Thailand: A Birthday I’ll Never Forget

Tim and me at a McDonald’s in Bangkok

So yesterday was my birthday! I love birthdays, even if I’m getting older.
I’ve had a great birthday week. We took the kiddos to Red Robin one night, I got a new laptop, woohoo! And my daughter cheered, because I cleaned hers off and gave it back. 
My son “took” me to Office Depot to buy me a new office chair and my daughter gave me a Dunkin Donuts and an iTunes gift card!
Tomorrow, Tim’s taking me out to one of my favorite places in Downtown Memphis for dinner. So I’m excited!

I’ve had many memorable birthdays, but  I’d have to say my best birthday was in 2008, when my husband and I went on a missions trip to Chiang Rai. 

We flew into Bangkok, a place that has smells I cannot describe, even as a writer. The heat was like a wet blanket, roasted over a fire then draped over you and we were there in their winter season! If you have bouts of frizzy hair, forgeddaboutit. 

A Buddhist temple, one of many we saw
and visited. 

We spent a day seeing the sights of Bangkok. Amazing, frightening, sobering. Overwhelming. 
We spent most of our time at a Children’s home, helping with some building projects and spending time with the children there. You can’t adopt the children,but we wished we could have.

After a day in Bangkok, we flew six hours into hill country, to Chiang Rai. A vast difference from the loud, crowded streets of Bangkok. 

It was full of rice fields, flowers I’d never imagined, roaming anorexic cattle and the Chiang Rai children’s home. A place where children are kept safe when their parents have to go to prison, or an alternative for children who might otherwise be sold into sexual slavery.

One of the hill tribes. There are so many
and one night they dressed in their costumes, that
represent their tribe and sang to us. It was

We fell in love with these children the moment we stepped off the rickety bus. I especially loved the babies and preschool age children. They couldn’t speak a lick of English (some of the older ones could) but a smile goes a long way in any language.

I’ve never seen children as grateful as these. They slept on beds that had ply wood for mattresses, their toys were strings, and their home, compared to what we see over here, made ghettos look good, but they’re safe. And loved. And fed. And taught about Jesus Christ.

Me holding Chom Po!

Our church has been partnering with them and have built some new accommodations. Tim and I fell in love with a little girl who was fairly new at the time; her name was Chom Po. If we could have packed her up and brought her home, we would have. She liked Tim better. Figures. At church he’s called the Baby Whisperer. 

We spent heated days working, painting concrete fences, dining halls, laying groundwork for a tiling project and loving on the children, showing the they are not only loved by Jesus and the children’s home, but clear across the world. 

Tim actually gets a smile out of her.
Baby Whisperer. I don’t know
what this powder is, but they all get it
smeared all over for bed time. She’s
in her P.J’s. 
Tim and I about to go for a ride. No seat belts.
Just a rickety old board with a paper thin cushion
and a rope. See how I’m grabbing at Tim’s
leg? I’m smiling, but I’m scared!

One day, we took a trip into Burma (Myanmar) and did some shopping. It was sad how many young children under the age of 8 tried to sell us pornography and Viagra.  Broke my  heart. Later that afternoon we rode elephants in a small Burmese village. I’m scared of animals, so to get to the platform I had Tim feed them bananas and then I ran. They kept wanting to “trunk” us. Eew, huh?

I mean these are wild elephants! I was glad Tim and I made a will out before our trip. No really. We did.

The elephant we rode. I guess it worked up
a thirst after lugging us around 30 minutes. 

Later, when we got back to the orphanage, Tim bought me a hand made quilt by the girls for my birthday. It’s on my bed! A reminder to pray for them every morning and every night.

My birthday gift on a bed in Thailand
Tim and me with the Governor, yeah
I’m saying that all British. We’re wearing
matching shirts because our pastor made us. It
was not by choice. lol

On my actual birthday, we were invited (which NEVER happens) to meet with the Governor of Chiang Rai and then to her personal home for dinner. It was A-mazing. Tons of food that terrified me, a home that blew me away and a woman who didn’t know Jesus, but her son is studying in America and lives with a pastor! Yes, that’s right. The governor is a woman. 

After lunch, we flew back to  Bangkok and we walked a billion miles through funky smells and crowded streets to eat at The Hard Rock Cafe. Real burgers! I hope.
The servers sang me happy birthday in Thai, gave me a rockin Hard rock shirt, took my picture and framed it and gave me a Bangkok, Hard Rock glass. It was awesome.  Later that night, I got a stomach bug and spent the whole night feeling like I might die. The next day I stayed in bed while they did more touring.  But it was still the most amazing wonderful experience I’ve ever had so far and the best birthday, yet! 

My rockin Tshirt, my picture on my
bed, with the quilt. My glass…I don’t
know where it was! I have it somewhere.

Tim leaves in a couple of weeks to go back to Thailand. I won’t be going this time, but I’ll be praying for him. This chance for him to go back is worth me not getting to go to the ACFW conference. 

This is my new laptop and my
new office chair! It’s brown, but
looks black! I love it!

What’s your best birthday memory?

Oh No You Didn’t, Lord!

What does it mean to sacrifice? says:

 verb (used with object)
  • to make a sacrifice or offering of.
  • to surrender or give up, or permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else. 
  • to dispose of (goods, property, etc.) regardless of profit
As I think about people who have made big sacrifices, my grandmother comes to mind. Grandma Smith. Giving up things she wanted to take care of her family and help her mother keep food on the table. You can read about one of her sacrifices HERE.
I think about missionaries who risk their lives every day to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of them give up a life like we live in the US to live in huts with dirt floors in temperatures that would make our measely 90 degrees look like winter. I’ve been to Thailand, I know. Yet I still whine about the heat index.
Last weekend, I was in one of those sterilize the kitchen moods. You ever get in those? I bleached my counters and sink. Pulled the eyes off the stove and scrubbed. I opened my oven…and closed it. I wasn’t going that far.
I could hear my son laughing at super hero shows or Mad TV, whatever it was had him in stitches in his bedroom. My daughter was packing for her summer trip to Mimi’s and my husband was in the bedroom with his guitar. I love to hear him play, to sing…to worship. It’s what he’s called to do. One day he’ll get his opportunity full time.
When he shuts the bedroom door and begins to play, something happens. His soft voice gets louder, and louder, until the whole house rings with a tenor melody. I know at that moment, God is speaking to him. I know they’re in a private moment, not even I can get in on. The atmosphere in the house changes like a tide. Peace settles over our home. Even the children quiet down.
On this Saturday, after an hour, maybe two, hubby came out of the room. I always expect his face to shine like Moses’s after he came down from the mountain. It never does, but his eyes sparkle. I swear they do. But this day, his eyes seemed hesitant. He leaned against the counter and watched me scrub a crockpot. I didn’t say anything.  A whisper in my heart told me to be still.
“Jess, I feel like I’m supposed to go back to Thailand.”

We’d briefly chatted about this before. We had an amazing experience a few years ago, but I hadn’t been feeling the urge for myself. There’ s a difference in wanting to do something and just saying, “I’m going!” and having the Lord impress on you to go.  Not that I don’t want to go back again. I do.

My husband had been mentioning over the last few months how it would be nice to return. He missed the kids. Now for him to say these things, I knew it was God–even if hubby knew it or not. He’s not one to go gung-ho on something. He considers it, analyzes it, waits. Leans toward no.
Before he could even utter the next sentence, the Lord spoke to me so clearly, I thought if I looked to my right, he’d be visible. “Jessica, when have you ever sacrificed for him?”
I didn’t need any further instructions. I knew exactly what He was saying. My heart squeezed inside my chest.
“Tell me again how much the–“
“I don’t need to go to the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference this year.”
“You didn’t let me finish.”
“I know. Because I know you’re trying to drum up a way for us both to go.”

Because that’s what he does. He sacrifices for me and the kids all the time. He does it because he loves us. He gives his birthday money to my daughter to buy a pair of TOMS, when truth is, she doesn’t even need them. He never asks for anything. Buying him gifts is like being pulled behind a truck through gravel, naked.
But he loves buying us gifts. Bends over backwards to do so. I open my door to the van and in my seat…a kindle! Why? Because he loves to give good gifts and he doesn’t mind going without so we can have.
I didn’t need to let him finish. I looked him in the eye, talking to God in my heart–“God, I really want to go to this conference. I’ve already signed up to help with registration. I’ve booked my room. I’m so excited to meet my blogging buddies and favorite authors. Yet I knew that going across the world to touch lives for Jesus was more important at this moment.

I won’t lie. It hurt a little.  I also know God loves a cheerful giver. I put the crockpot down. “I know what you’re going to say. Go to Thailand. I don’t want the added stress of you trying to figure out how to send us both. I mean it.” And I did.

A few days after this conversation, my husband found out that they’re putting on a sports camp this year! Isn’t that just like God? Send in a 12 year long little league coach and sports fanatic to help teach the Thai children athletics. I know he’s in the heart of God’s will. 
And so am I. 
It feels good to give back. I’ll miss everyone of course. 
As wonderful as my hub is, the greatest sacrifice came from a King in heaven.  When he laid down his brilliant royal robes and replaced them with flesh. When he came as a baby, crying in a lowly manger. A King who had to be taught to talk, walk, work a common job. He hurt when a hammer missed it’s mark and pounded his thumb. He wasn’t loved by many. His brothers didn’t understand him and thought he was crazy. His followers betrayed him, doubted him, and scattered from him.
He knew his death would gruesome. Worse than any other before. Worse than any other to come. But it was his joy, to sacrifice so that we could have good things.
He died a criminal’s death. An unfair death.

And then he folded the linens of death and placed them neatly in the tomb to signify the work was done. He took his place, back into royal courts. I wonder if he folded his robes as neatly as he did his linen garments at burial, or if they were still flung on the floor where he threw them off to get to us, to make us his bride.

I suppose giving up a conference compared to that seems trivial. I also know God cares about even small things. Anything we care about, he cares too. He really does.
Question for you: Who’s the last person to make a sacrifice for you? (on earth–no Jesus on earth isn’t a loop hole)