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.

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

Sawatdee Khap!

That’s “hello” in Thai and though I can’t say it just yet, I have learned that it is important to show respect to others and greet them.  So, I’ve begun to wai (bow with my hands together) to others and soon I’ll learn to say hello!

I’ve been a pretty happy camper lately.  My days are so full.  After a good 11 hours of sleep at night I’m ready to hit the ground running.  I love breakfast with Mom and Dad and then I get an hour of playing in while they rush around getting ready.  One of my favorite things lately is when I hear it is time to go, which means I get to put on my shoes!  I love my shoes!  I rush over and grab them of the shelf and even though I still need help getting them on properly, I’m learning.  Then it’s time to get in my stroller and we are off to catch a bus.

Daycare is still non-stop fun and I’ve found myself taking 3 or 4 hour naps lately!  Crazy – I never do this at home for mom and dad, but I just wear myself out at daycare.  You can see in the pictures that I’m a really good listener and it helps that all my friends know what to do.  Some of my newest words in Thai are “sit down, hug, lay down, all done, eat, clap, music and dance,” and come to think of it those are some of my favorite in English too.  Well, I think the pictures speak for themselves so I’ll let you just enjoy those.

Thankfulness – Skype and FaceTime

Breakfast Chat with Uncle Kevin and cousin Noah

Face to face time is wonderful.  We do not take for granted being able to communicate so easily with friends and family who are elsewhere.  Of course, we would prefer that they all just take a vacation and come and visit us (we have an extra bed waiting to be used), but for now, it is great.  By the way, our Skype account is Jay & Mel Stroud, if you want to chat.  Keep in mind we are 12 hours ahead of CST.  So if it is 9pm here on Sunday night then it is 9am there on Sunday morning.  Just do the math and then try calling us if you see we’re on.

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.)

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