Bad Parenting…And Yet God!!

Thursday, January 19, 2017
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2013

With 8 chock-full suitcases, 7 carryons, 6 tearful children, and a partridge in a pear tree, we boarded a plane 4 years ago today that would take us to the uttermost distant corner of the earth from the quite little home we’d raised our family in along the lake in the backwoods of South Carolina.  And Ill admit, there was a lump in my throat too as C and I glanced at eachother across the very full row of littles in between us as the plane pulled away from the gate and as we struggled to fasten seatbelts and divvy out earphones and stow tray tables.  As passengers peered warily waiting for a baby to scream or someone to spill their drink and wondering what would possess us to travel so far, the questions in my own mind brought the fiercest bombardment….
What are we doing taking 6 babies to the other side of the world!!?
Will uprooting our children cause permanent damage to their little hearts?
What about aging grandparents, parents, extended family and the weddings, new babies and cousin-Christmases we will miss?
Is it really God calling us to go?

Im reminded that steps of faith never come with a blueprint or handbook.  If we are certain of the course, it is not really faith, but only taking calculated risks.  Faith requires us to step out into something of which our only certainty and security is the Lord, and usually something far out of our comfort zone!
Knowing this does not mean that I havent gone back repeatedly to question this assurance.  Ive watched my man-child suffer a grief as he’s tried to reconcile himself to a lifestyle out of his “natural habitat” hunting and fishing and instead struggles to tame his wild-side here in this concrete jungle where skyscrapers are a stark contrast to his beloved golden hour on the dock at sunset.
We’ve been saddened for our children to not have the anchor of steady friendships that they had “back at home” and to be navigating life as a missionary kid in an expat community where relationships are transient and typically short-lived.
And those things we deep-down-to-our-core-just miss!!  Like girl-scout “thin mints” and one-stop-shopping at Target and affordable cute kids clothing and ranch dressing mix & taco seasoning!!!

But, glancing back at 4 years of God’s faithfulness here in Thailand, I would board that plane all over again!  We’ve not just survived, we have thrived.  Not necessarily in the material sense, but there has been such a richness of character that has been built and life-altering opportunities for our kids that I wouldn’t trade for all the stability and security in the world!  There is no greater joy than seeing your children walking with the Lord.  Their hearts have waded through some hard things and instead of becoming embittered, they have pressed into that childlike faith and trust of the Father.

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Their compassion has grown as they’ve taken on ministry projects themselves to the underprivileged Cambodian camp we work at.  Tristan has had the unique opportunity to travel the world with his dad and to be challenged in his faith among great men of God and wonderful role models.  We’ve joyfully seen as a family the gospel brought to people in nations that are hearing it for the first time and embracing that hope!  Abi has witnessed the first moments of babies being born into the world.  Britain has learned negotiating skills for market bartering and even the youngest members of our family know how to hail a taxi or tuktuk and give directions in Thai.

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Sometimes God leads us places where we are compelled by something contrary to common sense.  Uprooting our family during formative years of their development….there arent many parenting books out there that will support these wild notions.  And yet, somehow, our big kids are developing into mature, well adjusted, capible, contributing members of society.  Not to the credit of their daddy and I.  There can be no pride on our part because by a lot of standards, we’ve done everything wrong.  We’ve made decisions that dont make sense for a large family.  We’ve asked things of our kids that seem unfair and they’ve had to give up a lot.  And Im not naive in thinking that we dont have some hard years ahead of us still as we anticipate many-teen-years that we are only now entering.
And yet God!!
And yet God has been faithful to shepherd their hearts even in this “barren land” at times.  The friendships they have forged with eachother are, I believe, stronger than they ever would have been because of the nomadic life they’ve experienced together. Four years have grown them in more ways than their stature.   Looking back, Im so glad God has gone before each step of the way on this wild ride!!

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Grateful this morning as I ponder His goodness, for those of you who have been part of our children seeing and experiencing God’s faithfulness.  Our family is supported by financial gifts of individuals who believe in our ministry and come alongside us.  Our children have seen God provide and as a result, their faith has grown.  Those of you who have checked in on us and asked how you can pray, sent care packages (its girl scout cookie time y’all….Im shameless!!), put an extra stamp on an envelope and mailed us a Christmas card or note of encouragement, come on short term teams and participated in our ministry, or just come to visit and encourage our hearts with your presence, thank you!!  If you would like to be included in our family newsletter that goes out monthly, leave me a comment with your email address (or email me directly smithpartyof9@gmail.com)

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  • Joy Stevenson says:

    Thank you Chad and Mandy for all that you as a family is doing in the Nations to the obedience of Christ’s call upon your lives, only eternity will speak the full impact of your decision to move to orient. Thank you for being a blessings in Hannah, Tabi and my life. We love you. Blessings.

  • M Taylor says:

    Please add me to your newsletter, you are doing great work!
    Melissataylorfw@me.com

  • Laurie Anderson says:

    Oh Mandy, this is just so awesome!!! Please add me to your newsletter – LOVE reading things like this – such an inspiration!! God is so good!

  • Fran Hall says:

    Mandy, I know your mom and dad. We were in ministry for 22 years and appreciate your faithfulness.
    We would love to receive your newsletter.

    franhall5@gmail.com

  • Sylvia Hennessy says:

    Mandy,
    You and Chad and your beautiful family are an inspiration and an example of faith and commitment to our Lord.
    Your willingness to have your children who you love dearly give up what the world thinks is important and to be a part of His Work, stepping out of a comfortable zone and into battles for Him, is a the greatest gift and inheritance you could give them.
    Thank you for sharing. May God surround you with HIs love, peace, joy, comfort and grace as you work in His vineyard raising the precious children in your service to HIs work.
    Much love in Christ.

  • Amelia Smith (Lexington, SC) says:

    Years ago while reading Rebecca’s blog, I saw your blog listed there and started reading yours, too. As I have continued to read Rebecca’s blog, I have continued to read yours. I have enjoyed following your family through the years.

    Please add me to your list to receive your monthly newsletter. Thank you!

  • Lorena Alfageme says:

    I would love to receive your newsletter!

    mylor235@yahoo.com

  • Laura McClees says:

    I’d LOVE to be added to your newsletter! Lemcclees@gmail.com

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