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Monday, January 15, 2018

Number 8: New Beginnings!

Click on the picture to enlarge

Today we celebrate our eighth anniversary of being here in Thailand. 
Over the years, I have been reflective about our journey and you can check out some of those past posts by clicking on the links below:


8 years ago!
1 Year
2 Years
3 Years
4 Years
5 Years
6 Years
7 Years



The number 'eight' is a special number. It is the number of "New Beginnings!"

There are 7 days in a week but the eighth day is a brand new beginning to a new week of new opportunities and new possibilities! And that's what I am claiming over this year ahead.

We are excited about what God is going to do this year at both ZOE and in our personal lives.


Thank you for supporting us these past eight years and for your continued prayers for our family.






Monday, January 1, 2018

2018... My One Word

Happy New Year!

Our house is currently a huge mess…
There’s a tent drying in the lounge room and sleeping bags scattered all over the floor, an ice box is in the passage way and backpacks are leaning against the tubs of packed (but not yet put away) Christmas decorations. The washing machine is on and camping mats are creating an obstacle course around the first-aid kit and the left over snacks!  But this ‘mess’ represents an unforgettable two days away camping that even the most disorderly house cannot take away. 

Now three quiet, exhausted children who last night squealed, ran, hid and played-hard for hours in the dark, sleep peacefully. 

As they toasted marshmallows and shared their memories from the year just past as well as their hopes and dreams for the one ahead, I was reminded how blessed I am to be their mother.  I reflect on the night, sitting around the mesmerising campfire, listening to them giggle and chatter and reminisce - all the while making the last few, lasting, memories in the final hours of 2017.

It’s been an interesting year.  The 5 of us each chose one word to describe it. 
‘Unexpected’, ‘Jam-packed’, Trust, Challenging and F-ard (Fun + Hard)!!

I laughed as my kids reenacted my most embarrassing moments but also listened in amazement when one of them shared a really embarrassing thing that had happened to them, being vulnerable, open and honest.  When I stop dwelling on all the areas that they need improvement in, I get to see the evidence of the growth they’ve experienced this past year. I really am so thankful. 

The word I chose wasn’t ‘f-ard’ but actually the more I think about it, I believe it does sum up this past year quite well. There have been incredibly fun moments and there have also been tremendously hard ones but through all these challenges and unexpected twists and turns, we have definitely all grown in our trust in God. 

I read an email yesterday entitled ‘What is My One Word?’
Last year my one word was ‘Brave’ – but that’s a whole different blog post!

It was this quote, in the email, that caught my eye though and spoke straight to my heart.

PAUSE. My word for the year is PAUSE. In my busy life there are so many times I need to pause. Pause to remember these days, for they will fly by so quickly. Pause to say yes … and no. Pause to give thanks. Pause before I speak in anger, judgment, or criticism. Pause to say I’m sorry. Pause to dwell on God’s goodness and mercy.

And so as I head into 2018, I choose to focus on the growth, developed in trusting God and leave behind the disappointments, failures and unmet expectations.
I remind myself {once again} to embrace hope, joy and love.  
And this year I want to take on the word PAUSE, taking time to slow down, pray more, reflect and be thankful.
A friend sent me a message this week that said, “I was touched by the Emmanuel song at church- God coming down to be with us in our messy lives…”

How lovely to be reminded that He is with us through it all {especially in the f-ard!!}. 

This huge, amazing waterfall was a short walk from where we camped.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Time to Treasure

It’s December! It’s been an eventful month with school concerts, parties, carolling and Christmas events.  We also had my parents visit us and excitedly celebrated Eliana’s 11th birthday.  
She was our Christmas baby. 

After writing a short piece for our church advent devotional, I wanted to incorporate some of it here too in the hope that it would encourage you at this busy time of year. 

Around the time of all my children’s birthdays, I usually remember back and reflect on the events that surrounded their birth.

I was recently reminded of when I went into labour with Tobi and when the unexpected occurred… I needed an emergency c-section!  The medical staff spun into action around me, making the journey from delivery room to surgery fast.

Rushing is necessary sometimes!

As we approach Christmas Day, and remember our Saviour’s birth, I am again reminded of the events leading up to His birth.

As Mary rode uncomfortably on the donkey’s back, there must have been a sense of urgency, to get to Bethlehem as quickly as possible.

I imagine, upon arrival, the climate intensified as they kept being turned away, searching for a place to stay.

“There’s no room here” yet another innkeeper replied.
“Please hurry Joseph” Mary’s eyes pleaded in panic.
“I’m trying Mary… ” Joseph quietly soothed, desperately racing to knock on the next closed door. “We need a room quickly.”

Reflecting on my own life, I can identify with those “rushing” moments of medical emergencies, racing through airports to make connecting flights, border-runs, visas needing urgent approval, Christmas shopping… the list goes on.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
(Luke 2:19 NIV)


Despite the urgency of Mary’s situation, we read that she had this beautiful way of treasuring things in her heart, of remembering, and thinking about them deeply.  Through the unexpected twists and turns of her life, Mary slowed down enough to pause… to think and to consider. 

Maybe her mind couldn’t fully make sense of all God had planned, but instead of doubting what He was doing, she remained full of faith, trusting God through the ‘unknowns’ that lay before her. 

And so, this Christmas 2017 years on, I must remind myself again to stop rushing about and to simply treasure in my heart the most amazing, generous, miraculous gift of Jesus.

Even through my doubts and uncertainty I choose to remain full of faith and trust in God through the unknowns in life.  As we head into the New Year, let us ponder God’s good gift of grace and forgiveness.  

The Blessings of peace, the beauty of hope, the spirit of love, the comfort of faith… 
May these be your gifts this Christmas Season.

 

With much love from Andrea (and the rest of the Cross family: David, Tobiah, Eliana and Spencer).

Friday, November 10, 2017

Out With The Old

During the last school break, we designated one day as a family ‘work’ day in the garden. We had an area that needed to be totally stripped of the plantations that had been left to grow wildly-out-of-control there and, due to the fact that we were going to try to replant some of them elsewhere in the garden, we needed to uproot these plants relatively carefully.
It was ‘all hands on deck’ as we dug, pulled, sorted and bagged up the branches and stems that we weren’t keeping and set aside the ones we were.
Slowly the area that was once overgrown looked stark and bare in contrast to just a few hours earlier.
An empty space remained.
Everything that had once crowded and choked the soil was now gone.
There was another area of the yard that previously had nothing growing there. It’s an odd space since not much rain or sun hits the area.  We had decided to move some of our smaller plants that we’d had hanging indoors to this spot and give it a bit more life.
With careful hands we dug evenly spaced holes and prepared the ground for the new life it was about to receive. 

The words that kept coming to mind throughout the day were, ‘out-with-the-old and in-with-the new’.

Painfully, afterwards (my muscles were so sore) as I reflected on that day of gardening, I realised that it was not just physically exhaustion due to the effort required to remove the plants in such hot weather, but it was the mess, the time and the chaos of it all that struck me.
 
And strangely it echoed how life feels right now. 

To make room for new habits, new routines and new thinking, the old must be removed. 
Sometimes the painfulness of the pulling, the clearing and the sorting out is like a complete make-over; a stripping back of what has always been there, growing wildly-out-of-control.  The result after the uprooting, and the clearing-out is a stark, blank canvas… an open space… an empty basket.  It’s a new chance.

Although it’s hard and exhausting work, this ‘stripping away’ creates a chance to start again, to begin afresh.
It creates new opportunities to replant {more} deliberately this time. 
To consider what is best for this space, to make a decision with the benefit of hindsight and determine what should go in and what should not.

In this process there is a critical step in the middle that needs to be done. 
It is not even a step it is a ‘pause.’  It is a pause before the replanting begins that allows time for the preparation of the soil … for it is the condition of the soil that will ultimately affect the growth.

So quickly our lives can get completely overcrowded and out of control. 
How difficult it can be, in the busyness of life, to stop long enough to make a change for it’s in the stopping long enough that the starting to live more purposefully can begin. 


Monday, October 2, 2017

tur·bu·lence

You know, sometimes there are stories that can only be shared after a certain period of time has elapsed and some healing has occurred.
This is one of them!

“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. It looks like we've hit some unexpected turbulence and I'm going to turn on the seatbelt sign. The seat belt sign is now on. Please remain seated until the seatbelt sign goes off. Thank you.”

As someone who has struggled with motion sickness her-whole-life, these types of announcements make me instantly break out in a cold sweat.

On our last day in Australia, I had intentionally reduced my caffeine intake, sipped water all day, eaten healthy food, taken my travel sickness medication and of course prayed, but then as the plane made its way into the air… the dreaded “turbulence” announcement rang through the cabin loud and clear. 

I decided to avoid the food they were bringing around for dinner but even still, the combination of the food smells and onset of unsteady movement in the plane was enough to set me off on a path of a VERY-MISERABLE-JOURNEY back home to Thailand. 

After about 5 hours of continuous vomiting, I staggered unsteadily off the first flight, spare sick bags tucked into my pockets. It was as we departed the plane though that the unexpected occurred, our youngest shrieked a panicked cry; he too was feeling sick. We grabbed a spare bag and not losing pace with the rest of the passengers departing the flight, we held it for him as we all kept walking and he lost the contents of his last meal. Poor guy. 

At the airport in-between flights, all I could do was to be still.  I was weak and every part of my body ached.  Finding a spot on the floor, I lay down, exhausted and drifted in and out of a state of dehydrated, distressed sleep. 

Waiting till the last minute, my family gently guided me to the next flight but I already had a terrible feeling that this one was not going to be much different to the last.  But I was wrong… IT WAS SO MUCH WORSE! Not only was I sick for the whole flight but so were TWO of my children!  Poor Dave! He lost count of how many times he had to go and ask for more bags. 

Just when we thought we would be stuck in the air feeling nauseated forever, we finally touched down and stumbled weakly off the plane. Lacking strength and energy we tried to focus on the fact that we were almost home.

Making our way through immigration and baggage, we exited the airport and found a songthaew to take us the twenty-minute or so ride home.  Through the winding streets and familiar city sites, we all stared unemotionally out the back of the truck until we were eventually dropped out the front our house. 

As we unlocked the front gate and started to haul the suitcases to the door one-by-one, there it was…. the final, depressing, reminder of what had been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Our youngest threw up all over the front door step. Yep. We’d made it home!

But, as you know, “turbulence” doesn’t just strike on planes though either.  
This season has definitely seen some turbulent times for our family. Unsteadiness, uncertainty and a bumpy ride have jolted and stretched us in ways that we have not experienced before. 

And there have been days when the words “BE STILL” in the command “Be still and know that I am God” have gripped me in the same way like at the airport that day when I literally had to be still.  

That day, I needed to be ‘physically’ still, to block out all the other noises and movement and activity around me. But sometimes the noises and the distractions around us are people’s comments, the enemy’s lies, or our own insecurities or unmet expectations.  Sometimes the movement and the activities are distractions like a lack of boundaries or over commitment or not letting go.  In the end, it’s all the same.  We must eventually be still.

Being still is a bit like saying, I will not pay attention to the storm going on around me but I will trust in you God.  
Being still cannot be done in front of a computer screen, on our phone or in the crowded places of our lives. 

If we will not be still voluntarily, then sometimes it will take a big shaky dose of turbulence to get our attention and have us crawling into a still, small, quiet place alone to understand and know, “HE is God”.  Not us. 

We are doing a six-week study at church and in our small groups right now called ‘God’s Grand Story’.  After finishing our chapters on Moses and the Israelites, I was telling a friend about my journaling the other day. 

I had written, “I hope that through our family’s wilderness experiences that we really truly learn the lessons that God would have us learn in the desert. That we would not miss the ‘Promised Land’ of what God has for us next and that we would grow in our trust and obedience to Him”.  

I love the lyrics in Lauren Daigle’s song “Trust In You”.  How challenging to think that no matter whether God answers our prayers in the way we want him to or not, that we would fully trust in Him. 

Let’s find time this week to BE STILL in the turbulence.


Trust In You (Lauren Daigle) 

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see
I try to win this war
I confess, my hands are weary, I need Your rest
Mighty warrior, king of the fight
No matter what I face You're by my side
When You don't move the mountains
I'm needing You to move
When You don't part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don't give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You
Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There's not a day ahead You have not seen
So let all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Finding Joy in the Journey

Part 1
Ninja Whinger Warrior

We arrived home on Saturday, after being away for over two months.  From driving up north of Thailand to then flying down south of Thailand, we then headed over to Sydney and Melbourne and then back to Chiangmai.  It’s been quite the adventure with a mix of relaxation and “working holiday” [now there’s an oxymoron!]

In the beginning of June, we could see our family holiday time approaching, but just making it over the finish line for the end of school felt like completing a round of Ninja Warrior (…with a limp) and many obstacles.

The day before school was finished for the year, our daughter split her lip open and needed a couple of visits to the local hospital. Then someone hit Dave on his motorbike and drove away.  And so, with food being baked for class parties, teacher gifts, friend’s gifts and all the final goodbyes; we started wondering if we were ever going to get on the road to go.

Heading up north, through winding roads, the complaints of swollen lips and feeling carsick were silenced by quiet prayers as the brakes on our car suddenly overheated on a downhill slope. We all held our breath and when eventually Dave cautiously proceeded (after letting them cool down) we hoped and prayed that we would make it on to our destination safely.

With the car brakes working again, we set off once more through the hills until finally we arrived at our hotel.  Glad to be safe and out of the car, we unloaded our bags and found our rooms, only to discover that the hotel was actually not going to be a suitable place to stay {insert sad face here}.

You can imagine how disheartened we were by now and so through language barriers and phone-negotiations with Agoda, the challenges of the Ninja Warrior obstacle course began again as we loaded our cases back into the car and set off once more to find an alternative sleeping arrangement for the night.

As the evening wore on though, it became clear that the car of Ninja Warriors had transformed into the Whinger Warriors with three tired, hungry and disappointed children who, by now, just needed dinner and to know that they had a place to rest their weary heads for the night.

What a great lesson in trusting God!

After finding a restaurant and ordering, Dave slipped out from the table and headed across the road vanishing into the darkness. Appearing back some minutes later with a relieved look, a room booked and a place to sleep for the night… we were all very thankful, to say the least. The next day we would look more carefully and book somewhere for the remainder of our stay but at least we knew we had a bed for one night!
Some highlights:














Part 2
Beauty and the Feast

Down south of Thailand is just so beautiful. Ironically, after our next booked accommodation did not work out either (a dodgy house booked through airbnb this time) but we stumbled upon a hotel on the beach with reduced prices because they were going through a major renovation. We were right on the beach and our room was far enough away from the construction that we couldn’t hear all the banging. The sand was just a few feet away and the place included a great breakfast too- thank you God. It really was beauty and the feast!!

With the exception of a few jellyfish stings on the first day: the beach, the weather, the food and the water were all amazing. We truly enjoyed our precious family time here swimming, boogie boarding, playing cards and just relaxing.

Highlights:







Part 3
The Roads to Rhodes

Our next destination was Rhodes for a mix of work-related engagements (speaking at two churches) as well as spiritual refreshment (attending the Hillsong Conference).  And, yes, we did see Justin Bieber!!
The weather in Sydney was cold but the sunny-blue skies made it appealing to be outside.  The amazing sights of the Sydney Harbour and the coast had us all falling in love with this part of Australia and of course it was fun to show the kids the Bridge and the Opera House.  The people who we spent time with at both Narara Valley and Kiama are all such wonderful, warm, generous and welcoming people. It was a blessing to have this time together.

Highlights:









Part 4
The Blizzard of Oz!


We’re off to see the Blizzard, the wonderful Blizzard of Oz! ♫

Well Sydney had helped us adjust a little bit to the winter weather, but the cold winds of Melbourne definitely felt like ice as we landed at the airport of our final destination.

“I've a feeling we're not in Kansas Thailand any more.” 

Home to so many of our friends and family, we were thankful for such a warm welcome with not only Dave’s parents there to pick us up but also one of our nephews, and Dave’s grandmother as well!

Throughout the four weeks in Melbourne, it was an honor to share with six different church groups, a youth group and a missions group.   On top of that, Dave also shared at six schools and met with several people who have pledged to help ZOE in significant ways. God is good!

Throughout all the bookings, we did manage to see family, have medical check ups, walk on the beach, go to the library, watch Australian TV (yes that’s a novelty for us) and eat way too much pizza!

Saying goodbye never gets easier!  There is some truth in the Wizard’s words to the Tin Man.

“You want a heart! You don't know how lucky you are not to HAVE one! Hearts will NEVER be practical until they can be made unbreakable.”

So, yes, we arrived home on Saturday, after being away for over two months.  From the north to the south of Thailand to Sydney and Melbourne but I must say, it felt good to be back home.

I’ll finish with one more Wizard of Oz quote:

“Toto, we're home. Home! And this is my room, and you're all here…
and - oh, Auntie Em - there's no place like home!”

Thanks for reading and keeping updated with our family.  We do love your encouraging emails and messages. And please do stay in touch!

Melbourne Highlights: