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Thursday, March 31, 2011

You Get What You Pay For... and a little bit more!!

Huh?!
Man I love Thailand!  There are so many things that make me smile.
Picture this scenario, you run out of washing powder so you have to rush out to the shops to get some more, only to find that, not only do you come home with washing powder but a bonus glass bowl?!
Or, it’s been a hot and busy day and you can’t be bothered cooking so you decide to head to the shops and pick up a roast chicken for dinner.
But when you get there your left standing at the table trying to decide whether you want the free make-up bag (cling-wrapped under the chicken), the chicken in a glass bowl or the bird with the free soccer glass.
Honestly, how do you choose?




Well, if it all gets too much, you can always opt for the ready-made pizza and two free cans of Coke!!
Okay and to finish, what about this?  I glanced out my window and noticed I was parked at the lights next to a huge tree strapped to the back of a truck?!



NEVER a dull moment!!
Andie:)




Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snapshots


School's nearly out for Thai kids.  To find out what the ZOE children have been doing on their school break go to www.zoechildren.org/blog.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I'll Do "it" Tomorrow.

How easy it is for me to think, or say, these words.  And it’s probably why I still have two packages sitting on my desk that desperately need taking to the post office.
And the reason there’s a queue of emails in my inbox waiting to be replied to.
It’s the reason I haven’t started a fitness plan for myself, I have a handbag that needs cleaning out and I desperately need to visit the dentist.
SIGH...... anyone else have a list like that?
 
It’s been quiet around this blog lately, yes?  
Another, “I’ll do it tomorrow job”, sorry!
But I am back now and ready to give an update on our latest “Crossie” and ZOE news.


Here’s a few things that have been going on in our part of the world:
*We experienced the ripple affect of the recent earthquakes in Burma/ Myanmar last Thursday night.  No damage thankfully.
*Our family’s Uncle Don, passed away this week.  He was like an adopted grandfather to Dave and his sisters growing up as well as a wonderful caring part of our ‘Cross’ family.  UD will be sadly missed.
*Mel, Pete and their girls (and Pete’s mum Maree) all headed back to Australia after a three week visit.
*The ZOE kids have been at home enjoying their long summer break.  The camp program these holidays is an “Around the World” theme and has been heaps of fun as usual.
*The weather has been unusually cooler than typical summer weather.  Ranging from mid twenties to low thirties... perfect I say, but the Thai people can be seen rugging up in their winter woolies!
*Tobi has enjoyed March’s ‘book’ month theme.  His class returned slips of paper showing how many books they’d been reading at home and today they made it  to over 100 books as a combined effort!!  
*Tobi dressed up as Woody at last Friday’s character day.
*Spencer, who had been sick, is now doing really well again.  He’s wanting to be toilet trained and expressing himself using more words.  He still loves his 3 days at Nursery and often wants to go on the other days too despite my best efforts to make being at home fun, LOL!
*I had Eli’s parent-teacher interview last night and I could not have heard a more glowing report.  We are so proud of our little girl and how she is developing confidently and enjoying her time at kindergarten whole-heartedly.
*And me? I am really enjoying my Thai classes at the moment.  I feel like a few pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together in my mind ... yay!  Still getting used to having to do homework again though!
In reminiscing this week about Uncle Don and all the lives he blessed and the people he helped, I also thought of a different older person.  Maybe one who, reaching the end of their life and reflecting, says “I never did any harm to anyone in my life but... I also never did much good either."  Painfully laying on their death bed with a thousand regrets for all the things they had put off till tomorrow, and now realizing that they have no tomorrows left.
I heard a saying, ‘Anything that is worth doing is worth doing well’, but G.K. Chesterton amended it to ‘Anything that is worth doing is worth doing even badly’
In Thai class, they way we learn to speak the difficult tones and make the tricky sounds (that we don’t even have in English) is by saying them  out loud.  When I first started I would mostly get them all wrong.  But I would comfort myself by the advice I give to my children when they’re experiencing difficulty in persisting with a task that’s challenging.  How did we learn to walk? By walking badly, by toddling, by falling down innumerable times. How did we learn to write our names? How do we learn any new skill?
By actually DOING it!  Having a go and learning from our mistakes.
I like the quote, “To procrastinate is to learn nothing and to do nothing.”
My challenge this week is to not let this happen.
The things that I will delay and put on to ‘tomorrow’ will be those things that take up my time and energy only to produce negative outcomes such as whining, feeling annoyed, getting agitated and worrying about things that really don’t matter.
But I want my “to do” list to be filled with things that bring joy to both others and myself,  like writing a friend an encouraging card, dropping that bag of clothes off at that person’s house who needs them,  and spending more time playing games with my kids.
How about you?  
Andie :)
















Sunday, March 20, 2011

No Need To Rush



I feel like I am forever saying to my children, “Hurry up!” “Quick…” “Come on” “Can you go a little bit faster, please?”
But one thing, about living here, that’s a stark contrast to me (always trying to rush everything) is the very relaxed Thai culture that surrounds us.
Yesterday morning Dave and I had the alarm set for 1am!  By 2am we had snuggled the kids into the car with their blankets and favorite soft toys and were headed for Ban Maesa village, four or so hours drive away.
Don’t you think it’s fun leaving to go somewhere in the middle of the night?  To me, it always seems to add a sense of mystery and excitement to the journey.
We were on our way to celebrate the wedding of some friends- our first time to a village wedding and, for our children, their first big trip to a village.
P Jip and P Jack, who both work at ZOE, were due to be married at 7.30am Saturday morning!!
With the odds stacked against us, me getting carsick on the winding journey and Spencer being quite unwell with a fever and ear infection; we finally arrived just after 6am and we were greeted by one of the ZOE parents who used to live in this village and still has a house there that her mother takes care of.
Seated around a fire pit (in the middle of the house) we sat warming up and sipping hot drinks.  It was hard to believe that there was a wedding beginning in less than 2 hours as the pace was very relaxed with a “chilled out” atmosphere.
It was soon announced that the wedding would not be starting till 8am, which added an extra element of “no need to rush” and made things that bit more “cruise-y”.   As we walked around the beautiful village, the word passed that the wedding would now be 8.30am … and then it changed to 9am… did anybody seem stressed?  No, not one bit!


Eventually, some time after 8am, a bell could be heard ringing and a friend explained, “Gin khaow”.  We know those words well, time to eat!!!
We made our way to P Jip’s house and were ushered into the living room.  Sitting on the floor around a generous serving of rice, curries, vegetables and soup we ate and enjoyed the company of those around us.  Actually, I should explain, that those around us were mainly just the few other foreigners who had come to the wedding- our friends, the Tang family and Mike (co-founder of ZOE who was the one performing the marriage ceremony).  What was amusing though was that the villagers (who were eating outside) kept looking in on us through the doors as we ate and bringing in more and more food.  Our children, the only ‘white’ children present in the whole village, drew a lot of stares!!
I even had little children looking at me during the wedding ceremony and pointing to my eyes with amazement- I guess blue eyes aren’t seen around these parts very often either!!
  

From P Jip’s house we walked up a steep road that led to the village church.  I had to keep reminding myself that I was going to a wedding.  No one was stressed, no one was rushing and I was beginning to understand how this uncomplicated, relaxed way of life could actually … be … {uh} … better!


My brother-in-law asked a local person the other day, was it rude to walk around eating?  The man looked confused asking why would anyone need to?  Sometimes in our western culture we get busy and eat on the run- breakfast in the car on the way to work, lunch on the way to the next meeting… some how we have lost sense of the value of just sitting and being… enjoying the food, the company… actually sharing meals together and not eating in a rush just because we’re hungry.

So my challenge from all of this is to: Sit and eat.  Enjoy life.  Allow enough time just to “be” and try not to overcomplicate things.
In Thai they say, “May pen ray”.  It means, no worries!
Have a great week,
Andie     

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Snapshots


To read about Jip and Jack's village wedding on the Cross Family Blog, check out 'No Need To Rush'.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Out On A Limb





March 15th 2010 was Dave’s first ‘official’ day working for the ZOE Children's Home.  I just went back through the archives and read about it. Remember this photo?

Fourteen months ago we went out on a limb when we left our home in Australia and headed for Chiangmai, Thailand.  
We were well-intentioned and we believed that we were making a choice about something that we passionately felt called to do. 
Now, looking back, you may be wondering whether that limb is still holding us... if it’s a bit shaky... or whether it snapped and left us badly hurt and crying at the base of the tree?!  LOL

Well, I’m here to report that we are still perched out on the limb that is: living overseas as “missionaries”.  We are thoroughly committed to being a part of ZOE Children's Home, an organization that rescues orphans and children from human trafficking.
There have been times when we’ve looked down and felt afraid, moved forward and sensed our own instability or glanced around only to dwell on our isolation from loved ones BUT, by the grace of God, I feel that we are currently positioned in a firm and stable position out on the limb



In the same way that our own children will take risks knowing that we, their parents, will be there to support them and catch them if they fall, we have also planted our feet firmly in faith that our Heavenly Father will both protect us and provide for our every need.
There have been many awkward moments grappling with the concept of being a “missionary” and a modern-day one at that! So you may be wondering what things have been the most challenging...
Well before I answer that, I’ll ask you a question... what image do you think of when you hear the “M” word? (missionary)





I guess for me, it was the image of a badly dressed, grey-haired, vow of poverty, living in a grass hut type-of-person.



Let’s just say, it’s taken me a while to accept the fact that we live in a ‘normal’ house, we have a car, our kids go to an international school and I still get up and have a coffee and put make-up on each morning!  
But probably the biggest ‘awkward’ moment over the past year or so has to have been talking about money!  It’s taken a whole fourteen months for me to even type that word in this blog, that’s how uncomfortable it is!!
Okay so this is all I’m going to say...
Yes we work as volunteers.
Yes we rely on monthly support and one-off donations.
And, no, we are not worried about it!
Okay! So, that said, you know that feeling of not wanting to go further out on the limb for fear that the branch would break under you?
I’m going there anyway... I just want to say that we are coming back in 100 or so days and we would LOVE to come and speak with your group, class, school or club... seriously! And, here’s the deal.  We promise that we will NOT beg at you for money! That’s right.  We honestly just want to share our heart and what is happening over here.
We totally trust that God provides all our needs and that includes our finances.
So please, if you’re interested in getting us along to one of your events but were worried that we’d do the “hard sell”, don’t be.
Check out our site, “Back For a Chat” ... Go on... go out on a limb and see where it takes you!
Andie:) 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

UP, DOWN, UP, DOWN



As I watched Spencer and his ‘girl’ cousins on the swing set at the city park in Chiangmai this week… up down, up, down… it felt almost surreal.  Having my sister, brother-in-law and their kids here and seeing how the five children have all interacted with each other (after eight months without contact) has been very uplifting.  What precious memories they are making and what a blessing it is to have these three weeks together.
As I watched Dave carefully bounced the ball… up, down, up, down… I smiled at how focussed he’d suddenly become.
He was participating in a half-time basketball shoot-out at last weekend’s Varsity grand final match, at Grace International School.        
Eye on the ring, he methodically took his shots, making each one and winning!  Our children were so proud of their daddy.             
What a great moment of adoration, excitement and praise as the three of them raced up to him at the conclusion him hugging, high-fiving him and helping him collect his prize.  Of course, I was beaming too - my face hidden behind the camera!
As I watched Tobi saying goodbye to his friends after school on Friday, I felt  my stomach twinge with sadness.
Tobi’s class had just finished taking turns bouncing on a small trampoline and then jumping…up, down, up, down… in to a make shift swimming pool set up in their school yard yesterday as part of an afternoon of fun.  The reason behind the water activities though, was to farewell two of his classmates who are leaving next week and moving on… a roller-coaster of emotions; saying goodbye to friends so dear and yet so temporary.
Ups and downs are a part of life.  Right?
Highs and lows, births and deaths, rejoicing and sorrow, 
summers and winters.
I remember that feeling of returning to work after being on holidays. The first few days would sometimes leave me feeling ‘down’ after being away on an exciting adventure.   But soon enough, I’d find myself back in the swing of things again and I knew that I wouldn’t ever avoid going on a holiday just because the thought of returning to work was hard.
You know…
It’s hard to watch my children playing so beautifully with their precious cousins, knowing that in a couple of weeks they’ll have to say goodbye again.
It’s hard realizing that the late-night chats, the continual laughter and the sharing of my deepest thoughts with my sister are not a ‘given’ any more, they’re a gift.
It’s hard seeing my little five-year-old son continually saying goodbye.  To see a dozen classmates moving away in just as many months, knowing he’ll most likely never see them again.
It’s also hard seeing how much my nieces have grown and changed in the past year knowing that I haven’t had much part in it.
It’s hard!
But despite these ups and downs.  Despite these highs and lows.
I wanna choose to hold on. 
Choose to cherish each wonderful moment and replay them again and again in my mind.
Choose to keep these memories alive in the minds of my children despite the pain.
Choose to look forward to the next visit, the next trip home, the next new friend, and the next late night chat.
Choose all of this rather than missing out on experiencing the ‘ups’ because I can’t bear to face the ‘downs’. 
Andie





Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dave@Hospital (For His Birthday)


Okay, now that I have your attention I will begin by saying, that the photo above was just a set-up, but it’s true ... we did go to hospital for Dave’s birthday!
Confused?  Well, remember Dave’s recent post, Simple Pleasures?  He wrote (about the ZOE children) ...
“as I look over my notes from the interviews, most of the kids are not happy because of what they have, but they are excited about what they can do”.
Dave and I have been thinking about this a lot lately.  And asking, how do we encourage this type of thinking in our own three children?
So, this year, in an attempt to be consuming less and giving more; we decided to celebrate Dave’s birthday by using the money that we could’ve spent on presents, or going out somewhere, to buy ‘goodies’ and make bags to give away to sick children at one of the government hospitals here in Chiang mai.
After doing a big shop at Makro (like Cash and Carry) the other night, we set about stuffing bags full of treats and toys ready to hand out today.
Below is a video of our kids explaining how to make the bags- yes, it was a very organized process!
And so today we set off with forty something bags and 6 teddy bears (for the children in an intensive care unit).

What a joy it was to see the children’s little faces light up as we came around handing out the bags.  Even the parents of babies, or sleeping children sat up eagerly awaiting the arrival of their bag of treats.

There was no preparing our children for the hospital situation we took them to. Even as an adult, it was an overwhelming scenario to enter, but they did it! 

Mission accomplished!
And so at dinner tonight, when we asked our children to reflect on their day, they answered, “We were so proud of what we did to cheer up the children at the hospital today”.  
And you know what? We couldn’t be more proud either.  

Friday, March 4, 2011

OINK! OINK!


Now for all you vegetarians out there, you may want to go and read another blog post… But for those that enjoy the occasional piece of meat, well this one’s for you!
At the ZOE Children’s Home we eat a lot of chicken, a little bit of fish, plenty of veggies, tons of RICE and of course, my new favorite meat, PORK!
Like in most families, here at ZOE we regularly look in to how we can keep the costs of feeding a growing family economical.  Over the past year, for example, we have made a few changes to the way we purchase pork.  Originally we would go the large meat markets and buy the pre-cut meat, however as we looked at the value and the amount of meat we were getting, we soon realized that there were better ways to buy.
So that was the beginning of the pork program.  At our previous children’s home we began buying a whole pig, that was generally cut into 3 or four sections and some of the staff or students doing training at ZOE would spend an hour or so on a Saturday morning and cut it up.  This provided huge savings to the ZOE Children’s Home.
Now that we have moved to a larger property, we have begun our own little pig farm.  Though very small at the moment, we have already fattened up a few pigs and the ZOE family have enjoyed them over the past few weeks.
So I have put together a short video to show you our pig farm!!!

Enjoy!  
DAVE :)