Happy New Year

2015 is here. I don’t know why, but when I wrote 2015 in my journal yesterday it made me happy. I am excited for the year to come and the things that God has for us. Jen wrote a quick update on our family and the year we have just been through. If you’d like to check it out click on the picture to see the PDF

Screen Shot 2015 01 02 at 9.49.27 AM 300x211 Happy New Year

Or Click Here

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Hopeful Dread and Refrigerator Mishaps…

All in a days work – Buddy is in Hong Kong – Immigration early this morning only to find out “Your number will be called around 3 p.m.” – which was thoughtful of them to let me know – it’s raining for a swimming party and this just happened…

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I guess that’s what it takes to make me blog these days… icon wink Hopeful Dread and Refrigerator Mishaps...

Our lives have/are full – maybe too full – DTS has been wonderful and God is changing lives by rooting out Satan’s lies and replacing them with truth – it’s what we live for.  And we thank God for it.

It’s not happened without running into some serious potholes – relationally, emotionally, spiritually, physically – you name it, I’m pretty sure we’ve stepped on a rough patch in any category.  And today, by God’s grace, I realized I’ve been slipping back into a pesky habit of mine….clinging to something in the future – instead of to Christ.

We head back to the US this Christmas for a quick, cold break – to see the dearest of family and friends…and suddenly, I’ve discovered that my hope is resting far more securely in a plane ticket than the truth that Christ can make my heart full, fresh and clean (even today!).  These types of hope only become dreadful because while we have the best of family and friends, they just can’t help this discontentment or misplaced hopeful satisfaction.

It’s back to the drawing board this morning for me…I wonder who this DTS is really for..?  icon smile Hopeful Dread and Refrigerator Mishaps...

Love you all – heaps.

Jen for us

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Reputations are killers….

A lot of life intersections lately have brought up the old familiar theme of reputation.  The question itself is a tricky one – asking me to consider what others think of me.  That’s some slippery ground….


The older we get the more we see and experience reputations falling down all around us. It may be as benign as a grammar elitist switching a “they’re” for a “their” and can range to a family broken apart by any sundry of sin.  As a counselor, I’m always shocked that people think they are going to tell me some amazingly clever sin that I’ve never heard before. (Haven’t they read the Old Testament?)  In reality, people aren’t so worried about my hearing a sordid tale of sin, they are petrified that I will be forced into revising their ever-precious reputation.  Brace yourself for this counselor, “I’m not who you thought I was!”


And what’s this about “they?”…I have yet to walk into a teaching experience that isn’t prefaced by a half hour of confessing that my heart is wrapped up way too much in my reputation as a teacher than it is about Jesus’ work on the cross.  Or when I get a report card that I did no work for (and in Adrianne’s case, tried to subvert!), and instantly cozy up to some fictitious place in my happy world that is reserved for parents of smart people.  Reputations are Turkish Delight.


It happens all the time…each step in our life is slowly building a reputation for ourselves. Most of the words translated in the Bible use the word “precious”, “rare”, “weighty” and “influential” to try and define the word we read as “reputation”.  Certainly, a good reputation is more precious that most anything.  When Paul talks describes Jesus as having “no reputation”, the word actually means “to be emptied”- the One whose reputation was spotless, decided to empty it out.  On the other hand, I’m busy filling up a reputation bag with cheese wheels and hopeful notions of what I think I am in my best moments.


My delusions are rectified only by the belief that my reputation rests SOLEY on the work of Jesus Christ and it’s declaration of His love for sinners.  One day I will stop teaching, stop being able to feed loads of people in my house, even care for myself.  I will lose everything possible to build my reputation upon.  In that moment, all I will have left is a reputation built on the Cross that will, by grace alone, usher me into eternity.


At best, I have been considered kind, generous, and a good teacher.  At worst, I am derisive, snarky, and aloof.  If I live out of either of those very accurate moments, I ride a roller coaster of pride and punitive self-abasement.  Neither is good for my soul, or anyone else’s for that matter…


What to do with these reputation run-ins?  Jesus provided the ultimate example.  Empty them out.  Ditch the great teacher, awesome friend, missionary (gasp!) rep and empty everything till all that stands is the Cross.  It is only then that we can “fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith”.


To God be the Glory forever.

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Pencils, Silence & Influence

Last night at our Cadence meeting, I felt utterly loved and cared for because Sandra appeased my writing utensil fetish.  As the pencils were passed around, they were sharpened to the finest point possible.  When it comes to writing – a sharp pencil can cause me to glance at my Precision v5 Pilot with an “I-never-knew-you” look.  It made me start thinking about how crisp and clean a sharp pencil writes – it handles your every move and shades exactly right….until it goes dull – at which point, I submit it to the grind of razors and slough off everything about it that I so recently loved.

Pencils are funny like that, and now you know how very snobby I am when it comes to writing utensils…Many of you (Kristen) have also been very snobby about my lack of blogging.  Grooves are hard to find at times, and though we have definitely found one here, what has been difficult is actually writing about it.  And here’s why:  the stuff that is so magically delicious to our soul right now just can’t be put on a blog.  We have been blessed with unbelievable influential interactions, but nobody has said, “Hey – put that on your blog!”…we have been privy to amazing justice in the human trafficking world that cannot be broadcast on the Internet…Buddy has been stricken with parasites and though the details of that are partially humorous – most of you would prefer less, rather than more, information!  And hence, the months of silence.  I’m struck by how much you – our supporters and friends – must choose to trust us in these silent times…and it has made me so very grateful.  Please know that our silence does not mean that our hearts are far away, they are just quiet (which is usually rare for Rathmells, I understand!)

Last tidbit, this morning I woke up early and thought “Am I sick?”, “Can I get up now?”, “Did I sleep enough?” and I realized another thing happening in this house – Buddy’s constant attentiveness to his body is impacting me – No, I’m not sick, yes, I can get up and yes, I did sleep enough.  As I thought more clearly, I began to realize that I’m asking questions that don’t even pertain to me, but because they have been the focal point of my sweet husband’s life for 2.5 months, I am taking them on as mine. Funny how that happens.  It is so very easy to take on something that isn’t mine when you are in the throes of a situation – a fine line between being one with Buddy and yet understanding that I am not the one with parasites!

Solomon said it best – people can sharpen each other and people can be dulled by each other – our interactions can cause us to be sharp like my dearly loved pencil or just the opposite.  Never, ever, underestimate the power of influence – good or bad.

We find ourselves so grateful for your sharpening love and prayers on our behalf.

We love you!

Jen & Buddy

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Adrianne practicing gymnastics – every girl goes through a gymnast season!

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I have no idea what’s going on here, but clearly my kids love to pose…

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Making my Mom’s famous caramels at Christmas time…takes forever to stir, but so worth it!



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My one and only baby boy…

I have finally mustered the courage to blog about our recent faith journey…as we leave in a couple hours to have doctors follow up and check my now-healthy son – I wanted to share some of the highlights of the last two weeks.

After a week of fever, we finally took Jack to the ER…we had postponed not (only) because we’re lazy or non-alarmist folks, but because another student in Jack’s class had just finished up a 7 day virus and was just fine.  It took a nanosecond for the doctor to admit Jack, take blood, give him an IV and all the while Buddy and I are somewhat dazed as to what was happening.  My one and only baby boy was very sick.

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Jack was the last one in the family to get an IV…he did a great job!

Jack, who obtained enough alarmist-like qualities for our entire family, was slightly convinced he was going to die (he probably felt like it)…I remember forcing myself to read the doctor’s cues – they were concerned but they weren’t wisking him off to ICU or making rash decisions.  I decided I shouldn’t either and felt like I was in an arcade smashing those moles who keep popping out and you have to keep whacking them back into their little hole (a perfect object lesson for this life of faith!).

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This game is good for all sorts of adult tensions in life…


By God’s strength and grace alone, I was able to keep putting those “my son might die” thoughts back where they should’ve been.  There was a real “tried and true” path of treatment for this form of typhus (albeit a little on the “late” side) and there was/is a very real “Tried and True” God who governs the world…and so my heart restlessly rested.

This tension of my son hanging in the balance still haunts me – it is just a sliver of the anguish of God’s heart as the plan of Jesus’ saving entrance into the world burst forth on Earth…this time where we celebrate a birth that would result in a saving death.  God’s faithfulness in providing our hope and salvation with the cost of a perfect Son.  Sitting in the hospital, I thought of friends whose one and only baby boys did not make it – my friend who lost her nephew to a rock climbing accident, my dear friend who visited me in the hospital whose son’s fully formed lungs were first filled with the air of heaven instead of earth.  What bravery to care and hope for us in this time.

God’s faithfulness does not rely on my son’s well-being.  It would be every bit as true if we were burying him this week.  This tension rocks my soul.  My heart is filled with thankfulness this season (and Jack would really rather me not sneak up on him and just attack him with thankful kisses and hugs…but I just can’t help myself).  It’s an odd way to approach the Christmas holidays, but our hearts are filled with God’s provision for our one and only baby boy.  We came close to anguish and God’s faithfulness to us today looks like a healthy baby boy.  For others, it is the comfort and peace that passes all understanding.

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My one and only baby boy…

As we take some Christmas goodie love gifts to our Thai doctors in a couple hours, would you pray that our thankfulness to them for their imageo deo – their working out of their God-given gifts, would be part of what might draw them close to Jesus?  Thank you for praying with us – thanks for celebrating with us.  We love you all – Jen for us


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A High-Energy Surrender? Huh?

I’ll never forget where I was.  A beautiful beach in Okinawa and my friend Candy suggested:  “Don’t you think you just have a lot more energy than most people?”  I remember being shocked…the thought had never occurred to me.  That day I realized that maybe the reason that Jack has woken up at 5:30 a.m. is because the apple didn’t fall so far from the tree…(along with an asundry of other problems that result from having too much energy)

This revelation of high-energy comes with baggage.  Western cultures place an exaggerated worth on such an attribute.  The big news is..that high-energy can be just as much a problem as any other exaggerated characteristic.  Too much patience can turn into passivity.  Too much kindness can become patronizing.  Too much hope can turn into fantasy.  Too much of anything can weigh down a soul when not scrutinized at a motive level.  At my worst, high-energy often looks like “Oblivious to others, myself, and anything else moving slowly.”

And thus – I’ve been finding myself under the exacting knife of motive assessment.  Without being enrolled in school full time, my energy tank is just a wee bit too high…feeling like I need more…asking God if what I’m feeling is dissatisfaction.  I just haven’t had this time/energy option available the last 3.5 years.  There was always something to do or think about and it kept my exaggerated energy on a nice even keel.

Today at church we sang about surrender and I wondered to the Lord, “What does it look like for a ball of energy to fully be surrendered while prayerfully seeking avenues to serve You and please You with the energy/gifts/talents You’ve given me?”  I’m not sure I know the answer…well-meaning folks tell people like me to just “rest, be still” and all that kind of mumbo-jumbo that makes me want to bite their head off (in a godly, missionary kind of way).  The reason it doesn’t sit well with me is because of something Buddy once said:  “Your idea of taking a Sabbath is re-tiling a bathroom”.  And it’s true, so telling me to rest on the couch makes me want to scream!

Resting in the Lord does not have to imply inaction.  What’s crazy for us “action” people is that sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. These are the ramblings in my heart today…not a lot of conclusions, but I’m blessed to consider these things in light of the Gospel and His grace, so in that – I find myself rather satisfied!

High energy at its best, might look like a very fun Fall Festival we threw at our house last night!  The Rathmell’s 2nd Annual Fall Festival (aided and abetted by our Cadence DTS Team that rocked the house)….was a giant success…props to my BFF in Okinawa who bought mounds of American Candy and another team from Okinawa that brought even more.  We had a great time!  So fun to bless so many kids!  Here’s a couple pics!

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Musical Chairs!

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Fun Finale!

We love you all – did you notice that Megan’s picture is back on the Blog!  Thanks, Clark!!



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‘Tis So Hard to Trust in Jesus….

I love the hymn I am parodying with this title (is that sacreligious…a parody of a hymn?..my Dad is broken-hearted, I’m sure!).  The truth is that while it’s “sweet” as the hymn really says, well…it’s equally hard.  Thankfully, I have about 25 years of history under my belt of trusting Jesus…but lately, I’ve been reminded again of how hard it is.

Enter Jack.

You see, Jack is buckling…you know how the pavement in America just full on “buckles” when it gets so hot in the summer?  Well, the heat is on in my son’s world.  Apparently, he’s a “popular” kid at school (don’t get me started on that whole thing), but what that translates to my son’s little heart is that he has trained and served his heart a steady diet of “how people perceive me is how I feel about myself” and sadly – God.  So…if everyone’s nice to him, he maintains his studliness on the soccer field at every recess opportunity, and there’s at least one mention of a girl liking him…his heart remains steadfast and God’s face is clearly shining on him.

If, after said example day, he comes home to a Mom that reviews his Math paper that we whizzed through (and thus bombed), and then gets caught in a string of recent half-truths (is it progress to go from full on blatant lies to half-truths?…I think not)…then suddenly, “he’s a terrible kid who has parents that only talk about bad things and God just isn’t Mr. Nice Guy anymore.

My son has an extreme penchant for literal…this wrecks a lot of havoc on his ability to trust the Lord.  We had a great conversation the other night as we muddled through his weak “trust-in-God-muscle” as compared to his, “I’m an awesome soccer player-muscle” and “I’m-the-hottest-4th-grader-muscle (what is that all about, really?,4th grade???)  As we talked about trusting Jesus for his worth, acceptance, love and security, my son literally squirmed and flopped for 15 minutes on my bed – showing physical resistance to this idea of trusting God for such things.

God is calling Jack to Himself – it’s ugly and simultaneously the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  God calls me to Himself every day – maybe it looks a little better on the outside and maybe the distance between “hard to trust” and “sweet to trust” in Jesus is shorter, but the beauty of God redeeming me remains the greatest, most mysterious, most spectacular thing I’ve ever known.  Keep praying for Jack, dear friends..he’s on the divine hot seat!

Oh for grace, to trust You more!

We love you all – Jen

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Discipleship IS compelling….

I did it again – I placed a lesser value on something God values highly.  When this happens, God usually decides to show off while He expertly reviews His value chart (over and over again).

Here’s how it went down:  As we started into the beginning of our Discipleship Training School, we realized quickly that the building needed a lot of work, as well as things like blankets, sinks, and other things people enjoy using.  We knew our needs were greater than we thought…

Honest missionary moment:  Buddy and I agonize over sending e-mails asking for money.  It’s mostly pride, but also trying to stay away from the “send me $4000 and you will discover your wealthy Nigerian ancestry” label.  As we sent out an e-mail asking people to consider purchasing an item for the new DTS building, my faith conscience went something like this:

“Lord, You know people don’t give to stuff like this – this is not compelling.  You should’ve created a need in the Stop Slavery side of our ministry.  People dig that!

I mean, when the opportunity to help a young child enslaved in human traficking of any kind presents itself, who doesn’t want to give their time, money, and spare change in the hope of helping?  Right?  You’d be a fool not to…who wants to stand before God with that kind of blatant need on their grimy little hands?

But discipleship?..we could talk our way out of that ambiguous need!…providing money for “stuff” that allows for avenues  to make Biblical choices – being a part of praying courage for someone who is captured by fear – exhorting and encouraging someone who may or may not grow…well…let’s just say that that line is a lot shorter.

It took about 12 hours for God to begin showing me that discipleship and all that it entails IS compelling and really high on His holy agenda.  Our friends and supporters responded with joy and generosity, lifting a burden and allowing us to move full steam ahead with the “hands and feet” part of our discipleship ministry.

It seemed that every day we were informed of another gift toward the DTS renovation.  And to top it all off…this week, three former students responded to the discipleship God graciously allowed us to be involved in by giving abundantly to God’s ministry here in Chiang Mai.

This other face of our ministry is less glamorous, but, I would argue, more of what the Bible talks about when it comes to making disciples and sanctifying change that lasts.  It hasn’t been easy.  We’ve parted ways with folks along the way because of ideological differences that turned into plain ole’ hurt.  We’ve drawn lines in the theological sand that others don’t agree with.  But, overall, we are reminded that these little disciples (many of whom are now in their mid-20′s!) are our true crown and joy.

We love you all…


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Team 1 for the Amazing Race around Chiang Mai!

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Team 2 that WON! :-)


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A Thankful Missionary….

Dear Friends…

You know those days where you the Lord presses His thumb on your heart so hard you can almost feel it?  I am struck today with the blessings of our life….how many luxuries I enjoy and well, often downright, assume.  These revelations came to a head today with an odd mix of happenings…

1.  Buddy heads to Cambodia to continue his hands-on commitment to “our” God-given orphans and human trafficking ministry.  My heart is proud.

2.  While gone, I am tackling some long-overdue house projects.  This sentence alone convicts me.  Here’s a little list of luxury’s that statement holds:

  • I have a house
  • I have a house that is painted a color I don’t like, so I go buy another color (to please my eye)
  • I have the money to buy paint
  • I have the luxury of having experienced how happy a new color of paint makes me feel.

While reading this, Adrianne is reading snippets of “Kisses from Katie” to me about a young girl who at 19 is a Mom to 6 kids in Uganda.  She believes what God says about giving up your life now for a glorious life later.  While I stroke my brush, I realize that my world is a bit soft compared to folks in Cambodia and Uganda.  (While painting, I’m thinking about how my friend, at my request, is sending me shoes and smarties next week because, well, “I need them”.  Oh my.)

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t need sympathy regarding the influence and impact of our ministry.  I believe we are right where God wants us…sometimes I just feel so lily-white glove about it.  I know God has called us here and I love to watch Him work in our students lives and do truly life-changing work.  I know Buddy’s and my gifts are part of this great big picture God has – I am just reminded today that God has given us great luxuries along the way.

And in that – I am both thankful and humbled. Part of those luxuries include you.  We love you.

Jen for us.

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Pecans & Life in America

Life is a wee bit more distracting in America…yikes – just the commercials have all of us Rathmells gawking at the TV – we are so easily sold because of the amazing graphics and professional wooing.  Jack knows that Geico can save us 15% or more in 15 minutes, that you can eat Taco Bell and be a hero with your other hand, and thanks to ESPN, he’s pretty sure there’s a connection between beer and women falling all over you.  There’s so much to learn in America! icon smile Pecans & Life in America

Our lives have been full to brimming over, however, with life-giving, faith-strengthening conversations that help us tow the Gospel line and we are finding ourselves unbelievably blessed.  It has been great to be in America and to breathe clean air, not worry about killing a myriad of moped drivers and find stores that have exactly what we want!

We did make on enormous mistake however.  We did not bring a list of “Things we ‘need’ to bring back to Thailand”.  And you know what?  We have forgotten just about everything!  Luckily,  I did remember how precious and expensive nuts are and my mother-in-law hooked us up with a huge bag of pecans – only one catch – they are still encased in their shell!

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Expensive deliciousness!

Early on, I was quite eager to shell them, because I do remember their high value in Thailand and I’m 1/4 of the way of pursuing my dream of a big ziploc bag of fresh pecans snuggled in my luggage back home.  In the process, I have been thinking a lot about “worth”.  I keep asking myself if it’s worth it. I mean, it is when I’m in Thailand, but it’s not so much when I can go 300 yards and painlessly swipe a credit card for a perfect batch of pecan halves down the road.

Funny how things gain and lose their worth.  Our faith sometimes suffers this ebb and flow.  Maybe it’s inconvenience, like shelling these pecans and the effort it is requiring of me.  Maybe it’s the bad taste of disappointment that weakens us, or maybe it’s just plain ole’ fear that reduces the value of our faith.  I have a lot of time to think about it – I’ve got 3/4 of a bag left to shell, and I’m praying it will profit my soul and strengthen my faith.

Love you guys!  Jen

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