Friday, September 18, 2015

Update

It's been soooo long since I've given a "family" update. I actually had to go to my phone and look through my photos to see what's been happening these past few months.  

Here is a brief update:
(May-June) In the last term of the school year, I had been helping out at my children's school as the Grade 2 teacher had left. On the second last day of the school year, I received a phone call from my sister telling me that my precious grandmother had passed away. I was devastated. Each year when we visited Australia, I would always hope that it wouldn't be the last time that we'd have here together on earth. I will always hold such fond memories of our last trip to her house on October 17th 2014.






I was so thankful to have been able to fly back for my grandma's funeral. It was a quick trip but the time that I was able to spend with both my mum and dad as well as extended family was just so precious to me. 
All my cousins together.
(July) Our children very much enjoyed their "summer" break (winter months in Australia) as did I.  It was so nice to have the time to go exploring by foot around the city, have movie nights, go swimming and just catch up on some serious "play time".  Uno games were a daily occurrence as was playing with Lego.












Probably the highlight for all the children though was attending an Art class run by a friend each Wednesday of the holidays.  They loved the opportunity to learn new skills each week (and catch up with their friends).
  
(August) And then... literally as school was about to begin for the year, we suddenly found ourselves faced with a dilemma.  We had to make one of the hardest decisions as parents, which was to move our three kids from the small Australian school that we all loved so much.  We knew, going forward though that this was a move that we needed to make with their futures in mind especially for Tobi who heads into middle school (Grade 6-8) next year.  And so the past month or so has been very much about getting them settled into this new, bigger, totally different education system.  I am happy to report though that after a few bumps in the early days, they are all very happy and enjoying school. 
And me? Well I couldn't help myself. I had to join the PTG as well as a few other parent groups.  It's nice to know that I can still be involved in some way. Below is me introducing myself at the first PTG meeting!
And the most important and anticipated time of the day... after school!  There is an amazing array of food stalls right outside the school gate each day begging to be visited.  Most days it's sticky rice, pork skewers, dim sum, waffles or a fried chicken snack but for a special treat this day, we got a choc-banana roti. YUM! 
After school snacks!
We continue to enjoy the challenges of our new role in helping kids transition into adulthood and we are praying that we can find a Thai person who will work alongside us in this role.

Until then, we'll keep pushing ahead as best we can, using every Thai word we know and trying to communicate and articulate as best as possible with the young adults around us.

Looking at the time lag from my last family update, I can see why! It has actually been a very full 6 months.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

My Magical Mop

I had been telling my sister for a while now how excited I was with my new “magic mop”. I know right! Probably not many other people get excited about their mops, but anyway.
So I had mentioned that I would try to make her a video showing her my new mop but I never did…
Until today, when I realised with glee that I had a whole day at home by myself to get some much needed housework done… whoop whoop!!
Okay maybe other people don’t get excited about that either!! But I do, ha ha.

So after I had swept through the house, I got my mop and bucket and set to work making her the video showing how the magic mop works (I later found out that a simple ‘Google’ search brings up so many more professional videos than the one I made… of course it does!! Oh well.)

It’s been funny, because just this past week, I had been commenting to Dave about how our kitchen floor has lost it shine. It’s weird, even after mopping and mopping it, once it dried; it was so “cloudy” looking. 
Clean but not shiny! L  Sad really!
With that in mind, I decided that my first task today would be to get that kitchen floor back to a dazzling shine!!!


After mopping it a few times using the normal floor wash, it still looked cloudy so then I knew it was time to try some other remedies. I tried dish soap, vinegar and bicarb first, when that didn’t work I used dish soap and vinegar…  and then I went to just vinegar and warm water.  It was clean and slightly less cloudy after all the mopping but still no-where near what it usually looks like. I was baffled.

Then all of a sudden I remembered the end of the conversation that Dave and I had, where he said … “maybe it needs a new mop head”.
Surely not. I mean I know this house was filthy when we moved in here but we haven’t had the mop that long.

Well, off I went to search through my cleaning supplies and sure enough, there was the spare mop head.  I figured out how to take the old one off and that’s when I saw the difference… what? Crazy!! Ewww!!


With the new head installed, I set to work with new enthusiasm and optimism and, sure enough, the floors began to, once again, shine! Just like that!

Isn’t that amazing?

As I was gladly mopping away, music playing and happy thoughts now running through my mind, I had one of those “uh ha” moments about my mop and how our family’s life has kind-of been a bit like this too.
Have you ever had those times in your life when everything seems to be going okay? The kids seem settled, your marriage is strong, work is enjoyable, everything is sort of “going to plan” so to speak when suddenly or even not so suddenly… maybe subtly, you stop and wonder, what happened?  Why aren’t my kids thriving? Why are we arguing about these issues? Am I really where I am meant to be?

Sometimes we can get so used to doing things “the good old way”, “the safe way” or just the “same way” we always have.

When, just like me with the floor mop, you have a moment when it suddenly dawns on you that “umm… actually that’s just not working anymore”.

And then you ask yourself, “Why doesn’t it look nice and shiny anymore?”  You know you’re still cleaning it the same way you’ve always done.  You’re using the same cleaning products that have never let you down before… but it has recently lost its shine and you just don’t know why.

Often times we can go round and round questioning, what’s wrong with the floor, why isn’t it shiny? Why? Why? Why? All the while mopping it again and again in the same way hoping that things will improve until you suddenly look at the situation in a new way, seeing that what is required is actually something totally different. 

We’re in the process of replacing a few mop heads in “life” right now. There’s a bit of adjustment going on but thankfully already the floor is starting to look a little bit shinier!  Where situations were getting a little bit too cloudy, the brightness is returning.

Maybe it’s just me and my “magical mop” analogy but I am so glad that there is always someone in my life to guide me and whisper softly to me when my mops getting dirty, “It’s time to change”.

How’s your mop today? 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Outstretched Hands

As I was reflecting about this past season, the picture that came to my mind was one of outstretched hands.
So much of what is precious to me, I naturally tend to hold tight, gripping on with a firmly clasped hands, attempting to control and protect.
These last few months have been a reminder that nothing is mine to hold that tightly. It is only with open hands, trusting in God and seeking His best plan, that I can truly begin to experience freedom in my life.  
As I agree to open up my hands and let go, I begin to see how much more amazing God is at looking after these precious areas of my life. Yes! Who’d have known? He’s much better at it than me! 
I’ll be honest, there have been some rough spots these past months where I have felt totally unsure of what to do and what direction to take. 
It has been during these times that I have had to consciously stop myself from curling up the fingers that so desperately try to control and the hands that want to grip tight and cradle closely whatever it is in there at that time. 
And let me tell you, these past few months, there have been many things in there!
Throughout this season I feel like God has, once again, asked me to release my cares, my family, my friendships, my plans, my reputation, my insecurities and my hopes to Him.
When I am able to do this, I can truthfully say that He does not let me down.  He has never failed me.
When I have been able to release something to Him, being deliberate to flatten my palm and outstretch my arm to Him, He has always come through.  Maybe it hasn’t been how I’d thought He would. Maybe it hasn’t been in my timing.  Maybe it wasn’t even the way I would’ve liked but I know, and trust, that ultimately He knows best.
I was smiling to myself and praising God the other day while doing my ironing. An issue with a friendship that I had needed to surrender and hold loosely in order to let God come and in and work had now, suddenly, turned itself around. What I had been so unsure about, I had quietly opened up to God to work out.  It was several months later that I felt close to this person once again realising that indeed, God had gone before me and protected that friendship.  Had I taken the route of holding on too tight or speaking out of line in defence, I know that it could’ve been a very different story.
Sometimes these situations are so hard to just keep an outstretched hand in but, in my experience, it’s totally worth the wait.  Often we don’t know what is going on “behind the scenes”.  

Be encouraged that situations can and do change… even miraculously at times!
My hope for you, who are reading this, is that this week, whatever it is that you hold too tightly to, that you will also feel the freedom in letting go.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hatching

Years back, when I was a teacher in Australia I remember hiring an incubator with almost-ready-to-hatch eggs in it.  After a day or so of having it in the classroom, the first crack started to appear in one of the eggs and our ‘normal’ classwork temporarily stopped while sixteen little Grade 2 girls and I stood staring through the glass at the miracle unfolding before our eyes.

It was so exciting to see the little chicks poke their egg tooth through the shell, cracking just a bit at a time.  It was hard work for them and the process of getting that shell to crack all the way around and then pushing their bodies out took a huge amount of effort and energy.  Sometimes it would get near the end of one of the eggs cracking open and the little chick inside would seem to be running out of steam; desperately pulling on our heart strings as we watched it struggle.  But as those of you with experience in chicken hatching know, in most cases, you will do more harm than good in assisting a chick to hatch.  Unless you are very experienced and have a complete understanding of what is actually going on inside that shell on a physiological level, your decision to “help” will most likely have a disastrous effect.

I think for the last few months, that same “I-just-want-to-help-you-break-free-of-that-egg-shell” feeling of the chicken-hatching-process, pretty much sums up what I have been experiencing. 

In March, our family stepped out into a new role with the ZOE Transitional Program.  For every one of these young adults in the program, their journey of leaving ZOE and beginning a new stage of their life, has reminded me so much of that overwhelming sense of wanting to “do more" - the same as when I pressed my face up against the side of the incubator and watched helplessly as those determined, strong, precious chicks fought and struggled their way out of their shells and into the world. 

Sure. Many times we get to offer advice, we give counsel, we provide help and transport and care and gently redirect and correct but really… there have also been a lot of times when, honestly, I’ve just wanted to sit their job interview for them, follow them to work and sort out their concerns or give up my spectator’s seat and say, “I’ll take it from here.” 

Let me just crack through that last bit of shell for you and pull you out!

When our daughter was recently in hospital awaiting surgery for a broken arm, her relentless, uncontrollable sobbing weakened me to a blubbering mess.  Every time they had to find a vein, take blood, x-ray, move her, touch this, prod that, pull that… my tears started falling.  By the time they wheeled her away {screaming} to the operating theatre, I was completely beside myself.


Each time, in those first few days, that I stared into her big blue eyes filled with tears, I would’ve done anything to take her pain away and have it myself.

“You’re so brave” I kept telling her, “I just think you’re so brave.”

I love the work ZOE does.  Rescuing children, saving them, giving them a chance at a life they were meant to have. We know that their ‘time’ at ZOE is just so vital and important to their healing and their growth. 
What Dave and I are so privileged to be a part of is really the tail-end of so many years of hard work and love and time invested by the parents at ZOE that prepares each child for the chance to be free, to break out and to see life through new eyes. 
Parts of this transition process are so beautiful.  But parts of this transition process are also awkward and hard.  And while lots of times, we are tempted to say, “You know what, we’ll just do that for you.  We’ll fix that problem.  We’ll sort that out,” we know that victory and growth and ‘life’ is sometimes birthed through the struggle. 

I know that it is through so many of my own challenges that I have grown stronger and more able to stand firm when the next difficulty came my way.

All I could do last night, as we sat around listening to one of the girls as she bravely shared her feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty, was to remind myself that whilst I cannot break the egg shell open for her.  And I cannot take away her pain and her insecurities.  I can stand beside her, cheering her on.  I can let her know that she is precious, valuable, worthy and loved.  And I can keep directing her to the source, where words were written down, even before she was born, by the One who created her and already knew the magnificent plan He had for her life.

A few days ago, as I was brushing my daughter’s hair for her, she said to me, “Mummy.  When I was in the hospital, you said something to me that really helped me.  I just wanted to say thank you”. 
Immediately I paused and looked at her. “Thank you for telling me that I was brave” she said, “I didn’t feel brave but because you said it, it really helped me.”

Her words struck me.

“Because you said it.”

Yep! I’m going to have to keep trying hard to speak life and truth to the people that God places in my circle of influence this week.  

Andie!

 Special Sunday breakfast buffet at the Transitional Home. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Transition

We have been to several Year 12 graduations lately, which always has me thinking back to when I finished school all those many moons ago. 

I actually got an invite to a high school reunion the other day. 
Someone had posted on a Facebook page, “Has it really been 15 years since school finished? Oh, I feel so old!” 
“Ummm it’s actually been 20 years!” someone else had replied.  I had to laugh!

Well, when I wrote my last post I had no idea what God had in mind for the month ahead and maybe if I had known, I might not have reacted quite so calmly.

After getting stuck into my Thai language study for a few weeks, the “possibility” of helping to champion the new ZOE Transitional House and Transitional Program for kids finishing Year 12 to study at university, or work, suddenly became a reality. 

Dave and I had talked about it off and on over the years, but really, “Who are we?” we thought!  “We haven’t even been through the teenage years with our own kids.”  “We’re not the best choice.”
We sent off an email expressing interest last year, then fast forward to last month and all of a sudden, there we were sitting in the Strategy Room at ZOE, talking about moving house and programs and helping kids find part-time jobs and budgets…

It’s been a really busy few weeks, but we asked for God’s peace and He gave it. 

In the past month we have packed up home, found a suitable “transitional” house in the city, moved into the upstairs part of the house and begun the program that will assist these young adults setting out on their new adventures, their new season of life and what will certainly be an exciting road ahead to their future dreams and aspirations. 

Already several of the recent high school graduates have come over to hang out downstairs at the house, start to collect job applications and search for university dormitories.  Some of the boys even came over to trim up the yard and trees while Dave was away for the week.  So sweet! 
It hasn’t even been 2 weeks since we moved in yet but already the house has been a hive of activity.

One of the young adults, who will be completing Year 11 and 12, and will be living at the house, just had an answer to prayer.  Yesterday we found out that he was accepted into one of the best private schools in the city due to his academic record.  He is already a few years older than his school peers but he has so much determination to finish school well and then get into university and study to be a doctor.  We are so excited to get behind him and support him to see his dream fulfilled.

Some of the girls will initially stay at the house short-term while they begin to look for work during the summer break.  The house will also be used for the ZOE Life Skills program, youth events, Family Bonding week etc.  I am so excited to see how this place can be utilised as a space for spiritual growth, fellowship and fun.

After staying up to 1am unpacking boxes on the day we moved in and madly cleaning and trying to make it feel homely, it warmed my heart to see the young people arrive the next day, run into the home and flop onto the couch making themselves comfortable with excited giggles and chatter. 

It’s been nice to see how they have already used the space to relax, watch T.V, play the Wii or just chat.  One of the girls came later in the week with a painting she had done to hang on the wall as well as some artificial roses she wanted to put in a vase.
I am really looking forward to being able to watch these young people grow and develop further as they begin this new stage of their lives.
You can read more about why this program is so important here at the ZOE blog!



Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Baby Steps



At the beginning of our school year, my little six year old sat weeping in the car on the way to school. 
“I don’t want to do my spelling test today.”
What if I get my words wrong?”

Fast forward two months later, and there I sat cross-legged on a mat at ZOE facing a ZOE mum who was encouraging me to answer the question she’d just asked me in Thai.  “Just have a go,” she gently prompted but the only words that came out of my mouth were the English-kind, “I can’t. What if I get it wrong?”

There was a certain amount of hopelessness that I felt in the pit of my stomach that day.  Not just for me, but also for the mother-in-me who doesn’t quite know how to get it together enough to help her child to let go of the “perfect-or-nothing” mantra either.

That day as we drove home, I had to make a decision. 

Going forward…  Change must come. 

And so I asked myself:

Was I prepared to fail in order to succeed?

Was I ready to break off the chains that held me back so many times?

Would I make a change, if not for myself, but for my children whose little eyes watch my every move?

On the inside I wept.  I was so sorry for all the time I’d wasted holding back due to my own crippling insecurities.
I was sorry about the neighbours who I never really got to know because… what if I said something wrong?
I was sorry about the people cooking food on the side of the street that I feared would laugh at me for saying the wrong classifier when I ordered.
I was sorry about the hairdresser who wanted to engage in conversation but instead I hoped they’d just think I was a tourist…
The list goes on.

In the end, there was no point feeling sorry any longer. I needed action.

The last few weeks have been hard.  Not in the sense of going through hardship. 
But I have been chipping away at my Thai language studies just about every day.  With my formal classes at a language school mixed with a casual teacher who comes with me to do ‘day-to-day’ tasks a few times per week, I am …  very slowly (and I mean VERY slowly) learning and building confidence.

Mentally, I feel exhausted.  Most times I have words swimming around in my head that I don’t even know what they mean, only that at some point that day I had learnt to say them…
and I have been known to ask my teacher, “What did I just say to you?”

What’s been the biggest shift though is that I am beginning to laugh at myself more and loosen up just-a-bit.  This week with my teacher at home, we have been laughing so hard my cheeks hurt as she has been teaching me some new vocabulary. 
But actually, it’s felt okay - even when I’ve got it wrong.

It’s small, baby steps forward and I will fall down. But I am determined, to get up and try again.


I’m hoping that if there’s something holding you back this week that you too will be able to find just enough courage and strength to take that baby step toward your goal.
Andie


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

1826 days ago...

… Dave and I bundled three, small, crying children onto an Air Asia, $49 dollar, one-way flight bound for Chiangmai.

… we said goodbye to a home that we loved and a safety net of friends and family whom we adored.

… we swapped "normal" for different.

… we gave up trying to plan and predict and have control.

… we stopped earning an income and really started relying on Our Provider to supply all our needs.

… we started caring more and crying more and praying more.

… we began waiing, removing our shoes at the front door and trying foods that we'd never heard of.

… we learnt sounds and tones that English words just don't have.

… and we got a glimpse of the plan God had for our family.

1826 days ago…

… life as we knew it changed and so did we.

It's hard to describe, sum up or put into words just how thankful we are for this journey we're on.  Just by flipping through some of our blog posts I hope you can see how faithful God has been and how much we just love serving Him.  People, circumstances and life can be unkind but God is good - all the time - and nothing has been more true for us this past 5 years.

This week I have had enjoyed reminiscing our journey so far by looking through some old photos and videos.

Join me for a trip down memory lane!  Here's a small overview of the past 5 years here in Thailand.

January 2010- January 2015

The children's first visit to the new ZOE home.
Before we had a car...
Flag bearer, International Day at kindergarten.

Lunch at the ZOE kid's school.
Tobi's first field trip.
Eliana's first field trip.
 Border run to Burma.
 Shoe distribution to a local village.
 Moo ping for breakfast.
 Riding elephants!
Thai wedding in the village.

 Kid's camp at ZOE.
Celebrating Christmas with our ZOE family.
 Hmmm… odd one out!
 Village visit.
A visit to the zoo.
Run for Relief 5km fun run. 
 Friends from Bangkok, 13 people in the car!
 At the elephant camp.
 Our first Christmas (and fake tree).

 Lantern festival
Visiting a village.


Our ZOE missionary family- back then!
 Kindergarten friends.
 This lady's son lived in Australia!
 Rainy season!
 New experiences!
Soda-in-a-bag
 Breakfast on-the-go
 Lime stone water falls
 Eli Thai dancing.
 Stopping on the side of the road for dinner.
 Our very first Thanksgiving.

 Hospital visit.
 Graduation!
 Barbecue dinner at ZOE.
 Chapel.
 Off to preschool!
 Fun at the waterfalls.
 ANZAC Day- Thai style.
Games at ZOE.

And now...


We're excited to see what God's got planned for the next 5 years.  
Thanks so much for supporting us on this journey.