Tag Archives: samara marie

The Gospel

Yesterday, in one of my classes, we were asked to shortly describe ourselves.  My classmates’ self descriptions stated their country of origin and their current profession.  So that would make me: Samara, American, studying TESOL in Thailand.

How very weak that introduction is. How void of the most important parts of my identity.

Samara. Daughter of God. Created to create. Loved to love. Accepted to accept.

I would say that that more accurately describes who I am.

Jesus and I will be celebrating our ten year anniversary pretty soon.  Ten years.  A whole decade.  I cannot believe I’m old enough to be celebrating a decade of anything… but that is a whole other issue.

With this memorial date approaching I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting.

Reflecting on my life. Reflecting on who I was and who I’ve become…and who I was while I was becoming who I became : ) [got that?]

A statement that I’ve been making a lot lately is that “christianity didn’t change my life, my relationship with Jesus changed my life.”

Every time I hear myself say this something jumps inside of me.  That statement is the most true statement I can make.  Nothing has had a more profound impact on me, my life, and who I am, than my relationship with Jesus.

I grew up with christianity.  I grew up with the stories, the rules, the systems, the commands, the expectations… but I didn’t grow up with the reality of the Gospel.  It wasn’t until that Reality became my reality that I was able to experience the freedom that has forever marked my life.

***

I recently finished reading “The Jesus Storybook Bible” with my Thai teacher.

photo.PNG

If you haven’t invested in this children’s Bible yet, you’re missing out.  I have yet to find the Gospel more beautifully illustrated (figuratively and literally).  The authors of this Bible have so beautifully pointed out how God has been working from the beginning of time to get His children back into right relationship with Him.

Every story whispers Jesus’ name.

For God SO loved the world that He sent His Only Son.

It was always God’s plan to send Jesus. Because it was always God’s plan to get His children back.

And who does Jesus pinpoint?  Who does Jesus call out for greatness?  Who does Jesus choose to befriend?

The Extra-Super-Holy-People?

No.

He chose people like me.

People who were lost, depressed, lonely, dirty, poor, addicted, deserted, alone, condemned, guilty, hurting, oppressed, possessed, angry, blind, deaf, dumb, doubting, drunk… the list goes on.

He chose whomever would chose Him. He chose the hungry. He chose the needy.  He chose the difficult.  The unrighteous.  The annoying.

***

I’ve been a missionary for about three and a half years now.

Demonstrating the Gospel is my job. Literally. It’s what I get paid to do.

So often the job demands of newsletter writing and supporter relations tempt me to act like an Extra-Super-Holy-Person.  I mean… that’s what missionaries are supposed to be, right?

My life needs to be clean. structured. organized. predictable. newsletter appropriate. and those knees better be covered… do we even need discuss the shoulders?

Right?

My paycheck depends on it… right?

Wrong.

Jesus’ Gospel wasn’t clean.  Jesus’ life wasn’t structured… organized… predictable and His supporters probably wouldn’t have liked His newsletters.  (He hung out with women and was at parties where people got drunk… I mean… you can’t really write about that kind of stuff…)

For God SO loved the world that He sent His One and Only Son, that WHOMEVER may believe in Him will be saved and have life eternal.

So that’s my Gospel.  Believing in Jesus and receiving that life eternal.  Life eternal starting ten years ago.  Life eternal now.  On earth.  Life eternal full of messes and mistakes and unexpected turns and hiccups and high highs and low lows.

Life eternal, right now.

Life with Jesus.

And that’s what I am in Thailand to share.

Not a good English education. Not an introduction to critical thinking. Not an education full of the creative arts.

I’m here to introduce my friends to Life Eternal. Right now.

Life with Whom you may converse. Life with Whom you may walk. Life with Whom you may be messy and unpredictable.

Life—Who will never change, never leave, never reject.

Life.  Real.  Messy.  Unpredictable.

Life with Jesus. Free. Safe. Abundant.

 

***

I was recently reminded of this video:

Not much I can say after that.

So to end this blog post I want to challenge myself to another ten years. Another ten years of Life.  Another ten years of greater intimacy and greater depth of relationship.  Another ten years of walking with Jesus wherever He may bring me.  Another ten years of saying yes to impossible situations and messy people.  Another ten years of taking risks and looking foolish.  Another ten years of failing and hurting.  Another ten years of Jesus picking me back up. Another ten years of Abundance walking with me.  Protecting me.  Guiding me.  Providing for me.  Another ten years of adventure.

And I challenge you too.

What is the Gospel?

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If Tracy Lorensen Can Do It, I can! (Part Two)

aka the Candida blog

If you are not already aware, Tracy Lorensen can do anything.  Seriously.

She is the kind of person who will say ‘yes’ to anything and then excel at it.  She is strong, disciplined and highly responsible.

In many ways, Tracy Lorensen is the exact opposite of Samara Marie.

I mean we have our similarities…don’t get me wrong.   Youtube videos, small nicknacks and pretty things in general have bound our two [very] different personalities into an eclectic friendship that has shaped me for life.

That being said… “If Tracy Lorensen can do it, I can too” is not a motto I mold my life around.  Like I said in a previous blog (with a similar title), Tracy is made up of the combined essence of Aquaman, Thor and the Amazing Flash. You could probably add Wonder Woman in there for good measure.

That’s hard to keep up with. Trying to keep up with that could result in entering into a dangerous spiral of comparison and self-pity.  Don’t go there.  It’s not pretty.

That being said, I have found myself, once again, taking on a new feat along side the one and only Tracy Lorensen.


 

About a month ago Tracy found out that she had a candida** overgrowth problem that was wrecking havoc and causing all sorts of ruckus on her insides. In order to get rid of the all consuming candida (which is just a fancy word for yeast) inside of her, Tracy needed to completely change her diet, cutting out all forms of sugar (natural or added), dairy and simple carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, oats, etc).  It needed to be a complete overhaul.  Right at the onset of the holidays.

My empathy, unsolicitedly, won and I decided that I would do it with her. As a support.

And that’s where I want to end this blog.

Because that’s where I look good.

What a good friend you are Samara. Yay you! The End.


 

Turns out…this was much harder than I was expecting.

Thank you Jesus for Caleb Lorensen who has been like a live in candida killing chef.  Preparing us all sorts of sugar free, dairy free, gluten free dinners.  If it wasn’t for him I would starve.

The first week on my new diet I was lost.  I had no idea what to eat.  I never realized how much of my diet was composed of carbs and sugars.

Carbs and sugars.  Carbs and sugars. Carbs and sugars.

If you ask me what my favorite foods are, the only honest answer I can give is: carbs and sugars.

I quickly realized that most of my food choices were based off of convenience and that I regularly gave into sugary cravings.

I was addicted to sugar. No doubt about it.

The sugar cravings came hard and then my body punished me for not giving in by sending me a massive headache that lasted days on end.  The lack of sugar made me grumpy and emotional.

Early on, Tracy was going through her first stages of candida die off*** and being the Superhuman Mixture of a person that she is, keeping a positive attitude and making comments like:

I’m just enjoying the smells.  I can’t eat it, but I can smell it,”  and “At this point I don’t even want to eat sugar,”

while I was writhing in my bedroom over a snickers bar that I couldn’t indulge in or curling up in the fetal position lamenting over the woes of my life.

I was an awesome support system.


 

You may be asking yourselves, “why keep up this crazy diet if you’re not sick and you’re not doing a good job at supporting Tracy?”

That is a good questions and there are a couple good answers for it.

  1.  I am incredibly stubborn.  I am proving to someone (probably my inner critic) that I can indeed do this.
  2. It turns out, I had a pretty horrible diet before this.  I never realized it.  I mean, I eat a ton of vegetables and my meals are all mostly good for me and nutritious…but between those meals, I would eat a ton of crap.  It was mindless snacking. My food decisions were impulsive and often driven by my emotional state.  Coming to that realization was hard, but has been a driving factor keeping me going.  I want to rid myself of this unhealthy addiction to bread and sugar and stop looking to foods for comfort or joy when I should be looking to Jesus.
  3. Finally, it turns out, I probably have a bit of candida overgrowth myself and actually feel a lot better (now that my sugar withdrawal is done) not eating the carbs.  My digestive system has needed the break and I find that when I mess up and eat something I shouldn’t, I end up with stomach issues.

So, I’m keeping it up.  Not with the strength and vigor of the Superhuman best friend that I live with, but with my dramatic, whiny personality that is too stubborn to give in.

If Tracy Lorensen can do it, I can too! (pray for me.)

 

**Candida is not to be mistaken with chlamydia like I was calling it the entire first week after getting this news…

***Die off is when the candida in your body has been starved to death so it emits all these toxins in a last ditch effort to destroy you and you feel miserably ill until the toxins are gone. Fun stuff.

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Just Like Riding a Bike

I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was ten; my childhood was –colorful– up to that point and well, learning how to ride a bike wasn’t high on the priority list.

My brother and cousin, however, were given the opportunity to learn at the normal age of six and I, amid the beauty of prepubescent awkwardness, decided to join in on the fun.

A ten year old’s body is different than that of a six year old.  It’s bigger.  More clumsy.  Uncoordinated.  Etc.  Samara learning how to ride a bike was far from elegant and could best be described as inept.


My best friend at the time was WAY into bikes.  Her dad had a bike shop in the garage, each member of the family had a top of the line bicycle, the family owned a tandem bike and they participated in the Ragbrai bike ride across Iowa each year.  This was a family of bikers.

So–in order to keep up with the Jones’, or in this case, the Rowell’s, I was determined to learn how to ride.

And I did…

learn.

Sort of.

I mean I fell a lot.  Who doesn’t fall when learning how to ride a bike…

…it’s just that I would just fall.  Like I would just stop peddling and tip over.  Peddle peddle. stop. flop.

Let’s just say, I was never quite a ‘natural’.

But I learned.

photo 1

(Please note that I am standing with the bike rather than actually riding the bike.  This was common.)

So there I was, the young and impressionable, bike riding Samara–ready to take on the world with my helmet hair and cool biking gear.

There I was, at least, until the dreadful day in 6th grade.


My brother and cousin took to bike riding much more naturally than I did and unfortunately for me, they knew it.  Even more unfortunately, they were little punks about it.  I could generally ignore their punk-i-ness by living in the Sunshine land that created for myself early on as a coping method for unpredictability and chaos, but this day was different.

The kids had been riding their bikes down a steep grassy hill located behind the church, across the street from my aunt and uncles house.  I had been watching them accelerate down the hill, listening to their wails of delight, but I had not even considered joining in on their madness.

But then the taunting began.

I was able to resist for awhile, but as the older and obviously much cooler 11 year old, I couldn’t stand in the face of their immature ridicules long and I decided to go for it.

I strapped on my helmet, got on the bike and sped down the hill.  Everything was going fine until I panicked over the momentum I was gaining and squeezed my handle bar brakes in a moment dismay.  Naturally my ever graceful body did a balletic spin over the handle bars landing me onto the ground with my bike laying next to me.

I died. I knew it.

Or worse.  I was paralyzed.

My brother and cousin came and stood over me looking at my bloodied and mangled body and all I was able to muster out of my mouth was a whisper stating, ‘I’m paralyzed.’

photo 2

As I was so completely convinced that I was either dead or paralyzed, I couldn’t move to get help and therefore my cousin had to go get her mom and my aunt literally drove the van down the hill, took the back seats out and lifted me in.  I rode to the hospital laying on the floor in the back of my aunt’s van.

A couple hours at the hospital and a few X-Rays later we found out that I was going to make it after all.  A minor wrist sprain and a few stitches in my mouth–but I was going to be just fine.

At least physically.  Psychologically, I was traumatized and decidedly never getting back onto a bike again.


Flash forward 14 years.

My car broke down and after learning that public transportation doesn’t actually exist in Omaha, (at least not with any efficiency,) I decided the best way for me to get to my coffee shop job at 5:20am was via bike.

I had been gifted a bike not long before and the old adage, ‘it’s like riding a bike,’ was ringing in my head, so I was completely confident in this idea.  That was, of course, until I got on the bike.

I fell.

and fell.  and fell.  I couldn’t get balanced, I couldn’t get my feet on the peddles and I surely couldn’t go down any hills.   I could not do this.

‘It’s like riding a bike.’  To me, this equals death.

Fortunately, one of my then roommates was (is) a saint and she agreed to re-teach me this age old skill.

It wasn’t pretty.

If I was nervous, awkward and scared as a ten year old, you can multiply those emotions by 14 and that is an equation that, again, leads to… death.

But my friend persisted.  She held onto my seat and promised not to let go and then let go and I fell.  Over and over and over.  Until, at last, I was able to ride my bike to work.

I, however, was never able to call myself a ‘confident rider’.  While I always made it to work and back, I refused to bike on the street and was convinced that I was constantly riding into danger and facing impending DEATH via bike accident.

photo 3


And then I moved to Thailand with the Lorensens.  This family is made up of avid bikers and lovers of all things scary and hard.  So, of course they had me biking to a market within the first month of being in town.

Soon there after, I purchased my own bike and while I was greatly distressed at first, I rode it.  In the beginning, my bike rides only took place on the back roads, but eventually I made it out onto the crazy, overloaded, hustling and bustling Thai roads–I even began to ride my bicycle to Thai class when I had alternative transportation options.

Samara, at the ripe age of 27, became a confident bike riding babe.


I was recently in the States for three months of resting, relaxing and library hopping.   As per my usual, I had a lot of car drama during these three months and was therefore out of a vehicle on a couple occasions.  Once again, providence shined down on me and I was loaned a bike.

PERFECT!

This fearless biking mama was totally into the idea of peddling around Omaha.

Hello hipsters.  Here I am.

I buckled my helmet, put on my backpack, tied my Keds and was off on about a two mile journey to my church’s office building.

My biking, hipster babe fantasy bubble lasted a whole three minutes until I actually got on the bike and was reacquainted with my former fears and a few new foes called hills, gears, cars and cold.

That bike ride can only be described as DEATH HUMILIATION.

My Keds kept sliding off the peddles, there was something like 21 gears rather than the five that I have grown accustomed to, my fingers were frozen off in the 40 degree weather and the cars…

THE CARS!! Instead of just zipping past me amid my struggles up the hills (as any Thai person would do) they patiently waited behind me—only to increase my feelings of shame and anxiety.

photo-3

Basically all the awkwardness and blunderings of my ten year old paralyzed self came flash flooding back into my psyche and I never got back on that bike again.

But hey, now I’m back in Thailand where the weather is warm, the traffic is crazy and for some reason, here, I can ride a bike like a pro.

The End.

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If Tracy Lorensen can do it, I can!

This is not a motto I mold my life around.  Know why?  Because Tracy Lorensen can do anything.  Yes.  She’s like a hybrid of Aquaman, Thor and the Amazing Flash.  I’m not even joking.  So yea… I do my best not to compare myself with her.

Yet somehow, somehow, I find myself training for a half marathon with her.

Often, as I’m putting in the required amount of training miles, I relive the day that I agreed to this absurdity.

I had just taken a shower, Caleb, who had been talking about running a full marathon in the States for at least a year now, was anxiously awaiting the minute registration would open and out of the blue I hear, “Samara!  When are you getting into the States?  Do you want to run the Lincoln half with Tracy?  I’m signing us up now…”

There had been no prior talk of Tracy running the half, in fact, I was under the impression that Tracy didn’t particularly like running… but without any prior thought, the word “Great!” was blurted out of my mouth as if an alter ego had momentarily taken over my body and mind.

And that was it.  Mere seconds after that word tumbled out of my mouth I was registered and the registration fee was paid for out of my eager team leader’s pocket.

Things just got real.

….

I had trained for and ran a half marathon before.  The training process, while vigorous and exhausting was actually kind of enjoyable for me.  I did all my long runs with a close friend and I found various other different people to do the short runs with.

I’m a social creature.  If anything made that process at all bearable, it was being able to do it with people whom I love.  The conversation and relationships built during those unthinkably long runs outweighed the fact that every morsel of my being was screaming, “Why!! Why are you doing this to us!!”

The actual day of the half marathon, I did really well…until the last two miles when my body decided that it had had enough and was going to just die. Literally die.  I could barely pick up my feet to cross that finish line and I promised myself, ‘Never again.’

Well promises are made to be broken?  Right?  Right?

….

So, here I am again.

The first two months of training were actually ok.  Tracy and I would go on our runs together and used the month of January to get our bodies used to running…so the runs weren’t long or fast, just nice.

Knowing that Tracy was soon getting on an airplane for the States made these  runs very special to me—something I looked forward to (read ‘looked forward to’ with the understanding that there was still a fair amount of moaning and groaning on my part,) they were part of our busy schedules that I knew I would get exclusive time to just spend with Tracy.

And then.  She left.

Yep.

I mean, I always knew it was going to happen.  Always.  It was never a secret.  It wasn’t a surprise.

But… still…

And you know what didn’t leave?

The fact that I needed to train for this freaking half marathon that is haunting my future.

….

Tracy left and in her place came this giant cloud of smog covering the entire province of Chiang Mai.  Public service announcements about not exercising in the current weather conditions were aired and thousands of Thai people began wearing masks while they drive their motorbikes trying to keep the toxins out of their lungs.

But training called.

Tracy’s absence also brought on the increase in miles.  Four miles turned into five, then into six and eventually a nice ten.  Forty-five minute runs have gradually become two and a half hour runs…

By. My. Self.

….

At this point, my body has pretty much rejected me.  I have dealt with every runners ailment you can think of.  From runners knee to lost toe nails to nasty blisters to chaffing… flipping chaffing.  Chaffing chaffing chaffing.

As the miles were getting longer and the days were getting hotter I started getting extremely dehydrated, but being stubborn and not wanting to run with a bottle of water in my hand, I did the next logical thing…

The night before my long run, I went and hid bottles of water along my trail.  Genius.

The next morning as I was running along, my little self was just soooooo excited about these hidden oasis’ that I would stop, thirsty or not, and gulp down some water.  Five times I did this.

And then, blump blamp blomp, went my stomach for the rest of the run.

Still not sure which was worse…total dehydration and inevitable heat stroke, or the pure excitement I had over the hidden treasures that, in turn, led me to running with a stomach that was getting closer and closer to vomiting at every step.

Meanwhile, Tracy is growing stronger everyday in Omaha continuing her training like the graceful gazelle she is.   As my miles continue to take me longer and longer to accomplish, hers, it seems, are taking her less and less.

I’m sure you’ve all seen this image:

running

Change the wording a little to read: “What Tracy looks like when she’s running”… the rest can stay as it is.

This week, I’m supposed to take off.  I had a small procedure done in my armpit (I told you my body has turned against me,) and the doctor said I’m not allowed to sweat.  Ha.

Normal Samara would be all, ‘BooYah!!’ but something strange has happened to me and I feel kind of gyped out of my precious training time.

I have yet to process these feelings… they are new and confusing to me.

….

So here I am.  In Thailand.  Alone.  Training to run the Lincoln Half Marathon on May 3rd.

Because, if Tracy Lorensen can do it, I totally can too!

run

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