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These shoes I walk in.

September 21, 2011

Do you remember those elementary class school pictures? The ones where the kids are all lined up and there is that one kid who stands in the back row in the dead center? All throughout elementary school that kid was me. I was the tallest, and each year ushered into the very back and middle of my class pictures. There was no missing my height as a kiddo.

I’ve been blessed with being almost 6 feet tall. Don’t get me wrong, I love my height. My height has been a source of security in some not so safe moments in foreign countries, as I just naturally give off that “don’t mess with me” vibe. My height has allowed me to school some folks in basketball. And most importantly, my height is one of the things I love about being me.

So I’ve learned that the more height a person has, the more the numbers go up in shoe size. I would not consider this an equal blessing. My size 12 foot has been the source of much frustration over the years in trying to find cute accessories for my feet.
However, yesterday, to my surprise, I found a super cute pair of size 12 yellow heals.

I’ve never worn heals in my life.

Today I wore these new super cute yellow heals to work. I so wish someone had given me an inventory about how to walk in heals before I ventured out in public. I feel like I looked as if I was walking on an ice skating rink all day. I am glad to say that it was a successful day, no falling, tripping, or blisters.

Thinking about these new shoes somehow got me into deeper thinking. It was 9 months ago that I moved back to the States from Thailand, and since then I have walked in many “new shoes.”

I was recently re-reading my last blog post. I wrote this last post just a few days before moving back to the States. I wrote about how it felt as if I was starting an entire new book to my life. This is truly what happened.

We're Married!

Just to name a few of my new pairs of shoes throughout the past 9 months…

Fiance and wife: William proposed the day after Christmas and we got married on June 5th. He is an amazing man and I am blessed beyond words to live my life with him. We have been basking in quality time, as most of our relationship was long-distance. He is truly my best friend and partner in life. I am constantly moved by this gift.

Love him!

Server, bartender, manager: I was so blessed by not having to do much job hunting when I got back to the States. Red Robin, my employer before moving to Thailand, welcomed me back with open arms. I learned how to mix some yummy drinks, create some tasty juicy burgers, and help manage the restaurant. My time back at Red Robin helped refine my leadership, patience, and goals in life. Although I learned that I do not aspire to run a restaurant, I was able to learn so many new tools which will only further me vocationally.

And ps, I grew to like the bird (even suiting up in costume once).

My newest shoes come with a great story. So as I said before, I realized I do not aspire to run a restaurant. With this said, William and I were on our honeymoon and he graciously listened to me as I shared my heart for wanting to get back in the anti-human trafficking work world. As we talked, I stressed about how in the world I would find something like this, and he calmed me down. William very simply put it, “Brooke, God knows your heart and He will provide opportunities like this. Just be praying in that direction.”

My wise husband was right. We arrived back from our honeymoon and I had an email in my inbox about a new job opening with the Salvation Army as an anti-human trafficking case manager. The Raleigh, NC Salvation Army received a grant to start this program and they were starting the hiring process. I called to express my interest in this job, and the next week I had an interview.

Long story short, I got the job. I am loving it. It fits me so well and has woven all that I learned in the past few years into one wonderful job. I am blessed.

All these new shoes have given me a new definition to an abundant and fulfilling life. I have been given an even wider lens for how much God loves me, in such a deep and personal way. Being thankful does not even begin to describe it.

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Transitional Crisis

December 6, 2010

In just three days I will be moving back to the United States. In some ways it feels like I’ve been in Thailand for years, in other ways I feel like I just got here last week. My time has been filled with highs and lows, joy and heartache, giving and receiving, loving and being loved.

I have made many transitions over the years. Transitions from state to state, job to job, and country to country. I would say this current transition is proving to be the most challenging so far. My emotions are high and my feelings are raw. My heart has been interwoven in my relationships with the people at The Well and in my community. Yet, my heart is ready to be embraced by those in the States.

I am in the midst of the “here and not yet.” I’m in the midst of a transitional crisis. This may sound extreme, but “crisis” is a great word for what I’m going through.

Crisis: a turning point when an important change takes place, indicating growth or ruin

The turning point is here. Change is happening. Growth is occurring.

During these turning points, many people describe it as a new chapter beginning in their life. I feel like an entirely new book is about begin. I have learned so much in the last six months and I have seen myself change and grow. I carry all these lessons and changes with me as I make this transition back to the States. Nothing is going to waste. I am opening this new book more deeply rooted in the knowledge of who I am and my purpose in life.

 

I am leaving with these truths about who I am…

I am: a woman, a daughter, a sister, a best friend, a confidant, a visionary, an adventurer, a romantic, a conversationalist, a change agent, a truth-speaker, a traveler, and a fighter

My heart is: fiercely loving, fiercely loyal, obedient, worth being loved deeply and sacrificed for, forever growing, and constantly breaking for the heartache that surrounds me

I desire: continuous freedom in my life and in the lives of others, to be loved, to love more deeply, to travel the world, risky living, and the pursuit of something greater

I love: The Lord, people, great conversations, big hugs, being challenged to become someone greater, children, other cultures, India and Thailand, great food (especially breakfast), Disney, playing in water, and being a part of the Kingdom of God

I loathe: deceit, apathy, lack of follow through, big spiders, the dark, scary movies, and giving up

I will: show people the truth about who they were created to be, hike a part of the Appalachian Trail, run a 5K, live in a tent, sacrifice for the growth and healing of others, follow hard after Jesus and His Kingdom, and love without condition

I have: experienced gain and loss, loved deeply on women who have been sexually exploited in Asia, had conversations in Thai, experienced a sense of family in many different countries, cultures, and languages, and seen God heal and set people free

I have learned: many people love me, I am worthy, I can do much more than I ever thought capable, poverty is more about a mindset than lack of money, love is a choice not a feeling, I am simply called to obey and follow—God will use me wherever I am and in whatever I am doing, the healing of my greatest pain has created the great growth and healing in the lives of others, my weaknesses and failures are equally as important as my successes, and I can only love well by knowing the love of The Lord

 

I recently heard the quote: “The way you exit one season of life is many times how the Lord allows you to enter the next season of life.” I am leaving this season having learned so many things, and entering into this new season holding onto these truths which will create a beautiful journey ahead.

 

Working through Culture Shock

October 5, 2010

Culture shock is inevitable.

It happens to the best of us.

For the past month I’ve been in what is called, “The Negotiation Phase.”
Negotiation Phase: The difference between the old culture and the new culture become more apparent. The sense of excitement that was once felt will eventually give way to new and unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as one continues to have unfavorable encounters that are perceived as strange, offensive, and unacceptable. These reactions are typically centered on the formidable language barrier as well as stark differences in: public hygiene; traffic safety; the type and quality of the food. One may long for food the way it is prepared in one’s native country, may find the pace of life too fast or slow, may find the people’s habits annoying, disgusting, and irritating etc. This phase is often marked by mood swings caused by minor issues or without apparent reason. This is where excitement turns to disappointment and more and more differences start to occur.

I have started to move past my culture shock through reminding myself of what it means for heaven to invade earth.

The other day I got a phone call from my housemate Jup. She had just gotten done with class and wanted me to come pick her up at the 7 Eleven where the bus had stopped. I told her sure, although my attitude was not matching my words. I was tired and was not feeling like taking out the motorcycle again.

I then start driving to pick Jup up and it began to rain.

And in Thailand when it rains it pours.

Within less than a minute I am completely soaked from head to toe.

I got to 7 Eleven and I looked for Jup. There was no Jup to be found. I called her only to find out that she was at a different 7 Eleven (we have about as many 7’s as we do mosquitoes). I had to turn around and go back towards our house and head the opposite direction.

As I was driving and my frustration mounting, I had the thought, “Can Heaven invade earth in this moment?”

I realized that Heaven invading earth in this moment was a matter of perspective.

I began to shift my thoughts…

I am blessed beyond belief to be living in Thailand in this season and experiencing so many different things.
I am so thankful for my wonderful housemate and good friend Jup. How many times in my life will I get the opportunity to live with a Thai person and watch our relationship evolve into a close friendship?
How often will I get to just grab a motorcycle and drive through the streets of Bangkok?

My frustration was gone within a matter of moments, and I was experiencing immense joy in my circumstances.

Although most of my culture shock could not be reconciled in a matter of moments, looking at what frustrates me through different lenses has helped immensely. I started to become thankful and enjoy the aspects of things that I recently would have rather done without.

Heaven Invades Earth

September 24, 2010

Lately I have been contemplating the vast amount of needs going on around me. I am surrounded by people who have great hope for their future, by people who are experiencing deep pain, children who have a fighting chance at a less damaging and a more whole life, and also by people with many visions and goals for how the Kingdom of God can be further experienced here on earth.

Quite honestly there are moments when this realization is indescribably overwhelming. I have felt like there are so many places to turn, but I don’t even know where to begin.

Over the past few weeks I have been realizing that there is something more for me.

I have been asking the Lord for revelation. Here are some of my most recent thoughts and inspirations.
It all goes back to Genesis…

God created human beings;
He created them godlike,

Reflecting God’s nature.

He created them male and female
.”
Genesis 1:27

A few main points from this passage: God created all human beings and every man and woman have been created to reflect God’s nature.

Then we find creation reemphasized in John, as well as the contrast of light and darkness…

“Everything was created through him;
nothing—not one thing!—

came into being without him.

What came into existence was Life,

and the Life was Light to live by.

The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;

the darkness couldn’t put it out.”
John 1:3-5

A few main points from this passage: Nothing came into existence without God, and Life created Light, which blazed out the darkness.

I firmly believe that here on earth we have the opportunity to experience both heaven and hell.

Heaven: divine, reflecting God’s character

Hell: all that is void of God’s desire for his creation

I have walked straight into hell during outreach here in Bangkok. Hell certainly exists here on earth.

But that is not all…

Heaven undoubtedly also exists here on earth. Heaven is not just spoken about with future implications, it is also meant to be understood in the here and now.

Going back to Genesis 1, all men and women posses a piece of God within them. All men and women carry a taste of heaven in their souls. This heaven, or divinity, or light, it BLAZES out the darkness.

So heaven invades earth.

What does that mean for me?

This is the something more…

Heaven can be experienced through a smile, a hug, teaching English, telling a little child I love them, drawing pictures, sharing a meal, and the list goes on and on.

There is no formula for my time here. There is no code to break. There is not a measurement to be taken.

The realization of all great needs that was once daunting, now feels freeing.

I am being beckoned to live in the present of each day. It is in the here and now of each day that heaven invades earth, that light blazes out the darkness.

I’m no savior, simply a lover

September 19, 2010

Challenge: a task or situation that tests someone’s abilities (Merriam-Webster)

This is exactly what has happened to me this week. I have been challenged, my abilities have been put to the test.

I participated in outreach two nights this past week, both which I found incredibly difficult and challenging. Every night of outreach is hard, but this week has been one of the hardest.

Outreach is a generic term we use for the time we spend building and maintaining relationships with women in Bangkok’s red light districts. There are a few specific areas that are hubs of Bangkok’s sex tourism industry, either targeting foreigners or local residents, and this is where we spend a couple evenings during the week.

On Wednesday night we went to an area we call “freelance.” This is an area where women are not connected to a particular bar or entertainment center, but work on their own, being solicited by cab drivers, young teenage boys looking for a high for the night, business men, drunk homeless looking men, and the list goes on and on. We meet women of all ages, late teens to those into their 40’s and 50’s.

Chinatown--"freelance" area

We met a woman who graduated from college with a degree in communication and art. Another woman who was also educated and even did 10 months studying abroad in Spain.
We watched a group of four young men, in their late teens to early twenties, bargain for one of these girls. My fists tightened, instincts like I was protecting family. They wanted to pay less than she was insisting the cost would be, they made some comments and walked away.
We waved and smiled from across the street to a women who we have an ongoing friendship with. She was gone once we crossed the busy intersection. She has shown a lot of interest in coming to The Well, but still has a hard time believing in such a place.

On Thursday night we went to Nana Entertainment Plaza. This is a large horseshoe shaped bar complex with around 20 different bars, all with different appeals to them. We walked upstairs and spent most of our time with a group of ladyboys. Ladyboys are men who now self-identify as women. Many of these particular ladyboys have already undergone breast implants and a sex change.  This is very common in Thailand, and there are countless reasons that such a large population of men see themselves as women, this subject could truly be a blog of its own.

Nana Entertainment Plaza

After spending time in Nana, we crossed the street and went into a snooker bar, which is just a fancy name for pool bar. We met a 19 year old who was sent down to Bangkok to work in the bars by her family. She has a 1 1/2 year old son, who she is supporting by working in the bars. As we approached this area of the conversation her body physically slumped over, her eyes became grey and sad. She told us that she really did not like working in the bars, but felt the pressure from her family to provide.
Of course we told her about The Well, but the rush of emotions and freshness of this work left her speechless.

Difficult, heart-breaking, fist clenching: this was my experience this week. I left challenged, my abilities were put to the test. I wanted so badly to take these women to a safe place to find rest, unconditional love, a new job opportunity, and a community of women who know their pain on a personal level. As deep as this desire was in my heart, it was not within my ability.

What is in my ability is to say, “I’m here because I want to be your friend.” I am able to offer a warm hug and a friendly smile. I am able to offer a listening ear, and tear-filled eyes as they share their pain.

Although genuine friendship is not necessarily brining women out of the bars right now, it does not mean it is not useful, meaningful, and necessary.

Being challenged is a beautiful gift–it has given me a perspective on what my true abilities are within outreach. I am not called to be a savior, simply a lover. Here in Bangkok, in the heart of the red-light district, love is walking into the darkest places within a persons life, and choosing to stay awhile and feel some of what they feel.

Prayers of a Child

September 19, 2010

The other day I was in the office talking to the mom of one of the many cutie pie kids here. I was telling this mom that I love her daughter and think she is just adorable and wonderful.

This mom’s response threw me back…she said, “she loves you too, she asks about you every day and prays for you every night before she goes to sleep.” I just stood there with my mouth open.

I was so overwhelmed that a 2 1/2 year old thinks about me and prays for me.

I know that this little girls prayers have been heard and honored by the Lord. I am convinced that I found strength throughout the day and encouragement to press forward. I was reminded of how children build into the Kingdom of God. Incredible!

Thankfulness

September 7, 2010

I am a blessed woman. Hands down. There have been pretty consistent highs and also the consistent struggles, as I expected. In the midst of all this though, I can clearly see how the Lord has blessed me with incredible favor.

My wonderful housemates.
One of my biggest concerns in moving to Thailand was community, well truly the fear of the lack of community. I often find myself saying, “It is people that makes my world spin.” Let me just tell you, my world is certainly spinning here in Bangkok. Let me introduce you to my wonderful housemates:

Cori: Cori moved to Bangkok three weeks ago from Washington DC. She formally worked on The Hill in DC as a policy advisor in the world of agriculture. She came to work with The Well to help develop economic opportunities for those living in the provinces. Through these opportunities fewer women would have to leave their villages and find money for their family through prostitution. Not only does Cori have an amazing vision and passion for Thailand, but she is also offers genuine friendship to those around her. We have immediately hit it off and can have heart felt talks, pick on each other, and unite as a team in what God has for us here.

Cori

Frank: Frank has been living in Thailand for almost two years. He is from inner city Philly and has a heart to see the Kingdom of God advanced. He pours his heart into The Well’s English program and is always trying to find new methods to help our students be propelled further in their language learning. In being a man, Frank has such a vital role here at The Well. His loving masculine presence towards the students helps them see that not all men abuse and exploit. Frank plays such a big part in helping women re-learn what it means to be loved by men. Frank has also offered me so much encouragement during my time here. He has helped me transition into living here and the daily life of ministry. Frank truly inspires me to continue to seek after Kingdom living and following after God’s call for my life.

Frank

Jup: Jup is my wonderful Thai housemate. A quick funny story about Jup and I…when Jup and I first moved in together, many of our neighbors would give us strange looks. Rumors spread and then we found out the word on the street: I am here in Thailand to be a professional Thai lady boxer and Jup is my maid.  Oh the things that people come up with!
Jup is such an inspiration to me. She has left everything she knows to follow hard after Jesus. Jup has incredible perseverance through difficult situations, never willing to give up or back down. She is also consistently filing my love tank with big hugs and text messages telling me she loves me.

Jup

I am blessed beyond belief in the area of community. We all joke that we are continuously trying to out serve one another, which is definitely a good problem to have. Mostly, my housemates provide a safe place for me to let my guard down and share what is going on in my life. They offer me support, encouragement, and love. I could not ask for anything more.

The 3 Amigos

Language School.
Attending language school has been an incredible experience for many reasons. First, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning Thai, more than I could have ever imagined. My teacher has been great and the pace of the curriculum is challenging, but does not induce too many tears. Also, I ended up in a class with some incredible people. There are many reasons people desire to learn Thai, so I really had no idea who I would end up in class with or what that part of the experience would be like. There are three other people in my class, all from Tennessee. They are a part of a larger group that has committed at least three years to serving in Thailand. Their hearts are to learn Thai so they can become more connected within the city and help with what needs they see. It’s been such a blessing to have people who understand my heart and why I am in Thailand. Recently, the married couple from my class started to teach English at The Well, so we are able to spend time together outside of class.

My School

Our House.
During my quest for a house I was told many times how the renting system in Thailand is often unfair. It is often the case that once a person has signed their rental contract any problem that comes up will not be touched by the landlord. When our house started leaking and an air conditioner only blew hot air, I thought we were about to be out a lot of money. We called our Landlord and she said she would personally come over with some workers to look at it. She asked Jup what we did, and when Jup told her that we were Christians, our landlord let out a big smile. She said she had been praying for Christians to rent the house to. She told us that if any problems come up, we should call her as she will take care of it. She explained she really wanted to honor God and one of the ways is through renting the house. I clearly see this has God’s favor upon us, especially when less than 2% of Thailand’s population is Christian.

I am overwhelmed with thankfulness when I look back and see all the favor God has given me. I am reminded over and over again that He will take care of me and meet my needs.