I feel like I need to clear the air. Maybe this is a confession or maybe it's simply an attempt to more accurately depict our reality. I'll let you decide.
Because there's this perception, at least by some, that we work endlessly and our lives are exhausting chaos all the time. Some believe our teenage daughters never have downtime, rarely get to do anything they enjoy, and generally are just tied to ministry here. There's this idea that our little American boys have been lost in the shuffle and are going to grow up angry and bitter.
Now, let me just say, I don't have a view of the future and I can't tell you how our boys will look back on their childhood here. I am certain, however, that the enemy will do anything he can to make them believe they've been cheated. But you can ask them and they'll tell you ... they sometimes do get the short end of the stick as our time is so divided but they never, ever feel unloved or discarded. They see us doing everything we can to not only protect them, but also to raise them with care and attention. We fail far too often but they see us trying and they know how desperately we want to get it right.
They also know we want them to learn to give of themselves. To set aside their own comfort, convenience, and preference to minister to another, as God calls all of us to. They don't resent those lessons, even as they admit the learning is hard. (Here's a video interview of all three boys where they disclose some of the challenges).
And our girls? They're normal young adults with hopes, dreams, and goals. Perhaps the only difference is that while the world tells us to go after whatever it is we want, these girls are attempting to filter those desires through God before pursuing them. They're free to leave Sukhothai, or even Thailand, anytime they want. They're our ministry partners rather than hostages. They know they have this freedom and yet they choose to stay. Our three oldest boys have chosen to live in American and they support and encourage us from there. We love them just as much as we would if they were here working alongside us. When they visit, they melt right into the flow and it's totally natural. But we accept and support the fact that they don't feel called to be here permanently.
As far as the day to day for Hannah and Abi, there are certainly things they wish were different. They wish they could sleep in, they'd love to have a vehicle of their own to run errands, they'd enjoy having more days where they were completely free of duty. But they also recognize the need and choose to meet it. They see the load and want to lighten it. They know the call from God to Thailand wasn't just for us, but also for them. And it's up to them to decide if or when He calls them elsewhere. In the meantime, they work hard but they also rest. They socialize. They laugh and do things they enjoy.
The reality of our lives here is that it's busy and loud and constantly changing but it's also full of joy and laughter. We genuinely enjoy the work God has given us, even during the seasons when it wears us flat out. There are people all over the world with literally nobody that cares if they wake up tomorrow and here we are, up to our ears in people who love us. That's not something to be sad about and that truth isn't lost on our American kids.
My natural tendency is to be very open and I don't generally try to paint things to be what they aren't. Which means you get the raw and real and that sometimes causes people concern. I sincerely apologize for those I have unintentionally convinced the weight of our lives is unbearable or that our kids are suffering for it. I promise that while they are being stretched, they're not being tortured.
The sneaky little truth is that we're actually having fun being in water so far over our heads that we're bobbing for our next breath. It's the mystery of surrender.