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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Off the Beaten Track


We went on a hike last weekend with friends. It's always amusing to see all the different personalities emerge and watch all of our individual ways of handling this kind of adventure, or challenge, as it is for some.

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson 


Some of us love the wild and unpredictable, the idea of getting lost, the places where there is no path and the challenge of the unmarked journey. Others of us like to know the plan, how long the journey will take, where we can we stop and what snacks there are to eat... You get the picture!

What fascinates me though is how we relate to 'life' in general, does not always correspond to how we approach a hike. Take me, for example. In general, I do like to know the plan. I try to be organised and prepared. I like to be punctual and complete tasks within a set time frame. But on a hike the thought of getting lost excites me, the fact that we don't know which way we're going or what time we'll finish brings out the care-free side of me and it's refreshing to be reminded that there are times when it's okay not to rush... to know... or to have a plan. And sometimes it takes getting off the beaten track to be reminded of that.  


 "Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt." 
- John Muir 

I must say, I really enjoyed the hike. I mean I was so hot and sweaty by the end, sometimes my muscles ached and the long grass against my skin made me itchy. But this road less travelled, was a moment in time to be surrounded by nature and see interesting bugs and creatures in their natural environment (instead of my kitchen for a change). And to be lost... lost in the physical sense of not really knowing which direction we were going but lost in thoughts too. And sometimes that's exactly when everything starts to make more sense and become clearer. It's like we get a new way to see everything.

How often do we make time to wander, to explore and to connect in this different way? I know I don't do it nearly enough but I loved the opportunity to disconnect and clear my mind of the normal, every-day stresses. And I know it's something our family need to do more often.


"Maybe the best moment of your life will be on your next big adventure." 
- Siya Zarrabi

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Few Good Men

You want the truth? You can't handle the truth! 

It's the famous line from the play A Few Good Men later made into a movie in 1992 starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore. It was also performed as a play again by some very talented students at my children's school last week. Our son made an appearance too as one of the lesser known lawyers as well as a marine soldier and he had a fantastic time being a part of the cast.
~
Yesterday started off in such a lovely way. My children let me sleep in which was so kind but not only that, just before 9am, my daughter brought me pancakes in bed. Unfortunately it was about that time that the day started to go rapidly downhill... You want the truth?

As I started eating pancakes in bed, my daughter informed me that she had discovered our little dog outside with a baby bird in his mouth surrounded by adult birds swooping him and crying loudly. As I sleepily made my way to where the incident had taken place, I could see the baby bird motionless under the tree and the other birds were sitting up on the roof still wailing loudly, my heart broke. How sad! Shortly after our dog started barking loudly at something in the laundry. Erg, what now?
I watched the dog as he used his paw and pulled a plastic box that had garbage bags in it off the low shelf and just as he did... out ran a rat! Seriously? So disgusting! You may remember the last time I saw a rat in this house

So I hate rats... I really do. Even as I write this 24 hours later, I am still looking over my shoulder at the slightest noise. Sadly Dave wasn't home when I saw the rat which reduced the number of the Few Good Men in this house by one, and the other two 'young men' seemed to have mysteriously disappeared to their bedrooms leaving just 'Two Good Women' to sort out the rat problem.

And sort it out we did! My daughter and I made a strategic plan. We knew it had scampered into the room next to laundry which is a small storage room with the deep freezer and refrigerator in it and a shelf for the school bags etc.  We pulled the shelf out and blocked the door way with it so the rat was trapped in the room. We moved the fridge/ freezer out from the wall to allow enough room for our dog to get in and around the back and then we released the hound!

It took a lot of waiting as the rat had managed to make its way into a small compartment at the back of the fridge. Using the light from my phone, we could see his tail hanging down and so could our dog! Eventually after much poking and prodding, the rat made a move and the chase was on... dog vs rat.

I won't share the rest of the gory details... I can't handle the truth!
Needless to say, that rat is no longer living in this house (or any house).

I felt traumatised but I do think the whole experience drew my daughter and I closer as we had to solve this problem together. 

After cleaning up, putting everything back in its place and making myself a coffee, I realised that it was now way past lunch time so my daughter and I set to work with the next task, making lunch. 

I'd had enough drama for one day however who knows, that's often not how it works, right? After lunch, I heard the kids screaming that they'd found ticks on our dog which lead us to begin operation "de-ticking". It's a 2-3 person job and not a pleasant one. As we carefully held our dog down and removed the ticks one by one with tweezers the minutes turned to hours.

Eventually after that was over, I put a movie on for the kids and made dinner. 
As I tucked the kids into bed last night, and had to kill a cockroach that had flown in and was sitting on their bedroom dresser, I started to think about yet another quote from A Few Good Men, 
"I STRENUOUSLY object". But no... "Overruled". 
#thejoysofparenting
As I finally sat down at my computer to try to get some "work" done, the kind that requires you to concentrate, uninterrupted... I encountered another setback, I was so jumpy by then that every little noise in the house had my heart racing. I just couldn't handle it anymore, as I went to crawl into bed, I realised that I had not even had a shower and I was still in the shorts and tank top I'd slept in the night before. 
You want the truth? 

As I said, I can't even handle the truth!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Grand Opening


In February we celebrated the Grand Opening of our brand new Child Rescue Centre. We were so honoured to have so many world changers come and join us.

Having been asked to help on the photography team for the day, gave me the chance to observe this memorable occasion through the camera’s viewfinder - in a whole new light. Helping to capture this unforgettable milestone in ZOE’s history gave me the opportunity to zoom in and fix my attention on just what a significant event was actually taking place.


As each guest and VIP arrived, I was able to focus on the faces of the many incredible people who have critical roles and positions in partnering and collaborating with ZOE as we, together, fight child trafficking.



ZOE founder Michael Hart's speech exposed what our work is all about:

"Everyone here has an important role in making 
this place a refuge for children in Thailand. 
 These beautiful buildings would be only an empty shell, 
if they did not have the people who are 
dedicated to rescuing and restoring child victims. 
 All of us here today, can turn these rooms 
into 'safety' 'peace' and 'hope' for each child. 
 We are on the same team, playing different positions, 
but we all fight for victory on behalf of the children we serve."

And while the Grand Opening felt like it was over in a flash, the real work of rescuing and caring for children is not. Thank you for joining with us in this fight and celebrating the opening of this building so crucial for the next stage in rescuing children.



You may have seen the quote, “Life is like a camera. Focus on what's important. Capture the good times. Develop from the negatives. And if things don't work out, just take another shot.”

Unlike cameras, where we can ‘just take another shot’, in life, we only get the ‘one shot’ to make a difference. Let’s continue to work together to expose child trafficking and focus on helping these precious children, one at a time.




Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Buffet of Life

Last Saturday we went out with some of the other missionaries to show them a local restaurant that we really like. This place is definitely not fancy but it serves an especially delicious northern Thai curry called gaaeng hang laeh muu. It’s the sort of dish that we never need a big portion of because the flavours are so intensely deep and rich that one small serve shared between two people provides enough taste to linger in your mouth and remind you of how satisfying it was for the next few hours. We never leave feeling bloated or too full but {I’m not exaggerating} hours later we can still be heard uttering, “That curry was so delicious!”

I appreciate this dish all the more since trying to make it myself a few times. It’s quite an effort with a long list of ingredients combining spices and being slow-cooked for a substantial amount of time, to release a wonderfully subtle combination of all the flavours.  
When made correctly… seriously! There are no words!

This past December, I looked at our calendar with all the upcoming events that our family had either been invited to or were asked to be a part of through work, school, friendships, church and extra curricular activities.  It was a lot.  

Granted, I am an introvert but I really started to feel overwhelmed by it all. The most difficult part was that when I sat down to look at what each thing was {in order to cut a few things out} I was surprised to notice that they were all really ‘good’ things. Not one of the things, in isolation, was a waste of time, unnecessary or seemed unenjoyable, but all of them together… was simply too much. 

I was explaining to a friend how I don’t like to get to the end of a busy week packed with ‘good’ things and not even be able to remember what I did a few days earlier.  After an event I want to ‘savor’ it and make space to ‘digest’ it within our family.  I want to give my heart time to respond and to block out the noises that so often deafen me from hearing what it was I needed to learn through each experience. 

I have come to appreciate the beauty of the Thai culture that really stops and sits to eat together and in contrast I feel saddened by the western ‘drive-through’ influence - where food is consumed on-the-way-to wherever… while rushing to the “next thing”.

Having time to “chew on”, “mull over” and reflectively appreciate the moments in life - just like that curry - has become so much more appealing to me than the all-you-can-eat buffet of an overcrowded life.  The buffet, from a distance, may aesthetically seem more appealing but soon enough you’re left feeling so full, you can’t even remember the first thing you ate. There is nothing wrong with the individual dishes, they’re all delicious, but later the flavours have all mixed into one and the satisfaction that you thought you might have by the end is tainted by the bloated feelings that leave you feeling like you never want to eat again!

For parents, how do we then help to navigate our children through this “buffet” style-of life, guiding them as they grow up with all-you-can-eat opportunities? How do we effectively and deliberately model a reflective and sensitive approach to life? 

I believe that it is something that we must fight to do ourselves first in order to model it to our children.  If I can’t insert “pauses” into my own life that allow me to joyfully experience and reflectively savour the tastes of my day and week, then how can I direct my children faced with every distraction and opportunity laid before them to be able to do the same?  How can I teach my kids that yes, the buffet may all look good, but that does not mean it must all be consumed? 

Recently, I shared that my word for 2018 was “PAUSE”. 

I want to pause in order to remember these days that fly by so quickly.
I need to pause to give my best yes … and a careful no.
I choose to pause to give thanks.
I must pause before I speak in anger, judgment, or criticism.
I will pause to say I’m sorry.
I desire to pause to dwell on God’s goodness and mercy.

In an environment where smorgasbords abound and they all look so appealing, it can be hard for all of us to say no to opportunities, invitations and new ideas.  But when we become too busy {even doing good things} we crowd out our ability to ‘pause’ and hear God’s voice and we miss out on the intensely deep and rich moments in life.

I guess, as the saying goes, sometimes less is more.

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).