Thursday, November 21, 2019

The (Un) Amazing Race

We don't watch 't.v.' here (although we do have Netflix) but in the past, my all-time favourite show was The Amazing Race. I loved watching it to see which countries the teams would go to - especially when it was somewhere I'd been. 

Recently while away at women's retreat, one of my friends told me that the Event Co-ordinator had told her that The Amazing Race was coming to the resort the following day (Sunday). We had actually watched an Amazing Race episode before where the teams came to Chiang Mai, and people we knew saw them at the airport. 

So, when I heard this, I was SO excited! Our retreat finished after lunch on Sunday and I had some flexibility before I had to be at church at 4pm so I was hoping to spot something before I left. I envisioned seeing a clue box, detour, the pit stop mat, teams, camera crew... anything really!

So after lunch, I went to the lobby to check out. I repeated AGAIN about how cool it would be to see The Amazing Race. Just then, my friend spotted something behind us... a team!!!!

Eeeiick! I couldn't believe it. I noticed that they were wearing Amazing Race t-shirts so I grabbed my phone and took this photo.


"Let's go follow them!" I said to my friend, but since she's never even watched the show, she did not look the least bit interested. 
We parted ways and she started walking off to her car and I watched the team get away... {sigh}
Determined not to miss the opportunity for an exciting adventure, I start walking back to my car to dump my belongings so that I could go investigate.
Just then, I spotted a different friend packing her car. I started to explain that the Amazing Race were around somewhere and asked if she wanted to come stalk them with me? 
She said YES!! And then we saw them again!! I started hyperventilating and asked the a team for their photo. Then, I noticed that their t-shirts had some Chinese writing on them. "Oh it must be the Chinese version of the Amazing Race" I told myself.
Who looks more excited? LOL!

And then, off they went again... looking for clues or something!!

Knowing that the resort is big, I suggested to my friend that we ride bikes to get around faster. We set off, giddy with excitement (okay maybe that was just me).

As we rode around scanning the manicured gardens and paths for signs of the competition, we saw some guys up ahead of us, who looked like 'the crew'.
"Are you guys with the Amazing Race" we asked as we pulled up on our bikes. 
"YES!" they replied, "Well... it's a modified version of the race". 
"Can we take your photo?" I asked.

O.K. Yes. I was acting like a bit of a star struck teenager! I know.

So we kept riding around, still surprised that we hadn't seen other teams or the camera crew yet. As we turned around a corner, I spotted a 'challenge'. It looked like teams must have had to scoop animal poop until they reached a certain weight. COOL!



Getting back on our bikes, we kept laughing and searching. Finding one more team (who did not look rushed...hmmm) and evidence of another completed challenge. We were surprised that there was still no 'real' activity or a camera crew.



Eventually, satisfied that there was nothing more to see, we concluded that this "modified" version of the Amazing Race must have been for a Chinese television show or something.

Upon returning home and telling my family about my little adventure, I showed the envelope that I'd found on the ground to my daughter who used Google translate on her phone and then sent the writing to her Chinese friend to translate. We found out that this  whole "amazing" race was actually just organized by a Chinese school and was actually not that amazing after all!! 

Why am I sharing this story? To embarrass myself? Haha. No!
As I was thinking back over this funny experience (I guess you had to be there) it made me reflect on how so much of my time and energy is often taken up "chasing" after things that are not all they seem to be, that do not satisfy or that aren't even the 'real deal'. 

What, at first, sounded to me like the Amazing Race, ended up being so...un-amazing! It seems I had actually been following after something that failed to be what I thought it was.

And it made me question, in real life, what things do I need to stop chasing after this week in order to stay on my course? How can I forget what is behind... refocus, ignore distractions, and strain toward what is ahead? 

If this week you got distracted and ended up going down a wrong path, chasing after the wrong thing or mistakenly thought the modified version was the real thing... Pick yourself back up! Get back on track. It's never too late for the real AMAZING RACE to begin again. 


Phil 3:12 (TPT) I admit that I haven’t yet acquired the absolute fullness that I’m pursuing, but I run with passion into his abundance so that I may reach the purpose that Jesus Christ has called me to fulfill and wants me to discover.  I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead. I run straight for the divine invitation of reaching the heavenly goal and gaining the victory-prize through the anointing of Jesus.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Full & Good



I can tell already that this post is going to be messy... I have so much to share and yet it seems like too much time has passed now to cover it all. Sorry if I jump around!

Life is full. God is good.

Recently I wrote a post over on the ZOE blog called The Gift of a 'Work in Progress'. 
As an Enneagram Type 7 person I like to experience life to the fullest, but I avoid pain. So the idea of entering into chaos and mess is often not natural for me. But God is helping me to enter in more fully and “be” with others in the same way that He is with me. 
As a Type 7, I also get bored easily which is why I like excitement and trying out new things. Sometimes it might mean that I leave things unfinished though as I move onto something new... which is why I started this post a while ago and it was never completed. 
Yes! I'm sure this explains a lot about me :) 

Life is full.
Way back in September I had a quick trip back to Australia for the Geography Teachers' Association of Victoria (GTAV) conference in Melbourne. Sharon and I were representing ZOE handing out and sharing with teachers all about our updated Year 10 curriculum. We passed out 100 USB sticks to different Geography teachers from schools all over the state, and heard many positive comments from teachers who were already using it in their schools.

At ZOE, I work as part of the International Communication Team, which means I collect and share stories about what God is doing. As ZOE grows, our team aims to be able to support our coworkers in Australia, Thailand, USA, Japan and Mexico.  I love this role because it is quite diverse. From developing guidelines, collaborating on projects, to collecting stories, writing creatively etc.  The role entails meeting with local and foreign staff in order to gather information and news to make posts for the international website. I am also working on tasks like the Thailand Quarterly Report, International Annual Report, Australian social media pages etc. amongst other things.



During the times when I'm not at ZOE, I am still attending Thai language classes two mornings a week (slowly.... slowly).  I have also enjoyed serving at our local church a bit more. For the past few months, I was able to help on a committee for the annual women’s retreat here in Chiang Mai. It was a wonderful experience. I have also helped out by writing a couple of devotionals for our church's Christmas Advent devotional, as well as ushering/ serving communion once a month.

God is good.
The women's retreat was a wonderful opportunity to spend more time with seven other women from ZOE who also attended. It was a peaceful weekend with periods of restful meditation, times of learning, many hearty laughs and sweet conversations with friends. It truly was such a joy-filled time and a real blessing.


Our family is growing (upwards). Our eldest son was shorter than me in June and then taller than me in July! And it happened that quickly. Our daughter will be 'officially' a teenager next month and our youngest is becoming more and more independent with each passing day -despite the fact that I keep trying to hang on to 'my baby'. 

11 year old boys making pizza!
These past months for our kids have been full of sports-tryouts, birthday parties, auditions, youth group, games, rehearsals, tournaments, projects, lots of homework, friends over and rich discussions about as much as possible. These times are precious and tiring but oh how proud I am of the people they are becoming. I go to bed late and exhausted but with a full heart of thankfulness for all God is doing in each of their lives. I am blessed.

Really - I have no idea how to parent teenagers. Seriously!! It is the most wonderful and challenging of experiences. But these are very precious times not to be wasted. What a joy and honor to have this job.  I often have this feeling like I'm fumbling around blindfolded and I have to carefully find my way around in the dark.  It's causing me to have to rely on my other senses more. Even when I can't "see" what God is doing, I am learning to tune in and hear His guiding voice more. And I know that His goodness and love surround me. Even when I'm not sure where the path ahead is, I can step out in faith knowing He will lead me as I trust Him.

See! I told you this post would be messy! But hey, life is messy... and marvelous all at once! May we fully enter in. 

"I’m so thankful that God gives us discernment and sensitivity to the needs around us so that at those times when we just want to walk around, go a different way, or avoid the chaos, He helps us to enter in and “be” with others in the same way that He is with us." 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Mango Tree

When we moved into our house, towards the end of last year, the landlord took us through each room, as well as outdoors, explaining everything he thought we might need to know.
Upon seeing a huge tree, propped up and hovering over the driveway – and dropping lots of leaves- we asked him what type of tree it was. He replied that it was a mango tree, and added that he thought it bore fruit for many months of the year. To say that we were excited at the thought of having an abundance of juicy, sweet mangoes was an understatement!! 

In the months that followed, as we swept those piles of falling leaves each day, we waited expectantly for the tree’s first sign of fruit.

Month after month we waited… until May this year when we suddenly started to spot them, high up on the branches, far from our reach. A few mangoes did eventually fall from the tree but, when they did, they were over-ripe or had evidence that a squirrel or two had already sampled them. 
My husband, not to be outdone by the squirrels, climbed up onto the carport roof with a makeshift, net-fruit-picker and recruited the rest of us to be ‘catchers’ down below. 


Waiting on the ground to seize the mangoes as they catapulted though the air from up high, we filled our buckets and baskets to overflowing. The warm temperature inside our house was the perfect climate to ripen the mangoes and 1-2 days after picking, they reached… perfection! We ate mango after mango, gave away mangoes and had enough to cut up and freeze as well.
The same week we hit the “mango jackpot”, my daughter discovered that the papaya tree in the backyard also had fruit ready to pick. So she decided to start making som-tum (green papaya salad). She’d leant how to make it at school and generously, kept offering to make it for lunch or dinner for our family. 
We all enjoyed eating as much as she would make us. It was so delicious.  One night after filling up on som-tum and our homegrown mangoes, I sent a message to a friend with a food photo saying: 

Then it hit me. The sudden realisation that here I was, relishing in the juicy fruits of two trees that I didn’t plant, nor had I watered when they were just sprouts in the ground, or pruned as saplings. In fact I hadn’t done any ‘work’ at all, well… except for sweeping all those leaves!!

Suddenly I began to wonder how many years ago those trees had been planted. Who had cared for them all this time? Who had helped them grow to maturity and strength, able to produce fruit and withstand the various weather elements?

And whilst I will probably never find out the answers to those questions, I suddenly saw a connection between that mango tree and ‘prayer’. Hear me out!
Sometimes we pray for people, healing, or for seemingly impossible situations to turn around, but we don’t see the answer until much, much later. Have you ever prayed about something but it took years until you saw it resolved?

Just like we were enjoying the fruit off a tree that we didn’t plant or care for, I realised that I was eating “answered prayer”… okay that sounds weird! 
What I mean is that, if prayer is like planting a seed, then continuing to pray is like watering it and receiving the answer is like eating the fruit. 
When it comes to big prayers like rescuing children from child trafficking or ending modern day slavery, although we hope to, we might never actually see the answer in our lifetime… but we can be the ones planting the tiny seeds. Let's continue to plant seeds and pray big, expectant prayers!

*During our 6 week trip back to Australia, we got to see many answers to prayers, but we also got to “plant” a lot of seeds too. You can read more about our trip back, here.


Oh... and this was our little dog, just before we moved house - helping me pack!!! 😒😊

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Cross Communication


My friend commented that it had been a long time since I had blogged here. It's true. She's right. But I haven't stopped writing. For work I write and I am also working on a second book which is taking me longer than I'd hoped. But I do apologise for the lack of 'Cross Family' updates.

I know, the title 'Cross Communication' could sound a bit like cross contamination but please don't go away and start washing your hands or sterilising your bench tops, let me assure you there should be no harmful effects caused by reading this post.

I love this picture above - the cactus flower. It depicts the way that prickly and beautiful share the same space. It's that idea that our imperfections... our mess... our rough edges, do not have to inhibit us from a beautiful life. Our family relationships, along with the amazing friendships we've formed over here, despite the prickles and pain are lovely and lasting reminders that indeed prickly and beautiful can coexist.

January: 
The first few months of this year were hard. I'll be honest.
The lowlight was that at the beginning of the year, our daughter slipped and fell down a curb and twisted her leg backwards. She was instantly in a lot of pain and many people came out of shops etc to try to help us as she had landed in a dangerous spot on the corner of a road. I am so grateful that at that time there was not much traffic and for the people who came to try to help us. Thankfully my husband Dave was able to bring the car quickly and pick us up within a few minutes.  After many hours in the ER, the x-rays showed that she had broken her leg and foot in 3 different places.

My reflections of this painful time in my daughter's life and her own personal journal entries will hopefully bring encouragement and comfort to others in future in a time of need (but that's a different post).

The highlight of the month was that we celebrated being in Thailand 9 years! Despite the broken leg, we were determined to acknowledge and commemorate the anniversary so we went out to eat, taking a guest we had in town along with us.
On arrival at the restaurant we bumped into a friend who we work with. Unbeknownst to us as we ate, she went to the front desk and paid for our entire meal, leaving us this note to find at the end. So sweet!!!

February:
6 weeks, after the accident, our daughter had a scheduled check up. We all had a bit of a shock though when the doctor said she still couldn't put any weight on her leg for another 3-4 months at least!!  We were all thinking she'd be able to manage starting to walk with the orthopaedic boot but the recovery process was going much slower than we had imagined. She was pretty shattered by the news but we focused on finding many things to be thankful for.  We were praying for her spirits to remain hopeful for healing and to continue to see God's hand on her situation.
Busy with school and sport. Both our boys played soccer at school this year and they enjoy different activities on the weekend including Drama and basketball.
But the highlight though, this month we celebrated 20 years of marriage! (One of our kids took this photo)
March:
Our daughter had an opportunity to represent her school at the National History Day, South Asia Regional competition, held in Singapore. She received a scholarship from her school which paid all the expenses. Her and I travelled to the competition from March 7-10th.  And yes, I ate a LOT of char kway teow!!!

 

On the other hand, let's just say the boys, who remained home, have never eaten so many nachos or ever been allowed to play quite so much Play Station as they did that weekend!!

The lowlight of March was the pollution which reached hazardous levels. School was cancelled several times. Even the school play Wind in the Willows, which our daughter was in, had to cancel performances and eventually the school decided to end for the April school holidays earlier than intended. We did a lot of staying indoors and wearing masks.

The highlight this month was having my parents arrive at the end of the month to visit us. Although we spent a great deal of the time indoors playing games and enjoying meals together, we did also get out to a couple of natural hot springs, a waterfall, prayer labyrinth, bowling, a movie and they even spoilt the boys one night with an hour at the trampolining park. All in all it was a special time together with lots of time to talk, laugh and share life together - which we never take for granted!

April:
During April the kids were on school holidays for two weeks. We minded our friend's little poodle which is always fun for us all and we had the chance to rest up before the busyness of the final term of school here. I also started back studying Thai after a somewhat-longer-than-expected break. It's been good to get back into it, have a laugh and learn some new vocabulary.




The highlight of April was that our daughter was told that she could begin to walk again. It was slow progress at first but bit by bit she is getting stronger every day. She has started physiotherapy which is helping her to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the broken bones but also to correct some walking style issues that have developed as a result of the ankle still being swollen and sprained from the fall. We praise God though that she is improving and will be able to gain full strength over time.

May:
The children have been busy with assignments due, test taking and learning lines before the end of the month. The older 2 are in a musical which will be performed at a local theatre in a couple of weeks. We can't wait to see the show. They've been rehearsing for many months now. 

Counting down till school's out... only 17 more days I think but we have mixed emotions as we say goodbye to several friends who will be leaving Thailand for good over the next few weeks.

June:
Well it's not June yet... but our family will be back in Australia in mid June and excited to catch up with friends, supporters and of course our families.


For more information about ZOE please go to:

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

So Come...

After a hard day at school or work, the location where we are free to be ourselves: to laugh, to cry, to reflect, to process and acknowledge our emotions and thoughts, is our home.

Usually we can try to ‘hold it together’ when people are relying on us, when we need to get our job done, finish a test, complete an assignment or manage our everyday tasks.  But for most of us, ‘home’, is a place of safe refuge, unconditional love and limitless acceptance – well it should be, right?

I was reminded recently about the children who ZOE has helped to rescue. 
When they arrive, they’ve generally had little-to-no control over their environment and circumstances so, understandably, they experience varying emotions from distrust, fear, shame and grief. They may also have injuries, be unwell or arrive addicted to substances.  

For them to understand that they have a reached a place where they are free to be who they were created to be, where they are loved and accepted for who they are, where wounds can heal and joy be restored… it’s an overwhelming experience and one that is often hard to believe.

As I stood in the Child Rescue Center recently, a place where the journey begins, I felt so tremendously grateful – not just for the beautiful buildings, gardens and facilities but for the amazing people who stand ready to embrace these precious children. 

This poem is about them.

SO, COME

Come with your tear streaked eyes,
Come with your loneliness,
Come with your abandonment,
Bring it. 
You are no longer alone.

Come with your hidden pain,
Come with your rejection,
Come with your silent anger,
Bring it.
You are no longer invisible.

Come with your shattered trust,
Come with your fears,
Come with your broken dreams,
Bring them.
You are no longer unheard.

Come with your scars,
Come with your shame,
Come with your unworthiness,
Bring them.
You will no longer be blamed.

Come with your silenced voice,
Come with your wounded heart,
Come with your numbing pain,
Bring them.
You are no longer imprisoned. 

Come with your chaos,
Come with your loss,
Come with your rejection,
Bring them.
You are welcome here.

And the longer you stay, 
The more you’ll begin to understand,
You are brave.
You are worthy.
You are incredible.
You are truly one of kind.

So, come.

*This poem speaks of the love and kindness that the ZOE staff display day-in and day-out to the ones who have never known and experienced ‘home’ before and the beautiful freedom that comes from being accepted and embraced, ‘just as they are’. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

I Can Wash These Clothes!


As my family and I left Thailand to travel to Australia this past July, I realised that it was not just people in Thailand but all over the world, who sat clinging to news reports updating the progress of rescuing 12 young boys who were lost and stuck in a flooded cave in Chiang Rai.

Even in Australia, the story was being followed on every radio and television channel and it felt like, across the globe, thoughts and prayers were focused on bringing those boys out to safety.

During the cave rescue mission, sadness and shock set in whenthe news came that Petty Officer Saman Gunan, former Thai navy diver, lost consciousness on his way out of the Tham Luang cave and died. He will be forever remembered and honored for his heroic efforts in the rescue mission.

There were many other heroes too, who the world may not remember or even know their names but who, behind the scenes, did their “one thing” to help. 

Rawinmart Luelert is a name you might not recognize. I stumbled upon her story quite by chance. Rawinmart has a factory with 14 washing machines and 15 dryers, and a business, which provides laundry services for hotels in her area. When her friend showed her photos of the rescue workers wearing dirty uniforms, she knew there was a way that she could help. Collecting the uniforms of rescue workers every night at 9pm, she gathered a team and worked for 10 straight days, returning the uniforms at 4am after cleaning them at her laundry.  

She shared her appreciation for her employees, volunteers, and friends who helped her work through the night to get the job done. One man, Suwan Kankeaw, who helped to wash the uniforms of the US Navy divers said,

“I don’t have the ability to 
get the kids out directly, 
but what I can do is 
wash these clothes.”

As I read about Rawinmart and Suwan’s stories along with other volunteers who for 12 days prepared 400 boxes of food for lunch and dinner each day… Or who provided foot massages or haircuts for the rescue team… the stories of these people stuck in my mind.

Recently at ZOE, the Next Gen team, who lead our children and youth, carefully planned their camp theme along the lines of “Out of the Darkness”. It paralleled the events surrounding the flooded cave rescue with the message of God’s love and His plan to bring us into His marvelous light. 

There were some powerful testimonies of children who chose to follow Jesus for the first time and others who recommitted to live out their faith boldly.  



At ZOE, not all of us directly rescue children from slavery. There are so many people working in many different teams with a range of tasks, but each of us has an area that we use our skills in to support the work of rescue and make a difference. 

Just like Suwan, who knew he wasn’t the one to get the boys out directly, we can take encouragement from him and so many of the other lesser-known heroes, by discovering what we CAN do – and then making a difference!



Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Power of Three

Have you got a favourite number? 
I don't really. 
For some reason though, the number 3 seems to come up a lot. 
I am one of three children. 
I have three children. 
And, strangely I often find myself at the supermarket subconsciously buying things in threes. 

Of course, for people with a Christian faith, the number 3 has significance. God being three in one (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
Peter denying Jesus three times (Luke 22:54-62). Jesus asking Peter three times if he loves him (John 21:15-17).

That is just to mention a few examples from the 467 times the number 3 is mentioned in the Bible!

When I recently heard a song by Hillsong, Young & Free from their newest album - named Three, the words of the song impacted me greatly and I was, once again, reminded how this significant number is in my life.
  
Maybe you know the old song, 'Jesus Loves Me'. 
Jesus loves me this I know, 
For the Bible tells me so. 
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong.

For me, its one of those of songs that feels like it's been a part of my life since before I can even remember. And as a parent, I can recall bed times when my children were much smaller - times when I had no words of comfort left of my own and all I could do was to stroke their hair gently and sing those lyrics quietly over them.   

Those beautiful words first appeared as a poem in the context of an 1860 novel, spoken as a comforting poem to a dying child, but the tune was added in 1862. After publication as a song it became one of the most popular Christian hymns in churches around the world, especially among children.

And now, this new version of the song is bringing fresh reminders for our family of those comforting and life-changing truths, speaking life and love into our lives during both the best and worst of days.
 
Jesus Loves Me
Hillsong Young & Free

It was just three words
But it changed my life
Just a childlike truth
That consumed my mind
From my life's first breath
Till the day I rise
All I need to know
Is this age old line

Jesus loves me this I know
Jesus loves me this I know
I won't forget the Bible says
That He loves me so

It was just three nails
That held Him on that cross
But God was not restrained
For He was there by choice
As He gave His life
For a world He loved
So the earth replied
In this age old song

Jesus loves me this I know
Jesus loves me this I know
I won't forget the Bible says
That He loves me so

It was just three days
But it changed our world
For when there seemed no way
From the grave He rose

Jesus loves me this I know
Jesus loves me this I know
I won't forget the Bible says
That He loves me so

As a parent, I have days when I feel like most of my conversations with my children involve, "You need to change that...", "More of this...", "Less of that...", "Don't do that...", "Do this..."
But at the end of the day when my advice, warnings, recommendations, commands and instructions are left ringing in their ears - all I really want my children to know is one thing... that I love them. 
When they're all grown up, more than anything else I want them to reflect back and know that they were loved. More than helping them with homework, more than baking yummy treats, more than the toys and clothes I bought them, more than the lectures, more than the acts of service, words of encouragement and physical affection... my heart cries out, "I love you!"

Three words.

I think that's what so special about this old song is that those three simple words sum everything else up, "Jesus Loves Me".

Maybe for some people, this message may be hard to accept. For some, it may seem inconceivable or unbelievable.

And if that's you... would you test it out this week? 

Simply, ask Jesus to show you His love.

It could be life changing... I know it has been for me. 

The power of three!
Read more here: https://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article1319649.html?x_cw_context_provider=safari#storylink=cpy