Finally! That Jay guy is gone and I'm back! Just kidding, of course. We had a wonderful time together which I will tell you much more about, but oh, how I have missed you all! We had free computer access at the Internet cafe in our hotel, but I couldn't justify the time it would take to write everything I wanted to say when our time was so limited and we were supposed to be enjoying the much-delayed, much-anticipated celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. So pardon my absence, but I couldn't take you along. Three's a crowd--much less the lot of you--and all that. I know you understand...
The problem with not writing every day is that I can't remember all the details of everything I want to tell you! But I'll try. This was certainly a far cry from our honeymoon trip to the as yet undeveloped Branson area way back in 1982. So grab your favorite beverage and take a mental trip with me. I'm buying...
We left Bangkok Sunday evening and flew to Krabi (khrab-EE-- gutteral "h") Town where we took a shuttle from the airport to our hotel. We checked in and wandered around looking for a place where we could eat something we recognized. It gets dark early here, around 6:30, and everything springs to life about an hour beforehand. We found a fresh market where mystery food abounded but weren't adventurous enough to try anything. We kept walking the dimly lit, bustling streets and eventually came to a floating restaurant where we were seated by the water and the waitress/cook/busboy/cashier helped us order off the menu. Help being a relative term. I think she pointed out what she wanted to cook, but I had a delicious garlic crusted fried fish. With, you guessed it, white rice. The fish are served whole and the eyeballs are supposed to be a delicacy. Right. And some people climb Mt. Everest for the experience, but that doesn't mean everyone should, now does it? I passed. Out. Not really, but when I offered them to Jay but he passed to. I swear. Some people are just too unadventurous. You'd think, if you traveled half way around the globe you'd try everything!
The next morning we boarded the open-sided, exhaust spewing truck to the port where we were herded like cattle into (thank God) the air conditioned upper cabin of the ferry for the nearly two hour boat ride to Phi Phi (unfortunately pronounced "pee pee," so every time someone said it, I had to go). I felt a bit of claustrophobic panic welling up inside me as soon as I sat down. The sides of the metal seats poking into my plus sized American fanny didn't help matters any, but I got as comfortable as I could, squelched the panic and dozed most of the way. I woke to Jay nudging me saying, "Oh my gosh! We're here, look at this place!" I glanced out the window and saw huge jungle covered granite bumps rising straight out of the most incredible turquoise water I have ever seen. As we disembarked the ferry and walked up the concrete landing we felt as if we were walking into someone elses dream. We kept poking each other and hoping they wouldn't wake up and have to go to the bathroom...
We were bombarded by locals hawking places to stay which included everything from thatch covered huts right on the beach to resorts; they trailed behind us shouting and flipping plastic covered pictures in three ring binders as we walked past. Others offered long-tailed boat rides around the island and snorkeling trips. Jay kept saying, "My ow" which is supposed to mean "no want" in Thai, but with his Oklahoma accent all it did was make them laugh hysterically. There are no cars on the island but that didn't stop them from asking if we wanted a taxi. We declined, as most of the accommodations were within walking distance, but I can only assume the taxi was a bicycle as I never saw any other mode of land transportation. Not even a rickshaw.
Jay and I had made prior reservations at a place called, what else for Zollers?, "Cheap Charlies," and found it rather quickly having to stop just once for directions at a dive shop run, thankfully, by English speaking Australians. "Just around the corner to the left, mate. Right next to the 7-11. You caan't miss it. Goodday!"
And sure enough, there we were. Right smack dab in the middle of everything. Our second floor view was of one of the narrow brick streets teeming with the dark brown-skinned locals and tourists of every nationality and the shops along the opposite side offering more of the same. Rooms, day trips, Internet access, long-distance calling, souvenirs, beach clothing, etc. Our simple, small but adequate white-tiled room had both air conditioning (not necessary) and hot showers (necessary). There was lots of construction going on in anticipation of the high season which runs from November 1st to March 1st.
We dropped our bags and set off to explore the island. We'd heard the hike to the lookout point was a must, so we dutifully found the brick trail that led to the concrete steps. About ten million of them. Just before we got to the last of them we met a fellow coming down and Jay asked if we were almost there. "You're about half way!" Funny guy, I thought, but he wasn't kidding. A narrow concrete path picked up where the steps left off and we meandered with purpose through palm tress, a land mine of old, fallen coconuts and vegetation of all varieties up the steep incline to the top of the mountain. Barefoot. Or at least I was. I'd bought a pair of cheap rubber flip-flops that immediately began rubbing blisters in between my toes.
Believe it or not, there was a building--I thought it was a mirage--offering a restroom for 20 bahts, bottled water for 20 more, pop, light snacks and ice cream treats. I was so dehydrated I passed on the restroom but we bought some water and stood on a huge flat rock overlooking the breathtaking sight below. The island is shaped like a figure eight, the mountainous ovals are dense with jade green jungle forests and the narrow middle section (maybe 200 yards across) is crammed with hotels, shops and canvas covered vendors and white sandy beaches on both sides. The long-tailed boats lined the shore begging for customers and boats of every possible description were anchored in the crystal clear blue-green, bays.
The overcast skies looked positively bruised, which made for better viewing as they effectively eliminated the glare of the sun and allowed for distant viewing. It was unbelievable. Absolutely spectacular. One of the most stunning sights I've ever seen. I can't imagine heaven being more exquisite!
The proprietors of the place had a picture of the devastation caused by the tsunami posted on a tree. It was easy to see how the water washed over everything and caused so much damage, but remarkable that so much has been rebuilt so quickly. Especially when you consider their means of construction is much more primitive than what you see in the U.S.
The climb down was much easier and having worked up an appetite, we found an all you can eat dinner buffet and ate the stuff we recognized. The next morning we set out on a snorkeling trip. There were probably fifty people on board with us and I think we were the only Americans. There were lots of Israelis who had just finished their mandatory military service--men and women, a couple from Spain, some Germans and one very interesting couple from Canada that Jay and I talked with most time we were on the boat chugging to the four different snorkeling locations. They have practically been around the globe and regaled us with their many adventures.
At the first stop we took a kayak, paddled to the small shore, traipsed into the water where you could see a hundred feet to the bottom, and planted our faces into another world. It was incredible! But the second stop was the best. We swam over a huge coral bed and there were thousands of varieties of coral, fish and sea life. We saw giant clams with their fat deep blue lips that pulsed open and closed as we drifted overhead. There were sea urchins, sea cucumbers, star fish, sting rays, one four-foot black-tipped shark (harmless, or so they said), coral of every color and description and hundreds of things I can't describe and can't even name. But the fish! Oh, the endless variety of fish! There were some as little as your pinkie fingernail, some four feet long. Fat ones, square ones, thin ones, pencil-shaped ones, clear ones, speckled ones, multi-colored ones, ugly ones (but not to the other ugly ones, I'm sure), beautiful ones, neon-colored ones and some that looked like they were lit from within. I was overcome once more with the incredible, endless imagination and creativity of our great God. I thought of Jordan the whole time! He loved fish. He was saving his money to buy a huge aquarium and stuff it with all manner of exotic fish. He knew their varieties and species and used to drag me with him to "window shop" at the pet stores in town animatedly telling me what all he was going to buy. I asked the Lord to find him wherever he was in heaven and let him know I was swimming in GOD'S aquarium and enjoying sweet memories of him.
The last stop was "Monkey Beach" and, as promised, monkeys. They look cute, but they really are nasty, dirty, mischievous little creatures. We fed them pieces of pineapple and at one point they charged the crowd sending us scurrying back into the water. Jay, not willing to be intimidated by a twelve inch monkey, crouched down and offered another chunk of pineapple to one of the adults (an adult monkey, I mean). It came up and took the fruit from his hand then sat there staring at him as it ate. Naturally Jay had to e-mail our kids and tell them about being the "Monkey Whisperer." Yeah. He's funny like that...
Despite the overcast skies and our best precautions (Casper, I mean Jay, practically drinks sun screen--right kids?! They know!) we managed to return a marvelous shade of bright pink. A nice late October sunburn! A fading souvenir.
Jay finished "Velvet Elvis" (have I mentioned that book?!) while he was here and also read a book by the guy Phil Visher who invented "Veggie Tales" called, "Me, Myself and Bob." It's his great story of making and losing not only a fortune, but also his Veggie Tale creations and how it was the best thing that ever happened to him because of all God showed him about himself in the process. It's a great book. But the part Jay latched onto was this guy's insight into the relationship between Walt Disney (his inspiration) and his brother Roy, whom most people have probably never heard of. Walt was the visionary and Roy was the nuts and bolts guy. He was the one who decided if Walt's ideas were feasible and affordable and then, if they were, figured out a way to make them a reality. If Walt was the "front man," Roy was equally important in his behind-the-scenes role. Disney Land and Disney World would be nothing more than a man's grand dream if it hadn't been for Roy.
When Jay put the book down he said, "You're Walt. I'm Roy. You're the visionary, I'm the practical, calculating guy. If we work together, there's nothing God can't do through us." I nearly fainted. Can you believe it, Fran?!
Anyone who knows us, even casually, knows we have had a fairly rough 25 years. We spent more time pulling apart than working together; more time letting the irritants take center stage than each other's strengths. We've wasted a lot of time. But no more. We made a promise to pray together to seek God and let Him work though us as a COUPLE, united in vision and purpose and in service and devotion to His glory. We sealed it with....um....a kiss.
Now I know we have to walk it out, that there will be tough times and relapses into old ways, but God has done a real, live miracle. One I have been praying for without really believing for a long, long time. A lot of you know that, and a lot of you have been praying with me and believing where I couldn't.
We thanked each other and thanked God for sticking it out. For hanging in there through the roughest of times, through our shared pain and loss, through everything. We shared the good things about each other, the strengths, how we needed each other, how I was glad I was his wife and that he was my husband and vise-versa.
We parted in the Bangkok airport and he began his four stop, 32 hour return to Tulsa and Pat and I drove back to the house where a nice bed with clean sheets awaited me. Sam called before we left Phi Phi and asked if I would share at the YWAM staff meeting today (Thursday) and I said, "Of course!" It seems the message about grumbling had its place and was well received, but I am very happy to be able to share the things of God I am most passionate about and am grateful for the unscheduled opportunity.
There is more, of course. There is always more! But that seems like a fitting place to end for today. I am sharing some of the deep and painful and private things of my heart with you in order to allow the Lord to give you hope wherever you need it; to give you faith that whatever it is you need and long for, He delight to do for you; to remind you He is the God of the impossible and nothing is too hard for Him!
I want to soak in the things of God until my fingers and toes get all wrinkled and pruny, and I want every single one of you to jump in the pool with me until we have seen all God has in mind to do!