In a new space.

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How do you make a house feel like a home?

Our new house is beautiful. It is a sudden rise up, a view and some space, but we have not changed, our money situation has not changed. So how do we reconcile this shift? How do we hold it and live inside of it, expand and live in these spaces? How do we make a home here?

The younger kids roam. They ride their bikes and their scooters. Solo rides his wave board, all geared up with elbow pads and knee pads, looking like a kid in a catalog. They run to Winnie and Josh’s house to hang out with their friends, then all of them careen over here.

The older kids hide out. They find privacy where they can, in their rooms. Kenya draws and reads. Kai tests out the computer he bought with money he saved up, a great bargain when his host family moved away and sold it to him. He throws a football (An American football, Leafy insists. A football, Kai replies, in an old argument between people who feel more rooted here or there) to his siblings with his excellent arm, and they catch it again and again. Or they all go to the basketball court.

(Rumor has it that the village was talking about a certain kid of ours (maybe Solo) who was at the basketball court at 6:00 in the morning the other day. I have a feeling that not much of what we do here will go unnoticed.)

Chinua builds shelves, installs things, and plays his trumpet. I go through boxes. But I can’t wait to finish unpacking before having people over, so people are here among the boxes, in the bones of our new life, not yet settled, not yet complete. It doesn’t feel like home if others are not here. This is the life we have always lived. I don’t know how to make it homey any other way.

So I cook and we eat together outside. We have a covered outdoor table, the delight of my heart, in our carport. Who needs to cover a car? We would rather have a table there—a mystery to our landlords, who protect their car from rain or sunshine. Every countertop in our kitchen is too short for me, so I have embraced the old art of sitting while chopping. We have dinner and Bible circle with our friends over, and everyone is a bit astounded by our new view. The light shows off on the hills. We sit on cushions in the living room, surrounded by bugs, cups, tea, and hot water in the middle of the circle.  We read John 5 together, and discuss. I am always thankful for the perspective people from around the world bring, and this time is no different, as we hear about spirituality in Mexico, Spain, and the Philippines.

I want to try to live in my life, not drift along. Probably writing stories will help. Stories of our life here in this place. And to live in something beautiful, something more spacious than we are used to? I guess it is just thankfulness that helps with that. To acknowledge what we have been given. A view. That’s a mighty thing. I didn’t form those mountains, but there they are for me to see. I feel small in comparison. I didn’t plant these trees, but here they are. It is a vulnerable thing, to learn to receive. Inside I feel used to scrapping along, sure that what I have comes from my own power. Fists up.

How do you make a house feel like a home? Open hands, relaxed shoulders, lights and candles, sitting together. Songs in the house, maybe a dance party. Homeschool and students coming to learn. Figuring out the rhythms of life. (There has to be milk for the morning, because the store is far away.) Comforting crying children. Sorting out arguments. Driving to town for meditation. Cutting flowers for a vase. Planting a vegetable garden. There are hundreds of ways to make a house feel like a home.

The Thread (Again.)

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Here I am. 

Whew. 

Big and beautiful changes have been taking place. I’ve written about following the thread before, I think, a concept I gleaned from Tim Keller, who gleaned it from George MacDonald. I have a lot of concerns in my life right now, a lot of people to take care of, a lot of futures to think about. Not to mention the teeth. All the extras and gaps, all the crowding. 

My jobs. Education, writing, and community life. All beautiful, all full. It is hard to see into the future. It feels opaque.

I find it is best to follow the thread. I envision a golden thread in front of me. Each child has their own as well. And we allow God to be God. It doesn’t mean I’m not proactive. But I’m not forcing things either. We follow.

We have big things to trust about. (We’re still looking for a place for Kai to live next year, during the week, while he’s in school.) And books to write. I offer these things like tiny jewels. I envision opening my hands. 

(Kai’s life, a tiny jewel. He is a precious, precious man boy. Radiant and upright in his heart. God knows his life and wants the best for him.)

So. 

Following the thread.

We followed it right to a new house. We’ve been in our house in Pai town for seven years, limbs stretching all the while. We were content there, even without a yard of any kind, because the house was lovely and convenient, the neighbors and our landlords very, very kind. It was perfect for the kids to walk around in town. The one thing I have sometimes wished for was a view. And maybe some garden beds. 

And then our landlords built themselves a new house and offered us their old one. It’s in a village 4 km away from Pai town, next door to our dear friends, and the view is out of this world. We took two weeks to think about it, then decided to follow the thread. We thought about our values of having people over (more space) and outdoor life. And finally, we said yes.

I’ve been slowly packing up our house over the last month, moving boxes when I had enough to fill a car. We moved two days ago. Ro, Winnie, Christy, Josh, Neil, and Aya helped us get our things over here in many trips, as well as a couple of men who lugged the heavy things. 

It feels like home right away. The view is so lovely. The kids can run around in the yard. Chinua and the older kids went out to the nearby basketball court to play last night at around 8:30, and got back at 10:00. 

We have lots to do. Fans to buy. Things to organize. I need to paint my new (own) little writing room and get a router extender so the internet will reach it. We need to plant our garden beds. Figure out our new kitchen space. I need earplugs for the squeaky floors, and to calm my heart in a new house at night. (Last night my Superstar Husband was searching for stuff at midnight, and the wood floors have this squeaky lacquer on them, so I couldn’t get to sleep.) 

In other news, the first book in my new women’s fiction series is coming out soon. And I’m working away on World Whisperer 5. 

Today I’m thinking about all those jewels in my hands. My marriage. The lives and futures of my kids. The things I don’t understand. Hopes for our community here. Friendships far and near. I open my hands and they settle into the heart of God. He cherishes them and holds them. And the thread spools out a little farther, into a good place. 

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work.

Under the mango trees.

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It’s been a while. A few days ago I came out of the wild. Well, not exactly the wild, I guess. But a wildish sort of place. 

I volunteered at a Japanese music festival up here in Northern Thailand and it was such an interesting, rich experience. Sleeping in a mango orchard for nearly three weeks, looking at the stars at night, watching the sun rise.

I was with Kenya and our friends Tayna and Aya and spent a lot of time with them, especially for the first nine days, before the festival started. I was on a deco team with lovely Chinese and Japanese artists. We made a lot of signs, all translated into Thai, Japanese, and English. “We need a sign, three languages,” is a phrase I used a lot. I painted live and organized other live painters. 

I watched my husband play music. I sat behind our bhajan band on the main stage and sang in the response to our Jesus bhajans. 

Our car got dustier and dustier.

I learned how to say “good morning,” in Japanese.

I guided a meditation in a campsite, attended one, and kept the kids quiet for a couple.

I studied and wrote papers in a teak forest.

I went to the hot springs almost every day.

It was a busy time, full of wildness, adjustment, and lots of activity. But I came out feeling ready for the next season, and somewhat like I hit a reset button. 

Chinua leaves tomorrow for India. The kids and I will stay back, do school, and make art and writing. Tumble around, deal with smoky season, cook, water the garden, and swim. I’ll write my final research paper of the quarter. We’ll try to be creative and loving and patient, even as the days grow hotter and drier.

I like what you have made.

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I love to cook for big groups of people. It’s something I just love, what can I say?

Maybe it’s because cooking is one of the most sensory of the tasks of our lives: cut tomatoes. Cut six kilos of them. Keep your fingers out of the way. Cut onions. Cry at the doorway. Come back and cut some more.

Cooking on Sundays is smell, taste, organized work. I line the vegetables up in the order they need to be cut. I set a timer and go as quickly as I can. Later I slow down and go carefully. Seeds in hot oil: Fennel, coriander, cumin, mustard. I add turmeric and a spice with the magical name of Kitchen King. Suddenly, the kitchen is alive with fragrance, with memories of jungle days.

Abundance. We have enough and plenty to share.

Holy work. I couldn’t do it if it wasn’t art. But every color, every texture, truly is beautiful. It’s holy work to cook for others. Before anything, God is Creator. Whenever I respond to what God has made, I feel as though we are in an act of making something together. I appreciate this, I whisper. I like what you have made. Especially purple cabbage. Especially the glorious tomato.

Holy work is always messy. True holy work, that is.

So there are stacks of dishes. There’s a chunk of dhal that has spilled on the stove and is blackening at an alarming rate. And there are friends; here they are helping, here they are chopping, creating, we are making things together. We are saving the sambar from burning in the pot by ever more ridiculous and ingenious methods. I am asking Sonal to make the chutney because hers is the best. Keren is cutting a mound of cabbage that nearly engulfs her.

And then somehow, it all disappears. The two rice cookers are empty, the giant pot is being scraped, the salad is long gone. People are walking around with the food we made in their bellies. Fed. I love it. What can I say?

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work.

Around the bend in the river.

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Yesterday, Leaf and Brendan moved to Chiang Mai. Their son Taran is going to highschool, and the family is making it possible by moving.

It’s only three hours away. And yet.

We’ll see them all the time. And yet.

They are some of the kindest, most generous people I know.

I remember when they came to live here.

I remember the first time I walked out and found flowers on my motorbike. 

I thought, this is what it’s like to live in a town with Leaf.

Leaf and I like to sit by the river to talk. We’ve done it many, many times. Sometimes on the ground, sometimes on a little platform. The platform washed away in the rainy season this year, along with the bridge. We tried not to make too much of it.

Sometimes, when I’m driving my motorbike, I catch a flash of dreadlocks out of the corner of my eye, and realize Brendan has just whizzed by on his bicycle. When Isaac and Ruby were small, Brendan drove around town doing all his errands with them. Tubtim (Ruby) and Meenoi (Isaac- it means Little Bear) charmed the laundry lady, the market sellers, the landlords. 

Ruby and Isaac act like siblings, tumbling over and around each other without paying a lot of attention. I love to watch them, to see how completely at ease they are with each other. 

Taran has been joining our little group of homeschoolers for a little while each day, for years now. This group of funny, snarky, thoughtful teens is a highlight of my life. Taran brings the creativity. He and Kenya climb trees, make swings, come up with interesting ways to defy the laws of gravity. 

This family is woven into our life. We don’t even have to let go. It’s just the day to day things that will stop. School together. Bumping into each other on the road. But we’ve been friends across wider distances than this. They got on a train and visited us for the first time in Goa, when Solo was only a couple days old. We took a train to them when I was pregnant with Isaac, journeying long hours to sit and have chai under the mango tree.

We can’t see around this bend in the river. What will it be like to have two communities instead of one? (Eventually.) What will living at a distance be like? 

Right now it feels like loss. But I hope soon it will feel like expansion. Like taking a long deep inhale. Like more adventure, more possibility, more talks by the river, a larger space for love to grow. Those are the parts that God has to bring. I’m tired of trying to manufacture things. Of trying to control outcomes. I didn’t want them to have to leave. But God has different ideas, and he breathes on things and makes them beautiful. He brings the sparkle.

 We can’t see around this bend, but good things have come out of the unknown before. Many good things.

Breathe on us today.