Sunday, January 24, 2016

For the Thai Food-Craving Rumbly in Your Tumbly

Greetings, friends and family!  I thought 6 months later was a good point in time to throw another blog up here.  And one that is relevant to the lives of us all.

People often ask me what kinds of food I eat out here in the Land of Smiles.  (They don't ever call it that when they ask, but you know.)  So I decided to compile a list of some of my favorites + some of what probably should be my favorites because of how popular/traditional they are.  

Let it be known that I am neither a food connoisseur nor an aspiring food blogger, so when I use words like limey and spicy and yummy and can't really think of anything else to say... suffice it to say that the food is delicious, and that's why it's on this list.  And for the items with little or no description at all:  use your imagination, or Google :-).  (Mark Wiens at has a great list of 100 Thai dishes to eat in Bangkok - many of the dishes I have here are on his list as well!)

The format for the name of each food is as follows:
      Thai script name
      Phonetic pronunciation
      English description

Try some of these out for yourself, and let me know what you think!

Som tam
Green papaya salad

This dish comes in many different varieties, but I prefer it without the seafood.  It is fresh, limey, and can be very spicy.  Eat with sticky rice!

Yam woon sen
Glass noodles salad

Another fresh-tasting dish that won't leave you feeling heavy.  A great lime flavor, and also spicy.


Phat phak bung fai daeng
Stir-fried morning glory

Soups & Curries:

Guay tiao
Noodle soup

One of my favorites, and a dish that is extremely versatile as far as the type of noodle and meat you can order.  For extra yumminess (and a tangy & spicy flavor), ask them to put in tom yum (ต้มยำ, hot and sour flavor) and kiao (เกี๊ยว, dumplings).

Gaeng kheow wan
Green curry

Gaeng som cha om
Sour orange curry (with egg & veggie omelette)

I normally have them put in shrimp, but you can choose any meat.

Tom yam
Hot and sour soup

One of my very favorite dishes.  Spicy and shrimp are standard, but you can ask them to tone down the spicy level, and chicken and pork are also delicious.

Tom kha gai
Coconut chicken soup

Another favorite.  Very creamy and not spicy.  Eat with rice.

Gaeng panang
Panang curry

Noodle Dishes:

Suki haeng

Stir-fried noodles, veggies, and meat in a spicy, sour sauce.  The dry version of suki nam, which is a soup adapted from Japanese hot pot. 

Phat Thai

The sweet, peanuty noodle dish everyone loves.   

Phat see ew
Soy sauce fried noodles

Basically, just like it sounds.  Not a spicy dish on its own, but it tastes great with fish sauce and pepper.

Gap Khao (Food to Eat with Rice) Dishes:

ลาบหมู, ลาบไก่
Laab moo/gai
Ground pork/chicken salad

This is an Isaan dish with a strong lime flavor.  Eat with sticky rice!

Khao man gai
Boiled chicken and rice

A pretty popular street food.  It comes with a yummy spicy sauce on the side, as well as a bowl of soup.

พัดกระเพราหมู, ผัดกระเพราไก่
Phat gaprow moo/gai
Basil pork/chicken

I've heard it said that this is the dish Thais order when they don't really know what they want.  And this "default dish" is certainly worthy of that standing.  Spicy, and really good with fish sauce and a fried egg on top!

Khai jiao

The "safe for the whole family" dish.  This normally comes either plain or with ground pork.  Dip in the creamy spicy sauce if you want, and eat with rice.


Khao phat
Fried rice

Khao phat tom yum
Fried rice with tom yum

All the greatness of Thai-style fried rice and tom yum soup combined into one. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Language Shock

I have been in Thai language school for 3 months now.  Which pretty much means I can tell you my name, "happy birthday," that my air conditioner is broken, it's really hot outside, and I want to order fried rice.

Other than a couple semesters of Spanish in high school and college, I've never really studied another language before.  Like the I-actually-want-to-speak-this-in-life kind, not the I-just-want-to-pass-this-test kind.

It's just a miracle that anyone can ever communicate at all.  For real.  And I don't even mean Thai, I mean any language.

The more remarkable aspect of this is when someone learns to speak English, with all its crazy idioms and metaphors and junk.

For example.

I was riding in the car, listening to music the other day with my Thai friend.  She speaks a good amount of English, but not enough to navigate the parts of it that make no sense.  "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift came on, and as we listened to the lyrics play play play play play play I asked her if she understood what the phrase "shake it off" meant.  She nodded in affirmation, then stuck out her hand and... shook it off.

I mean, that's fair.

After I laughed at her for not being fluent in my first language, I told her in some-Thai-most-English language, "It's like... something bad happens to you, and you say, 'Never mind!  I don't care!  It's fine.'"

The same thing happened when we listened to Ellie Goulding's "Love Me Like You Do," who tells her lover, "Only you can set my heart on fire."  When I asked my friend if she understood that phrase, she nodded again and pretended to remove her heart from her chest, then talked about... setting it on fire.

English is so hard.

Sometimes, when I'm in a team meeting or serious conversation with someone, I check out for just a second to think, We understand all the words each other is saying and that's amazing.

When it comes to people understanding me in Thai -- now that's a miracle.  I call the same girl every week when I want to order more drinking water.  I have no idea who she is, but her name and number were given to me by a friend of a friend who said, "Just tell her you want to order water to the farang ("white foreigner") house."  So that's what I do, week after week.  I call, and something happens in between that causes these guys to roll up and bring me humongous bottles of water, and then I don't die of dehydration.

I felt a little guilty today for calling this girl all the time and never trying to actually make conversation, so I threw in a "Are you doing well?" and tried to slip in a "Thank you for helping me," as she interrupted me with polite Thai words in a way that seemed like she was ready to get off the phone with this needy white girl who speaks Thai like a 2-year-old.

And it wasn't annoying or hurtful or anything, because I get it.  Communicating in a foreign way is just kind of exhausting.  Learning to change your greeting phrases from things we would say to Westerners like, "Hi, how are you?  My name is Reagan.  What's yours?" to, "Where did you come from?  Where are you going?  Have you eaten yet?" is one of a thousand adjustments that must be made to live life here without looking like a freak all the time.  I'm thankful that Thai people are pretty gracious and that I like them enough to want to adapt.

And on the days that I don't, a good sandwich and an episode of "The Office" normally do the trick.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Everything You Want to Know!


Plates piled high with stuffing and sweet potatoes.  Familiar and perhaps new faces gathered ‘round a seasonally decorated table.  Seconds.  Tales of childhood shenanigans, whispers of thanks for loved ones seated next to you.  Thirds.  Pie.  Naps.  Pitch Perfect.  Yes to all of it.
As we tip our hats to another Thanksgiving gone by and look forward with wonder-wide eyes to the next month of frenzied shopping and travel plans;
as we light our Advent candles and prepare—hopeful, expectant—to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, God With Us…

Let’s calm down.  Let’s sit back.  Let’s make giving thanks an everyday thing.

I, for one, have something in particular to be thankful about.
A few weeks ago, I announced that I needed $300 more per month before I could buy a plane ticket for Thailand.

Guess what?  People pledged their dollars, and now
You guys responded, God provided, and I bought a ticket to take me across the ocean to the other side of the world.

So thank you, a zillion times over.  And welcome to Team Thailand.
Several people have asked me several of the same questions over the past several months, so for the sake of clarification and something else to hang on your fridge (next to my prayer card, of course—P.S., let me know if you want one of those), here’s a cheat sheet to everything you ever wanted to know about what I’m doing with my life next year on out. 

Where are you going?

Where in Thailand?
Lopburi for the first year, then up to the Isaan region for the rest of the years.  Potentially in our around Khon Kaen.

Do they speak Taiwanese there?
Nope, that’s Taiwan.  People from Thailand speak Thai.

Do you already know the language?
Not yet.  We will spend our first year in language school in Lopburi.  One-on-one tutoring and homework galore.


Are you Asian?

Sorry, these almond eyes are Native American + white.

What made you pick Thailand?
I always respond, “Jesus,” but people always seem dissatisfied with that response.  So the short story is that I felt a burden for church planting in Asia when I went on the World Race.  After I came home from the Race, I worked at Echo Ranch Bible Camp for the summer.  Avant’s Director of Recruitment came to speak at camp for a week and suggested I check out their church planting team for Thailand.  Check.  (Go here if you want the long story.)

When do you leave?
I fly out of OKC on December 29th.  I’ll spend the next 8 days in Chicago with friends, then fly from there to Thailand on January 6th

Are you excited?
Yes.  Excited for new things and being with my team and living overseas and fulfilling the calling God gave me.  But sad about leaving my family, friends, church, and American lifestyle.  Nervous.  Hopeful.  All the feelings.

How long will you be gone?
Probably 5-7 years. 

Will you get to come back before then?
Yes, probably after about 2 years.

Are you going with anyone?
Yes.  A girl named Liz, a married couple (Matt & Heather), another married couple (Tim & Marnee), their 2 kids (Alex & Dominic).


Whoa!  A family??  Are they bringing their kids?
Yeah, Tim & Marnee ended up liking their boys a lot, so they decided to bring them along.

There's another girl named Jolene who will be joining us for the first year.  She'll be helping out as Alex and Dominic's homeschool teacher during that time.
Did you already know them/are they people you went with on the World Race?
No, Avant put us all on the team after we had each gone through their orientation program and they appointed us as missionaries and assessed our gifts and skills and prayed about it and stuff.  We met as a complete team for the first time at our team training in July 2014.

No, I went on the World Race through Adventures in Missions, a different missions organization.

Can people come visit you?

Wait, where are you going again?  Taiwan?
What does your family think about it?
Very supportive and encouraging.  But you know. Sad for themselves, happy for me.

Will you get jobs there/Do you have to raise money/How is support raising going?
Probably not.  We want to have as much time as possible to devote to ministry.

I have been raising support since March, and it’s going great!  All raised!

What will you do there?
Learn how to speak and write Thai.  Pray.  Meet people.  Make friends.  Tell them about Jesus.  Pray.  Encourage them to tell their family and friends.  Encourage them to meet together to talk more about Jesus.   Encourage them to tell more people about Jesus.  Sweat.  Eat rice.  Pray.

Will you have Internet access?

Do you think you'll meet your husband there?
Absolutely.  That’s actually the real reason I’m going.*

What would you do if you met someone before you left?
Ask him if he likes Skype and Thai tea.

What is the weather like?
Hot (80s-90s) and humid.  Oklahoma summertime 24/7.

What will you wear?
Only the best and truest missionary attire:
But for real, the women will wear blouses and long skirts.  Knees covered at all times, or else.

In some countries, they don’t allow you to come in as a missionary, and/or it’s dangerous to be a Christian.  Is that how it is in Thailand?
No.  Thankfully, Thailand is a country that does not have those kinds of restrictions on religion, like many others in the 10/40 Window.

What are you most nervous about?
(1)  Getting lost.  I have a hard enough time navigating my hometown using Google Maps.  (2)  Potentially being single forever.**  Let’s be honest.  (3)  Embracing Thailand as my new normal.  Not as a trip or time out from real life, but as my new home.  As excited as I am to learn a new culture and language and experience God on the other side of the world, I know that culture shock will be hard and missing the comfort and familiarity of my passport country will be real.  In spite of those things, I want to be all in.  He who calls me is faithful, and He will supply every need of mine according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  It’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be good.

Alright, y’all.  I know that was a little lengthy, so thanks for bearing with me.  If there’s anything I missed, let me know.

What have you been up to?  How can I be praying for you?

* Just kidding.
** Avant Ministries does not restrict their single missionaries from getting married.  All hope is not lost.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


There’s a fire roaring in the fireplace.  The first one of the season.  It feels nice to have this Oklahoma summer finally come to a close, opening wide arms to reds and golds and wool scarves and tall boots and soul foods.  The Thunder is playing in Milwaukee and on my TV screen, dogs curled up on the carpet, family members lounging on the sofa and enjoying the warmth of the flames and our own togetherness.  Welcome, autumn.

I’m basking in the moment, one of few I will have over the next five to seven years.  It’s a moment I would have judged others for in years past.  Pre-grace Reagan deemed comfort and happiness unacceptable companions to a true Christiatin life, which certainly only included pain and cross-cultural evangelism and living in abject poverty alongside the poorest of the poor.  Not that I was living this way, mind you, but the thought somehow seemed enough. 

But these days, I receive it.  In all its simplicity, its lack of striving or spiritual depth or saving souls from the pit of Hell as we speak, I receive it.  Because I believe Jesus is present in those moments of rest, extensions of deep breath and nestling in.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.

There is a time for the pouring out, the all in, the giving of yourself to the work of the Lord.  And there is a time for the settling in the quiet and the peace, the thanksgiving, the joy in simplicity.  Now is the time.  Tomorrow is another day.  Lord, may I see it with Your eyes and give it our all.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Challenge to Change

How can I best capture October 2014 in one word?

S t r e t c h

It's another one of the Christians' favorite words, no doubt. (Don't forget this handy resource for many of the rest.)

My sister got married last weekend. It was a good and exciting thing, of course, but I think I 'zilla-ed out more than she did during the few days leading up to it. When things weren't getting done the way she wanted or 1am ticked by and the "To Do" list seemed only to grow or anyone so much as thought about saying words to me within an hour of my waking the following morning, the snappy and selfish and First World entitlement complexed Reagan monster flared up, and I found myself continuing to repent and ask questions like, "Who am I? I thought I was over this."
Behold my alter ego. 


This is a post from the "Missionary-ish Tales" E-News.  Read the rest here, or subscribe to the monthly e-mails here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In the Quiet

When was the last time you let God meet you in the silence?

Maybe you were out of words.  Maybe you were out of ways to fix, to solve, to do it on your own.  Or maybe you were just weary in your body, your heart, your mind.  You didn’t have any fancy prayers to conjure up for Him, so you sat still, waiting with only minimal expectation.

Maybe you lay on the floor, face down, candle burning in the background to offer some sense of presence and scent of comfort.  Maybe you even whispered, “I’ve got nothing, God.  I need to hear from You.”

And maybe He spoke.

And maybe refreshment did indeed come.

God has drawn me lower than my knees more often that not this month.  And while the literal posture of submission isn’t always comfortable, it inevitably reminds my spirit who’s in charge.

And, you know what?  That’s a really good thing.

Because, seriously, how often do we find ourselves praying for things we only sort of believe God cares about or will follow through on?  Or feeling like His attention is better directed elsewhere, that we shouldn’t take up too much of His time?  Or praising Him for being such a great Creator and for saving us from eternal punishment, but not believing in His intimate love for His creation and his ability and desire to save us from anything else?

Most of us have frequently heard of the ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) method of prayer.  And although some may get hung up on whole “formula” sort of approach, I think there’s something to it, and especially to beginning our conversation with the Almighty with adoration and praise. 

Because, really, our view of who God is and how He relates with us directly correlates with how we view every other aspect of life.  Adoration and worship must be a part of our prayers to keep us in perspective. 

Praising God for being sovereign leads us to believe that He sees and orchestrates the bigger picture.  Praising Him for being faithful reminds us He will keep His promises to us.  Praising Him for creating the world affirms that He will sustain our needs. 

Knowing and recounting the works and character of God fan the flame of confidence that He will continue to be exactly whom He has always been.

Monday, October 13, 2014

How it actually went down

…Or maybe if I check Instagram one more time, I'll feel better about myself, since my internet presence and likeability reflect my real life power to please the masses.

It's a lie I've believed more times than I can count. 

There's always something, you know? Some way we compare ourselves to the ideal, to each other, to our selves who are becoming. For many, it's the dollar value of their occupations, the final settling down of the restless dreamer, the arriving at a longed-for destination, the ring on the finger. The inner voice of failure arises when we see our youth kids get engaged before we do or find ourselves at a job far from worthy of our ACT scores. And when we see "everyone else" get there, that magical land where the grass is greener, we sink and sulk and strive to be as good, holy, and finally trusting enough as they must have been to have the desires of their hearts – our hearts – fulfilled.

Because, of course, that is the Christian formula for happiness.

A couple months after I announced that I would be heading out to the world, I got a message from a friend who has followed my blog for awhile. He asked me how I got there, how my longing and doing finally converged, how it all came together and my calling became a crystal clear path before me.

The assumption was well-intentioned but a little… well, skewed.

I sort of laughed as I replied.  It made me feel like one of those happily married people I had so often envied, heart panging every time I scrolled past one of their #besthusbandever  posts.  People see me and think I have arrived?  Seriously? 

Because here’s how it actually went down.

I went on the World Race and came home a wreck.  Not because I hated America or because I had a distinct calling to start an orphanage in Africa and didn’t have the funds or balls to get over there yet, but because I knew the world was broken and lost and I had no freaking idea what to do next.  I mean, I knew I’d be going to Alaska again, so that became sort of my lifeline for a few more months.  On the Race, the biggest “future life work” hint I took away was that my heart came most alive when I was in evangelism/church-planting/Gospel-discussing kinds of ministries… but no more of this short-term missions business.  The place I observed the most spiritual darkness and need to be reached was India, and that was the country I liked the least, so obviously that made the cut for my limited search criteria once my feet hit American soil and I started scouting out the next big thing.  (You know us Christians, always feeling like we are called to only the hardest tasks...  Scratch that, I can only speak for myself… maybe.And not that I thought that I was some big BA missionary who had it all together, but I figured… What else am I supposed to do with my life?  This is all I care about.

Anyway, I didn’t find anything that stuck.  Plus, I was dealing with whether I was feeling led/feeling like I wanted to commit to a romantic relationship, and… well, you know how that goes.

So I went back to Alaska as a summer staff member at Echo Ranch Bible Camp.  As I toiled in the Lord’s work on the last frontier, I asked God to open a door.  You know, God, for some long-term church planting-ish thing in India (or anywhere else in Asia, if that’s cool with You).

The next week, Justin, Director of Recruitment for Avant Ministries, showed up to be the camp chapel speaker for a week, and we became friends over controversial theological conversations and mostly-agreeable mission trip stories.  He told me I seemed like I would be a good fit for Avant’s short-cycle church planting Thailand team because I “have missions experience” and “take God seriously” and “want to go to Asia”, so I should check them out.  My reply?  “You’re a recruiter.  Of course you’re saying that.”

I spent half the summer researching missions opportunities in India and the other half wondering about Thailand and the whole 5-7 year thingy and the entire summer freaking out about not having a plan.  I battled bouts of anxiety and loneliness and knowing I wasn’t being present where I was but not feeling motivated to be anywhere but everywhere else.  The more I researched, the more overwhelmed I felt, and the more I just prayed for a blazing, this-can-only-be-from-God kind of sign. But pseudo-signs came and went the whole three months long, with little confirmation or peace or whatever seal of approval with which we so often seek to stamp our big decisions.

I got home.  Still no burning bush or writing on the wall.  I job hunted.  I job landed.  I online dated.  I put missions on the back burner.  I took missions off the back burner and decided, What the heck.  I might as well go to their orientation thing and confirm that we are definitely not what each other is looking for.  I was brutally honest on all my personality/emotional & organizational assessments, determined to display the same amount of I’m seriously not good enough for you guys in my interviews with the staff once I got there.

And I did all those things.  And guess what? 

“We really appreciate your honesty, Reagan.  And if you feel okay about going through with it, we will go ahead and appoint you as an Avant missionary.” 

I freaked out all two weeks long, simultaneously loving all that I was seeing and inwardly dying over the (non-Holy Spirit inspired) conviction that, if I really signed up for this thing, I WAS GOING TO BE SINGLE FOREVER. 

But I decided to trust God who appeared to be showing me an open door.  I wrote, “I think I’m going to marry Avant,” in my journal.  And I took the leap.

As I have progressed through giving others the news, asking for their prayers (and their money), I have held this opportunity with open hands.  It’s not the time frame I was looking for.  It’s not the location I was looking for.  It’s certainly not the marital status I was looking for.  On my own, I am not cut out for this.  I have never lived in another country for more than a month.  I have never seriously tried to learn another language.  My spoken words are quick and choppy and mumbled and jumbled and don’t always know how to present Jesus in all the right ways.  I can be painfully sarcastic and heartbreakingly uncompassionate.  And yet, it appears that God has called this mess of a human to the nations, because it’s not about my missionary prowess, but about His miraculous power.  And if that same power that raised Christ from the dead really does live in me… then maybe I have a chance after all.

And so maybe all that makes it a little easier, this mindset of You can take it if You want, Jesus – it’s not mine to cling to.  And I wonder if that was always meant to be the point of a calling, the pinnacle of “arriving” – that it is He who calls and He who directs us because it is He who created and He who knows us…  So when did it ever just become about our passions and the line of work that makes us happy and what everyone else has made of themselves and what we surely “deserve”? 

When did it ever become about measuring ourselves against ourselves or others, completely disregarding the reason God created us in His image? 

What if we just asked God to show us where He is already working, where He wants us to join Him… and quit worrying about whether it’s good enough?