“Terrified and full of joy.
I live there.
It is possible to be afraid of what obedience might bring next
and be full of thanks and trust anyway.”
As said by Katie Davis, someone I don’t know; I simply saw this posted on facebook somewhere months ago, and liked it enough to put it aside in my quotes page.
Yes, I have a quotes page; six pages, actually.
There have been so many things to swallow in the past few days, weeks, months. But this states it well: living terrified of what our lives might look like if we continue forward; terrified of what our lives might look like if we turn back; and still rejoicing in the small joys of the day at hand.
And today, I just want to take pleasure in the small things; a moment for thankfulness.
It deserves to be said that Stephen is knit, with ease, into all of the joys to be noted below. I wouldn’t have lasted long in Mae Sot without him, and he’s kept me afloat more days than one. His patience is unending, as far as I can see. We have loved working together, and really, doing most everything together. We rarely spend more than a few hours apart, and we’re surviving–even flourishing. And I couldn’t be more thankful.
And then you weave him into these things, and it’s a glorious thing.
First: swimming in the sun. I put this one first only because I just spent my Sunday morning there. We have a membership to a local hotel to use their gym and pool. Though titled a resort, the hotel on the whole leaves a little bit to be desired. It is known to have bed bugs and was mistakenly painted white, which only emphasizes the abundance of mold growing on the side. The gym, too, is significantly occupied by broken equipment. I believe there is one weight machine that works, two working treadmills, and some free weights that smell strongly of of rusty metal.
But the pool–the pool is likely the only thing resort-like in the whole place. It’s huge, with bright blue water that sparkles in the sun. It’s surrounded by palm trees and actually looks a little like a brochure. We go about four or five times a week to swim laps after work, and it’s wonderful. Swimming in the rain after its dark is really beautiful.
And even better? Swimming in the sunshine! In a place where the heat never seems to end, it is really wonderful to be in the sun and have a cold pool nearby. I went this morning, and it was so lovely. I could feel the sun as I swam up and down the pool; I can see the tops of palm trees when I pop my head out for more air; and I can see the ripples in the water reflecting the sun at the bottom of the pool. It’s gorgeous.
And it’s become an escape that I am so thankful for. At the end of the day, at the end of the week, its like an hour-long vacation.
Second: the market. I love the markets here. It’s another highlight of the week to bicycle downtown to the Burmese market to buy an abundance of fresh vegetables for just dollars. It brings together three loves–health, cheapness, and Burma.
Third, and hand in hand with the market: cooking. I have really grown to love cooking. I’m not much of recipe follower, so cooking has become my creative outlet; a game, if you will. It’s a challenge to discover how many natural products I can squeeze into a loaf of bread; or how many vegetables I can chop up and throw into a soup. How will these spices combine? It’s wonderful. It’s a release. And it creates: I produce something useful, and we consume it. I’m thankful to be in a place where I am challenged to start with a cupboard of flours, sugars, and spices; nearly devoid of all canned goods. And though somedays it can be quite frustrating to have zero “quick lunch” options, I love it at my core.
Fourth: cycling. Stephen and I have always loved riding bikes, and it was a good portion of our friendship during our freshman year of college. You might say we never would have gotten together if it weren’t for the long bicycle rides amidst the other twelve hours a day we spent together. 🙂 It continued to be a big part of our dating relationship, so much so that both of us had bicycle racks that often carted our bikes back and forth between Tennessee and Arkansas, just for a ride together while we were in the same state for about 42 hours. And it continued to be a big part of marriage when Stephen bought me a tandem for a wedding present!
And now, we’re loving it again. We are thankful to live in a small little town like Mae Sot, where bicycles are actually welcomed on the road. They are the only transportation available for nearly half the city. We have begun biking to work in the mornings, to Karen lessons in the afternoon, off to the gym, and then back home in the evenings. I love the exercise; I love having the time to smile at passersby; and I love the friendliness of it–economically, environmentally, physically. It seems genius to me, particularly since I’ll probably arrive to work sweaty no matter what form of transportation we choose.
And then we’ve been taking these long bike rides outside of the city and exploring the little fringes of Mae Sot. The roads get worse, the cars are fewer, and it’s perfect. And our bicycles fit us well: Stephen’s has a big frame and is built well. He can shift the gears; he can pedal for a while and then coast. Lucy, on the other hand, she’s a little shaky. Lacking gears, you simply keep pedaling, and sometimes just pedal harder. She takes those hills and bumps in stride, just bobbling and clanging about. And her basket is always ready if I find a nice vegetables stand to stop at.
Another benefit of the bicycles? I can go somewhere by myself! Still not confident on the motorbike, and haven’t driven outside of the safest, quietest neighborhood in town where I practice. But I can take a simple bicycle, right? I’m still not extremely coordinated, particularly amidst the traffic, but I can at least make it to a few markets and the swimming pool. In fact, on the way today, I got a shout out from a fellow biker, spoken with his lovely accent: “Hello, white friend! How are you?”
And last, but not least: the kids. I can’t describe to you the wonderful place these neighbor kids are finding in my heart. They have become the highlight of so many days. I am loving their hugs, their dirty feet, the simple ways we can communicate; the countless ways they take us by surprise. Today they poured water on our tiled front porch and turned it into the world’s most deadly slip and slide. It’s about seven feet long, backed up to a wall, with two steps down to concrete at the other end. We had children, in their underclothes, dancing and sliding all over; off the steps and onto the concrete, laughing their heads off. Each moment with them is a surprise, and I’m learning to embrace the moments as they come. If I can just sit a few minutes with them each evening, or when we stop back by the house before running an errand, they love it. We grab that one little moment to a hold a little guy, learn one more name, or let them sit on my bike while I push them down the road. They’ve become my biggest fans when I start out a run or come back; they’ll run the last stretch of road with me, with huge, contagious smiles on their faces.
They’ve become really inspirational; for why we’re here, but also the simplicity of living life with those around us. The simplicity of our lives becoming the gospel of Christ. This kids challenge me in ways I could never expect–challenging the cultural normals I grew up with that may not be as a “obviously right” as I might have once thought; challenging me with their celebration of a small toy, or even trash; challenging me with their lack of shame.
“The future, good or ill, was not forgotten,
but ceased to have power over the present.
Health and hope grew strong in them,
and they were content with each day as it came,
taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.”
–from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring