A Year in Phayao (part 2): Change is a Comin’


One Year.  Well, Derran wrote the “Candid Reflection”, and here is my reflection.

I don’t remember the bathroom scenario obviously because I was sawing logs the entire time…man, I have a great husband! But I did have my share of those same feelings, doubts, joys, and questions. I remember thinking before we left that I didn’t really think we were giving up much by moving to Thailand. In fact, I said that out loud to Derran. I said , and I cringe as I write this, “Other than friends and family, I feel like going to Thailand isn’t really a sacrifice because we have felt so called, so at peace about going for so many years.” And now you see why I felt like the carpet was pulled out from under me in less than 24 hours of being here?  Sweet, little naïve Ann. Wasn’t she cute? Culture Shock? What’s that? I think I will be just fine…say what? That’s why they call it culture “shock”—that’s exactly what it does.

I didn’t realize the detox and withdrawals I was going to go through not having my network of friends minutes away, grandparents and cousins minutes to hours away, not having church family time every week. Now church was up to me and 6 others. We were to create meaningful Sunday mornings to praise God corporately. (If you want to appreciate your church and ministers more fully, take a month with six friends and all your small children and plan worship times and kids class and communion thoughts and times of sharing and listening and Scripture teaching as a group. I bet you will come out on the other side with a greater appreciation for all that the childrens’ ministers/teachers, the preacher, and those that make Sunday gatherings flow smoothly—it is tough!) I was also now trying to navigate a new culture as a mother, not a recent college grad, walking my little girls through learning a new language and training them in cultural behaviors and feeling like everything I did was on display. Feeling like everywhere/thing I went/did/said was wide open for the world to watch. I don’t know if you’ve experienced being a spectacle in a while, but it is fun and exhausting at the same time. I kind of feel like a traveling comedy show.

However, through the ups and downs of this year, and they have been extreme, I have grown and become stronger. I have been sharpened. I am learning to dig deeper than I knew I could. God has been so faithful in molding, teaching, comforting, guiding, and holding me.

I would say the biggest lesson I learned this year is this: “Things don’t stay the same for long”. Sounds so simplistic, yet it hit me like a lightning bolt.  I think I wrote about learning this lesson some over the last year, but I’ll add here.

After a week or two of looking for a house I was convinced we would never find anywhere we truly felt good about living in—and now we love our little house. It has become a place of comfort and joy.

I thought the heat would kill me—now, though it is still intense, our body temps have adjusted.

The girls wouldn’t eat any Thai food—now they know how to order what they want in Thai.

We knew of one school for our children when we got here—and Brynn has had a great year of learning Thai, making friends, and being well taken care of in the two schools she has attended this year (neither one was the one we knew of when we got here).

We didn’t understand any of the local dialect–now I can say at least I understand what is going on, though my speaking is another story!

We knew ONE couple when we pulled into town—and last week at our “Thank you Neighbors” party, we invited about 120 people and enjoyed spending the afternoon with about 65 of them.

Planning our church services the first few months was tough, and yet through this year our times together have grown into very meaningful, creative, all-in-Thai times of worship that have forced all of us into a new level of accountability as members of the Body.

Instead of Goldfish and animal crackers, the girls ask for Ka Gai and Pocky, their favorite Thai snacks.

There were times I felt like our family was going to come apart at the seams. There were times I found myself bawling because I just wanted to be home. There were times I was so angry and frustrated that I surprised even myself.

Then there were times I was laughing so hard tears were streaming down my face.  There were times I have never been so proud of my girls for how they love others from around the world.

There were times I knew exactly why I was here and a lot of times where I had no idea what I was doing here.

I used to dread going into the grocery store (Lotus) because it was so overwhelming to shop, take care of the girls, be watched in every aisle, the children being pinched and loved on by every passer-by, not to mention how loud and crowded it was. But, now we go in, we know where things are, we have our favorite “usuals” who we stop and talk to, and the girls love going to Lotus. Meg plays at home by loading up her purse and her baby and saying, “Bye Mommy, I’m going to Yotus” (She doesn’t say her “L’s” yet J)

I could go on and on, but I will stop. The point is that for months I thought we would never get over culture shock. That I would never be used to people staring at me. That I would never feel at home here like I always thought I would. I wondered what was taking so long for me to adjust. I didn’t know what to do with Brynn being so sad at night when she missed her cousins, friends, and grandparents.  I didn’t know what I would do about the neighbor lady that would always come look in my window to see what I was doing (and the one day that she fell off a table trying to look over to see what we were doing—amazing).  Would I ever get used to the dogs barking?  The motorcycles zooming down our street? The questions from people about why I did things from laundry to child-rearing the ways I did them.

And here I am twelve months later. I take my girls to the library just like I did there. I walk into the store with a smile and favorite friendly faces. I have grown in confidence where now I’m not shaken when asked why I do things a certain way. I have let go of trying to always be perfect and making my children do every cultural thing perfectly. The lady next door moved away, and now I find myself missing her smiling face in my window every morning.

Things don’t stay the same—even if sometimes it feels like things will never change. So with this “new” knowledge, I walk forward into this next year with confidence. I walk with a greater sense of needing to live for today, of enjoying today, or sometimes just making it for today the best I can—for tomorrow we don’t know what change might come. And I know that just when I’m used to a certain pace, a certain routine, life happens and the process of adjusting and finding joy begins again. And it helps me know that those days, weeks, or months that I am struggling, that those too will one day be different. A time of refreshing and renewal will dawn again. God’s promises of faithfulness are true and dependable.  And I do pray that I will continually be reminded of these things so when the tough days hit, I will place my trust in Him once again and know that this will not last forever. That, with time, the sun will come out again, hope is always present, and He is faithful through it all.

And though I can’t talk about this year without the terms “hard” ,“struggle” ,“brutal” , and “long” coming from my mouth, those are starting to be replaced with “shaped”, “growth”, “peace”, and “home”.  This has been one of the hardest years of my life, no doubt. But one thing I can say with full confidence is, “the Lord our God is faithful.”  I have seen God in a new way this year. I have learned of His love for me in a deeper way. I have been molded and re-taught by Him.

Thank you Lord for your faithfulness this first year. Your presence is overwhelming and comforting. You are good. Thank you for loving me through the ups and downs of this year. Thank you for shaping me and molding me.  To You be the praise and the glory. Amen.



  1. Indeed, to Him be the glory! Although we are eagerly looking forward to your future in Phayao, I can’t wait to see you in Texas soon!!!!!!! Until then, I will praise Him for the ways God has sustained you and the team, both in times of quiet doubt and in full-on meltdown mode too. 🙂 Love you!

  2. Ann, I can’t tell you what an encouragement I got from reading that! I love you!

  3. Ann, wow, what a testimony. I’m so thankful for the time you and Derran have taken to share your thoughts on this 1st year in Phayao. I am thanking God for His faithfulness to you through this past year and that he has brought you to where you are today and renewed your hope day by day. You are an amazing blessing to your ministry there as well as to your family. We’re so proud of the way you have made it through the good and the hard times, I know the Lord is smiling down at how you are continuing to glorify His name even when things are not so easy. Can’t wait to see you soon! I can hardly stand it!! Love you!

  4. Hey, Ann! Another beautiful post. Thanks for that. We’re so impressed by and proud of you all for all you’ve done over the past year. Can’t wait to have some Tex-Mex with you soon!

  5. I heard your mother talking to you on the phone today. She said, “Ann, you have always been so beautiful.” And I agree. This post is simply further evidence of your growth in beauty and spiritual maturity. Thank you for what you are doing for God and to your family. I love you dearly, sweet Ann. We are going to enjoy each other in a few weeks.

  6. Sweet Ann, I love reading your thoughts! I love hearing your sweet, honest, loving heart in your words. Beautiful!

  7. Let’s HUG!! That’s all I want to do after reading your post!!! I just can’t imagine what your year has been like. But, from this side of the ocean, you have made it look very graceful and “smooth.” 🙂 You are such an encouragement to me, dear Ann.

  8. Yes, you are beautiful like your mom said. You are always so sweet & kind and I am proud to have you as my sister in law! Thank you for ALL that you do! I can’t wait to see you! Thank you for supporting Derran especially through these last 2 weeks of being sick!!
    I love you guys and pray for your safety coming here and for peace that this trip will be as relaxing as possible… 🙂 take a deep breath on that one!! HA! 🙂
    love you!

  9. I have a quote that I carry with me because it is so fitting of you and Amy:

    “A daughter is a miracle that never ceases to be miraculous..full of beauty and forever beautiful…loving and caring and truly amazing.”

    no truer words could ever be spoken, you truly are amazing. I love you very much and I am so proud of you and Derran for everything that you are doing.

    xxoo Nancy

  10. I’m not going to lie: I, for one, am glad Boo Radley your Thai neighbor moved away. There are just some things I couldn’t deal with and the way she lurked outside your window was a little much. And she fell off a table? Hilarious! But the fact that you can talk about even that is evidence of your humor and grace. God is doing great things through you. Love you.


  11. Ann:

    You are so loved (although I understand there is less of you to love–congrats on that). We can hardly wait to see you all in Abilene or Dallas.

    So glad that you have stopped being surprised by your humanity because you are one delightful human being. I think you even keep the Lord laughing half the time!


  12. I hear your words and know how much the Lord is working in your life. I think Lotus will be an experience no matter how long you live there. Sorry I missed the window peaking and I need to come back because we didn’t go the library!! You are such a blessing to me and so many others. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  13. ann,
    one of the things i most appreciate about you is your honesty. (and most of the time that involves your humor) we have enjoyed being along for the ride over the past year in Phayao. i know that you have been stretched beyond what you thought possible, and i know that you and your family will benefit from that. we admire your courage in believing that God has big and lasting plans for your family and team in Phayao. we love you guys and are so thankful for your friendship.

  14. I have always wondered what it would be like to go back to Thailand as an adult. Would I readjust quickly? Would I figure out how to get places? Would I remember how to speak Thai? I think it is only natural that you would go through culture shock, especially since you are in a different part of the country and since it’s been a while since you lived in Thailand. You have been through so much and have survived – and more than that – have grown in joy and thankfulness! You guys are doing good work overthere and it has been wonderful to keep up with everything htat is happening in your lives. I am so glad that your girls can see the place that you grew up in and experience it like you did! You are giving them such an amazing experience that few American kids ever have – and it will enrich their lives!

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