A new year, a new word

For the last few years, through prayer and pondering, I’ve had a word for the year. This year, the word that came forward and offered itself was ‘promise’.

No specific promise came along with it, so I began to look into the word itself and it was the second verb definition that resonated with me:

with obj. ] give good grounds for expecting (a particular occurrence or situation): forthcoming concerts promise a feast of music from around the world | [ with infinitive ] :  it promised to be a night that all present would long remember.

Mmmm…a year of promise – a year full of the expectation of – I’m going to go ahead and make it a positive, as you knew I would 🙂 – good occurrences or situations. I quite like that.

The words I’ve had previously have had an application aspect to them e.g. rest – deliberately concentrating on being restful; or intention – requiring me to really think and plan. But promise, well, promise requires me to do nothing but hope and keep my eyes open for the forthcoming good things.

And I’ve also been challenged by what I define as good. As is often the case, my definition of a word isn’t always what God means by that same word. And good definitely falls into that category.

For most of us, good things are the things that make us happy or make our life easier somehow or have some reward or kickback. Yet even a cursory read of the Bible should cause us to rethink what God means by good. By God’s definition, it seems good is anything that brings me closer to Him. And we all know that those things aren’t always what makes us happy or life easier, nor do they always carry a reward we can see in the here and now.

I like the freedom that this word brings and it ties in nicely with last years’ word of rest – rest in the promise of all this year holds 🙂

And what says promise more than the dawning of a new day? This pic is from a couple of years back that I love because it captures two of my favourite things – the beach and a fresh new day rising to meet us.

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Doing the right thing

I read a little quote the other day by good ole anonymous that I absolutely love. I wish I had thought of it first!

There is no right way to do the wrong thing.

It reminded me of a situation our son was in just recently. He needed to leave work early to attend an information session on becoming a fire fighter. Now, obviously, the intent here is that he would ultimately leave the job he is in, to be able to join the fire service.

He was unsure as to how to get an early mark at work without putting his job in jeopardy. The risk, of course, being that once they got wind of his aspirations to join the fire service, he would be dismissed. And as the start date for the fire service, should he be selected, isn’t until June, that would mean quite some weeks with no pay.

We talked around it, under it and over it; we talked about ways to kind of tell the truth but not really, of being evasive and hoping they didn’t ask questions. And yet, we kept coming back to the same conclusion: he had to be honest with his boss and tell him his plans.

I knew that he shouldn’t lie to get the time off – and it turns out, so did he.

He wasn’t willing to compromise his integrity. He wasn’t willing to compromise on his beliefs. If he is wanting to move forward in life with God at the centre, as I know he is, then he needed to stay true to that.

He realised that there is no right way to do the wrong thing.

So often in life we think it’s okay to lie or bend the truth for the ultimate good. And it’s not. It never is.

We excuse our behaviour and our actions because we think that the ends justify the means. They don’t.

Ultimately, the wrong thing is the wrong thing, no matter how much we try to do it the right way.

And you know what? Our son was honest about what he wanted the time off for and he got it. And he still got to keep his job, too. Because more often than not, God honours our uncompromising stance on even the smallest issue, when the world would tell us it is okay to compromise. God sees our hearts, and in this case, He saw the heart of an upright young man who was willing to do the right thing, no matter the consequences.

There is no right way to do the wrong thing.

The good, the bad and the bumpy.

Well, I thought by now that I would know where to start in telling you all about the trip but I don’t.

It was so full of activity, poignant moments, life-changing moments, joy, homesickness, good food, bad food, laughter and tears that there seems nowhere to begin…but here goes anyway.

Overall, it was fantastic. And if I didn’t love every single minute, I at least tried to make the most of every experience. The balance of things I loved and things I didn’t, is heavily weighted to the love side but, just like in all of life, there certainly were things that challenged me.

My overall impression of Thailand is mixed. I loved the people, loved the culture but running right alongside that was the knowledge of what the culture and the people do to their children. That for a section of society, children are a commodity to be bought and sold. And that for another section of society, children are to be used, abused and treated as less than the animals that roam the streets.

It seemed a land of contradictions. One where elders are respected, for no other reason than they are older than you, and regardless of how they have treated you. Where on the everyday streets, no-one yells at their kids yet parents find themselves in such a state of poverty that selling their children to a brothel is their only option (can you imagine being faced with that sort of choice??).  Where it is ‘good karma’ to feed the stray dogs and cats on the street, yet children go hungry. A nation that preaches ‘karma’ yet, in most cases, will not lift a finger for their poorer neighbour (how can they practice karma?? If you do good, you get good. If you do bad, you get bad. So, if someone is in a bad life situation, it’s their fault, so you don’t help them for fear of interfering with their karma. How then do you do good and get good back??? It simply made no sense to me.) A country where it is impolite and improper to agree if someone compliments your spouse or children, where, in fact, you are expected to vehemently disagree and say the opposite to the compliment. A country that tells their children they are stupid and dumb because it’s seen as proud to tell them they are smart.

I couldn’t wrap my head around some of it. It seemed so illogical to me, just as, I am sure, our ways seem illogical to them. I couldn’t reconcile the smiling, welcoming faces with it’s sinister night life of brothels where children as young as eight are forced to service an endless stream of ‘clients’ all night.

But the people were lovely and friendly, the countryside beautiful, the culture rich and diverse…and the work of Destiny Rescue simply outstanding.

I fell in love with the girls and boys we met. I fell in love with their infectious laughter and sheer joy for living, with their thankfulness for the lives they now are able to lead. I fell in love with the workers who care for these kids (our little three year old sponsor boy’s carer was an absolute treasure – limited English but her smile said all she needed to say!). I fell in love with the smells, the sights, the food, the markets. And the smile on their faces if they said an English word correctly and their giggles when you said a Thai word totally incorrectly! Priceless 🙂

I found the similarities interesting too. Parents who could barely afford food, made sure their kids had the latest phone, or that the biggest flat-screen TV graced the living area – just like people here. Kids at the school acting up, vying for attention and getting restless and cheeky by the end of the day. The fact that, sadly, they all knew who Justin Bieber was and knew all the words to Gangnam Style…bad taste is universal, my friends.

I would love to go back to Thailand, especially to Chiang Rai to see our sponsor kids but I’m not sure I could live there. And the culture shock of coming home to the Western world that everyone warned us about was a bit of a no-show. I think we went over there already having a healthy appreciation for what we have here and, in our family, trying to practice thankfulness as a way of life, meant that we were okay. Certainly though, I don’t sweat the small stuff like I did before, so there has certainly been a reinforcement of the right perspective. Before I left, our consumerism in the Western world turned my stomach, and it still does now but strangely, I have more compassion for those afflicted with the disease of materialism than I did before. I think it really hit home just how sad it is that we try to fill the voids in our lives with ‘stuff’.

So, has it changed me? Yes, most definitely. Some of the changes I expected, some are a surprise. I’m looking forward to sharing some of those with you all over the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

14 things I love about Christmas – Day Thirteen

I had thought – because I’m not that great at maths – that fourteen days from when I started would land me on Christmas Day. Well, it doesn’t and it means tomorrow is the last day, so, you are getting the one for Christmas Eve, today and will get the one for Christmas Day, tomorrow 🙂 Hope that’s okay with everyone!

I love, love, love Christmas Eve. It’s always full of cooking, last minute dashes to the shops, last minute wrapping, the atmosphere is rife with anticipation and excitement, and this year, there will be a late evening drive to the airport to pick up that boy of ours.

I have always loved Christmas Eve but it has held extra meaning for the last 20 years.

You see, 20 years ago on Christmas Eve night, a certain someone popped a certain question. Unfortunately, my response wasn’t a quick ‘yes’ as my beau had hoped, it was ‘where’s my ventolin? I’m having an asthma attack!’ as that’s what happens when someone asks you something you have been waiting to hear but are completely surprised by all at the same time.

Clearly, and eventually once I caught my breath, I did say yes and we whiled away the evening and small hours of Christmas morning sipping champagne and making all sorts of plans and dreams for our future together.

So every Christmas Eve since has been just a little bit special and we always share a glass of bubbly and toast all the nay-sayers who said we wouldn’t make it 🙂

I love that he chose Christmas time to ask one of the most important questions one human being can ask another. Marriage is all about love, commitment and unity, just like Christmas.

God sent Jesus because He loved us and was committed to seeking relationship with us through Him which brings unity with Him and others, in our spirits and our hearts.

So what better time to commit to loving another person for the rest of your life? It hasn’t always been easy but each Christmas time, I am reminded of the commitment we made, as well as the commitment God made to us through Jesus.

And that gives me hope for the days ahead, peace for the turmoil, joy for trials and love…for always.

Our wedding, 10 months after that special Christmas Eve.

Our wedding, 10 months after that special Christmas Eve.