As I think back at all God has done for me, I can’t help but be so grateful. I mean God has saved me from death. Literally, God saved me from death. My dad dropped me off at my Meema’s house with the intention of going home and murdering my mom. My brother and I could have very well been there too and could have been apart of the tragedy. It wasn’t my dad who saved me by taking me to my Meema’s house that day; it was God who saved me that day. God didn’t merely save me from death; He saved me for eternity. That day was the beginning of my journey to becoming a Christian. I had no idea that that horrible event would lead me to my Saving Grace. No matter how many times I look back at what happened to me at such a young age, I can’t help but be grateful. I can’t help but be sad for those who don’t know Jesus because I cannot understand how they make it through the hard times they must endure.

God brought me to Christianity. He called me out of the multitudes. He opened my eyes. Yes, through death, He truly brought me to life! For this, I will forever sing His praises!

I know it is hard to understand how I can be so grateful despite such a horrible event, but without this event happening, I would have never met my husband. Because of my parents death, I moved cities, and that’s where I met my wonderful husband. Without meeting him, I wouldn’t have the most gorgeous children I have today either because without his genes, they wouldn’t be who they are today!

Without my parents’ death, I wouldn’t have such a strong passion to help others. God engrained in me this passion to help others because I can empathize and sympathize with them. He not only groomed me to be this way, he created me to help others. Those are the gifts He gave me from the day I was born! I am so thankful for this gift because I love helping other people. I love counseling and am thankful for the opportunity He gave me to do this.

I also know that He has made me resilient. He created me to be resilient. I have no reason to be resilient. By psychological standards and tests, I should not be as well as I am today. (My friends might still tell you I am a weirdo though! HAHA!) I can only give credit to God for making me who I am today because without His grace I would not be where I am today.

I am just so thankful that God called me to be one of His children. I am so thankful I sought Him in return. As painful as some moments might be, I cannot forget how blessed I am.

But living in this city, living in Bangkok, brings me great sadness for the people around me because they do not know God. They have not experienced the plan God has for their life. They do not have joy among their pain because the have not chosen to follow God’s call. Will you please join me in praying for my friends in Bangkok? I want them to know how great it feels to experience true Joy!

The Whole Story

I don’t normally write things like this, but I am going to open myself up and be completely vulnerable.

My parents died when I was young, 7 to be exact, so I have only a few memories with them. I know my mom was an amazing cook, she was fair, and she loved my brother and I tremendously. My dad also loved us fervently.

But what I think about often is how much I miss them. Growing up, I would see girls playing with their daddys at the park and just wishing I could have that. But even more so now, I miss my mom!

I have 2 children of my own now-a 1 year old and an almost 3 year old. They are close to age like my brother and I. My daughter is the spitting image of me, and my son, as scary as it is, looks just like my brother and is beginning to act more and more like me the older he gets.

Anyway, I miss my mom everyday. I wish I could just call her up and ask her what to do in just about every situation that arises. I wish I could just ask her how she raised 2 small children who were so close in age. I wish I could ask her if she breastfeed and how it worked for her. I wish I could get advice on relationship issues and marriage. I would love to ask her a whole list of questions.

But even though I can’t do any of that, I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t change it because I know I wouldn’t have met my husband or gotten a Master’s degree or traveled the world. I wouldn’t be the person I am today. There are a whole list of other things that would have changed if my parents were still here today.

Instead of focusing on the “wishes” and “what-ifs” and sadness of it all, I choose to focus on all the good that has happened in my life.

Ultimately, I am okay. Yes, I have my moments, but I know that I am okay.

But my story doesn’t end here. I am actually more than just okay. I am more than okay because my hope is in God. I understand that God has a plan for my life, so I know that I will always be okay, no matter what happens. I will always have a joy that far outweighs the pain.

There is even more to my story than my parents simply dying. They didn’t die in a car crash or from illness. They died from a murder-suicide. My dad killed both my mom and himself. I didn’t tell you this in the beginning because I know that would have been all you could focus on, right? But I tell you this now to let you know that God can redeem even the craziest of stories, the most gut-wrenching heartbreak. The “why mes” and the “what ifs” have all been redeemed by Jesus!

So even if you are dealing with the loss of parents, either recently or in the past, or even loss or sadness in general, please know that there is hope. It’s okay to be weak and it’s okay to just be okay, but it’s better to know that you can have an everlasting joy in Jesus. Let God heal you today. He can make you whole.

Courage to Love

As some of you may know I recently started a MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) group here in Bangkok. I recently talked with them about having the courage to love our children. I wanted to share some of the things I shared with them.

What do you remember most about your childhood?

Are there any smells you can relate to your childhood? 

Did you have gifts that make you feel special? 

Was there something you always made together? Baking something or a craft? 

Holidays or vacations you spent together?

A funny childhood memory?

What can you do to make your child feel special?

Just as we relied on our parents, our children rely on us. They learn to trust us as well as others because they learn they can rely on us. They can rely on us because they know we will always be there, and we will always be together-whether on vacation or during a holiday. Even the tough memories can shape our children and let them know we will always be there for them and love them.

So again, I will ask you: what can you do to make your child feel special?

Encourage them.

Tell them you love them.

Hug and kiss them.

Teach them to not give up on their dreams.

It’s not difficult for us to make our child feel special. We just need to be intentional about it.

But let’s take it even a step further…how can we love our children extravagantly?

How can we love them without a restraint in spending our money or using our resources?

I’m not talking about loving them by spending money on them-I’m talking about loving them as if no amount or lack of money or resources would hinder our love for them. Love without limits. Love them in a way that exceeds what is reasonable or appropriate! We should love them in a way that they or we ever thought we could.

The Bible tells us how we can extravagantly love others, but it really applies to everyone’s life. First, let me say I am not perfect, and I do not do all of these. These are things I need to work on in my own life.

Love never gives up.

Do you give up on your child? Have you ever said something like, “Oh, that is just the way he is.” Accept your child for who he is, but don’t give up on him.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Do you care more about yourself? We should care for our child’s well-being before ourselves. Most of us have flown on an airplane before. When they are doing the safety instructions, and they say, “In case of an emergency, always put your mask on before putting the mask on your child.” I understand their point, but really? Who would really do this? Wouldn’t we all put our child’s mask on first?

Love isn’t jealous.

Do you compare yourself to other moms? Oh come on, who doesn’t? The thing about comparing yourself to others is that their situation is always different than yours. Their child is different than yours. And their past is different than yours. Don’t compare your parenting skills or what you can give to your child to what other moms do. Because if we give our children extravagant love, they will have all they will ever need!

Love doesn’t boast.

If we love our children extravagantly, we won’t need to brag about ourselves to make ourselves feel better. We will feel good about ourselves because we will know how much we can truly love our children.

Love doesn’t make others love them.

Do you try to force your love on your children? Do you try to earn their love? Do you do this by trying to buy them things? Know that this will never work!

Love doesn’t think of itself first.

Do you think of yourself first or your children first? Don’t get me wrong, we need to take time for ourselves and take care of ourselves, but if we are pouring into our children with this extravagant love I have been talking about, we won’t even have to feel guilty for taking time for ourselves because our children will know how much we love them.

Love doesn’t anger.

Are you easily angered at your children? Love is slow to anger and quick to understand.

Love forgives.

Do you hold on to the bad things your children have done? Learn to let the past be in the past. Don’t hold on to the things your children have done in the past. It will not change what is happening now. It will probably end up making things worse.

Love speaks in truth.

Do you speak truth to your children in a loving way? Do you lie to your children? Our children will respect us when we have the hard conversations with them, even disciplining them as long as we do it in a loving way. Lying to your children will not help them. Again, it will only end up hurting them in the long run. 

Love endures all things.

Do you deal with your children in love even when they do something you don’t like? Even when they break your favorite home decor? Love them even when it is hard. Even when it hurts.

Love trusts God.

The Bible says, love trusts in God because God is love.

Love always looks for the best.

Do you look for the best in your child? What are your child’s best qualities? List them. Now!

Love never looks to the past.

Do you hold on to the past with unforgiveness toward your children? If there is something you haven’t forgiven your child for, forgive them today and move forward. Holding onto past mistakes only causes a barrier in your relationships with your children.

So I was also a counselor in the States, so I want to share some practical ways to put extravagant love into everyday life.

First, instead of telling your child to leave you alone when you are busy or are in the middle of something, set up healthy breaks. For example, “I need to finish this one thing, and then I will help you.”

Tell your child, “You’re so…(fill in the blank with a positive word).” Be positive. Encourage them.

Allow your child to have feelings. If your child cries, even if you think it is silly, acknowledge the feeling. Don’t just tell them not to cry. Ask them why they are crying and how they are feeling. You can even show them faces if they can’t verbalize how they are feeling.

Encourage your child. “Way to go! You put both of your shoes on the right feet!”

Don’t compare them to their siblings or others. Every child learns at a different pace. Even if their sister did something sooner than them, it’s ok. They will eventually learn how to do it too!

Phrase things positively, instead of negatively. “I like it better when you do it this way.” as opposed to “You know better than that!”

Research shows that time-outs are more effective than spanking. Often the child is concerned with the spanking and not the reason for the spanking. Often with spankings, they are never told the reason they are getting a spanking. Research also shows that a 2-year-old will repeat a behavior within the same day 80% of the time, no matter what discipline is given. Children don’t “learn their lesson” with the first consequence, just as we often don’t.

Discipline should happen immediately. Threatening to take care of something “when daddy gets home” often proves ineffective because the child cannot connect the consequence with the behavior they just exhibited. Furthermore, why should your child have to suffer from anxiety all day for something that could be punished for and forgotten about immediately?

Be specific in your praise. Instead of saying, “Great job!” tell her specifically, “What a beautiful picture you have drawn! I love the colors of the flowers and the detail you put into that house.”

Finally, and most importantly I will leave you with this: keep calm. You are doing a great job! Remember to not be hard on yourself. Your child loves you and is never as hard on you as you are on yourself! 

Talk It Up

It’s amazing what God can teach you through a toddler. We went on vacation last month to the beach here in Thailand. If you don’t know us, then I will start by saying, our daughter, who is almost 3, is quite the socialite. She never meets a stranger, and she has a way of making everyone love her. And she also LOVES to talk. To ANYONE. So, needless to say, we met several people while on vacation!

Bangkok is a melting pot of people because of its international business, and its universities are pretty international anyway. The well-known beaches in Thailand also have tourist visiting from all around the world because they are beautiful and reasonably priced. Anyway, this trip we met an American couple, who is now living in Dubai, who was with another family from South Africa. We met a family living in Chicago that were from Hong Kong, a Canadian couple, and Italian family and a group from England as well.

The best part is, we got to share with them why we are living in Bangkok. In essence, we got to tell them about Jesus! Amazing! God blessed us with a daughter who loves to talk, so that we can share the Gospel with others.

I will be honest, sometimes it is terribly frustrating to have an almost 3 year old always talking. “Mommy, what’s this?” “Mommy, can I have this?” “Mommy, what are you doing?” Etc., etc. And honestly, I often forget that it is something God blessed her with. She opened up every opportunity, besides maybe one for us to talk to all of the people we did on our vacation.

Bottom line: Don’t take the gifts God gave your child for granted. He gave your child their specific personality to further the Kingdom.

Furthermore, cease every opportunity God places in front of you to glorify Him. We are missionaries and thought we were going on vacation, but we can never go on vacation from sharing God’s love and His Word with others. We are all missionaries in all instances of our lives. Let us not take that for granted!