I’m very aware of our human tendency to portray our lives a certain way on social media, to present to the world an image we’d like them to see, not one that’s real.

I try very very hard to be real on social media. I don’t see any point in being fake. Any beauty, connection, solidarity, joy, whatever in my life has always come out of my weakness and hardship, not my awesomeness, so I embrace it and try to share it as an encouragement to others.


Even though I tell a very TRUE story on social media, I rarely (never) tell a WHOLE story on social media.

Because life is complicated. And involves other people. And also? Sometimes? My heart just can’t take all the strangers (and friends and family) chiming in and tsk-tsking and judging and deciding they know best for me and my life.

Here are some reasons I don’t share everything that’s happening in my mind, heart, and life:

1.) I’m not stupid.

2.) People won’t understand.

3.) Who wants to listen to all my whiny woes? (Related: who wants to share a struggle and hear, “Oh, I’m sure it will all work out. Everything always seems to work out for you guys.”)

4.) I’m tired of pity.

5.) I can’t share the whole story without painting some people in a very bad light. Because they have done things that are not nice.

6.) My husband and kids are not my property. They are their own people. I cannot (and do not want to) share all of their junk. And their junk is my junk.

7.) Yes, some days I fear that everyone would stop supporting us in Cambodia if I was 100% honest about everything. (Although, we have shared the good/bad/ugly with many of our supporters and they’re still 100% committed to us, God bless them.)

8.) I’d need a book to tell it all. (I may write that book someday. Stay tuned.)


Because I know that God can use (and has used) my struggles to encourage others, I’m going to share some things. I’ll be as honest as I’m comfortable being (actually, a little more honest than I’m comfortable being) and not intentionally vague, but I think we’ve already established that I’m not at liberty to air every piece of the laundry.

Here we go.

Things on My Heart:

–I haven’t shared this whole story (except with a few handfuls of people), but I alluded to it on Instagram/Facebook a couple weeks ago when I posted pics of the kiddos we used to hang out with at community outreach at our church. I say used to because we’re no longer the leaders of community outreach. And now we no longer attend Freedom Church. It is a NUTSO story that still has us shaking our heads. A little bit like deja vu all over again (same same but different) from last summer, but I actually think worse. Once again, lots of “your family is great and did a great job and blah blah blah, BUT…” Except this time, there are lots of other people who have been what we would call spiritually abused by this pastor. If I can find a way to share the whole story without dragging people’s names through the mud (highly unlikely), I will.

–So. That’s the SECOND group of amazing kiddos in less than a year’s time that we have loved and taught and played with and developed relationships with and then… BOOM. OVER. Breaking the kids’ heart, breaking our hearts, asking God, “What in the HECK?” And a couple weeks ago, we had an opportunity to love some more kids, and we did, including taking them to see Despicable Me 3 in 3D (their first time in a movie theater), but their situation is unstable, and we can already see the red flags. If we help, if we get involved, if we get emotionally invested, this is not going to end well. It’s a much different situation than the other two, but I can’t break any more kids’ hearts right now.

–Some HAPPY news. The Bamboo Libraries (which need a blog post of their very own) are a big, huge bright spot in our world. Libraries #1 and #2 are open and packed with kids every day. Construction on Library #3 begins this week. (you can see pics/videos on Instagram/Facebook)

–Where do we want to live? Our house now is lovely. It’s $600/month, which we can afford, but we’re losing two big supporters (one last month, one in August), because they committed to just one year of support. Some of our fam wants to live in town, closer to stuff. Some want to stay. I want to find somewhere in the $400 range, but I also like my kitchen I can move around in and the hot water heater in my bathroom and our extra bedroom for Kingdom Media. Our landlady just sold our house. We can still live here, but she’ll take all her furniture. We’ve looked at several houses. All disappointing. We’ll see.

–One of my kiddos has really been struggling. For a long time now. Hurts my mama heart.

–My stomach has hurt every day for awhile now. Pretty common for me (and all of us) in Cambodia, but this has felt different, worse.

—-My relationship with a dear family member is very strained at the moment (we’ve made peace, but will things ever be the same?) while other relationships have been strengthened because of it. This hurts when I let it.

–We loved having the team here from our church in Columbus (at the beginning of June). It was sad when they left. We won’t see them for a year. I don’t know if we really talked about/processed our emotions. We might have just pushed them down.

–My best friend here in Cambodia moved to the U.K. four days ago. Again, just pushing it down.

–Another friend is not my friend any more because she wants to stay loyal to our pastor and his wife and can’t do that while knowing what they did to us. She thought maybe we could stay friends and just not talk about that part of our lives. I thought maybe hell no thank you.

–God has lit a FIRE in my soul about race issues and racism and white & black and the history of our country and the Bible and the gospel. I am reading everything I can get my hands on, and last night I started what I hope and pray will be a book.

–Gabe and I both grew up in extended families that would both consider themselves very much Christian, very much Jesus-following, but are very very very much racist (they would most likely deny this). Being in Cambodia (and missing out on all the family reunions/holidays) makes this easier, frankly, but we will see them all next summer and cannot avoid this forever.

–Our 20th anniversary is six months away. We have never gone away for our anniversary. We want to go to Italy. (Well, Gabe does, and I want him to be happy.) We are trying to save book royalties and photography money in an Italy Fund, so we don’t use supporters’ $ (well, there’s not any extra of that anyway, so no problem). At the rate we’re going, we will spend our 30th in Italy (if no more emergencies come up and drain the fund, which has already happened twice now).

–I think we also need a little family vacation soon. We went to Bangkok in March, but that was a shopping trip and half of us got sick and there was pretty much zero resting/relaxation involved.

–Working on ways to feel righteous anger (I think this is important when fighting injustice) without wallowing in bitterness.

–Really really thankful for the ways I’ve been able to come alongside some Khmer young people and help them chase their dreams. It’s kind of what I was made for.

–My oldest daughter’s boyfriend is a joy to my heart. It has not been easy for every family member to bring him into the fold, but for the most part… I don’t even know how to finish this sentence. I love him like a son.

–Every. Single. Day. My family asks me, “Do we have dinner plans?” It is one of the biggest failures of my parenthood. Our diet sucks. Food is hard. So much work. So hot. So far away. This could be why our stomachs hurt. Nina just asked if she could have a peanut butter egg for breakfast (the team brought us hundreds). I said yes. That’s all we have.

Speaking of, I need to run to the store, so I’ll stop there.

Do you want a prize for reading to the end? You deserve a prize.

As it stands now, I can’t imagine too many people are going to be wildly encouraged by anything I wrote. If you happen to be, please let me know.

Much love,

15 thoughts on “vulnerable

  1. Charmaine

    Be encouraged! We all struggle and life is never that easy. Take time in your day to focus on your health, your not much good to anyone when you feel ill. Create a food plan for the week (breakfast, lunch and dinner…even snacks) then do your grocery shopping. This helped me a lot. Plus Cambodia has lots of amazing fresh fruit and vegetables 😊 Just make sure to wash your produce

  2. Kim

    Poor diet is one factor, but stress is huge as well….I know both of those are crazy hard to address, but you need to take care of your temples. Praying there will be breakthrough in one or both of those areas.

  3. Tug Taviano

    “–Gabe and I both grew up in extended families that would both consider themselves very much Christian, very much Jesus-following, but are very very very much racist (they would most likely deny this). Being in Cambodia (and missing out on all the family reunions/holidays) makes this easier, frankly, but we will see them all next summer and cannot avoid this forever.”

    I am going to be vulnerable as I usually am as well. I guess I do not see anyone that is actually racist in our family (if the Taviano/Conrad side is the one you are talking about). I say this out of actual love, as disagreements upon opinions always happen.

    I actually have thought about this for a while, and what I do see is people that have clowned around about race, as we all have friends with other skin tones, who do the same with us who happen to be white. I seriously cannot stand the fact that you would remotely consider our family (again if you are not talking about the Taviano/Conrad side, I apologize) racist. For that statement is filled with judgment of those people as well, which Christ is firmly against, if we call ourselves Christians. Judgment is in the hand of Christ, and all we are to do is love…FAMILY included.

    Any one of our family at the drop of a hat would help someone, no matter the skin color, race, religion, and sexuality. Do I agree with homosexuality, nope. Do you agree with America, nope. Do I have normal, healthy conversations with “friends” that are homosexuals…YES.

    I am no better than anyone, but I sometimes feel that posting about family on a blog, about an issue you have with them, is not something that I should be silent on. If there are issues, go to that person, or people, or family, before they are potentially all tied into the one statement of the “FAMILY being racist”. I live over here, with that family and extended family (again, if this is not about the taviano/conrad side, I apologize) who I see, and talk to on a regular basis and do not see any hint of racism whatsoever. There are some that do not call themselves Christians, that may not have HIS love at the root of their heart, but the ones that are “VERY MUCH JESUS FOLLOWING” as you say, love the heck out of people very well.

    Sometimes, I do not understand the difference or what is worse between JUDGMENT and RACISM, but as your brother in law, I do not like either. I also love my family (you) and my extended family so much, that I desire to speak truth into all, even when it is hard.

    I am sorry that you feel that you have to avoid our family while you are home…..I think there was possibly 3 days, if that that our families were around each other last year. To think that you are going to stress about that for the next year, that does not make sense to me. I hope that I get to spend major time with my brother next summer, for I looked forward to last summer for 2 years!

    If you would like to continue the conversation on here, that is fine, or you can message me. I simply did not want to leave a post about my family in a public forum without a defense from someone who lives around them all the time.

    Love you!

  4. Cyndee

    Life is hard everywhere. Mama-ing is hard everywhere. Doing those things in Cambodia just makes it harder. And then all the nonsense you’ve been through. I don’t know, I feel like your stomach SHOULD hurt! Will continue to pray for you and yours. Wish I could do more in a practical sense.

  5. Donna Lohr

    It seems to me, and I could certainly be wrong, that because of the heart you have for justice and loving God’s vulnerable people, you would be having the same feelings/issues no matter where you lived. Does that make sense? Loving like you do is hard and draining…and then there is dinner to be dealt with every day. Even Jesus grew weary. Rest when you can…plan for that rest…
    You are an inspiration to many, but you would still be an inspiration if you lived in the wilds of say, West Virginia. 🙂

  6. Kim

    Your honesty, openness and vulnerability are encouraging. Relationships are messy, complicated and often times hard, especially family relationships. Church is supposed to be a place of safety and unfortunately quite often it isn’t. I was a recipient of verbal and spiritual abuse by a member of church leadership. It was handled poorly by the church.
    “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon Him for you are His personal concern.” 1 Peter 5:7

  7. Gloria

    I am encouraged by almost everything that you write, and certainly by this. I am encouraged by your vulnerability and authenticity; by your heart for people and for Jesus; by your courage and conviction to remain obedient in the face of hardship and what is truly emotional trauma; and by your willingness to speak out against injustice. Love you!

  8. Sharon

    Marla, I am always thankful for any insight into what is going on and for your words. Continuing to send prayers for you all.

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