First of all, I’ve purchased a guitar and have taken up playing at least half an hour a day. After four or five days of this, my playing has improved, but I’ve also developed a nasty blister on the tip of my left middle finger, so if you’re reading this and see that I’ve “misspelled” any words by leaving out an “Even Dogs Can’t” letter (anyone else learn typing by the “Quick Ask Zoe” method? I still remember the whole rhyme!), just know that it’s because even the tiniest tap of a key feels like I’m pushing shards of glass in my finger… but it’s worth it, because already I am getting better at playing. My biggest pet peeve right now is songs that are not written in G. But thanks to the fact that I’ve spent years mentally and on-the-spot transposing songs from one key to another to make them more singable for me, I have so far been mostly successful at transposing everything I want to play into G. Yesterday I decided it would do me well to just buckle down and learn an F chord, and so I did, and now I can play in C – except that all of the songs I play in C have this major pause (and by major I mean ‘destroys the mood of the song more the usual pause while I change chords does’) before every F. But I’m getting there. 🙂 and I’m enjoying the process and the benefits, and simply doing something more varied than the routine I accidentally adopted of just doing computer stuff while there are Lucy’s playing in the background.

I’ve also taken up a dedicated commitment to at least 20 minutes of “continuous movement” every day – I can’t call it a workout, and I really shouldn’t call it dance, but I will call it “continuous movement” and I break a sweat, so that’s fine with me. I’ve got a playlist on iTunes of my favourite songs right now that’s about 40 minutes long and I just turn it on and go! Sometimes I do some walk-aerobics, Leslie Sansone-esque type stuff, and sometimes I work on some dance moves no one will ever, ever see. If you are interested, I will post my playlist here for you:

Pyramid – Charice (w/Iyaz), To the Sky – Owl City, Baby – Justin Bieber (w/Ludacris), Replay – Iyaz, Now You’re Gone – Basshunter, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Miley Cyrus, Something About the Sunshine – Anna Margaret and ‘Christopher Wilde’, Starstruck – ‘Christopher Wilde’ (Stirling Knight), Tell Me Something I Don’t Know – Selena Gomez, I’ll Be There For You – The Rembrandts (I do need to qualify – I don’t watch the show Friends, but I heard the theme song and like it), Bonamana – Super Junior, Nu Abo – f(x)

In other news, I bought the new Point of Grace Christmas album yesterday and am LOVING IT so much! There are so many good songs on it, just like all of their albums, of course! POG albums are part of what makes Christmas Christmassy for me. Other music, too, of course, but they’ve just got such a great way of making music and harmony sound classy and polished, and yet still fresh and fun. It’s called “Home for the Holidays” and is available on iTunes now, so let me just pause for a minute to give you a chance to make your purchase…

And in other other news, I’ve started baking more at home. It’s really just harder to do here than it is at home because it’s hard to get what you need, and then all I have is little toaster oven for baking in. But, I managed to find basic ingredients and have been cooking up a storm ever since. I’ve made biscuits and bagels, but I think my yeast is bad – nothing rises and it’s supposed to be instant yeast. The hardest thing about baking here is that there is no way to get anything warm without making it hot – well, no easy way, at least. I’ve tried boiling water and leaving it to cool til it’s warm, I’ve set butter on the roof of my toaster oven to try to soften it (and ended up with a bunch melted, and the rest still hard as a rock), and I’ve tried putting a cup with butter in it in the toaster oven after it’s been off for awhile and is not piping hot any more. But, that’s not to complain – I’m getting the hang of it. I made a pizza yesterday that tasted almost like home except I didn’t have any cheese. I’ve been quite successful with my cookies so far – my bagels and biscuits keep drying out really fast. I bought M&Ms to make chocolate chip cookies tonight.

Which brings me to the reason I had first intended to write…

It’s not much fun making cookies and having no one around to share them with. (Yes, I’ve taken stuff to co-workers and friends, but that’s not what I mean.)

We’re getting closer to the holiday I’ve been thinking a lot about while trying not to think about. I’m really not sure what to make of it.

In many ways, I’ve been, as usual, super excited for the holiday season and determined to enjoy every minute of it. My classroom is all decorated (thanks to 17 creative kids who like to think outside the box!), my flat is as Christmassy as I can make it on a budget, I’ve bought and wrapped some gifts, I’m listening to Christmas music and even bought a few Christmas movies… In many ways, it’s just like any other Christmas except there’s no snow, which is fine with me!

However, there is also that other part of me that knows this Christmas will be different. This is the part that is hard to explain, and I’m not sure I can do it justice, but I’ll try…

I love my life right now. Seriously. It’s not perfect, but it never will be and that’s fine because it gives me something to work on. But really, I do love my life – I am so content in so many ways (I’d still like to settle down, and to go back to school, but I can’t do either of those right now, so that’s that!). So many times over the past month especially I’ve sat down to pray and started off “Please…. please… …. THANK YOU!!!” and just prayed a prayer of thanks for all of these different things…

I thank God for my job. Honestly, I work for a pretty great school! My co-workers are friendly and interesting, and I enjoy getting to see them every day. My students are also such a blessing to me! They are each such neat people and they do make me smile so! I look forward to going back to school Monday morning, and that is a blessing I thank God for!

I thank God that I’m here in Bangkok. I love this city. I don’t even know why, because it’s so not at all where I would ever have pictured (or picture) myself being happy, but God obviously knows what he’s doing because I love it here. I love it here. I don’t love it for upscale shopping, beaches and warm weather… I love it because for some reason, it feels like home…

I thank God that I really feel like I am exactly where he wants me to be right now – not necessarily where I’ll be forever, but where I need to be right now. I thank God that when I need him most, he has always been there, anxious to reveal more of himself to me. I thank God for all of the learning and growing I’ve done over the past five years, and all of the learning and growing I am continuing to do. I thank God that he speaks to me in a way I can hear, and that I have heard and continue to hear him in my life. I thank God that he has been and continues to be my Constant Steady, that regardless of where I am, or how crazy things might seem, I can take comfort in knowing that he IS the same, and it is only me and my perceptions that change. I thank God that I can have confidence in who he is and who I am becoming in him. I thank God that although I look ahead at my future and have no real idea what it holds, I can know that he has a plan with a good purpose and can willingly say “Amen!”

However, the reality is that even with all of this being the case, that doesn’t make hard things easy – it makes them more worthwhile, but not easy.

This will be my first Christmas away from home. I keep trying to not really think about it, but as we get closer, it’s becoming more real. I’ve been really good about living a normal life here and not “living in Canada” while being here in body – I usually only call home maybe once during the week and again on the weekend. However, I’m aware of an increasing frequency just in the past several days… I don’t have anything much to say – I just need to hear my mom’s voice… I don’t want to move back home. I don’t even want to go for another three week vacation. I just want to see the people I love most, have some hugs, play a game of Scrabble while drinking Santa’s White Christmas coffee…

I tried to take a nap the other day. When I closed my eyes, this image of my sister and I hugging just popped into my head and it was so real I could almost feel her in my arms.

I often look around my apartment in the evening and think, “I live by myself, I can eat what I want when I want, I can put the same song on repeat for hours (the limit back home is four times!), I can clean what I want to and leave what doesn’t matter to me and no one cares if I come home “late” or not… Some people dream of this… but nobody is here when I get home, nobody makes a casserole out of my leftovers, nobody plays music until the wee hours of the morning (who ever thought that I’d miss the sound of Marilyn’s viola practice, Harley’s guitar jamming and Dad’s organ CDs all playing at the same time?…), nobody’s around to appreciate that I try to keep my house clean, and if I died in a car accident, no one would even notice I was missing until Monday morning…”

It’s gonna be okay. I know that. I always knew I’d move out, I just didn’t expect it to be so far away that I couldn’t get home easily. And to be perfectly honest, I’d sort of always imagined moving out when I got married – it didn’t occur to me growing up that I’d be 24 and still never even have been asked out, let alone unmarried. It’s okay, of course – I’d rather be single than married to the wrong guy just because I was ‘desperate’! It’s just the end result is that I’m sitting here on the other side of the world alone at Christmastime.

And it is for that reason that I am led back to my list of things for which I am thankful. Every single one of those things – from God’s call on my life, to the students in my class – make this experience not easier, but more worthwhile.

I do hope all of this is coming out the way I intend it to. It’s hard to figure out how to say some things because they are still just wisps of ideas in my mind that haven’t even really melded into a thought yet. I am more content than I ever have been before. I am just also missing having the people I love most around me.

And there’s nothing wrong with that! 🙂

It’s normal, and I’m okay with that – I’m just still getting used to a new normal, that’s all!

And so, I’m off to bake my cookies even though I have no one here to share them with. Life goes on, even though it’s not the same…. 🙂

Okay, to finish things up in a lighter mood, here are some random tidbits of information about me you may or may not have already known:

1. I just bought three guitar picks – a hot pink one with a rubber grip on it, a bright purple one that also has a grip, and a very nice classic brown one to keep in my wallet so that if I get in an accident and someone looks for my ID, they’ll think I knew what I was doing… (seriously)

2. Since starting full-time employment in Nepal, I have read the following books: Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, The Christmas Carol, a Hans Christian Anderson collection, Peter Pan, and, just today, Tuck Everlasting. I’d sort of always imagined being too busy to do leisure reading once I was “grown up” and had a job, but I’m happy to report that I have more free time now than ever, and am doing plenty of reading just for the fun of it! I just started Little Women, and then it’ll be the Jungle Book and Inkheart up next… 🙂

3. I am currently downloading the PureNRG Christmas album. I started playing music in class (during the “light work” times) and I’ve enjoyed my students’ reactions to my iPod – “You have so much music!” “You have every kind of music!” “You have Super Junior?!” (Thanks, Hannah!) Yes, I have Hannah Montana songs, and a token Justin Bieber for good measure, and even a Taylor Swift song (or three). Pyramid by Charice? Coming right up! 🙂 What can I say? I love music, and as long as it’s clean and wholesome… So, I put out a pad of paper and had my kids write recommendations of songs they thought I’d like and most of them were PureNRG songs – a group I’d heard of but not actually heard. Instead of buying all of the suggested songs, I thought I’d go with the seasonal album to start with. My first reaction? They sound exactly like Jump5 did years ago… I’m looking forward to playing it in class on Monday! 🙂

Oh, in case I don’t blog again before Christmas, here are the plans – I’m off to Nepal on the 18th to spend Christmas there with my friend Jessi. I get back to BKK a week before school starts again. It should be a really great vacation!

I sincerely wish you all a wonderful holiday season filled with the joy that comes from the assurance we have that God cares enough for us to give us each our own special gift of Salvation through his Son. Know that the only thing he holds more dearly than his own Son is YOU – the only thing that could bring him to sending his beloved Son to earth, to live and to die, is YOU! Rejoice this season in the knowledge that you are WORTH THAT MUCH to God! Amen!

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