I’ve been feeling dislocated lately.  I know that’s the wrong way to use that word, but it’s how I feel.

Between my parents and kids there are plenty of people around, so I can’t by rights call it loneliness.  But I feel unsettled and frequently uneasy.

Last week I took the girls to dance class.  I didn’t know any of the parents there (my dance friends were travelling that week) and they were all talking about how terrible their children’s teachers are this year.  It was all I could do not to hold up my hand and interrupt, but before I did, they moved on to talking about how wonderful their vacations were and how terrible it will be when they finally “have” to take their kids with them.  “They’re too young to enjoy a cruise.”  “We wouldn’t be able to drink as much.”  All that to say, the dance parents weren’t my people.


I told myself to stop whining about it and call someone, but my phone wasn’t working.  It just kept flickering in and out of service, so that I couldn’t even text Sam, and while I understand that this is a First World Problem, it was vexing.  Dance went on and on, and I hadn’t even brought a book (#firstworldproblem).

And then Sam on his white horse to pick up the girls so I could go meet two of my fellow homeschooling moms for tea, and we had a beautiful conversation about our brokenness.  About having to turn to Jesus every day to look for grace, and I wasn’t lonely any more.


They say 1.75 million Syrians have fled their country.  Nearly a third of the country (7 million people) is in desperate need of food, safe water, and basic necessities.  Half a million Burmese are displaced– a whole generation.  About half a million Haitians are still homeless after the 2010 earthquake.  Those numbers are staggering and unimaginable and I am whining about my phone.

I don’t mean to be spewing statistics, but it helps me to remind myself of the faces I’ve met who make these statistics real to me.  When I was in Haiti, and when I was in Thailand, they were my neighbors and bid me welcome. They are still my neighbors, and I can still be their community.  Even when my cell phone isn’t working and the dance moms are on my last nerve.


My hope is that this sense of displacement I am feeling will turn my heart to pray for– and seek out to befriend– others who are displaced, for whatever reason. I am inspired by those around me who are making community: my family, ministering daily to one another.  My dad, who faithfully delivers Meals on Wheels and stays to chat everywhere he goes.  My friends who just became foster parents.  The families in our homeschool group whose heart for the elderly leads them to visit a nursing home regularly.  The committed staffs of  Samaritan’s Purse and Oxfam and Doctors Beyond Borders and World Vision and Free Burma Rangers and Partners Relief and Development who teach me what persistence and caring and hope look like on the ground among millions of displaced people.


And no, loving those who are so far away from me and my pampered first-world life isn’t the same as loving the dance mom sitting across from me, and sometimes it seems easier to throw money at a problem than to be a neighbor.  Auntie Leila had a beautiful post recently about making community, and I had to go reread it.  It turns out that we all need community.  I am blessed enough to have it here, even if I have to come out of my shell and get off my phone to see it.


How have you experienced community this week?

Daybook, April

Outside my window: It’s a Tuesday in April.  Therefore it must be snowing.  I love snow, and even I’m over it.  Of course this is also the day we have a donation arranged, so we have all sorts of things we had to sneak out of the children’s rooms disguised as laundry that we’re giving away.  One of them caught us this morning moving it out into the alley.  Child:  “You can’t give that away!  I LOVE that!”    Parent: “When was the last time you played with that?”  Child: “Um…”



In the kitchen: last week, non-local strawberries were in season and cheaper(er) than usual.  Sam brough home a bunch, and I made jam.  So now we need some bread to go under it.


Month-at-a-time menu planning is still happening, though the once-a-fortnight shopping has stopped.  I can’t fit it all in the cart, it takes too long, and I find the size of the bill depressing.  And I didn’t really save any money.  So once-a-week it is.

In the school room: ITBS testing this week.  After all my grand pronouncements yesterday, we started.  On the third section, one of my children asked to take a bathroom break.  It was only a 12 minute section.  She didn’t dally, but 12 minutes doesn’t give you a lot of leeway.  She came back and was perseverating on each question.  “Well, I know really has two l’s, so maybe real should too?  Hmm?”  All I could really say to her was, “Please don’t talk out loud.”  The timer went off, she had six left to do, and I told her she had to close her book and put her pencil down.  Tears, weeping, gnashing of teeth(hers, not mine).  I’m hoping she takes bathroom breaks between sessions today.

Grateful: for my church.  And for the Church.  A good, long run (the first in almost 2 months).  For Mandy, who inspired me this week to make some small changes in my life.  For healthy babies and Centering Pregnancy– one of my groups this week was just like a party.  A loud, hilarious party.  In Spanish.  That I got to go to.  I was so honored to be there.

And [trumpets, fanfare] I just got an email from a midwife who helped coordinate last fall’s training we did in Thailand.  She attended a difficult delivery in the jungle and saved the life of the young mother. (Truly, not just “Well, anybody would have done the same.”  No, there was no one else.  God used her to save that mother.)  The baby looked bad, and she and one of the medics we trained were able to resuscitate the baby using the skills and equipment we shared with them.  Mom and baby walked out together, healthy.  Praise God!  Thank you so much to those who supported that trip.  It is now officially All Worth It.

Side note that is truly irrelevant: I made that skirt in 1984.  8th grade.  It is my most-traveled piece of clothing.

Praying for: Mandy, Lynn, Jen and her family.  For hope despite chronic pain and suffering. For Lala & her family.  For the homeless, who must dread the snow even more than I do today.  Discernment: to use our resources and gifts wisely, and to make the most of every day, especially here at home where the “daily” can easily feel mundane.  Friends who are moving to Thailand this week: for safe travel, jobs, friends, a church.

Post-Push Letdown

The summer was a time of heightened productivity for me.  With my Thailand trip, school prep, and a writing deadline looming, I found myself focused and efficient.  I accomplished a handful of other tasks as a side effect of my intense work habits.  My “no” to projects that weren’t on my list came a little more easily than it usually does.


But now I’m back, home, and all the deadlines have passed.  I’m happy to be on the far side of all of that and have just a few reports and post-trip talks still to prepare.  Now what?
I know my jet lag is a factor, but I find myself looking around (at 4 AM) for the next project.  Which is ridiculous, because the simplest task (like staying awake past 6:30 pm) has been beyond me this week.

But once I’m back on Colorado time, what will it be?  Is it a half-marathon?  (Oddly, I was able to find more than one Colorado half-marathon in every month except for January.)  Is it a new writing project?  I’m a little bit at sea.


Like resuming regular running after a race, I hope that the miles I put under feet this spring and summer continue to reap benefits.  I want to hold onto the discipline and strength I gained working at a heightened pace—even if I don’t keep working at that pace all the time. But instead of looking for the next big thing, I need to sit back and rest a little.  Catch up on being instead of doing.

Does this happen to you?  How do you keep from throwing yourself into the next project too soon?

{phfr}: Thailand Edition

Pretty: These flowers started out white in the morning and grew darker as the day went on.  This was around 4 p.m.


Happy: Girl on a bike. Now, if only they’d had helmets…

Funny: We ate an awesome lunch at this restaurant, but it cracked me up that they were playing The Karate Kid in the bar.

Real: Thai toilet. I don’t love everything about traveling.

Celebrating the context of contentment, with Like Mother, Like Daughter.

Closing Thoughts

I write this at 2:45 am, as Sam and the children are snoozing away and I’m still on Thai time, wide awake.  I haven’t had much time to process my time there, but several strong impressions linger.

The folks at FBR and Partners are really serious.  They risk their lives– not only from land mines and the Burmese army, but from malaria and dengue– on a daily basis for the cause of justice.  Their rangers hike for months at a time, hauling half their weight on their backs, so that they can document the abuses happening there and provide life-saving medical treatment and education.  (One of them told me that she wished she had cut off the handle of her toothbrush so she wouldn’t have had to carry the extra weight around.)  It makes me want to do something.

What can I do?  I can pray: for them, for their safety and courage.  For leaders to repent and take justice more seriously than power.  Honestly, if leadership were truly about servanthood, instead of about power, we’d see a lot more justice in this world.

Proverbs 31:8-9: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

I can work hard for justice in my little corner of the world, too.  Justice in the form of health care for everyone.  Justice in the form of standing up for the downtrodden, and speaking up against exploitation.  And I can raise my little people to be bringers of justice.  Pray-ers for peace.  Do-ers of kindness.


Food in Thailand

I’m home!  Sonia has just a few more days of fun in Thailand.  It’s much easier to post (especially photos) from home, so today I’m going to show you more of what we ate.  It was all delicious… except for the “mouse sh*t” chiles which we so hot I thought I was going to pass out when I bit into one.  Anyway…

Pigeon eggs…

Dragonfruit (which is white on the inside with tiny black seeds, like kiwi)


The swirling red thing is some plastic tied to what looked like a stirring stick for a flask on a warmer. It swirled around to keep the flies off the meat. It did a pretty good job.




Are you hungry yet? I am!

Cooking Class in Chiang Mai

9/21/2012- Thai Cooking- by Sonia Graber

So after teaching and a little bit of bicycling to the National Park we decided to take a Thai cooking class!  Great fun.  We started out the evening walking to the market to see what types of fresh foods and spices Thais use for cooking.  Some of which are definitely difficult for us to get in the US but not impossible.  Below  are obviously different kinds of eggs and little bananas to the right.  The Pink eggs for those of you wondering are “Century” eggs- if you have heard of them.  They are fertilized eggs that have part of developed chicken in them that are then fermented by some type of chemical process- I think they used to be buried in the past to ferment, but not anymore.  Needless to say, we didn’t use these items for cooking.


The class consisted of cooking 5 different dishes, soup, appetizer, curry paste making, and two different main dishes.  All of this in 4 hours.  Listed below is one of our favorite soups, tom-yum- kung.  There were 10 of us in class- 4 Israelis, two Brits, and two guys from Ireland.


Anne and I after a lovely evening of cooking and wonderful food!


Salawin National Park

Once our teaching was done, we had a morning in Mae Sariang to see the sights. Mae Sariang is not one of the main tourist sights of Thailand, but we enjoyed it.  We stayed in a beautiful “resort” (resort meaning a guest house that is not in the city) overlooking the river.  The teak floors and trim were in contrast to the lush greenery and white walls and bedding, but apparently I didn’t take a photo of it.


We were able to rent bikes for 50 baht.  There were nicer bikes for 100 baht, and after the first hill I was wishing I had gotten one, but how could I resist a red bike with a basket and a Mickey Mouse key chain dangling from the seat?

The park is 7 km from town, though it seemed like the last 3 km were more like miles.  The view was totally worth it.


Day Two Teaching

While we were back at our hotel, the students were practicing their resuscitation skills. When we came back in the morning, they were ready to go.

This day was full of laughter and good connections. We heard more stories of the medics, how long their journeys had been to get to the school, and a few of their hopes for the future.

After a ling afternoon of testing, which everyone passed, they had a cekebration feast. They gave us traditional bags and a beautiful song of blessing.

Indeed we were blessed by this brave and determined group of students.

Day One Teaching

I woke up nervous: nervous about translation, nervous about setting up, nervous about making some huge cultural gaffe that would offend all the medics we were teaching.  We had breakfast in our stunning guesthouse and went to the truck only to find a flat tire.

An hour later, we were on our way up the mountain to teach.


We had a class of 12 medics and a handful of expat medical professionals (midwives, midwife students, RNs, and MDs) who were all eager and ready to start.

The curriculum is very hands-on.  We taught for a few minutes (all facilitated by our excellent translator), and then the medics got to try their new skills on the NeoNatalies.  Then we’d teach some more, and practice some more.  The babies were a hit.


Some of the medics are talented actors and leapt into the drama of the simulated birth with gusto, which made for a fun day of teaching.  They were attentive, quick to learn, and so gracious with us.  If we were terribly offensive, we never would have known.

I guess when you’re far from home, no one knows quite as well as a refugee how to make you feel at ease.