Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Odd Socks… and a Merry Christmas!

So, the last time I wrote, we were embarking upon the overwhelming task of moving house but I am pleased to report that the move went smoothly and we all settled into our new surroundings quickly.

The first few weeks in our new house were busy. It felt like we'd just moved in but we were hardly home, rushing from one event to the next.  With the end-of-semester sports matches, Christmas events at school, celebrating Eli's birthday, ZOE events and seeing friends.
10-year-old birthday girl selfie!
Suddenly, the realisation that we'd moved from a house with all built in storage to one without soon became noticeable.  The absence of having drawers and enough storage for our clothes became more and more chaotic as the days passed, “I can’t find my PE uniform” “Where’s all the socks?” “I don’t know where anything is!!”
Eventually we were able to get the furniture that we needed and now most things have a home… what a difference that makes!!

The most puzzling thing for me though was that once everything was sorted and put away (from being in piles and thrown across our bed) was that I was left with … 21 odd socks!

C’mon, a few odd socks I would expect, but TWENTY-ONE!!!! That’s just ridiculous. How do twenty-one socks lose their partner?

“Life is too short to waste time matching socks”

As Christmas time drew nearer, we realised how different it would be this year for our family. We had celebrated at the The NEST a week before Christmas and at ZOE on Christmas Eve leaving Christmas Day all to ourselves.  It was the first time in a long while that we had the whole day with just us five six (including Latte) and we were all pretty excited!! 

We created a menu based around our restrictions (no dairy, wheat, refined sugar) and set about getting everything just right. I just love how our children are able to help and be a part of it now.  The day started with GF pancakes and eggnog.
During the week Spencer had created his own pin-board on Pinterest and selected dairy free, sugar free ice-cream recipes to compliment the avocado chocolate fudge brownies that I’d made earlier. Him and I made some Chunky Monkey ice-cream... 

And the older two kids made a delicious entrée of bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms all by themselves while Dave and I also worked on the roast vegetables, chicken and gravy. We even enjoyed GF fruitcake and custard for afternoon tea… it ended up being quite the feast!

“It felt great… like a new pair of socks”

There were so many highlights throughout the day and just like their father my three children were all heard commenting, “This was the BEST Christmas ever”. I guess you just can’t beat genetics!

During the day we read the Christmas story from our Bibles, wrote birthday cards to Jesus and prayed for the many people for whom Christmas Day is not filled with love, presents, family and togetherness.  We each took words that were opposites to how we felt and prayed for those people for whom the day is difficult, lonely and painful.
We also got to chat with our precious families in Australia via Skype. It was so lovely to hear their voices and see their faces.

“I miss you like the mismatching sock I can’t find”

Our day even included some drama! We were excited to light the final candle of Advent, but during lunch, when we were all chatting happily, one of the pinecones on our advent wreath (in the middle of the table) caught fire. Whoops! My red tablecloth and runner were ruined but thankfully everyone was safe and the fire was easily contained! 
We also watched the story of William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army). It was very thought provoking and a good reminder about why we "fight". 

And of course there was also time during the day for opening presents… and, yes, there was even a few new pairs of socks under the tree!

I’m hoping your Christmas was also joy-filled and memorable.
From our family to yours, odd socks and all… Merry Christmas! 

“Happiness is discovering that all socks came back in pairs when folding the laundry”.

Friday, December 2, 2016

From Overwhelmed to Overwhelmed.




Oh wow… it’s been so long since I wrote. Where to start?

So I guess nearly two years ago when we put our hands up to help start the transitional home for the older teens at the children’s home, reaching 18 and wishing to work or go to university, we had no idea how what that looked like or how long we’d do it for.

Over the past two years, we’ve had ten young people live at the house (at different times) with our family. The length of their stays has differed according to their needs. Out of the ten young adults, seven of them are still actively involved in the transition program. By this I mean they still live here, stay over or come and use the house throughout the week and are a part of our mentoring program, weekly catch-ups and celebrations.

We have another 5-6 young people, who currently live at ZOE, and are in the preparation stage, getting ready to move here sometime over the next 4 months.

Just recently, we had started exploring the idea of our family moving out of the transitional home and finding a house close by where we can still be involved (Dave will still oversee the program) but we will have some more space and at the same time create space for the young people who will be moving here soon.

In the past, moving hasn’t fazed me but honestly we all love living here and deep down none of us want to move but on the other hand, we all know it’s one of those hard-but-right decisions for everyone. Thankfully we were able to find a house very quickly and as I write this, we have begun the process of packing and clearing out and trying not to take too much with us to this next, much smaller, house.

Over the past two years Dave and I have loved seeing our own children grow and change. We have had the pleasure of watching them interact and grow to love their ‘big ZOE brothers and sisters’ and it will be sad to end this season living at the house. I am very excited for the next season of the transitional program though. After our family moves from the upstairs section of the house, there are another five or six girls and 1 guy coming to live at the house plus one missionary. The two wonderful Thai staff, who work at the house, will also stay over 1-2 times per week.

Please pray for the transition of our family moving out and the other missionary moving in, also for the young people finishing school this year and preparing to move into the house in the next few months.

~

School life: This is the second year that I have been involved in our school’s Parent/Teacher Group Leadership Team as well as the weekly prayer meetings and helping out where I can with athletics/swimming etc.
Top left: PTG, Top and bottom right: Friends from Australia,
Bottom left: Sweet friends  

This year has been a huge change as our Tobi started Grade 6 (Middle School).

This has meant lots more homework, staying up later, receiving a laptop from school and trying to cope with two parents who feel slightly extremely unprepared!
Life has a way of simply carrying on though whether we’re ready or not!

So far this year we have enjoyed supporting Eliana in her swimming endeavors. She brought home two medals at the International Schools Swim Meet. A bronze medal for a freestyle relay and a silver one for the 25m breast stroke. We were so proud of her efforts training both after school and on the weekends.


We also got to see both Eliana and Tobi try basketball for the first time this year. They both caught on quickly and even though the season is finished now, they still enjoy going to their school on a Saturday night and watching Dave play a pickup game in the men’s comp and shooting around in the breaks. Watch out for Spencer though, this boy can shoot and, at the rate he’s growing, we think next year when he can play U10s he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with! The current season has just started with both soccer (or football as everyone else calls it) and Track and Field. I am excited to see how each of the kids has improved since last year and I am resting my voice in preparation for some serious cheering at their games and meets!


In September this year, Tobi had his 11th birthday, a Marvel party, at a local rollerblading rink. Spencer’s party was postponed due to our family being sick for a few weeks with flu. When we eventually celebrated his 8th birthday, it was at home, ninja style, with a few close friends. Eliana is still deciding what to for her birthday in a little over a week’s time. She is determined to do something adventurous to mark being double figures… we’re just not sure what that will be yet!


In September this year we welcomed a new member into the Cross family- a little Shiranian (Pomeranian-Shih Tzu) puppy named Latte! He is super cute and super cheeky and loved by everyone at the house… I think he’ll be the most missed by the big kids when we move out but we’ll bring him around for lots of visits!
Latte's first visit to the vet.

In amongst the sickness, the moving, the busyness of Thanksgiving, Christmas, ZOE and school events it has been easy to look at my planner packed with events and an arm’s length to-do list and give in to some big… overwhelming… feelings!! During my quiet worship times though I have tried to mediate on the words of one of my favourite songs right now. It continues to give me the perspective that I need not be overwhelmed by my circumstances but instead with Him my creator and my God. The pressures, deadlines, meetings, events, appointments and strains in a busy season seem to fade in comparison to how amazing and wonderful He is.

If you don’t know the song, I’ll post the words below and if you don’t know this wonderful Creator and God who I speak about … then I challenge you to try Him out, talk to Him and see what happens. He is never far away. He made you and He already knows you!

"Overwhelmed"

I see the work of Your Hands
Galaxies spin in a Heavenly dance oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming

I hear the sound of Your Voice
All at once it's a gentle and thundering noise oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming

I delight myself in You
Captivated by Your beauty
I'm overwhelmed, I'm overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I'm overwhelmed, I'm overwhelmed by You

I know the power of Your Cross
Forgiven and free forever You'll be my God

All that You've done is so overwhelming
I delight myself in You
In the Glory of Your Presence
I'm overwhelmed, I'm overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I'm overwhelmed, I'm overwhelmed by You

You are Beautiful, You are Beautiful
Oh God, there is no one more Beautiful
You are Beautiful, God you are the most Beautiful

You are Wonderful, You are Wonderful
Oh God, there is no one more Wonderful
You are Wonderful, God You are the most Wonderful

You are Glorious, You are Glorious
Oh God, there is no one more Glorious
You are Glorious, God you are the most Glorious

I delight myself in you
In the Glory of your Presence
I'm overwhelmed, I'm overwhelmed by you

And God, I run into your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I'm overwhelmed, I'm overwhelmed by you
I'm overwhelmed, I'm overwhelmed by you

There is no one more beautiful
God, you are the most beautiful

(Big Daddy Weave)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

One month on...

Well, we left Australia with our hearts full.  Dave was a tad exhausted after a busy 6 weeks, but it is always such a blessing to have time with family and good friends.  After years of missing different things, there is only one thing that I really wish I could bring back to Thailand with me; the very precious people in my life.
~
Unfortunately I experienced travel sickness on the way home so I was very glad when the plane finally hit the runway and I was standing on solid ground again.  As we exited customs, our wonderful friend Laura and her girls greeted us. It was a joyous reunion with lots of laughter and chatter as we lugged suitcases and joked about how hot we all were, still dressed in our winter clothes. We were really looking forward to showers and bed by this stage.

It was only as we were preparing to leave in Laura’s car that our spirits were suddenly dampened. We realized that her bag containing her wallet, phone, passport, bankbook and i-pad had been stolen from the front seat of her car while we’d been loading the suitcases into the back.

Dave, Laura and I took turns to stay at the car with the children and rotated who would go off praying and searching nearby bushes, in the backs of trucks and rubbish piles.  Laura managed to get the attention of the police and we searched anywhere and everywhere in the hope that the thieves would just take the cash and then dump the rest of the contents.

… 3 and a half hours after arriving at the airport, sweaty, tired and thirsty, we began thanking God for His faithfulness. The phone ‘find me’ service was able to help police to locate her bag, which, as we had prayed, was dumped with everything still in it, apart from the money and the i-pad.

With mixed emotions of thankfulness and shock, Laura finally dropped us off.  After a sleepless night on the plane, the travel sickness and the strain of the airport incident, I can assure you, my head was very happy to hit the pillow that night!

The past few weeks have not been quite so dramatic, thankfully.
After finding the adjustment back a little more difficult this time, I feel like we are finally settling into a good routine now.  Our children are back at school and are enjoying their new teachers, classes and being around their friends.
Rock climbing at a friend's party.

I recently posted on Facebook:

I love seeing how God faithfully answers my prayers and continues to provide and supply all my needs but when He answers my children’s big, important requests with abundance… it makes my heart so very, very happy!

I was reminded recently that the way God can show us He’s in control is when we are in situations that we can’t control.
When I see the way my children’s faith is growing; I praise God for his presence in their lives.
~
Shortly after arriving home, one of the young ladies who was living with us at the transitional house was preparing to move to her university dorm.  We know that we will not see her as often now because her university is a long way away so it was with both excitement and sadness that we had to farewell such a wonderful girl.  It was fun to celebrate her out, encourage her with our words and pray blessing on her. We look forward to seeing how she blossoms, grows and changes even more this year.  We believe she has an amazing future ahead of her.
~
With the children back at school, I thought about all the many things that I have wanted to do but somehow the first 2 weeks of school just slipped by very quickly.
I am learning some new cooking skills at the moment, trying to incorporate wheat free, dairy free and low sugar alongside some homemade probiotics to help a few members of our family. Just think a few months ago, I’d never even heard of kefir, fermenting SCOBYs or kombucha, let alone thought about making bone both soup.  And my friend’s text message the other day as we chatted about our soups read something like, “and the more chicken feet the better”.
When did my life start incorporating chicken feet conversations relating to food?
Hmmm!
~
We feel ready for this next season. We know there will be obstacles and trials but we know our God is good. He is able and He is in control.
Visiting the zoo with friends from Australia here.
As you sit and read this, please take a moment to pray for the precious children at ZOE Children’s Home, for our family, the other volunteers and for your family too… for all us… that we will continue to acknowledge when God faithfully answers our prayers and provides with His amazing abundance.

From our home (of fermenting SCOBYs and chicken feet) to yours with love!!
Choosing bones for our soup!


Friday, July 29, 2016

A Tiny Spark

My family had an open fire place when I was growing up, so learning how to make a fire was all part of living in our home - collecting twigs and smaller logs, learning how to build up to the larger logs and keeping the fire alive.

This winter, whilst visiting Australia, we were blessed to be able to stay in a little cottage with a potbelly fireplace and I loved seeing our three children also creating memories collecting kindling, carrying big logs for firewood and learning how to start a fire.


Seven and a half years ago when we heard about ZOE for the first time, something definitely ‘sparked’ in us. 

And, a bit like a fire, we hypothetically, started down a path of collecting kindling, blowing the small sparks of the fire, fueling it as it grew and tending it, waiting and watching to see what would happen until … eventually all these years later, we are at a stage where it looks like there are some deep burning coals.


One night in Australia, Dave was due to be leaving as he was sharing at a young adult’s group but since it was so cold, he tried to light a fire for us before he left.  It really didn’t take off and he had to leave before there was really anything but a few small flickers.  After putting the children to bed, I had began to try… actually I had several tries but, for some reason, I couldn’t get it to start. I huffed and I puffed and I nearly blew the house down trying all my old tricks but it was not until about ten o’clock, that I could honestly say there was a fire that looked like it would finally give off some decent heat.  Eventually, once it got going, it was hot and fierce… unquenchable you might say.

There’s a quote, “A mighty flame follows a tiny spark

Sometimes our little sparks seem like they’ll never come to be much. They may fizzle for a while and then die out. They may burn quickly like paper and then just as quickly turn to ash.  I was reminded recently though how sometimes these small sparks, catch onto something that starts another spark and then that spark, starts another… pretty soon there are small fires burning all over the place.

This year, we were invited to share about ZOE’s work, fighting modern day slavery, at 9 church services, 12 schools, trivia nights, young adults groups, youth groups, a craft group, injustice group, men’s group, a breakfast and various other casual meet-ups.  


What was also neat to see on this trip was all the little sparks that were lit. People coming up to us and saying, “I want to help”, “What can I do?” Some people purchased colouring books and gave them away to their friends and colleagues; others bought cookbooks to “cook for a cause”.

We now have a small team of volunteers who have offered to help us with various tasks and we know we can call on them. They now also have this burning desire to stop trafficking and make a difference in the lives of children.

It’s been so exciting to read the emails that have started trickling in from teachers whose students have already ‘fired up’ to make change happen and not just accept that slavery still exists.  I love reading about their choices to ‘do one thing’ whatever that it… it could just be that spark that starts a mighty flame!

  

Monday, May 30, 2016

Your Beautiful Hands Can...

“All ‘hands’ on deck!” is what one of our kid’s church pastors shouts when it’s time to pray.  It’s a good reminder for the children to stop what they’re doing, clasp their hands and focus on God.

Hands are so amazing aren’t they? The fact that they can do so many different things as well as communicate so much about how we’re feeling. 
They can show others when we’re nervous, tired, appreciative, mad, hurting, thoughtful… and so many other emotions!

They can also do so many things too.  They help us to swim, hug, cook, drive, write… this list goes on and on!!

Our hands also tell others information about us like whether we are married or single, our taste in jewelry, our age group and whether or not we bite our nails!!

But have you ever considered that your hands could also help fight child trafficking?  We know that most of you don’t have too much time on your “hands” but we’ve found a way that you can help without having to feel like time is slipping through your fingers.

We have produced an intricate colouring book called “Your Beautiful Hands Can” and in the right “hands” this book can do amazing things!

On one “hand” you can be having fun and doing something relaxing but on the other “hand” you will be helping kids in Thailand.

“But I’ve never tried my ‘hand’ at coloring or doodling,” I hear you say. 
Well this book would also make a lovely gift for someone or can be used as a fundraising activity for youth groups, churches and schools.

We’ll leave it in your “hands” to think creatively about the many other ways that this book can assist with the business at “hand” which is rescuing and caring for children.

I personally will not sit on my hands, or twiddle my thumbs, waiting for the right time.  The issue of modern day slavery is already out of “hand”!!!

The time is NOW! 

Wouldn’t it feel great to say that you had a “hand” in helping to fight child trafficking? 

I say, let’s use whatever we have at “hand” and make slavery disappear forever.

Will you lend a “hand”?  Watch the short video below!!

Email andrea@gozoe.org for quotes and expressions of interest for bulk ordering in packs of 50 or 100.  Books will be ready in June 2016!





Tuesday, May 17, 2016

7-ELEVEN


As I drove around doing errands, my mind wandered from thought to thought. 
My to-do lists. 
What to cook for dinner. 
Things to remember.
And then I saw it.
Another one. A new one, which had just been built.
A brand spanking new … 7- ELEVEN store.
My daughter and my husband like to play this game in the car called “7-Eleven”. It’s basically just spot the 7-Eleven store and the person who spots the most during the trip is the winner or the game can be carried on from one trip to another, depending on what they decide {sigh}.
It drives me crazy because I might be mid-sentence, saying something really important {a-hem} when all of a sudden “7-Eleven!” erupts, followed by lots of excitable screaming and yelling about who’s winning and who saw it first … yadda-yadda … hence, my important sentence gets lost. You get the picture.
But, in case you’re wondering how I could let this simple game drive me crazy, I just want to point out that in Thailand, there are over eight thousand 
7-Eleven stores! Yep! As Suzy Strutner said in the Chiangmai Times,
"Your life in general comes from 7-Eleven. It's where you pay your bills. 
And re-load your phone. And shop for groceries. 
And most importantly, it's where you get toasties. 
7-Eleven IS LIFE."
We used to pass at least 10 just on the way to school. You might understand now how it might, kind-of, just a little bit, get annoying after a while {nod here}.
And then my thoughts trail away to other things. Things I’ve been reading. 
Strangely enough an article from Family Education talks about what to expect in the second grade, and helping your child aged 7-11 to successfully face challenges that the school year may bring. My youngest is now 7 and I am trying to think ahead and be prepared (as much as possible) in relation to the social and emotional issues that this age group generally face.
And then my mind races once more, this time to the ‘other’ kids in this age group, the ones who don’t have a mum or dad reading up on all the latest educational advice. Whose mums or dads never had the chance to learn to read. Whose parents are no longer alive. Whose parents, for whatever reason, couldn’t protect them. This is the group we came here to help: the orphans and the little ones who cannot fight for themselves.
And while I sit in my car noticing the 8001st 
7-Eleven to be built, I think of the many little 7-11 year olds who still need rescuing. 
 At ZOE Children’s Homes we have at least ten children who fall into this age group who have been rescued and are now safe in the care of a new family. [There are also many children who are both younger and older than this].
The team at ZOE not only works hard to prevent child trafficking from occurring, but we will intervene when a child is in danger of being sold or has been sold into prostitution or slavery. But it doesn’t finish there, we commit to caring for these children from then on.
Did you know that there are more than 58,000 
7-ELEVEN outlets worldwide? You see them too.
As you drive home from work.
As you race to pick up your kids from school.
As you rush to that meeting.
As you dash out to go to the gym.
On your way to church.
But what can you possibly do? Right?

Well here’s a really easy thing. Every time you see a 7-Eleven store, let it remind you about what you have just read.
I’m not going to give you a bunch of statistics to remember. If there is one child who has been trafficked, it’s one too many.
You’re valuable to us!
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.
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.
If you've been touched by the work going on at ZOE or if you've seen or read or heard or experienced something that affected you, then go on and share THIS with others. 
Will you?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What's the Plan?

I'm not sure if you have someone in your family that continuously asks the question, "What's the plan?"  But I must admit, I like knowing what the plan is too!!

The other day, I was getting nervous and trying not to stress-out about it, but misplacing my diary (planner) felt like half my brain had just been wiped. Thankfully, after turning a few rooms upside down, and praying about it (ashamedly, in that order) the diary appeared tucked under a basketful of sewing things! Sigh.

Well now that it's back, I am looking at the calendar with disbelief... there's only 37 days till we're back on Australian soil!! What? How? Okay, that means I have a lot of planning still to do in a very small amount of time. But apart from all that, we are all very excited.  Our children haven't been back since September 2014 so they are SUPER excited!

In the mean time, I thought that I’d share with you a bit about what we’ve been up to lately.

Back in April, we enjoyed having David’s sister, our brother-in-law and our 2 nephews visit us. Especially for the week when our three kids were on school holidays, it was such a joy to have “cousin” time. There was a lot of laughter and fun that occurred and we made some great memories.



Also in April we had some of the children from ZOE come for a play-date as it was also their school break. We had fun Zentangling, making creations out of Paddle pop (popsicle) sticks as well as playing Lego.

The rest of the break included water, water and more water. The Thai New Year, also known as Songkran is a three-day celebration/ water fight.  As some of you may know, Thailand has had a big heat wave this past month so three days of throwing water and being wet is a welcome relief from the scorching heat. 



After Songkran, our kids went back to finish their final quarter/ term for the year feeling kind-of exhausted after so much fun. School finishes in June for them so they’re very much on the home stretch now.

I have been working on a project called “Family Baskets”. It’s a fairly new initiative to bring a basket of new ideas to the parents at ZOE every three months. It’s a way of encouraging family bonding, good memories and strengthen the family units.  It empowers the parents with new ideas and activities to try.  I try to provide activities based around these three areas:

1. Some sort of family bonding task or challenge or goal to work on.
2. Some type of craft/ something to learn/do e.g. make something/music related/arty/ fun etc
3. Something relaxing/stress relieving/ fun or a new game/activity.  

I love trying to fit within the budget and think of new and exciting things to do.

Dave and I are also working towards a big event this Saturday night where we are organising a project for ZFA. I am really looking forward to being able to share all about this soon… keep a look out! This is going to be COOL!

Aside from all that, there’s been LOTS happening here in the Transitional Home aka The Nest.

We are learning to keep handing the big and little issues over to God whilst continuing to love and reach out to these precious young people.

I shared with friends this week how I have struggled personally these past couple of months, often times feeling very disheartened. Praise God though as I have felt the fog lift. Whilst we feel like so much of this is unchartered waters and we don’t know what the next week looks like or how things will pan out; with our trust in God, we do not need to be afraid or discouraged. We need only to keep our eyes focused on Him. God is so good. He is faithful time and time again.

Within our little family, I am really enjoying watching our three as they grow and change. I really want to freeze them at their current ages but I am also excited to see each new step they take in becoming ‘themselves’; their beautiful, unique selves!  I love seeing them try new things and find the areas that they love to participate in.
Other than that, I have really valued the opportunity to be a part of the leadership team for the PTG (parent-teacher-group) at our children's school this year. I gained a lot of insight into the school and the annual events etc. I met some lovely people too and I will continue on being a part of this group in future.

Here are some pictures from the past month or so:
One of the young adults at The Nest bought 2 rabbits home the other day. Needless to say, there is always someone around to cuddle them!

ANZAC Day Dawn Service.

A particularly smokey day...

April in Thailand is typically hot and sweaty, but this year's scorching weather has set a record for the longest heat wave in at least 65 years. The average peak temperature each day this month has been above 40 degrees celsius.

Growing up so fast: healthy and strong.