Monday, January 30, 2017

The good with the challenges

Before leaving the US I often wrote about the challenges my heart was facing as we prepared to move our family to the other side of the globe. Saying goodbyes, selling our possessions, trying to pack what we needed, planning to miss people, heartache with each gut-wrenching goodbye, and trying to take comfort in people planning to visit and wonderful technology.

However since we got here it has been mostly the good. That is because it has been so very, very good. I have been amazed at feeling like we were created for this, all four of us. To live here, to do life here, and to love people here. We were made to open our hearts to those around us, and to do life with people. We were for this. I was thinking earlier today about something a missionary that visited our church in Durango told me probably close to 10 years ago, and it has shaped so much of who I am now, and how I view my life. "Wherever you are, be there with all your heart." I don't remember his name. All I do remember is that we were talking to him about wanting to be missionaries overseas someday, and he stopped us and told us that. Later we kind of laughed about it because we just wanted to get to where we were meant to be. However, later in life it came back over and over again and the Holy Spirit has used that for the last 10 years to teach me and shape me into who I am and who I am becoming. As I learn to embrace that idea I feel like I could live anywhere, and it could be mostly easy. When you are where you are, with all your heart, investing in people you meet, and spending time on things that matter, it is much easier to enjoy all the good, and not think too much about the bad or the challenges. God is so good, and we definitely can feel our ministry team praying for us, as we are settling in here. We do not want to lead any of you following our story with the illusion that everything is super easy or exactly like home, so today I wanted to share some of our biggest challenges which we tend to laugh about most of the time because what else is there to do but laugh about them?

So try to laugh with us, here are some of the biggest challenges right now: 

- It is a cash based economy, meaning no credit cards. We have operated most of our marriage and adult life with credit and/or debit cards almost exclusively...It's sad when you get to the supermarket and realize you forgot to check how much money you had in your wallet, and now can only get half your list because you didn't bring enough money.

- It is kind of nice to deal in dollars, and it's not so bad to deal in riels... however dealing in both simultaneously is HARD! Everywhere we go you are paying and receiving change in both currencies. Although we are now starting to get used to it, it is still hard to know if you got the right change etc. when you are constantly going back and forth between the two, and harder still to pay in the market with prices in either currency and you have an almost 4 year old and almost 2 year old you are trying to keep tabs on, while you do the math, find the bills you have, and pay. 

- Bugs... they are everywhere, but mostly at night. We joke they have other things to do than eat us during the day. We also opted to let a gecko stay in the apartment, instead of kicking him out in hopes that he'd eat said bugs. One of our patio doors doesn't have a screen, we are working on getting that remedied, but when electricity is $0.25 kilowatt we are trying to only run A/C at night so doors and windows are open during the day. 

- Tuk tuk drivers are awesome. We love them, they keep us from having to walk everywhere in the high humidity and blazing heat. However sometimes it can be a challenge to give directions in a language we are still learning, and aren't the best at. Thankfully we have become friends with a few who are very patient with us. 

- Hot... to be fair it isn't as hot as it will be later this year. There are days that it feels wonderful and days where the humidity must be higher and it feels hot. The other day even Layla was wiping sweat off her forehead as we walked back from the market. 

- No bath tub. No oven. Now these two we have pretty much remedied. The girls are beginning to enjoy showers, and can play with bath toys when we go swimming. At the end of last week we got a toaster oven! 

- Learning to cook in a toaster oven... it seems to be a little different... I think I can eventually figure it out (I hope). :) 

- No parks/playgrounds near by. The girls are however finding the street and the pool as good replacements. 

- Grocery shopping... I miss my City Market... It's hard to know where I can find what, and what is worth paying a little more for and what isn't. The market nearby seems the best place to get fruit and veggies, but meat is still a big old question mark for the best place to get it... and many baking type things I need to get at the supermarket... if they have it... then there is Layla's beloved milk, we found one that doesn't make her puke, and taste pretty good... but it seems to be carried only a few places. I can get spices etc. at the market... but it always seems we have a list and there are multiple places we need to go.. which means lots of walking or tuk tuk rides. 

- Shopping in the market is fun, the fruit is yummy, and the girls and I love going together. The funny thing is when you by a 1/2 kilo of this, and a kilo of that... all the way down the street your bag is suddenly very full and heavy for the 10 min walk home. I will soon be getting a backpack to help with the weight and managing the girls as I shop. 

-When your brain hurts from language school, home school, and trying to communicate and make friends with the neighbors. I hear that will eventually get easier. 

-Trying to find the "right" home church. We feel like this is a huge decision because we tend to invest deeply where we decide to plant ourselves. We are trying new and different churches than we have tried before, and trying to be very sensitive to wherever God leads us as our new Cambodia church home. 

See, nothing too bad. Truly just challenges of adjusting to a new place. We had similar things when we moved from Durango to Colorado Springs...there were less, but truly we expected more this first month here, and we do tend to laugh about most of these things together. Like the money thing... "Oh I could only get 4 things at Lucky's because I forgot to bring money to go to Lucky's, I'll try again tomorrow." hahaha... It's amazing that when you are doing your best to live intentionally, how much of our lives translates to other places. Jesus matters, people matter, our family matters, time together matters, and everything falls under these categories, they just might look a little different. Lots and lots of grace for each other helps quite a bit too. ;) 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


The best way I would sum out this last week is relationships. We are beginning to form and build new relationships more and more, and strengthen team relationships. We are quickly building relationships with the apartment complex cleaning ladies, and our favorite tuk tuk drivers. We go down and play with the neighbors in our neighborhood, and are attempting to build friendships. We recently were upstairs swimming, and made some new friends with another lady and her son (the girls' age). We are doing language school and developing friendships there with both other students and teachers. Then we have also been spending time with the team, which is so fun, to hear and share about hat we are experiencing trying to set up our homes, starting school, and just normal day to day life.

Yesterday I had two new friendships truly begin. One was with a classmate who is older than I am, and so, so sweet. We got out of class early, and spent some time walking a shopping center together and learning some of each others' stories. So fun, and I think very meaningful for both of us. I had this feeling she just needed a friend to talk to. (don't we all??) Then I came home and the girls and I went up to swim. Where we met another new friend. She start pouring her heart out about family issues, worries, fears, concerns, sadness... I mostly just listened. Told her how sad it was, and that we were here if she needed anything, at the end of the quite long conversation we introduced ourselves. Tonight I saw her again, and we chatted some more.

We have been having regular conversations with our favorite tuk tuk drivers, they are so kind to the girls and to us. One of our favorites always wants to talk about God with us on Sundays on our way to church or home from church. He seems really interested in what we really believe, and definitely seems to be exploring for himself what he believes.

I was reflecting on all these new relationships today, and I came to a few conclusions:

1.) When we decided to jump into this expat/missionary life I didn't realize the expat community we would be joining, by default. When I did learn of it, I was terrified of being trapped there, getting comfortable with other expats and never wanting to truly love and create relationships with people outside of that community. I even had a mindset of trying to do as little as possible with other expats because I didn't want to get trapped. What I am seeing after yesterday especially is that expats need other expats. Maybe not all the time, but the need is still there. I also am seeing how part of why God brought us here is to minister to, and share life with everyone here in Cambodia. Cambodian people for sure, but also expats He puts in our lives. To share Christ, and to love the way He does.

2) Our language learning is huge for building meaningful relationships with Cambodian people. We cannot do this well without truly knowing the Khmer language. As we are learning I find new motivation in hopes that someday soon we can discuss the things of God more clearly and accurately with our tuk tuk driver. Also that we can share more of Jesus with those around us, but being able to show how much we care and love because we have words in their language for those things.

God is truly opening up my heart to want to love more, to love well, and let His joy, His love, and His peace flow freely out of me. Right now the best I have with most people I come in contact with is a smile, and a hello in Khmer.

Please be praying for our new friend and her family issues, they are deep, sad, and a family who is really hurting right now. Also be praying for our tuk tuk driver to come to Jesus. Also please be praying for us as we are engaging more and more with the Khmer language. Pray for boldness to practice with whomever will practice with us, and mental capacity to retain all that we are learning.

Sunday night we had our first family game night, in Cambodia! Candy land, Dad won the first game and Mom won the second... No participant trophies in this house. ;) 
School. It feel so good to be back in the swing of Hardrick preschool. 

More school.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Making Friends Helps Us Feel More At Home.

You know that day when people around you realize you are going to be here for awhile? In many ways that day for us was today. We went to the Russian Market for some groceries, and when I was buying some nuts, spices and dried fruit from a lady she told me she new she'd be seeing me again soon. I told her yes! She is so sweet to the girls, they just love her. At the market we got to hang out with some teammates, and then they came over and hung out for awhile. Amirah loved playing with Miss Vicky, and Miss Anna.

Miss Vicky reading to and playing with Amirah. 
The best part of today though was after the girls woke up from nap. We headed downstairs armed with a ball. This ball was what we were planning to use to lure the neighborhood kids to come play with us, and it worked! They played and played! It was so fun, Amirah was glowing from time with new friends, and all the adults were eager to meet us and our kids. It kind of seemed like word got out that we were hanging out and playing and families just kept coming over to play! So fun! We are really going to enjoy getting to know them this year! I am so excited to learn more Khmer soon, so I can more effectively begin to speak with our fun, kind neighbors.

Playing with the neighborhood kids! Soccer was pretty much the game. :) 
 Then we ended our fun filled evening with pizza! This place, Brooklyn Pizza is one of the best. Durango friends think Homesclice. :)
Layla chowing down.

Amirah being goofy, and fun!

Layla and Daddy eagerly awaiting the pizzas arrival. 

In other news, I was able to start language school this week! I am in the same course as Chris but it is in the afternoons and part-time. So I am making new friends and building more skills for speaking more effectively in Khmer! Yesterday was kind of a hard day, two tuk tuk rides without Chris and I got both of the drivers lost. Then jumping into language class, which wasn't expected, and the girls were nit-picky with each other. 

Not everyday is a great fun day like today was, but we are definitely having more of those these first two weeks than hard days. Each day we are exhausted, and ready for bed early, but we are enjoying it here. Thank you for praying for us! I am confident that our fairly easy adjustment so far, our comfort, and the abounding grace we are feeling is coming straight from peoples' willingness to pray for us. To pray for the little the little things. I am relearning the power of prayer in a whole new way. 

God has been challenging me in this way a lot the last 2-3 weeks. It is so easy for me to ask others to pray for me or for my family before I even pray for what's on my heart. It is so easy for me pray for others before I stop to present my requests to God. He has been challenging me with trusting Him more, trusting Him enough to boldly present my requests to Him, and confidently know that He hears, He cares, and He will answer. I am so humbled by the fact that so many friends are continually praying for us, and that God cares enough about us to meet us here, in our new home. Be encourage, He cares about you, He hears you, He hears your heart, and He will answer. Have the faith to approach Him. He will meet you where you are. 

*One funny thing today a Cambodian person asked Amirah where she was from today, she told them Cambodia. They laughed, and asked her if she liked it here, she said yes, they told her she was from here then. :)*

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Settling in...

Well we have been here 10 days, I think in the next day or two will officially mark the longest I have ever been in Cambodia. Some things are feeling more and more like home. Like finding dishes! And the fact that just like wherever I call home, I have laundry to do and dishes to wash, baths (or showers here) to give, and kids to love on, play with, and teach. We are slowly making friends with our favorite tuk tuk driver and even got to have a short beliefs conversation with him yesterday. He is becoming our best "language helper" and is very kind.
The dishes we found after hunting and hunting

On Friday night we hosted our first gathering of friends in our new home, the whole team made it! Yay!! We are learning how to keep cool, without our A/C running all the time, and feel pretty proud of ourselves when we make it all day before we turn it on for the girls to nap or to go to bed. Coming from 3 degrees F when we left Colorado that feels like a great adjustment! In fact yesterday as we headed to church it was only 85, and on the tuk tuk I almost felt like I could use a jacket. ;) I am finding that I have to clean so much more which has made me so appreciative of the cleaning help that is included in the rent we pay. With the girls we have ants etc. running around and cleaning is even more on going than it was in the US. As a bonus, the cleaning are so fun to learn and practice Khmer with!
Playing with our teammates at the pool! 

The girls enjoying the open door, and the cool breeze.

Some things are the exact same as in the US like when the girls don't think they need a nap, or decide they need to throw a fit. We are back in our home-school preschool curriculum and they are eating it up. Even little Layla is loving doing school.

Amirah doing school, and trapping ants at the same time! Layla being oh so cute in her pigtails!

One of the harder things here so far is that Layla loves milk, but every kind we have tried so far seems to make her vomit. We thought the UHT milk was our winning one, but seems even that on an empty stomach makes her sick. We have one more kind to try from a local dairy here, maybe it will be ok.

One of our favorite things here remains the tuk tuks, and the girls love going to the markets... that could because they get free snacks and candy from vendors because they are so cute.

Life is developing into a new normal for us, and I am surprised at how normal it all already feels. Even doing laundry and dishes I am finding that having to hang our clothes up to dry makes putting them away easier, so less clean laundry needing to be put away piles up on our bed. Win! Also seeing all the clean dishes in the dish rack makes me remember they need put away, instead of them hidden in a dishwasher, so they get put away more frequently! Win!

^^ Our new dryer! It works pretty quickly and Amirah loves to put clothes out and take them with me. Also when there isn't any haze, you can see mountains in this same direction! Well at least big hills. Made it feel even a little more like home. :)

Layla "helping" sweep. 

The sunset the other night! Isn't it beautiful! 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Market Day

So we don't live too far from what is called "The Russian Market". Last weekend we went through it. It was a little overwhelming for only our 2 or 3 day in a big city. People all over, and the aisles are tight, and stuff is everywhere. With the four of us passing through it felt like it would be impossible to shop in there with two little kids. We walked out of there, and I told Chris that it was a little overwhelming and I'd need a map.

Since that day I have ventured out alone, and explored our neighborhood without kids in tow. This helped immensely with my comfort level with where we live, and how to cross the streets. (Which for me at least is basically ignore everything we were taught in American about crossing the street, and just going for it, while watching like a hawk who is and isn't paying attention. And look confident while doing it.) Then a day or two later I ventured out with the girls for our first outing just us ladies. We walked to Joma Cafe. It was great! Girls did well, and we made it!

So today after we finished home school, and cleaning we headed out to the market. I thought if I just went for it and we saw what was there I'd feel less intimidated. You know that whole courage is doing what your afraid of, thing... so in we went! It was great! The girls loved it, and even got free candy from one shopkeeper. :) They were a hit, as they are everywhere we go. And they were dressed in matching shirts which just added to the cuteness. I had 3 things I wanted to look at and possible buy if it was what I liked and could get a good price. We walked out with only one... but still felt like a success! I had started building my mental map of that market and it wasn't as crowded as it was on that Sunday morning when we had wandered through as a family so it was way more navigable as a group of 3.

Then we headed to another cafe Jars of Clay, and enjoyed lunch. After the girls opted to walk back and were ready for nap. So we did that. One of the most fun things of this little outing was that we saw three tuk tuk drivers that we now know, and they were excited to say hi, and see if we remembered them. We are slowing making friends, or acquaintances at least! It made me realize how quickly we are forming a few relationships. We also saw some girls about my girls' ages playing in the street, we went over to say hi, but they got shy and ran inside. Standing out like we do has it's advantages, people see the weird white family that is walking everywhere, with the two blonde girls, and remember us from day to day. Amirah was also walking down the street with me saying Hi and Hello in Khmer to whomever we passed. (So cute) Pray that we will continue to build relationships, and actually become friends with our neighbors, security, house helpers, and tuk tuk drivers. We want to be friends, and have relationships with them, not just see them and wave.

How is Layla getting so big? 
We also have found that our apartment building is full of people from all over the world. That is so cool! I can't help but wonder what God will be up to this year in our neighborhood, and our building.

Amirah and those silly faces!!
After nap we headed out to the Central Market. It's a little bigger, and had more things. We wandered that market as a family and found a few things we needed, and then found dinner and headed home.

Tonight before bed I asked Amirah what her favorite part of today was, and she said shopping. She is adjusting so well to this big city, and new way of life. Tuk tuks are still her favorite and now she is learning to enjoy hunting for the things we need in the markets.

During nap I took time to look through my bible study notes from the last few weeks, and I loved seeing how God has been building my confidence in Him. As I see and understand Him more and more as my and our protector, our good God, who is just, and trustworthy. Our God whom hears us and listens. Our God who rescues and guides. Our God whom I want to know, and make known. The Giver of Life and the only one who can truly keep my family and I safe, and who holds us in the palm of His hand as we seek, and serve Him. Being right where He has called us to be, doing what He has called us to do. Learning what it means to dwell in this new land He has placed us in.

In other news, Chris is thriving at language learning! He is doing so well, and it is so fun to hear and see him excelling already. I am so excited to start my classes in a little less than a week and half. 

Fun part about exploring a new home is trying out the coffee shops. :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Middle of day 4 of life in Cambodia

We are in the middle of our fourth day here in Cambodia and it already feels like we have been here longer than 4 days, in a great way! We are settling, getting used to getting around our part of this big city, and the girls are loving tuk tuk rides, and walking places.

So far we have found some good coffee (Joma Cafe), and some not so good. As well as a nearby pharmacy with a super nice lady who is willing to fumble through my lack of Khmer to help me. We have found a kind tuk tuk driver, and Chris is becoming a pro at shopping in the Russian Market. The house helpers provided by our apartment are so sweet, and kind. I am hopeful they will be a big help with my Khmer. We have had some great food, and some ok food, and are slowly finding what we need to set up house. Everyone is so kind, and helpful!

 We have been amazed at the difference it makes knowing we are here for the long haul and not here for a short term trip. This has added confidence, and willingness to make mistakes. It has also pushed us to venture a little more, and explore.

We are already enjoying some of the fun of moving to a new country. Layla has had tummy issues for a little over 24 hours, but she is doing better now. I bet her immune system will adjust the fastest! She still touches and puts many things in her mouth soo.... new germs get in. The rest of us are ok, but we are braced prepped and ready for whatever gets thrown our way. :)

Amirah is loving our new way of doing laundry, which is basically the same, but hanging them out to dry. She thinks it is so fun to help mom with laundry... and they dry super fast! Like 10-30 mins... that's faster than our dryer in the states ever was!

God is so faithful, and in my times in His word this last week, even prior to leaving He keeps reminding me of His good character and His protecting nature. He is our protector, and is here close to us, and guiding our steps.

It is so good to know we are exactly where He wants us to be. :)

So far we are enjoying it here. We know we are still honeymooning... but things are moving rather smoothly. Please continue to pray for us and our language learning! That will help so much with building relationships!

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

We are at our new home!

Well we made it! Our flight arrive in Phnom Pehn around midnight last night, and got home around 2 am.

Thank you to everyone who prayed us through our flights and trip!! We could definitely feel and see the results of your prayers. We knew God was moving, protecting and help us all the way here. We were given so much grace with timing, bags, and the girls being easy going and laid back.

Our day started Thursday morning at 3 am, in a Colorado snow storm. My dad fearlessly drove us to the airport. Our flight was on time, and thanks to my parents we were able to check in, and get through security with about 10 mins to spare before boarding. Then we landed in San Fransico, and a friend and member of our ministry team met us and helped collect all our baggage and recheck it for the next flight. With out him I don't know how we would of ever made it through San Francisco! Praise God for each of you who are willing and able to help us along the way! We had some hiccups with our bags that could have resulted in paying major bag fees, but then God changed minds and we were able to check some bags for free which lightened our load and solved the problem we had with our bags for the airline. Praise God!

We go through security and kept getting pushed through the priority lane, which was awesome. We got to that gate about 20-30 mins before we started boarding, and were able to get some food! We quickly boarded the plane, and even though we took off with an hour delay, we landed in Seoul 10 mins early! There we moved through security again, and got to our gate just after boarding had began. We boarded and landed in Cambodia just a little behind schedule.

Eating pizza and watching movies! 

We then easily moved through the airport, got visas and collected all our luggage (yes it all made it!!) We had a little issue with the ride we had arranged not showing up, but were able to use taxis and got to our apartment safely and smoothly! We settled in, and got ready for bed, and slept pretty good!

This morning Chris ventured out for breakfast, and returned with iced coffee and mango smoothies. The best! We got some video calls in with family, and shared our apartment and traveling story. A nice relaxing morning for a Saturday.
Layla was up early, while Amirah slept in. Getting into our bins that were zip tied shut was hard without any sharp objects. :) 
Yummy breakfast of rice and pork, with mango smoothies! 

We are mostly unpacked, and this afternoon we are headed out to do shopping for the essentials we weren't able to bring. We are already seeing how God has paved a way for us, and how important our language learning will be. Chris starts on Monday!
View from our apartment! Pray for the people of Cambodia! 
Thank you, thank you, thank you for praying for us!!! We truly felt it while traveling and continue to feel your prayers as we settle in. We are sad to be so far from so many people that we love, but we are happy to have finally hit this milestone of being here and are excited to see all that God does in us, and in those around us. 

Keep us in our prayers as we learn to navigate this new place we now call home.
This time change and jet lag is hard! Layla thought she was done napping and then immediately passed out. :)