Friday, September 20, 2013

News Out of Cambodia

I don’t get political.  Like, ever.

To be honest, I read most of my news through links posted on Facebook. 

I hate the news because it’s depressing and there isn't really ever anything I can DO about it.  Plus, my husband is really smart about these things and when I mention my opinion about something, anything, he points out 5,286 other facts and points of view I've never even thought about.  So I would rather just stay silent most of the time.

But I can’t be silent about what is happening in Cambodia. There is very little news here about the news there. It’s not fair that the world doesn't know. 

So, yeah, I don't get political. 

But I do get emotional.  Really emotional.

Let me see if I can explain what is happening in simple terms. If I can understand this, anyone can, right?  And I’m not taking a side because, well, I just really want it all to be fair and just, and I don’t know what that answer is.  I just want to share. 

First of all, we have to go back 40 years to an awful civil war there that, again, my generation didn't read much about in history class. The country took many years to recover from that and is finally free. Since that time, the people have only had 5 chances to vote. This past summer was the 5th.  With each election, the ruling party (the CPP) has held onto control but lost more and more seats to the opposition party (the CNRP). As they voted in late July, many Cambodians saw results being reported with the CNRP winning more and more seats in Parliament. They were hoping they would get the change they've wanted for decades. See, many see the current ruling power as corrupt and were looking forward to change.

In the days after the election, the ruling party reported that they held onto the control, and it seemed to be against what the voters were claiming. The people called it an unfair election and demanded a recount, saying the ruling party had either stolen or not counted over a million votes.

In the following months, leading up to now, the opposition party has been refused a recount and has been staging “peaceful demonstrations,” but in the past week, these have turned violent as police fired weapons at the peaceful protestors and protestors destroyed barricades set up by police. 

The next few weeks show no sign of resolution, and I honestly don’t know what is right and what is wrong.  

I’m just broken.

See, I left half of my heart in Cambodia.  Anyone who knows me knows that my heart is always there. Even with the recent events, I can’t help thinking I wish I were there. While I admit that I would likely be worried about my safety if we were there, there is currently no danger to the safety of me or my expat friends at this time

But the Cambodians...

The little boys and girls we played with each week at the center, they are on my heart.

These “demonstrations” are taking place where many of those kids live and work on the street. When I watch this video, (which is a great 3 minute summary of what’s happening) I can tell exactly where this is happening.

And I can see the faces of those sweet children.

I remember them.
I love them.
I pray for them.

Cambodia is a dark place. I experienced more spiritual warfare there than I even knew existed. God’s angels are there, but they are fighting a very real enemy. An enemy who spreads poverty and prevents education throughout the country. An enemy who convinces families that they must sell one child to feed the others. Or, sometimes, just to buy a new TV. Seriously.  There is darkness there that can’t be described to those who haven’t experienced it.

But, as I posted before, there IS a light in the darkness. The younger generation, especially, is rising up to fight the beliefs of their past and reach to the real God who can heal their land. 

Many of them are praying tonight, all night long, while it’s daytime here in the USA, and I ask you to stand in prayer with them.  Let’s pray for healing, for justice, for restoration for beautiful place.

**** Our God reigns!

May He reign in Cambodia, and may His beloved there know it and turn to Him and change the future of their "Kingdom of Wonder."

(Cambodian friends - please forgive any errors in my post, and feel free to point out any other news or update us on things in the comments section)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Itty Bitty Missionary

Tomorrow is a big day around here.  Lots of kids are going back to school and many others are just beginning school for the first time.

I have one of those!

I started this blog when our family left the military and committed to a year in missions. I never changed the words “missionary life” at top because when we returned I became convicted that I was still a missionary.  In every season, every place, every situation, God has a plan and his top priority is for me to tell others about his goodness and love.  That makes me – and my kids, and my friends, and you – missionaries every day. 

We try to teach our children that, too.  God first.  Truly.  Not just in theory or when its popular or when its easy, but always.  Even when it’s hard.  Actually, especially when its hard.

These boys are very fortunate in all they have seen and heard in their short lives.  It has given them a deeper understanding of the whole world that our Creator made.  They have seen how little others have and appreciate how much we have.  Of course, all of us want more.  More toys, more books, more vacations, more “stuff.” The difference in our family is, all one of us has to do is remind the others of the things we have seen – the people who have true needs, not silly wants – and we all change our way of thinking again. Sometimes its me who reminds us, or Stephen, or Jack, but lots of times its seven year old Parker.

Parker has such a big heart.  I have no idea what the Lord has planned for this little boy’s future, but he’s got enough kindness and compassion for the whole world.  I mean, he’s a little boy, and he’s human, so sometimes he thinks about himself first, but he’s also very much in tune to the needs of those around him.

And that’s what we hope others see as he starts school for the first time outside our home.  We hope God uses him greatly to spread his love to the whole second grade and well beyond that, too. 

It’s hard to let him go.  It’s hard to think about what his day will be like without me teaching him and watching him and learning with him.  I feel God gently reminding me though, day after day, that Parker belongs first to Him, and He loves him more than I could ever imagine.  He knew him eons before I existed and has been waiting for eternity for Parker to be here on this earth.  He has superhero sized plans for this boy, and if He’s ready for him to be the missionary He calls us all to be, then I’m ready.

I love this kid.  

My itty bitty missionary.

  • Please pray for him and everyone he meets to know and follow our incredibly awesome God. Pray for us, as his parents, to help guide him and support him as he does so.

  • I'll be praying many other children join him and rise up to change the world as a new generation - a generation who loves Jesus and isn't afraid to show it.  
  • I'm praying now that families would make sacrifices that those of the world might first see as crazy, or radical, or strange, but that would later become a living testimony of our God's love for us.  
  • I pray YOU will join us in throwing out the American Dream and striving to live the life God desires for us.  It's so much better anyway!  Let's share and support each other as we do so.
  • And I'm thanking God for giving us a place to live where we can freely and rightfully do all these things.  

But for now I'm going to go snuggle with my little ones before school starts tomorrow!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Oh, Baby!

Oh, right, I have a blog.

I forgot for a while.  Honestly forgot.

But here’s why I’ve been a little out of it lately:

 Yep, that’s right, (hopefully you figured it out) Baby #3 is on the way!  Stephen and I are really excited, but sweet Parker is the most excited of all. We all went out to eat for my birthday (a while back) at The Cheesecake Factory. They hadn't been there before so they were already excited. Then I pulled out presents for each of them. They opened the bags to find big brother shirts. Parker said, “But wait, why does Jack have one? Oh, right, because of Krypto.” By the way, Krypto is the dog. We smiled and told him, that nope, it wasn’t because of Krypto. He was confused for a few minutes and then broke into a grin and said “Unless... is there a baby in your tummy?!?!?” 

We told them the news and he responded with “I’ve been praying for this since I was five!” (he was six at the time).

So sweet. 

We went on to talk about how they would both make great brothers and asked if they wanted a sister or brother, though we did make it clear that it was up to God, not them, what we would get. 

Jack said he wanted a brother.  Parker said “Well, I want it to be a girl because that’s my lifelong dream, but a boy would be okay too, because three of us could wrestle Daddy faster than two of us can.” He was adorable.  And he's been doing push-ups ever since in hopes of being stronger to hold the baby all the time.

We have since spent time every day talking about names. That always leads to me shouting “Veto!” after every superhero name they mention. Now the name Veto is growing on us all, haha! No, really, Parker insists that he likes Frederika for a girl (oh my goodness, I can’t imagine calling a baby that...) and they all like Nick Fury Schiffman for a boy.  Needless to say, I will likely disappoint two little boys with almost any name we choose unless its a superhero!

But that’s ok. He or She will be adorable and sweet, and totally loved, no matter what name we choose.

After all, look at that sweet baby!  (if you can see anything on this thing...)

And thus, the craziness of life continues! 

Baby Boy or Baby Girl (we are waiting to find out!) will be here in December.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Answered Prayers

I met some new moms today. Well, actually not new moms, but new friends to me, I should say, and we got in to a discussion about how busy life is lately. One of them pointed out that she feels like when people ask her how things are, she says “busy,” but when they ask with what, she can’t really explain. We all excitedly nodded in agreement. Sometimes you just need those moments where another person looks at you and says “I get it!  I understand that crazy thing you are trying to explain!” It was great to know I’m not alone.'

But I do not like it at all.  I don’t want to be caught up in all these busy (usually pointless) tasks. When my friends in Cambodia post news articles about their power being deliberately shut off and rationed for HOURS at a time – like 10-12 hours or more a day some of them – and write things about cities in Cambodia literally running out of water in their reservoirs, I have to stop and think about what is really important in life.  All the things I have that I don’t really have to be “busy” to get.  Like power.  And water.  And internet.  And freedom. 

I’ve been struggling with this since we got back. The “I’m home but this isn't home anymore” feeling that comes and goes at the most unexpected, and often inconvenient times.  Like when my face was wet with in a parking lot because I found some yellow mangoes like in Cambodia. Don’t get me wrong, they were happy tears, but that didn't stop my kids from wondering where my brain had gone!

And then there are things that make me just stop everything busy in life, get on my knees, and pray.
The tears that come with answered prayer are so sweet.

Let me tell you what brought me to my knees this week so you can rejoice with me:

My friend who runs the organization we are walking for tomorrow emailed late Monday night saying that a young girl, 17, who they had been working with for several years, urgently needed prayer. This poor girl left her abusive father at age 12 and found herself working in a brothel.  She’s HIV positive and has been off the medications for 3 years. And she’s pregnant.

The email was to say that she was in labor. A year and a half ago, she was forcibly injected with crystal meth at the park.  And that happened again. And again. The safe house tried to help, as they have been doing for years, and she was clean for two full weeks before she ran away and went on a meth binge and kept taking customers.  Yes, at 36 weeks pregnant.  She showed up that morning, sober but in labor, and a massive plea for prayer went out.

This one got to my heart. 

This girl needed help.
And it couldn't come from anyone but God.

All the things keeping me busy had to stop while I just lifted her and that baby up to the Lord.

The following day, her labor stopped and she ran away from the hospital.  She was being treated horribly there, being HIV positive and a sex worker.  It was 100 degrees outside and she didn't even get an air conditioned room. Or a bar of soap. Or a roll of toilet paper. 

They eventually found her and she went into labor for real this time, when my friend and her coworkers had to fight for a c-section because apparently that reduces the chances of the baby contracting HIV by 50%. They had a lot more obstacles but in the end, my friend found the girl in post op and the baby in the nursery.

Baby was born today, this morning, and the report is he is perfect.  That’s what I heard.  P-E-R-F-E-C-T.

That made me stop in my tracks again and pray. I had tears of joy running down my face and the whole world seemed to stop as I praised God for his goodness and mercy. I felt His presence with me as I rejoiced with Him like he was my very best friend.

The baby still needs lots of prayers as the next steps are decided, but he is alive.  And perfect.


What if I prayed that fervently about everything?  What if I stopped being busy all together and just spent time praising God?  You see, He answered my prayer the way I hoped this time.  It isn't always that way.  But it’s His way that is best, even when I can’t see it. What if I started praising Him for just being who He Is? 

Praising God, the creator of the universe, my Savior who died for me, and the Spirit who lives in me.  Praising God for loving me so much that He wants to be a part of my life. 

Not pushed away because I’m busy.  

I want my focus to be on HIM because He truly is alive and working miracles every day. 

And I am grateful.

(And grateful to be raising awareness and money for this organization tomorrow with traffick jam 2013)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Traffick Jam 2013!!!

If you’ve been following our family for almost any time at all, you know that we had a different life last year.  We lived among the broken. We tried to shine our lights in a place filled with much darkness. We listened as people shared their tragic stories. We hurt with them. We cried with them. We longed for a better future for them.

Yet, in the blackness, we saw hope, too. 

 We were able to give human trafficking a face. Dozens of them. As my kids and I visited Hard Places week after week, the statistics became little eyes full of beauty and wonder and little arms that gave the grandest hugs. Children whose lives had been harder than you or I can fathom, but who smiled when they walked in the doors of Hard Places. They weren’t numbers to me anymore, and I still see their faces when I close my eyes. I see them smiling, happy, full of wonder, and hopeful for a better future.

I miss them like crazy.

Jack with some of the boys, all speaking to him in Khmer, hence the confused face

The staff at Hard Places is amazing. They are Christian men and women living in a Buddhist culture, witnessing the evidence of sexual sin at its worst on a daily basis. They love the children who enter their doors at the boys’ center, and now, a girls’ center, too. These are street children who have known no life but manual work and poverty. CHILDREN. At night, most were sold by their parents, a sibling, or a relative, to predators, where they were exploited and then sent back home in the morning. Once Hard Places opened, though, the kids were able to find a safe place to play, to learn some English, to hear God’s Word, and to find true love through the ministry of these dear people. Now, they have over 70 children at the boys’ center alone! The new girls’ center is up and running, and girls are excited to run to the open doors each day. 

Oh, goodness, did I mention I miss those kids?  I crazy miss those sweet kids!

Boys playing at the center 

And since I can’t go back right now, I wanted to find other ways to help. It’s a small nonprofit organization, so they don’t have access to the big fundraising opportunities some larger orgs do, and they don’t waste money on those things either. Instead, each year they host a nation-wide Traffick Jam Walk-a-Thon.  It’s on April 6 and cities all over the USA join together to walk 10 miles for these kids, each walker earning $10 per mile. I am honored to join in this year! I noticed they haven’t ever had a Texas city before, so I tried to follow God's will, step up to the challenge, and host a walk in Houston!

I was planning a huge event. I was thinking we’d fill up Reliant Stadium with thousands of people, shoot a gun to signal start, and everyone would happily walk (or run, but I said happily...) 10 miles before we had a big party at the end with fireworks going off and cheers and a whole array of Texas BBQ trucks to fill up our hungry bellies.  Not to mention the 16 tv crews that would arrive to hear about this great organization and help the kids!
But I’m new here. I don’t know anyone here. I had trouble getting a big sponsor due to the shorter notice and already planned events.

Um, maybe next year?  Maybe next year we can have fireworks and BBQ and news coverage?  Maybe?

My imagination ran wild but my heart was in the right place. I wanted to raise as much as I could for these precious children and the organization saving their precious little unfair lives.  

So I’m still going to walk.

I’m going to walk 10 miles, and I’m going to be thinking of those sweet faces and little hands I held so many times for the whole walk. My whole family is going to walk with me, too.

Go Traffick Jam 2013!

Will you walk with us?  

You can sign up at for a walk near you, or if you are in Houston, contact me to register and get your fundraising packet!  Each walker raises $10 per mile, plus a $10 registration fee.  Shirts are also available to anyone interested!  Check this other website to order the 2013 shirt in 3 colors.

Better yet, will you give?

We need sponsors for our walk
.  They ask that we earn $10 per mile, totaling $100 per walker (for our family of four).  But I’m a dreamer, remember, and I want the fireworks to go off, even if just in my head, so let's raise even more.  Way more!  Will you sponsor us?

1) handing me cash in an envelope marked Traffick Jam
2) mailing a check (received by Apr 6) written to I.O.M. (International Outreach Ministries) with Traffick Jam Houston in the memo line. Contact me for the mailing address.
3) Or, go to the site and give here by clicking on “donate” on the right side.

You don’t have to tell me you gave, but it would be fun to total up the “Houston Traffick Jam” totals, so we can celebrate together.

I love everyone who reads this, because it means you care about these children, too. 

They are real.  Not statistics.  They have sweet faces and big hearts.  They need our help. 

And I miss them like crazy.

Photo courtesy of The Hard Places Community Facebook Page

So, thank you. 
Thank you for reading. 
Thank you for walking. 
Thank you for giving. 
Thank you for caring.
Thank you for being Jesus to the least of these.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Our Cross Country Trip

I just noticed that my last post was about all my BFFs and how grateful I am for them.  Well, actually it was about how we are all God’s favorite (which is pretty awesome, right?) but I did mention that I had a best friend in almost every state. 

And this last week I got to see many (but not enough!) of them!

There’s not much better than spending an evening on the couch of a friend after driving all day with two kids.  Chatting with a loved one, late into the evening like no time has passed, makes my night better and my sleep more peaceful.  And, I’m not really sure I like any kind of coffee better than the kind that comes with a BFF to sit next to and drink it.  Whew.  What a week!

Dressed up for bat mitzvah
The family was going up to New Jersey for a few days for my sweet Jewish niece’s bat-mitzvah.  I can’t believe the little girl who carried flowers in my wedding is now a 13 year old, intelligent, loving, beautiful young woman!  I hope she knows how much I love her!

Anyway, we all drove up for that but then the hubby flew home and it was me as solo parent as we drove home.  For 1782 miles.  Fun.

It actually was fun, but I think that’s only because every stop brought us all new friends and a million memories. Some days we drove two hours, others 12. But all in all, we stopped 6 times. It was supposed to be 7 but a wicked snow storm changed our course. Sorry we missed you, Jamie! You definitely do not have any competition for my best friend in Tennessee and I missed you terribly! 

Oh, it was wonderful. Friends are the best medicine for any of life’s twists and turns. Well, Christian friends who remind you of how great God is, that is. He’s the best physician for anything, but I like it when He gives me time with friends to make me whole!

Here are some silly stats from the looooooong road trip with a 4 and 6 year old:

Question heard most:  “Are we almost to Graham and Evan’s house?” (our almost LAST stop and it started on day 1, hour 1!)

Funniest moment:  Getting stuck on the road in traffic next to a really dead skunk and giggling about who was making that smell.  We laughed so hard we cried!

Best idea:  (mine!)  Letting the kids jump on the hotel beds and mess up the covers and fly across one bed to the other.  Hey, they had to get the wiggles out somehow!

Sweetest brotherly moment:  Parker says he wants to be an underwater archaeologist when he grows up and Jack cries, saying “But when you grow up, I want to be with you, and I don’t want to be that!  Can we be what we want together?  I never want to be away from you!”   Oh, so sweet.

Cutest moment:  Dance floor at the bat mitzvah.  They just couldn’t help but dance and dance!  When a new song would come on, they’d run out and start dancing again.

Full-Circle Moment:  I complained that Parker was missing all the scenery and cool stuff because his nose was in a book.  And then I remembered how my Dad used to do that to me. 

Best Game:  We played that game where someone says a sentence or two of a story and then the next person continues it.  It had potential to be a great story, but every time it got to Jack, he would continue his own story, which had nothing to do with the other one, so we had to keep trying to tie it in to the ‘real’ story.  Hilarious.

Best Friend Game:  The boys spent hours one day outside digging in the dirt with their friends while looking through an old National Geographic type book about archaeology.  This along with the 2 year old friend who lives and breathes Indiana Jones made a very exciting group.  And a theme song stuck in my head.

Favorite food/rest stop:  Ikea.  We ran in, they played for half an hour in the play area, while I read my kindle, and then we all ate for less than $5, because it was kids eat free day.  Fantastic!

Favorite overnight stop:  Haha, like I could choose!

It was a refreshing, rejuvenating, relaxing time, but I’m also happy to be home.

To all the girls who gave us a couch or a bed or a floor to sleep on, and to those who we visited with in between, thanks. We miss you. 

Of course you are all wonderful friends, but you are also all great wives, great moms, great cooks, great decorators, great photographers, and well, just great people.  I love you all so much! I love your family like its mine, your kids like they are mine, and even your dogs like they are my dogs.  You hold a special place in my heart forever.  

And of course... you are welcome here anytime!  As is anyone else who wants to visit!

Thank you Jesus, for friends like these!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

BFFs and the Bible

Yesterday my kids were playing a game they named “Moving Day.” Each room was a place... Virginia, North Carolina, Cambodia, Texas... and they would pack their “suitcase” (a blanket they wrapped stuff in) and move to each place, visiting their best friends at each destination.

That disturbed me for so many reasons, namely being that they are only 4 and 6 and yet have so many places to move to, but I had to laugh about one part of it.  The best friends.  Stephen actually makes fun of me all the time for referring to my “best friend in Texas” or my “best friend in Cambodia.”   He’s just so literal and points out that the “best” can only be the best.  Just one.  Well, I wholeheartedly disagree, and I think it's perfectly fine to have a best friend from each state we've ever lived in.  In fact, in Texas, I’m starting to break it down to cities.  And because of the military, many of these friends move a lot, too, and now I even have best friends in states I've never lived in, like Arkansas and Washington and California (hi ladies!)

So you can see why I had to laugh at “Moving Day.” Well, it was that or focus on their poor little transient lives!  So I set my attention on the laughter.

God used it to bring to mind the passage I shared about this past weekend at a women’s retreat.  I love the verse that says “For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)

I shared about that verse because it played a major part in my agreeing to go to Cambodia, and thus truly and irreversibly changed my life forever.  Isn't it beautiful to think about ourselves as God’s absolute best work?  And what artist doesn't choose the masterpiece as their favorite? We had to do nothing to be his favorite?  He just made us that way. 

Back to the kids... one of them asked me once which one was my favorite.  You know how that goes, parents!  You can’t choose a favorite child!  You love them both.  The easy answer would have been to tell them that neither is my favorite.  But instead I said they were BOTH my favorite

And while I do feel a need to specify which place each of my favorite friends come from, showing that none of them are truly named best of the "bests," I never have to specify with my kids.  They can both be, at the same moment, in the same place, my favorite.

Because they are both God’s favorite.

I love that.  Our God created every single living thing on this planet.  And he loves all of it. 

But he loves Parker the best. 
And Jack the best. 

And me.

And you.

I talked about us being his masterpiece this past weekend and since I'm done with my "speech," you'd think I'd be finished thinking about it.  But instead, new verses keep popping in my reading about just how much He loves us. 

1 Ths 1:4 “... you are loved by God and chosen.”

Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.”  Psalm 36:5

And I LOVE this one:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:35-39

Jer. 31:3   “...I have loved you with an everlasting love...

And, of course:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

He loves us so much.  I want to say I could give up my child for Him, but I’m a selfish human being who probably couldn't   Not my favorite son!  Or my other favorite son!  But He did.  His love is everlasting, and sacrificial, and more powerful than anything in all of creation, and can do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine, and I can’t be separated from it.

I’m chosen.

I’m his masterpiece.

I’m his favorite.

I don’t know what you think about that, but when I remind myself that I’m God’s favorite, it makes me want to give Him more.... of my faith,  of my time, of my love...  more of me.

"This is the day that the Lord hath made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Ps 118:24)

Because we are all His favorite.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Prayers, please!

I just wanted to ask that you pray for our family this weekend.

I have the blessing to share what God has done in my life, and my family's life, and is still doing, this weekend with a group of ladies from First Baptist Church in College Station.

At the same time, Stephen will be sharing about our journey, and a little more about IJM, at St. John's Church of Christ in Burton, TX (at 6:30 pm Sat!).  This congregation was a generous supporter of our time in Cambodia and continues to raise support for IJM and other organizations joined in the fight against human trafficking both here and abroad.

He is also "bringing the message" Sunday there in Burton at both 8am and 10am.

So.... please pray for us.

This is "our" story but it's nothing without God.  Please pray ourselves are emptied and that the Holy Spirit comes in and speaks through us.  Also pray for hearts to be open to hear HIS message.

Thanks for your prayers.  Always.