Look at how beautiful you two are.
I mean, have there ever been two more perfect and gorgeous boys given to a mom? I don’t think so.
It’s with an excited yet heavy heart that write, kids. As your dad is doing so, so well, and as our fundraising is at a really, really great place, we’re talking seriously about dates to leave for Thailand.
This thing that we’ve been working toward, this thing that has caused our entire lives to look unique, this thing that has been just over the horizon and out of sight, this thing, is now within sight. It’s closer. It’s real.
And with the reality of Thailand comes all sorts of mundane tasks that need to get done. Packing, planning, sorting through things.
A funny thing about Thailand (honestly, boys, I don’t know where to start with the ‘funny Thailand’isms because there.are.so.many. I’m sure there are going to be days where we all feel like our entire life is an experiment in things that can go wrong) is that some things are way cheaper there and some are, without reason it seems, way more expensive. Some of the baby things we’ve used and love won’t be available there, so we’re going to bring them with us.
One of the things a friend suggested we bring is a stroller. With Shep, we did a lot of wearing, and we plan on doing that with you too, Inside Baby. But let’s be honest. Thailand is HOT. And Mom and Dad are warm people. So your not-so-tiny bodies all sweaty and strapped to us all the time doesn’t sound super awesome. It will be nice to at least have a strolling option should we desire.
Now, there will be two of you. So, double stroller. Currently, we do not own such a devise. And from what our friends tell us and what the internet says, double strollers are roughly one million dollars in Thailand. So my mundane task this week has been finding a used double stroller that costs less than a mil.
The point is not the stroller, boys, but I did find one for a great deal. So fear not, children: we will have the option to stroll. Stroll all day. Stroll all night. Stroll.
The point, boys, is the war that’s been going on inside me all week. A war instigated by feelings that popped up after I did some Google-ing on strollers.
I was looking at used strollers on a website and then looking up those strollers individually to check their specs (“specs” is a word your dad taught me. It’s very technical of me to use it and shows how smart I am). As I was looking up a particular stroller, I saw a picture of a happy mom pushing a happy kid. Cute. Something about it though, bothered me. Later that night I was perusing Instagram before bed and I saw a picture of someone pushing their little kiddo on a super nice, super fancy stroller. Simple as that. A stroller and a kid and a mom.
And it really, really hurt my heart.
One, because I don’t know, boys, if you will ever have a super nice, brand new, fancy stroller. This is true for a number of reasons. For one, we really like buying used (or let’s be real, being gifted things by our super generous friends). Also, we both have a really hard time spending big (for us) chunks of money on baby things knowing that they will only be used for a short time. Despite these being fine reasons for you not having your own fancy stroller, the mom part of me, the part that would literally break my body open for you, wants you to have every nice thing in the world.
It makes me sad, rational or not, to think that there are kids out in the world getting cooler, nicer, safer, better things that you will ever, ever get. Now, this thought is a super dark trap and the most slippery slope, I get that. But I think every mom feels this for different reasons.
Another reason this picture hurt my heart is because the sheer normalcy of it.
I can almost guarantee the stroller was a gift from loving and doting grandparents.
A gift your grandparents may want to give you boys, but won’t because, well, where would we put it? Can we use it? Is it practical? It just doesn’t make sense for our lifestyle to buy us something like that.
I’m sure this stroller was given with the intention of the grandparents taking the grandchild on walks and signified time that was going to be spent together. More gifts your grandparents want to give you, boys, but can’t because, well, we’re leaving.
Insert many Mommy-Missionary Guilt Feelings here.
All this over a stroller? No. All this over the reality of the life we’ve chosen and the life you’re being born/brought into.
Because of the life your dad and I are choosing, the life we’re living, you two may not get the most gifts at Christmas. You may not get the most gifts ever. You may not have the nicest things. Ever. And, the hardest thing, you won’t get endless time with your family like some other kids get.
Your dad and I made the choice to live the life we’re living after 20+ years of attempting to give our lives to Jesus, and finding that He really truly is the only One worth living for. We know, in our bones, that giving you two the most experiences of living the Gospel that we possibly can will, in the end, be worth far more than a nice stroller or a stack of Laugh and Learn toys under a tree. But, we have a lot of years between now and when you’re old enough to understand why you don’t live close to grandmas and grandpas and why all your things are handmedowns and why you’re homeschooled (maybe) and why all mom and dad’s friends’ kids know each other super well and are BFFs and you’re maybe on the fringe.
And that’s what makes me nervous.
Because almost every kid can find a reason or two to resent their parents. And I’m nervous that right out the gate we’re giving you plenty of reasons to resent us. On the outside, and honestly some people have even said this to us, what we’re doing can look cruel. Cruel to “take you away” from a,b, or c. Cruel to deny you a,b or c. Deny you whatever a life in America would afford you.
And we get that. Kind of.
I really get that when I want you to have the best stroller ever made and realize that that is just not going to happen.
But let me tell you about some things we will be giving you, boys. One, ourselves. We’ve committed to a life and a way of parenting that means we’re together a lot. This will be hard, especially for the first few years of your lives, but it’s worth it to us. Yes, I joke about wanting my own room away from you, Shepherd, but I love that you can sleep close to us. It means we can travel together. It means you can be flexible. It means we can be flexible when we need to be due to sickness or space issues or travel. Once we’re in Thailand, we’re going to be together almost all the time. You two will come to HOSEA center with us daily. You’ll get to know the kids, get passed around, nap in the back office, and probably be speaking Thai well before we will. All of this, all this togetherness, we’re praying and believing will lead to you two having a deeply secure sense of identity and a deeply secure sense of home and belonging. Chances are, there will be more children coming from your baby machine mom than just you two, and it’s our hope that our big, clumsy family will become a safe haven and be the first authority in shaping how you see yourselves and the world.
Two, we’ll be giving you the gift of being third culture. This is an idea that has been close to my heart for a long time and now is something your dad and I together are passionate about. We want to know how to live other, no matter where we are or what we’re doing. To us this means looking for a third way. Often, when we look at circumstance or situations, we see only two options, two ways of responding. We have come to learn (specifically in mission, but in all of life) that Jesus offers us a third way of thinking, loving and being at all times. The key to living as a minority or foreigner is finding the third way, choosing to respond to the surroundings in a way that isn’t inauthentic to yourself or your culture but doesn’t hurt or belittle the host culture. As Jesus followers, we should always be the minority (or foreigner), so these lessons and way of living will be applicable regardless of being missionaries to another country or not.
Most importantly, Jesus. Dad and I love Jesus, and we know that apart from Him, nothing matters. To have a life that is so obviously shaped around sharing the love of Jesus allows for an immediate classroom. We want to constantly be providing experiences for our family to serve others, move in the Holy Spirit (signs and wonders, specifically) and live as literal servants of people Jesus loves just as much as He loves us. We want it drilled into our family’s DNA that no one, no culture or race or people group, are better or more important than us. That’s why, Inside Baby, you will be born in Thailand. All of these things are possible to live out in America, and sweet boys, and you’re lucky enough to have many aunts and uncles who are doing it in amazing ways that we’re learning from as we watch them. But the path God has given our family to live these things out and make these things happen for you is in Thailand. So we’ll do that.
I know that for the rest of your lives, I will wrestle with every decision we make. And thank God. I never want to just flippantly make decisions that could shape or inform your tiny hearts and minds in ways that don’t accurately reflect Jesus. And, because I am human, I will always want the very best for you, however misguided my interpretation of best may be. Best doesn’t always mean most expensive or fanciest, but in my flesh, it’s an easy thing to look at and point to. Like strollers. And, because the choices we’re making are hard, I will probably always compare your lives to lives other parents are giving their kids. I’ll work on that.
So, sweet boys, hear my heart: I love you deeper and stronger and fiercer than I ever thought was possible. And I know your dad feels for you in ways that have surprised and scared him as well. The love we feel for you is a portion of the fear of God we have. You are our gifts, our responsibility. And we take that seriously. And with these intense and deep feelings come junk, like comparison and guilt, but it also comes with an insane amount of conviction and courage that I personally did not know I was capable of. So, thank you sweet boys, for giving me the most precious gifts I’ve ever received.
And in return, dad and I are going to some craigslist stranger’s house tomorrow morning to buy the best, coolest, used, old double stroller around. You’re welcome.