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.

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!).

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.

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!

Musical Chairs!

Limbo!

Fun Finale!

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

Jen

 

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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…

Jen

Team 1 for the Amazing Race around Chiang Mai!

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! 🙂

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!

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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Trip to Cambodia & Baptism

Last summer I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia with a missions team from Okinawa, Japan.  My first morning in Siem Reap, I debated whether or not to go back to the cafe that I had been going to for breakfast each time I was there for the previous year and a half.  I stopped just short of the cafe and considered another cafe I had found that had great food and Air Conditioning.  After reflecting for a minute I decided that I should continue going to the first restaurant as I had begun to develop a small relationship with two of the waitresses that worked the area where I sat.

During that trip I was able to pray for one of the ladies, Sokneat, and then share with another, Sokhat, about the Lord and also introduce her to another believer who had set up her own businesses just like Sokhat wanted to do.  My family met both Sokneat and Sokhat an the teams that we have brought through.

This year Sokhat invited Clark and my family to join her for her sister’s wedding.  It would have been a little expensive to bring the whole family down but Clark and I were able to attend and had a great trip over all.

We were able to visit a couple of new outreach ministries to poor neighborhoods that Paul Chamrong, who runs our orphanage, has started or partnered with others on.  The church that the kids attend had a Baptism service and three of the older girls were baptized as they publicly declared their commitment to Jesus Christ.

 

 

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The “Real” Deal…

Many of you know we’re coming back to the USA next Wednesday – we actually hop over to Hong Kong on Tuesday, spend the night there and hope to catch a standby flight from there direct to Newark (only 15 1/2 hours)…

Anyhow..in the midst of our thinking about America, the kids keep coming up with random things they “can’t wait to do”, but mostly eat.  (Our British friends put it best when they pointed out that when Americans talk about going to the US, they only talk about food that they are going to eat).

Topping the list from Megan and Adrianne are:

Seriously?? Canned Alfredo sauce???

 

Little Ceasar's Pizza! Pizza!

Cracks me up…even better, is that Adrianne came to me and said, “Mom, can we get the real Afredo sauce in America?”  And by that, she means the Ragu sauce from a jar…not the cream and butter (from a cow) I’ve been using since we got to Thailand.  And Megan insists that the cardboard that Little Ceasar’s uses for a crust is infinitely better than anything we can get here (including the New York Pizza guy who ditched Wall Street to make us amazing pizza!).

You know what I’m going to say – it’s a blog that keeps coming up because it haunts the human soul like none other.  Discernment regarding what’s “real” and what’s “good” is ridiculously hazy at times and mildly focused at best as we consider the words of Isaiah (again).

“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” Isaiah 55:2

Oh God, that you would give us eyes to know what truly satisfies…help us to enjoy the Ragu and the pizza, but to find our satisfaction in you…help us to live David’s cry:

“You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine (and Ragu and Little Ceasars) abound.” Psalm 4:7.

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Here I go again…

Some of you may have noticed I’ve been absent from the blogging world…I don’t really know how to explain why.  Well, first off, my travel blogging hopes were not only dashed, they were obliterated with the shameful lack of internet in New Zealand.  Talk about taking the wind out of my sails…I was so eager…

Secondly, my life moved at supersonic speed thereafter with a trip to the US to defend my dissertation and a whirlwind attempt to keep up my title of “Best Aunt EVER” with my neices and nephews during my visit.  Thirdly, my white (some say, dilapidated) MacBook decided to die 1 week before my defense, which coincides with fourthly, all my passwords that automatically populated [like to this blog] are noticeably absent on my new computer, only proving my fifth reason:  I’ve been the laziest slug on the earth.

I don’t know…I kind of took that phrase, “Stop and smell the roses” and added “…for a month.”  Never fear though…I have about 10 blogs all stored up because writers are always thinking and writing life…sometimes it just takes a while to get onto paper!

The most important blog of all those is this one.  So happy reading!

Dissertation Defense Day.

The day began bright and early at 1:30 a.m. because I was super jet-lagged (which resulted in me looking like I had a drinking binge prior to my defense)…and I couldn’t get back to sleep.  A major kudos to my sister who is notoriously late, for being on time and driving me to Liberty while I looked like I was nursing a hangover.  (seriously, I kept telling her I couldn’t open my eyes and to stop talking so loud).

In all seriousness – I need to change the tone of this blog, and fast…this was a day that is forever etched in my mind because God in His grace illuminated a truth that I already knew, but He cemented it in my mind with a living, breathing, object lesson.

You see, because we worked with high schoolers for 10 years, we know a couple students at Liberty…one of which is from a family that co-labored as Navigator Missionaries in Okinawa with us for 9 years.  We had the privilege of loving and discipling their four children during that time.  Their youngest, Wren, is a student at LU and I wrote and said, “Hey, come on by and let’s catch up…I’m defending my dissertation tomorrow.”  (In typical Vanossdall fashion, Wren showed up with OJ and a pastry in case I hadn’t eaten).  While my sister arranged the reception table, I knew my only chance to catch up with Wren was in the next hour.

We sat down and I was able to hear her heart (which has gone through some pretty big maturing this year)…while I was listening to her, I could not escape the Lord pressing 1 Thessalonians 2:19 into my heart as Paul says,

“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?  Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” 

Wren - one of many who are our glory and crown!

The rest of the story is that I defended, passed and got to be called “Dr. Rathmell”.  Yet, truly…it was nothing compared to the joy of what God has called us to over the years – influencing, loving, discipling and encouraging students as they seek to please and follow the Lord.  In that moment, God sealed in my heart forever the place that earthly titles hold.  I remember thinking, “If people live for this moment of hearing those words, then they will be so sorely disappointed…”  In contrast, I have never, not once, thought that I would be sorry for pouring out my life into others for the sake of the Gospel…and God was the master educator that day.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m proud of finishing, persevering and completing the work.  I’m just all the more thankful for a God who so poignantly reminds us of what this life is about.

Soli Deo Gloria.

 

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High/Low

I’m feeling ambivalent today – got lots going through my heart/soul/mind….thought I’d write it down (this is one of the times where having a melancholic mood can derail the day):

1.  High – took Dad out in town to shop and enjoy Chiang Mai/Low – Clutch in truck finally bit the dust and I drove home in 2nd gear.

2.  High – we leave for a visa trip/vacation on Wednesday/Low – can’t find our ATM card.

3.  High – We’re going to New Zealand for a grand total for $900!/Low – Our “kiwi” friends informed me how curvy the roads are there!  Agh!  (This might be my first vacation where I’m perpetually on Dramamine)

4.  High – Someone is here to feed the cats/Low – today one cat didn’t show up for breakfast.  We’re down to just Shadow/Extra-low:  telling the kids he didn’t come home today after they get home from school.

5.  High – Singapore Universal Studios that aformentioned Dad is springing for!/Low-it’s sandwiched between grueling hours at the Thai Embassy so we can get back in the country.

6.  High – flying cheaply on United to the U.S./Low – My ticket pimp and brother is laid up with a broken tibula (or whatever) and flights are packed…

7.  High – getting to defend my dissertation at 9AM on April 2nd/Low – getting ready for it!

7.  High – my husband never really has lows – no corresponding low!

We are in the “get packed for Visa drudgery, New Zealand beauty and nature, Buddy returning home with kids, me flying to US, defending, buying blocks of orange cheese and enjoying an asundry of lovely American wonders for 3 days, dropping Dad off and coming back to Chiang Mai” stage of life.

Dad and the "Family Size" pizza from Pizza & Pasta!

A travel blog is coming up!  Stay tuned (we leave to Singapore on Wednesday, so I’m sure by Thursday night I will have something to say about immigration procedures and uber-clean Singapore)  And more than anything – pray.  Any number of strings could unravel a lot..we love you all.

Jen

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