Pursuing Margin

Lately, I’ve been really busy. Like, really, really busy. I snapchatted a ton of my friends around 7pm one night with this face:

Definitely not one of my better looks. I don't wear exhaustion well.
Definitely not one of my better looks. I don’t wear exhaustion well.

The whole point of that was that I was working hard to get ahead on a few projects. I don’t think that I left the office that night until 10pm, but hey, I made some progress! That’s a good thing.

But as I’ve been working on settling in here, digging back into ministry and all the such (true settling in takes months and months), I’ve been struck by one thing.

I need margin in my life.

You know how books have margins? Yeah – it’s that blank space – with no words. I have a Bible with margins – in fact, these margins have a very dedicated purpose.

What lives in my margins. Also, my journaling Bible is my favorite thing ever.
What lives in my margins. Also, my journaling Bible is the best gift I have ever been given.

When I was reading my Bible this morning, this struck me:

Margins are where we make life application.

We’ve got to process. Life happens, right? It’s like the words on a page. Our busy days are filled with epic things (or mundane, depending on your point of view).

You’ve seen a student’s textbook, notes scribbled around the actual text, from where teachers have shared additional words.

We’ve all seen the well-marked Bible, where the cramped handwriting is hardly legible, yet the writer tends to know exactly what was written and intended. They’ve learned from that.

But margins exist for a reason.

In books, they are the blank spaces that we fill with additional notes. For those of you who wouldn’t dream of marking in books, it’s the battered notebook/note-taking app you’re using instead. In life, it’s the rare unspoken-for moments when we can take a step back. Process. Get silent. You know, actually be still and listen to God. 

I’ve done a terrible time about making margin in my life. I’ve been very quick to sacrifice the best for that which is good. Filling up my time has been easy; making sure that it was what God really intended for me to do has been tricky.

Life is so busy that by the time the end of the week rolls around, I’m exhausted. I’ve not left empty space in my life. No time to take the experiences that I’ve had an make something valuable of them in my life.

Without taking time to process them, my life is a series of events, one after the other. I’m not allowing myself to take time from them; to learn and grow. To become a better person from the experiences I’ve had, and be able to shape the lessons I’ve learned into something that I can pass on to others.

So there’s that. In the next few days, I plan to write another post about creating that margin, and what that looks like for me. What is making the cut; what’s going to the side. How that’s helping me.

Last question before I hit post:

How are you doing with margin in your life?

#teamLBC2013

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you’ve seen me use this hashtag for a series of posts this past week: #teamLBC2013.

That’s cause this past week, I had a team of folks from Leonardtown Baptist Church of Southern Maryland come out to Thailand. I got to spend time with them, working with the team, and most of all, chronicling the awesome things that God did during their trip out here.

Now first of all. They came out to engage an area of western Thailand that is very unreached – the village they specifically went to has only one known Christian from that area. That guy helps work with my foundation, and rocks it with helping those of us who work here with getting our visas and get to stay out here. I got to know this guy and his heart a while ago, while sitting at immigration, bored out of my mind.

When I was in the states for six months earlier this year, I got to meet our new associate pastor, Adam Polk. His vision was for our church, LBC, to work in an unreached area – something that Southern Baptists as a whole are leaning more towards. When I shared about the village where my Thai friend felt led to reach, something inside me told me that we had a perfect match.

Long story short, a team assembled, and then after months of preparation and planning, landed here last Friday (the 18th) and we headed out to the village.

Part of our plan was to scope out an area for future work. My church’s desire is to be able to dig into an area, and build work from the ground up. This trip was to find out what was going on here, how they could plug in, and quite frankly, if this was a task that was a good fit for the church.

The time on the ground in the village would be short – 4 days. Two of those days were allocated towards being an English camp, and two of those days were for going around the village, collecting data on the people and their lives, and what the needs of the people were. And quite frankly, would they even be interested in hearing about the Gospel?

It was a week of answers.

Rather than a long detailed post, let me sum it up.

  • Meeting with the village leader ended up with the information that he was over not one, but 24 villages. This made the target peoples go from 450 or so to 18,000+. We’re moving towards BIG VISION
  • People were VERY open to hearing the Gospel
  • The team was highly accepted by the local people. Locals begged them to come back.
  • We had one person sick, but she was able to recoup while in Thailand, which is fantastic
  • Squattie potties can be traumatic
  • The school LOVED the English camp
  • According to the team, we’re ready to start planning #teamLBC2014

The last thing, and I save this, because it’s the most important: one woman accepted Christ! The first day of our time out at the village, we had the chance to talk to a woman named Arun. She heard a basic presentation of Creation to Christ, and was very interested. The next day, she sought our team out, wanting to know more.

Pastor Adam got to sit down and share with her, while I took care of our sick teammate, so this story is second hand for me, but she heard the story, listened well to it, and accepted it. After she said she believed in Jesus, she took off her Buddhist amulets (unprompted) and said that she was going to turn them in to the local Buddhist temple.

So that is where the trip ended. But the good news doesn’t finish there.

I talked to my Thai friend from that area – he said that Arun had been riding her motorcycle, and felt something pick her up from the motorcycle. Seconds later, a truck crashed into her motorbike, totaling it. “It was God,” she insisted. “God took care of me.”

God’s doing things in this small village, and I can’t wait to see what else He has in store for us!

Arun and I, right before I gave her a Bible of her very own.
Arun and I, right before I gave her a Bible of her very own.

(normal) life & death

note: I am NOT sharing this post on my personal facebook account out of respect. Please don’t publicly tag me in anything related to this post on facebook. Twitter is cool. 

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The coffee sitting next to me in a London Starbucks mug has grown cold. I’m listening to my old running playlist (I’m now rediscovering my strange affinity for running to N*Sync), and my toes are just a wee bit cold from the air conditioning in my office that can’t differentiate between settings. My office mate and I have two choices: Siberia, or Hades. Neither choice delights me.

It’s normal, which is fine. I’ve adjusted. Someday, I just may remember to bring socks into work so my poor toes don’t freeze (cultural note: when you enter our office, you leave the shoes at the front door). There’s an odd feeling in the office among the folks here.

See, yesterday, when I left around 5:39 pm, as I pulled out of the office compound, I noticed that a face was missing.

We’ve got Thai staff who work on our office compound. When I arrive in the morning, they are scattered all around, sweeping fallen leaves into small piles. I drive carefully to avoid scattering those piles. In the evening, as a rush of cars exit, escaping the office, there is staff who watches the narrow road we’re situated on.

With a smile, nod, and a wave, he helps us navigate an easy exit without an unwelcome bump in our day.

Joe, this fellow, always had a smile on his face. I was fond of him, even though I rarely talked to him other than the polite greetings that happened when I came in and out of the office and passed the guard shack where he’d sit during quiet times and read the paper.  We’d nod, smile, and go on with our days.

Let me make a side note: since Joe was a guy, I held back and let other guys talk to him. There were plenty of guys around to stand with him talking for ages, shooting the breeze, and taking it straight to real heart talk. I was not the appropriate person to be the one to do that. I’m a strong proponent of men reaching out to men, and women reaching out to women. But that’s for another post.

For the past month, Joe’s been in and out of the hospital. He was diagnosed with a rare form of anemia, and required multiple transfusions. Even in the pictures of him posted on Facebook in his hospital gown  (cause that’s the thing to do, document your ENTIRE LIFE on Facebook and Instagram – and yes, I totally snapchatted some of my besties when I was in the hospital getting a health certificate as well as a syphilis test – and yes, in case you were wondering, I AM SYPHILIS FREE!!! I know that was worrying you).

Back to Joe.

He’d been back to work, smiling. A little weak, from what I could tell, but he was there.  He’d smile, nod, wave.

That was our routine.

Smile, nod, wave.

So yesterday, when I left, I found it odd that he wasn’t out there like usual.

This morning, I arrived to find an email from one of our office folks that he had died during the night. Here’s the kicker: other office workers were with him, because the next morning, he was supposed to go to his mother’s funeral – she just died on Saturday. When he began to struggle to breath during the night, they rushed him to the hospital, and were helpless to do anything but watch him die.

He leaves behind a wife and young child, and a number of friends who are utterly reeling. See, Thai culture is all-inclusive. If someone is your friend, you do life together. The Thais who work at our office are a perfect example. They rally around each other for births and deaths. Your family is my family, seems to be the mantra.

It’s beautiful picture of community, but it certainly amplifies the pain and sorrows. The joyous highs are certainly very high and celebrated, but the lows are heart-wrenching. It leaves all of those at our office walking around numbly, trying to adjust to yet another new normal.

***

My office mate and I have opened our windows to share the arctic circle that is our office with rest of the tropics. My fingers are thawing out, and I can feel my toes again. Some of the office staff are outside, sweeping the grass (yes, I said that correctly). Now my playlist is going through M.I.A. (another musical weakness of mine).

I have no clever conclusion for this blog post right now, so I’m just going to end with prayer requests.

Let me share a few prayer requests:

  • Pray for office workers here as they find a new normal
  • Pray for Joe’s family as they deal with grief
  • Pray for community to arise among the Thai staff here
  • Pray for Christian workers here at the office to be the voice of Jesus in the lives of the Thais working in the office