When your daily activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace. – Hyrum Smith


12/14/16

Ko Samui

We visited Ko Samui (which is Thailand's second largest island) in August of 2015.
Arriving at the airport

Tongsai Bay entrance (looking out)



 When we arrived, the first thing the kids noticed was the fleet of golf carts.  After looking at the map of the property, we understood why there were so many...




The Tongsai Bay is a collection of properties, mostly separate, villa-type structures, built into the mountainside rainforest.  While there were many lovely footpaths, the quickest way to travel was via the golf carts.  The kids were immediately in love with the place.

We hopped onto a cart and travelled up, up, up for what seemed like ages, arriving at the base of a steep staircase.  The steps branched off to the left and to the right, zig zagging back toward the center.    We had two villas separated by a wall.  Again, the kids loved it because they felt like they had their own place (the older ones anyway - Caleb stayed with us).  When it was nighttime, Aaron and I split up to make sure an adult was in each room, but during a day, when we were taking a break from the sun, the kids were allowed to stay in their own space and watch movies.  What a life!
I'm not kidding when I say there were a lot of steep stairs leading to our room!  Someone got a little tired.

View of the bay from our front porch/balcony

The very, very best things about the rooms were the outdoor bathtubs.  They sat on the front porches facing the ocean.  "Porch" might be the wrong word.  It was more like a room missing the wall that faced the ocean, and because we were so high up the mountain, we couldn't be seen from the road.  We filled them with warm water and sprinkled flowers on top.  There were also huge clay jars containing bubble bath on the ledge by the towels.  Can you say paradise??




We settled in and journeyed down the mountain all the way to the bay.






The "beach" consisted of small, very smooth pebbles (somewhere between the size of a pea and a bb pellet - can you tell I'm from Kentucky?).  It was an amazing sensory experience just to walk through the tiny balls and hear the click, click as they moved around our toes.  There was a two-seater sea kayak pulled ashore, and Aaron and I took turns paddling the kids around the bay.


On one side of the bay, there was a really neat rock structure we explored, looking for fossils and pirate caves.


Just beyond the beach was a paved area with a bridge separating two pools.  In the shallow pool, a tall, hut-like structure sat in the middle of the water, providing shade from the white-hot sun.  I sat under there watching Caleb paddle around in his flotation vest while the big kids made friends, hanging from the bridge and venturing into the deeper waters.





In the morning, the kids got a big kick out of calling for our ride and zipping down the hill to the main cabin for breakfast.  My what a spread!  Every food imaginable: pancakes and eggs, and rice and noodles, and vegetables and exotic fruits, smoothies and soups, you name it, they had it.  We ate and ate and ate!



Aaron had a chance to take a Thai cooking class.  He gathered the ingredients from the on-site gardens and created some absolutely delicious dishes.  







Meanwhile the kids and I hung out at the pool providing a public service announcement for any passers-by about the long-term effects of intimacy. We built forts out of lounge chair cushions, swam,  ran and ran and ran, and finally had lunch.



Our trip was not very long, but we did manage a few outings.  We visited the Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai) which is a 39 foot-tall, gold-painted Buddha.  It was surrounded by a marketplace (where Maddie purchased her favorite "rainbow" dress).  I think the most interesting feature was the staircase leading up the the statue.  The rails were giant colorful snakes!  I don't know how to describe this place except to say that it was vibrant.  The statues, if not painted gold, were painted other bright, bold colors.  We saw tiles of every hue, smelled fragrant incense floating in the air, and of course, the kids couldn't wait to leave.  Why do we have to visit another temple?




Oh great, mom, more steps!




Snake rails



One evening we had dinner at an Italian place called Pepenero (because when in Thailand...)  I was wondering about the selection.  Silly me!  Of course, Aaron had done his homework, and this place was incredible.  The building itself was tiny (we sat out on the porch at the only table big enough to seat our family), but the food was to die for.  We chatted with the Italian owner while his son and Parker headed down the road to an empty lot to play soccer.  I swear that kid's never met a stranger.






We spent most of our time on the beach or at the pool or in the tub.  It was an all-around fabulous trip, and we were blessed to have gone there.  So long, Ko Samui!

12/12/16

Unrecorded travels 2015-2016

It's time I get caught up on recording our Asian travels.  It's something I have put off for various reasons, and now, as this year draws to a close, I feel the unwritten posts looming over my head.  Aaron has gone to great lengths to plan amazing adventures.  He researches, tracks pricing trends, reads countless hotel reviews, organizes reliable transportation, hires travel guides, and secures safe, clean, beautiful accommodations.  And we have a great time!  So why haven't I written about it already?

Time certainly plays a factor.  My free time has definitely become more scarce in the last six months, since we decided to let our domestic helper go.  Live-in domestic helpers are very common in Asia, and when we moved here 2+ years ago, in the throws of my nervous breakdown (um, I mean seamless transition into overseas living), I decided I needed one.  And to be honest, I think I did...for a time.  As months turned into years, I learned the ropes, made friends, and had an emergency support system (a necessity when your husband travels a lot).  It soon became clear to me that my own laziness was the primary reason for our helper's employment.  Uh-oh.  Good-bye help, hello laundry, my old friend.

But that's not the whole story.  I didn't have a helper in the States and managed to blog there.  (Granted, living in the States is easier on many levels, but still...)  I think part of my writer's block regarding travel is that I can't wrap my head around our lives here.  It still feels surreal, especially when we take exotic trips.  I like to have neat little blog posts with tidy little endings, pretending my life makes sense sometimes.  Here, not so much.  And then there's that little nagging voice in my head that says, Who do you think you are, writing about all these trips?  No one cares, show-off.  Meet my inner-critic.  She's a peach.

But I am going to write about the trips.  Not for benefit of some big audience.  I am going to record these special events in the life of my kids, in the hopes that if they read it one day, it will spark a fond memory.  I am going to record the details to honor Aaron's hard work and sacrifice that makes the trips possible.  I am going to accept this undeserved gift God has chosen to bestow on us for this season and enjoy this crazy life, zig-zagging across a foreign land, and exploring its wonders.  So buckle, up...Here we go!

Here's the list, and I'll be adding more detailed posts, as I go:

August 2015:  Ko Samui, Thailand
Novermber 2015: Boracay, Philippines
December 2015: Hong Kong & Louisville

March 2016: Phuket, Thailand
April 2016: Kathmandu, Nepal
June 2016: Las Vegas & Louisville
July 2016: Cambodia mission trip
September 2016: New Delhi & Agra, India





12/7/16

Lessons learned from strollers and blankets

I think there is a very good reason we are called "children of God."  I see so many parallels in my relationship with God and my relationship with my kids.  I want to record a few, just as a reminder to myself the importance of staying in my role...

Several months ago, Caleb, Jack and I were walking to church.  (Parker and Maddie were in school.)  We brought the small, lightweight umbrella stroller in case Caleb got tired.  I was pushing it along, as the boys ran ahead of me.  They were looking forward their class.  We'd walked this way many times, so they were familiar with the twists and turns.  At one point, Caleb asked if he may push the stroller. Though he was not yet tall enough to reach the handles or see over the top, I allowed him to get behind it and push.

He bumped into curbs.  He walked into walls.  It turned in directions he did not intend.  He began to get frustrated.  I explained that he wasn't big enough to steer yet and offered to help him.  He declined and continued to shove it himself, making little progress toward his goal.  Finally he agreed I could hold the handles above his head to help steer.  Eventually his legs grew tired, and he agree to climb inside and allow me to steer and carry him, and we quickly arrived at our desitnation.

My, how this makes me think of me and God!  How often do I demand control over things only to realize I have run into a brick wall?  When I insist on doing things "my way" I end up losing so much time and wasting so much energy.  I can't see the path ahead, but God can.  When I allow God to not only lead but also to carry me, we get to great places, and I enjoy the ride!

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Today at lunchtime, Caleb asked for a blanket.  I noticed a chill in the air and his hair ruffling in the breeze of the air conditioner.

"Are you cold?" I asked (knowing the answer).  This is where I will pause the story.  This scenario could have gone south very quickly.  Caleb (like his momma) has a tendency to be impatient.  When he makes a request, he doesn't necessarily want to answer a bunch of questions.  He wants what he wants when he wants it.  He might have scowled and insisted, "I jus want a bwanket!"

Thankfully, today, he simply answered my question: "Yeah."

"I can take care of that," I responded and pressed the button to turn off the air conditioning unit.

"Fanks, mom."

I see myself in that strong-willed little guy.  How many times have I asked God for something specific, expecting an immediate, positive response?  Am I willing to listen to His questions?  If I am, and if I trust Him to provide, He can effectively remove the source of my troubles instead of just covering them up.

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Lord, today I thank You so much for using my kids to teach me.  Let me never forget these lessons to trust in You, that You will provide, and that You are in complete control.


And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19


In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6


12/3/16

Silver Lining

If you had told me years ago, when Maddie had croup, that it was a blessing, I might have punched you in the throat (or at least, fantasized about it).  But the truth is, it was a blessing.

It was a blessing that I was in the States, in my comfort zone.  It was a blessing that I had access to a 24 hour pediatric nurse and lived just minutes from an urgent care center.  It was a blessing Aaron was at home and could care for the other kids.  It was within this very safe, comforting environment, I was given a taste of a crisis.  My baby couldn't breathe.  While it was scary, I learned that if I took the proper steps, I could care for her at home.

Fast forward to last night.  We live in a foreign country.  Aaron is traveling.  There is a hospital down the road, but a trip there means loading up four sleepy kids for a super-fun, germy field trip.  I hear the familiar barking cough in the middle of the night.  The gasping.  The hoarse cries for mommy.  My baby can't breathe.

"I'm coming."  I pad down the stairs, flipping on the hot water heater switch as I go.  Scooping Caleb into my arms, I whisper, "It's okay.  It's okay."  We step into the shower.  As steam fills the room, Caleb is sweaty and disoriented, but it moments, his head is resting on my shoulder.  The coughs subside, and I settle him in the living room with the air-conditioning off.  I know we'll be up again in a few hours, but it's okay.  It's okay.  

The truth is, it is okay.  All of it.  The crisis from yesterday and the one I'll face tomorrow.  God equips us along the way, never once leaving our sides.  Each new crisis is just training for the next.

Thank you Lord, for letting me see the silver lining today.  Please help me to view all my situations, past and present though the filter of Your love.


"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1