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Miller Family Blog…


Adventure on a Thai Mountainside

Prior to yesterday, our “adventures” here in Thailand have been of the mundane variety. Five trips to the local mall to get our cell phones squared away (thankfully the third floor has a free choo-choo-train to ride). The same number of trips to the bank to set up an account (and waiting two weeks for the username and password to be snail mailed to us in order to set up online banking!). Please don’t think that what we’re doing by living in Thailand is exotic or glamorous!

Yesterday took things to a whole new level though. Brenden was on Day 5 of an 8-day-straight Wilderness First Responder training, (a course that teaches various first response medical interventions, particularly in settings where medical facilities aren’t immediately available), and I had my eyes open for ways to pass time with him gone long days this week. When a local friend invited the kids and I to attend her Thai church retreat in the mountains with her family, it was an easy decision to make. We made the big transition into our new home a couple days ago, which made for a busy last few days, packing up the temporary place and starting to unpack here. I thought an entire day devoted to just “being”, not “doing”, would be a nice change of pace.

We were out the door by 8:15 (a small miracle) and Lauren hopped in our brand-new (to us) car–we got it about 15 hours before this trip (a Toyota Avanza, which we call a “mini” mini-van).

See it all shiny and perdy, sitting in front of our house

See it all shiny and perdy, sitting under the nice trees


See the pretty trees AND the telephone pole with lots of signs and even more wires attached at top? It’s all about the angle!

We started off, and Lauren’s husband and two kids trailed behind in their car. We were separated from the start, due to a quick errand we had to make beforehand. I was thrilled to head up the mountain, not realizing just how close it was to the main roads we’d been driving the past month. All was well, and we took in the views (quick, side-long glances, really–eyes kept on the road) as we talked. Lauren eventually told me where to turn, and we hooked a right to the street where the retreat center was supposed to be. According to Google. Within a minute, the road became more narrow and significantly more windy. We saw a big building ahead, but when we saw no cars there, we passed it. Road became more narrow, road became more muddy, I became more aware that the grass just inches from my side of the car was really a 1-2 food drop. We saw a shanty up a hilly drive and decided if we needed to make a 100-point turn, we’d use that driveway to get turned around. It was our only option.

We then noticed the drive was actually a horseshoe, so after taking a deep breath, spirit breathing prayers the whole time, we gunned it up the drive. Got to the top, said hello to the villagers who were looking on with curiosity, and Lauren got out to guide the car. We realized the only way down was the other side of the horseshoe, which was NOT paved, was muddy, and required a sharp turn to stay on the road and not go forward into said 1-2 foot drop. (Who do you call for a tow in these situations? Who?!) Not familiar with how the new car handles, missing having a manual trasmission, realizing how dependent I’ve become on Brenden in circumstances like this, knowing it would not help to call him anyhow, and seeing the gas light come on (not even making that one up), I realized the only way down was down. Maja sensed all this and said she wanted to go home, but the kids were otherwise quiet as mouses, thank God. Anticlimactically, we made it down with no problem–that little Avanza has a racecar turning radius, even if it has no leg room in the backseat!

Here’s the view once we were turned facing the right direction on the path. IMG_0783


and the driveway (this is the part we drove UP)

Later, Brenden commented that these are the types of roads he’d be on all the time when he travels into Myanmar (sorry Mom and Dad–if it’s any comfort, it will be in a 4-wheel drive and he doesn’t stoke his imagination for “what could have been” like I do). But for me, this was a big deal, and I was all shook up (and dang, couldn’t I have enjoyed the shininess of the car for more than one evening?!)

The rest of the day went as follows: arrive at retreat, where the power (air con and lights) were out in the children’s room, within 20 minutes Emerson splits his top lip on slippery tile floors (same cursed tile floors that left him with a Harry-Potter-esque scar on his forehead from our beach vacation in June), Lauren’s son had diarrhea through his pants and an allergy scare, and her husband Seth bruised his knee badly.

But we also got to see how Thais worship… IMG_0788 beautiful scenery…

They look like little birds...

They look like little birds…

IMG_0824 and friendships solidify. IMG_0814 IMG_0816 We DID make it down the mountain to the gas station, and Google DID make a correction upon Seth’s request.

I came home, cried, put the kids to bed, took ibuprofen for a big headache, cried some more, had a beer, thanked Jesus, and went to bed early. All’s well that ends well.

(Come on, secretively, weren’t you hoping for SOME stories like this on our blog?)


Toys and Thais

Maja started preschool last week! Really? This is going to be my first entry on our past month in Thailand? Yes, simply because I think I can do it in 45 minutes or less and I need something (SOMEthing) finite to start and finish before taking on how to sum up the past 30+ days in new country. Plus I owe grandparents some pictures.

So here goes: we knew we wanted Maja to have some type of ongoing immersion opportunity with peers her age to help her adapt and begin to embrace Thailand. (Emerson too, but he’ll have to wait until he turns 2.) Our colleagues’ 4-year old daughter (and Maja’s first little friend here) goes to Sunshine Kindergarten, and along with other reasons, we decided to go for it. Also, it’s nicknamed “Sunshine” in our family, the same nickname for our favorite preschool in Durham, Sunshine Smiles Academy, where the kids attended one day/week to help us in the flurry of closing up shop in NC.

Continue reading


Farewell USA/Hello Thailand

It took Milton and his family 32 days, by ship, to get to Mozambique, decades ago. 32 days.

Just three days before flying out of the country, I had my last Apple one-to-one session (I will miss these greatly—they have helped me learn so much about my computer without getting sucked into and overwhelmed by Google searches). Milton, my personal trainer for the day, had lived overseas as a child and said that he and his parents made the 32 day journey when he was 1 or 2. That helped put things into perspective in the final hours before we embarked on our more-or-less 32 hour journey.

I know there’s much (MUCH) to write about regarding our first couple weeks in Thailand, but before too much time gets away, I wanted to capture how exciting and special it was to actually make.the.move!

Starting with the fact that we were actually PACKED the night before the move. When does THAT ever happen? (In our world, not often.) So we woke up knowing that whatever didn’t get done on the miscellaneous list of stuff left to do, we could board the plane and leave the country. That took the pressure off.

Our Pastor Byron came and loaded all of our luggage into his van while our favorite Seniors came to help the kids and I get off to the airport. The Gervais were there to help shuffle luggage to the check-in counter so that by the time the kids and I arrived, it was all there in one neat pile waiting to be checked. Amazing.

IMG_3093 (1)

From there it was all excitement and adrenaline. We checked our bags without problem, I cried a little (like, this is actually happening), and then people started trickling into the airport to see us off.


At the check-in counter


Here’s to hoping…


I’m a sucker for airport greetings. (I always dreamed to be that couple who ran to each other from a distance and embraced and cried and kissed. Ha, but now we almost always travel together, so that’s not working out.) So Mandy organized a big ole’ airport send-off. As I look at all the pictures (thanks Grace), it’s friends from so many different seasons of our 7.5 years in NC. But by and large it’s also Christ Community folks—a final reminder of what an amazing and embracing church God led us to these past 3 years.


My strongest memory is turning around as we walked toward security and seeing everyone wave—just seeing all of those precious faces. It’s burned into my mind. We got through security and as we were re-organizing our bags (a 5 minute ordeal), we had our final (several) waves and kisses blown to the last of the group who saw us off til we could not see each other anymore. Sigh. Beautiful.


Then it was GO time. And it was FUN. Our spirits were high, the kids were excited, and we were READY. We flew out of RDU at 7:02pm on 6/4 and arrived in Chiang Mai around 12am EST 29 hours later. Some of the most evident examples of traveling mercies:

  • While waiting to board at the gate, Delta employees offered to check our carry-ons. (We had 4 maxed out carry-ons along with our 4 (maxed out) “purses”, plus 2 strollers and 2 car seats. So, for free, they sent our biggest 2 carry-on suitcases back down to checked baggage, and we didn’t have to see them again until we arrived in Chiang Mai.
  • Same said Delta workers moved people around on the flight so that we had the whole of row 15: 6 seats for 4 passengers. It helped a ton!
  • Sweet stewardess on this flight told me that no, LAX did not have a post office inside the airport, but that she’d be happy to put my stack of envelopes in the mail for me when she got off-shift. After flying across all of America with her (and her giving us a free sandwich meal), I trusted that she would. (And she did.)
  • Compassionate security officer in zany LAX airport helped keep me calm as we feared (and were told) we might not make our connection. She just looked in my eyes and it was all better. (And she didn’t make me go back through security, as another officer insisted I should, because I had brought water through.)
  • A young family we met in the Guangzhou, China airport, also taking the flight to Chiang Mai, took us under their wing and talked (in Chinese) to the airport attendants so that we were first to load. (In Asia, you never know when you arrive at your boarding gate whether the plane is there or whether you have to get onto a bus to shuttle you to the plane—a rallying effort with the mad amount of stuff we had). Thanks to Chris, we were first on the bus, and he helped lift loaded-down stroller and everything.

We travelled smoothly (mostly). I was in a sleeping fog for several hours on the long (15 hr) flight, and Brenden, dear soul, took care of STILL-excited kids until I’d “come back” with short-lived bursts of energy.

My sister-in-law sent us a prayer via email the day we left.
In it, she said, “…may you experience, savor, and rejoice over this leg of your journey.”

Indeed we did.

And we arrived in Chiang Mai to be greeted by the whole of Partners’ expat staff, who lei’d us with Jasmine flowers, packed up our luggage into trucks in a jiffy, and took us to our cozy waiting home.



First dinner in our teammates' house

First dinner in Thailand…at our teammates’ house

So there it is. This account, an Ebenezer stone. (1 Samuel 7:12: Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—which means “the stone of help”—for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!”)

Thanks for making the trip a communal affair.

Love you all (and next post: Thailand!),


Hello Blog.

I move out to the porch of our room at the beach, our first week on arrival here in Thailand, and watch the wind give the trees a good solid thrashing, leaves and branches ridiculously loud. And I think, “THIS is why I want to blog.” Not to (even try to) capture every last beautiful moment, deep thought, or gorgeous interaction. But to have some account. Some account starting Week 0. Some highlights that I can look back on, with smiles and tears and everything in between, and say “We’re here. After many many years, we’re on the far side of the ocean. And God is with us.” See here, Maja? Emerson? Read this. Read about our time, our adventure, our God’s faithfulness.

And in the meantime (because it will be years before Maja and Emerson are reading), I also write for my friends and family, far in space, close in spirit. Be here with us.

Family, fun, faith, work, life, street food.

There is no deeper agenda.

Brenden has always called me his “resident archivist.” But in caution, he told me, “This (blog) doesn’t have to be perfect, doesn’t have to be witty, doesn’t have to be cool. Just capture your thoughts.”

He continued. “Make this fun. Write this for you. And for our family. It’s an outlet.”

He’s a keeper.

So, on that note, Hello Blog. Happy to meet you.

hello blog