Teaching a Perfectionist

(My husband will seethe over this, but I’m starting with a quote.  From his least favorite inventor.)

“I have not failed.  I have only found 10,000 ways that do not work.”

-Thomas Edison

Since September, our family has been “lightly homeschooling”.  Our oldest is only 3 1/2, so we are just doing basic preschool things, but it seemed more fitting for our family than sending her to preschool since we hope to homeschool (more formally) eventually.  She is a smart little girl, and really loves to be engaged and challenged, so my husband and I knew she would love learning new things.

What we hadn’t anticipated is that our oldest daughter tends to be quite a perfectionist, even at this tender age.  As a self-proclaimed non-perfectionist, it is very hard for me to wrap my head around a lot of her behaviors.

She will attempt putting puzzle pieces together once, but if she cannot get it on the first try, she gives up.  She will refuse to “guess” a letter or number if she isn’t 110% sure she knows what it is.  She will ask the same question several times over to make sure she understands the answer.

I, on the other hand, am happy with a poorly-made bed, just so that there are some sheets on there and the comforter isn’t crumpled up.  Although I try my hardest, I don’t wash all the dishes in the sink every night before bed.  I don’t put away laundry immediately after folding it.

Seriously, who does that?

Madeline probably will.

My husband and I are finding that in a lot of areas of her life, we have to coach Madeline to even try something new.  In roomfuls of other children, she will often shy away from trying what is being taught.  I have seen this first hand in the preschool-aged Sunday school class at our church.  I used to have a group of five year olds, and during worship time, all kids 2-5 worship together.  I watched as Madeline sat in a corner, not singing, nor dancing, watching the other children.  Having seen her sing and dance these songs with exuberance at home, I gently asked her to join everyone else, to which she refused.  She did not like to sing and dance with the other kids, she explained.

It is taking careful words and lots of conversations to help Madeline realize she can give things a try and fail a few (or many) times.  Even in front of friends or strangers.

I know perfectionism to some degree has its benefits.  I know that when Madeline tries to do something, she works very hard to do it right.  She will not leave me a mess to clean up (most of the time).  She will not leave a sloppily made bed in the morning.  She makes sure she does chores in the order she always does them (first she feeds the dog in the morning, THEN she gets the vitamins; she cannot switch the order).

As her mom, I pray I have the strength to encourage her in her strive for excellence, as well as the ability to teach her to give herself grace for her own short comings and mistakes.  She is not perfect, and never will be.  She needs to know that.  But she needs to know that she can improve any number of skills by trying, falling down, and getting back up again.

 

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A Confession

I have a confession to make:

I am a blogger, and I am not so great at communication.

Don’t believe me? Ask my husband.

Amongst friends I can be talkative, energetic, tell lots of jokes, and generally be outgoing, but I have a difficult time holding a conversation with someone I’ve just met. That is just not my gift.

This was what scared me most about going on the Thailand trip. In fact, it was one of the biggest things weighing on my mind when I considered signing up for the trip at all.

The majority of the Thailand trip is meeting new people and striking up conversations with them. We go into bars, buy drinks, and talk to women there. We start conversations with the women at our table at the Christmas party.

And most of them don’t speak English fluently. I worried the Lord wouldn’t use me in Thailand because I couldn’t easily have conversations with new people, like the women we were ministering too.

Of course I was wrong, and God showed me that through many beautiful women, including this lady.

She sat next to me the second Christmas party night, and her sweet smile assured me that I could be real with her. Our team leader gracious gave us a few questions that we could use to start conversations with: “What’s your name?”, “Where are you from?”, “How long have you been working?”, and “Do you have an children?” By the last question with Hom (name changed), she had taken out her phone and was showing me pictures of her four year old daughter.

Her and her daughter love to do everything together, she told me. They rode bikes, they visited gardens, they went to the beach, they watched movies. They loved being together. Her teenage son was studying to be a monk, and each time she pointed him out in pictures she beamed with pride. I could connect with Hom. She is a woman who loves her two children and is working hard to do the best for them. I shared some photos of my two daughters, two and three years old. Hom and I talked easily about our girls, then about things we liked to do. She worked days in a restaurant carving fruit and vegetables into beautiful flowers, and she did some soap carving as gifts for people she loved. We talked through most of the night, and said sincere goodbyes, wishing it were more of a “see you later”.

God used me many other times that week to connect with many other people. He put people in my path that were so easy for me to talk to and feel comfortable with. I had leaned on Jesus to carry me through every conversation I had that week, asking what to say next, and as He always does, He delivered.IMG_1916

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Thank You Cards and Memories

FullSizeRenderThe harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.   -Matthew 9:38 (ESV)

I read this verse Friday morning during my time with Jesus, and thoughts of Bangkok came rushing back to me.

The harvest is plentiful there for sure.  Besides the many women stuck working in the sex industry to help support their families, the government is corrupt (although less so than before the 2014 riots), children are trafficked for begging, many upper class families are “secretly” polygamous, and the whole city just feels heavy with the enemy’s oppression.  I’ve found that the more I’ve talked to friends and journaled through this experience, I felt like I had to hold my breath for most of the trip.

And not just because Bangkok is one ripe-smelling city, either.

The place felt so dark that at times I couldn’t relax, I could barely let the tension go from my shoulders.  It wasn’t until we were with Bonita and Ann, or the girls at Beginnings, or in our small prayer sessions with our team that I could really allow myself to exhale the hours and days of defensive tension in my muscles.

The laborers are few there.  About 2% of Thais are Christian, and though there are full-time missionaries in the country, they make up a minuscule portion of the population.

After praying for God to continue to bring more laborers for His plentiful harvest in Bangkok and in the rest of Thailand, I realized I hadn’t formally thanked all of the individuals who helped me participate in the experience.

Although the trip was dark, and it was not one of “big wins”, so to speak, it was a life-changing experience.  It opened my eyes to the reality of what the sex industry looks like in Bangkok, as well as the experience of Christians in a corrupt country.  It has forever changed my gut feeling when I say the word “prostitute”, and it has shown me that there is hope, even in the darkest of places.  I have worked alongside some of the bravest young women I have ever met, and  I have set at the feet of and listened to a strong, Godly woman not afraid of breaking cultural norms to show Jesus to others.

For all of these things I am grateful

To those of you who contributed financially, I have sent you a “thank you” card.  It is the least I could do to express my enormous gratitude that you chose to spend your hard-earned money on my missions trip.  I am moved by the generosity of my friends and family to help others fund their missions trips, as well as fund missionaries living overseas.

To those of you who have prayed for this trip, for our local team, for the work in Bangkok, and for me, I thank you.  I cannot send you all “thank you” cards because I cannot know how many of my friends and family have prayed for me.  I have appreciated this immensely.  I have felt the warm embrace of your intercessory prayers before, during and after this trip, and they continue to comfort me as my mind and heart readjust to “normal” life again.

THANK YOU.

 

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And Now We Can Breathe

After the second Christmas party last night, I feel like I can finally breathe.

The excitement and anticipation leading up to those two events would keep me up some nights and make me very antsy during the day.

I was blessed to spend the evening speaking with a woman, again, about 40 years old, who was working two jobs to support her teenage son and her almost four-year-old daughter.

Her kind, gentle spirit drew me to her.  She was not at all what I had ever expected a prostitute to be.  She was sweet, genuine, and very open with me.  We talked about her son and his plans to enter the Buddhist temple as a monk; she was so proud.  We talked about her young daughter who loved to ride bikes and how she loved doing everything together.  We talked about how her children’s father was still in their lives because he was a good father, but she was not with him anymore because he was not good for her.

I looked at picture after picture of she and her daughter going to the beach, riding bikes, visiting sites in Bangkok, and just hanging out together.  I looked at pictures of some of the soap bars and fruit that she carved, both for friends and family and also for the restaurant she worked in during the day.

She showed me pictures of beautiful farm land in Isaan that she used to live on and work.  I didn’t hear why she left, but I can draw a few conclusions that revolve around better opportunities that awaited her and her family in Bangkok.  I sat with her as she reminisced about her days of farming rice and sugar.  She hoped in the next year or two to have saved up enough money to bring her family back to her farm land in Isaan to live that simpler life again.

What drew me to this woman was her absolutely selflessness.  We did not talk about the work she did at night; this would be shameful for her.  But we both knew where she was picked up for the party.  She was willing to throw away not only her reputation, but also her future job prospects, her health, and her emotional well-being to support her children and give them a better life than she had.

As an introvert, I had fretted over these Christmas parties.

How could I communicate with these girls?  How could we overcome the language barrier?  What would we have to talk about?  What if they didn’t find me interesting?

The Lord calmed my nerves and instilled me with more bravery than I feel I have ever had in conversation.  He blessed me with conversations with many women like this one, who have encouraged me.  These women have shown me what it is to sacrifice everything for the ones they love, and they have shown me what losing one’s self truly looks like.  These women showed me Jesus in a new and refreshing light.

 

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Our Honored Guests

Why do we throw parties?

To serve and honor our guests.

Plain and simple.

Last night, the guests at our Christmas party were women who are not used to being honored, even uncomfortable being honored.

We arrived to pick up our honored guests at their workplace and escorted them back to the hotel, passing looks of disbelief and disgust on the streets.  Even the beggars looked up from the ground to express their disapproval of these women as we walked by.

But we walked together.  Some of them in front of me, some of them behind me, all of us followed by another American young woman.

It was a long walk from their workplace to the hotel, and the women couldn’t help but remind me of that every few blocks.  I’m sure in their high heels their feet kept reminding them.  One of them even said, “You’ll have to pay me more for this.”

I think they were pleasantly surprised to walk into this:

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With wide eyes and smiling faces, we twelve stuffed ourselves into an elevator, and up to the third floor we went to find this:

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With our honored guests we played party games and gave out goodie bags and prizes.  Then we sat down to dinner.  All of us, together.

My sweet honored guests wouldn’t let me serve them from the family style plates in the middle of the table; they served me.  I felt so unworthy of this gesture.

After listening to a speaker and watching a few skits, we presented our honored guests with gifts.  Their joy and delight at having been given stuffed animals, make-up, picture frames, and other small gifts permeated the room.

Before the party was over, I hugged my honored guests.  Each of these women had made a sacrifice to be at our party, but it was nothing compared to the sacrifice they make each and every day, working to send money to parents, siblings, and for many of them, their college-aged children.

I am not courageous like these honored guests.  They have given up everything, their life, their health, their reputation, for their family.  Last night they learned that a man named Jesus, or Projou (King), as they call him, had already done all of that and more for them.

Some of our honored guests wanted to learn more about this other King, others did not.

But for one night, these women were our honored guests, something they may never have experienced before, nor ever again.

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First Christmas Party Tonight!

Last night we were able to do our first bits of outreach.  In small groups we went into some of the pool bars (think sports bar or pub) to talk to the girls.

I had been so nervous about that part of the trip, but honestly, I found it to be the best part so far.  We all bought pineapple juices (could we look anymore like missionaries??) and struck up conversations with some of the waitresses and girls working in the bars.  It was refreshing how warm and friendly the women were, and not in the same way they were with potential customers.  It was clear to them when we began asking where they were from and if they had kids that we were not looking to buy sex.  Once that barrier was broken, we saw faces light up.

One woman our group spoke to last night was in her early 40’s and had been working in the bar for many years.  She had an 18 year old daughter whom she referred to as “my love” and “my number one”.  She proudly told us her daughter was in school and was going to study to become a nurse.  Without missing a beat, she told us how glad she was that her daughter would have a good job.

It’s hard to imagine a mother supporting her daughter and putting her through school with this job, but that’s exactly what she was doing.  And she wasn’t the only one.

The next woman we met was also in her early 40’s.  (This is unusually old for women working in the bars, but neither of the women we met last night looked even close to their age.)  This next woman’s story unravelled similarly. She was cautious of us until we bought her a drink and asked to see pictures of her three children.  We, in turn, showed her pictures of our babies, which she was delighted to see.

We told both women about the upcoming Christmas parties, letting them know that someone would be coming by to pick them up and pay their bar fine.

As the majority of my readers are waking up and reading this in the morning, teams from our larger group will be in the bars picking up girls to take to our first Christmas party.  I would like to ask for prayer for this first evening.

First, we are asking that God allows LOTS of women to come to the Christmas party; many of these women work 28 days out of 30, and a day off would be a welcome reprieve from their physically and emotionally demanding work.

Next, we are asking for the hearts of these girls to be open and willing to make friendships with those of us working with beginnings tonight; there are 30 of us from all over the U.S. and a few from England.  Each of us is looking forward to meeting and getting to know the women tonight.

We also ask for safety and no conflict with mama sans and customers.  Some mama sans can be difficult to work with, and others may not let any of their girls go to the Christmas parties.  Some of the customers may be just curious about why a group of women is buying prostitutes, but others could be hostile to us.

Finally, we are asking that the girls enjoy themselves at the party tonight, and have open hearts to hear the Gospel presented.  A Thai Christian pastor will be speaking tonight, giving a clear Gospel presentation.  Though we will not understand a lick of what’s going on, the girls will get a better sense of why they are there.

I appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers.  Check back tomorrow to see some pictures of the beautiful hotel where we are having the parties, as well as some of the fun and games from the evening.

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