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Thursday, September 30, 2010

TRAINING, TRAINING, TRAINING


David training the adults and bible school students on child protection issues yesterday.

Over the last few months, Dave has been working on the current Child Protection Policy Training schedule.  

He had conducted several work-shop style discussions with the house parents about child protection earlier and, with their help, he presented the first session yesterday to all staff, missionaries, bible school students and children.  

The house parents did a great job acting out various scenarios and role playing to clearly highlight some of the “tougher” topics.   And Jess emailed me to say, “Dave did a great job with training everyone. He had us laughing and learning! Everyone was so engaged and actively participating!"
  
Having a child protection policy is one thing but having a policy that everyone is aware about and actively following is another.  The latter can only be achieved with regular reminders/training and deliberate planning.

You can imagine that many of our children have already been through more than their fare share of hurts, so this practical training offers guidance on the promotion of child welfare and the development of safe practices when working with children. 

It also empowers the children to recognise when they are in an unsafe situation and what they can do about that.  Everyone was also made aware as to what steps they can take if inappropriate behaviour is ever suspected, witnessed or disclosed.

ZOE has an excellent reputation as a children’s home with their parent to child ratios, safety and rehabilitation.  (Many of the children's homes that we have had association with have 2 adults for every 50 children or so).  We do not know of another children's home in Thailand that has a adult to child ratio as low as ZOE.  

To keep this reputation intact and quality of care high, we know that these issues MUST be talked about openly and often so that safety and protection are continually on everyone’s minds.

David concludes his training with all the ZOE staff tomorrow.

Good job Dave!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday's Uniform



You know what I did today? I put on the same clothes that I wore last Tuesday, same top, same headband, everything!  That bothers me because there are people I only see on Tuesdays… people I just met!  
“What will they think?” I thought, “That I only own one set of clothes? That I have a Tuesday uniform?”
I simply had to get changed!
But why? What is it in us humans that causes us worry so much about what other people think of us?  
So often now Dave and I have conversations and we end up challenging one another with this very question.

Okay so I’ll put it out there:
What will people think if they knew I went to church?
What would they say if I told them I was a Christian?
What would happen if I let them know I’m a volunteer… or missionary?
What would happen if I were to dare to write something ‘out there’ on this blog?

And the answer is and should be… who cares?

You know what I am slowly realising is that if I spent less time worrying about what others thought of me, and actually reminded myself of what God thinks of me- I’d be a much happier and more secure person! 
I recently read a story about a girl named Jenny with Down Syndrome who was struggling to see herself as anything special and had begun focusing on what other people were saying about her.  
She tells of a woman who said to her ”real truth is only found in God’s Word, and not in what other people say about you” and explains that the woman gave her a challenge to see if she could find anywhere in the Bible where God called her bad names, or said she was a mistake.  If she could, she’d pay her $5,000. 
Do you know what she found out? This:
She was fearfully and wonderfully made.  She is the apple of God’s eye and his treasured possession.
After a lot of time spent reading the Bible to find out what else God said about her, she never did get the $5,000!  
Okay so next Tuesday if I find myself in this awkward situation again, I’m choosing to believe God’s truth instead of predicting what other people may or may not say, or think, about me.  That will be my challenge! 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Would You Rather...? {be doing something else right now}


Road Trip: Burma, Saturday 25th September 2010


I bet many of you have played that game, “Would You Rather…?” where you give two scenarios, and the other person has to answer what they’d prefer.  Depending on whom you’re playing with, the questions can end up getting pretty unrealistic which makes it hard (yet amusing) to answer when you’d rather not choose either!  I remember sitting through long train rides in Japan, when I travelled with a group of teachers on a study tour, and to fill in the hours, we’d try to quiz each other with the most ridiculous questions.  It can actually be a good way to get to know people.

So, we started playing this game in our family a while ago and we got so into it that Dave and I brainstormed a whole bunch of questions and wrote them out on little cards and put them at each place setting for our Christmas dinner in 2008. It was a real hit and stimulated a lot of conversation as each person went in to detail as to why they chose that particular response etc. It was also a fantastic way to include the children in the table discussions because we had some questions suited to their age group too and they just loved giving their responses and having everyone listen.

Since that Christmas, we have continued to play the game from time to time.  Even a couple of weeks ago I was challenging my sister with a tricky ‘Would you rather?” scenario which brought forth a lot of laughter. 

And I was reminded of it yet again yesterday as we travelled in the car for 13 hours to Burma and back for a passport stamp (we have a multi-entry visa, which means we have to leave Thailand every 90 days).  

It got my mind pondering to a little while back when I was spending some lovely quality time chatting and cuddling Tobi.  We’d been playing the game earlier and he’d obviously been thinking more about the questions, which were along the lines of what they wanted to do when they grew up.  So he says to me, "You know Mum when I grow up I think I want to make coffees and I think I want to be a dad!"

My heart melted and I was able to share a special moment with him telling him how lucky his children would be to have a dad like him and what a wonderful husband he would make one day. I was then able to tell him how when I was little I wanted to be a teacher and a mum but now, being a mum, has become my most favorite job of all.

So then this quote in my diary stood right out to me today, which read 
“One day at a time- this is enough.  Do not look back and grieve over the past for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering.”  Ida Scott Taylor
And so right there at dinner tonight I silently asked myself the question, 
"Would I rather be doing something else right now?" 
And then I looked...
I looked around at my precious family sitting cross-legged on cushions at our low table.  I saw their faces and heard their laughter as they practiced Thai words, I remembered that we are here for a specific purpose and that one day at a time is enough.  
I knew instantly that we were making beautiful memories that would be worth remembering and that ‘no’ there was nothing else I’d rather be doing right now!

Blessings,
Andie

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My "I'll never..." list.


So I guess I started writing my “I’ll never…” list when I was a young kid.  
I remember being reminded by my brother many times how I’d solemnly declared “I would NEVER wear deodorant, perfume or high heels when I grew up!”   
Thankfully that all changed!  I’m sure the residents of Chiang Mai have appreciated me applying deodorant and perfume in this consistently hot climate.
There have been many more things added to this “I’m never going to…” list as the years have gone on.  Interestingly enough, most of them ended up being things that I actually did do.  By the way, I’m not talking about changing my morals or ethical standards, you know the stuff I mean like, “I’m never going to eat bugs” and, yes, thanks to Thailand, that one is no longer on my list now either!!
I know there were lots of idealistic things on my list prior to having children that have all been sheepishly crossed off now one by one.  How is it that I have changed (or softened) so much?
So anyway, I’ve just decided that it’s getting too embarrassing to back peddle, change my mind about stuff, feel convicted and eat my words all the time.  
I’ve just worked out that I need to stop adding to this list, for a few of reasons, and I’ll tell you why.  
First of all, the more I put on my list, the more I realise that I am potentially robbing myself of experiences that actually turn out to be not so bad.  When I think about the restrictions I’ve set, I wonder why I was being so hard on myself.
So I now understand that it’s okay to let your kids sleep in your bed, it’s okay to change your mind, it’s okay to grow up and admit that you didn’t know it all.  
And I can also see that there’s no point putting more things on my list only to age another ten years and be deleting them off too.
Also, every time I recognise that I am starting to do something from my “I’ll never …” list, I end up second guessing myself, feeling guilty or simply trying to ignore the fact that I said I’d never do that.  
I remember when I first realised, at age 19, that I was falling for Dave.  I was speaking to one of my good friends on the phone who was questioning me about this developing “relationship” and I assured her that, “No! I would never go out with David Cross. We were just friends”.  
Well I’m sure glad that one didn’t remain on my list for very long.
I can’t honestly remember whether or not I ever verbalised “never” becoming a missionary but I know Dave did.  How is it that we find ourselves in these unlikely situations, doing things we thought would simply never happen?
Well I’ll tell you what I think. 
I think there’s someone else ‘out there’ that has an even bigger list than ours.  And the things on their list never get crossed off or replaced and they remain the same for all of time.  
And it’s because of this list that we can do all the things that we never thought we would or could do, like finishing a university degree, leaving family, starting a new career, becoming a parent, learning a new language or eating a particular food.
Their list has “I’ll nevers” on it like:
I will never abandon you!
I will never leave you!
I will never forsake you!
I will never fail you!
I will never stop loving you!
I will never change!
If you don’t already know whose list this is then I encourage you to pick up a bible or go online and read some of the many promises that God has for you. 
As I thought through my list today, I spent a long time wondering how my life has turned out so differently to how I’d planned.   But then I reminded myself that it’s all okay and that the only “I’ll never…” I want to let remain on my list is this:
I will never be the same again! 
Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; 
he will never let the righteous fall.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

SAME, SAME

Guest Blogger: Mel Hynes
Spending 2 weeks in Thailand with the Cross family has been such an amazing privilege which I will treasure for years to come. I have experienced a great mix of both playing the “tourist” as well as pretending to be a local, from a visit to the elephants to watching a local high school volleyball game. 
So I arrived last Friday night curious and a little unsure as to how different their new life in Thailand would be. I was quite amazed at first, at how familiar it all felt to me but of course I continued to enjoy finding all the things that were quite different to the Aussie way!
One of the quirky highlights of my holiday would have to be the way the Thai people would look from Andie to me then point and say “SAME SAME!” They seemed to find a lot of humor in the fact that we looked similar and would often repeat this over and over.

These words got me thinking. While there have been a lot of unusual, unique and wonderful things I have discovered while being in Thailand (hot banana waffles for instance), I have also had the privilege of experiencing a lot of “SAME SAME” while I have been here which I would like to share with you.
The Crossies have definitely made their house a ‘home’ just as their house was always a ‘home’ in Australia. I have loved feeling this same warmth, love and spirit of their new home while I have been living here. I had wondered how I would cope with missing my own family while I visited but this definitely felt like I was in a home away from home.
‘Friends’ also spring to my mind when I think “SAME SAME”. The Crossies new friends that I have met while being here seem really beautiful not unlike their close Australian friends.  Sharing Tobi’s 5th birthday celebrations alongside these new friends was a great opportunity to see how God has provided and will continue to provide for this special family.
And my experience of “SAME SAME” does not end here. The issues of daily family life were also very similar to my own life with young children... squabbles, cuddles, tears, kinder drop offs, pickups and lots of lots of wiping up spilt messes from the floor!!! What a treat to have an opportunity to live with the Crossies and see that while so many things may have changed when they moved, they continue to foster an intentional, loving, God-filled, happy family life with their three beautiful children. 
I’ve saved the best “SAME SAME” for last…heart. Over the years I have had lots of great chats with Dave and Andie about values, beliefs, aspirations, growth, challenges, direction and God’s overwhelming love.  This trip allowed me the opportunity to be able to share my heart and listen to theirs, something that I have painfully missed over the past 8 months.  I feel so very blessed to have had this time with my incredible sister, brother-in law and gorgeous little nephews and niece. 

I started this by saying that this experience has been one, which I will treasure for years to come, and I really meant it.  I have enjoyed seeing the differences, I have loved experiencing the SAME SAME, and I now appreciate that I will not go home the same. Change is part of all of our lives and while it can be very painful I’ve just had a lesson in how it can also bring great joy!
Luv you guys, thanks for everything!
Smiles, Mel

AND YES ANDIE, YOUR COFFEES ARE THE GREATEST IN ALL THE WORLD!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Five? Already?

Five? Already?It’s our eldest son Tobiah’s birthday today so I just wanted to say, "Happy Birthday dear Tobi.  We have loved watching you grow and change over the past five years and we look forward to celebrating many more with you..."



I felt reminiscent last night.  The evening had developed in to both a mixture of laughter and tears as Mel, Dave and I sat around sharing from our hearts and making the most of one of the few nights we’d all be together just hanging out like the good old days... then all of a sudden, it occurred to me that exactly five years earlier on the eve of Tobi’s birth- all three of us had sat around in a similar sort of way sharing, predicting, reminiscing and just enjoying one another’s company.  

Mel had stayed at our house the night before I was to be induced at the hospital.  Now here we all were five years later on that same night hanging out in a very similar sort of way, only this time we weren’t wondering what this new little baby would be like, we were eating left overs from his 5th birthday party which had been just a few days earlier!

And so Tobi, if you ever read this, I just wanted to say that we are so glad that we know you.  We love you just the way you are.  We know that sometimes it can be difficult being a kid and trying to make sense of this crazy world and all your emotions. It’s hard for grown ups too!!

We will continue to love you and nurture you for as long as it takes for you to venture out and stand on your own.  You have brought us so much joy and so many laughs already.  I will never forget how thankful we were when we knew that you had survived that emergency caesarian and how amazing it felt to have a child of our own.  I can tell you that even though Daddy and I are not perfect (I know it’s hard to believe!) and we will make mistakes, we promise we’ll always try our best to raise you in the way that God wants us to and we will pray for you and be grateful for you every single day of your life because you truly are a wonderful gift- we celebrate you today Tobi and we love you very much.

Happy Birthday!




PS I’ve posted more photos on my other blog!