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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. 



Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dear Nursery Worker...




Here in Bangkok, our team has humbly and with a beautiful servant’s heart constructed a little nursery out of our church office. Then, several of us rotate each week to take care of Josiah. This week, one of our team has volunteered to watch Josiah for Easter, giving up her only opportunity to attend an Easter service. I am so thankful for their commitment to allow me to attend service and their sacrifice to love on my boy.

Having a nursery doesn't come easy here or at any church. It takes work, planning, and most of all amazing volunteers!

This Easter, congregations will gather to worship the risen savior. And as we worship, others -- off stage and out of the spotlight -- will love on our kids. I just wanted to say a brief thank-you.

Nursery worker, you are the backbone of the church. You allow parents a safe and loving place for their children so they can find community, worship, and the gospel every week. You volunteer to sit in the floor, change diapers, avoid food allergies, make messy crafts, and hold whinny kids week in and week out. You’re patient when parents are late after the service has long ended. You organize diaper bags, food schedules, snacks, and check-in/pick-up.

And sometimes – God forbid – you encounter that parent – the one you see walking down the hall with their kid and you just want to shut the door. The parent who criticizes you, whines about everything, sends angry emails, and wonders what you did wrong to make their kid punch someone else. And you endure it with grace and a smile and you still show up the next week.

I just want to tell you that you are part of something big and you will never see the full fruit of your ministry with earthly eyes.

So this Easter, while others raise their hands to God in worship, you’ll be raising your hands (probably covered with cookie crumbs and finger paint) to lift a child, change a diaper, give a hug, feed a snack. – I’m not sure which act of “hand-raising” glorifies God more. 

Your commitment and your servant’s heart are so appreciated. I pray that every little face you see this Sunday would be the face of Christ to you. From the bottom of this thankful mama's heart, Happy Easter!


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Vacation in Paradise



We are so thankful we got to spend a week with Grammy and Papaw! It flew by, but we were thankful for every minute together. This visit, we got to go to Phuket in South Thailand for the first time, and it was breathtaking! The resort was amazing, and just getting out of the city let us all breathe some fresh (sweet-smelling) air. The place where we stayed was super family-friendly, which is always good when you have a toddler. Here are a few of my favorite moments.


My parents arrive in BKK at about 11pm and the first thing my dad wants to do is order McDonald's delivered to our house. Love it. 

Josiah was a little tired after the flight, but that was okay with Grammy.
Beautiful Angsana
Outdoor playground
Indoor playground (this place was awesome!)

Feeding our friend Lucky -- the baby elephant-- who ate breakfast with us every morning
Lucky reeeeally liked David
Josiah LOVES his Papaw
One of the coolest experiences of my life riding on the head of this elephant. David and I took a 2-hour motorbike ride to find this place. Well worth it. I am now the elephant whisperer. 

I use to hate this as a girl, and now I beg her to roll my hair!
Time with Daddy

I swear this is lemonade.
Kisses for Grammy

On a sad note, when we got back to BKK, mom and I went to grab some milk and eggs from our grocery store. Like all daughters, I asked my mom to take a quick stroll through the clothes section with me. As we were looking, a group of people swarmed us and stole my mom's phone. We were a little shaken up. We traced the phone and had to hold my dad and David back from going after it themselves. Anyway, everything in perpective -- it was a small loss compared to being together all week. Thankfully mom had a great attitude. So thankful for the blessing of family and a perfect week together.