Remember that one time when the flood happened? And after we were all happy because we knew that all it would take was some good strong elbow grease and everything would be back to normal? 

Well. Then the fevers came. Dun dun dun duuuuuun. Brendan, Neil, and Heather came down with fevers and chills, and we learned about a little thing called Tropical Infection. Or Mud Fever. Or Swamp Fever. Or Swine herds’ disease. It has many names, and all of them have to do with water and mud because—dun dun duuuunn—it comes from water and mud. Or wading around in floods, looking for lost motorbikes or helping your friends try to salvage their home.

Brendan was in Chiang Mai with chills so strong they were shaking the bed. Neil needed to visit immigration for a visa extension and sad miserably through that, trying to hold it together. And Heather was throwing up in Pai, thinking that perhaps it was just a little sickness, just something that would go away… maybe tomorrow? But thanks to the grace of God, Brendan made his way to the hospital and found out about this infection and, being a very thoughtful nurse, passed the news along to the rest of us. Untreated, it can cause bad things to happen in your body. Like not good things at all having to do with liver and kidneys and lungs and stuff. Neil was admitted that day with a fever of 104.3 (40.2 for you Celcius people—I am a Celcius person who still doesn’t understand body temperature in Celcius.) And in Pai Winnie brought Heather to the hospital, did some blood work, and we got worried. The Pai hospital was full of sick people and it took five hours for her to arrive, get blood work and get the results. The rooms were full, and Heather was dehydrated. So with the help of Winnie (who took care of my kids for the night, since Chinua was away on an epic birthday adventure with Kai) I rented a car and drove the four hours (because I was slow) to Chiang Mai with Heather trying not to throw up in the passenger seat. 

Helpfully, the sky decided to get dark and then pour down rain, what we call “heavy rain” in asia. That means there are no gaps between the drops. There is just water in buckets. With a sick girl in the car, I drove very, very slowly, which was good because 1. I couldn’t see, and 2. I rounded a few corners to find rivers crossing the road. At one such river there was a man with an umbrella standing under a street light, directing us to the one safe place to cross. 

“Man with the umbrella just going to stand there all night?” Heather asked sleepily.

We got to the hospital and I tried to relax my shoulders, which felt like they were glued to my ears. We walked into the beautiful, cool, dry, spacious hospital where the people cared for Heather tenderly and with much confidence. They tsked over her dehydration as they tried to take her blood. They examined her carefully. It all felt very heavenly, except for the part where Heather and I were clutching hands and looking away because it was taking so long to get a blood sample and they were milking her arm like a cow udder. I got light-headed, which was embarrassing but typical for me. 

And then we were admitted, after midnight, ushered into another spacious room with a nice sofa. I put some lavender drops on our pillows and we slept. For a few minutes and then the doctor came. You know how it goes. But we were happy! Because that was what we signed up for! All night care, monitoring, people coming in and out of the room, all there to MAKE SURE HEATHER IS OKAY. Phew. 

Heather is young, talented, Canadian, and little (though mighty, as you know if you have teased her when you are too close to her). We sometimes shorten her name to HH. I like to call her the DLF, or the Dear Little Friend, although she is not a grumpy dwarf. She is Dear, and Little, and our Friend, and that is three for three. She’s better now, and we’re leaving the hospital today. (We were here for three nights.) 

Thoughts about the hospital here.

There is no Pokemon Go allowed in the hospital. This brings up questions of why rule needed to be implemented. People roaming around the ICU with their phones held in front of them? Hmm.

The nurses are unbelievably kind. Same with the doctors. 

After a week of lying in bed, Heather’s hair was a bit of a mess. One nurse volunteered to help her wash it. I left to get some lunch and came back to find Heather sitting on the bed with her hair in a wild cloud of knots around her head. The nurse stood with a hair dryer in one hand and a tiny comb in the other. 

“How do you do this?” she asked me in Thai. “I have no idea.” 

“I can do it,” I said. And then I combed Heather’s hair like we were at a sleepover. It was awesome.

Ro and Neil came to visit. Neil looked a bit rough. They helped themselves to the Ovaltine in our room and in the space of half an hour, Ro said more words and made us laugh more than we had laughed in forty-eight hours. Every introvert should have an extrovert friend. Neil married his very own and he is lucky. They bring the verve and fun. They blow into a space and with them comes something that smells like Himalaya mountain air. Adventure, in other words.

Our plucky sick friends are spread around Chiang Mai. My family and Josh and Nay’s family, and our dear Pai friends are back in Pai. This is all very strange. We are used to community rhythms of meditation, gardening, and food together, nearly every day. We’ve had a lot of joy lately, a lot of dancing (even Brendan in a tiger suit) and fun. We’ve gone through some difficult talks and decisions and still came out laughing. And then came floods and fevers, making us live life on the survival level as we are all separated and helping our recovering patients.

Today we’re leaving the hospital. I’m traveling back to my family full up on love, ready to help my oldest boy celebrate his birthday. I think in some ways weird moments make you feel brand new, make you realize God’s love in different ways. I can totally see his love in these moments, and I am thankful.


"Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me." -Psalm 42:7

On Saturday morning, after a night of apparently light rain, the Pai River was unsatisfied to stay within its banks. It broke free, rising a meter and a half, rolling over fields and grassland, huts and motorbikes. The pretty green lady river became a raging, muddy monster, freaking many people out of their wits. It didn't take any lives.

The water flowed into Shekina Garden, and, stronger than we could have imagined, picked up big things and small things, carrying them from one side of the garden to the other, or taking them away completely. It knocked our fence down and plucked out our flowers. It pulled our garden beds apart and ripped up the seeds I had just planted. It destroyed our beans and some of our trees. It brought us many chili plants from another place. It displaced angry fire ants, now looking for revenge. 

The flood also came into Brendan and Leaf's house, creeping up the walls of their downstairs room, destroying precious things. It swept their neighbor's bamboo house away, and covered their motorbikes. It swept the little fish that Isaac named Steven (?) out of his bowl and into a big, wide world. (Leaf says that Steven swam all the way back to the pet store and she and her little daughter Ruby are going to go and pick him up there.) 

When the water went down, everyone could see the feet and feet of fine mud everywhere. The garden is no longer the rich green of this season, instead it is brown, brown, river mud brown. 

I was away when the flood happened, and I didn't get back until a few days ago. Today I went to the garden for the first time, and I saw a changed place. I was in Chiang Mai on a work retreat, trying to get World Whisperer 2 ready for publication and World Whisperer 3 written, and decided to stay rather than turning around and coming back home. I'm not sure it was actually such a good idea, in hindsight. I drove around and cried. I walked around and cried. And perhaps being away made it more sad, because I was alone and anxious. When I went to the garden today, all I could see was what it didn't take.

Here's what the water didn't take: our carefully made earth walls. Josh's precious comfrey plant. The songbooks I made by hand. Or really, the garden itself. Because Shekina Garden is the physical representation of an idea: that we can live as a group of Christ followers in the world and in living out our faith, form a loving community of people in different points in their path toward God, existing in the circle of Jesus's love. It didn't take Brendan and Leaf's hospitality when it hurt their home, it didn't take Rowan's playfulness or Neil's mad scientist obsession with fixing electronic equipment, even when it has been submerged in water.

I look around and see pictures of the love, the play. Josh digging trenches, Chinua throwing people in the mud, Heather upending a bucket of mud over his head, Naomi watching our kids so he could help while I was away (crying and trying to work). It reminds me that community is always better. That adversity can't hurt community. People have rushed to help, cooking and digging through the piles of stinking mud to cart debris away. 

We are warmed, we are loved, we are resilient. Pray with us as we look for ways to help others affected by the flooding.  And thank God that the flowers will grow again. They can't help it, in soil this fertile with love.  

"By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life." -Psalm 42:8

*Neither of these images are mine, and This post will be cross-posted at www.shekinameditation.com


The stupid thing about grief is that it seems to isolate you. I float like an island, there are terrifying waves underneath me. A great crack has gone through the middle of us and I don’t know who to tell, or what I would say. 

Look, I want to say. Everything is different. Shaken. One of the support beams of our house has been ripped away. We are not who we were. A friend left the world and this changes everything. We are a little less us. We are diminished. And yet we have to go on as if everything is the same, doing the same things, eating and sleeping and walking around on our feet. 

Sometimes I don’t know if we’ll make it. 

A husband’s best friend is a very reassuring person. Ian and I used to look at each other as if to say, “this guy. We both love this guy and he drives us crazy and he’s the best and we’ll both love him forever.” And then there were our two families. We did things, we were us. We are still two families, but now there are less of us. Oh how precious friends are! I feel this desperation, like, there aren’t enough of us and we can’t lose even one! It’s love. We can’t afford to lose anybody. 

But we did. And he is safe in the everlasting arms. I have not even one tiny worry for him. I only worry about us. About Chinua and I orbiting each other in the night, talking, not talking, circling around all the things we can’t find a way to speak out. Isolated in grief, even though we are together. 

But this is what I know. Ian was our friend. He loved us. He loved his family. Nothing can erase that. I know that Jesus wept. I also know that God is good, that beauty spills out of the cracks in stones, springs out of sidewalks. Trees volunteer to grow from compost heaps. People do the kindest, most generous things for one another. The world seems shaky but all is not lost. Love will cover this, even this.

Five Things

The world has been a bit disappointing all around lately. But the birds are still praising God, and so are many people, and many people give their lives to help people who are oppressed in the world, people who are different from them. And the people who are oppressed forgive and forgive, and much love can overcome anything. I believe this. I believe it and I try not to despair. But I feel quiet. I don’t know how to speak into the maelstrom. So here are five things. 

1. I sent World Whisperer Two off to my editor the other day, and I'm working on plotting the third. I'm doing it! I'm writing a series, and the characters have me completely captivated. I really love Isika, Ben, Jabari and Gavi. And the others. And now there are even more. Gosh it's fun to write about pretend people.

2. I’m making the change from being a morning person to being a night person. You might be tempted to tell me about studies that show that this is not possible. But I’m determined, because for all of our marriage, my Superstar Husband and I have been living on nearly opposite schedules and enough is enough. Normally I wake up at 5:00 or 5:30 so I can write before the kids get up. Now I’m trying to write after they’re in bed, and even though I’m often working, Chinny and I are in the same room, and sometimes we distract each other with funny videos or kisses. But it’s still hard to get my mind around “work” happening after “kids in bed” time. I’m tricking myself with all sorts of tricky tricks. Like calling it “creative alone time.” Also, I’ve started lighting a candle and some incense as a sort of signal that it’s time to start. And I’m trying out reading to the boys downstairs to I don’t go upstairs to where the bedrooms and the beds are, all beautiful and smooth and inviting and sleepy-making. We’ll see. I’m giving it another week or two while I try to adjust.

3. I went to Chiang Mai a couple weeks ago, and on the way home I rode in the front seat next to a bus driver who was a little intense. He was nearly riding on the top of other people’s bumpers. Also, he had a police siren installed as his horn, and whenever someone was taking too long to let him pass, out came the siren. Like a pull over siren. The police don’t use sirens very often over here, and I guess it’s not illegal to imitate American-sounding sirens. It made me smile every time, even as I clutched at the door handle.

4. Isaac is taking a turn for the delightful and sometimes sings a song that has lyrics something like: “I love my mama, because she is so beautiful…” and then I attack him with kisses. We had a lice day the other day (it’s been a while, a record for us) and his head is shaved and gorgeous. I kiss it and lead him around by the handle on the back, the way I used to do with Solomon.


5. I took Leafy to the local tailor the other day. He gave her a sketch he had made of a superhero costume he designed. It’s going to be made with navy blue spandex. He’s the navy knight. I’m so thankful we live here right at this moment, because as his project got more and more complicated, and then we bought spandex and I realized I have no idea how to sew spandex, and much of it was going to be me making the costume, I got a little panicky. I wasn’t sure I had the ability to withstand the thread tension issues I was sure I would come up against. And then it hit me! The tailor! She can do anything. She gave Leafy an apple to eat, which he was inordinately happy about. He’s making a superhero team. They’re going to do nice things for people in the neighborhood, like pick up litter and clean things. And this is why I love being a mother.

We/ A poem.

(This has nothing to do with July 4th, or 1st for that matter. My mind is elsewhere this year. But happy celebrating to you who are running around with sparklers.)


We come
We bring
    Well-  Here is a story
shaped in sky
Song of one tree
angling around the clouds
in its own particular bend
one blackened branch/
I thought I was better alone
until I was alone
and all my songs
were quiet

The book won't fit on the shelf/
The mynahs copy the sounds of saws sometimes
metal on metal

You shrug it off but you have
that bend now
And it isn't grief
It isn't the trap you have
been avoiding

It isn't the zipped suitcase,
smoke disappearing into the air
Water takes the form of its container
and the color of its companions
But water is always water
filling up
pouring out
running down

It wasn't the heavy stone I thought it was
one tree in the forest bending
a story of roots and sky
I told you when we were driving
I told you in the car
I remembered him as my brother
but I knew I was his mother
I was no longer completely my own
but I didn't belong to anyone else either

We all
He was
We couldn't say
It was the blood in him that died first
Oh- The perfect donor

I’m trying to
I can't
what they say is unhealthy
the waiting for breath-
we are caught but they walk away glowing/
we redefine health
they walk grooves into the floor
they finally look into our eyes
know they are beloved
our way in the world is different
water will find a way to run clear

It wasn't the stone I thought it would be
song of one tree
sharp branch against the sky
It looked lonely
but it was surrounded by trees
We came
We couldn't say
You have to want to be changed
you have to ask
We bring
water is always water

we couldn't say