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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

So Come...

After a hard day at school or work, the location where we are free to be ourselves: to laugh, to cry, to reflect, to process and acknowledge our emotions and thoughts, is our home.

Usually we can try to ‘hold it together’ when people are relying on us, when we need to get our job done, finish a test, complete an assignment or manage our everyday tasks.  But for most of us, ‘home’, is a place of safe refuge, unconditional love and limitless acceptance – well it should be, right?

I was reminded recently about the children who ZOE has helped to rescue. 
When they arrive, they’ve generally had little-to-no control over their environment and circumstances so, understandably, they experience varying emotions from distrust, fear, shame and grief. They may also have injuries, be unwell or arrive addicted to substances.  

For them to understand that they have a reached a place where they are free to be who they were created to be, where they are loved and accepted for who they are, where wounds can heal and joy be restored… it’s an overwhelming experience and one that is often hard to believe.

As I stood in the Child Rescue Center recently, a place where the journey begins, I felt so tremendously grateful – not just for the beautiful buildings, gardens and facilities but for the amazing people who stand ready to embrace these precious children. 

This poem is about them.

SO, COME

Come with your tear streaked eyes,
Come with your loneliness,
Come with your abandonment,
Bring it. 
You are no longer alone.

Come with your hidden pain,
Come with your rejection,
Come with your silent anger,
Bring it.
You are no longer invisible.

Come with your shattered trust,
Come with your fears,
Come with your broken dreams,
Bring them.
You are no longer unheard.

Come with your scars,
Come with your shame,
Come with your unworthiness,
Bring them.
You will no longer be blamed.

Come with your silenced voice,
Come with your wounded heart,
Come with your numbing pain,
Bring them.
You are no longer imprisoned. 

Come with your chaos,
Come with your loss,
Come with your rejection,
Bring them.
You are welcome here.

And the longer you stay, 
The more you’ll begin to understand,
You are brave.
You are worthy.
You are incredible.
You are truly one of kind.

So, come.

*This poem speaks of the love and kindness that the ZOE staff display day-in and day-out to the ones who have never known and experienced ‘home’ before and the beautiful freedom that comes from being accepted and embraced, ‘just as they are’. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

I Can Wash These Clothes!


As my family and I left Thailand to travel to Australia this past July, I realised that it was not just people in Thailand but all over the world, who sat clinging to news reports updating the progress of rescuing 12 young boys who were lost and stuck in a flooded cave in Chiang Rai.

Even in Australia, the story was being followed on every radio and television channel and it felt like, across the globe, thoughts and prayers were focused on bringing those boys out to safety.

During the cave rescue mission, sadness and shock set in whenthe news came that Petty Officer Saman Gunan, former Thai navy diver, lost consciousness on his way out of the Tham Luang cave and died. He will be forever remembered and honored for his heroic efforts in the rescue mission.

There were many other heroes too, who the world may not remember or even know their names but who, behind the scenes, did their “one thing” to help. 

Rawinmart Luelert is a name you might not recognize. I stumbled upon her story quite by chance. Rawinmart has a factory with 14 washing machines and 15 dryers, and a business, which provides laundry services for hotels in her area. When her friend showed her photos of the rescue workers wearing dirty uniforms, she knew there was a way that she could help. Collecting the uniforms of rescue workers every night at 9pm, she gathered a team and worked for 10 straight days, returning the uniforms at 4am after cleaning them at her laundry.  

She shared her appreciation for her employees, volunteers, and friends who helped her work through the night to get the job done. One man, Suwan Kankeaw, who helped to wash the uniforms of the US Navy divers said,

“I don’t have the ability to 
get the kids out directly, 
but what I can do is 
wash these clothes.”

As I read about Rawinmart and Suwan’s stories along with other volunteers who for 12 days prepared 400 boxes of food for lunch and dinner each day… Or who provided foot massages or haircuts for the rescue team… the stories of these people stuck in my mind.

Recently at ZOE, the Next Gen team, who lead our children and youth, carefully planned their camp theme along the lines of “Out of the Darkness”. It paralleled the events surrounding the flooded cave rescue with the message of God’s love and His plan to bring us into His marvelous light. 

There were some powerful testimonies of children who chose to follow Jesus for the first time and others who recommitted to live out their faith boldly.  



At ZOE, not all of us directly rescue children from slavery. There are so many people working in many different teams with a range of tasks, but each of us has an area that we use our skills in to support the work of rescue and make a difference. 

Just like Suwan, who knew he wasn’t the one to get the boys out directly, we can take encouragement from him and so many of the other lesser-known heroes, by discovering what we CAN do – and then making a difference!



Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Power of Three

Have you got a favourite number? 
I don't really. 
For some reason though, the number 3 seems to come up a lot. 
I am one of three children. 
I have three children. 
And, strangely I often find myself at the supermarket subconsciously buying things in threes. 

Of course, for people with a Christian faith, the number 3 has significance. God being three in one (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
Peter denying Jesus three times (Luke 22:54-62). Jesus asking Peter three times if he loves him (John 21:15-17).

That is just to mention a few examples from the 467 times the number 3 is mentioned in the Bible!

When I recently heard a song by Hillsong, Young & Free from their newest album - named Three, the words of the song impacted me greatly and I was, once again, reminded how this significant number is in my life.
  
Maybe you know the old song, 'Jesus Loves Me'. 
Jesus loves me this I know, 
For the Bible tells me so. 
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong.

For me, its one of those of songs that feels like it's been a part of my life since before I can even remember. And as a parent, I can recall bed times when my children were much smaller - times when I had no words of comfort left of my own and all I could do was to stroke their hair gently and sing those lyrics quietly over them.   

Those beautiful words first appeared as a poem in the context of an 1860 novel, spoken as a comforting poem to a dying child, but the tune was added in 1862. After publication as a song it became one of the most popular Christian hymns in churches around the world, especially among children.

And now, this new version of the song is bringing fresh reminders for our family of those comforting and life-changing truths, speaking life and love into our lives during both the best and worst of days.
 
Jesus Loves Me
Hillsong Young & Free

It was just three words
But it changed my life
Just a childlike truth
That consumed my mind
From my life's first breath
Till the day I rise
All I need to know
Is this age old line

Jesus loves me this I know
Jesus loves me this I know
I won't forget the Bible says
That He loves me so

It was just three nails
That held Him on that cross
But God was not restrained
For He was there by choice
As He gave His life
For a world He loved
So the earth replied
In this age old song

Jesus loves me this I know
Jesus loves me this I know
I won't forget the Bible says
That He loves me so

It was just three days
But it changed our world
For when there seemed no way
From the grave He rose

Jesus loves me this I know
Jesus loves me this I know
I won't forget the Bible says
That He loves me so

As a parent, I have days when I feel like most of my conversations with my children involve, "You need to change that...", "More of this...", "Less of that...", "Don't do that...", "Do this..."
But at the end of the day when my advice, warnings, recommendations, commands and instructions are left ringing in their ears - all I really want my children to know is one thing... that I love them. 
When they're all grown up, more than anything else I want them to reflect back and know that they were loved. More than helping them with homework, more than baking yummy treats, more than the toys and clothes I bought them, more than the lectures, more than the acts of service, words of encouragement and physical affection... my heart cries out, "I love you!"

Three words.

I think that's what so special about this old song is that those three simple words sum everything else up, "Jesus Loves Me".

Maybe for some people, this message may be hard to accept. For some, it may seem inconceivable or unbelievable.

And if that's you... would you test it out this week? 

Simply, ask Jesus to show you His love.

It could be life changing... I know it has been for me. 

The power of three!
Read more here: https://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article1319649.html?x_cw_context_provider=safari#storylink=cpy

Sunday, August 5, 2018

It Was a Long "Rhode" ... But It Was Worth It.


I know it sounds like an oxymoron but one month away in Australia felt like it went quickly but it also seemed like we'd been away from home for a long time.

Our trip back was separated into: 2 weeks stay in Sydney and 2 weeks in Melbourne.

First stop, Rhodes!

There was nothing disappointing about Rhodes that's for sure. It was where we planted ourselves to reacclimatise (believe me it's a 'thing' when you've lived overseas for over 8 years), travel to catch up with ZOE supporters, see church pastors and make new Sydney connections.

We also managed to go on some nice long walks and drink a lot of really. good. coffee.
Shout out to Auvers Cafe! It's worth stopping (just sayin').


In our second week we eagerly waited for ZOE founders Mike and Carol Hart at the airport to arrive for their FIRST ever trip Down Under.



We also attended the Hillsong Conference and got to hang out with our great friends Bill and Amie whilst being well and truly "topped" up spiritually.


Finally we managed a half-day-touristy-wander around the beautiful Sydney Harbour before flying to Melbourne for the second part of our trip.

The first week in Melbourne involved spending time with our wonderful Australian team. We also caught up with Eric and Cathy (who run CHIPS) which was super-interesting and so encouraging to hear how they are helping transform children's lives. We attended several meetings, did some strategic planning, presented at a dinner hosted by Entrust and managed to have some time with Mike and Carol to brainstorm and dream for the future.





Our children were lovingly cared for by my parents from Sunday to Thursday and after a broken arm-scare (Eliana) and a truly broken finger (my dad), the five of us were reunited once again.

After Mike and Carol had flown out, Dave presented his human trafficking awareness talk at two schools, we caught up with lots of our supporters, Dave had some more meetings and then we got to hang out with our families (but not-for-long-enough).

So thankful for the gift of a Relief Band to aid my body's reaction to flying. Someone told me tonight that I should be on commission for that band! It really does work!



Ahhh yes the joys! But I am happy to report that everything is now under control!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Scraps



We have this restaurant that we really like going to for special occasions. It's not fancy but their food is really good quality. 

We had mentioned to our children one day how we like it because everything there is 'made from scratch' which is how we like to cook. 

Upon repeating part of the conversation a week or so later one of our kids very earnestly said, "Oh it's because everything there is 'made from scraps'!"

We all had a good laugh. 

The last few weeks have been busy. Good busy! We've had wonderful friends visiting, dance concerts, graduations, food to be baked for class parties and thank you gifts, plus the normal activities, work and Thai study etc. 

Sometimes I wonder, despite wanting my life to reflect the quality of a wonderful healthy meal made from scratch, how upon closer examination, it can sometimes resemble a bit of a mess - more like a meal made from scraps! 


Scraps of time, half finished conversations, unfinished prayers, incomplete jobs, emails sitting in the draft folder... anyone else?

And whilst I don't want God and my family to just 'get my leftovers' at the end of the day, the small fragments of time that might be left, the scraps after everything else has been used up is sometimes all I feel like I have to offer.

I was challenged recently when I read this on Today:

God is our greatest authority. We wouldn’t give our earthly authorities our scraps. Yet so ­often we offer God the leftover portions of our time, money, energy, thought, and emotion. He gets the scraps and rejects—just as the Israelites were offering the worst of their animals in sacrifice.

It must have been a burden to care for a blind or lame animal. The temptation to sacrifice such an animal would be very real. Wouldn’t a blind or lame animal suit God’s purposes just as well as any other animal?

We face a similar temptation. We pray with the five extra minutes we might have and aren’t sure what else we can do with that time. We help with a service project on a Saturday that is “free” on our calendar. We’re happy to tithe as long as we have some disposable i­ncome. We read that deep religious book if we’re in between novels.

We have to admit, though, that extras aren’t really sacrifices. When we willingly sacri­fice time, money, or energy that have value to us, it settles the greater value of God into our hearts and minds. God sacrificed his only Son for us. Certainly he is far more worthy of our best than any earthly ­authority.

Jason Smith, personal friend, founder of Back In Motion Health Group and physiotherapist is also a long time supporter of our family and ZOE's work. Upon his recent visit to Thailand he challenged the Thai staff and foreign volunteers at our staff meeting to keep asking smart questions.
Jason told us that a study showed the average 4-year-old British girl asks her mother about 390 questions a day. By the time we are adults though the number of questions most of us ask per day has dwindled incredibly. 

And so I begin by challenging myself this week:

How do I show God that He is number 1 in my life?
What's getting in the way of focussing on God?
How am I showing my family that I love them?
Are they receiving my sacrifices of 'love' or do I need to find alternative ways to reach their hearts?

I know that God and my family are worth more than my scraps, how about you? What questions do you need to ask yourself this week?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Off the Beaten Track


We went on a hike last weekend with friends. It's always amusing to see all the different personalities emerge and watch all of our individual ways of handling this kind of adventure, or challenge, as it is for some.

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson 


Some of us love the wild and unpredictable, the idea of getting lost, the places where there is no path and the challenge of the unmarked journey. Others of us like to know the plan, how long the journey will take, where we can we stop and what snacks there are to eat... You get the picture!

What fascinates me though is how we relate to 'life' in general, does not always correspond to how we approach a hike. Take me, for example. In general, I do like to know the plan. I try to be organised and prepared. I like to be punctual and complete tasks within a set time frame. But on a hike the thought of getting lost excites me, the fact that we don't know which way we're going or what time we'll finish brings out the care-free side of me and it's refreshing to be reminded that there are times when it's okay not to rush... to know... or to have a plan. And sometimes it takes getting off the beaten track to be reminded of that.  


 "Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt." 
- John Muir 

I must say, I really enjoyed the hike. I mean I was so hot and sweaty by the end, sometimes my muscles ached and the long grass against my skin made me itchy. But this road less travelled, was a moment in time to be surrounded by nature and see interesting bugs and creatures in their natural environment (instead of my kitchen for a change). And to be lost... lost in the physical sense of not really knowing which direction we were going but lost in thoughts too. And sometimes that's exactly when everything starts to make more sense and become clearer. It's like we get a new way to see everything.

How often do we make time to wander, to explore and to connect in this different way? I know I don't do it nearly enough but I loved the opportunity to disconnect and clear my mind of the normal, every-day stresses. And I know it's something our family need to do more often.


"Maybe the best moment of your life will be on your next big adventure." 
- Siya Zarrabi

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Few Good Men

You want the truth? You can't handle the truth! 

It's the famous line from the play A Few Good Men later made into a movie in 1992 starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore. It was also performed as a play again by some very talented students at my children's school last week. Our son made an appearance too as one of the lesser known lawyers as well as a marine soldier and he had a fantastic time being a part of the cast.
~
Yesterday started off in such a lovely way. My children let me sleep in which was so kind but not only that, just before 9am, my daughter brought me pancakes in bed. Unfortunately it was about that time that the day started to go rapidly downhill... You want the truth?

As I started eating pancakes in bed, my daughter informed me that she had discovered our little dog outside with a baby bird in his mouth surrounded by adult birds swooping him and crying loudly. As I sleepily made my way to where the incident had taken place, I could see the baby bird motionless under the tree and the other birds were sitting up on the roof still wailing loudly, my heart broke. How sad! Shortly after our dog started barking loudly at something in the laundry. Erg, what now?
I watched the dog as he used his paw and pulled a plastic box that had garbage bags in it off the low shelf and just as he did... out ran a rat! Seriously? So disgusting! You may remember the last time I saw a rat in this house

So I hate rats... I really do. Even as I write this 24 hours later, I am still looking over my shoulder at the slightest noise. Sadly Dave wasn't home when I saw the rat which reduced the number of the Few Good Men in this house by one, and the other two 'young men' seemed to have mysteriously disappeared to their bedrooms leaving just 'Two Good Women' to sort out the rat problem.

And sort it out we did! My daughter and I made a strategic plan. We knew it had scampered into the room next to laundry which is a small storage room with the deep freezer and refrigerator in it and a shelf for the school bags etc.  We pulled the shelf out and blocked the door way with it so the rat was trapped in the room. We moved the fridge/ freezer out from the wall to allow enough room for our dog to get in and around the back and then we released the hound!

It took a lot of waiting as the rat had managed to make its way into a small compartment at the back of the fridge. Using the light from my phone, we could see his tail hanging down and so could our dog! Eventually after much poking and prodding, the rat made a move and the chase was on... dog vs rat.

I won't share the rest of the gory details... I can't handle the truth!
Needless to say, that rat is no longer living in this house (or any house).

I felt traumatised but I do think the whole experience drew my daughter and I closer as we had to solve this problem together. 

After cleaning up, putting everything back in its place and making myself a coffee, I realised that it was now way past lunch time so my daughter and I set to work with the next task, making lunch. 

I'd had enough drama for one day however who knows, that's often not how it works, right? After lunch, I heard the kids screaming that they'd found ticks on our dog which lead us to begin operation "de-ticking". It's a 2-3 person job and not a pleasant one. As we carefully held our dog down and removed the ticks one by one with tweezers the minutes turned to hours.

Eventually after that was over, I put a movie on for the kids and made dinner. 
As I tucked the kids into bed last night, and had to kill a cockroach that had flown in and was sitting on their bedroom dresser, I started to think about yet another quote from A Few Good Men, 
"I STRENUOUSLY object". But no... "Overruled". 
#thejoysofparenting
As I finally sat down at my computer to try to get some "work" done, the kind that requires you to concentrate, uninterrupted... I encountered another setback, I was so jumpy by then that every little noise in the house had my heart racing. I just couldn't handle it anymore, as I went to crawl into bed, I realised that I had not even had a shower and I was still in the shorts and tank top I'd slept in the night before. 
You want the truth? 

As I said, I can't even handle the truth!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Grand Opening


In February we celebrated the Grand Opening of our brand new Child Rescue Centre. We were so honoured to have so many world changers come and join us.

Having been asked to help on the photography team for the day, gave me the chance to observe this memorable occasion through the camera’s viewfinder - in a whole new light. Helping to capture this unforgettable milestone in ZOE’s history gave me the opportunity to zoom in and fix my attention on just what a significant event was actually taking place.


As each guest and VIP arrived, I was able to focus on the faces of the many incredible people who have critical roles and positions in partnering and collaborating with ZOE as we, together, fight child trafficking.



ZOE founder Michael Hart's speech exposed what our work is all about:

"Everyone here has an important role in making 
this place a refuge for children in Thailand. 
 These beautiful buildings would be only an empty shell, 
if they did not have the people who are 
dedicated to rescuing and restoring child victims. 
 All of us here today, can turn these rooms 
into 'safety' 'peace' and 'hope' for each child. 
 We are on the same team, playing different positions, 
but we all fight for victory on behalf of the children we serve."

And while the Grand Opening felt like it was over in a flash, the real work of rescuing and caring for children is not. Thank you for joining with us in this fight and celebrating the opening of this building so crucial for the next stage in rescuing children.



You may have seen the quote, “Life is like a camera. Focus on what's important. Capture the good times. Develop from the negatives. And if things don't work out, just take another shot.”

Unlike cameras, where we can ‘just take another shot’, in life, we only get the ‘one shot’ to make a difference. Let’s continue to work together to expose child trafficking and focus on helping these precious children, one at a time.




Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Buffet of Life

Last Saturday we went out with some of the other missionaries to show them a local restaurant that we really like. This place is definitely not fancy but it serves an especially delicious northern Thai curry called gaaeng hang laeh muu. It’s the sort of dish that we never need a big portion of because the flavours are so intensely deep and rich that one small serve shared between two people provides enough taste to linger in your mouth and remind you of how satisfying it was for the next few hours. We never leave feeling bloated or too full but {I’m not exaggerating} hours later we can still be heard uttering, “That curry was so delicious!”

I appreciate this dish all the more since trying to make it myself a few times. It’s quite an effort with a long list of ingredients combining spices and being slow-cooked for a substantial amount of time, to release a wonderfully subtle combination of all the flavours.  
When made correctly… seriously! There are no words!

This past December, I looked at our calendar with all the upcoming events that our family had either been invited to or were asked to be a part of through work, school, friendships, church and extra curricular activities.  It was a lot.  

Granted, I am an introvert but I really started to feel overwhelmed by it all. The most difficult part was that when I sat down to look at what each thing was {in order to cut a few things out} I was surprised to notice that they were all really ‘good’ things. Not one of the things, in isolation, was a waste of time, unnecessary or seemed unenjoyable, but all of them together… was simply too much. 

I was explaining to a friend how I don’t like to get to the end of a busy week packed with ‘good’ things and not even be able to remember what I did a few days earlier.  After an event I want to ‘savor’ it and make space to ‘digest’ it within our family.  I want to give my heart time to respond and to block out the noises that so often deafen me from hearing what it was I needed to learn through each experience. 

I have come to appreciate the beauty of the Thai culture that really stops and sits to eat together and in contrast I feel saddened by the western ‘drive-through’ influence - where food is consumed on-the-way-to wherever… while rushing to the “next thing”.

Having time to “chew on”, “mull over” and reflectively appreciate the moments in life - just like that curry - has become so much more appealing to me than the all-you-can-eat buffet of an overcrowded life.  The buffet, from a distance, may aesthetically seem more appealing but soon enough you’re left feeling so full, you can’t even remember the first thing you ate. There is nothing wrong with the individual dishes, they’re all delicious, but later the flavours have all mixed into one and the satisfaction that you thought you might have by the end is tainted by the bloated feelings that leave you feeling like you never want to eat again!

For parents, how do we then help to navigate our children through this “buffet” style-of life, guiding them as they grow up with all-you-can-eat opportunities? How do we effectively and deliberately model a reflective and sensitive approach to life? 

I believe that it is something that we must fight to do ourselves first in order to model it to our children.  If I can’t insert “pauses” into my own life that allow me to joyfully experience and reflectively savour the tastes of my day and week, then how can I direct my children faced with every distraction and opportunity laid before them to be able to do the same?  How can I teach my kids that yes, the buffet may all look good, but that does not mean it must all be consumed? 

Recently, I shared that my word for 2018 was “PAUSE”. 

I want to pause in order to remember these days that fly by so quickly.
I need to pause to give my best yes … and a careful no.
I choose to pause to give thanks.
I must pause before I speak in anger, judgment, or criticism.
I will pause to say I’m sorry.
I desire to pause to dwell on God’s goodness and mercy.

In an environment where smorgasbords abound and they all look so appealing, it can be hard for all of us to say no to opportunities, invitations and new ideas.  But when we become too busy {even doing good things} we crowd out our ability to ‘pause’ and hear God’s voice and we miss out on the intensely deep and rich moments in life.

I guess, as the saying goes, sometimes less is more.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Number 8: New Beginnings!

Click on the picture to enlarge

Today we celebrate our eighth anniversary of being here in Thailand. 
Over the years, I have been reflective about our journey and you can check out some of those past posts by clicking on the links below:


8 years ago!
1 Year
2 Years
3 Years
4 Years
5 Years
6 Years
7 Years



The number 'eight' is a special number. It is the number of "New Beginnings!"

There are 7 days in a week but the eighth day is a brand new beginning to a new week of new opportunities and new possibilities! And that's what I am claiming over this year ahead.

We are excited about what God is going to do this year at both ZOE and in our personal lives.


Thank you for supporting us these past eight years and for your continued prayers for our family.