Thursday, September 22, 2016

Guest Post- By Alisa Ballou, Thailand

Are We Shortchanging Our Kids?

When we first moved to our house that we use as a ministry center and church here in Lamphun, Thailand I was worried: in front of our house is one of the busiest roads that goes through the middle of Lamphun. There’s constant city traffic just outside our front door. I love being really accessible to people, but especially at first was worried if our kids would be ok here. And then in the back, we have an alley for parking. Sometimes, thanks to the internet, it’s easy to compare with some stunning backdrops you see other kids growing up with, and worry about the life you’re giving your kids.

And then it’s easy to get discontent and worry we’re really shortchanging them. Have you ever felt that way?

How would these kids develop better if they were growing up being able to test the limits of their bodies physically? If they could have the freedom of spending free hours outside playing, building, imagining instead of mostly being inside? If they had friends who were Christian or who spoke their first language? If instead of their bare feet on concrete, they could run outside on dirt (preferably with no huge tropical insects) play in the streams (no parasites, please) and have a part of the vast world of God’s nature at their disposal?

What if?

It’s actually pretty ridiculous when I remember that after all, only a very few kids in this world get to live in the ideal world that lives in my mind! Anyway, God’s been great at reminding me of a few things.

1. Surroundings aren’t even close to being the biggest shapers of small hearts. Just recently, I was reading Oswald Chamber’s biography (Abandoned to God - favorite biography hands down). As a boy, he grew up in the glens of Scotland. Basically his life couldn’t get more idyllic as far as surroundings went. But it was when his family moved (after his father getting fired as a pastor) to dirty, claustrophobic London that his spiritual growth took off. Removed from all he’d known, (even the nation of his birth) he thrived.

2. Remember: online families have real lives too. Pictures from other people’s families are snapshots of moms / ladies capturing moments that will remind them, too, that there can be glory found in the middle of the mostly mundane. When I took our kids on a little adventure, it was great until we found out most places we walked, our feet would get swarmed by massive ants, the lovely little canal we walked along is full of little black wormy parasites, and we finally gave in to the bug bites (and Brody’s tired legs) and went home. Yes - really fun, but not what I’d imagine if I only saw the pictures online. Comparing with other’s lives is harmful. But sharing their joy with perspective brings healthy inspiration and life.

3. They get to share in an eternal perspective being lived out practically. Luke 6:20-26 shows very clearly that living eternally means not seeking out all the comfort I can find here:

“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe uno you that laugh now! for ye shall mourns and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.”

We can show them a life not lived grasping for the satisfaction we can suck out of life on this earth. Instead of daydreaming about what I can’t ever give them practically, I can point them to the Maker of the mountains for their joy, then rejoice in His handiwork whether we’re playing in it, or loving and rejoicing in people, His greatest masterpiecesand His greatest loves. We get to remember and feel often that this earth isn’t meant to be our home. And everywhere Christ abounds, life is breathtakingly beautiful.

4. Create appetites for the riches that matter. For them to know they are astonishingly rich - simply because they have Christ(!!), His truth(!!), and His love(!!). I would love for them to grow up really understanding that they aren’t better or more deserving of practical luxuries than other people in the world, just because they’ve been given a spot at the wealthy table (#Merica). I’d love for their hearts not to be numbed by excess, or for their happiness to depend on entertainment. These things I can labor to give them.

The other morning, I’d just finished taking the boys on a little exploring adventure (the one in which we got devoured by insects). We were riding our motorbike with Justin behind me and Brody in front of me, enjoying the cool wind on our faces after being hot from exercise. We rode between two green rice fields stretching on either side. Justin shouts into the wind, “Mom, when you were 5, did you go to school with Thai language or with English language?” I laughed and told him I never even knew Thai people when I was five, and that I went to a school where they spoke English. He said, “I want to go there too.”

So a gentle nudge of his heart, helping him see the glory around him keeps me from chasing endlessly (even just in my heart) any idealized lifestyle I can dream up that will make me think that will bring the perfect happiness.

I can remember that God’s actually far, far more interested in their welfare than I am, and it is His presence within, not what surrounds us without, that brings deep and abundant joy.

I want them to know HIM. It’s living with carefree joy as His child that brings life from within that no dingy city block can squelch.

By Alisa Ballou

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Furlough Fitness Part 4 (Getting High Tech)

Getting High Tech

"There's gotta be an app for that..."

Yes, there is a phone app for just about everything. I have a couple of apps that I use to help me with my fitness goals for furlough. Kristine does too! When I asked her what apps she uses, I was quite surprised at how different, yet how similar, our two main apps were.

I discovered she and I both use a food app and a fitness app, but the apps we chose and the reasons behind them are as different as she and I are.

Exercise Apps

My exercise app?


I have recently discovered Strava. What is it? It's a route, distance, and pace tracker for cycling and running. Since I actually bicycle occasionally when on the field, I enjoyed that feature. Here in the States, if I don't have access to gym facilities while traveling, going for a jog is one of my frequent back-up options. My goal is to work up to a 5K-- running without stopping. I am happy to say that I am halfway to my goal.

Charity's Strava Snapshot, jogging in a limited area

Kristine's exercise app?


My Fitbit tracks my steps, miles, stairs, sleep quality and amount, heart rate, and calories burned. I've had my Fitbit for nine months, so I had a good idea of what my average activity was before furlough. It has helped me to see when I need to move more. The weekly challenges with other Fitbit users have really encouraged me to push myself and are fun. Some weeks I will set a goals to walk 10,000 steps every day, so I find myself doing everything in my power to get those steps in, even if I have to jog in place before bed to accomplish my goal.

Kristine's Fitbit Snapshot... SUCCESS!

Some weeks we are traveling so much that it is just not possible to get all my steps in. Those are the weeks that i struggle with my weight.

Tough Travel Week Fitbit Snapshot

On a Good Day

Food Tracking Apps

In sharing our food apps with one another, I made another interesting discovery. The apps we chose fit our personalities and what motivates us. Kristine is all about encouragement and accountability. I am all about the numbers and hard data. Kristine is very relationship oriented and visual. I am highly organized and love structure.

So what food apps did we choose?



My YouFood app records my food and exercise through photos, which I love because I am a very visual person. I can tell at a glance how I am doing with both my activity and my eating.

YouFood is my favorite tracking app because it does not require counting calories, is not time consuming, and I enjoy the encouragement from my YouFood community.

YouFood is very simple to use. All I do is discreetly snap a quick photo of my meal and post it to my app. At the end of the day, I can glance over my food choices and quickly see if I made any mistakes. I can take a photo with the YouFood app itself, or if i don't want to take the time to post immediately, I can snap a photo with my camera and post it at a later time. There is also an option if I want to write in what I ate so I don't have to photograph y food in front of a supporting pastor! I also love to take scenic photos of my hikes and walks. I enjoy looking backover my days and weeks and seeing all the variety of food and scenery that I have experienced because of furlough.

Here is an example of a good day and a bad day. In a few seconds I can see where I went wrong.

A friend cheering me on through a bad food choice...

Exercise post...

Both of these apps have been invaluable to my weight control on furlough. If i am up a couple of pounds, I can easily see that I ate those Tim Bits donut holes or I didn't get in my 10,000 daily steps that week. I also enjoy the encouragement from my friends on both apps. If you are looking for a quick, visual help for your weight control, I highly recommend both!


My food tracker app of choice?


I have to admit, I have always scoffed the calorie counting thing in the past. (Who has time to calculate and research to keep up with all that?) But several friends repeatedly recommended the MyFitnessPal app. A few weeks ago, I finally decided to give it a try. I have been a vocal fan ever since.

I was shocked at how user friendly, easy, and quick it was. I can usually enter in my food for a meal in thirty seconds to a minute, and the app does all the calculating. I just look for the food in the simple search options and hit enter. If I have a package with a barcode, I can even snap a picture in the app of the barcode and the app will do the rest. If I am at a restaurant, the app can access the restaurant's menu. Then all I have to do is select what I chose. Sometimes I check the app before I order to see what selections are the best options. The app even saves your frequent foods so that you can scroll through quickly to select them.

It not only tracks calories, but the full spectrum of nutrition (carbs, fat, sodium, etc.) I love that it gives me warnings when I choose a food that is higher than my goals will allow and it gives me the green light when I choose things that are beneficial to meeting my goals.

There are sections to track water intake and exercise, too.

I love that I can even enter things in ahead of time to plan my food for the day. That way I can change things up if I see my plan is going to sabotage my efforts.


Our styles may be very different, but what both Kristine and I have discovered is that keeping track of our fitness through some form of tracker/journal has helped us be more aware of what things are helping or hindering our Furlough Fitness. Whether it be food, exercise, or both, consider an app or two for your Furlough Fitness plan.