McGown Family

Expanding Christ's Kingdom Through Worship & Service

A Room With A View

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Two weekends ago, Curtis took his first trip to facilitate a marriage conference in Isaan, Thailand.  He had no idea what awaited him when he returned. The day after he returned home we checked into a room that had one of the best views in Chiang Mai Province.  There are very few high rise buildings within Chiang Mai, but we were in one of them, on the top floor.  The sunrise seen from the room was amazing, and the night lights of the city were glorious.  When we got to the lobby of the building, we were shown a book that looked a lot like a menu.  The lady showed us the room options, and we picked out a honeymoon suite hospital room.  There were two options, semi-private and VIP.  Since I was screaming and crying so much, we only thought it would be fair for anyone else staying at the hospital to be spared the noise of my anguish.  I was worried if I had a semi-private room and was carrying on that they would either kick me out or move me to labor and delivery.  My fever was 104oF at that point so neither of those were options.

When I got wheeled into my room, I wasn’t fully aware of what the “VIP room” meant.  I wouldn’t get the full tour until the next day.  Let me describe it to you.  As I already said, the view was glorious; separate from my room was an adjoining room with a kitchenette stocked with non-alcoholic drinks, a flat screen TV, a lounge area, and separate bathroom.  In my room there was my bed, a second bed for a guest, a flat screen TV (with English speaking channels), a DVD player and my own bathroom.

Unfortunately, I was so incredibly sick, I couldn’t enjoy any of it (except for the view).  When I was in triage in the ER, the doctor was certain I had dengue fever.  After running blood tests, the results came back negative.  She was so surprised, that she had them run a second test to confirm the result.  The second test came back negative as well.  The second diagnosis was a possible bacterial infection in my intestines.  It took several days for the lab culture to return, but an antibiotic was started to see how my body responded.  Thankfully, my body responded well to the antibiotic, my fever went away, and I was able to return home after four days of being in the hospital.  The next day, I promised to return for my final antibiotic to be given intravenously before they switched me to oral meds.  I did as I promised and they had the results ready from my lab culture taken earlier in the week.  To make a very long story short, the doctor in the ER would not give me the results.  After being there for several hours and coming short of cussing, the nurse told me that that doctor wasn’t good for what I had and another doctor would have to tell me the results.  The nurse said the other doctor couldn’t see me though because he was performing a procedure on another patient.  She said it would be another hour or more, she didn’t know.  I said I wasn’t going to wait any longer, and finally she gave me the result of my lab culture.  It came back negative for bacterial infection in my intestines.  So we left with some answers, but still not a clue as to what started this whole sickness.

So what does a girl do when she checks out of the hospital?  She goes to her kid’s school carnival, that’s what!  I wasn’t going to miss out.  When I got there, I grabbed a chair, parked it for the night and observed everyone having a great time.  I was grateful to be there and out of the hospital.  And then a girl takes the next few days and rests in bed knowing that in a few days she will be one of three chaperones for a homeschool field trip with twenty teenagers to the Chiang Mai zoo.  Stay tuned for that post.

Some people told me not to tell about the “VIP room” because apparently missionaries can’t be “VIP”. But, it’s my story, and I love to tell it.  It is a good reminder to me that even in the bitter parts of life, God provides the sweet.  He provided a safe place too for me to cry out to Him (naming every name of His that I could remember), sing songs to Him, and remind myself that He created me and He cares for me.  In my desperate time of need, I needed to be reminded that I was His VIP.  And when Curtis asked me if I needed anything, I responded, “I need Jesus.”  Curtis reminded me that He was already there.

If you are reading this and are one of the many people that prayed for me, thank you.  Thank you so very much for taking the time to do that.  God bless you.

With gratitude,

Lisa

Blog Worthy

One of my goals for the new year is to blog regularly.  I haven’t done this in so long because frankly, I felt that I have had nothing blog worthy to say.  Our lives have looked a lot like the movie Groundhog Day.  Get up, the kids get ready for school, we get ready for the day, eat, kids go to school, we study language/work, eat, brains become heavy with too much information, come back together, homework, run errands, eat again, chores, get ready for bed. Repeat.  Snooze fest I tell you.  I am sure your day looks very similar, minus the language learning.

The language learning and cultural adjustment does add a new twist to the day.  When we first started language classes, about five weeks after we arrived, not only did I not know Thai, I felt like I was speaking broken English.  And, when I would write something in English, I would question the spelling of basic words.  I seriously had to spell check or look words up.  I became insecure in the very thing that is so basic.  My own heart language.  My brain felt like it was fried at the end of the day.  The days pretty much ended with a headache.  Looking back, I should have blogged more, this might have provided some much needed entertainment for me now, but I honestly felt like it was a chore to form a complete accurate sentence.  Plus, again, our lives were filled with setting up our new home and language learning.  We didn’t have much to share in terms of excitement and adventure.

Our blog was originally created to share our lives of God calling us out of Orlando and preparing to move overseas.  Now that we are here, I am evaluating what the blog should be about.  For now, I will just share what is on my heart, whether or not it has to do with being in Thailand.  Bare with me as I wrestle through what I should post.

What would y’all like me to write about?  Do y’all have any questions for me?  I would love to hear your comments on what would be “blog worthy.”

Unveiled

As you know, I now live in a place where I am surrounded by idols.  I live in a place that doesn’t believe that God exists.  Most Buddhists don’t even know the creation story.  I have left my comfort zone and entered a war zone.  Not a war zone in the physical sense, but a spiritual sense.  There is a definite battle here.  And although the majority of the people living here do not believe in God, His hand has not been removed from this place.  In fact, I am more aware that I am treading on Holy ground.

I look around and think, “What am I doing here?”  Please don’t read that in a negative way.  Read it as, “Now that I am here, what will God have me participate in?”   As I stand in worship in a city that is completely lost, I get emotional.  My heart is not veiled and He has revealed Himself to me and I don’t deserve it…and I know it.  Oh, do I know it.  I am no better than the Thai people that are out there completely lost.

2 Corinthians 3:14-16 “But their minds were blinded.  For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ.  But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.  Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”

In 1826 Protestant missionaries arrived in Thailand (previously known as Siam).  Catholic missionaries arrived in Siam as early as the 1500’s.  And, yet, Christianity only represents 0.7% of the population.  Friends, there is a veil on the Thai people’s minds and hearts.  Please pray that this veil would be lifted.  That Christ would reveal Himself to the Thai people.  Pray that their idols would be brought low.  And that the Thai people would one day bow before the eternal King because they have called Him LORD of their life.  Please pray for me that I will be bold and not ashamed of the Gospel.  Pray for me and language learning, That God would help my tongue speak their heart language and that I will be able to speak Truth to their hearts one day.

With gratitude,

Lisa

Hands and Feet in Thailand

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This past Monday we hit our one month mark in Thailand.  The time has flown by here and we have done so many things it actually seems like we have been here longer.  We arrived on Monday, August 20th and put the kids in school August 22nd, jet lagged and all.  They adjusted quickly to their new school surroundings with teachers and students graciously taking the time to help them.  While the kids have been in school, Curtis and I have been busy attending meetings, going to seminars, and running errands for our new home.  It has been a smooth transition to our new life.  We have had a few families that have helped us with showing us around, translating for us, letting us borrow things until we get our own, and many more things that would take me all day to list.  They have been a tremendous blessing.

The past couple of weeks our days have been spent shopping for household items.  Curtis and I realized that in the seventeen years we have been married, we only purchased four pieces of furniture, the rest had been given to us.  And, most of the other household items needed were given to us as well either as marriage gifts or Christmas gifts.  So, in a way, setting up house and starting from scratch is new for us.  I think the hard part for me is knowing where to go and comparison shopping in another language and currency.  The past nine months of not having a home, I realized how much of having a home is important to me.  It is where I express myself through entertaining, being creative, and having my own space to have my Sabbath.  Last week our friends came over and prayed through every one of the rooms in our home.  It was very, very emotional and moving for me, especially when they prayed for our children in their rooms.

Speaking of the children, they are doing great!  We were able to find a home that is literally one house away from the school.  This was such a blessing because I won’t be driving.  If the kids get sick or I want to volunteer at the school, I can just walk across the street.  Brayden’s social calendar is filling up faster than we can keep up and has friends from school in the neighborhood that are excited to show him around.    We are thankful that he is being included, although we had no doubt he would enjoy life when he got here.  Elle is adjusting to being in school for the first time.  She has found a friend that has a sweet disposition and is new to Thailand as well.  Elle is our creative one that loves to spread her creativity throughout the home.  Some (like me) would call this a mess, but as I have found living in a new home, her creativity (mess) is what has made this house feel more like our home.  She quickly unpacked her things and set up a library station in our loft area at the top of the stairs.  I have always loved her creativity and the way she views life, but I am appreciating it more and more as I realize how much it brings life to our home.

Next Monday, September 24th, Curtis and I will begin our intensive language classes.  Each class is one month.  Curtis will be taking classes through January, I will at that time probably continue with a language helper.  Learning the language and reading it is very important to me.  I can get by on charades (sometimes), but I don’t want to just “get by”, I want to thrive here.

I want to thank you all for letting us be your hands and feet to SE Asia.  It is because of your prayers and financial investment that we are here.  Please know we are thankful for each and every one of you.  We don’t take being here for granted and we appreciate your partnership with us.  May God bless your time, energy and sacrifices that you have given.

With gratitude,

Lisa

*I feel like I need to give an apology and explanation for the lack of attention that has been given to this blog.  While we were in the states our internet service was lacking.  We were doing good to be able to access our email.  This usually meant finding a public place with free wifi.  I hope to fill you in on all that we did this summer.  I actually have posts that I wrote, but never published.  Stay tuned, it was a summer we will never forget.

 

I’ve Just Been Down, Down to Memphis Town

After leaving Orlando, San Destin, Tuscaloosa, and Nashville, we stayed put for two weeks at my parent’s house. We didn’t know when planning this trip how much we all needed a place of refreshment, rest, and time to process all that just happened (leaving Orlando). My mom (a gourmet cook) cooked the entire time we were there. The meals she made for us were fabulous, better than we could get at any restaurant. Elle enjoys cooking almost as much as my mom (it skipped a generation). She was excited to be able to help my mom with the cooking and baking. We were able to be there for Mother’s Day, which was a huge blessing to be there with my mom. I had a great time with her. We went on walks together, had a girl’s day out at the movies, went shopping, and celebrated my birthday and Elle’s birthday at a delicious restaurant in town. Elle invited us to her very first slumber party. It was just the three of us, no boys allowed! She decorated with posters, had a table for manicures, provided yummy snacks, and picked out a movie to watch. We had the best time! It was for sure the best slumber party I have ever been to. Curtis and I had our last date night for a while. We went to dinner and then found a free concert in a beautiful park area with an ampitheater. The evening was lovely with the cooler weather and the sun setting in the background. Brayden enjoyed throwing the football everyday with my dad, playing basketball, helping my dad in the garden, and watching ESPN like his life depended on it. One of Curtis’ favorite places to be is my parent’s backyard. They have a beautiful shaded yard full of flowers and trees nestled on a lake. He started each day with coffee on the dock looking out over the lake. Memphis is typically hot, hotter than Florida hot, but the weather was perfectly cool and clear in the mornings. We also had a chance to take the kiddos to Ole Miss, Curtis’ Alma Mater in Oxford, MS and go to Rowan Oak, home of William Faulkner, also in Oxford. All in all, our visit to Memphis was perfect timing. Thank you mom for all you did for all us while we were there, your time, energy and attention to detail did not go unnoticed. We were well rested and refreshed to begin our next leg of the journey. Dad, thank you for your investment in Brayden. Mom, thank you for your investment in Elle. The relationship that you have with our children is a treasure. Most of all, thank you for the prayers for our family. I am grateful for the time we all had together. I love you both. You will be missed more than words could ever express.

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Playing Catch Up Part II (April & Part of May)

The month of April was filled with training at Pioneers, packing, going away parties, and a lot of good-byes.

We got back from our two-week trip and had a week break.  In that week, we were supposed to begin packing up what we are taking with us when we leave, plow through home school, and prepare for our week long training at Pioneers.  I hurt my back and so all of the previous mentioned things, well, didn’t get done.  That same week, we had two going away parties.  When we got home late from one of the parties, we realized we had completely forgotten to pack for our training.  The training that was the next day…after church.  Since my back was out, Curtis and Brayden were very helpful in getting things together.

Training was informative and at times intense.  Overall, it got us excited about heading to Thailand.  We met two other families that are going to Chiang Mai.  We are looking forward to re-connecting with them when we get there.

April 29th was our last day in Orlando, we left from our church where we were commissioned.  We couldn’t think of a better way to have left.  It was very sad for all of us.   Friends sent us out with encouraging words, gifts, and a lot of hugs.  The only thing that kept us sane was knowing that we were headed to the beach!  Curtis’ cousin gave us the gift of a few days in San Destin at the Hilton, where we were treated like royalty.

When we got to the beach that evening, I took the kids for a walk on the beach.  Elle said, “This is the best blessing that God could give a 7-year-old girl.”  It was the best blessing that God gave all of us.  Thank you, Frank and Brenda, for sharing what God has blessed you with.  May God bless you greatly for your generosity and kindness.

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March 24 of Jesus Calling has been an encouragement during this time of letting go and saying good-bye.

This is what it says,

“THIS IS A TIME IN YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU MUST LEARN TO LET GO: of loved ones, of posessions, of control.  In order to let go of something that is precious to you, you need to rest in My Presence, where you are complete.  Take time to bask in the Light of My Love.  As you relax more and more, your grasping hand gradually opens up, releasing your prized possession into my care.

You can feel secure, even in the midst of cataclysmic changes, through awareness of My continual Presence.  The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes.  I am the same yesterday, today and forever.  As you release more and more things into My care, remember that I never let go of your hand.  Herein lies your security, which no one and no circumstance can take from you.”

I don’t know about you, but, y’all, I find this very comforting.  My (our) life over the past year is testimony to the security of Jesus.  In many ways, this year for me has been a speed course in letting go of loved ones, possessions and control, of almost everything that the world tells us brings security.  There is NO WAY I (we) could have done everything that I (we) did this year without Jesus as my (our) constant support.  In a world that is constantly and rapidly changing it is comforting to know the One that never changes.  At times, preparing for the mission field has been a lonely road.  Other times, it has been chaotic.  It has been in the chaos and overwhelming times that I know that He is there.  He alone has given me the strength to persevere.   He is my security.  And, I rest in Him.

Playing Catch Up Part I (March)

When I opened our blog the other day and saw our last post was in February, I couldn’t believe it.  With all that has been going on, I am not sure when I would have had the time.  The next few posts, I will try and catch you up on what we have been doing for the past three months.

The month of March was spent with friends and family.  Our best friends came down for their spring break, and we had our chance to spend our very last time at the beach with them.   A week after that we left for a two week support-raising trip to Columbia and Greenville, SC; a stop in Asheville, NC; Knoxville, TN; Charlottsville, Richmond, Alexandria,  Williamsburg, and Smithfield, VA; and last but not least Washington DC.

Columbia & Greenville, South Carolina

The theme of this weekend was “all things southern.”  Curtis’ cousin, Andy, gave Brayden an intensive lesson in southern culture.  The weekend also included Brayden and Elle’s first time to drive, four wheeler rides, hikes, impromptu swimming in the river, and checking out the Gamecock’s stadium.  It was a great time with fun memories.  We left Columbia and headed for Greenville to visit a friend from our seminary days.  Greenville’s downtown was beautiful!

Asheville, NC & Knoxville, TN

On our way to Knoxville, we had a chance to make a quick stop in Asheville, NC.  Asheville has a very eclectic mix of people.  The kids were less than impressed with this city.  We tried to tell them that this was a very desirable place to live, but they weren’t convinced.  We headed to Knoxville, TN where we visited friends from my (Lisa’s college days) and Curtis’ seminary days.  We made a quick trip through the University of Tennessee, and the stadium was opened and “Smokey” was even on the field.   We love Knoxville!

Virginia & Washington D.C.

We visited five different cities in Virginia.  Our first stop was in Charlottsville to visit our friends from seminary.  It was an encouraging and refreshing time.  Curtis’ cousin lives in Richmond, and we had a wonderful time with him.  We learned a lot about the city, went to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and UVA.  Lisa’s college roommate lives in Alexandria, and we had a chance to have dinner with her and meet her husband and children for the first time.  It had been ten years since we had seen each other.  It was great to catch up.  We took Curtis’ mom and Brayden to Washington D.C. for a few days while we took Elle to Williamsburg.  We did have a chance to worship on Palm Sunday at the National Cathedral and give Elle a very quick tour of Washington D.C.  On our way out of Virginia, we visited friends from seminary.  It was great to visit with them and have our children get to know and enjoy each other.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our trip.  Thank you everyone that hosted us, we appreciate your hospitality!  It was a blessing to see all of you.

He Restores My Soul

Psalm 23 :1-3

The LORD the Shepherd of His people.

A Psalm of David.

 The LORD is my shepherd

I shall not want.

He makes me to like down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

If you read Curtis’ previous post, you know that he is HOME!  When he pulled up Monday it felt like relief.  “I was like, hey babe.  I am so glad you are home.  Take the kids and go fill their tank because mine is empty.”   Those weren’t my exact words, but what I was trying to communicate in my non verbals.  I needed a time out.

The next day I had a hair appointment scheduled and a date with Curtis for Valentine’s Day.  That was super exciting because I LOVE getting my hair done and I LOVE going out with Curtis even more.

On Thursday, a new friend took me out to lunch.  What a wonderful time of encouragement we shared.  She is such a neat lady.  I am thankful that God has placed her in my life.  My tank was beginning to fill.  When I got home, a friend was there waiting on me to get home so we could hang out.   Elle had a blast with her daughters (I think her little tank was getting full).   We all enjoyed every minute of it.  I am talking back porch, Adirondack chairs, Curtis sharing his Cafe Du Monde coffee (a treat for him from his trip to LA) and in the background we could hear wonderful noises of laughter and playing coming from the girls.

Yesterday, I met with a friend that is also a counselor preparing to go to the mission field.  She just returned from her vision trip to Indonesia.  It was great to hear her story and God’s clarity in her calling.  It is nice to have someone that is going through similar things at the same time.  It was great to process all that is going on in our lives.

The last post I wrote, “Fight Club” was very much the opposite of what I have experienced this week.  I put part of  Psalm 23 at the top of this post because I felt like God was leading me beside quiet waters.  It looked a lot like time alone for me.  Time without the husband and children.  He restores my soul looked a lot like all of the times I met with friends.  My soul was being restored my tank was getting filled.  I know this Psalm is taken out of context of what David was experiencing.  He had major problems.   He had people after him wanting to kill him.  I don’t have that problem.  But, I do share with David the same God that cares for His children’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.  This Psalm talks about God providing refreshment in the difficult experiences of life.

Each one of the people that I spent time with this past week I know God has placed in my life for various reasons.  I know they all make me a better, more Godly woman.  When I was with them, I felt “normal” again.  I felt like myself.  I felt God’s loving arms around me through His people.  Thank you LORD for restoring my soul and making me more of who you created me to be.

I want to thank all of the people that have been praying for me during this time.  When I hear that people are praying for me, it really feels like God lovin’ on me in a time that I so desperately need to feel His presence.  Thank you.

Living graciously,

Lisa

Home Again!

 

I had a wonderful road trip through Baton Rouge, LA; Jackson, MS; Memphis, TN; Germantown, TN; Nashville, TN; and Columbia, TN.  I had the chance to visit old friends and make new friends along the way.  I experienced abundant hospitality and generosity, while missing my family back home at the same time.  I have finally returned home today, and it is good to see Lisa, Brayden, and Elle.  With each support trip, I feel more like a missionary preparing for the field.   

Fight Club

I have so many posts inside my head that never make it to the blog.  I wrestle continuously about what to post.  I have a running dialogue with myself about the posts that go something like this, “If I write a post about _________ what is my purpose in writing that?” or, “If I write about ___________ will our readers be offended?”, and “I don’t want to write about ___________ because it will sound like I am complaining, and I don’t want to come across as a ‘complainer’.”  Today, the dialogue went something like, “Just write.”  Besides the dialogue that keeps me from writing for our blog, I have another involvement with “fight club.”  I am not talking about the movie or an actual “club,” I am talking about what is going on inside of me.  Since we have returned from seeing our families at Christmas, things have been in so many ways good (see previous post), but in so many ways it has been HARD.  I said to Curtis, I think I am the big “D”.  The “d” stands for depression.  I don’t usually stay in this place for very long, but I have found myself having a hard time “snapping out of it.”  In my mind I am going over my life.  “Is everyone well, has anything bad happened, is my marriage okay?”  The answers are yes, no, and yes.  So then, what is my problem?

Curtis had his first support raising road trip last weekend.  He was only gone from Friday to Monday.  No big deal.  I have gone longer without seeing him.  But, this time it was different.  He was going to see our best friends, and I wasn’t getting to go.  I felt like I should be going too.  I was missing out.  This past Friday he left for another trip.  He will be gone for ten days.  Again, I find myself having a hard time on feeling like I am missing out.  Part of what I have loved about raising support is meeting with people, sharing our story (which reminds me of what we are doing) and receiving encouragement.  I am not going to lie, once we decided that we were moving overseas everything became very isolating and lonely.  And when we came back from Christmas we didn’t go back to our “home.”  We moved into someone else’s home.  We live close enough to drive to a friends house, but far enough away that people can’t just “stop by.”  Instead of it taking 45 minutes to get to church, it takes an hour.  Instead of our friends living two to ten minutes away it is twenty to thirty minutes.  So what’s the big deal?  We are a one car family.  When Curtis leaves, so does our car.  So if I want to see people, they have to come to me.  The problem is, they don’t.

That is where the fight club enters.  I forget why we are doing what we are doing, I am isolated from my friends (read: support), and I have a terrible problem of being jealous when Curtis leaves.  Because being at home and homeschooling isn’t a blast like a road trip would be.  And I fight within myself to “get it together.”  I wrestle with being content in all things.

Last week when Curtis returned he gave me the gift of getting out of the house.  He said, “Don’t just run errands, go do something fun.”  What’s fun?  What am I going to do?  Where am I going to go?  So I got dressed, took the car, drove off and cried for about twenty minutes.  And I prayed.  I went to a bookstore and found the book “Jesus Calling” ( I don’t know how to underline on the blog).  This is what I read from the book,

“I am your strength and shield. I plan out each day and have it ready for you, long before you arise from bed… concentrate on staying in touch with Me. Refuse to waste energy by worrying… My Presence watches over you continually, protecting you from both known and unknown dangers…which is the best security system available.” 

I needed to be reminded in the fight that God is my strength and shield.  I am not alone, He is with me always.  What a gift those words were for me.  Had I not bawled my eyes out minutes before, I might have lost it in the store.  Because at that moment, I realized, He cares about me.   In the grieving of loss of closeness to friends, selling a house we loved, saying good-bye to family, children struggling, husband gone…I forgot.

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