We are very excited to officially announce that we have a new addition to our family who will be arriving in late February. Per family tradition we are not finding out the gender of this little baby, so have we bestowed the nickname ‘Caterpillar’ on him/her. We are so thankful for this special gift of a child God has given our family. Caterpillar has three older brothers who are eager for an in-person introduction and ask on an almost daily basis if it’s February yet. So far the pregnancy is going well and mom and baby are very healthy. We covet your prayers as we prepare for this tiny human’s arrival and transition to life as a family of six.
Samuel was been asking to tear down our closest big box store/hypermarket to put in a Toot’s. The first time it was cute and funny. A month into him asking almost every day we see that it’s more than just a tasty meal that he wants. A couple weeks ago he told me he wanted to quit living here and go back to America. I asked why. He told me that he wanted to live in America where there aren’t monkeys. He usually loves the hunt for monkeys. And then a few days ago he mentioned how he was going to marry a girl back home who he used to talk about all the time, but hasn’t mentioned much recently. He also keeps asking for snow, a cool wind, anything indicating the weather will be different than the weather we have experienced almost everyday for the past two years.
All of this dovetailed right in with some things I’ve been feeling. Not long ago I posted on Facebook some things God had given us from home. A friend from college who is from the country we reside in and currently lives in the capital commented that I made it sound like we live in some remote outpost instead of the lovely city we live in. We do live in a lovely city. I tried to figure out why it mattered we had gotten these things from home. And then it struck me–I’m homesick. So are my sweet Samuel and my favorite Toffer.
Toffer traveled more than usual May through the beginning of August and our kids kept getting sick, meaning that I spent A LOT of time in our house. A number of our friends and most of our teammates went home for the summer, meaning I had little connection to adults. We had to say good-bye to friends who we may never see again. And we just miss things from home.
We haven’t seen “home” in almost two years. As much as we’re homesick right now we also know there are people in the US who are “Kings-sick.” The wonderful people who love us and miss us and want an opportunity to be in the same 200 square feet as us, but are as committed as we are to people in Asia hearing the Gospel. The people who comply with our inane requests for things like seasoning packets and Hot Tamales and pens we can’t get here. The ones who make an effort to Skype, call or send text messages (if you have a smartphone-get Whatsapp and you can be one of those text message people). We’re thankful for those people, we couldn’t be here without them, and we’re very much looking forward to seeing them next fall.
Our homesickness will subside as it always does. We have a little over a year left until we are temporarily reunited with the beauty, and seasons, of Tennessee and the great expanse of the United States of America. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again-we would not be living this life if we weren’t 100% certain that we were where God wants us. I keep going knowing God is near our broken hearts and knowing that the eternal treasure we’re building in heaven matters.
On a great amount of faith and with a great amount of trepidation I started Bible Study Fellowship with our boys in February. The class starts with the school year in January, so when I started at the beginning of February I had only missed a week. I really like the study and the boys have taken to it like fish in water. God has used it in my life the past few months and I am so thankful for the refining He’s doing. One part of a lecture is particularly pertinent to what I write here. Each week we have a discussion time and a lecture time. During the lecture one week one of the principles was “The desire for personal fame fuels disobedience to God.” WOW-that hit me right where I needed it.
You see, I’d already been thinking a lot about why I write, why I share our life in this space. As I find honesty to be the best policy I will admit that I had grown frustrated and jealous about other blogs and websites that I kept seeing pop up on Facebook. OTHER people were getting attention and recognition for their life and what they were walking through, but not me. Am I not interesting? Am I not worthy of reading? Am I not good enough? You can see where the spiral of self-doubt and bitterness can go from there.
God used that part of the lecture, along with other parts of the study with BSF and other events in life as a whole, to get me to the point of really searching myself, really having to decide what mattered: His pleasure or other people’s approval. I originally wanted to write to share our story, our life, our journey. We live an atypical life and have experiences most people will only read about (like maybe here? (;) We know people all over the world now and being able to share some things in a public way was going to be an easy way to help people stay up to date. And as we’ve been here I have realized how deep and profound my responsibility can be in sharing what God is teaching us about who He is and the world He created. I wanted to share His story, His world.
I thankfully didn’t write during the stretch where jealousy, bitterness, and doubt were at the highest point. Being human I will probably still have pangs of jealousy or wistful moments wishing thousands of people will refer to what I write as the best thing they read all week. In reality I’ll be writing to share my life. In the process of personally sorting out things our team talked about what we will and won’t be sharing on blogs, which further helped me clarify my purpose in writing. From here on out any work-related updates will be done solely through email and snail mail, so join our prayer team or financial support team for our email updates or send us your snail mail address to receive our newsletter. You can contact us through the “Contact Toffer” or “Contact Becky” link on the right.
The past few months have also been busy. I have an official job with our team now that takes up approximately 3.5 hours a week. I like having a few hours to do something different with my brain and let Toffer do the at-home stuff. We’ve decided that we should generally stick to our typical day jobs except for those 3.5 hours. And we were given a trip that we took in April-a great family trip that we will cherish. And then we’ve just been living life. We’ve spent time with friends and run our typical errands and gone swimming and worked through school with Samuel and let Benjamin do dozens of somersaults and gone to bed exhausted every night because we have three children four and under and live cross-culturally.
So all that to say pretty much nothing and everything. I’m going to keep writing and being honest and letting you in on bits and pieces of our life. If you have questions or things you’d like to know let me know. We’re happy to share what we can. I have ideas of some possible posts. We’ll see where it goes from here. For now it’s late. My kids are asleep and so should I be. Good night!
I John 4:18
Writing this post has been rolling around in my head for weeks (along with another post I’ve seriously been writing, rewriting, trashing, then wanting to write again for months). For our family it’s a significant milestone in our lives and gives me great satisfaction-we finally feel like we’ve found our new normal. After months of feeling like we were living Groundhog Day and having every emotion in the book hit us over and over again we gained that little bit of peace over being settled, over finding normal.
Some of this realization came around Christmas when I honestly was quite excited to be celebrating here. Sure I missed plenty of traditions and absolutely missed family and friends, but ultimately I really wanted to celebrate Christmas here. I wanted to go to Christmas Eve service at our church here (a first for a church as we finally have more permanent space after the church has moved from place to place for 10 years). I wanted to wake up in our house and have our boys open their presents here. I wanted to go to the fish and chips place on Christmas Eve for a second year in a row. I wanted to make a ridiculous amount of food in my little kitchen for our family. I wanted it all to happen here.
A few weeks later I was washing dishes I realized that we spent ALL of 2012 in Asia. Every single moment of every single day was spent in Asia. Every day I woke up and went to sleep in Asia. Every day I ate my meals in Asia. Every day I cared for my children and home in Asia. I figured out how to shop and cook. I figured out what our household routine needs to look like. I figured out how to drive on the left side of the road from the right side of the car (something I’ve now done in 2 countries). I figured out the system at the hospital (probably because we had to take our kids so frequently!). I figured out how to send mail and packages home. Over time instead of feeling like everything took so much brain power, energy, and time I figured out how to actually live here, not simply survive. And it’s a really great feeling.
Finding normal has not come without some mixed feelings. Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating on my life in the US. Or I feel guilty that finding my new normal, and liking it, would make people at home feel unloved or like I no longer care for them. We had a good life in Murfreesboro. We’re building a good life here. It’s not an easy life by any stretch of the imagination with our new normal including a lot of stressors we just didn’t have at home and with general life activities being more time and energy consuming. We will always miss people and things at home. We will always have times we wish we could be there instead of here. But ultimately I’m thankful God has brought us through the past 15+ months to a place of peace and excitement over where and how we live.
Slowly over time the way we used to do life has gotten a little more blurry, more faded into the background of the history of our family. I don’t remember so well how much this or that cost at the store. I had to show the boys a picture of a dishwasher online because they couldn’t remember what one looked like. I don’t remember how we arranged this or that in our old house. And I honestly don’t even remember how I spent my days. I’m okay with not remembering all the little details of day-to-day life there. What is important now is that I know all the little details of day-to-day life here. I’ll figure out life there once again when we’re back and have to transition that direction. We’ll continue building a life here, as crazy as it is, and thank God for being with us just as much in our new normal as He was in our old normal.
Tragedy seems to be the only thing that news stories are about these days. The top billing on news websites isn’t usually about new puppies or how a mom is rejoicing over her kid going poo in the potty (this mom is!). Wouldn’t it be fun to have a news website that’s all GOOD news? All about new puppies and kids going through rites of passage and Friday night girls’ nights and even an article by an introvert about how incredible it was to sit in a quiet room alone for an hour. We might not have a website like that, but at this time of year I certainly know GOOD news we can focus on-Jesus!
In a world that seems hopeless I am choosing to look towards my hope, towards Jesus.
I have hope that people who pray in mosques and lay flowers for deities and who burn paper iPads and BMW’s for their ancestors will find the living, true God because I know that can happen right where they are.
I have hope that every trip Toffer or one of our teammates goes on will result in people coming to Christ and having hope anew in their own lives.
I have hope that at this time of year people worldwide will see and hear what the true meaning of Christmas is and they will bend a knee as the shepherds did.
I have hope that those who follow Christ will follow with abandon and do extraordinary things like Mary and Joseph.
I have hope that everyone who loves Jesus will be like the star of Bethlehem leading those around them to their source of light and love.
I have hope that angels around us are singing of the magnificence of God and somehow people on Earth will hear it.
I have hope that Christmas will be a time for generosity and extending ourselves into this dark, hopeless world.
I have hope because God is in all, He sees all, His hand touched every life on earth and He has promised that all who truly seek Him will find Him.
I have hope because this world is dark and I know the Light.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
The last couple years I wrote lists of things I’m thankful for every day of November through Thanksgiving and then every day of November. This year I’m going to try something different and write one thing for every letter of the alphabet leaving some room for artistic license and possibly some creative spelling. I always have things to be thankful for and have always enjoyed Thanksgiving.
Adoption-I’m thankful God adopts us into His family when we accept His grace. I’m thankful for all the people who adopt children and give them forever families.
Benjamin-I’m thankful for my sweet, silly, goofy second born son.
Church-I’m thankful for the neat community of believers that we are part of here and the global body of believers who love and follow God.
Driving-I’m thankful we have a car and have generally gotten the hang of driving here.
Envelopes-I’m thankful for envelopes, postcards, and all the other things we use to send mail back to the US. I’m thankful for people who have used envelopes, boxes, etc. to send mail and packages to us this year.
Family-I’m thankful that God puts us in a family as part of life on this earth.
God-I’m thankful for God, for who He is, and for how He works.
Hope-I’m thankful for the hope I have because of Jesus.
Isaac-I’m thankful for my full-of-smiles, happy go lucky third born son.
Jesus-I’m thankful for Jesus walking with us every single minute of every single day.
Kommunication-I’m thankful for all the ways we can communicate with people near and far.
Love-I’m thankful that God loves me, and all people, and that means we can love each other.
Medicine-I’m thankful for decent medical care and compassionate, caring doctors.
NQR things our kids say-I’m thankful our kids keep us entertained with the things they say and do. Example-“The taste is weird. It’s crunchy.” -Samuel, about brownies.
Open Doors-I’m thankful for all the doors God has been opening throughout Asia and getting to be part of the work here.
Partners-I’m thankful for our personal financial and prayer partners as well as the ministry partners we have in the region.
Quiet Moments-I’m thankful for the rare, but very lovely, quiet moments that happen in our house.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups-I’m thankful for Reese’s cups and all the other treats God has sprinkled throughout the region for us to find at just the right time.
Samuel-I’m thankful for my bright, sensitive, extremely extroverted first born son.
Toffer-I’m thankful for the incredible man God gave me to walk with through life.
Understanding-I’m thankful God has been growing us in so many ways including understanding.
Visitors-I’m thankful God provided funds for my parents to come twice this year.
Writing-I’m thankful God gives me words and a platform to share them.
Xylophones-I’m thankful for xylophones and all the other ways we can make music.
You-I’m thankful God created you with a purpose and that you have taken at least a few moments to invest in our lives by reading what I wrote.
Zoos-I’m thankful for having opportunities to see God’s creation in so many places and for the joy my boys have when we get to go to a zoo.
1. Red-“Red is my best.”
2. Coloring Pictures
3. Cutting and Taping
4. “I’m thankful for Mama and Papa, but not Grammy and not Baba and not Benjamin because I love Isaac.”
5. Bob the Builder
6. the Baba fellow
A friend shared a blog with me about a mom who had a supernatural day where God stretched every bit of her to get WAY more done than was humanly possible. I responded to my friend and said I needed a whole week of supernatural days. Well, God being God and being involved in my life read that little tweet and decided to give me that supernatural week. That Twitter exchange was on 7 October. My supernatural week started on 8 October.
Benjamin has been interested in potty training and we finally found the right time to get started. We would do things similar to the way we did when we started with Samuel, so knew we needed a few days just at home. The first day was going to be today-16 Oct. In preparation I was going to make extra food last week to freeze for this week so I wouldn’t have as much cooking to do this week and I could focus on Benjamin. So Days 1 & 2 of my supernatural week God gave me the ability to shop, prep, and cook like I couldn’t believe. For those of you who don’t have three small children-preparing a meal at all is a seemingly miraculous feat, much less multiple meals per day for a couple days and even a cake for a teammate’s birthday. Not only were meals getting made I had laundry going like crazy and couldn’t believe how everything was just coming together so well. God is good.
Wednesday (Day 3) our plans were are follows: art class for the boys (which had just started back the week previous and we missed because Benjamin had been sick), team meeting where we would celebrate Samuel’s birthday and our teammate’s birthday, I had a serving opportunity with our church, and that was the anniversary of when we arrived in Asia, so we were going to have a celebratory dinner. Those plans came crashing down at 1 am (within an hour of when we landed here a year previous) when Samuel came in and said he’d gotten sick in his bed. Thank God I had laundry caught up so I could start in with the sick laundry. Samuel got quite sick quite fast and by 9 am we decided to give him one last shot of keeping something down before taking him to the doctor. Toffer dropped off the aforementioned cake (who wants a cake to go to waste?) and let our team know what was going on, then loaded Samuel and Isaac in the car so I could take them while Toffer stayed at home with Benjamin.
We decided to take the recommendation of a friend and try a small children’s hospital (when I say small, I mean small–they have space for maybe 20 patients). From the time we got in the door to when Samuel was admitted and in a room was just over half an hour. The doctor kept saying how difficult it was to find Samuel’s veins and how hard an iv was going to be to be place. Miraculously the doctor got it in on the first try without a problem. Some friends picked up Toffer and Benjamin and brought them to the hospital and the next few days of our lives were about our sick Samuel, and eventually our sick Isaac. Samuel was diagnosed with typhoid that day and Isaac began showing symptoms overnight that night and all the next day–day 4 of my supernatural week. Samuel was in hospital for three days and two nights.
I spent those days keeping up with Benjamin and Isaac and our home. Supernaturally I was able to get dishes done, laundry washed/dried/folded/put away, the boys down for naps and bed at reasonable times, and try to keep family and friends updated about what was going on. The most supernatural part of the whole thing was the actual physical peace I could feel all over my body as I did everything that needed to be done. I will say my stress levels were VERY high and that I had a couple rough moments, but in the midst of everything I wasn’t overwhelmed with fear and overwhelmed by what needed to be done-I just did it. Days 3 through 5 were not what I had been thinking of when I asked for a supernatural week, but they were incredible.
Days 6 and 7 were spent primarily at home-continuing to get things accomplished in our home, get Samuel back and forth to the hospital for treatments, keep up with all the medications Isaac and Samuel needed, and find moments to love on Benjamin, who was so sweet and helpful through much of the process (though had his moments as we all did-it was stressful). And it all came to a close this past Sunday evening when Toffer texted me a picture of Samuel with no iv in his hand-a completion of a supernatural week.
God is good all the time. Our plans for everything from Wednesday forward got thrown out the window when Samuel got sick and even more so when Isaac got sick. Samuel is his usual self, though he could use a little extra sleep. And Isaac is almost back to his usual self. Benjamin thankfully never got sick, nor did I. And through it all our great God supernaturally charged our family to get it all done and come through in one piece.
A year ago right now (10 pm on 9 Oct) we were waiting for the last flight of our journey to our new city. We sat in the domestic terminal at the airport in the capital exhausted and completely uncertain what was on the other side of that last flight. A few hours later we arrived in the dark in a city that feels a lot more natural and normal (in it’s own not quite right way) than it did upon first inspection.
I’ve thought and prayed a lot over the past month or so about what I would write for this post. How do we sum up this year, this incredibly momentous year, in one (or even two) posts? I came to the realization that I can sum up this year in one simple word: SUSTAINED. Throughout this year we have said to others and each other how God has sustained us. He has brought us minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day through this year. We have lived on His strength and His ability and not our own. He has made it possible for us to continue when we were running on empty on our own (which has been a good chunk of the past twelve months).
We have an incredible group of people committed to praying for our family. I thought I was going to share how God has answered some of our prayer requests over the past year and realized that it would take multiple posts to put it together, so instead I’m going to share how God has answered the prayers of the scripture we’ve asked our team to pray over our family. Every month God has given me scripture to include in our prayer requests and every month He has used that scripture in our lives.
God has given us the ability to trust Him and depend on Him (Is. 26:3-4, Prov. 3:5-6). He has given us courage, upheld us, and calmed our fears (Is. 41:5-10). God has worked in and through each of us to help us see areas of weakness and increase our compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, love, joy, goodness, peace, faithfulness, and self-control (Col. 3:12-15, Gal. 5:19-26, Eph. 6:1-4). He has encouraged us to capture negative thoughts, turn our thoughts to Him, and throw off ugly, hindering things in our lives (Col. 3, 2 Cor. 10:3-8). God gave us a hill to remind us that our help comes from Him, that He is protecting us, and that He fights for us (Ps. 121, 2 Cor. 10).
God has renewed us, healed us, been compassionate toward us, and incredibly faithful (Ps. 103). God has listened to us, answered us, delivered us from fear and trouble, and been near to us in times of brokenness (Ps. 34). He heard our prayers during difficult nights and answered (Ps. 4). He has helped us to understand what it really means to leave tomorrow for tomorrow and be focused on today. He has provided for us and calmed all concerns about money (Matt. 6:25-34). On our hardest days we know that the Holy Spirit was interceding with groans for us because nothing else would do. We have admitted our weaknesses and been shown hope even on the darkest of days. God has continually worked in and through us and we know nothing can separate us from Him or His love (Rom. 8:18-39).
We have been able to continually go to God in prayer, rejoice in what He is doing, look for the good, and cling to Him with all our might (2 Thess. 5:16-25). We have always been able to go back to the calling God put on our lives and He has given us a spirit of power, love, and sound judgment and not fear (2 Tim. 1:7-10). We do not boast in ourselves, but we boast in God and what He has done (2. Cor. 10). And we can say with absolute certainty that God has been our shield, the lifter of our heads, our source of sleep and rest, and our SUSTAINER for this incredible, life-altering year (Ps. 3:3-5).
I look over all of this and think about the months of sleep issues we had with Samuel, my difficult post-partum recovery (that continues even 8 months later), the homesickness, the darkness we experience because of where we live, the insecurity we experience being in a new place and building a new life, and the myriad fears we’ve fought. I also think about monkeys and the botanic garden and chicken butter masala and the wet market and “Auntie” and our team and our church and how in the evening there’s a lovely breeze that brings the smell of the ocean wafting this way and the all the amazing things Toffer tells us about when he’s returned from a trip. We’ve come a long way and I am thankful for this year-the good, the bad, and the ugly-and am so very thankful that God has sustained us and brought us through. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! To Chili’s we go to celebrate!
Our team had a mini-retreat a few weeks ago. During our time we spoke truth to each other about positive things in each other’s lives. I don’t know about you, but I want to be “humble” and think people are just flattering me. First of all, that would mean I’m calling all of those people liars, and they aren’t. Second, it’s downplaying the work God has done in my life to make me that way. So, from that God prompted me to write a whole list of who I am because of what He’s done in my life.
I am imperfect because of sin and know that even though these things are true of me, some of them are more ingrained in who I am than others. I am a work in progress and God is doing a great work in me.
I am insecure because I look in the wrong places for confidence and dwell too often on rejection. My insecurity is a huge reason why I allowed God to show me what He showed me with this list and why I am transparent in sharing it along with all the good stuff.
I am brave because God made me brave.
I am courageous because God put courage in me.
I am patient because my Father is patient with me.
I have compassion because God has allowed me to hurt and experience loss.
I am kind because I have been shown kindness.
I am generous because God has been generous with me.
I am wise because God gave me a brain and showed me how to use it.
I am gentle because I have seen how short and fragile life can be.
I am obedient because the simple act of obedience shows my Father love and it matters.
I am reverent and humble because, of the little I know of God, I know He is a great and mighty God who deserves reverence and my humility.
I am selfless because Jesus endured the ultimate act of selflessness for me.
I write because God gives me words.
I laugh and smile because God loves to see me smile and hear me laugh and puts things in my path to make me do so.
I speak truth because He is Truth and dishonesty is ugly.
I live in light because He is Light.
I am beautiful because I was “skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth” by The Creator. (Psalm 139:15)
I am a Child of God, Daughter of the King of king and Lord of lords, co-heir with Christ, and certain of my eternal fate.
I am blessed because I have read His Word, followed His ways, and walked faithfully the path He gave me.
And I love because He first loved me.
All praise be to God my Father from whom all blessings flow!
Now-go write your own list!