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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Half Way!

It's nearly the middle of the calendar year! Can you believe it? I was just thinking today about how my children have just 3 more days of school until the end of their school year (this still seems odd to me coming from Australia where the end of the school year is December).  
But anywhoo, poor little Spencer who attends preschool here, is beginning to fade... it seems he's just about collapsing at the finish line... too tired to even make it to the end and so, incidentally, he 
has been receiving lots of extra love and care lately. 
Photograph taken by Eliana.
Hopefully he'll be able to get some enjoyment out of these last few days.
And since it's nearly the mid way point for the calendar year, (actually we have one more month- July 1st is the middle of a leap year). It had me being all reflective about my {dare I say it} New Year's resolutions!!
I did make a few, I'll admit.
Some I won't speak about right now (we'll save them for another post about broken resolutions {um, I mean} recommitting our NY resolutions).
But here's one I did make.
At my son's Christmas concert last year, a speaker was throwing out some ice-breaker questions and (being a Christian school) he said, "Out of the parents, how many of you have read the Bible cover to cover?"
Well I looked around the audience and there were a lot of raised hands!  And so I began wondering... I mean I have been a Christian basically my whole life... I'm now 34 years old... what excuse do I have?
That very day, I went home and looked up on line to find a program that would set me up to be able to complete the whole Bible in one year... and thus birthed one of this year's resolutions.
And you know what?  I am actually on track! I am actually 42.5% of the way through.  Whoop whoop.
And I am not telling you this to boast... please don't think that's why I am sharing, but I am telling you this to encourage you.
It's nearly mid year and if you're like me and you're nearly half-way through achieving something too- KEEP GOING!  
Don't capitulate now.
YOU CAN DO IT! (That's me shouting and cheering you on).
Whenever we have a goal to reach we can always expect to face opposition.   
I have had days where I have not read my daily quota, but I have chosen not to give up.  I set about the next day and read double.  One time a couple of months ago, I missed a whole week so I set aside a few hours on a Sunday afternoon while everyone else was resting and caught myself back up.
Is it easy? Not always. Is it time-consuming? Yes. Does it come at a cost? Yes. 
Is it worth it? Most definitely!
Balancing act!
Whatever your goal: getting fit, learning a language, giving up a bad habit, developing a new skill... it's nearly mid year, yes, but it's NOT TOO LATE!
If you made a resolution, recommit and try again.  And think about that sense of accomplishment at the end!
Check back here in 7 months time... I want to be here shouting, "I MADE IT!"

Got a comment?  We'd love to hear it!

Friday, May 25, 2012

LIKE

Have you read any good books this month?  
Anything you really liked?
I've read a couple of books, but the one I really felt inspired by was called, Marked For Life written by Crystal Woodman.  She shares of her frightening experience at school (Columbine High) the day tragedy struck.  She witnessed many of her friends being killed and injured. Crystal tells how through faith and discovering her life's purpose, she has been able to share her story with many others and bring encouragement and hope to them.  
Well if you haven't had much in the way of reading material, you might be interested to know what the most popular posts were- right here on this blog.  
You can do some reading right now... without even having to pick up a book.  
C'mon.  I'm going to make it easy for you!
Here's this month's 'Most Popular 4 Posts'
1. Ebenezer...and I'm not referring to Scrooge.
2. Parents
3. The Odd One Out
4. ... and it's Friday
Want something different?  
Well here's this month's 'Most Unpopular {I mean} Unread Posts'... 
1. May Update
2. Some Songkran Fun
3. Happiness on a String
4. Bringing Back the Color
 Was there anything you read today that you liked?
Well, you have the potential to share what ZOE is doing with an audience that we cannot reach – your friends, family, work colleagues, sports team, mothers’ group, church, school and neighborhood.
Did you know that you can create awareness about the atrocities of human trafficking, child trafficking and modern day slavery?
You can address these issues through your Facebook page, your blog, your local newspapers or any other link to mass media that you have.

There’s always need surrounding us; there’s always something that we can give and always something small that we can do to help.
My little contribution might not seem like much on its own but put together with yours… and theirs… and hers… and his… we CAN make a difference! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Growing Up


Not that you can ever plan it, but we really wanted to have our children close together.

When our first son Tobi was just 6 months old, I became pregnant with our second child.
And so when Tobi was just fourteen and a half months old, I gave birth to our daughter, Eliana.
And when our third child, Spencer arrived, my daughter was not yet two years old and Tobi had literally just turned three.

“What were you thinking?” people had asked, understandably.
But it was no accident on our behalf … or God’s.
It’s been a really crazy past few years.  

You can read all about here on this blog but when Spencer was just one year old, we packed up our life in suburban Melbourne and moved here to Northern Thailand to work as volunteers at ZOE Children's Home. 

It’s been a whirlwind of experiences since then.

And life has definitely had its ups and downs. 

There are parts of it that have actually become a bit of a blur, but what I do know is that God has had His hand on my life, and on my family's, the entire time.
My children (now 6, 5 and 3) are my delight.  I get more and more excited about how God will use them as I see them grow and change.

Recently as I was making dinner, Tobi (6) came in to the kitchen and offered to help.
He started by washing the mounting pile of dishes for me, took out the garbage, went and had a shower and then returned to help set the table for the evening meal.
I was impressed!
I marveled to myself at how capable he’d become.
How after all these years of feeding him, nurturing him, caring for him and doing most things for him; how he was now able to give back… he was actually being really useful. 
After all these years, he was ready to help.
Now I know that this transformation didn’t happen quickly or suddenly.
It’s taken years of patience.  It’s been messy.  And it’s been repetitive.

But it suddenly dawned on me that night how much more mature he was now.
What happened next was what often occurs when God wants to get my attention.
He uses scenarios, like this, where I am quietly mulling over something, to speak to me and explain something to me that He wanted to say.
And so it was, as I stood in my kitchen, spatula in hand, that it felt like God gently whispered, 
“That’s also how I feel about you”.
Huh?
“Every time that you develop and grow spiritually and you get your teeth stuck in 
to a big piece of juicy steak instead of just drinking milk from a bottle. 

Each time you feed yourself on My Word instead of just having it all cut up nicely into bite sized pieces. 
Every time I see you helping to feed and teach someone else from My Word 
instead of needing to be spoon-fed yourself, you are showing me that I can use you too!

The way you marvel at your little children and how much they are growing, learning
 and becoming ‘useful’ is the same way that I feel about you.”

I’d never really thought about it like that before.
And as I stood and stirred my wok of fried rice, I felt encouraged that my commitment to grow more each day in the knowledge of His Word actually made Him happy… and proud.

Just like how I had felt about my own small son several minutes earlier.

So I encourage you today:

· Read God’s Word so that you know what it says.

· Study God’s Word so that you can begin to understand what it means.

· Memorize God’s Word so that you can use it when you need it.

· Live God’s Word and make your life-decisions based on it.

Let’s keep on growing up and being useful, shall we?   

**A similar version of this post was recently included in the Mum to Mum magazine. Created and edited by Narelle Nettleback, this magazine includes articles by Narelle and other Christian mums with the intent to encourage, inspire and motivate mums in their walk with God and along their journey of motherhood. Narelle lives in Western Australia with her husband and two sons and blogs at Moments For Mum.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Socks!

Another mum and I were quietly laughing yesterday at the preschool pick up at the sight of Eli and Spencer in their socks and runners.  
I explained that we were practicing wearing shoes before we headed back to Australia in a month's time.  
The norm here is no shoes indoors and sometimes thongs {flip flops} or Crocs for outside.
Next week we might have to see if we can get Spencer in to a pair of jeans... or sitting in a car seat... that'll be fun!!


But speaking of socks, mine are gone... they're no where to be found.


This week, they've literally been BLESSED off!


We've had two special visitors recently.  Some of you may have heard of, Ben Price.  It was such a pleasure to have Ben stay in our home for a few days, visit ZOE, sit up having late night laughs and go elephant riding.  
We all equally enjoyed his company and wished he could've been here just a little bit longer.  Thanks Ben, for all you did at ZOE as well as bringing so much laughter to our family.


The second special guest we've had here who is maybe not so famous, outside of our family, but a definite superstar to us, was Tammy (Dave's sister).
The bags under my eyes are definitely a show-tell sign of the late night talking that went on night after night.  The slightly more toned stomach muscles (okay... maybe that's wishful thinking) is from the continual laughter.  And the refrigerator and pantry stocked with snacks and Australian goodness (thanks also to Dave's mum) are just the noticeable signs that someone so precious has been.
But on the inside, I feel so blessed to have Tam in our lives.  She is so delightful and fun to be around not to mention a good partner in solving all the problems of the world (especially in the wee early hours of the morning).


Here's just a few snapshots from the past week.  
No socks in sight!









 **The first image on this page is from rightfoot.com.au

Monday, May 14, 2012

When Life Changes

Jay (foster child) and Tobi (on the right)
It was Mother's Day yesterday and so I was reminiscent.  I even went back and looked through some old photos on the computer of when each of our three children were born.  It was a beautiful time of reflection, seeing the growth and development that time brings.  

What I didn't expect to stumble upon though was the folder full of photos of children we fostered over about a five-year span.  I began wondering how old of them would be now, what they'd be like and how life was going for them.

I smiled as I recalled so many memories.  I remembered the weekend we had our regular three foster girls, plus another girl (that we looked after once a month), Tobi was about 1 year old and I was heavily pregnant.  We decided to go out to the movies with the five kids but neither Dave or I were prepared for the looks and stares we attracted!  We laughed so hard.  

Mothers, how true are these words written by Cherie Carter-Scott?

"Your reality is transformed the moment your child arrives.
Welcome to motherhood: the single most profound and transformative rite of passage a woman can experience. 
Of course, there are other major turning points throughout our lives — puberty, graduations, career achievements, marriage — but none can really compare to the experience of welcoming a child into this world and being responsible for its care. 
Motherhood is the most precious gift as well as the ultimate responsibility . . . and the doorway to the most extraordinary love you have ever known. 
It stretches you beyond what you ever imagined you were capable of. It can be a source of supreme fulfillment and, at times, a source of some of the deepest heartbreak.
To say that motherhood transforms your life forever is something of an understatement. 

My last day of teaching my Grade 3's, 2005
 The moment your child is born, your life undergoes seismic changes; however things were before this tiny creature arrived, they certainly are no longer that way. 

Tobi@1 week old
It turns your life, your schedule, your perspective, and your relationships inside out, backward, and upside down. 
You feel a love that is different from anything you've ever felt before. 

Eliana@1 week old
What mattered before seems less significant as a whole new set of priorities arise, and you experience life in a totally new way. 
When you assume the new identity of "mother," within an instant your world is never quite the same again".
Spencer@1 day old
Okay so this is a day late (unless you're in America), BUT whether you're a biological mother, a single mother, a grandmother, a foster mother or an adoptive mother, I want to say Happy Mother's Day 2012.  
When life changed for me, I could not have been happier.  
What a privilege and a joy it is to be called someone's mum! 

Our three regular foster girls playing with Tobi
Eliana on the way!

Want to share a special or funny 'mum' memory?  Leave a comment below. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Good Day...


According to Dave and the kids, a "good" day is one that ends with a mammoth water fight! Although this happens regularly, I couldn't resist taking these photos this afternoon.

And lets be honest, it's a sure way to keep cool around here.


And...


W
e also discovered that this huge bucket makes a great shield!!

I
t got me thinking...

W
hile shields (or buckets) can protect us physically, faith can also protect us in the middle of trials and challenges. When anything attacks our values and beliefs we are able to stand unwavering because of our faith.

Ephesians 6:16
...above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.


A
shield also deflects. Sometimes fiery darts of fear, doubt and worry are flung in our direction, but the only time they can hit us is when we let our shield of faith down.

L
et's never stop believing that God is in control; that He is working everything out for our good; that whatever happens is for the ultimate best of everyone involved, however little it seems to be that way.

I
hope you're having a great weekend!
A
ndie:)

Friday, May 11, 2012

...and it's Friday!

Yay, it's Friday!! How's your week been?
I'm happy to report that mine has been really great!
Starting with a public holiday on Monday, my three kids and I spent the day enjoying a slightly cooler (and rather stormy) ol' day indoors playing UNO, reading and baking a bountiful supply of gingerbread men.


On Tuesday, as I headed in to ZOE to help Kaylee teach English to the primary school children, I noticed that the roads near ZOE were covered in debris.  Large framed signs had been totally demolished and were now strewn down embankments and trees, which had fallen across the road, had been pushed aside to allow the flow of traffic to continue.  
The dirt track leading in to the ZOE property was muddy and slippery and it looked like a tornado had gone through.
After mentioning it to someone at lunch, they reported that a small tornado had gone through!  There was a little bit of damage done to some of our buildings, but thankfully nobody was harmed.  We've had the insurance company out at ZOE this week, surveying the damage.

For the English classes, the day was divided between 6 groups with about 6-7 students per group at various levels.

I've heard it said, "You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can't take the classroom out of the teacher" or something like that.  I guess, for me, this week has reminded me again how much I LOVE teaching and what a joy it is to see learning taking place right before your very eyes.

So this week I helped with the English classes on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday which = SO MUCH FUN!

On Thursday I had the pleasure of visiting another local organization here in Chiangmai called Urban Light.  
Adrian Rowse, a fellow Aussie, has taken on a twelve month role at Urban Light as their Thailand Director. 
Urban Light provides 15-25 year old young men working in Chiang Mai’s red-light districts with access to support, advocacy, English and life skills classes and alternative vocational training. Most importantly Urban Light is a place where exploited young men are loved, valued and accepted.  
It was great to meet Adrain and hear about his passion for helping these guys.

So what do you do when it gets to Friday night and everyone is hot and bothered and in desperate need to chill out in both body and mind?  
Why go to Sizzler, that's what!  We had a special family treat tonight and enjoyed a nice dinner out... whoowhoo for no dishes and three sleepy children by the time we got home.  Such a funny night in that we kept bumped in to people that we knew while we were out, two families from preschool, another family from our neighborhood and the entire PE department from Tobi's school. LOL.

Hope your weekend's AWESOME!
Andie

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Running


A little over a year ago, I started exercising again.  It had been so long... maybe the last time I'd exercised prior had been in between baby number 2 being born and being pregnant with baby number 3 -needless to say, it had been a while!
Well after walking each day for many months around the block, I eventually had to stop.  The mornings were getting darker and darker, I didn't always have a walking partner and the big stick I had, to fend of the unfriendly dogs, just wasn't enough to convince Dave that I could ever go out alone.  
And so, we scouted around for a treadmill and eventually found one discounted drastically at a big sports sale.
My treadmill and I have a love-hate relationship.  
While I'm working out, I have to force myself to think 'happy thoughts' and focus wholeheartedly on the uplifting music blaring from my laptop.  
But once I am finished, my attitude changes and I start to look at it with more gratitude and love, feeling ecstatic that I actually survived kept going and didn't give up.
For me personally, I prefer to run for a set amount of time and see how far I can go before the time runs out but tonight I realized that I only had 21 minutes battery life left on my laptop, so I set the distance that I wanted to run and spent the whole time sprinting to try to achieve my goal before the music stopped!
I like to play little mind games to try to motivate myself!!  
Sometimes when I start to feel the fatigue setting in and there's still a long way to go, instead of slowing down my speed I crank it up really high forcing my aching body to sprint for a minute or so then when I go back to the speed I was at, it doesn't seem nearly as bad as before. 
So anyway tonight, as I was sprinting to finish before my music stopped, I felt reminded about how similar 'life' is to running.
Sometimes we have tasks and we just keep going, not knowing how long it will take to complete them and other times, we have a deadline that we need to meet and we must sprint to make it before the music stops.
Right now, for Dave and I, we have a looming date in June when we are leaving to come back to Australia for 6 weeks.  We have so much to do before we leave and we need to sprint to get it all done in time.  
With other tasks, like raising our children, we must just keep on going, training them in the way they should go but never really knowing when they will master certain goals.

2012, 5km Run For Relief 
    
The bible also describes life like a race.  This version of Hebrews 12 is from The Message:

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. 
When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

I remember when one of the other volunteers, Denise Tang, when she was giving her speech at Graduation, she also referred to this passage saying,
"Paul reminds us that Jesus ran the race while he walked this earth.  It was difficult.  Jesus was scorned. Jesus was mocked. Jesus died on the cross.  But through His journey on earth, Jesus persevered.  Jesus fixed His eyes on God, knowing what was waiting for Him at the end of the race. 
This is what God wants of you!  God wants you to run the race set before YOU, fixing your eyes on Jesus. 
Do not look to the left.  Do not look to the right.  Fix your eyes straight on Jesus.  If you do this, you will truly finish the race God has set before you". 

And so each day we are faced with the challenge of whether we choose to even participate in this race... or are we content to sit on the couch and trade in God's lifelong gift in order to satisfy short-term comforts?I know for me, I don't want to miss out anything. 
I choose to race!
Watch this Nooma, Shells. It's powerful and left me mulling,
"What do I need to say "no" to make sure I achieve what I've said already said "yes" to?" Food for thought.



Saturday, May 5, 2012

May Update


Well it seems like the days and weeks are flying by and I guess before we know it, we will be back living nearby (at least for 6 weeks anyway).
We are all looking forward to our trip back tremendously (minus the thought of cold weather!!)
The weather here is so HOT at the moment.  We have noticed how much more tired we all are.  Dave and I are doing our best to get to bed at a reasonable hour- despite there always being things we want to keep working on.
I have enjoyed going in to ZOE more frequently.  I have really enjoyed the role of writing for the ZOE blog and just being around the ZOE staff and volunteers more.  They are always a source of much inspiration and truly wonderful people.  I feel so blessed to be working alongside them.  This coming week I am hoping to be able to help out teaching English.
I thank God for His protection the other day.  I was following Dave up the steps at ZOE to a meeting when  I tripped and fell.  The problem was that I had the ZOE S.L.R camera in one hand and Dave’s laptop in the other leaving no hands free left to catch myself.  Unbelievably neither piece of technology got damaged, not even a scratch and I managed to escape with just a bruised wrist, leg and very red face!

I am driving some little Burmese twins that live near us to preschool with Eliana and Spencer this month.  It has been fun getting to know them more and seeing how excited they get listening to Veggie Tales in the car, giggling and clapping as the music plays.  Spencer and Eliana have enjoyed "reading" stories to them too and spending extra time with their friends.
We are looking forward to a visit from Dave's sister Tammy in a couple of weeks time.  She has been such a blessing to us, helping us with lots of the work being established for ZOE Foundation Australia.  We also thank Ben Stickland and his team as well as Glen Slimmon- these guys are AMAZING!  We appreciate all you are doing to help us set everything up in Australia.  We know God will bless your socks off!
Dave is working on several projects at the moment.  He also continues to enjoy the challenges of being the Child Protection Officer.  Along with the regular training on child safety and protection, this week he has been working with the parents, teens and older children on 'Keeping Safe on the Internet'.  I enjoyed helping him plan for his presentations.  This area is one that will need regular training and monitoring, but was a timely reminder for the ZOE kids as they head back to school next week.  He has also been developing strategies and policies to ensure that media and photography at ZOE is contained so that our children with protected identities do not have their safety compromised in any way.  You can imagine with so many children, staff, volunteers, parents and visitors that this is a very difficult task but we are hoping, one that will prove successful.
Please join us in praying for a few more churches to speak at during our trip back.  We still have these two vacancies: 
Sunday June 24th        and    
Sunday July 15th                
Click here for more information.
I thank God for you, for your faithfulness and prayerful support of our family.  May you enjoy a week drenched in God's love and goodness.

Blessings, Andie