30 October 2013

survival mode [perspective]

perspective: here comes the rain
[perspective: the view from our porch as a thunderstorm rolls in ]

because it seemed that the days had been coming in frantic rushes.  there were details to remember, a farewell party to coordinate, daniel's show going late, late, late cutting into precious sleep, arranging babysitters, a saturday board meeting to chair.  round & round she goes.

& i sat in the tuk tuk & exhaled deeply. mind racing, i thought:

"we've been living in survival mode ever since cedar was born.  when will it end?"

& then i remembered.

i remembered the woman with the recycling cart & her newborn slung in a scarf between the bars that she pushed, walking the streets asking for others' trash., unable to rest - where was her maternity leave?

i remembered the boys huddled at the bus stop sniffing the glue bottle.  so young & beautiful & already longing to be numb.

i remembered our own ming kohm & how she had to leave her tiny daughters to go work in the rice fields.  how she heard their cries when a neighbor lied & told them that she was never returning.  how she showed me how she would bind her breasts so she could go the whole day without feeding her baby.

i looked down & remembered that the coffee i was drinking as i whizzed through the city costs the daily wage of the construction workers i watch from my kitchen window.

 oh, right. 

i have never, not ever, known what it is like to live in survival mode.

sometimes perspective is like a swift slap to the face. 
 [but the good kind, like the kind that snaps you out of navel gazing & jolts you into gratitude]

this is the day

29 October 2013

snapshots [october 2013]

snapshots [october 2013]

24 October 2013

10 October 2013

seasons [ezra & amanda]

seasons [ezra & amanda]

7 October 2013

birthday party [ezra sparrow]

ezra sparrow's first birthday

30 September 2013

snapshots [september 2013]

snapshots [september 2013]

10 September 2013

one year [spirited sparrow]

one [ezra sparrow]

it turns out our sweet sparrow tricked us with her laid back infant demeanor!  we called her sleepy sparrow for the first 4 months of her life, because she always seemed to be sleeping.  & then we called her smiley sparrow for the next 8 months because she always seemed to be smiling wide.  & now we've taken to calling her our spirited sparrow because she is a determined & defiant little lady.  
some memories of our sparrow at the one year mark.

  • gets around by bum-scooting, never crawling
  • first word "jhat" from "chin-jhat" [khmer for "gecko"]
  • most happy when being held by mama or yay-yay [ming kohm]
  • sleeping through the night [...finally!]
  • loves bananas, oatmeal & noodles
  • makes the owl "whoo" face a lot
  • only one tooth
  • loves to grab mama's glasses whenever she has the chance
  • we often wake up to find her standing up quietly looking out the window by our bed & she loves to look over our balcony onto the street below to watch cambodian life go by
  • still known for her big, wide open smiles

3 September 2013

seasons [ezra & daniel]

seasons [daniel & ezra sparrow]

23 July 2013

nine months [ezra sparrow]

ezra at nine months
[ezra with her papa at her uncle ben's wedding
picture by one of my very oldest friends adam giese]

While we were busy traversing the globe & visiting loved ones, our sweet sparrow turned nine months old.  At nine months she's the perfect huggable size -  sturdy enough to squeeze, but not squirmy enough to wiggle away.  Unfortunately, she's a total mama's girl, so not many others get to enjoy her tiny hugs right now.  She's not very mobile yet, still content to sit on the floor in one place (thank you, little one!).  When she does move, its a bum scoot rather than a crawl.  She hums while she nurses & as she's falling asleep.  She doesn't seem to like baby food, but goes to town on rice, noodles, & yogurt bites.  She doesn't sleep through the night, but she smiles wide & giggles all day long to make up for it.

31 May 2013

snapshots [may 2013]

snapshots [may 2013]

29 May 2013

family photos [eight years!]

A few months ago, our lovely friend Chatti from Savady Photography took these beautiful, vibrant family photos for us.  We've really loved getting to know Chatti & her TJ, who played with Daniel in the Grass Snake Union band as the guitarist/lead singer.  
They've run off to Italy to get married & we sure do miss their presence in our lives here.


When we were thinking about locations for a green photo shoot in this urban jungle, we realized that the University of Agriculture, where Daniel & I taught when we first moved to Cambodia, would be the perfect place!  
So we took shots in the crop test plots, probably the only corn field in Phnom Penh!

cambodian cornfield

When I saw the pictures, I nearly cried because Chatti did such an amazing job of capturing the sweetness of our little Cedar & Ezra Sparrow & the deep love we have for our family.

[kissed] he wears checkers

And now, the day I am finally getting to posting these, just happens to be our eighth wedding anniversary.  Thinking back to that beautiful, sunny Vancouver day, its crazy to think of all the incarnations our life together has had.  From Ft. Langley, to New York City, to Terrace in northern BC, & now to Cambodia.


We've spent more than half of our married days here, in this chaotic city where we've become a family & built a home.  I think we will treasure these pictures in the years to come - such lovely snapshots into the deep joy we're been given for this season.

family photo

19 May 2013


Home Church: December 2012
[phnom penh home church: december 2012]

We were filled with joy to dedicate our Ezra Sparrow with our home church community here in Phnom Penh.  Just like with our Cedar, we felt that it was important to say out loud, in the presence of our community of believers, that are we are grateful for the gift that Ezra is to our family, and that on our own, we are completely insufficient for the task of raising her.  We are now, and will continue to be, dependent on the grace & wisdom of God and the love & support of the church (in whatever form that takes for Ezra in the years ahead), in our endeavor to raise her well.  We are so thankful that she was born into this beautiful community & pray that she will find shelter & encouragement in the body of Christ her whole life long.

ezra's dedication collage (edited)
[dedicating our sparrow, as captured by julia's iPhone: may 2013]

A Reading of Dedication
Ezra Sparrow Talstra

Leader: Daniel and Amanda, God has given you the beautiful gift of a child.

Amanda and Daniel: We joyfully accept His gift.

Group: We join you in thanksgiving

Leader: This gift is also a great responsibility.

Amanda and Daniel: With God's grace, we accept this responsibility. We will depend on God to love Ezra unconditionally, to have patience with ourselves and with her, to care for her well, and to accept the help of our community.

Group: As your church community in Cambodia, we will help. We will happily hold Ezra, change diapers, read stories, and most of all have grace with you as you learn about caring for your children.

Leader: Jesus said: let the little children come to me. [Luke 18:16]

Amanda and Daniel: We commit to teaching Ezra about Jesus, and living in a way that demonstrate to her God's peace, compassion, generosity and service.

Group: On behalf of your future church and communities as Ezra grows, we will also provide Christ-like examples to Ezra.

Group: Daniel and Amanda, Don't you see that children are God's best gift; the fruit of the womb, His generous legacy? O, how blessed are you, parents! [Psalm 127:3-4]

Amanda and Daniel: We prayed for this child. And now we give you, Ezra, to the Lord.

Everyone: Amen!

30 March 2013

fruit & the journey [4 years in cambodia]

(In the fall of last year, we crossed the 4 year marker & are now well into our 5th year in Cambodia.  I really wanted to share some reflections on crossing the 4-year mark & all the lessons we've learned, but somehow (or more likely, someone.... eh hem, ezra sparrow!) its taken awhile to collect my thoughts & now here we are, nearly 6 months later.  But I think the reflections are still relevant, so here are some thoughts on spending four years here.)

Talstra Family in a Tuk Tuk
[4 years: 4 talstras: picture by savady photography]

We aren't changing the world & that just might be ok.  Maybe, very few people are called to change the whole wide world after all.

We're trying to make small changes in the lives of Cambodian returnees & Cambodian women.  & that work is not glamorous   For us, to use our talents here, means we can most often be found working behind the scenes at a desk, or in a meeting room somewhere working on strategic planning, in board meetings, dreaming up new ways to work & to connect with supporters.  it means we spend a lot of time writing to ask for funding (because Cambodians have the skills & the passion to change their communities, just not always the means), monitoring that funding, then reporting on that funding .  
Rinse.  Wash.  Repeat.

But even that small contribution is not a good measure.  Funders can be fickle   Projects can fail.  Staff you trust can betray.  
So maybe, in the end, success is measured in the process.  In the means, if not always in the ends.

Did I speak to that person with love?  Did we go about our daily tasks with joy?  Did we contribute to peace in our conduct?    Were we patient with that colleague?  Was our kindness evident to all?  Did we focus on the goodness of those around us?  Did our lives & how we worked testify to the faithfulness of God?  Did we remain gentle in the face of violence & injustice?  Self-controlled in all the moral brokenness around us?

fruit of the spirit painting-001
[painting by christina of alepka arts]

Isaiah 58: 10-11 says that if we spend ourselves on behalf of the oppressed that we will be like well-watered springs.  We're still grappling (& often failing) with what it means to spend ourselves for others, especially now with 2 sweet little ones in tow. 

But somehow in His mercy, God has already given us the well-watered garden.  

Against even our own expectations, our little family has thrived here.  & so when I look back on 4 years in the Kingdom of Wonder, my overwhelming reflection is deep gratitude.  To the Lord, who has so faithfully guided us, protected us, & given us the garden.  & to you, our community, spread wide, who have watered us by supporting, encouraging, & even visiting us.
4 years in & many hard lessons later - we.are.so.blessed.

& as we look forward to 2 more years, please pray that we would live here with our eyes wide open & that we would see.  It is all too easy to walk/ride through this city, thinking of "to do" lists, whats for dinner, weekend plans, & in doing so, to miss the seeing.

Seeing the children digging through garbage, the recycling ladies carrying naked babies in their carts, the beggars, the real poverty, cruelty & squalor.  But also the LIFE, the smiles, the commitment for justice, the solidarity, & the kindness.

Please pray that our eyes would be wide, our hearts brave, & that despite the distractions, for us to

10 February 2013

five months [ezra sparrow]

five months [ezra sparrow]

31 January 2013

snapshots [january 2013]

snapshots [january 2013]

[thanks to steve chee & hannah smith for their photographic contributions to this month's snapshots]

20 January 2013

[cedar james at two]

cedar at two

funny bedtime prayers:
cedar: thank you, jesus, for mama, papa, oma-dahhling, opa.
amanda: and what about our baby?
cedar: thank you jesus for breakfast.

cedar at two (2)
[photos by steve chee]
  • re-enacting every fall & bump for us. "cedar fall like that" & then staying in his landing position until we see it.
  • loves holding baby ezra sparrow all by himself. "mama, let go, please!"
  • loves coloring & wants everyone to draw airplanes for him
  • learned how to jump & now does it all the time
  • had an airplane cake for his birthday & got a mr. potato head from mama & papa
  • refers to daniel's mom, always, as "oma-dahhhh-ling"
  • says the word "please" for way longer than necessary, "cedar have ____ pleeeeeeeeease?"
  • has memorized bob dylan's forever young & likes to sing it before bed [see video below!]
  • still sweet, gentle & cute as can be, but now interspersed with toddler tantrums & stubbornness

18 January 2013

she's a keeper [ezra at four months]

while we weren't looking someone sneakily replaced our sleepy newborn with a bright-eyed, chubby, crazy smiling four-month old.

ezra at 4 months

ezra sparrow at four months is an absolute delight.  she fills her time cooing for hours (quite loudly, actually!) every morning & has officially grown up & out of all her newborn clothes.  she spends a lot time smiling (her baby-experienced oma says she may be the smiliest baby she's ever seen) & begins every crazy-eyed, happy smile with her mouth wide open, like she's trying to swallow the whole-wide beautiful world.

ezra's crazy smiles

she adamantly refuses bottles & pacifiers, which means she can never be away from her mama too long, but she happily sucks on pinky fingers to help her fall asleep.  she still loves to be swaddled at night & shrieks like a little girl at the slightest appearance of a wet diaper.  

this month, we love her smiles, we love how content she is, & we love that she's ours for keeps.