Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere…Psalm 84:10
One of the surprises of this summer sabbatical period has been an increased awareness of the passing of time. It has gone by more quickly than we thought possible! With a fixed start and end-point to our UK stay with family, we’ve experienced each day measured out as a gift.
There has been growth; the dungarees that we bought for our very cold daughter in the first week of our stay now sit an inch above her ankles, and she’ll be returning to Thailand with two very useful front teeth! The boys have ridden out various obsessions beginning with cricket and ending with skateboarding but always with The Simpsons on TV at 6pm! The fields that we pass most days on the 20 minute drive from one family home to another have changed from green to yellow to brown and back again.
Just as our brilliant four year old niece successfully uses an egg-timer to take turns with her toys, we’ve realised that we like to know exactly how long we have ‘left’. As an end-point approaches we switch to a scarcity mindset, feeling the pressure to use every bit of time well. The last pieces of sand are slipping through before we need to get on a plane, and there is nothing we can do to hold them back.
I wonder if this anxiety is coming from observing the rhythms of illness up close. When it comes to our own mortality we have no measure. Time stops being a reliable guide as we learn that not all time is created equal.
When I was a child I went to the Isle of Wight and my enduring memory is going to a shop where I could fill a vase with layers of coloured sand. I prefer this as an image of time because there is more variety and contrast and the focus is on creating something beautiful over which we have at least some agency. I find it easier to imagine eternity in endless layers of sand than in grains trickling away.
We’ve added a rainbow stripe to our sand sculpture. It’s been brilliant! The ancient Greeks called this Kairos time; non-linear, qualitative rather than quantitative, heavy with meaning and opportunity. It might be a shovel-full of mud that follows but the colours are preserved forever. Nothing is lost.
As we look back (yes, the photo albums have been out!) we find that we have existed in many places and colours and shapes. Change has been good and God has been faithful. This gives us confidence to step into a time of uncertainty. So much is out of our hands but eternity is firmly in our hearts.
Mum has handled five rounds of chemo like a pro. The weeks have settled into a predictable pattern which can seem quite relentless but has enabled her to plan the ‘well’ times. We’ve been happy to provide regular distraction and have had a lot of fun times.
The hardest symptom for mum has been numbness in her feet that becomes painful at night and stops her from sleeping. It has been very hard to see her weak and in pain. A recent scan showed that the chemo is a having a ‘good partial effect” on the cancer and an operation in the next few months is the goal. We are praying for a good period of remission with a Thailand holiday somewhere in the mix.
We would’ve liked some more clarity on what direction the illness is likely to take but the doctor can offer no predictions. We are all aware that things could change overnight and our plans are held very lightly at the moment.
Looking back at the past 12 weeks we are extremely thankful for good health, for big views and open spaces and for extended time with families. All of us have relaxed and been able to process some of the experiences of the last few years, finding space to dream again.
It has been a joy to spend time with our brothers and sisters (minus the one who lives in Thailand!) We’ve been able to get to know nieces and nephews better and will miss their company terribly. The Cuban contingent of the family have welcomed baby Rhys Gabriel, born on the 18th of August. He is adorable and Adam and Babi are already amazing parents! We are loving seeing glimpses of him from a distance.
Catch-ups with friends have been very limited. Early in our trip we had a close covid contact and were required to isolate for 10 days (in a cottage in Devon which was no real hardship!), but the worry about infecting Mum while her immunity was low acted as a bit of a wake-up call. There are lots of people we would’ve loved to see and didn’t. We miss you all and have high hopes that next year will be different!
We will fly back to Thailand this Sunday and go straight into 15 days of state quarantine. Please pray for us with the travel and the goodbyes.
Thailand is in lockdown and Bangkok is seeing very high numbers of covid cases. The Khlong Toey area is particularly heavily affected and it is heartbreaking to hear of the number of households suffering in our community. It is hard to get a test and even harder to get a hospital bed.
There are protests taking place most days around government handling of the pandemic. It is high priority for us to show solidarity with our neighbours and we will find new ways to engage locally without taking unnecessary risk. We are now fully vaccinated but so many others we share life with don’t have that privilege.
The kids’ school is going back into online learning. They haven’t been attending school in person since March but beginning a school year at home is new and unknown. Sam begins Secondary school and is not really sure what to expect. All three kids really miss contact with friends and struggle at the prospect of being stuck at home again. However, they can’t wait to see pets and get stuck into some routine again.
Much of our formal UNOH Foundation work has been on hold during this last wave of covid but the staff have done a wonderful job of adapting and caring for each other. The RoyRak team have been hard hit with three women hospitalised for covid infections in the past month. They are all gradually recovering and have continued to work from home where possible and receive full wages when many others in the community are jobless and dependent on food handouts.
This is quickly becoming non-sustainable as, understandably, there are virtually no jewellery sales. If you are able to help out with a purchase from Royrak.org we would be very grateful indeed. Here are a couple of my favourite people modelling RoyRak designs!
Pray with us
- Please pray that Mum’s final chemo treatment on Tuesday will reduce the cancer enough to make surgery viable. Pray for the healthcare professionals making decisions on her behalf that everything will be done to the highest standards and within the right timeframes. Also, that we will have wisdom to know when we need to be physically present and how to offer support from a distance. Pray for mum and dad in the uncertainty of it all, especially as dad approaches retirement in October.
- Pray that we will remain hope-filled and confident of God’s goodness as we return to a place that is hurting. Pray that we will be given ways to offer love and compassion to others as we are guided through each day. Please pray against discouragement when our work needs to take a different form and we need wisdom for the future.
- Pray for Thailand in a time of instability and unrest. Pray that justice and mercy will prosper and that those in power will be people of peace. Pray that we will be sensitive to the ways God is working in Thailand and be open and available to join in!
- Please pray for patience for each other as we anticipate we are going to need it both in quarantine and at home! Pray that our visa and work-permit renewals go smoothly as we have left it very tight with this travel.