Man Up! Coming of Age

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nearly 2 years ago, we promised Tristan a “wilderness adventure” for his 13th birthday.  This wild-at-heart-man-child of ours is most at home away from home.  This apartment in Bangkok just isnt a natural habitat to his free spirit and we’ve longed to be able to set him loose and see him push his limits and rise to a challenge!  That opportunity came in the form of a mountain trecking endeavor with his dad and a team of men that we work with. The team was going to lead a training in Nepal which made it easy to tack on an extra week to summit the Annapurna in the Himalayan mountains!

We’re talking big-boy adventure here!  Similar to the Everest base camp climb!  ROCK (climbers magazine) names the Annapurna the “deadliest mountain in the world“!  Even tho no one is allowed further than the base camp anymore, the climb to ABC was no small feat!!  Tristan left a kid and returned a man….because there aint’ no way his momma could have done it and he has earned a badge of honor, the respect of everyone else on the trail, bragging rights and a great sense of accomplishment!

The rugged terrain took their trecking party of 7 up the 4,130 meters of the Annapurna mountain to the base camp, which is now the highest point which climbers are allowed to summit – because it is so dangerous beyond that point and there have been too many deaths!  I restrained the urge to google too much information about the treck until I knew they were safely down, but when I did, I came across crazy stories that would have left me with an acute case of insomnia had I known!  The guys passed “memorials” on the way honoring climbers who didnt make it back down.


Every day, from the crack of dawn, they hiked for hours through blazing heat, rain and then snow to make it to their destination.  Nights were spent in tea houses which were un-heated, but provided water for showering and a hot meal.  Daily hurdles included rope bridges to cross, creeks to wade through, altitude sickness, headaches, oxygen deprivation, rocks to climb, cold to press through and mental stamina and true grit!

We didn’t hear from the guys the entire trip aside from a spotty attempted phone call and a couple of text letting his momma know he hadn’t fallen off the mountain.  C tells me that Tristan was, by far, the youngest guy on the trail!  And can I just say its a good thing his momma wasn’t there!!  I for sure would have gotten in the way of him summiting.  The guys tell us that the last day, they had to get up at 4am to begin the final hike in order to summit at sunrise.  Tristan at this point had an especially acute case of altitude sickness and was not doing well at all.  They guys all pushed and prodded, encouraged and antagonized, whatever necessary to keep him putting one foot in front of the other.  Apparently he was delirious and kept asking C if he could “just lay down in the snow and sleep for a minute?”

Oh my momma heart!!!  Had I been there you can bet that 1) who am I kidding, I would have died the first day and never gotten that far, and 2) I would have been the weakest link in the chain that pulled him up those last miles!  Tristan persevered and conquered the Annapurna trail!!

The summit has a helicopter that rescues climbers 4-5 times a day who just pass out and cant make it any further.  Im pretty sure Tristan was on the brink of a fast track out of there, but he continued on and made the descent with the guys and bought his Tshirt to wear with pride!



Annapurna checked off the bucket list!!  Such a cool father-son adventure!  And, we’ve told him that he’s now obligated to do it again with Eden in 13 years…..because Im pretty sure C is gonna be too old by that point to attempt it again with son #2!  So insanely proud of these guys!!

When You Want To Quit And Go Get A “Real Job”

Friday, May 19, 2017

You’d think 15 years at this would give me a sure footing and firm grip, but Im having one of those weeks Im tempted to throw in the towel.  “Lets just quit and go get a real job“.
It may not have come out of my mouth, but that echo of doubt in my mind is audible.

For a decade and a half, our family, which grows by the year, has lived supported and funded by individuals who believe in the cause we have poured our life into – seeing the nations reached with the message of the Gospel.
Missionaries on foreign fields.
That means our very existence is dependent on others.
Scratch that….its dependent on God.
But our capacity to provide for our family and expand the ministries we have responsibility for is contingent on others rallying around us.  We cannot do this work we do alone.

We’ve seen God provide over the years, but this season is an exceptionally lean and we feel a bit like we are in a blow up boat headed for rapids.  Do we patch the holes that are causing the raft to deflate?  Do we expend our energy rowing against the current?  Do we jump ship and swim to shore? Do we call out for someone to throw us a lifeline?
Im being real here friends.
This is the mental battleground we’re waging war on…

Go Get A Real Job That Pays
In a “real job”, you know the terms.  We all find security in the American Dream – a steady job from which you can build your lifestyle, commute and social activities around.  You know when the paycheck is coming and for how much.  Consistency of income allows you to plan for the future, give to needs around you and budget accordingly.  Work ethic and diligence pay off in the form of a dependable salary.
Living on support means you receive a report from your accountant at the end of the month reflecting whatever donations have come in.  Regardless of what you’ve already spent on travel and ministry expenses, how you’ve “performed” at your job or how much overtime you’ve put in, the “salary” will be whatever it is….which has landed us in the red in recent months.

No One Likes A Schmooze
I hate support raising.
Loathe it!
I hate asking for money.  I hate seeming vulnerable, helpless, needy and dependent.  Its painful to feel our motives are questioned and I worry that our friends will always think we’re looking to “hit them up” for money.  I dont want people feel an obligation to us.  I want to be the one blessing others, giving to them, pouring out.  The verse “it is more blessed to give than to receive” makes sense in a raw way.  Receiving takes a great amount of humility which is genuinely a struggle at times!  We all want to be self sufficient and ‘have it together’.

Cowering Under the Microscope
I struggle daily to live for the “audience of One“.  To be confident and secure in the decisions we are making and not wear the weight of wondering how others may misconstrue or misunderstand our decisions.  Because even if it isn’t said out-loud, I sometimes feel (and have perceived from others), that missionaries should live destitute….or at least more humbly than everyone else they know.

In an effort to help subsidize our income, Ive been doing some writing for a magazine and blog that allows me to visit and review some fun restaurants and spas and to photograph for some cute boutiques.  While I can indeed see this as a beautiful, creative way God is providing for us, there is a twinge of guilt every time I write a post or share a picture.  Every date night or childs birthday or family vacation, I question, “What if people who support us think we’re spending unwisely or dont agree with this decision or feel we are irresponsible with their money“?  But that’s the very point that God keeps gently prompting me with.
Its not their money.
Its not my money.
Its His money and He asks each one of us to steward His resources responsibly!  That obligation is the same for all of us!

We strive, like Paul, to be content in all circumstances – in plenty and in want.  In 15 years, we’ve lived on 3 different continents.  We’ve experienced God’s faithful provision in creative ways.  God provided a home in the states on a lake for a season!  We froze our tushes off in Ukraine and have endured 110 degree heat in Thailand.  We have had incredible family opportunities to see the world because of this lifestyle.  Likewise, we have felt “homeless” on occasion and this nomadic, transient lifestyle has exposed our kids to poverty, need, pain and cultures that are less than hospitable at times.  We’ve experienced monsoons and military coups, civil war and dangerous parasites, been exposed to tuberculosis and hepatitis, waded through seasons of loss, grief and depression alone on the field, dealt with power outages and water shortages and phone lines that don’t work to call home on grandma’s birthday.  We’ve managed with C gone for weeks and weeks at a time.  We’ve vacationed at one of the worlds most beautiful beaches and witnessed devastation of natural disasters.  We’ve ridden elephants and played with wild monkeys.  We’ve experienced creative forms of God’s provision through free piano lessons for our kids, care packages sent from friends, and generous giving by a faithful few.  And while all of these adventures sound dramatic and exotic, it is a precarious perch atop a pedestal!  We aren’t so different you and I. We are a family (like yours,) striving, (like you,) to honor God in our decisions.  To be willing to go when He says go.  To be willing to stay when He says stay.  To grow in trust and dependance on Him.  To steward well the resources others invest in us!

Kiev Ukraine 2004

Kiev Ukraine 2006

Montana 2009

South Carolina 2012

Thailand 2013

Thailand 2015

We’re reaching out.  We need a lifeline friends!!
Its a pivotal time for our family and we know that changes may be on the horizon.  We are considering how to be faithful to the work God has called us to (global missions) without irresponsibly driving ourselves into debt and want to invite you to be part of this journey with us!
This season of uncertainty is not a fun one.  My faith is being stretched to trust He is our provider no matter what changes take place….that God knows our needs, the needs of our kids, the needs of the projects and people we support.  There is great comfort in the faithfulness of the Lord and the many years and seasons and moves He has seen us through.  Like Samuel, we can say “thus far, the Lord has helped us“.
The Lord will not lead where He has not already gone before and prepared the way.


If God may be prompting you to partner in any way, we extend our humble and heartfelt gratitude!

Mailing List – we’d love to add you to our mailing list and send you regular prayer updates!!  Feel free to comment with your email address.

Support – If you feel compelled to help with our funding, the “donate” button below takes you to a page where you can give a one-time gift or set up a monthly draw.
Can you give $10 or $15 a month?  We need a small and faithful army of $10 givers!!

Share this post – help share the need by reposting on facebook or social media or forwarding this post by email to friends or family, your church group or Sunday school.  We’d be happy to send additional information on our ministry if you’d be willing to advocate for us!

Thank you for loving our family, standing in the gap, and praying for God to move mountains on our behalf!

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Picture This – A Mother’s Day Reminder

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mother’s Day circa 2011

We all have a mental image of that beautifully framed, stunning family portrait we’ll one day have hanging over the mantle in our home.  Everyone facing the camera positioned “just so” with heads tilted “just right” and lovely, genuine, relaxed smiles (and no “cheesy” expression from the 5-year-old or baby with a finger in his nose). 

Take a step back and realize that your imagined ideal is a bit “Pleasant-ville” when you think of it.

The truth is, that while the gallery wrap canvas mounted on your wall is beautiful, it may not be reflective of real life….and it’s not the life you’re going to remember 20 years from now when your kids are grown and gone.  Real life is messy and imperfect and beautiful in a unique and unspoiled way.  As a professional photographer, I feel some of my greatest achievements behind the lens have been the times Ive captured the raw, unfiltered, unedited sheer chaos of kids.  The family in hysterics because the son has just slipped and fallen in bird poo.  The giggly tickle wars or daddy playing “airplane” flying their toddler in the air.  The sultry expression of the little imp who is glaring at the camera.  The little angel unaware that Im clicking away while she examines the intricacies of a beautiful flower she’s just picked.  These are the fleeting moments which comprise the minutes, hours, days, season, stages and years of our lives.  Each one beautiful and irreclaimable.  Time stands still for no one.  This stage today, the styles and attitudes and whacky wardrobe choices of your toddler will never be again.

Gracie’s adoption photoshoot 2014

I have clients all the time who tell me they are wanting photos but just want to wait for the “right time” to schedule a session.  Mom’s want their pre-pregnancy body back.  Or they choose to wait until their 2 year old is at a more cooperative stage.  They postpone until they have their summer tan on or until their 8 year old “grows into their new front teeth”.  And then there are the photoshop post-processing requests “can you take 10 lbs off of me?…and airbrush the crows feet by my eyes?”

Momma and her 4th daughter.

Meanwhile, life is blazing by with a thousand undocumented stages that we are missing because things aren’t “perfect”.  But truly “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and beauty is to be found everywhere, every day.  Perfect portraiture is not my forte – but photojournalism finds the beauty in the eyes of the contemplative child.  The grasping hand of a newborn baby.  The admiration in a glance between lovers.  And the belly laughs and snot bubbles and baby-bed-heads.

toddler giggles 2015

After a particularly emotional photoshoot a few years ago, I have a new perspective on the immeasurable value of photos.  I’ve occasionally had the sacred opportunity of photographing a number of precious wee babies whose lives lasted only a few hours or were born sleeping, but left an indelible imprint on the hearts of all who knew them.  The images we captured this day are the only visuals that this grieving couple has of their precious baby boy.  Photos give us something tangible to hold onto.  To remember.  To celebrate a life even when that loved one is gone.

 

Angel Baby “B” – always in our hearts! 2015


Another friend of mine, a mom of four little ones, is in the final stages of cancer.  Still, she takes photos. Every day, she photo documents the gifts around her.  The sweet snuggles with her children in bed with her.  The matching hats she and her son have that cover her bald head.  The hands intertwined of her and her devoted husband who has loved her well through “sickness and in health”.  These precious photos, the lasts smiles and cuddles and memories with her little ones will be treasures her kids will have for a lifetime!

 

Lovely first time momma 2016

My own passion for photography began about 9 years ago with my baby girl who had just undergone invasive surgery to repair her broken heart.  As I leafed through the pictures my mom had taken of my husband and I holding our fragile baby girl, I was keenly aware that these may be the only photos Id ever have.

Rainbow baby on the way after a miscarriage 2017

No one is harder on themselves than we are ladies!  We suffer from photophobia at times.  There are always gonna be wrinkles and muffin-tops, bad hair days and, well…..bad hair seasons.  But there will come a day you’ll look back, and definitely days your kids will look back and wish they had more moments captured on film between the two of you.  Step into those selfies.  Don’t shy away from the shutter but to frame yourself into your children’s memories by being present.  You don’t need expensive lenses and great gear.  You may from time to time opt for a professional family photoshoot, but don’t wait for that perfect time to capture on camera the memories of today!  iPhones leave you excuse-less for not snapping some silly selfies with your toddlers or photobombing your teens! 

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