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For those of you just meeting our “Smith-Party-of-9”, I wanted to take a minute to pull back the curtain behind the senes and share who we are and why today is significant…
You may perceive “settled and stable” from our instagram posts, celebrating beauty in the everyday.
I love being home with my tribe.
I love farmhouse decor and fresh baked cookies and little girls in big hair bows.
I love what God has done in our marriage and date nights are the best!
But these gifts are all just GIFTS. Not entitlements. We constantly have to be intentional about holding them with open hands. What we share through these little squares is only a reflection of the highlight reel of our family. A photograph can paint an oh so picture perfect portrait, but it is only one-dimensional.
The make-up of this tribe is eclectic and “steady and stable” may actually be a lot further from the truth than you think.
This is a season of life that we are embracing with great joy and gratitude, but our story has been one of extreme dichotomies and the stability of now is a tide that we know will ebb and flow.
You see, we’ve lived most of our life overseas in circumstances that have been very different. We’ve navigated both the bitter cold of Ukrainian winters and the unbearable heat of tropical south east Asia and her year-round 100 degree, 100% humidity…. We’ve weathered monsoons and political uprisings…. We’ve sat for hours at boarders for visa runs and been shut in for weeks when daddy traveled and the babies were young. We’ve spent a Christmas under the glow of twinkle lights in Budapest, and a Christmas under the tin roof shacks of migrant worker camps and with refugees. We’ve lived without a car, without a clothes dryer, without a dishwasher and have learned that ‘necessities’ in life are far fewer than we think. And those life lessons have too, been gifts of grace!
We’ve spent seasons lonely and longing for “home” and now find that we have redefined “home” in very loose terms. I was making plans to see an old friend from Thailand at my childhood home over Thanksgiving and she referenced looking forward to seeing me “in my natural habitat“. It gave me pause to think. My “roots”, maybe, yes. But my “natural habitat” is morphing with the moves and cultures and languages and lifestyles that have influenced mine.
Our kids only friends at times have been each other. But it has strengthened their bonds in a unique way as they navigate what it means to be a third-culture-kid and share circumstances and memories unique to them. They’ll always laugh about food poisoning from street food our first week in Asia and they still pray for the little Cambodian kids who stole our hearts.
This is us.
We currently live in the US, but our hearts and mission and ministry still center around the hurt in the world outside of the comfort of the American Dream. Our commitment continues to serve the local church in regions of the world that need leadership training, development, resources and churches planted. This isn’t a side job, or an occasional mission trip….its full time ministry and its our heartbeat! Our tethering to the US and its comforts and conveniences is temporary, we know. We embrace it…loosely…and pray for the strength to let go when its time to uproot again and pioneer a new country and anchor a new team.
Our ability to do this work is enabled and funded by the generous financial gifts of friends who partner with us. Chad is currently in Asia for 3 weeks developing leaders who are passionate and sacrificial and who humble us as we observe their dedication to the fulfillment Great Commission.
These are long days as a ’single mom’, but there is grace for each, and that brings us to today…
Today is significant because it’s #givingtuesday
This day ushers in a season of intentionality and giving back after a week of giving thanks for Gods blessings. Many people at this time evaluate end of year giving in this charitable season. We say it often – our work is possible only because of others who share Gods heart for the world and take ownership to see the Gospel go forth. We could not do it without you!
We know the needs are many and money doesn’t grow on trees and everyone is finding budgets tight around the holidays. Just inviting you to link arms with us for a cause, for a purpose, for changed lives! To support a work that we are vested in with all our heart. Because the reward, the reciprocation, the treasure, the investment….. is eternal!!
Special thanks to the amazing Olivia Long Studio for a fun family photo session. This sweet photographer had the patience of a saint to deal with a cancelled shoot (thank you hurricane Florence) and then our family rocking up 30 minutes late to the postponed session. She was flexible, accommodating and just delightful in her engagement of our family….a daunting task for many! Unruffled by a toddler throwing tantrums when we ran out fo fruit snacks and calm, cool and collected with the inferno we shot in late summer in the south with no air conditioning! If you’re in the Greenville area, hit her up for Christmas Card photos!! A gem of a sweetheart.
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.
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!
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!