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

Down but Not Out – Update

Brave Boy!

Just a quick update.   Jay and Charlie are doing better today.  Back at work and daycare.  Antibiotics, breathing treatments and a good sinus flush have worked wonders for Charlie.  Can’t say he enjoyed those experiences, but he has to appreciate feeling better, right?  Thanks for your thoughts and prayers as we work through all kinds of new experiences, including different illnesses…

Down but Not Out

This past couple of weeks have been long. It feels like a month between Sundays and is amazing how much can seem to happen in just a few days. We are exploring and loving this great city and praying that we might see some of the ways that God is at work in the people here.

With this new life and surroundings, inevitably sickness is going to happen. We have not been immune. Some of it has been the usual stuff but currently both Charlie and I (Jay) are sick with headcolds that have become bacterial infections. We both had to go to the doctor this afternoon. Would you spend some time praying that we would be healed and also that Melissa would stay healthy in spite of being around us sickies? We’ll keep you updated.

Jay

Some of what I do every day…

 

How do I begin?

We have arrived! A month ago.

It’s true.  My main focus has been on Charlie, which means I haven’t allowed my mind much time to think about much else!  That little guy changes everything about how one goes about settling into life in a new culture.  You know this is true whether you’ve relocated across town or on the other side of the world.

All in all, our family has had a wonderful first month of living here in Bangkok.  Each day we have to encourage one another and push each other to be “present” and focused on who we are and what in the world we are doing.  For example:

Charlie – let’s learn to keep our shoes on and not eat them.

Jay – let’s be excited about taking one step at a time of settling into home.

Melissa – let’s stay positive after a long day and focus on where we can find some dinner.

Seriously, most days, it is the small things that count.  Charlie ate something new for dinner and loved it, or Jay fixed the shower head  so only a small river runs over the edge of the tub and into the drain, or we finally got the entire floor scrubbed down (because Mel shattered a glass and plate in one blow).

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 leave you with the scripture that has carried me through at work and is applicable to all of life.  It is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Happy Birthday

First Birthday

Today was my first birthday!  And in following with the Stroud tradition of celebrating I have had three little parties!  First, I got to celebrate with Grandma Stroud last week before she left to go back home.  That was the best because I got lots of fun toys that I play with every day now.   When we moved here from the US I had to leave the few toys I had behind and so far I’ve done pretty well playing with yogurt containers and plastic water bottles, but even those can get boring for a one year old.  So, now I have some blocks and puzzles and even a xylophone!

Hi there!

My next birthday was with just mom and dad and me.  That was special because I tasted my first chocolate birthday cake.  YUM!  At first I just picked at it and then I started shoving it my mouth saying, ” MMMMM!”  Maybe it wasn’t my proudest moment, but I loved it.

Then just today, on my actual birthday, I went to daycare and brought my friends and teachers my favorite banana muffins.  We ate those together at snack time and then the BIG surprise happened.  My teacher bought me a Mickey Mouse birthday cake and they all sang “Happy Birthday” to me!  This was so much fun because these are my closest buddies and they made me feel so special.  What a year it has been and now I am ready to experience so much more – one day at a time.

Just found out I love Cake!

Settling into Home

I love interacting with people. Here I am at the hotel playing.

I have been such a trooper!  While I began sleeping through the night just a few days after we arrived, I still like to get Mom and Dad up and going bright and early.   We’ve explored a lot of our area and more central Bangkok these past few days.  I’ll put up some pictures of our adventures.  Before we found our new home, we lived at a hotel.  The very first day the policeman said hello to me so I smiled for a picture and then the restaurant staff greeted me.  I loved the breakfast and all the friendly smiles that would great me.  I ate ham, eggs, french toast and papaya for a whole week for breakfast!  My usual day of getting to know the town meant that Grandma Stroud and I would take several long walks a day and explore all the soi’s (small side streets), walk around Mom and Dad’s university campus, watch people cooking at the stalls along the roads and play in the hotel lobby.  Now that I am walking I love to get out of the stroller and cruise around.  The attention is great!  So when people watch me and say hello, I’ll give them a little wave – they seem to love that here.  Now I’m trying to learn how to wai (bow) so that I look more local. Besides my blond hair I think I’m going to fit in pretty quick here.  Especially since Grandma Stroud found this great little daycare next to the Sripatum (that is said just how it looks, but without pronouncing the “r”) University.

Ajarn A is so patient with me

My daycare is a lot of fun.  I’m the youngest guy there so I’m going to learn fast from all the big kids.  I’ve already begun to respond to two Thai words.  Seems like they are always telling me “no” and “don’t put that in your mouth”.  I guess the teachers are looking out for me.

Getting Where I’m Going

This was early December in Iowa. Maybe next time I'm there we can go sledding!

In the last couple of weeks I have grown up a lot. We have been living out at Grandma and Grandpa Stroud’s farm. I have spent a lot of time with Grandma Great and Great Grandma Stroud. They love me so much and I know that they have prayed for me for a long time. Here are some pictures and videos of some adventures I have had. Pastor Brian and my family and everyone at Grandview Church agreed to help me grow up to be wise and make good decisions. It seems like everywhere I go, everyone peeks into my stroller and waves at me.

Dad also taught me how to drive Uncle Andy’s tractor out at Grandpa’s farm. That was a lot of fun! Even though it was very loud, I felt like I was a natural sitting up there, and everyone laughed when I tipped my hat and waved.

Also, I have crawled since September but that seems like little kid stuff. I took a few practice steps in the middle of December but right about Christmas, I started to let go of some of the furniture around me and take some real steps. I felt like a big boy!

Daddy let me drive the tractor at Grandma and Grandpa Stroud's farm! I loved it!

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