Bad Parenting…And Yet God!!

Thursday, January 19, 2017
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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)

Kid Quotes

Saturday, January 14, 2017

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C and Tristan were out of town last week.  That means its a girl party at our house and when the day ends and the littles are tucked in bed, Abi and Britain typically end up in mine, with a cup of granola or ice cream, and that’s our girl-talk time.  One night this week tho, we found ourselves laptop in the middle, looking back at blog posts from 8 or 9 years ago and laughing hysterically at the antics and hilarity of their younger years.  I was reminded why I blog…my “scrapbook” of sorts for my loves to look back on one day and glimpse the crazy and creative, the stress and slap-stick, the memories and the mayhem, the good, bad and the ugly of life in this little tribe.
So here’s a recap of kid-quotes from this week….

Dinner table conversation the other night turned to a typic that had come up in school and someone wanted to know what a “hypocrite” was.  As we tried to give definition to it, Izzy blurted out “isnt that a political party?  Republicans and Hypocrites”!
No no darling…but regardless of your political alliances, you gotta laugh.

Izzy’s on a roll this week generating giggles…
We have a pet gerbil that sadly looks like his demise is imminent.  Its Evie’s pet.  Izzy came to me with sparkly “pen with a plume” in hand to inform me of the following: “Mom, Evie is upstairs crying that her gerbil is going to die, but Ive got a plan.  Im writing invitations to the ceremony and Im going to be the host.  All I have is fancy cupcake invitations so everyone in the family will get one.  There will be a dress code and everyone can say something at the service.  It will be lovely!
Sure, it may be customary to wait for the deceased to….die, but we will be prepared when it happens and this will be one well grieved-for-gerbil!

While sorting through laundry with too-many-helping-hands rummaging through the laundered loads, Evie pulled out a black, seamless thong and with one swift motion, stretched it between two hands and yelled, “Hey mom, whose pile should I put this slingshot in?”

Life with these littles is anything but boring.  Here’s to the dinner table topics, the laundry loads and the beloved rugrats that make up this laughter-filled life that we call family!

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Awaiting Christmas

Monday, December 26, 2016

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Advent has led us through a season of waiting.
Of expectation.
Of anticipation.
Of faith for things unseen.
We look back at the years of silence as Gods people waited for the Messiah.  And we reflect on our own personal struggles and seasons of waiting for God to answer requests, prayers, petitions….spoken and unspoken.  Some of us near another Christmas with prayers unanswered, or heartache unhealed, or chronic pain. 

Waiting and longing, this is the essence of our life as believers.  We know that the comforts of this life aren’t the answers to the sorrowing, broken world.  We are the ones who know that no amount of accumulated stuff can satisfy the hunger of our hearts.  Its the journey of advent that reminds us that we hunger for Christ, to realize that He alone is the end of every yearning of our hearts. 

Christmas is when we remember that Christ has come to defeat death and overcome the world, but Advent, is when we remember that we are still in that world.  Advent is the chance to be still before the Lord and acknowledge our need for Christ final coming when he will end all suffering and wipe away every tear and bind up the broken hearts. 

We quiet our hearts to reflect on the personal affects of living in a world that is broken.
We mourn.
We grieve.
We live with sickness and pain and loss and disappointment.
But we do not grieve as those who have no hope.  Because of His coming as a babe, we have Emmanuel, God with us, a promise kept.  God incarnate, in the form of a baby come to us, abiding with us, and indwelling us through His spirit.  

This child was a King. A King in a dirty stable, wrapped in rags—but a King with a plan.
This child brought hope. Not just a wish, but the confidence that God would and will be all that He has promised.
This child brought peace, even in the midst of great suffering and trials—a peace that assures his followers that he is in control even in the midst of great turmoil or suffering.
And this child brought joy, for he would deliver us.
This child brought us love—a love that would never be taken away and is unconditional. 

And today, on the birthday of our Lord, we celebrate that Jesus was born. That Jesus has come. That Jesus is our salvation. And that Jesus will come again!!

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