This time last year by Jess

This time last year we were in Brazil, in a smaller city called Indaiatuba to be exact. Tim and I love talking about the things we learned and memories we have from that time. Man, what a difference a year makes. We arrived in Brazil not knowing any Portuguese, and unsure about what we’d really be doing for the next 3 months. By the time we left, Amy had turned two, we knew some basic phrases, could follow along with conversation and had met people from all walks of life. Of all the countries we visited, Brazil is the place we want to go back to. The people, the culture and various groups we visited captured our hearts. In short… we fell in love with the people of Brazil.

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Flash forward to today. We now have an addition to our family. A beautiful Baby Girl called Bella Rose. That’s right, the ‘he’ turned out to be a she, which bought giggles of laughter from Tim and I in the delivery room. Once again we find ourselves in uncharted waters, but I know this for sure, we have totally and completely fallen in love with this precious girl. The name Bella links back to Tim’s Mum and her Italian heritage and means beautiful. This is how we see Bella, she is absolutely beautiful inside and out, a gift to our family.

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Tim and I often talk about memories from our 7 months overseas, little moments in time that we suddenly recall. That season in lands far away has absolutely impacted our life here and how we approach things. Our prayer is that every season in our lives will leave us changed with greater perspective; we’re sure this next phase of our family life will do just that. It’s once again time to Voe Mais Alto, which means To Soar Higher.

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Love Jess xxoo

Gratitude by Jess

We’ll give thanks to you with gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in you
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream in abundance or in need
– Nichole Nordeman

As Tim’s job searching marches into it’s third month and my job prospects are close to nil due to limited availability and the approaching birth of our little boy in May, there is so much that I’m grateful for.

I am grateful for our overseas trip and the timing of it all. I treasure all the things we did and places we went and I have no regrets, not one.

I am grateful that when we returned from overseas that someone generously gave us a car. Having only one car in this day and age is extremely difficult, but having no car at all isn’t really viable. What an incredible bless.

I am grateful for my lovely house and the air-conditioning we installed when we moved in all those years ago (dang it’s so hot at the moment).

I am grateful that although Tim is currently job-hunting, that we can spend this time together as a family. It’s a wonderful opportunity not to be missed or dismissed. I am also grateful that Tim has been able to pick up a few days of labouring work here and there. That little bit of money is a godsend. Really, I’m grateful for every dollar and I’m not over-exaggerating.

I am grateful for my family and the monthly lunches we have with each side. Lunches that are filled with laughter, deep conversations and a genuine interest in each others lives. I know how blessed I am.

I am grateful for my sisters who share the everyday stories, sympathize with me on the down days and laugh at the funny things Amy has done.

I am grateful for my friends who send me pictures of their clothes when they can’t decide what to wear, discuss how much coffee they’ve had and over-share about the weird things our bodies or minds are doing.

I am grateful that although I live in an expensive country that the public health system runs fairly well, our public schools are well funded, politicians are uncorrupted (as far as I know) and I don’t have to carry a gun for personal security.

Sometimes I’m grateful for the small things, like my brother making me a delicious coffee this morning. Other times, it’s for the bigger seasonal things that I am learning, like God teaching me about rest and that at times it’s necessary to slow everything down in order to dream again.

In a culture that teaches happiness is based on what we have or more often don’t have, it’s good to be grateful and I am ever so grateful!

Love Jess xxoo

Travelling overseas with a toddler (Part 2) by Jess

A lot of parents and hopeful parents ask how Amy went on our travels, because man, did we do a lot of travel. I thought I’d follow-up on a post I did back in February and share some thoughts and encouragements.

Trip Disclaimer: let’s be clear, our trip wasn’t a two-week holiday. It lasted seven months, crossed five countries and included many, many flights and lots of accommodation changes. We certainly learned a lot early on, although we are far from experts. Hopefully someone finds this useful.

1. You can do it too. Don’t let anyone tell you that there is no travel after kids. Admittedly, we were only travelling with one so the adults were in the majority, but if anyone asks me, I say DO IT! P1020790P1030099 P1040349 P1040878P1050532AAA - P1060649 2. You need to change your expectations. When Tim and I travelled to the US the first time, we arrived in New York after 31 hours of travel, dumped our bags and walked back out the door at 1am. Haha, oh that makes me laugh now that we have Amy. The reality is that with a two-year old who has day-time sleeps, you just can’t do as much. You have to think about your days a lot more and allow for down time. Yes, you will see amazing things, but instead of seeing that war museum or Broadway show, you’re more likely to go to the zoo or play in a park. AAA - P1050913P1060043 3. Children open and close doors. This relates to number two, but in a slightly different way. Obviously, travelling with a little one means that there are restaurants you can’t go to and tourist attractions you won’t see. However, travelling with Amy gave us amazing opportunities to connect with people we never would have. Because of her blonde hair and blue eyes, I don’t remember a day when we didn’t have a stranger come up to say hi or take a photo. We did have complete strangers touch her all the time and on a few occasions pick her up. Sometimes I was ok with it and sometimes I really wasn’t, as was Amy. Follow your instincts and don’t feel bad about being that paranoid westerner. Honestly though, having children allows you to connect with a culture on a different level. For us, people were so helpful and Amy received countless gifts we couldn’t fit into our suitcases. AAA - IMAG2620P1060301 4. Prepare well. Always have snack food. Always have some little toys. Always have stickers. Always have crayons. Take an iPad mini. However, being prepared also means being flexible. Be prepared to change your plans as you figure out the limitations of your family and your kids. If you don’t know what these are already, don’t worry, you’ll quickly learn. P1060199 Preparing for overseas travel also involves purchasing travel insurance. While in Thailand (the first time) Amy had two febrile convulsions and spent a night in hospital with Influenza A. Our travel insurance provider (Travel Insurance Direct) was wonderful and we didn’t have any major stresses. Don’t skimp on this one. I actually read the full terms and conditions (around 80 pages!) of three insurance providers before we made our choice. Most of the top providers have similar cover, so it really is much of a muchness. In hindsight I wish I had paid for no hospital excess, because we were there for four separate admissions, but hey what can you do.

IMAG2261 Lastly, make sure you have the proper travelling equipment (see here for some tips). The only change I would have made was to get a portacot with a zip top. While in one Brazilian city we had to cover ourselves in mosquito repellant all the time, I’m not kidding… every second of every day. Unfortunately Amy often woke up in the morning looking like she had chicken pox on her face. Poor sweetheart.

5. You’ll both need a break at times. It can feel risky travelling overseas with kids. We’ve all heard the horror stories of children going missing or being taken on holidays. With this in mind, you are constantly on guard and always in physical contact with your little one. As wonderful as this time is together, if you’re travelling for a while like us, sometimes you just need alone time. Tim went and saw a few movies by himself at night and I think I managed to get one or two massages. It’s not much, but taking the small opportunities when you can help greatly in the long run. AAA - IMG_20141002_105626 6. Don’t stay anywhere for less than two nights. For us, we tried no less than three. It’s just not worth it and you won’t get to see much. Very early in our trip we left San Francisco and drove down to Santa Cruz to spend one night there. By the time we arrived and went for a little walk, it was time for Amy’s bed, which meant we were accommodation bound. The next morning we packed up all our things and had to move on. We didn’t really get to experience Santa Cruz at all. After this experience we would allow about half a day to pack for each transition. AAA - P1050226 7. Other tips.

  • Take hard copy photos of those nearest and dearest to you. Try going through the photos at least once a week. It will help your little one remember faces and names.
  • Get/buy Whatsapp or a similar data messaging app. It’s an easy way to stay connected with family and friends back home as wi-fi is often available in most accommodations and cafes.
  • For long flights, sit at the back of the plane. If your little one goes crazy, at least you don’t have to walk through a plane full of people and wake them up.
  • Before a transition make sure you have a supply of essentials; nappies, wipes and snacks. You never know what you’ll have access to when you first arrive.
  • Once again, always have stickers! 🙂

AAA - P1030335  8. You can do it. Seriously, we are not the first parents to drag our almost two-year-old half-way around the world and we won’t be the last. The time we spent together was priceless and something we will never forget, so we say go for it! Get out there and explore the world with your toddler. If you’re sensitive to them and know how they’re coping you’ll be fine. You can do it and you should. AAA - 10460679_10153100064613065_2052060467692166776_n Love Jess xxoo

A story I haven’t told by Jess

I tell you this story now, because it directly relates to the current situation we’re in and to be honest, it’s a bit of a reminder for me.

When we were in Chiang Rai, Thailand we had four days before our plans again ran out. Roughly the same amount of days we also had left on our Thai visas. We decided to make our way to Vietnam so we bought flights and found accommodation quickly. This left us with $900 in the bank account! Now that might sound like a lot and to me it is, but $900 was only enough money to get one of us back to Australia and nothing more. We knew we had some money coming in from tax returns and an insurance medical bill but we didn’t know when.

I remember we were not stressed out. Sure we had moments when those little doubts started to come in, but I guess in the end we knew God (and our families) wouldn’t leave us high and dry. We almost laughed with anticipation about what God was going to do.

Within the first two days of arriving in Vietnam we ended up with $14K in the bank account. That’s right $14,000. We got insurance claims, tax returns, child government payments, a large sum from a family member and the few friends supporting us all sent funds without knowing our situation. We were totally blown away! From $900 to $14K… crazy stuff! We were amazed and in awe of God’s extravagant provision and knew that there was a reason.

This leads us to today, right at this moment as I sit at my kitchen bench typing these words. We ended up putting most of the money into our bills account to cover the loan and other monthly bills. Now that we are home and both unemployed, that money is what we are living off and the reason we could restock our pantry when we moved back into our house. It gives us a grace period while we pray the right jobs come along.

I must confess, I am finding it harder to not freak out now that we’re in Australia. I think it’s because when you’re overseas, you have nothing but God to back you up, but when you’re in your own culture, you have skills and experience that you can and should use. For some reason, I feel more responsible and like God will leave me on my own. I believe in using what you’ve been given and not just waiting for things to fall from the sky. As always it’s another lesson in trust and faith for me. I’m sure that many of you will be nodding your heads and thinking “Haha, been there”, so you understand what it’s like.

I have seen God do amazing things, not just in our seven months overseas, but throughout my whole life. I need to remember all of that when those feelings of fear begin to creep in. Seriously, $900 to $14,000 in two days.

Love Jess xxoo

We don’t know all the answers and that’s ok

We have arrived home. We love you Brisbane!

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We’re so excited to be home and in a familiar environment. We are looking forward to some rest and taking some time to digest what we have experienced and learnt in the last seven months.

Some answers … for people wondering.

Firstly, we don’t feel disappointed or like we’re letting anyone down by being back in Australia earlier than we had originally planned. We’re not embarrassed or uncertain, but glad we followed God’s leading.

We don’t know the purpose behind our whole trip. That’s ok.

We don’t know what we’ll be doing in the short or long-term future. That’s ok.

We actually feel that we are still on our ‘adventure’ and that this is the next step in the journey. That’s ok.

These unanswered questions are ok because we know that God is well aware and we know how proud He is of us. He asked us to ‘step out of the boat’ and we will continue to say yes.

We have grown in many areas this year but by far the biggest lesson we have learnt (and will continue to learn) is…

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God asked us on many occasions to trust Him, no matter what. He didn’t ask us to know how everything would work or figure out all the moves, He just asked us to trust. It’s definitely easier said than done and it seems like the more we learn to trust the more trust we have to learn.

Our scripture for this year spoke to us many times and kept us going:

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) – Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

While we were in Thailand at the start of August, we arrived at a point where we had four days of plans locked in and then after that nothing; no flights, no destinations, no plans. It was in this moment God said ‘Do you trust me?’ We said yes (with some trepidation) and then as things fell into place we continued to move forward.

This same scenario occurred three more times. Our plans would run out, we would wait and seek and with only days out we would book tickets and accommodation, pack up our things and keep moving. With each of these transitions we were taken to places and people who God had lined up.

There were many other things that kept our hearts strong along the way.

This song was played many times for encouragement –

This song was also played MANY times for confidence –

This beautiful picture was painted by Dana Jensen. It’s called ‘Walk on the water with me’ and looking at it repeatedly brought hope and strength.

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As we ‘walked on the water’ with Jesus just as Peter did, we read and reflected on this story many times for inspiration.

Matthew 14:28-34 (NLT) – Jesus Walks on Water

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

God was ever-present and always gracious when we would begin to doubt at any time. Right when we needed it, we would receive e-mails or messages from home as well as have conversations with people we met. We are so grateful for the love and support people have shown us along the way.

We’re excited to be home and excited about the future; we don’t have to know all the answers.

We will continue to trust the one who asks us to step out of the boat.

Tim, Jess & Amy

Picking up new Threads by Jess

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back?” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

A friend recently posted this Tolkien quote on Facebook and honestly it really speaks to the new season we’re in.

Many of you may not know, but we are in fact back in Australia. We are visiting family and friends in Melbourne before we head to Brisbane. It is our final stop and first taste of life back home.

Part of me is so excited to be back. Honestly, our first shop in Woolworths filled me with so much joy! Our first meal… oh a beautiful flat white with avocado, feta and poached eggs on toast mmmmm. Thank You Jesus. The positives are not hard to name, the lack of language and cultural barriers alone are truly bliss. However, the other part of me remembers all we have seen and heard and can’t easily just slip back into normal life.

During our travels, one of the biggest cultural differences that stood out to us was the materialism of Western Culture. Even now, after our travels, I want to rush out and buy everything I see and have all the home comforts I’ve missed during the last seven months. I want to re-do Amy’s bedroom to suit her hilarious two-year-old self. I want to eat what I want and would love to be able to afford lots of the things I see in the clothes and home-ware shops. It’s consumerism at it’s best.

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However, I also don’t want to forget the girl living in the Brazilian slum who dreams to one day live in a house. I don’t want to be so consumed with my own ‘wants’ that I forget other people’s ‘needs’. I don’t want to rush into acclimating that I forget all the lessons we have learned.

Let me tell you a story about a bathroom we used during our travels:

Firstly, the hand basin tap constantly leaked and the drainage pipe wasn’t actually attached to the wall plumbing, so when you washed your hands you had to step back so you didn’t get water all over your feet. Secondly, the toilet tap on the back wall constantly leaked as well, so I would frequently squeegee the floor just to feel a little better (honestly it was a waste of time). Other people also used the toilet in the bathroom, especially during community kids programs and church meetings. Everyone would put his or her toilet paper in a bin next to the toilet and every now and then, there would be a little surprise in the bowl just waiting to be discovered. There was no toilet roll holder, so it was either kept on the hand basin or on a nail about three-quarters of the way up the wall near the door, which it mostly fell off of. Needless to say finding dry toilet paper was always a little bonus. Lastly, the shower. It was directly next to the toilet with no curtain to separate it, so once again the whole room would get wet. It had an open drain with no grate, so anything you dropped was gone for good. It also only had cold water and Amy used to cry whenever I tried to take her in with me. Oh and there were mosquitos everywhere.

One night I was having a freezing cold shower while dodging about five or six mosquitos and I realized how lucky I was. I knew there were people not too far away living in worse conditions. In fact there were people all over the world who would count themselves blessed to be able to have a cold shower, use a toilet and sleep in a room. I felt incredibly blessed even while I frustratingly put on my wet PJs.

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It is this gratefulness and perspective I don’t want to forget. In Australia, Tim and I work hard, save what we can and try to be good stewards with our money. By Australian standards, we are far from rich, but honestly… Who cares? We are very blessed and not just by material standards.

It is a lot to process and I’m still recovering from a nasty sinus infection and re-adjusting to Australian food after three months in Asia (oh the digestive joys). I know reconciling these two world-views will take time. However I do worry that the latter will slowly disappear as we reintegrate back into home-life.

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life?” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

I do not think you can pick up the threads of an old life. Well maybe you can, but I don’t actually want to. That would be like nothing ever happened. Tim and I will need to make new threads, new stories about how we want to live. How we will spend our time, money and other resources. We will try to merge together our old life and the last seven months and that will take time and possibly several mistakes.

I was talking to Tim last night about this tension and he reminded me that God has us where we are right now. We are to live in this season, in this culture. It’s ok to buy Amy a new bed and it’s also ok to re-do our budget and reassess our time to make sure it’s being put to the greatest use. It is a process, it is difficult and once again… it will take time. It’s still part of our adventure.

Love Jess xxoo