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Saturday, June 6, 2015

I felt so guilty for so long.

The sunset from our room tonight in Koh Samui, Thailand.

When I first stepped foot on the African continent my life was changed forever.    I distinctly remember thinking that I could not possibly pile presents under the Christmas tree as I had in past years for our young children (who didn’t “need” anything to start with).  The thought of hanging hundreds of lights, decorating the house with expensive bobbles and piling our family table up with delicious and extravagant treats, when millions of children in Africa had NO food at all, just made me sick to my stomach.

I couldn't face Christmas 2003 in my big, fancy home and instead our family went to a beach resort so I could escape (not that it was in any way cost saving!) and think about how I would change “Christmas-future” for the Maxwell family.

After spending too much money on that trip to the beach I decided that I could never take a vacation again, while millions of children in Africa had no food.  I am not saying that my thinking was sound, fair to the rest of the family or that I was trying to be a Super-Christian, I just felt guilty. 

Most of you know the story from my first book, “It’s Not Okay With Me”, but we made some major lifestyle changes that included everything from eating frozen pizza rather than ordering in, eliminating fancy vacations, getting rid of the nice cars and eventually, moved to Africa.

Ian and I built a lovely home here in Swaziland, with funds that we had saved from our business days.  It’s technically the property of Heart for Africa, but we live in it as the Directors of the project.  I give thanks for the safety, beauty and comfort of this home every day, but there are days that I feel guilty for living in such a lovely place when I have visited homes where the roofs have gaping holes and the mud walls are collapsing.

Holidays are another source of guilt for me, and that leads me to this week’s blog.  During our business days our family used to go on great holidays to the beach, or exotic destinations, but we stopped doing that in 2003 after “Africa” happened to me.  I could not justify spending money for four of us to fly somewhere and just have fun.  But then time passed, life continued, our family lives on three different continents and I realized we are missing out on family time, memory making and renewal of spirit.

So I am trying an experiment.  Last week Spencer, Ian and I flew to Taiwan to attend Chloe’s High School graduation.  After a few whirlwind days in Taiwan we headed to Vietnam to visit the place where our friend/hero/favorite Uncle, Captain Jerry Coffee, was a POW for 7-years.  I am so glad we made the decision to visit this incredibly important place and learn more about the history of this part of the world.  Chloe even spotted Jerry’s photo on the wall in what is left of the prison – a photo that Jerry himself had never seen.  The visit had a significant impact on all of us.

Ric shaw ride in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Last night we started a weekend of celebration for Spencer’s 21st birthday in Bangkok, Thailand.  We were stunned by the view at “Skybar” on a rooftop made famous by the movie Hangover II (I debated telling you that part).  The view was breathtaking, spectacular and left us all speechless (which doesn’t happen much in our family!). Today we flew to the Island of Koh Samui in the southern part of Thailand.  

Bangkok, Thailand.
The sun has already set as I sit and write this blog, and it is 9PM in Thailand, 3PM in Swaziland and 9AM in Georgia.  We are watching “Anna and the King” as we continue to learn about, and embrace Thai history and culture.  I have no words to explain how awesome this time is together.

We are having fun as a family.  We are learning and growing and laughing and eating and enjoying each other’s company.  In a week we will all be back in Swaziland for 10 days, and then Spencer heads back to Georgia and Chloe goes to Canada.  Everyone is back to “real life”.  We don’t know if and when we will have an opportunity to be together again, but today we give thanks. 

I might still feel pangs of guilt (I cannot say that I don’t), but I am giving thanks in a VERY BIG WAY for the ability to enjoy this time as a family and for His provision.

Live from Thailand … I have a good life.

Janine

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