October’s Come and Gone

The world seems to be spinning faster than ever these days. I could say that October has come and gone, but considering February was the last time we posted an update here, we are nearly at the point of saying that 2015 has come and gone. So with nothing less than long-lost resolution or perhaps a little pre-New Year’s Resolution, I share a recap of 2015 so far with a with an ever pressing desire that updates will come more often.

B.LightyearThis year, a deep love of Toy Story and all things Buzz Lightyear have overtaken our household. Charlie jumps from couch to couch to infinity and beyond fighting off the evil forces of Zurg and bath time.
Lila has found a love for singing this year and her songs grow clearer every day. She turned 2 in September and at some point burst into Let It Go and a love of Elsa and princesses. It is a blast singing songs with her.

Charlie got his first set of roller blades and learned to skate. He also learned to ride his bike with no training wheels. Grandma and Grandpa Stroud were a big help in this as they visited for much of October. The kids loved spending long days playing with Grandma and Grandpa.
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Jay saw some big job transition at Payap. His new position is in the Institute of Religion, Culture and Peace as Program Integration & Facilitation Coordinator. The Southeast Asian Studies Center merged with IRCP and Jay is overseeing marketing development including all new branding, print materials, and a new website developed at ircp.payap.ac.th, as well as continued development of information about Southeast Asian Studies programs at seasc.payap.ac.th.

Along with marketing, he is coordinating monthly events on campus which help students and faculty to gain vocabulary to be able to conceptualize our ideas of peace at a personal and spiritual level, relational level, and global level. Once we begin to understand what we mean by peace, we can discuss steps for pursuing it. The hope is to have students form a club that IRCP faculty will oversee and mentor.
J.BandJay continues to write music and record, share, and perform every great once in a while. In July, he released a recording of a new song called The People Live in Wait. Click the link to listen.

Melissa has been working hard in the International College at PYU helping students find their way toward graduation but much more toward success, whether in class or maturing mentally, spiritually and socially. She keeps very busy and loves helping students from all over the world get connected at Payap. While many universities claim to be international in Thailand, Payap is truly international. The International College has about 300 students that represent 30 different nationalities. Some classes might have 15 different nationalities studying side-by-side. Teaching intercultural communication to a group this diverse is challenging and it makes for a very natural cultural laboratory where students quickly see how important it is to understand the world and communication from different perspectives. While challenging, it has been very rewarding.
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Both Charlie and Lila seem to be moving faster and faster every day. Charlie’s quote of the last month has been, “Look how fast I can run!!” Mostly we just try to keep up. As we move into the holidays, we’d love to keep up with you as well. Drop us a line via email, Facebook, or in the comments below and share your journey with us!

Jay, Mel, Charlie, and Lila

Digging Out

February just arrived and many of you in the States are digging out of snow storms and very wintery weather that comes with a reclusive groundhog.

We are doing well in the warm climes of Northern Thailand. It has been a very busy month at Payap University. Today we celebrated culture and talents with Payap’s Got Talent, a university wide competition. We had 14 acts ranging from vocal performances, traditional dances, and magic acts! it was exciting.

Next week is International Day and in previous years, this has drawn more than 1000 people to campus to celebrate cultures from all over the world. We are excited to see a lot of work come to fruition and learn a lot about the many different groups of people who are here on campus and here in Chiang Mai.

My little corner of the university is the Southeast Asian Studies Center. I am directing short courses and semester programs that dive deep into Southeast Asian culture, economics, language, arts, politics, and social issues. Check out more information here and if you know anyone who is interested in studying abroad and learning more about SE Asia, please pass this on to them. Our site is http://seasc.payap.ac.th and we are also adding content at Facebook.com/pyuseasc. Head over there and hit the like button!

Hope you all are having a great February!

Jay Stroud

Heading North

Hey friends,

We have had a busy summer. We got to see many of you as we traveled back to the States for a month over June / July. It was great to get to relax and introduce Lila to her Great Grandmas and aunties, uncles, and cousins who were not part of the grand parade of visitors passing through Bangkok last fall.

As soon as we returned to Thailand, we loaded all of our possessions onto a truck and headed North to Chiang Mai, our new city. Melissa and I both started new positions at Payap University in mid July. Melissa is the Head of International Campus Life and I am the Director of the Southeast Asian Studies Center. Our positions have kept us very busy but we are at a point where we really love what we are doing now. Melissa has been teaching a class called Truth and Service as well as planning all sorts of student activities and I am redesigning the incoming study abroad programs here at Payap.

Charlie and Lila have settled into life as well. Charlie attends a local bilingual school and Lila attends a daycare not far from our house. Both love their schools and have lots of smiles coming and going to school each day.

First Day Before School

First Day Before School

First Day Before School

First Day Before School

First Day After School

First Day After School

First Day After School

First Day After School


























We’re all smiles!

It was quite a challenge to find the right house in the right area but we moved in just a few weeks ago and are slowly getting settled. Due to special gifts from some of you who have donated funds via Grandview Baptist Church in Iowa, we were able to purchase a car. This has become a great need for our family, but not something that we could really afford until now. We are so thankful for the generous gifts that made this possible.

Thank you!

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Amazingly, Lila’s one year birthday came this past week on September 7th and we had a little party with some very special treats. She loved the first attempt at donut pops (and I think it is safe to say that Charlie is a fan too.) Check it out in the video below. We hope you all are having a great September and enjoying the beginnings of autumn. Talk to you again soon!

Jay, Mel, Charlie, and Lila

Love Looking Back At You

Just before Lila was born, everyone kept asking me, “Hey Jay, are you going to write a song for your new daughter?” Just like with Charlie, I kept telling everyone that I planned to and that there was time. In the back of my mind, I was putting it off though. I wrote Charlie’s song Love, Dad almost a week before he was due. After I finished writing and recording it, he was in my arms 10 hours later. Knowing that our daughter was coming, I was a little worried about writing a new song for her because I was afraid she would be born within hours of her song being finished. We were excited for her to come but we also wanted her to wait for Grandma to arrive.

About a week before she was born, I finally wrote her song and over the past couple months, was able to put together a recording and this little video. Here is Lila’s song, Love Looking Back At You.

She’s Here!

Hey friends, we are excited to introduce you to:
Miss Lila Jolene Stroud
Born 9/7/2013
4:41am Bangkok local time
6 lb 15 oz (3.148 kg)
20 1/2 inches (52 cm) tall

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3 Weeks To Go!

Hey Friends,

Just a quick update. Mel reached 37 weeks yesterday and she is doing great. Stroudlette has been giving some good kicks but doesn’t seem all too eager to make her entrance to this world just yet. Our friend Janeen from Iowa passed through town a couple times in the past two weeks and mom (Ilene) will be arriving this next Monday. Charlie is counting the days to grandma time and is very excited to meet Stroudlette as well. We are so excited to introduce you all to this baby girl and will keep you posted!

Jay

She Shall Be

In about 6 weeks, we will be holding a baby girl in our arms. She might very likely be here sooner. Yesterday Mel reached the 34 week point. August is looking like a very busy month for us here. We will have a friend from Iowa visiting briefly, I (Jay) will be taking an overnight business trip up to Lampang which is a city in the north of Thailand and mom will arrive at the end of August to help us out with Stroudlette as she makes her début in this world. The end of August will be here faster than any of us could imagine and with it will come a sweeter little girl than any of us could have imagined. Please pray for us this month as we prepare for her joining our family. We will post pictures as soon as Stroudlette arrives. In the meantime, here are a couple of life shots from the past few months.

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Charlie and mom enjoying the afternoon as we celebrated Jay’s birthday in July.

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Charlie has been playing along with daddy on his guitar.

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Charlie loves making his own smoothies. Maybe we can get him to open a business.

Hope you are enjoying your summer!

Jay, Mel, Charlie, Stroudlette

Still Growing

Hey friends, it has been an eventful few months that has had plenty to update about, however we have been running too fast to slow down. I took a trip to Myanmar, we had multiple bouts with sickness, and a great trip to visit family in December. Most recently, Charlie celebrated his 2nd birthday. The big day was yesterday and he has had two parties so far and two more to go this weekend. By next week, there will be pictures. In the meantime, here is one from his party at Kids-D Daycare.

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He’s such a fine strapping young lad.

We’re so very proud.

Talk to you next week!

Jay, Mel, and Charlie

Writing in the Margins

A few years ago, I found a song called “Writing in the Margins” by songwriter named John Gorka. I love the way that I am constantly challenged creatively when I hear it.  He sings:

I am writing in the margins
Notes to me and you
Cause the pages are all filled
With new orders coming through
I am writing in the margins
Notes to you and me
So maybe we’ll remember
The good that didn’t have to be

Every time I hear the song, I find that my mind moves through several different metaphors. I think about journeys through the Scriptures and how on some pages, the margins around the verses are completely filled. Each time I reread some passages, I find all these memorials that remind me of insights I have gained. Sometimes they have to do with particular things I was struggling with at that moment. I also think about my old journals. I do not journal as much as I used to. It is a hard habit to get back into when it falls out of the routine. I love to write and find that it makes me more creative and more healthy, and yet like flossing or any other habit, it takes a lot of discipline until the routine becomes set.

The bigger metaphor that comes to mind is more of a life habit of leaving margins. I imagine that time is one reason that I write less now than I used to. Charlie certainly keeps us busy. It is so much fun chasing him around when we are not teaching and carrying out other responsibilities with work at Sripatum University. We get more plugged in at church each week it seems, getting to know other families, helping out with music and the kids ministry.  Also, we are seeking to spend more time with families who are in difficult situations having fled to Bangkok as refugees seeking protection via the U.N. All of these things are great, but they push our story to the edge of the page a lot of days.

Books have margins so that there is space to write and process thoughts and reactions about what is occurring in the story we are reading. Likewise, I have found that it is a good practice to build margins around the stories that we are living. Margins provide rest and space for us to process and the ability to be flexible. When my life story pushes to the edges of the page, I feel I am literally on the edge a lot of the time. As the pages turn, I miss some things because my fingers cover over some of the story when they grip the page. In these cases, I might not realize that I am holding in my hands the realization or accomplishment of a dream or goal. All I can see is the busyness of each activity caving in on me.

John Gorka is writing notes and memories to himself and his friend, to help capture and process all of the good times that are happening. The pages are full of life stories. The plots that thicken and thin each day sometimes threaten the margins. These margins are a quiet place where thoughts and worries, visions and dreams can all settle down and support the story. As you settle in and find some extra margin this week, I hope that you find within the quiet, a voice that speaks truth about your story, and I hope that as you reflect and process, you will be able to see God at work. Jot down some notes so that you remember the good.

When Things Go Quiet

Occasionally things get really quiet. Too quiet. It kind of sneaks up until something in you asks, “Where is Charlie and why is he so quiet all of a sudden?” This is usually a sign that either something is wrong or someone is wrong (not every time, of course, but often). We have become such a noisebound culture that silence is jarring. We don’t know what to do with it. When it does come, it doesn’t take long for us to start questioning it, waiting for the inevitable news that something is up.

Here at the Stroud home, we have gotten kind of quiet. This past two months has been our summer term for teaching and for both Mel and me, our teaching hours in the classroom have almost doubled. We have been keeping up okay, but after 5 weeks, we are very ready for a break. This is our last week of teaching before finals and we are relieved. We have been quiet on the blog and quieter on Facebook because mostly we just have not had the energy. Just keeping up is hard enough but getting cohesive thoughts together is often very challenging. Annnnd… there seems to be a funny law in place with blogging…it feels like exercising. When you don’t do it for a while, it is harder to get started again. It is hard to get over the idea of ‘catching up’ from where you left off. And so, the quiet stretches. It is not always a bad thing though.

Sometimes, I notice the quiet and go to look for Charlie only to find he is peeking around the corner playing hide and seek, waiting to be found. He is not in trouble or upset with us or anything, just initiating play to deepen our relationship. Sometimes he is hiding in plain sight, just wanting to be ‘found.’ I think he gets this from his Father.

While I sometimes struggle to find words to say, my hope is that you will not only hear from us when we are struggling or ‘getting ourselves into trouble.’ We’ll try and share some of our joys and successes too. Just don’t be surprised if we jump out and surprise you after hiding for a little while.

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