Thursday, November 6, 2014

Your Oh-So-Beautiful Selfie

 The other day I was scrolling along when i came across the same kind of beautiful pics i see every day:

Beautiful selfies with husbands. Beautiful selfies with babies. Beautiful selfies with friends. Beautiful selfies in beautiful nature settings. Beautiful selfies with hands on hips. Beautiful selfies everywhere.

Then I saw you.

Sorry, I don't mean to be rude, but your selfie was -- um -- not so flattering. The camera angle was all wrong. Your chin wasn't positioned the right way. Your hair was -- uh -- sloppy ponytailish, (like sweaty-gym ponytail, not pinterest ponytail). You could have used the ol' "crop" feature. And have you heard of a filter?

It was frankly a bad picture.
And it was the most refreshingly beautiful thing I have seen all day.

You are with your child, and you are obviously so authentically joyful, it stops me. You have a smile -- like a real smile. Not a trout pout or a sexy smirk or a trained-camera cheese. It's a real genuine caught-up-in-the-moment smile. Your child looks happy too. Not the tired smile of "Let's take 10 pictures so mom can look good in one of them" smile (I so do this!), but a real, "I'm having so much fun right now" grin.

Then not only did you keep this not-so-flattering picture, you posted it. For the world to see.

I just have to say thank you. Your picture has shown me real beauty. And it's made me wonder. What kind of woman posts a picture like this? I mean a sweet, but not-so-flattering picture?
A confident woman.
A woman with no ego, no self-worship.
A woman who doesn't crave a steady stream of "likes."
A woman who cares more about the moment she's living than the picture that captures that moment.

That's beauty.

God, help me be that woman. Let me be that mom. A mom who doesn't use my husband or my kids as props to get the perfect picture of me. 

I'm definitely not this woman right now. I wouldn't have posted this picture. I would have taken a few more back-ups, so what if Josiah's eyes were closed, right? But not you.

As I look at my own daughter, (totally bald and still a little snotty from her lingering cold) I am swept away by her beauty. She is the most beautiful baby in the entire universe to me. And I want her to be convinced of her beauty throughout her life-- the beauty her God gave to her. The idea that anyone would make her feel insecure makes me want to mama-bear someone real fast.

Your "beautiful" picture made me think about the kind of mentor I want pouring into Abby someday--- someone like you. Our girls are drowning in insecurity. They see perfection everywhere they look. And they're not seasoned enough to know that behind most perfect pictures is a complete disaster. Many of their Christian leaders speak about confidence in Christ and then live out a subtle, yet very real form of social media self-worship.

Of course Im not talking about being cute or stylish or trendy, or even posting beautiful selfies -- all great things in moderation. Some of my own mentors are the cutest little fasionistas out there (and they post cute selfies too), but theyre also realnever seductive, never immodest, never plastic.

As Christ followers who want to raise up a future generation of girls, we have to allow Christ to transform us. We must take every post captive before the Lord. Because they're following. They're "liking." They're copying US. They need to know that our source of joy is not found in building an entourage of admirers but in cultivating praise for the Lord.

I pray one day Abby will have a Godly leader in her life who will be real. She may be cute and trendy but please God, let her be real. Let her mentor not speak Jesus in small group and then quietly follow the allure of the world. Let her be physically healthy without being in love with herself. Let this womans social media pictures not entice Abby to run after a shallow and sickening type of beauty that is gone in an instant.

So thanks for posting your adorable selfies. But thanks for posting this one too. Thanks for the reminder that real is beautiful. Thank you for not conforming to the mighty strong pull of the culture to worship yourself and ask everyone else to worship you too. I pray one day my daughter will have a confident, modest, beautiful, and real woman to follow just like you one who loves Jesus with her whole entire self(ie).

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Best Mommy Advice I Never Got

 I was exhausted, overwhelmed and insecure when Josiah was born. I read every book and watched other moms, but it's true that nothing can prepare you for your first child -- and nothing could have prepared me for Josiah. He was born three weeks early --- bored in my tummy and ready to see the world and thats pretty much the same spirit that's followed him ever since.

I was insecure to stay in the house with him, insecure to take him out, insecure to breastfeed, and insecure to give him formula, insecure to start solid food, just insecure about everything. I had a healthy baby boy, a great support system, and STILL I was overwhelmed and deeply unsure of myself.

I was also insecure taking him to mothers-day-out. Starting at six months, Josiah went two days a week and....well.... he was kind of THAT baby. He screamed every time I dropped him off, and for the first few weeks, he screamed the entire five hours. He wouldn't eat, wouldn't sleep, he would just cry. Some days he would cry himself to sleep from exhaustion. Since then, people have told me that they never passed his classroom and saw him not crying. He was a mama's boy from the get-go (the bond between moms and sons is real, people). At 2pm when I picked him up, he would collapse in my arms, happy to be with his mama again.

When Josiah cried himself to sleep the first week of CLC

God knew my insecurities and he happened to provide me with the two best baby teachers in the entire universe: Laura and Megan -- two veteran moms, each with three children at the time. They were seriously never rattled by my screaming son. They never seemed frustrated or tired of him. They wouldn't even joke about him being difficult.

One random day I picked Josiah up from school and I stayed to chat awhile. I forget exactly what transpired but somewhere in the conversation I remember asking them:

"Do you have any advice for me?"

I honestly cant remember if I was asking about separation anxiety, solid foods or just asking for advice in general, but their response impacted me and I carry it with me to this day.

I was tired and insecure. And I was worn out trying to look like I was not those things.

 I stood before these moms, and I asked if they had any advice to give me. And their response?


Each of them just looked at me and basically said "We have no advice for you because you're doing it right. You're a great mom." And I specifically remember the phrase "Don't change anything."

I was a bit taken back.

Seriously? Did they not see what a mess I was? How my own son was so unsettled when he was away from me? How I packed the same two jars of baby food every lunch? How I didn't have the faintest idea what I was doing or why God gave this boy to me because I was not strong enough to be his mom. Couldn't they see that?

I was a brand new, insecure mom standing before these two veteran moms who not only had a total of six kids between them, they chose to WORK with other peoples kids all day. If anyone was qualified to give advice, it was them. But they didn't.

They didn't give me advice.
They didn't tell me their own experiences.
They didn't recommend a new technique.
They didn't hand me a book.

At the end of a long day, I think God gave these ladies the wisdom to see beyond what I was asking. In a culture where everyone has an opinion, a technique, a book to read, it was amazing to me that these two moms could see that I didn't need advice.

What I needed was confidence. I needed to know that the way I was doing things was absolutely fine, even if it was different from how they did things. I needed two experienced moms to look at me and not mock the new mom who doesn't know what she's doing, but empower me.

I remember walking to the parking lot that afternoon thinking "They actually think I'm doing okay as a mom. Me with the baby who cries all the time. Me who sends baby jars for lunch instead of homemade food. And they said I shouldn't change anything." It was like my burden of insecurity was lifted a little bit.

Im not saying we shouldn't give advice to new moms who need it. I'm saying theres no shortage of it. There is no shortage of opinions. No shortage of books, blogs, and other moms to give us advice whether we ask for it or not (right?). Every mom has her own ideas about breastfeeding, solid food, tummy time, vaccinations, day care, car seats, pacifiers, sleep training, CIO, and everything else.

What we do have a shortage of is shutting our mouths. Maybe we have the exact solution to her problem, but that's not what she really needs in the moment.

Fast forward a couple years and I'm no longer a brand new mom. In fact more and more I find myself as the "experienced" mom in the room (yikes). I'm a second time mom and I have my own stories to tell and my own advice to give. I have friends who are having their first babies and who look to me for answers, and sure I give advice. But when I think of that day at mothers-day-out I have to remind myself that deep-down, advice is sometimes not what new moms need most, even if that's what they're asking for.  Sometimes they just need to hear, "you're doing it the right way. You're a great mom. The way you're doing things is just fine" even if it's not the way I did things. They need to be encouraged, empowered, and reminded that God is pleased with them in Christ.

If you're a godly, veteran mom, please share your wisdom and experience because Lord knows we need to hear it. But please also have the wisdom to see that sometimes when that new mom stands in front of you, exhausted, insecure, and overwhelmed-- she really doesn't really need to hear that her carseat should still be rear-facing or her four month old is too young to start solids, or her cry it out strategy will scar her kid for life...

Maybe what she needs is a hug and to hear "God perfectly matched you with your little one. You are the best mom your baby could have and in Christ you have all you need right at this moment."

Trends come and go. Strategies will change. What's recommended today could be disproven tomorrow. Experts debate, "friends" comment, and most moms rattle off an opinion like its the gospel truth.

In the middle of these shouting voices, your quiet answer of "nothing" might just be the refreshing word a new mom longs for--  the best advice she'll never hear.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Surprised by Diapers

Every night after we put Josiah to sleep, I find evidence of him throughout the house: a giant toy lizard he thought needed to go in the fridge, a stash of goldfish behind the couch, a soccer ball in the washing machine (that is now super clean), toy cars he piled in my purse, and endless hand prints on every glass surface in the apartment. During the day this annoys me, but late at night, it's a sweet reminder of his presence in our home, little surprises (albeit that I have to clean up) of his existence.

I'm finding more that this is how God shows up in my life. I expect to experience God in worship, in my Bible study. In fact I think it's the daily spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study that train our eyes to see him and our hearts to notice him. But that's where he's supposed to show up. I sometimes think of God like a coach who meets with me in Bible study to train me, then sends me into the game without actually going with me. Nope. Not how it works at all. God meets with me in prayer and Bible study, then he never leaves my side, not helping me live, but living through me. I already know this, yet I'm still always surprised every time he shows up in the middle of an ordinary moment to take my breath away.

Last month, I was helping my sister register for her baby shower, and we scanned a ton of items that my daughter Abby won't be able to have in Bangkok: carseat, huge infant stroller, an actual crib, stuff like that. I was fine with not having all that, I had it all with Josiah and it's just not practical here. It's sounds so stupid, but the only thing I was jealous about were the diapers! She got boxes of awesome American diapers. It's totally my personal opinion, but I think Pampers are the absolute most luxury diaper you can put on a baby. Josiah only wore them for about a month or two and then straight to Target brand (unless I had coupons), but I loved putting that newborn booty in those overpriced pampers. I was sad my daughter would have to take her poops in Thai diapers (ah the suffering life of a missionary). Like I said, I know it's stupid, but it's how I felt.

Then yesterday a sweet friend gave me a huge bag of maternity clothes, perfect for the scalding hot weather of BKK. As soon as I put J down for his nap, I quickly went to try everything on, so excited about my new maternity wardrobe. I got to the bottom of the bag and there were two packages of newborn Pamper Swaddlers diapers she had ordered from the states and never used. I just stood over the bag. They're small packages -- Abby will probably go through them in less than a week, but that wasn't the point. I didn't expect to meet God digging through a bag of maternity clothes in the afternoon. I didn't expect the blessing of diapers, but it came. At that moment I felt God saying "I will take care of you. You're going to have this baby in Thailand, and you will have everything you need. And it's going to come straight from me." What do I need that he can't give me? What is too hard for him to accomplish? Nothing.

Maybe your surprise moment will come from a different place.
God, I never expected to see you in the middle of paying my bills.
God, I never expected to see you while I was filling my car with gas.
God, I never expected to see you while helping my son brush his teeth before bed.
God, I never expected to see you in my hour wait for a table at the restaurant.

What are your "I never expected to see you" moments? If God showed up in the middle of your ordinary day, could you recognize him?

Although I try my hardest, when you walk in the door of our apartment, you don't have to look very far to find evidence that a three year old lives there. A believer's life will have the evidence of God all around it. He will meet you in the hidden places of your day, in unexpected conversations, in stressful situations, in laughter, in frustration, in waiting, and in confidence. Recognize him and lean on him. He will surprise you with his presence and overwhelm you with his love. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Catching Coins

 There are a group of people in Bangkok known as "beggars." They are the people who sit by the BTS stations and in the alleys with cups held out, asking people to drop a few coins. In America, we have beggars too. I have sympathy for them and the people who minister to them, but this is NOT the beggar we see in Thailand, so go ahead and scrub away that image from your mind.

In bangkok, beggars are slaves. They are owned by the mob or other shady organizations who take every cent of their earnings. They are the most shockingly disabled, mangled, abused, and beaten people, paraded into town to make a profit. One grandmother sits with her grandson on the corner of our BTS stop. In the past year, I've seen him grow from a baby into a toddler, sitting every day for hours in the hot son, in the nasty street. I've seen a blind young girl, probably 16, who sits in front of my grocery store singing the most beautiful songs with her cup held out. There is a man with no legs, whose "owners" lay him face down in the rain. Day after day in rainy season, he lays in the mud -- wearing the same rags, laying in his own filth, catching coins from pedestrians. There is a lady who seems to have had acid poured all over her. One woman with no arms and no legs is dropped off with a jar placed in front of her. These people are worse off than the dogs that walk the soi streets.

When we first moved to Bangkok, I was horrified by this spectacle of humans in front of me. I cried more than once -- especially when children were involved. I dropped coins into their jars. Then I learned what was really going on. These beggar slaves make their owners thousands of baht an hour. One day of begging makes them a fortune. Every coin dropped in the cup of a beggar lines the pockets of very evil men and encourages the industry. The more shocking the deformity, the more money they make. They play on the emotions of people, like myself, who think that dropping a few coins can help someone less fortunate. They also prey on the Thai belief in karma, that dropping coins in a poor man's jar means something good will happen to them in return. Not once cent goes to the needy person. It's a giant scam.

So I stopped dropping coins and started to give them water. Then a friend gently told me that many beggars are beaten if they get food and water instead of coins, so I stopped giving water. I pass these people every day and I literally dont know what to do. Their eyes are lifeless, they are like animals. I feel helpless.

There is one blind woman who holds a microphone and sings by our BTS. Josiah loves her. Every time he passes her, he stops and dances to her music. The people around us laugh, but the lady never sees him. She doesn't know that her singing brought joy to a child.

It's such a broken system. There are no government institutions for the poor. And there is no one preventing the exploitation of these people. Everything that happens to these people is legal. And if it wasn't, whose going to stand up for them anyway?

One day I was walking home with josiah and I passed the man laying down in the rain and I just make a silent, deliberate prayer to The Lord. "Lord, I see him. I am not passing by unaware. I see this man. I see his misery, and I just don't know what to do." From that day, I sort of made the decision that I would see these people. I really don't know what to do for them, but I will see them. I won't be just another one of the hundreds who pass by and forget. I have learned that there are churches and Christians who have ministries to help these people. I'm not sure how those ministries are going, but I pray for them too. These people are not animals to The Lord. He made them and they have value. I believe jesus saw people. He had compassion. He saw worth in the garbage other people had tossed aside.

Another thing these people have taught me is the depravity of my own desire for luxury. I whine and complain every day about something stupid. I cry about my rich man problems. I have the audacity to say that I had a bad day. Why does God not strike me dead?

Even if I have no earthly clue what do to for them, I will see them. Because one day a long time ago, God saw me. He saw me ugly, miserable, covered in the filth of my sin and "catching coins" for my slave master. He saw me and he rescued me. Lord, please give me eyes to see the people in front of me, from the rich lady at the mall to the teenager on the BTS to the old lady begging in the street. Let me see them because you first saw me.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Mile From Our Church

A year ago, our church started ministering in a lower-income area of the city, actually located only a mile from our church. The children are beautiful, the people are friendly, but make no mistake – it’s a dangerous area. I can tell by the nervous faces of our Thai church members who go with us. They’ve heard the stories and they know what goes on in this area and they are protective of us farangs (white foreigners).

For the first few months we lived here, as any mother, I was NOT about to take my child into this area. When people first started visiting the district, I just stayed home with Josiah. Duh, I’m not putting him in danger. But the more adjusted Josiah became to Bangkok life and the more adjusted I became, I just really wanted to take him.

I remembered in Brazil, some of our friends took their then seven-year-old boy into a favella run by drug Lords. I remember how powerful it was to the people in the favella that we trusted and loved them enough to bring one of “our children” into their "neighborhood." It really impacted them and strengthened relationships. We all kept an eye on him of course, especially his mama, but we trusted God and ministry fruit came from it.

Of course BEFORE, I had Josiah, I was like “I’m totally bringing my kids into dangerous situations for the gospel” but then when I actually became a mom, I was like “You people are crazy! No way I'm ever doing that with my son.” It’s funny how much our zealous parenting philosophies change after we actually become parents.

Photography courtesy of the amazing Brandon Tomlin

Well I finally took Josiah into this area of Bangkok and it was actually so awesome. He did great and loved it. We’ve been a couple of times, and I can’t explain it. There’s a universal connection mothers have with our babies. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, what language you speak or the color of your skin – we ALL know what it’s like to chase a two year old around. We know about breastfeeding, we know about wet diapers, we know about the joy our children give us, we know the cries that annoy us and the cries that send us running to them. We understand each other. With Josiah at my side, I was able to hug and love on these mamas who are also chasing their babies. They laughed at me trying to speak Thai. It was just a ministry connection I could never have gotten on my own, without my son. 

I continue to learn that it’s the Lord who protects our children. We spend so much energy protecting them from danger, but I’m reminded, the safest place to be is in the shadow of His wings. The most dangerous place to be is nestled inside the cheap security of our own making.

I’m not saying I’ll take Josiah every time or into every situation – I think God gives us common sense. But I do think he calls us to trust him. And as I’m learning, everything we have – our health, our money, our time, our possessions, even our precious babies - can allow us opportunities to share the love of Christ. I’m learning to hold it all loosely in my hands to the Lord; it’s his already anyway. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Beauty in Our Blistering Skies

Every day in Thailand, farang (foreigner) whines about the heat. That's because we live inside an oven. From the moment we step outside, we start baking. If we arrive quickly at our destination, we arrive medium-rare. If we take our time, we arrive well-done. If we get lost along the way, well, it's all over for us. We are the literal melting pot of Asia.

For some reason today, I'm inspired to look up at the sun, which is just a few feet above my head, wave my charbroiled fist in its face, and demand, "Is that all you got??? Bring it on!!!" Today I celebrate the heat. Maybe I have heat stroke.  Maybe the sun has fried my brain. But I'd rather be joyful in my own optimistic delusion than a sweaty sourpuss on the scorching pavement of reality.

 Yes, it is hot. But like Jamie Cullem asked about dreary London, I will ask you: "Will you let me romanticize, the beauty in our blistering skies?"

Here are some things I LOVE about living in a hot city.

1. We never ever ever need a jacket. 
2. We can swim 24-hours a day, 12 months a year
3. We don't need a humidifier and the air is never dry
4. An egg will easily scramble itself on the sidewalk right in front of you
5. Our children don't have to bother with coats, boots, etc. 
7. Crime is very low here. It's too hot to be outside mugging people or stealing things. 
8. We will be the first to know if the sun erupts a solar flare. 
9. We don't need to boil our water, we just set it on our patio and watch it bubble. 
10. We never shiver. We never get chill bumps. 
11. We never get hit with snowballs.
12. We always have a tan.
13. It's never too cold to eat ice cream.
14. If we get reeeeeally hot -- like delusional -- we get to see fun mirages like a giant Chick-fil-a sandwich with sweet tea, or a big Target sign, or a loved one from home.
15. Just standing outside doing nothing is equal to running 5 miles in the US.
and lastly,

16. We always get PLENTY of VITAMIN D!!! That's why Thailand is the LAND OF SMILES!!!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

High Schoolers in BKK

Our student team headed back to America around 3am this morning. This has been an incredible experience for them and for us. As the wife of a former student pastor, I’ve been on countless student camps, mission trips, and retreats. The team this week so impressed me with their hard work and willingness to do whatever was asked of them… with a great attitude. They didn’t complain about the miserable heat, walking everywhere, or the city in general. They loved building relationships with Thais, Iranians, Japanese, and anyone God brought across their path.

For me, this trip was special because for years David and I would visit our missionary friends in Brazil, work with them and encourage them for a week. This time it was our turn to be encouraged by a team from the US. And let me say, we were so encouraged! It’s also great to see the light come on for students like, “Oh this is what a missionary lifestyle looks like overseas.” 

My heart is also full because two of the students who came this week were in my high school small group for years. I am just so proud of them I can’t stand it. They are young women running after God, turning their backs on the world’s definition of “success.” They’re maturing and they will do mighty things for the Lord.

And I’m so proud because another student this week was my cousin, Nathan – more like a brother than a cousin. Nathan comes from a strong heritage of faith but has also endured some great pain in his life. He came to Christ two years ago and hasn’t looked back. This is a guy I grew up going to Chuck E Cheese with and having camp outs and puppet shows in the living room. Now I see the fire in his eyes for the Lord. He is zealous, but willing to grow in wisdom to match that zeal. He is eager to abandon his safety and his comfort for the sake of the gospel. But he also submits to authority and accepts Godly counsel. I have no idea how God will use this young man to advance this kingdom but it will be huge.

Mostly I am thankful for a church that sends. We stand on the tip of a great iceberg of support back home. Each one of us living overseas represents a family of supporters and an entire sending church. Thank you, church for investing in students. Thank you parents for overcoming your fear of letting your teenagers travel overseas (I know the day will come when Josiah asks this of me). Thank you Dustin, for spending another ten days away from your sweet family to pour into students -- You are an incredible leader, and our student ministry is so blessed to have you. Thank you, support family for sacrificing and honoring God with your money. Thank you to those who really pray for us. As you serve the church, so you serve all the nations. Student team, thank you for ministering to our BKK family and the people of Thailand this week. You're influence will continue long after you've gone. We will miss you!

View of BKK

A sweet baby boy I got to hold for two hours at the orphanage

River Boat taxi -- Yes, Adrianna is covering her mouth because
nobody wants to accidentally taste this water. 

Too much coolness for one picture.

Our team outside the Friends for all Children orphanage.