The power went out… again. The rain was coming down in sheets and the power lines were no match, especially after the wind picked up. I put down the book I’d been reading and headed out to my porch. The porch had become my favorite place to go during these monsoonal downpours. Listening to the rain and wind calmed my spirit and reminded me to slow down.
When I first moved to Thailand, shortly before rainy season began, things like power outages were tremendously stressful. I’d wonder if and when it would come back on, and the tension of not doing the things I needed to get done would build in my neck and shoulders. A power outage didn’t fit in my schedule for the day. There were a lot of changes in my life during those first few months of what would become nearly three years of living in Chiang Mai. So many “firsts”—living alone, working remotely in a foreign country, driving on the right side of the road, and learning a tonal language just to name a few.
Yet as I adjusted to my new home, I discovered the beauty of living overseas; of rebuilding a life in a new place. One of my discoveries was that there was more time and space to slow down, to focus on what truly matters instead of all the things that can so easily distract us. The difference is that all the things that could distract me in my country of origin didn’t fit in a life where routine things took more conscious effort.
For example, buying groceries wasn’t a simple matter of running into a store, putting items in my cart, and checking out. I had to drive and find a parking space (a challenge in a lot of places); traipse through the store to find the items I needed in places that didn’t make sense to me; decipher the Thai writing with broken English sprinkled on the packaging; try to understand what the Thai checker was telling me my final total was and then give the correct amount of cash.
Let’s just say there were days I chose to make do with what was in the house and not go to the store! I mean, who wouldn’t love to eat canned tuna and watermelon for dinner?
What I learned in the first months of the transition was that my own strength and understanding were not enough to get me through each day. Learning how to do daily life again in a foreign country brought about a new appreciation for the truth of Proverbs 3:5,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
My understanding of how to buy groceries, pay an electric bill, and make sure my cell phone stayed in service all had to be rebuilt. I had to trust that God would lead me, or He would bring people alongside to help me, as I figured out these things that I felt should have been easy.
Those phrases in Proverbs hit my heart deeper than they ever did before.
Trust in the Lord – place my confidence in who the Lord is. My confidence isn’t in my ideas, my work, my experience, or my education. They pale in comparison to who God is and what He does to show us how much He loves us. I am to operate from a place of complete dependence on the Lord.
With all your heart – all that I hold dear and all I can give of myself is surrendered before the Lord. There’s no holding back from God what I want to cling to or control. This wholehearted surrender is what enables me to fully trust in the Lord.
Lean not on your own understanding – this is how we live out our trust. We do this seeking God’s wisdom and His will, and not relying on our own stubborn thoughts. A healthy dose of humility here certainly helps.
Eventually, I got the hang of buying groceries both in local markets and supermarkets (learning the Thai words helped). I went every month to 7-Eleven to pay my electric bill and add money to my pre-paid phone. Interesting enough, 7-Eleven was the place to go and was conveniently located on just about every corner. I developed a habit of stopping my thoughts and actions when I was trying to control circumstances and turn to the Lord…a habit that needs continual reinforcement.
Those monsoonal power outages have become one of the things I miss the most now that I live in the US again. Those tranquil moments of listening to the rain and wind don’t come quite as predictably here, but the lesson remains the same.
Slow down, seek the Lord, and trust in Him wholeheartedly.