Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Measure of Your Life Will Be The Measure of Your Courage--Doing this with my family was easier than you think

I have received so many kind emails and comments.  Thank you so much.  I am glad that what we are doing is inspiring others, just as I was inspired by another.  I truly would not be doing this without her telling me that it is completely possible and well worth it.
I will try to answer all of your questions about doing this here.  I would first like to talk about courage vs. fear.  I will admit, when Matt and I were planning this a month before we were leaving (we are always very last minute travelers!) I had fear.  Matt had fear.  We were very nervous about what we were doing because of our 6 children-ages 14 to 2.  We still have little ones and so my main concern was for their safety.  We have traveled a lot, but both of us had never been to this side of the world.  We had no idea what to expect. 
But, this was a dream of ours.  Something we had talked about doing for years.  I think it was the reality that we only have Sam for 4 more years that woke me up.  There were still so many things that I wanted him to experience before he left home.  We had better start fitting it in or it would be too late.

These words helped us to decide:

"Everything in life requires courage.  Courage is essential to the human experience.  Yet courage is the rarest quality in a human person.  The most dominant emotion today in our modern society is fear.  We are afraid.  Afraid of losing the things we have worked hard for, afraid of rejection and failure, afraid of certain parts of town, afraid of certain types of people, afraid of criticism, afraid of heartache, afraid of change,  afraid of what people think, afraid to tell people how we really feel...We are afraid of so many things.  These fears can play a very large role in directing the actions and activities of our lives.  Fear stops more people from doing something with their lives than lack of ability, contacts, resources, or any other single variable.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but the acquired ability to move beyond fear.  No one is born with courage.  It is an acquired virtue.  You learn to ride a bike by riding a bike.  Courage is acquired by practicing courage.  And like most qualities of character, when practiced our courage becomes stronger and stronger and more readily accessible with every passing day." Matthew Kelly

So, we decided to let the fear go and try it.  We would start with this little adventure out of our comfort zone and see what happened.  We had each other (which helps a lot) and we did feel good about it, so we booked it. 

I booked it not knowing where we would be helping out, but I was confident there was a great need for help in Thailand.  I started doing research online and found a couple places, but never heard back from anyone.  2 days before we left I finally heard back from an organization, but nothing was concrete.  What I have learned here is that communication is hard--they are not ignoring you on purpose.  Not many speak English.  I did really have a good feeling that we would be able to find what we were looking to do so when we got here we got a map and through a series of little miracles (I really believe God will give us these tender mercies along the way) found all of the orphanages we wanted to work in.  They have been SO grateful for help.  We have made contacts here and have addresses and phone numbers now, so if you really are interested in coming we are happy to help you by giving you this information.
  Moral of the story---don't be terribly discouraged if you don't have everything worked out before you go.  Part of the adventure is working it out while you are there!  It will all eventually come together if you keep at it.

As far as lodging.  There are places that let you stay with them.  The Home and Life Orphanage will let you do that for $15 a day.  The lodgings however, are primitive.  The above picture is one of the places you can stay.  They have little mats on the floor.  I think if I had only older children I would be more apt to do that, but with our little ones it would not have worked.  We are staying in a hotel and go every day to the orphanages.  They get to swim for a bit before bed, so it breaks things up a bit for the little ones. 

Thailand is very cheap outside of the hotel and rental cars.  Our whole family of 8 can eat for $20.  You have to be willing to eat native food though!  We also have bought a lot of food at the grocery store and try to eat what we can here at the hotel.

Day to day life here is as follows.  We either go in the morning and work until late afternoon, or we go after lunch and stay late.  It has been nice to be fully on our own and not organized with a group because we have complete flexibility.  We decide which orphanage we want to go to when.  The kids are very involved in where we choose to go and what supplies we give to which people.  They have voted on how much money we should spend where and who needs the most as far as donations.  It has been so fun to hear all of their ideas and opinions.   They notice things that we haven't.

If you want to help from afar, here is the information on how to donate.  They are trying to raise enough money to build an infirmary so that sick children do not infect everybody else.  They also want to build a proper bakery/restaurant on the front of their property to be able to earn more money.  It does not have to be a huge sum and it is a great way to get children started on helping the less fortunate. 

Safety--it is very safe here.  We are watchful, but I have never felt scared.  They love and revere children here so it is a great place for families.  The Thai people are so open hearted and would do anything to help you.  They are gracious and sincere.

That really is it.  It truly is so much easier than we ever thought it would be.  We have never looked back on our decision.  I am so incredibly grateful that the fear did not win on this one.  Look what we would have missed out on...  (bummer, it won't let me upload a picture!)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Can you hear the music?

Another quote from Matthew Kelly

"For me, one of the greatest joys in this world is music.  Can you imagine a world without music?  Music is expressive of every human feeling and emotion, but it most aptly expresses joy and love.  What holds music together?  Rhythm.  What holds lives together? Rhythm.  Is your world a world without music?  Is your life a song without rhythm? Rests and pauses are as important in great music as the notes themselves.  Rests and pauses are as important in great lives as activity.
Those working for good are not in a hurry.  They are patient, and because they are patient, they are wise.  They do all they they can to bring on this good without losing the rhythm of life themselves.  They never sacrifice the rhythm.  You must find the rhythm, your rhythm.  The rhythm that allows you to find that sacred balance that gives you strength, courage, and confidence to be yourself.
If you decide to walk the path that I have described in this book, not everyone will understand.  Some of your family and friends will ridicule you, they will accuse you of being a dreamer, and they will tell you that you are crazy.  The people who cannot hear the music think that the people who are dancing are crazy.  Don't let that bother you.  And even if it does bother you, don't let it discourage or distract you from walking the path.  If they understood the path, they would be on it.  Some of them are bitter because once in their youth they tried to walk this path and gave up, and now in their old age they believe it is too late for them to seek that path again.  This path is not for everyone.  Everyone can choose and walk this path, but very few actually have the strength, courage, discipline, and perseverance to do what it takes to walk it.  That is what sets them apart.  That is what makes them legends, heroes, champions, leaders and saints."

That gives me goosebumps.  It inspires me to continue to find my own rhythm.  It has taken me leaving my natural surroundings and all that I knew life to be to see clearly.  When you are right in the middle of all life entails it is impossible to see what you are missing.  I heard a great talk once about a lady who was flying into LA.  She could see out her airplane window a think haze of smog covering the whole city.  "Oh," she thought, "How will I be able to breathe?! That looks terrible."  She landed at the airport and walked out to her car.   As the day went on she realized that she could not see the smog anymore.  It wasn't that the smog was not there, it was just that she was now in the middle of it and no longer could see a difference in the air.  That is how I feel right now.  I feel like I am up in the sky and can finally see what is really going on.  I get so emotional writing this because I want to be able to follow my own true rhythm when I am at home as well.  To not feel pressured into living a life that  I kick against.  There is a lot about my life that I love, that I treasure and am so grateful for, but there are definitely things that bother me.  Things that have bothered me for a long time, but I have never had the courage to change.  And to tell you the truth, I don't know if I'll have the courage to change them when I am home either.
I really struggle with knowing if it is better to give my kids the lessons and sports that they love, or just have family soccer games in the backyard and teach them a love for music myself.  The kids here do not need all that, I beg to say that most of the world doesn't.  Yet, our culture thrives on it.  That is the world our family lives in.  So, if I don't conform to that are my children going to miss out?  Will I regret it later?
The world steals so much of my children's time.  I know that some people love when their kids go back to school, but I am not one of them.  I feel like so much of their day is spent learning things that "the system" wants them to learn, and not necessarily what is best for them.  However, I do believe there is so much about school that they do need to experience.  I am so torn!
Being here with these children has taught me simplicity.   We try to do too much.  I don't consider myself an over-achiever in any sense of the word, but compared to these amazing people I am.
I have realized that some of what we are taught to think is right and good, actually inhibits us from feeling satisfied as a person.  I love what America has to offer.  I am so proud to be an American.  But, I do believe we have much to learn from other cultures that know how to be still and be content.

Soccer Fun

 The next day, I thought it was so great that my kids weren't wearing any shoes either...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The love of my life

I've been thinking a lot about this incredibly good looking man lately.  We just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary and have now know each other for just shy of 22 years.  I think we were able to meet so early in life because God knew I could only survive 14 years with out him :).  He has been my best friend for as long as I can remember and has given me every joy my heart as ever needed or wanted.   He is a true old fashioned gentleman.  Anyone who knows Matt knows of his genuine ability to friendship all and make you feel important in his life.

He reads more books on parenting than I do, and loves to read the latest book on how to inspire and become better.  He plays the very active role of father in our family with dedication.  He is committed to becoming the best father he can by being present in their life, giving them opportunities, and the trickiest part of all--balancing home and work life.  I think it is very unique in a man to have the priorities he has.  We could never be here as a family working in these orphanages with out his willingness to work most the night on his computer and on phone calls while we are all sleeping, so we can experience this.   He melts my heart and I just wanted to let you know who the man behind the mission was...

Working in the organic garden

I am still so impressed with this orphanage.  I wish I could tell you every experience we are having here.  There are a hundred moments a day I wish I could write about.   We were able to help the children with their "chores" in working in their garden.  This garden is a main source of food for them.  They grow many different fruits and vegetables.  I love that they are learning these skills.  It will help them the rest of their life.  They are very proactive here in teaching the children many different things to help them be well rounded.  They have an English tutor (volunteer) that comes every Wed. to teach the children, they have learned how to prepare and cook food, paint, garden, do wash, and most importantly, care for each other.  They know how to do more things independently than my own children do, because they have to.  Everybody has to pitch in to make it work.  There is a fantastic feeling of unity and of doing things for the betterment of all here. 
Here is one of our moments in the garden with the children.

I love that my kids were hot, tired, and a mess at the end of gardening.  You could see the feeling of accomplishment in all their faces.  They knew they had really done something to help and they had had a good time doing it.  There was a little bit of a mud and water fight and definitely some worm and spider throwing.  Fun and work, the best combo out there.
I have to say, as a mother, watching and working alongside my kids was a memory I'll never forget.  I was so proud that they have a father that has taught them to work hard.  My kids can attest that there is no getting out of hard work at our house.  Their father is a native Idahoan!  I don't think my children would be able to do all that they are doing here if Matt had not instilled that quality in them from the very beginning. It made me think how we need to prepare ourselves and our children for things before they actually happen.  It is too late to train and prepare once it is show time.

It's never felt so good to get so dirty...

Clean has a new meaning to us of late.  Clean no longer means no dirty fingernails, clean clothes, scrubbed up and antibacterialized.  Clean now means, we have rinsed off on a river and hope we don't get Giardia.  It is so interesting to me how quickly we can adapt as people.  In America, we are clean to a fault sometimes.  Becoming so obsessed with not touching dirty things, using antibacterial wipes and sanitizer (I now find it so funny that that is what we sold to raise money!)  on everything-pretty much getting grossed out too much over things.  I think it prevents us from being able to experience real life. 
My kids at the beginning were so worried about what they were touching and eating.  We were putting hand sanitizer on every moment we could.  We still use it now, but we remember maybe once a day.  I started to realize how over protective and worried we get over germs.  It makes me laugh when I think about it now.  My kids are always dirty here and they have LOVED every minute of it.  I will admit, we also do love to come home and shower! 
 Charlotte however, still refuses to use their "toilets."  She dry heaves and says "that's so yucky" when we try to have her use it.  So, she is very happy to undress and just go in some dirt somewhere.  Wish I had a picture of it! But here are some of our "loving the dirt" pictures.

 Really, could she get any dirtier?!  She is soaking wet with dirt and paint all over her, but having the time of her life putting sand down her back.

 Getting "cleaned off" after working in the garden...
So, go relax and let some dirt into your life :)!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yet another amazing day at the Home and Life Orphanage

I only have a few moments to post a few things as we are off to the beach with the Holland House Orphanage.  These children have not had an outing in 6 months.  Thanks Paula for sponsoring this!  I will send pictures! 

We started out the day yesterday by taking Rosa, Kate, Bay, and Boy to a large grocery store to buy some much needed food.  They were so happy and very grateful.  Thanks to all of you who bought the hand sanitizer.  It is making a difference!

We then went back to the orphanage to help them paint a new bathroom that they built.  It felt so good to be able to help that way as well, and the kids of course thought that was the greatest thing ever.  But boy, were they a mess...

I've got to run, so I'll finish writing about our amazing day when I get back! :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Home and Life Orphanage

You are all going to be tired of me saying "Today was the most incredible day!"  Our experience here continues to teach us, change us, simplify our needs and wants in life, and give us a desire to do as much as we can while we are here (and when we get home.)  I hope I never forget any of this when I am home.  I am so afraid of going home and slipping back to how life used to be.  If any of you that live by me ever hear me complain about having to do laundry, dishes, cleaning, or carpooling you have my permission to put both hands on my shoulders and shake me.  Just say the word "orphans" and that will shake some sense in me.  If I ever complain about my hair, having nothing to wear, and needing a break just say "Root and Rosa" and that will bring me to my senses.
The Home and Life Orphanage was started by a husband and wife and a brother in law 4 years ago.  Root was working in a large corporation (he speaks perfect English) and his wife Rosa worked for the government.  This couple was definitely in the upper middle class here in Thailand.  They decided to give more and change their lifestyle.  So, after the Tsunami they opened this orphanage with Rosa's brother.  They now have 36 children from 5 to 17.  It is nothing short of amazing what they are doing here.  They have given up a comfortable life to take care of these children in true need.
Here is what they have done...

They have the children get up at 6 am everyday to work in their organic garden and bakery.  They keep the produce they grow and sell the baked goods to the community to make money to feed and clothe the children.  They bake white bread, muffins, banana bread, and cookies.  The children all know how to bake these items.

They also have the children paint pictures and t-shirts.  They sell for 300 Baht which is about $10.  That is expensive for Thailand, but the money they make from it goes into their own personal "account."  They then get to buy a book or small toy and clothing with it. They are really quite good.  It is all up to their own initiative.  They can choose if they want to spend their time doing it or not.  I could tell the children who had not made any were quite sad when we were buying the tshirts and artwork yesterday. I am sure when we go back today there will be many more! :)  What a great way to teach the parable of the sower!  My kids need to do this more. 

The children are so good natured.  It all goes back to the "tone" I talked about earlier.  Root, Rosa, and Boy (funny name, ha?) LOVE these kids.  They consider all of the children there to be part of their family.  They have a family tree on the bakery window with all of their pictures together.

 they are the ones that are truly happy...