Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Visiting Australia!

Bookings are easy this year.  Just click on the picture below or to the left (the beach) and you'll be redirected to the booking page.  Alternatively, if you have any questions you need answered first, please direct them to Thanks!

A breath of fresh air...

Disclaimer: This post has nothing much to do with ZOE but just a lot to do with me... sorry 'bout that!
Last year I wrote a post, 'Fresh Air Anyone... Yes Please!' on March 19th.  
Well we're facing the same dangerous levels of pollution at the moment.
I think most people around here, if asked what they'd like right now, would say "a breath of fresh air".

Living here has made me appreciate so many things that I used to simply take for granted, clean fresh air being one of them.  When we return to Australia, it is one of the first things I notice and I drink it in- like that feeling when you go camping or you're bush walking... oh, how I could do with a dose of that right now.

Anyway, on to the HIGHLIGHT of my week now.  
Something else that I always took for granted was having an oven.  I mean who doesn't have an oven, right?  
Well, we have been living in this house for 7 months now without one {which is common in Thai homes} and it suddenly hit me, whilst having breakfast on Sunday, that ANZAC Day was fast approaching and that this would be the first year that I would not be able to bake ANZAC biscuits for my children to take and share at school.  Sad, huh? {Well not really sad, more of a first-world-problem actually}
But, not wanting to be a whiner about it, and hearing my own words to my kids ringing loudly in my ears... just be content, I mentioned it sheepishly to Dave.  He agreed that maybe we could get a small bench-top one.  
Unbeknownst to me while Tobi and Dave went out getting haircuts later that day, they were also researching ovens!  By Sunday night, there sat my new little oven just waiting to be used.... oh, and HAS IT BEEN USED!!!!
I feel so excited as I keep remember all the things we haven't eaten in a while and, as my English teaching has stopped due to school holidays, I am finding myself with more time to "play" in the kitchen.  
Seriously, I am one happy-little-housewife right now and my family is enjoying the produce being pumped out of our new friend the bench-top oven.

So whilst the smell from the smokey air is enough to have us all huddling inside, the scents coming from our kitchen our comforting our stomachs at least and we are enjoying the baked tastes of yumminess!

The biggest dilemma is, what to bake next?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Feelin' Fruity?

It's true.  I eat a lot of mangoes in Thailand.
My sister-in-law Tammy saw this first hand when she stayed with us earlier this year.  
But what's strange is, when we lived in Australia, I never used to like them.  Or eat them. At all.  Ever.
But now that I have developed a taste for them... now... I LOVE mango!  I just can't get enough of it.  In fact I can't imagine life without mango now.
And then there's other fruits.  Take the dragon fruit for example. I'm not a huge fan of the taste of dragon fruit, but I can eat it and I definitely appreciate it's amazing appearance and completely different looking flesh.  It's kind-of bland but it's truly an exotic and one-of-kind type of fruit.  So I like that about it.
And the pomelo.  It was one of the first new fruits I tasted when I moved here and it was love-at-first-taste.  Kind-of like a grapefruit but not sour, more refreshing and just-plain-old yummy!

Anyway so all these reflections about fruit had me thinkin' just how much us girls are like fruit too... it's a long-shot, I know, but hear me out.

Us women come in all different shapes and sizes.  
Some of us are like plain like a longan, some short and round, others (like the lychee) a bit spiky on the outside but soft in the middle.  And some women are beautifully sweet- like biting into an amazing apple.

We're not all made to look like the perfect, red strawberry or taste like the delicious pineapple.   
We're all made uniquely!  We're different.
But each of us have a special purpose.  A reason for being here.  A job to do.
And just like we don't instantly like the taste of every different fruit, nor will we instantly get along with every other person.  
But that doesn't mean we can't appreciate them; marvel at their gifts, their talents, their strengths and their individuality.

Just like the example of the mango.  My friends didn't all become my friends "instantly".  Some did.  But many friendships have taken me much longer to establish.  It's taken many "tastings" and a getting used to before I realized just how special and great they were.  Other friends are like the pomelo.  I'd just never had the chance to meet them until recently.  But when we met, I knew there was something special right away.
Whatever 'fruit' you are, know this: You are amazing!
You were created for enjoyment and you are loved.  

Let's make a choice today not to criticize the pineapple for its prickly exterior, the kiwifruit for its furriness or the banana for... well let's be honest, the really banana has no faults!  {But then there's always one that gets pulled down just for being-way-too-perfect LOL}.

Let's instead appreciate the wonderful combination of flavors that can be found in a fruit salad.  
The joining together, complimenting and combining of all our individual goodness to make something extraordinary.

But what about if right now... you're feeling like an old, brown, ugly, bruised banana as you read this?  What if there is just no way that you can see that you could be used for anything good but the compost.
Take heart.  We all know that even the most over-ripe, brown and unattractive bananas make the BEST, yummiest banana cakes!!

Did you know that there is not (and never will be) another you?  Not another single person will ever live and be the same as you.  
I remember a little poster stuck above our toilet when I was a kid and it said, "You Are An Unrepeatable Miracle".
Cool hey?

And so my encouragement is this, use your unique gifts and talents.  Your humor, your ability to communicate, your way of encouraging, your depth of understanding, your wisdom, your life experiences, your amazing knowledge or your incredible personality to make a difference.

We have now.  Let's use it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

It's March...

WOW!  I think an update is well overdue.  
It's March!  I can't believe it!

Well the Thai school year is winding up and yesterday I had my last day of teaching English at ZOE before their summer break. 
It has been a challenging, exhausting and wonderful season. I hope to share more about it at some point.
I am sad to finish up with these classes (especially the teenage class) because in some ways, it feels like we have only just begun... to trust, to have a go, to make progress and to relax.  
One of the boys in my class who, for many weeks, refused to participate and listen made 100% on his spelling test yesterday!!  I was flawed.  Glory to God.
Below is a picture taken a few weeks ago when I took one of the classes outside to learn about our senses.  I had them tasting, smelling, touching, observing and listening to various objects which made for a hilarious and memorable couple of hours.  Of course, I had to get them to taste Vegemite... but sadly none of them had even heard of it before!!
On a totally separate matter, last night, I received a message from a girl I had taught when she was in Grade 2.  She is now in her second year of university!! Um... am I feeling old, or what?

Some of our family's recent highlights have been:
1. Completing the 5km Run For Relief as a family.  
It was such an achievement for our kids to do this and we enjoyed the experience of being able to encourage one another to keep going and to see the endurance our children displayed.  This is definitely something that we would love to keep doing as an annual event to participate in.
The work of the Free Burma Rangers is to support and train dozens of relief teams operating in the oppressed ethnic regions of Burma. FBR teams bring hope and love to the Burma people.

2. Catching up with the MacCartney Family.  
I was excited to receive a message from my friend Jodie saying that her and her family (who live and work in a Bangkok slum) were in Chiangmai for a couple of days and, could we catch up?  Well our children had never met but they all got along so well.  Here's two photos below from the times we caught up. 
To read about their wonderful ministry in the slum, click here.

Cramming 6 kids and 7 adults in to our car.
Having pizza and a play at our house.
And... yes, it was way past my children's bed time!
Look at those faces!

3. Eliana's dance concert.
A few months ago Eliana began dance classes with many of her classmates after school.  Her teacher is a beautiful Christian lady who not only runs a dance school but also teaches English at a Thai school AND home-schools (with her husband) their TEN children (some of whom have been adopted).
Needless to say with a heart of gold and a passion for sharing God's love, the dance concert was beautiful and different.  Different to anything I have ever been to before and very moving.
Eliana beamed throughout her whole dance routine and for many hours afterwards repeatedly saying that she'd had "the best day ever".  So sweet! 
Eliana and her gorgeous friend, Ing.
4. Studying Thai
A month or so ago, a number of us began learning to read and write Thai in addition to learning conversation skills.  
We now have a Thai tutor who comes out to ZOE on a Thursday and teaches various levels of Thai throughout the day.
I am so excited to final be able to read some simple words and phrases using the vowels and consonants that I have learnt so far.  I can now read quirky sentences like "the crow and the good fish return the plate".  Yep!  I am super proud of that.  

5. Tobi moving schools.
First day for Tobi!
We made the decision a while back to move Tobi from the wonderful international school he had been attending and put him at the same school as Eliana (and where Spencer attends preschool).  It was with so much excitement that his younger brother and sister showed him the ropes and welcomed him.  He is enjoying the not-yet-having-a-school-uniform arrangement (until August anyway) and loves choosing his outfits each day.  Now that we have moved house, it has cut 5 hours of travel out of Tobi's week.  This new and small school has an Australian curriculum too- the only one in Chiangmai.

He has settled in very well and has enthusiastically adjusted to his new homework routine and made friends quickly.  He is looking forward to his friend Sam's pool party on the weekend.

6. Dave's birthday
I had approximately 2 hours to come up with a small, family celebration for Dave's birthday on the 6th of March.  
I asked the kids what they thought Daddy would want for his birthday and they all agreed that he would like Lego!! 
Well, I decided not to buy Dave any Lego but to attempt a mini, low-key Lego party that I thought him and the kids would enjoy.  Whilst the older two were at their after school Thai language club, Spencer and I managed a green Lego cake, some party food and Lego party bags.  Spencer made those iced Lego treats unassisted, which he was proud of!!  We enjoyed some Mexican food at a local Burmese (go figure) restaurant and felt so grateful for the privilege of having another year with this precious father and husband. 

Prayer Points:
The air was very smokey today.  With Spencer and I already experiencing the 'cough' common with the burning season in Chiangmai, we'd appreciate your prayers for enough rain and wind to keep the air as clear as possible.

Eliana and Spencer will be saying goodbye to some of their close friends over the next couple of months.  This is always a heart wrenching process but a big part of the transient life here.  Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

We will be releasing a booking form in the next week or so for our annual trip back in July.  Please keep an eye out for this and encourage anyone you know, churches, groups or schools interested in the work of ZOE to make a booking and we'd be happy to share about human trafficking, orphan care, our experiences on the field or anything really!

Praise points- There's too many to list them all, but just an overwhelming sense of wonder and thankfulness for all God is doing in the lives of the children and teens at ZOE.  It is so amazing to see God's hand on their lives and share in their journeys.  

Thank you for signing up and following along on with this blog and supporting us.  I do apologise for the lack of updated information with the transition of the blog.  
I hope to get back here more often again now.

Many blessings,

Eliana's field trip to some local ruins.
Sitting with her teacher and two friends.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Teaching English Vs. Learning Thai

A "sneaky peek".  This will be posted over at the ZOE blog too.  But I wanted to share it here with you because it has been such a cause for celebration this week!

A few months ago a new student started in my English class.  Hesitant to participate and having never learnt English before, she quickly withdrew and decided that it was just too hard.  Given the circumstances of her past and remembering my own tearful experiences of learning Thai when we first moved here, I didn’t push the issue, instead agreeing to just let her sit in the room and listen.
About a month ago, she starting bringing her English book to class and wanting to join in.  It has been so challenging for her.  To pronounce the words is extremely difficult for her and to remember the vocabulary, seemingly impossible.

Recently, one of the ZOE volunteer staff organized a Thai tutor to come and teach the Thai language at ZOE.  It has given all of us 'non-Thai speakers' the opportunity to learn to read and write Thai at our workplace.
It has been fairly challenging so far.  For some of us, to remember the Thai vocabulary and symbols seems (equally) impossible!

And so I find myself between these two worlds.

Teaching English, where the progress is slow and sometimes leaves me questioning what was actually achieved, and being a learner myself and seeing how gradual my own progress is – causing me to wonder whether I’m ever going to “get it.”
This morning, I went to teach my first English class as usual.
But something was different.  Very different.
The girl I mentioned earlier was actually smiling as she recited her reading list with the rest of the class.  The boys, who just a few months ago were hiding under the desk, were practicing their words too… and then they all did handwriting and… participated in the game I’d prepared… and they even came and wrote some answers (in English) on the board.  I nearly had to pinch myself.  Was this the same class?
Just when I was asking “Is it all worth it?” I realize again that it is!  It is!
These children are totally worth the waiting for.
It was the breakthrough that I had been praying for.  Where their trust begins and their determination takes off… the start of a new season!
And, with my Thai study, I can only hope that I too find that level of determination.  That one day my Thai teacher will go home with a sigh of relief and quietly exclaim, “It was all worth it.  She finally ‘got it!’”
Thank you for your interest and support of all our ZOE children… they are totally WORTH IT!!