Chao Luang Kham Daeng and his soldiers in hot pursuit. Seeing them closing in, she cast off her deer body so that when the prince and the soldiers arrived they would see only a deer corpse. Although they searched high and low, the soldiers found no evidence of the golden deer. Chao Luang Kham Daeng saw only a beautiful, nude maiden with bright white skin. The prince urged his horse to follow after her. Coming to a brook, the woman fell exhausted into the water. Chao Luang Kham Daeng, thinking that the large number of male soldiers might frighten her, held up his hand for them to halt. Stepping out of the water the maiden continued to run until she came to another brook where she paused to look back. As the woman continued her flight, the sun grew quite hot for it was midday so when she reached another brook she knelt down and with cupped hands quenched her this. Reaching a hillock, the beautiful girl hid in a stone cave with the prince and his soldiers still in pursuit. When she was seen by them she ran to the top of the hill around which the soldiers began to dig a moat three levels deep to prevent her escape. After they had finished the second level the young woman realized that she would not be able to escape if they finished the thrust so she again fled from her hiding place. The prince, spying her, followed on his horse. The maiden ran quickly to a high mountain with Chao Luang Kham Daeng following behind. Here she stopped and asked the prince, “Why are you chasing me?” Chao Luang Kham Daeng answered that she was the most incomparably beautiful woman in the world. The young woman responded, “Are you like every other man in the world, only interested in sex?” “Oh, no, my fair lady, your incomparable beauty compels me to speak only the truth.”

“Men don’t remain truthful to women for a very long time,” she said. “When they’ve got what they want, all the sweetness disappears; they lose interest and leave.”

“That’s not true [for me],” the prince replied. “Your beauty is unlike any other in the world. Therefore, I wanted only to speak truthfully from my heart.” To this the woman said, “A man’s commitment to a woman soon fades. When he gets what he wants all the sweetness evaporates and he loses interest.”

“It’s because you possess such goodness that I wanted to meet you,” continued Chao Luang Kham Daeng. “I won’t be so easily dissuaded.” To this the young woman responded, “What’s the hurry? I don’t even know you. How can I love you?”

“I’m Chao Luang Kham Daeng, the son of the king of Champa. I was on my way to confront an enemy on behalf of my father. I would die willingly with the satisfaction of knowing that you let me serve you.”

“As for me,” the woman replied, “I live at hem with my aged mother. Everyday I go out looking for food for I am still under my mother’s care. If you want [to marry] me, you must request permission from my mother.” Chao Luang Kham Daeng then followed the woman into a large cave, but before leaving he promised his soldiers, “I’ll return in seven days if not earlier.”

The soldiers were very worried about the prince but, not knowing what else to do, they returned to their camp on the hill to wait. That evening the staged entertainment to celebrate the marriage of Chao Luang Kham Daeng even though it was unofficial. After seven days had elapsed and Chao Luang Kham Daeng still had not appeared, the soldiers searched everywhere but as no sign of the prince was to be found they broke camp and returned to Champa. Dought that the woman [with whom Chao Luang Kham Daeng went into the cave] was Camathewi (a princess from folklore) the king said, “The real Chamathewi isn’t beautiful so I’m sure the woman was the demon In Lao. She was out looking for a human being to eat just at the time my son happened along so he became a meal for her. When In Lao is out and about looking for food it is a bad time to go into battle.”


#happyvalentinesday

#feminism

#girlpower

#actuallyademonindisguise

#takeheed

#maybedontgochasingnakedmaidens

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FX Missions

Back in October a long-term friend/mentor of Caleb, Scott McClelland, came to visit us in Thailand.  Scott was a sunshiny ray of positivity and encouragement towards our team and such a refreshing person to have around. (Thanks again Scott for speaking such value over our team!  You’re a pretty stellar dude!)

Scott has a blog and a podcast that he regularly updates (unlike the author of this blog….oops…) and while he was visiting us he was diligently recording us to glean our wisdom for his readers/listeners.

Flash forward to today, I was googling myself to see what comes up working really hard at my new job at Chiang Mai University  when I came across Scott’s blog about me and one of the little podcasts that I recorded.

So, I’ve decided to share those here, for you.

The Blog:

This blog is a follow-up blog to a blog that he had written about my experience on the World Race five years prior.  The blog is pretty in depth and gives you a good idea of what my life looks like here–at least what it looked like in October, as much has changed since then.  At the end of the post there is a link to the recording of the actual interview.  The blog summarizes the interview, so if you would rather just listen our conversation, you can skip the read and click the audio.  Or do both.

The podcast:

This is a nice, short listen about being a single woman in leadership.

Enjoy!

 

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God Is Not a White Man

While reading the news and thinking about this blog I have been constantly reminded of a classic Michael Gungor song.

I’m pretty sure I have posted this video in the past, but it seems due time for a good reminder. Click here to have a listen,

I’ve included the lyrics below the video.

God Is Not a White Man
by Micheal Gungor
God is not a man
God is not a white man
God is not a man sitting on a cloud

God cannot be bought
God will not be boxed in
God will not be owned by religion

but God is Love,
God is Love,
and He loves everyone
God is Love,
God is Love,
and He loves everyone

God is not a man
God is not an old man
and God does not belong to Republicans

God is not a flag
not even American
and God does not depend on a government

but God is good,
God is good,
and He loves everyone
God is good,
God is good,
and He loves everyone

oh, oh, duh, duh, duh, duh

athiests and charlatans,
and communists and lesbians,
and even ol’ Pat Robertson
Oh God, He loves us all
Catholic or Protestant,
terrorist or president,
everybody, everybody loved, loved, loved, oh

la la la la la
la la la la la
la la la

God is Love
God is Love
and He loves everyone

la la la la la
la la la la la
la la la

stop the hating, please just stop the hating now

’cause God is Love

oh, oh, oh

la la la la la
la la la la la
la la la

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Love Trumps Hate

I have a confession to make: I didn’t vote.

I know. I know. This is like the worst thing you can (not) do as an American citizen. It’s very irresponsible of me and according to Science Mike I deserve a pin stuck deep into my skin. :/ Oops.

I have a further confession to make… If I would have voted, I would have voted 3rd party. Which, in some people’s […Science Mike’s…] mind is almost as bad as not voting at all.

One last confession to make. This one, dear readers, is the most sinful* of them all: If I were forced to vote Trump or Clinton… I would have voted Clinton. (And here is where some readers *gasp*, while the others mumble *duh*.)

*Who you do/do not vote for is not/cannot be made a sin issue. It has nothing to do with sin and everything to do with conviction and preference. Lets stop making opinions a sin.

I hate politics.

I hate following the debates. I hate listening to the politicians. And I hate pretending to believe that anything being said is genuine or integral. I hate the idea of putting my hope in any one candidate.

But, despite my distaste for politics and my being located on the complete opposite side of the world, I was unable to completely escape the 2016 election. With every article I read and every podcast I listened to my heart was more and more saddened by the state of our nation.

I was watching the Thai news in a friends’  coffee shop when the election results were announced. I shed a few tears as the news began to sink in.

I was in shock. As the shock continued to materialize it changed forms. Disbelief became embarrassment and embarrassment became fear.  The fear started taking over and my imagination began to go rampant… until I called into remembrance who my hope is in. My hope is not in Trump nor was it ever in Hilary, my hope is in my God.

How faithful my God is.  As soon as I remembered who He is and focused my thoughts onto Him, my heart began to be at peace. I began to pray for Trump: for his heart, for him to encounter God, to meet Holy Spirit. As I started speaking blessings over Trump (as opposed to the insults I had slewed onto him for the last months…years..) my heart began to feel God’s love for him.

Unfortunately, it seems that this is not where America has rested. Not being on Facebook has shielded me from much of the nastiness going around, but not completely. I still read the articles and listen to the podcasts. And my heart breaks over and over again.

However, what has been the most heartbreaking about this election and the aftermath is the divisiveness and hatred seeping out of the church.

In a time where the world is so confused and scared the church has a golden opportunity to shine. An opportunity to comfort the brokenhearted and heal the hurt. How can we do this if we are too busy hurting and hating each other?

“If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by one another.” Galatians 5:15.

Church, this is our time. This is our time to shine the light and love of Jesus. This is our time to quite literally trump hate with love. Let us show the world where are our hope lies–not in our president elect, but in our Faithful Father.

*My pastor in Omaha addressed this very issue last Sunday. He goes more in depth and is a bit more articulate than I am, so it’s worth a listen. You can listen to the sermon here.

 

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An Open Letter to the Lorensens

Dear Caleb and Tracy,

In light of recent events (ahem…) I have been thinking about you guys a lot–about who you guys are in general and who you guys are in relation to me.  So I decided to write it out (and publish it) and if I’m feeling extra sentimental, I may even read it aloud to you… (Enneagram 4 all the way!!)… but maybe not.

So here we go. Caleb first, because he is the man (eye roll).

Caleb,

Thank you for being a feminist. 🙂 Thank you for loving your wife the way you do, for supporting her, for standing behind/beside her, for encouraging her to be all that she can be and for believing that she can do anything.  Thank you for allowing her to have a voice and equal weight in the relationship.  Thank you for loving and investing in your children–spending quality time with them, taking them to work with you when schedules are crazy, etc. Thank you for not viewing ‘child-rearing’ as a woman thing.

In relation to me: thank you for being my friend. Thank you for not being scared of my single girl germs or raging hormones. Thank you for believing in me as a teacher, an academic, a colleague and as a missionary.  Thank you for allowing me to be in your family, and as I see it, adopting me as a little sister. Thank you for not talking down to me and sympathizing with me as I relate the numerous accounts of when married white christian men do. (They’re the worst). Thank you for being an example of what a husband/dad/missionary can look like and despite of our cynical ways–you give me hope against my cynicism. Hope that ‘good’ men do, in fact, exist.

Tracy,

Wow. Um… where do I start. Thank you for being a strong woman (#tracystrong). Thank you for having an opinion and sharing it.  Thank you for using your voice.  Thank you for being a wife in an equal relationship –but not overpowering your husband. Thank you for not manipulating him, but for being honest with your needs, opinions, desires, etc. Thank you for the ways you love and honor Caleb. You do it so well and are so obviously proud of him.  Thank you for being so in love with him without losing your identity and personality. Thank you for not finding your identity in your relationship with Caleb.

In regards to me: gosh… thank you for laughing with me and crying with me and listening to me and being angry with me and celebrating with me… thank you for not competing with me.  Thank you for calling me out when I need to be called out and thank you for loving me through all my (many) emotions [4].  Thank you for showing me that LOVE is not contingent on my being a certain way or performing perfectly. Thank you for trusting me to be friends with your husband… and for even, heaven forbid, being ok with me sitting alone with him in a car (gasp). Thank you for believing in me and encouraging me to be my best self.  Thank you for pushing me when I want to quit or be lazy.

To both of you,

Thank you for letting me be in your family. Honestly, I don’t even think of you guys as friends anymore. If we need labels, I can say that you’re my best friends, but in my heart our relationship has surpassed that. In my heart you are my big sister and big brother.

Thank you for letting me love your children and be as present and involved with them as I get to be. They really are special kids and while I know they have LOTS of blood aunts and uncles… Auntie Samara loves them the most.

You guys are my role models. As cheesy and mushy as all this is… I look up to you. You set the bar exceedingly high when trying to find other friends… or looking for a spouse… but I am grateful for that high bar.

I truly believe that wherever I end up in the next five or ten years, I will be forever marked by these past four (plus) years in your family.

I love you guys a lot,

Samara

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the suffering missionary.

There are some groups of people that subscribe to the notion of the ‘suffering missionary’.  You know, the idea that being called overseas as a missionary is a death to your former life of joy and pleasure and a birthing of a life of misery and woe.  This ideology is held by missionaries and laymen alike.

I think the thought pattern is all somehow tangled up in support raising:  If you’re not suffering, then you’re not being used for the purposes of the gospel.. and so you can’t get any money and then you can’t eat… so now you are suffering…and so on…and so forth…

Maybe I’m wrong. Regardless. It should be no surprise, I do not subscribe to this notion.

But today, I am writing to tell you all that I am SUFFERING.

SUUUUFFFFEEERRIINNNG.

Yes.

I have this increasingly intolerable struggle with microscopic red ants.

The freaking things have decided that their new favorite place to live is inside my towel.  So this evening, after an impromptu and uncharacteristic evening shower, I wrapped my vulnerable, wet body into my nice, dry towel and was immediately molested by thousands of the little suckers.

They just go right for it.  I literally just picked 15 of their itty bitty bodies off of my body and am now full of red itchy welts.

WHAT’S MORE is, as I was transcribing this blog in my head and lathering myself with anti-inflammatory/anti-itch cream, I felt a tickle on my foot… I look down there was a HUGE freaking COCKROACH on it.  To which I reacted to by smashing its body several times with my journal. I didn’t even scream. This has become common place.

The struggle is real.

In conclusion, I am suffering, so please send me all of your money.

Thank you.

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