Make somebody happy, keep your promise

Nun and friendsI asked a very cool photographer in Nepal what her one bit of advice would be to a traveling photographer, and she said this, “If you take someone’s picture, and you tell them you’re going to send one to them when you get back home, then do it.”

So I made it a point to keep my promise every time I had such an encounter with a local. It happened a couple of times, and this photograph is an example of one such encounter. It happened this way.

It was a hot and sunny day. My friend, Preston, and I were walking up a steep mountain road. “Why were we walking?” you may ask. Well, that’s fodder for another post. Anyhow, we met these three women about half-way up the hill. We greeted one another, and then, in good Asian fashion, began to chat about how far it was to the top, where we were from, and stuff like that. Oh yeah! They were wanting to take a group photo, but their camera wasn’t working right, so I offered to take it with mine and then send them the picture when I got back home.

“Okay Rob! Remember what your photographer friend said; keep your promise.”

Funny how powerful one bit of advice can stick with you, because every time I saw this photo on my computer, I felt this urgency to send the photo to the nun in the photo.

So, after soon as I got home, I dug out that crumpled piece of paper where the nun had written down her contact information. But the paper showed only the name of her ‘nunnery’ – Is that what you call them? I should have paid better attention in Cathecism! Anyhow, I did a search on the web; it took about 10-15 minutes. I finally found something that seemed to match the name on the paper. So I sent the photo to the main email address and waited.

I never heard back from the recipient, so I don’t actually know if the photo ever reached her. But I can sleep at night knowing I followed through on my promise.

Some thoughts on boundaries

boundariesI took this photo in our friends’ back yard in Kathmandu. There’s a garden just on the other side of this gate. Look closer. It doesn’t even have hinges. It’s just leaning against the fence, held in place by a crooked branch.

If you push on the gate it nearly topples over. But, it gives the appearance of “PRIVATE GARDEN. KEEP OUT!” Or perhaps, “Welcome to the garden.” Either way, it’s making a boundary statement.

I’ve been taking an inventory of my own boundaries in the form of fruit trees in my life. Fruit trees are the things I choose to do every day. I want to see if my fruit trees are bearing good fruit. If they’re not, then I need to take some action. So I’ve been asking myself questions like: Does my character reflect God’s character? Do I have peace? Do the things I do bring meaning and purpose to my life?

The photo of this gate reminds me of how I need to make and keep certain boundaries if I want to see that kind of fruit in my life. So the next set of questions I’m going to ask myself sound like: “When’s the last time you went on a walk with God.. without your phone in your pocket and your headphones stuck in your ears? Compare that with how often you check your Facebook status.” or “How are you prioritizing your time with your family? or “How many times do you complain every day, compared to how many times you say something positive?”

I suspect I’ll be pruning some branches, putting up some fences, maybe even chopping down some fruit trees entirely! And, the boundaries don’t need to be ten feet high. They don’t even need hinges, really. They just need to be clear enough for me to understand them and respect what they stand for.

How raw milk made me a better person

group travelWe were five adults and five children, stuffed into a minibus that leaked oil profusely. For eight hours we virtually flew along winding, Nepali, cliffside roads at breakneck speeds. We passed just about every freight truck we could find on a blind curve. We slammed on the brakes, so we wouldn’t read end the travel bus in front of us. And, oh yes. The toilet stops. Driver! Stop! – I discovered that squatty potties and Swedish children are not a great match. So many small, individual, harmless events, that tend to gang up on you after a while.

It’s like being on a game show, where the goal is to be the last one to snap. Nobody wants to be the first one to snap; to say something they probably shouldn’t.. no.. something they definitely shouldn’t say. But the compilation of all those small, harmless events, one after another, begins to grate on one’s nerves. Finally, your patience barrier bursts, and you lose it.

On this trip, the first one to snap was me. But I gave it a good run for the money! I was able to hold my tongue the entire trip, till we returned from our week-long journey. And it was back in Kathmandu, in the kitchen, standing over a pot of raw milk, boiling on the stove, that I snapped. I won’t say who I snapped [at], or what I said. But I lost it.

Now, I had a choice to make. Do the right thing and say “Sorry”, or let pride and stubbornness put mortar to the ‘brick’. Do you want to know what I chose?

You can ask me.

10 things Nepal has that we don’t

Where did my stuff go?

Veronica sitting on the back stepsOur ‘stuff’ takes so much of our time and attention. What I mean by ‘stuff’ is our techy stuff, like our iPhones, our computers, social media, uhm.. even blog posts! So, when we got to Kathmandu we decided we would try and let the modern world take the back seat for most of our travels. And here’s the result! Veronica, sitting on the back steps of our friends’ house, with nothing to do but chill. Niiice!

It blows my mind how much more relaxed and focused we became when we set aside our ‘stuff’. And, it’s also shocking how much time and energy – especially the mental kinds – we actually spend on our ‘stuff’.

Of course, other things still demand our attention: whining children, hectic pre-meal activities, and putting kids to bed. But, by just putting one tiny device like a phone, or a camera, on the shelf for a day, or two, or more.. brings balance and perspective.

The Challenge: Try putting some of your ‘stuff’ on the shelf for 24 hours, or longer if you dare! Then, see if you don’t start crying, like a baby in its crib, without a bottle! Or if you start to feel more relaxed. I bet if you do it enough times in a row, you’ll start to feel more relaxed. We did.

Nothing to do but wait

mother and boys sitting on sofa
Veronca and the boys sit on the Thiessen's sofa in their flat in Kathmandu, Nepal, after just arriving on our four week journey.

 

This photo sort of sums up where we are at the moment as a family. After four weeks of traveling through Nepal and Thailand on various missions – visiting friends, leading retreats and investigating ministry locations and opportunities – we are now resting and waiting on the Lord. It’s a hard thing to do, rest and wait on God when you want to see the next step we are to take with our lives.

During a prayer time, we clearly heard God say that he wants us to wait for now and just give our minds and expectations a rest and let him do his thing. “God! It seems everybody is waiting for an answer. They all know that one of the reasons we went to Asia was to see if there were any possibilities of moving out there!”

But God showed us that he wanted us to simply wait and not worry about what people think. I think about when Jesus took his time to reach a person he was asked to heal – Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter –  They both died before he got there. But then he raised them from the dead! And there is God’s encouragement to us, that he will not leave us stranded with no road map and directions.

So, this month will be a time of resting and waiting. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy the stories and pictures I have to share.