Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Letter~ Andie

Suksan Wan Christmas! Which means, “Merry Christmas” in Thai.  
Last year when we sent our Christmas letter, we had no idea that the year ahead would be so life changing.  Now as we write, we sit in a different house, just weeks away from heading out on a huge adventure to Chiang Mai.
As most of you would know, we are leaving in January to begin some volunteer work at ZOE Children’s Home in Thailand. 
The journey to get to this point has been a bumpy ride of faith and trust.  We are excited to be able to go and do this as a family and we look forward to seeing how it all turns out.
My role will initially be to support Dave and settle the children into our new home, the culture and their kindergarten.  Then as time passes, I will hopefully be able to take on some small tasks whereby I can either work from home or with Dave.
2009 has felt like an eventful year.  The children’s activities have kept us occupied.  It’s been a joy to walk alongside them as they’ve enjoyed a variety of activities from kindergarten, music, swimming, dance, visits to the library and play-dates with friends and cousins.
Some of the highlights for the year included celebrating our ten-year wedding anniversary, going to Thailand in July, planning and celebrating the children’s birthdays (Tobi’s gingerbread man party, Eliana’s ladybird tea party and Spencer’s rubber duck party) as well as watching the children’s development and many achievements.         Here’s a brief update on their year:
Tobi had an absolutely wonderful kinder experience. It fulfilled everything we’d hoped it would and more.  He made some really special friends and he had such a capable teacher who knew her students well.  Her creatively led the class through an array of rich learning tasks.  Tobi brought home a beautiful portfolio of his work each term, which will be a treasured reminder of his first year of ‘formal’ education.  He participated in various special days and a Christmas concert as well as learning to write his name.
We are also so proud of him in the area of swimming.  His first lesson, earlier in the year, was a huge challenge for him but over the months Tobi has developed so much more confidence and strength within himself.  He’s particularly enjoyed swimming lessons this term with his cousin Bella! 
Eliana participated in two terms of Mainly Music earlier in the year but in the second half of the year she began dance lessons.  We weren’t sure how she’d cope being the youngest in her class but she amazed us with her eagerness to participate and socialise with the older girls; some of whom she knew from mother’s group or Tobi’s kinder class.  
The highlight of her ‘dancing’ experience was the end of year concert.  She performed in two concerts, two items in each (one ballet and one tap item).  It was very cute and we were so proud of the way she conducted herself performing in front of a couple of hundred people.  
Eli also began swimming lessons this year.  She completed two terms of child-parent classes (with me) and then progressed to independent swimming classes this term.  She’s done such a great job under the instruction of her teacher and she amazes me each week with her progress.
Little Spencer is … well … not so little any more!  He has grown at a rapid pace.  He finally began crawling about 10 and a half months after being sure he wasn’t ever going to!! Actually it was a blessing in disguise as he started crawling pretty much right after we’d packed and moved house.  Spencer continues to delight us with his happy personality although he is getting a bit cheekier and more willful. This is taking a bit of getting used to after being the perfect child for 12 months LOL!
Spencer has been busy furniture walking or using his walker.  He LOVES to eat and chase after Tobiah and Eliana as well as dance to music.  He also very much enjoys the water, either swimming in the pool or bath (hence his rubber duck themed party).
So besides being the proud mother of three, I have also loved the opportunities this year to catch up with friends and family. I got to know the mothers in my Marvellous Mums group better and my sister and I kept doing market stalls throughout the year-, which was a real highlight.  I also enjoyed blogging, editing some photos, making and baking things, a bit of sewing (I made each child a quilt and matching bunting for their rooms) and, of course, bargain hunting!
As I now hand this letter over to Dave, I wish you a safe and happy Christmas. Cherish each and every moment and take some time to reflect on the real reason for the season, the birth of Jesus Christ. 
I challenge you to look at Christmas in a different way this year. I believe that real joy and peace comes from a relationship with the one who created us and lasts the whole year.  It is not just the temporary “fix” that we get when we rely on all the other “stuff” around us.

Christmas Letter~ Dave

When Spencer turned one this year, I took a moment to reflect on the previous 12 months.  Looking back, I could see myself at the hospital, holding our new baby in my arms.  Our family was complete and I felt so happy!  
At that moment, if you’d told me where we would be just 12 months later … moved out of our home, living at my parents and having condensed our most loved possessions into 16 boxes on their way to Thailand; I would have thought you were a little strange! 
If you then said I would be a going to be a volunteer or be a missionary in Thailand, I would have laughed (very loudly) at you (not with you) and said with confidence “there’s no chance”.
However, here we are! How life changes! 
It’s funny because I have never felt even remotely interested in the activities of missionaries, or overseas aid.  I felt that we were doing our family’s “bit” by sponsoring a child overseas (ironically she lives in Thailand).
I really can’t explain the past 12 months.  All I know is that I have felt a God-given passion rise up from so deep within me, that it has compelled me to act.  
I have become so focused on the children of Thailand, that I am pushing hard to do whatever it takes to get us there next year, so we can start helping at the ZOE Children’s Home.  As much as I would like to say that I have a clever plan, we haven’t yet worked out how the next 12 months will be funded.    
What we do know is that this is a cause we believe in and the experiences we have had over many years in foster care and children’s camps have helped to prepare us for this next step in the journey… however long it is.
Quality Signs has felt the rises and falls of the market and it looks like we are slowly headed back towards the sales figures of previous years.  It has not been an easy year. I have, however, been truly blessed by some great people who work with me and some phenomenal individuals who have been involved with assisting in planning for next year.
Our children have grown up a great deal since last Christmas and each of them continues to develop their own unique personality.  Tobi’s a real thinker and often comes up with some deep and left field topics of conversation and is learning to articulate what’s on his mind or clarify when he is confused about something.  He has a wonderful imagination and sense of humor, which helps to keep our family laughing!
As Andie mentioned, both Tobi and Eli have achieved some significant milestones this year.  Eli loves both her dancing and swimming classes. These seem to be the only times when she is not talking constantly! Mind you we have heard her still talking as she’s jumped into the water but it quickly turns into more of a gurgle!! It really does not matter the day, time or topic.  She is quite the social butterfly and as long as she is pumping out words, she is satisfied!  
Tobi and Eli have become wonderful friends and we love to sneak in on them while they are in the midst of an imaginary game and hear what’s going on.  It’s very amusing.
Spencer is just as Andie described: a very happy boy with music in his bones.  When he hears any song he just starts grooving!
Andrea has been the rock throughout the past 12 months.  She has navigated the move of the house and been instrumental in organising and liaising with the ZOE staff.  Though our schedule has been full with Thailand related appointments, on top of the weekly activities, she still managed to organise the 3 birthday parties for our children; each one themed to the very last detail.  
Andie is a wonderfully gifted mum and we all love having her around to keep the fun in the place!
Yes, it definitely has been a roller coaster of a year.   Though I have struggled with my concerns of how everything is going to work out (and had many teary moments as I think about leaving family and friends) I know that God has not brought us this far to leave us hanging at the last minute.
We have experienced many amazing things in the past few months.  We have felt people’s thoughts and prayers uplifting us and greatly appreciated the generosity and support we’ve received from our close friends and family.  We look forward to sharing more with you in the coming year.
May God richly bless you and the time you spend with your family this Christmas.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Away We Go!

What a day... 

Today while at work, where I have been employed for the last 16 years, I watched as our belongings were picked up by Grace Removals to be shipped to Thailand. 

Ironically “grace” is defined as getting something that you don’t deserve.  

We believe that the children that ZOE help definitely do deserve a chance to reach their full potential, and we are so excited to be taking this opportunity to go and work at this wonderful organisation that helping to make a difference in the lives of orphaned children. 

We can’t wait to meet our boxes in Thailand in January and begin this fantastic work.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Can I Say?

I believe that we have a responsibility to reflect God's heart to the poor and less fortunate.
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…defend the rights of the poor and needy." Prov. 31:8-9.
I continue to be amazed at how God is bringing forth His plan for our lives and how He is providing wonderful people to assist us in such practical ways.
As we need to be self funded for the work at ZOE, we have struggled with how we would go about raising finances to support the work we are doing. It just seems so foreign after having always working in paid positions.

Thank you so much to those who have been willing to support us with your finances, your prayers and your practical assistance.

We feel truly grateful and a little overwhelmed at how God is orchestrating everything just as we need it.

I’m reminded of that High School Musical song “We’re all in this together..” LOL but seriously there are so many different aspects to making change happen and making a difference.  Don’t ever think that just because you’re not on the “front line”, that what you’re contributing is not as important.  That is just not true.

By showing your support you’ve become passionate about making a difference in the lives of children. Is it easy? Not always. Is it time-consuming? Yes. Will you be put out of your comfort zone? Probably. Does it come at a cost? Yes. Is it worth it? Most definitely!
Thankfully, we also have an awesome God.
I read somewhere the other day that instead of being discouraged by the size of the task, we should be encouraged by the limitless power of God.  
Thank you for joining us in fighting for this cause.