May Day

Hey all, May Day is here and it has been more than a month since you have really heard from us here. The Strouds have been very busy with all sorts of fun. Here are a few of the highlights that we have seen over the past month:

Grandma and Grandpa Stroud came through for a visit and stayed about 10 days getting familiarized with the city. The had a great time and alas, Charlie got a good dose of spoiling. We hope to have them as regular visitors. Charlie hopes that Aunties and Uncles and cousins will come and visit someday too.

We had a great time celebrating Easter and all that went with it. Charlie was happy to explore the Easter basket full of goodies and still cherishes the soft bunny that lives with us now, though the candy from his basket mysteriously disappeared. We blame Grandpa.

We had a couple of great opportunities to get to the beaches just south of the city and they provided much needed relief and rest…once we got there! We decided to experience the train to get there and were thankful that Mom and Dad were with us to help keep Charlie busy. The trip that was supposed to take 3-3 1/2 hours clocked in at about 5 hours. This was not a serene, air-conditioned high-speed train you might be imagining. This was more like old west, clickety-clacking, windows open, 95F temps, standing room only, and sellers pushing through every 2 minutes with ‘cold’ drinks, hot soups, rice plates and desserts for sale. But what do you expect when a 250km train ride costs $5 US?

Once we arrived we found a peaceful seaside awaiting. Between the sound of the waves, the beauty of the hillsides around us and the general slow pace of life, we had many opportunities to relax and refocus.  It was wonderful.

The past couple of weeks have found us very busy with work and play. Charlie got his first haircut and has been babbling up a storm. He hit 15 months this week and has begun to ‘assert’ himself a little bit, throwing lots of little fits and frustrations at not getting his way, but he is learning. At this point, he understands Thai better than we do and we expect he will start speaking words very soon. He listens and responds to many directions in both Thai and English.

Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. We continue to face regular battles in language and illness yet we walk on, watching for the opportunities that God shows us to draw near to and depend on Him and to share His love with those around us.

Jay

Pink – update

Well, Charlie slept well through the night and once I fell asleep, I got a great night’s sleep as well. I woke up refreshed with my headache and other sick feelings gone. Charlie on the other hand sounds pretty rough. His eyes seem to be responding well to the medicine but he started this deep hoarse cough this morning that probably sounds a lot worse than it is, but it is heartbreaking to see him sick like this. Mel is going to stay home today while I go in to work at the university. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.

Thanks,

Jay

Pink

If you take a quick look around Bangkok, you see the color pink everywhere. There are pink taxi cabs and lots of pink in the advertisements, and pink is a very common color for people to wear for their clothing.

Yesterday, Charlie caught the craze and so we have a son with pink eye. Melissa was gone on a women’s retreat with our church so Charlie and I were bachelors for the weekend. On the MRT (which is the subway in Bangkok) I noticed some junk in Charlie’s eye. I thought I had just missed some sleepy eye as we got ready in the morning but a little later, there was more junk. Yuck. He has gotten worse and worse. Today I am staying home from work to hang out with him some more. We saw doctors last night and have medicine we are giving him and he is getting a little better as time goes by. Unfortunately I feel like he might have shared it with me.

Please keep us in your prayers for health and healing in these days. It is an exciting week as mom and dad Stroud are coming on Wednesday. Pray for their safe travel as well. I will keep you posted as to how we are doing.

Let’s hope this Pink fad will move on quickly from our household.

Jay

Thankfulness – Water

AH - Clean Water

Something I realized back in 2000 after spending a summer in Senegal, West Africa is that being able to satisfy my thirst with a glass of water from the tap or a bottle should not be taken for granted or under appreciated.  Seriously, enjoy your next big gulp because so many in the world will never experience something so “simple”.  Around one billion people do not have access to clean drinking water!  While we can’t drink from the tap here, we do have access to clean water.  So, as we buy each drop of water off the shelf I am somehow even more thankful for a big gulp, especially on a hot, humid day (everyday).

Thankfulness – Daycare

Charlie loves Ajarn A!

Daycare is going so well – Yes, it’s official, Charlie loves daycare!  Last week I went to pick him up and he was walking around and playing with his friends when he saw me.  Every other day he would come running to me and give me a big hug, but on this special day he continued walking around and playing with friends until the phone started ringing.  That’s when he got excited and went to find the phone.   All the while I was standing there.  Finally his teacher, A, brought him over to me and I got a hug.  So then just this morning as we dropped him off, he jumped out of stroller and ran straight to the play mat.  Before we left we said “bye Charlie” and he waved back.

There are still many days when I want to just be at home playing with him and watching him grow by the minute.  Then I remind myself of the special time and place to which God has guided our family and I see his daycare as a blessing in our lives and God’s provision as we continue to transition into life here.

Being so social, he is loving it.  He loves the people, the routine, the music, dance, yoga, art, lessons, bubbles!  Isn’t it amazing how adjustable and flexible kids are!  I am learning that it is important to not project all of my personal challenges/biases/desires/frustrations on Charlie’s little life.  He is in God’s hands day and night!

Thankfulness – Jay and Charlie

Jay and Charlie

A few weeks back I mentioned the following:

As one can imagine, life in Bangkok so far has been a roller-coaster of thankfulness and relief, challenge and frustration, discovery and adventure, and most of all dependence.  Those are the best words I can think of right now to help define this past month.  That said, I’ll work hard in the coming weeks to help illustrate what those words have meant to me on a day-to-day basis.

I find it most natural to begin with thoughts on thankfulness.  I was pleasantly surprised that my “thankfulness” list came easier than my “frustrations” list.  Funny how those things that are most annoying and cause the most worry are often so small in comparison to the greater context of the day.  I encourage you to make a quick list of “thanks” too.  So, here is the first post on thankfulness with more to come later.

Jay and Charlie – These guys make my day – everyday.  Seriously, who knew working with your spouse 5 days a week could be so much fun!  Our offices are right next to each other.  I’m not sure this would work for everyone, but it has been great for us and so I am more than thankful!  Jay offers support throughout the day, we truly share one another’s burdens (since they are usually very similar), and of course he’s a great lunch date when our schedules fit.  This semester we teach the same two courses (Level 1 and 2 – Everyday English).  Jay has 11 different groups of students and I have 10.  Together we interact with about 300 students each week.

And what is sweeter than ending each day with a great big hug from a very little guy.  Charlie keeps us smiling and helps keep daily life in perspective.  He has no fear about interacting and socializing with others even though his language ability is still limited (but might be more advanced than ours).  What better distraction is there from an hour-long bus ride home in traffic than a cute smiling, giggling, jabbering baby who dances to the music on the radio, waves at people as they exit the bus, and plays peek-a-boo with whoever is looking???   : )

(Of course, at times he has been known to offer another sort of distraction by way of screaming and throwing tantrums most of the ride home too…but I really try to focus on the positives.)

Now Playing

I know Spotify offers regular updates via facebook about music and what I have been listening to lately, but every so often, I like to mention the albums that are the currently getting a heavy rotation.  Here is the shortlist:

1.)  Jeff Bridges – Jeff Bridges – Yes he is generally more of an actor than musician but this record is a timeless collection of cowboy songs that I have really appreciated a lot.  It has actually had some positive effects on my songwriting too.  Stay tuned for more announcements to come.

2.)  John Mark McMillan – The Medicine – Sometimes we sing in a way that we are rehearsing the songs and occasionally we sing with reckless abandon as though we really believe it.  JMM leads me toward singing to God with reckless abandon.

3.)  Seryn – This Is Where We Are – I stumbled upon these guys recently and they keep jumping back into the queue.  Listening makes me feel like I am back on the water on top of a board out at Bolinas or Lindamar.

4.)  Morcheeba – Blood Like Lemonade – These guys chill me out.  I just love it.

5.)  Mike Crawford and His Secret Siblings – Even The Darkness Will Not Be Dark To You… – This week, I revisited this one for the first time in a while.  This is such a dense record with so many layers of sound, of voice, of instrument, and of deep lyric and even deeper meaning.  There is something endearing about the honesty and freshness here.  It’s hard to explain, but worth the journey in attempting to capture it.

6.)  Griffin House – The Learner – Griffin House has been part of our soundtrack for life more than 6 years.  I love his writing and his passion.  The track Never Hide in particular is so beautiful and while a bit of a departure from his normal style, I find it inspiring and challenging as I think about songwriting and production on the songs that I have written but not yet recorded.

Runner Up Category

Josh GarrelsPearl Jam, Kanye West, John Mayer, Jonny Lang, and Brad Paisley

Everyday it’s a different flavor but that’s what keeps it fresh.  I hope you enjoy some of these.

Jay

 

Moving Mountains and Walking Through the Valley

Bangkok is a flat city, but don’t let the lay of the land fool you.  Everyday there are mountains to be climbed.  Each day there are minor challenges like transportation and traffic and more major stuff like attempting to order a meal with no Thai language and no assurance that they will have the ingredients to make the one dish that you can sort of say.  Sometimes the mountain path we are on seems to come to a cliff and there seems to be no way forward.  So far, we have not fallen off.

When I lived in Kazakhstan, my city was right on the edge of the mountains and often I got to take day trips and some camping trips to run around up there.  I remember one particular trip, we hiked up past the treeline – that is the elevation that trees no longer grow because it is too cold or there is not enough water or nutrients in the soil.  This photo is not from that camping trip but it gives you an idea of the mountains there.

I learned a couple of major lessons while I was hiking around in the mountains.  When you are walking through the valley, or up the side of the mountain, it is difficult to see how far you have to go.  Sometimes, the trees and bushes are so thick that you cannot see where you are going at all.  You just have to trust that if you keep going, you will get to a point where you have a better view of what is ahead, and perhaps your end goal will be in sight.  As you get close to the top of the mountain, you pass the treeline and the path has a little more room, it is easier to see where you are going.  When you get up to the top, you can see for miles!  It is exhilarating!  You look back at your journey up the side and it seems much shorter than it actually was.  From this perspective, perhaps it looks easy, or perhaps you are surprised you made it at all.

Looking around though, you notice that there is not much growing that happens on top of the mountain.

And as exhilarating as it feels, you realize that there are taller mountains in the distance.  In order to get to them, you need to go down the other side of this mountain, down through the valley where it is so much harder to walk because there is so much more growing that seems to be happening on the path you must take.

This past week, I have felt like there were a lot of mountains to climb.  At our service on Sunday, a musician was leading us through an exercise of identifying some of the mountains standing in our way of growing spiritually, or standing in our way of connecting with God.  There were some things that God spoke clearly to me about, things we need to work through together.  But He also asked me this question, “Would you rather Me move the mountain and you can walk on through on flat ground, or should we walk up this one together and see what happens?”  There are some difficult times that walking through on flat ground will bring God great glory as you testify about how he moved the mountain.  I believe that He walks with us on the flat ground after He moves the mountain.  In this instance, however, I was excited to take Him up on the invitation.  I’m excited for this journey, to see where this mountain path will lead.

What are some mountains that seem to be in ‘the way’ of connecting with God?  

On the Mend

It has been a week of highs and lows for the Strouds this week.  I won’t get too much into the lows but wanted to mention some of the highs.  Charlie is really getting excited to go to daycare and play with the other kids and his teachers.  They are doing a great job and it has been amazing to watch his excitement grow.  At first he would begin crying as we turned the corner walking up to the daycare.  Now some days he doesn’t want to leave he is having such a great time.  We know that his teachers love him very much and it is clear that he loves them too.  What a blessing.

We are all finally healthy too!  Thank you for your prayers for healing.  It has been difficult with all of us going through illness recently.  So good to feel alive and energetic again.  I have been enjoying writing some new songs lately and all of us are beginning to feel a little more settled in though every day has its challenges.  Thank you for your continued prayers for our adjustment and ability to learn our way into the hearts of our city and its people.  They are beginning to find their way into ours.

 

Jay

Work Blues ©2012

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