All the Senses

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My new home is an unending sensory experience.

::Sight::

That line of hills, the colors of the flowers, the graceful lines of the house. We have moved into something that someone else has built, cultivated, planted. It is the very definition of grace, to live among work we have not done with our own hands.

Smell.

The wood smell in our bedroom. Making candles, cooking food. Coffee in the morning. The flowering tree opening its scent at night. Jasmine. Wafts of pig smell, all day, from the neighboring field. The septic tanks that don’t work properly for some reason. Incense. Dogs. The smell of rain. One after the other, breezes bring smells, one pleasant, the next one unpleasant. A meditation on transience.

::Taste::

I harvested eggplant from the garden and made a Keralan curry. Long beans. Mangoes and coffee in the morning, green tea with honey. Instant noodles. Rice. Pasta and black beans and tomatoes and salsa.

::Hearing::

Birds all day long, from the earliest light, to the end of the day. Roosters. Frogs, cicadas, and crickets. Owls. The whine of mosquitoes. The trucks that go by, playing music from their loudspeakers, selling ladders and brooms, or awnings, or fruit. Motorbikes. Announcements from the nearby temple. The chanting of monks during the funeral over the last few days. A boy rides up to the gate on a bicycle and asks if we can play ball. Kids running and jumping, laughing and yelling. Piano and trumpet, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, singing, rapping, beatboxing, tapping on tables, boxes, and chairs.

::Touch::

Sweat on the upper lip. Dirt on my hands and under my fingernails. Flies everywhere, landing on our skin. Spiders. June bugs dashing themselves against our faces. A wind picking up just before the rain. Mosquitoes biting. Red ants biting. Humid air. More gentle breeze. Sweaty kids coming for a quick hug. Kisses. Dogs coming close to be pet or scratched. Fans whirring. Heat building. Dough under my hands as I bake bread. Rain on the face, soaking driving home on the chariot in the night.

My Superstar Husband Plays Basketball

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Since we moved, Chinua takes breaks from work by going up to the village basketball courts to practice his shooting. Often there are local kids or teens there who join in, or invite him to join their game. Sometimes our older kids join as well Movement, play, connection, and a bit of language learning, both in Thai and English.

The ball, the sounds of the court, the looming clouds, the insects singing in the evening, the lights with flying termites swarming. Humid days and nights. Playing in the rain. Coming home in need of water and showers, tired and happy.

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. 

***

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I read a lot of words before I ever said them.

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The new asphalt in front of our house is incredibly smooth. Two kids whiz by on bikes at 5:30 in the morning, when I wake up, on their way to the mosque. Stones get stuck on the track of the gate. I kick them out of the way. 

I still can’t say the word asphalt, pronouncing it “ashphalt.” I also say “haf-hazard” and to be perfectly honest, I discovered that there was no such word as misled with a long I (mice-uld) a few years ago, while listening to a podcast about people who mispronounce words. (!) I had been mispronouncing misled for my entire life, and still find it hard to believe it’s not pronounced the other way, as in, “to misle someone.” Our landlords tell us our neighbors are going to miss us. We can’t quite believe it, but the grandmother next door says that if she hears the noise of children, she feels happy. I’ve heard this several times in Thailand. When children are around; when you hear their noise, when you see them playing, it brings happiness. 

We’re only moving a few kilometers away. But this won’t be our street anymore, and that is a little bit sad.