Tuesday, May 03, 2016

There's No New Normal

Year one in Bangkok is almost drawing to a close. A year has gone by and I've hardly written any of it down here. I have meant to do it. I have had time. I just haven't. 

For me, these days, this space is a space for the bigger picture and what I'm learning I guess. It's supposed to be more than just the what we did today. And the truth is... I'm only just now getting any grasp on the big picture. The truth is I have had no words for this yet. 

Our Thailand move has been so completely all over the map for us emotionally. It's near impossible to even put into words the profound impact it's had on each of us. 

Some of that impact has been blow your mind amazing. Some of it has been complete heartbreak. ALL of it has been drastic adjustment. Some of it has been opportunities beyond our imaginations.  A lot of it has been a feeling of isolation and being very, very far away from everything that feels safe to us. 

It's been highs we never could have hoped for and lows we couldn't know how to prepare for all in one year. 

There has been hardly a week of this year that has been in any way our normal. 

I have been waiting for our new normal. From the moment we moved here I have been working for it... striving for it even. Schedules and counseling the kids and getting us settled and planning and trying so hard to learn and figure this life out. 

And waiting. And waiting. And I would have a day or week or even three where it started to feel "normal" and then WHAMMO! 4 kids and 2 parents in a new land would strike again and NOT NORMAL!

I'd feel myself start to slip and crater. The first 6 months I did more cratering than I like to admit. And then I would tell myself to be patient and that normal would come. 

There have been so many moments of happiness and elation and amazement and gratitude this year. I would fly so high. And then the hard would hit and it was a different kind of hard. It was a hard so foreign to me. My village was across the world in an opposite time zone and I had no context for how to even begin to approach this new hard.  

And there was the guilt. "This life is amazing! I have NOTHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT! My life is the life people dream about. It's a life I've dreamed about! What is wrong with me? Why can't I just be ok? Why is this so hard? Why can't I just feel happy? I'm such a wimp. This is ridiculous. Just ADJUST ALREADY." 

I was striving for peace... Feeling stressed about feeling stressed... Reaching for calm and straining for normal. 

And now as this first year comes to a close I think I may finally have something to say. 

In some seasons of our life I think our "new normal" is that THERE IS NO NORMAL. 

I think that in those seasons the stress about feeling stressed and the need to feel normal can be exceedingly worse than the stress itself. 

I've decided I'm not waiting for my new normal anymore. I truly don't know when it'll ever be back.. or if it will. I think I'm trying to accept that I don't have to have normal to be happy. I am working on embracing that a sense of normal isn't a requirement to be content. 

Today even... Today I was having a very good day. It was completely my new normal. Then I had several separate issues arise that would probably, ok definitely, have sent me hiding in my room crying last year. These are "I don't live in my country and so everything is harder" issues. As they arose I could feel my frustration try to sneak out. I could feel the thoughts start to spin... 

"OH MY WORD! When is it ever going to just be ok? When are my kids going to be ok? When will I know what to do? When will I know how to DO THIS? When will it feel safe or normal again?" 

And then I thought...

"It's ok. It's not my job to find normal. It's not my job to be ok. I can't make anyone else ok. It's not my job to make my kids be ok. It's my job to love and grow. We are all loving. We are all growing. This is exactly what it's supposed to be.. It's not supposed to be normal. My life is not supposed to be normal right now. There is no new normal." 

And I could feel the anxiety drain out of me. I could feel my joy come back. I don't have to be ok. I don't have to feel normal. We don't have to have it under control. And somehow that makes it easier. For us there is no new normal and that's right where we are supposed to be. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Fishy rice

I was told when we moved here that there would be super high times...

...and some big lows at first and then there would be a period where you are not impressed AT ALL. I was told this was pretty much the given for most people. And then after that it starts to become the new normal and you begin the real settling in.

Or something like that. For anyone who's been through this I'd be fascinated to know how it was for you. 

Oh there have been highs! The HIGHEST! 

And OHHHHH there have been lows!! 

Like the water cooler bursting into flames in your kitchen kind of lows. 

Soooooooo anyway, now I think I hit that next phase full force. Not the normal time. (I hope that's coming quickly) 

I think I hit the not impressed part. I think I'm in the middle of it. I know in my head that I will adjust to this culture shock and it'll be awesome cause I REALLY DO love it here but Saturday I took a bite of steamed rice and it tasted like bad smelly fish and it made me want to get on a plane to Texas in a way that isn't at all rational. Every since that single bite of fishy rice I've been unimpressed. I'm tired of fishy rice.. I'm EXHAUSTED OF FISHY RICE! 

This is metaphorical people. Work with me. 

My soul aches for something to feel normal. 

My sweet "Team Thailand" partner, Rachel, sensed a disturbance in the force and text to ask how I was feeling. And I answered... 

"BLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAHHH. Nothing feels real or normal. It's all too hard or too weird or too amazing to be right." 

You know when a picture has been altered so much that it doesn't look real and even if it's pretty you can't stand to look at it? Cause your mind screams, "FAKE! ALTERED! NOT NORMAL!!!"

That's what life feels like to me now. Nothing feels average. Nothing makes sense. I know it will. I know that one day seaweed snacks and Halls cough drops as movie snacks won't phase me. 

I know I'll find restaurants where I don't gag on the fishy steamed rice. I know someday I won't physically ache from feeling so far from almost everyone I love. 

Life here is unbelievable. Amazing. Out of this world. And all the normal has been sucked right out for now. 

So I think I will have to find a new normal in my new technicolor world. 

I'll let you know how that goes. 

Love always, Angel 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Grace Of Time

I'm not a patient person by nature. I'm a go getter. A get things doner. ;) I like efficiency. I like to be early. I like a plan. I look at things and I see how they could work. I typically have a plan a, plan b and plan c. I research. I process. I ponder. 

Don't mistake this for me being a busy body. A lot of my getting things done looks like thinking, writing, talking.... So I might be holed up in my house but it's happening. Oh.. It's happening. 

I'm good at the action. There's something I am not good at though. Waiting. Holding steady. Giving people space to breath. 

Let me clarify. I'm not bad at waiting in general. If my friend is 20 minutes late I'm usually just gonna read or scan Facebook. I don't have trouble with that kind of patience. 

It's a spiritual kind of patience. Sometimes I see a struggle. I see it in my kids or in other people I love dearly. Often I see it in myself. I see hurt and stress and pain and a not knowing what to do and it is HARD FOR ME. 

I want to make a plan of action. I want to help them or myself get better efficiently. I want everything orderly and restored and I see of vision of what it could be or should be or I wish it was. 

One day I was explaining this to my mom. I was trying to muddle through what my stuggle is exactly. And then she said to me, 

"It sounds like you are learning to give people the grace of time." 

And I was like... "Yeah. I think that's right. I don't know how to do that." 

Over the last weeks and months things have come up over and over. I will see an area I am struggling. I will be impatient with myself and then think, "I am learning to give myself the grace of time." 

I will have a conflict or stressful time and want it to be fixed but there's nothing I can do and then I hear, "I am learning to give the grace of time." 

I will have a CLEAR vision of what could be or might be and know that it isn't time and hear, "I am learning to give the grace of time." 

Love is patient and so I must be patient even when that means standing down. 

I love helping and fixing and talking and listening but sometimes none of those work. Sometimes backing up and pausing isn't neglect. 

I realized that I have made the mistake of sometimes thinking that if I didn't DO SOMETHING I was not being loving. The reality is that sometimes pausing and giving someone else or ourselves the grace of time is the most loving thing we can do. 

Sometimes we need room to breath and struggle and not know what to do. Sometimes we need space to not be ok, to learn and to grow. 

So I'm working on it. I'm trying to learn this. I'm learning to love myself and others enough to give that kind of grace and while it's not easy for me it feels like a beautiful gift. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

There's a mess in the kitchen

At our new parent orientation at ISB they said that one of the things we will experience in this stage of our adjustment is that things that would typically feel like very small issues or challenges in our home countries will feel impossible or enormous for awhile. They also said to expect the feeling that you've lost your identity. Both of these statements hit home in a major way for me. I feel it almost every single day. 

I've lost my independence in many ways. I'm very dependent on others to get anywhere and get almost anything done. Things that I used to do without a thought are now a major ordeal. I love freedom and doing spontaneous things on my own. That part of who I am is on pause in many ways. That wears on me a bit. I don't like that part. 

My heart has just settled down from Russ and I making our first attempt driving out the main gate and onto a main road... Bicycles, cars, pedestrians.. OH MY! 

I realized on that little excursion that I won't be driving more than a mile from our neighborhood any time soon and it kinda stings. He did great and was chill. I was a nervous wreck.

Me just getting in the car to drive.. which I've been known to do all the way from Texas to California or Florida... That's gone for a long time. 

Every single day we encounter multiple, multiple, multiple things that at home would be simple but here feel impossible. We are jumping through what feels like hoops of fire to me that at home would have been a match stick. 

I like to keep my mind and heart and Facebook and blog mostly positive because I have everything to be joyful about and little to complain about but I want to be clear... This is NOT a cakewalk. 

My blog and Facebook page often show what's served at the table. Sometimes the mess in the kitchen isn't worth dwelling on. Sometimes the mess isn't mine to share. 

Just know that dishes this elaborate never get served without a crazy mess and a lot of work happening in the background. 

So far I've been crazy busy or nearly collapsed from the time we found out we were moving till now minus a few sacred and rare vacation moments. I'm crazy grateful for the result but it's not without intense focus and work and times I'm hiding under a blanket. 

It isn't in any way easy and I am not COMPLAINING about the hard. I'm rather observing it as a part of this experience. I'm not asking for advice. I'm not breaking down. I'm just being real cause there's one part of my identity I don't have to lose here although sometimes it's tempting cause I don't want everyone all worried. Hard isn't bad. It's just HARD. 

Anyone you know who's moved overseas... It's hard. They probably need that vacation or the massage because it's really hard to change your whole life in one swoop. A few months ago I was an extremely do it myself independent homeschooling Texas girl loving life in the suburbs. Today I am an expat mom of four full time private schoolers in the middle of a massive city I can't even begin to describe to you and I can not drive or talk. It's not bad. It's good but it's not ever easy. Word on the street is that it does get easier at some point. 

So there's the real deal. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

I didn't want to go.

That's my confession. When we were first asked if we were willing to come to Bangkok, Thailand my gut reaction was NO WAY. In my mind Bangkok was a dirty, scary place in documentaries about trafficking and movies about idiots doing stupid stuff during bachelor parties. 

I am sorry to say I knew nothing else about it. I didn't know about the schools or the neighborhood or anything good. I didn't have any clue about the amazing culture or precious people or amazing sights. I knew it was across the world. I knew almost only bad things about it to be honest. I was scared. I was so happy where we were. I wanted to just say no... Really badly... But I knew that would be wrong. 

Anytime I feel fear like that.. The paralyzing run away kind that makes me want to plug my ears and sing loudly I know I need to stop, drop and pray. And I did. And Russ did. And I told Russ... Just find out if it's safe. And we read about it and asked people about it and watched documentaries about it and we found out it was safe for our family and that apparently people loved it. That's what we knew. 


We didn't know where we'd live. We didn't know how we'd educate the kids. We had never visited. We didn't know what they ate. We didn't know how to say even one word. Nothing. 

It wasn't until about 6 wks before move that we even knew anything at all. It wasn't until we lived here that we knew most of it. 

The fear was tempting for me on this one. I wanted to run... Badly. I had every reason to run. It was scary. 

I chose love and power and a sound mind this time. I pray I always will. I'm learning that so much of having faith is tied up in having love. I'm learning that everything is about having love. 

I guess what I'm saying is I look around me and know that I could have missed all this. Yes, I would have missed out on the stress and could have avoided the fear.. but I also would have missed the absolutely amazing moments and the growing and miracles happening around me every moment. Miracles don't come easy. They are most often stretching and painful. 

I guess what I'm getting at is this... If something terrifying comes to you and you want to run... Don't. Use love and power and a sound mind. If you walk away in that way then good for you. I just hope you won't run. Cause when we are afraid it can make us run from the best thing that could ever happen to us. 

And every time you see my pictures of this amazing place know that I'm imperfect. That I could have missed it. Know that it's sometimes overwhelming. That I cry and miss people I love and Trader Joe's and easy but that I'm so crazy grateful I chose love. 

Not running. 

Love always, 

ps The quote photo in this post is from one of my favorite books in the history of ever.. "Keep Your Love On." It's like how to be successful and awesome at relationships in a nutshell. I hope and pray the whole world reads it and lives and loves by it. :) 

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Next chapter

It would be easy to say our journey to Thailand began in March but I think that would be a simplistic and missing a whole lot of the story. 

Here's the real story... 

When I was a teenager I lived in Germany as an army brat and it changed my life. Like CHANGED ME and who I was on a very deep level for the better. 

Fast forward a few years. 

When Russ and I were dating I shared so much of what I learned while living abroad with Russ that he and I began to pray throughout our years together that one day our family could live overseas so that our kids could have that kind of amazing growth experience. Our prayer was actually very specific. We prayed that we would be able to move overseas while we could still have all our kids living at home with us and that they would all be old enough to appreciate the journey and travel well. 

Fast forward a lot of years. 

We had hoped to be sent overseas for years and it looked like it might happen over and over but it never did. So we decided that God clearly intended to keep us where we were and built a beautiful home we loved and let go of that wish to move. 

We settled into a community we loved and a church we adored and became involved with ministry we were passionate about and were happy homeschooling at a co op full of some very special friends. The kids were in leadership at church and Zoe had a catering job she was crazy about. Russ was only weeks away from being at the gorgeous new work campus we had moved across town a year and a half before to be near. We had all found precious friendships and we were finally able to begin visiting Guatemala with Zoe and investing in people we love there as well. Our church started an adoption ministry and wanted me to help lead it. We had our restaurants, our grocery stores, our routines, our date nights. 

Every single thing in our life was lining up beautifully. It was the picture... The dream. It hadn't been this easy since we'd had children. God blessed our time in The Woodlands in ways I could never explain in just a blog post. In our time there we experienced significant healing and became stronger as a family. 

So naturally that's when God decided to answer our slightly forgotten prayer. :-) 

I'm not sure if you know why this blog is named "The Voice of Adventure" but here goes. When Russ and I were first married my mom shared a devotional with me one day saying she felt like she should pass it along. This devotional hit so deeply that I immediately called Russ to share it. He too was deeply moved and we both agreed that we wanted this to be our "life devotional." 

Here is that devotional.. 

The Voice of Adventure 

There is a rawness and a wonder to life. Pursue it. Hunt for it. Sell out to get it.

Jesus says the options are clear. On one side there is the voice of safety. You can build a fire in the hearth, stay inside, and stay warm and dry and safe.

Or you can hear the voice of adventure—God’s adventure.

Instead of building a fire in your hearth, build a fire in your heart. Follow God’s impulses. Adopt the child. Move overseas. Teach the class. Change careers. Run for office. Make a difference.

Don’t listen to the whines of those who have settled for a second-rate life and want you to do the same so they won’t feel guilty. Your goal is not to live long; it’s to live.

Sure it isn’t safe, but what is? (Max Lucado)

Luke 17:33 Whoever seeks to save his life loses it, but whoever loses his life preserves it.

So this became a kind of mantra for us and we did, in fact, adopt a child... several times. We taught a class more than once. Russ changed careers with my enthusiastic encouragment after attending MBA school. We hope we have made a difference. 

This devotional was such a huge part of my life that I even named my blog "The Voice of Adventure." 

Fast forward to Jan 2015.. 

Every year for many years now I've prayed and asked God for a focus for the new year. This year I kept hearing something that confused me... a lot. I kept hearing.. 

The Voice of Adventure- NEXT CHAPTER

I was puzzled.. and a bit distressed by this. I explained very nicely to God, "God that's our life devotional. Not my word for the year." You know.. In case He was confused. ;) I even told several of my close friends about my distress over getting this particular word for the year. 

Cause I know from experience those words MEAN something and I wasn't sure I liked what this meant. There were only two things on that list we hadn't done.. 

Run for office and move overseas. 

Oh dear. I got pretty nervous. Started explaining it to myself as maybe meaning that we were helping Zoe start HER adventure and journey and that's what it meant. And after all, we had become very involved in Village of Hope in Guatemala and intended to go more and more often. SO that counted right? Eh hem. Good try Angel. Sheesh. I'm not USUALLY one for denial. 

But our life was full of ministry and love and deep connections and new opportunities to serve. How could God be having us leave NOW? It couldn't be. 

So when we found out we were moving overseas we were simultaneously STUNNED and not at all surprised even a little bit.  

Zoe is 16. This is absolutely the last opportunity we would have to live overseas and have her able to be with us. The littles are just now getting to the age where travel is becoming easier and they appreciate the journey. 

It is "The Voice of Adventure- NEXT CHAPTER." 

BANGKOK, THAILAND... I'm gonna say it. I threw a bit of a temper tantrum! I was a little bit like, "WAIT!!! Hold up!! I changed my MIND! It's too hard. Everything is perfect. I. TAKE. IT. BACK. We've grown enough. I don't want anything to change. Everything is comfortable and wonderful and look at the amazing things we are involved in right here! How can we just LEAVE?"

But in my heart I knew it was time to go and that this was our answer to prayer. 

Yes.. That first day a lot of words came out of my mouth that I probably shouldn't publish. I paced through my yard and home for MILES that day trying to wrap my mind around leaving our perfect world to live in a place I'd never even seen. 

I worried about my children who have all already faced so many battles in their lives and wondered about the load for my precious husband. To ask them to leave so much and take on so much.. could we be ok? I paced and I prayed and I cussed and I cried. (Look.. I'm not saying I recommend cussing while you pray. I am just getting real about how this went down.) It took a few hours of the praying and the pacing but..

I opened my hands and let go of what I expected my life to be and then I began to feel the joy in the adventure.

So I am grateful I didn't get my way. I'm blessed that I was pushed out of my comfort zone. I'm thankful that we are in our next chapter and I'm excited to take you along for the ride. 

Love, Angel 

Soooooooo.... I live in Thailand now

I know like 99.9% of you KNOW this information. However, just in case some poor unsuspecting soul stumbles innocently upon this blog there it is.

I. Live. In. Thailand.

I only found out I was moving here in March. My life since then feels like a complete whirlwind. There's been so much intensity in every way. There has been, of course, the intense loss of leaving all that we know. There has been the unbelievable excitement of the adventure in front of us. For EVERY single member of our family there have been gains and losses and bonds made and some severed and hurts healed and hearts broken and then strengthened and dreams rediscovered and challenges faced and truth realized and character revealed.

I knew that a move abroad would grow us. I didn't fathom how hard and fast that growth would come. What I see now is that in this moment of us having our lives turned upside down the heat shot up all around us for our family and everyone who loves us. It's in those moments that we discover the truth about ourselves. Then we choose what to do with that truth .

There are times now we feel we are flying and times we feel we are drowning. Sometimes all these feelings can happen in a day.

I live in Thailand.

I am happy about that. I'm scared about that. I'm amazed by that. I'm grateful for that.


And this blog that has so lovingly captured so many special moments over the years... I feel that it's finally MAYBE.. I HOPE the moment to pick her up and dust her off and begin to blog again.

There's this world I want to share with you if only I can find the words.

So..... I live in Thailand now.

Much love,

Friday, November 30, 2012

Stump Recovery Program- Step 1- Identify Stumpiness

We all know that the first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem right? So here's the question... ARE YOU A STUMP?

What is a "Giving Tree Stump" you ask? For that answer just click here...

I myself discovered I WAS indeed A STUMP.

I wasn't always a stump but I became extremely stumpy. 

As I have visited with more and more women have I realized this is not a just me thing. There are a lot of stumpy women out there. So how to recover? 

Here's step 1. Are you a stump? 

You might be a stump if.....

1. You think life is like a metaphorical pie and if you take a piece for yourself it leaves less for everyone else so you try not to take much for yourself.

2. You feel guilty... like A LOT. You feel guilty anytime you take care of yourself. You might even sometimes feel guilty for feeling guilty.

3. You feel proud of yourself when you are able to keep going even if you are completely drained. You don't stop to rest until you are completely spent.

4. You often give to others to the extreme and sometimes feel hurt or resentful that people can't see what you feel and need. You may wonder why they don't give to you the same way.

5. You have quit doing things that used to be extremely important to you because you just don't have time for that.

6. You have lost your spark.

7. You find yourself resenting it if you see people close to you taking care of themselves because you "can't" do that.

8. Things you used to love (like being a mom, homeschooling, helping people, planning events, or fill in the blank) now leave you feeling stressed and exhausted.

9. You begin to wonder if you will ever be that person you used to be or if this is your new personality.

10. You find worth in how much you sacrifice and feel frustrated by those you don't feel are sacrificing to the same degree. 

If you identify with 4-5 you are approaching stumpy. 6-7 and you are pretty stinkin stumpy. 8-10 and you are the stumpiest stump in the woods like I was. So let me know... how many of us are there? 

Are you ready to dustump with me?

There's hope my stumpy friends. I believe we can be way more than stumps. Who's in? 

Part 2 coming soon....

HUGS, Angel

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cracked Foundation


There are people who think that children who are adopted are weird. There is nothing weird about them. There is, very often, something broken... cracked.. at their very foundation.

Similar to a beautiful home that has a crack in the foundation.. these sweet ones have been hurt and wounded at their core. 

That's the reality. The thing about a cracked foundation is it must be repaired or the structure is unstable. It's likely to be a messy job during the process. It may look HORRIBLE for awhile. It may require intense work. It may require special tools and skills. 

Here's the amazing part though. If repaired correctly and with skill the foundation will be stronger after the repair than it ever was originally. 

That's the beauty of things... people that are broken and healed are stronger in the end. Our children come split wide open with trauma and grief. They have most often endured more than the average adult. 

They were not easily broken. They have endured an emotional earthquake. The very fact that they are ALIVE is a testament to their strength. 

So here they are... by no fault of their own... cracked wide open. We walk into brokenness and pain. We have to walk into that house with that gash in the floor knowing the mess that's going to occur. 

Even when we DO know it catches us off guard. We wonder what we've gotten ourselves into. We wonder if we will survive. We wonder if we can ever find the skills to help repair the foundation. 

And it's slow.. and it's hard.. and it's messy.. but we usually figure it out with some help. Our children heal. The cracks close. We find the tools or help or resources or knowledge and we DO THE WORK. AND IT'S WORTH IT! 

I'll tell you why it's worth it. A person who has been broken to bits and keeps fighting is the one we scream the loudest for isn't it? A person who loses everything and keeps going... THRIVES.. That person is different, unique, special.

That is who our children are inside. Just as sure as some children are born without limbs many of our children are established with deep wounds that they overcome. The overcoming and healing of these obstacles, wounds and grief makes them MORE. They become MORE. They have been rejected and learned to love again. They have been ridiculed and continued to try. They have been denied food, shelter, care and attention and survived it to find a home. They are not weird. They are MIRACLES.

They are being forced to learn lessons in forgiveness, kindness, survival, empathy, determination, courage and surrender that most adults don't learn... ever.

When we look at our adopted children we must see the cracks, attend to the damage and expect the healing. We will get there and our children will not be normal. Heavens no, when a child's foundation is broken and repaired with great skill it can be stronger than it ever was before.

Our children will never be normal. They will be phenomenal. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

There are things you want..

My dad is not always a man of many words. When he does say something it's usually because he HAS something to say and it's worth hearing.

One sunny day, years ago, I was sitting on my parents front porch while my dad was working in the yard. I was explaining some very big life decisions Russ and I were facing. I explained to him how hard it was to make these choices and I asked for his advice. This is what he said to me that day...

"Angel, there are things you want and there are things you want MORE. You have to decide which is which."

I laughed and agreed with him. It didn't seem like rocket science but it kind of was. Sometimes the most difficult things to do are so simple at their core. So much of what it comes down to is what do we want MORE.

Sometimes it's not good and bad or black and white or right or wrong. Sometimes it's just so many good things we could do and we have to really listen to what God is whispering to our hearts... Which means getting quiet enough to hear that still small voice. Which means drowning out the guilt, obligation, dream scenarios, romantic lenses, selfishness, anger and frustration to just be honest with ourselves... And KNOW our own heart.

I can't tell you how many times over the years that advice has rung in my ears. I can tell you that it's ringing in my ears over and over for the past couple of months.

There are things I want... And there are things I want more. Which is which?

I just wish my dad could tell me what I want more cause I OFTEN have trouble figuring that part out. Dad??? ;-)

Hugs, Angel