Here are 10 things I am thankful for about this year.
- I’m thankful for our precious daughter Eva! She is a joy and delight to us every day. I love watching her learn new things as she explores her world. She is such a happy little girl, loves people and also sleeps well most of the time, which is a wonderful blessing.
- I’m thankful for my husband’s perseverance through a difficult year in his job, his unwavering support through pregnancy, watching him love our daughter and for his grace and patience towards me as we have worked through the challenges and changes that parenthood brings together.
- I’m thankful for the support of our families here in Sydney. Not everyone gets to enjoy that, and so I really try not to take it for granted. We have loved watching our families embrace our little one, and have also appreciated a few nights off in the last few months, knowing she was in good hands.
- I’m thankful for the way that both of us having babies this year has brought my sister and I closer. Although we live about 50 minutes drive away from each other, the wonders of WhatsApp have meant that we’re in pretty regular contact. She has been a great source of support as we have started walking this motherhood journey together.
- I’m thankful for new friends in my local community in the same life stage. I have loved getting to know the other women in my mothers group. I know that not every group gels particularly well, but I feel really blessed that ours has, and I hope those relationships continue to grow even as many of us go back to work.
- I’m thankful for the support of friends of old too. I have so many dear friends that I can turn to for support, prayer and advice. One of the blessings of the year has been getting together most Wednesdays with some of the girls I went to school with, who also have kids – some a little older, and some the same age as Eva.
- I’m thankful for a year of maternity leave from my job which has given me space and time to enjoy this new chapter of motherhood. It is a unique time in both of our lives and I count it a privilege to be spending my days with Eva.
- I’m thankful for the opportunity (now that Eva sleeps better during the day) to start doing some sewing. So far I’ve just made some simple little outfits for Eva, and also a pram liner. It’s quite satisfying being able to produce something that she can wear over and over again.
- I’m thankful for the ways that being Eva’s mum challenges me personally. Motherhood can be hard and relentless, especially at times when baby won’t sleep or is sick. But it’s also incredibly rewarding and purposeful. It’s very tempting for this task-driven mumma to get so caught up in ticking things off the list each day, that I forget to just stop, and enjoy spending time with my daughter. I’m still learning, and I suspect I always will be.
- I’m thankful that amidst all the changes and challenges, God has not changed. Before Eva was born, I posted about the encouragement I found in remembering that God knew what my May, June, July and beyond looked like. He did. I had nothing to be afraid of. I am thankful that though I may struggle daily to be faithful, that doesn’t change the fact that his love is perfect, he is good and he is sovereign over our lives.
What are you thankful for about 2014?
There’s less than two months to go until our baby is due. According to the books, my Facebook feed and the weekly Baby Center updates, we should probably have the nursery fully set up and stocked with hundreds of nappies, singlets, wipes and baby toys by now. It’s not.
It’s tempting to get caught up in planning the physical aspects of bringing a baby into the world. Of course there are a few essentials to buy and borrow. I keep wondering what my life, our life, is going to be like with a baby? Life beyond May (when our little one is due) is a great unknown. It’s one thing to watch close friends with their new babies, but I’m pretty sure it’s rather a different thing to have your own. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very excited. I can’t wait to meet her. I’m just also rather nervous about bringing a new member into our family.
It was such an encouragement to be reminded on the first night of Colour Conference, (now a couple of weeks ago) that God goes before me – before us. He is already in our April, our May, our June and beyond. He knows what the birth will be like, he knows if she’s going to be a good sleeper or not. He knows her. We are all in his mighty hands.
As I was first writing this post, sitting on my own in a food court in Market City (opposite the Conference), one of the volunteers from Hillsong sat down opposite me with her dinner. We shared a little of our stories (Hayley was fresh out of high school in the US and loving her first semester of Bible college) and how we were enjoying the conference. When I shared that I was expecting a baby, she immediately offered to pray for me and our bub. She got out of her seat walked around next to me and put her arm around me and prayed. This lovely young woman I had only just met prayed passionately for our little girl to grow to know and love Jesus as her Lord and Saviour and to calm any anxieties that I had about this new chapter. I was deeply encouraged by her bold faith and her loving prayer. An experience I won’t forget.
This year, my advent calendar involves no chocolate or treats or little doors to open. And there’s no daily blog like last year either.
My mum was keen to do some Christmas craft on a recent family weekend away and my sister Heidi found this idea in this blog post. From this, we learned that some people mark Advent with a ‘Jesse’ tree, based on the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:1-3
So we decided to create our own Jesse’s Branch Advent calendar, each one with a different name that is used in the Bible for Jesus, ‘the shoot that will come up from the stump of Jesse’. We followed most of the names in the blog post above, writing the name on the front and the verse on the back, but also added a couple of our own – like ‘Man of Sorrows’ from Isaiah 53:3 and ‘Son of David’ from Matthew 1:1.
As I couldn’t find any twigs/branches that seemed appropriate, (no local bushland near my inner city home and no nice sticks in the shops), I decided that our new little Christmas tree, ‘Christoph’ would have to do for my Jesse’s branch. I quite like the novelty of adding a decoration to the tree every day! He started off a bit sparse but is now looking well-decorated. Perfect!
And I love discovering what name I’m going to pull out of my little bowl each day to hang on the tree. Each one is a promise filled with hope and truth about the one we celebrate at Christmas. Today it was ‘King of Kings’ based on (among other verses) 1 Timothy 6:14-15. I wish I could say I looked up each passage each day and reflected on it…but that would be untrue. I did it for the first time today. Only a few more precious names to be revealed until it’s Christmas!
I recently finished reading Melissa Kruger’s The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World. One of my friends gave it to me for my birthday. She read it last year and it changed her life. This year God has been working through this book to change me too. What a gift!
If you had asked me before I started reading The Envy of Eve whether I struggled with the sin of coveting, I probably would have said no. And I probably would have claimed to be pretty content. I would have been lying. I do covet. I struggle with contentment every day.
The book starts by unpacking what coveting is and how it is different to longing for something in a good way. She says that there are three characteristics of coveting which make it a dangerous sin to ignore and leave to grow in our hearts:
- Coveting is a sin pattern, not a circumstance. Kruger says, “Coveting can so blind our minds that we come to believe that if we could just attain the longed for item (a job, a baby, a spouse, healing) then we would be able to be content in life. However, our inordinate desires are never sold by attainment. Today we may covet one item, but once it is given, we will soon begin to desire something else.” (p.25) How often have I wrongly believed that if my circumstances were different, I would act differently/not sin/be happy?
- Coveting is marked by comparison and entitlement – we think that if others receive something we want, that we deserve to have the same. If we don’t get what they have, then we wrongly believe God has failed to be good to us. There are lots of problems with this, but I was particularly challenged to reflect on the fact that when I compare myself to friends, neighbours or colleagues, I’m failing to love that person.
- Coveting is a ‘begetting sin’. Coveting inevitably leads to other sins like envy, greed and lust (cf. James 1:14-15). It’s dangerous.
One of the things I loved about the book from the start was that it’s so grounded in God’s word. Each chapter focuses on a different story in the Bible and the ways that people like Eve and David fall into coveting, as well as highlighting God’s grace to them despite their sin. All coveting comes out of unbelief in God. It is a failure to trust in God’s sovereignty, love, power and provision in my life. As Eve doubted God’s character and the truth of his promises in the garden of Eden, leading her to sin, when I covet a friend’s circumstances or abilities, I’m actually failing to trust that God is good, sovereign and loving towards me.
But God is absolutely good and sovereign and loving. And because of this, he is working in and through me and the circumstances, relationships and gifts he has ordained, for the best purpose of all (cf. Romans 8:28):
At every moment, God is working to conform each of us into the likeness of Christ. Thus, whatever we lack, it is so we will grow to look more like Christ. Both our blessings and trials propel us toward this ultimate and better good.
Whether life is difficult or good, I pray that I will keep coming back to this truth and believe that the God of the universe loves me and is achieving a greater purpose – to mould me to be more like Jesus. And there’s nothing better than that.
More reflections on what I have learned to come…I hope.
Reflections on obedience from the book of Jonah
A couple of weeks ago we went to ReachOut Conference, which aims to help Christians become fully engaged in God’s global mission by sharing our passion for his purposes.
Since the conference I have continued to reflect on one of the messages from Simon Longden in particular, about God at work in the story of Jonah. God showed compassion on the people of Nineveh and chose to work in and through Jonah in the process. He commanded Jonah to go and tell the people to repent. God said go, but Jonah said no. Jonah fled on a ship in the complete opposite direction, faced a storm, three days in a fish’s belly. Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah telling him again to go and warn the people of Nineveh to repent. God gave Jonah a second chance. Jonah couldn’t hide from God – neither his presence nor his commands. He went and told the people of Nineveh to repent and this is what happened…
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Jonah 3:10-4:2
God is and always has been at work in the world, bringing people back to himself. God’s heart is for all the nations to worship him. And in his work of redemption he chooses to act through people. He doesn’t need us (Acts 18:25) but he calls us to share his word with others. It is by his grace alone that he works through broken jars of clay like me.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
God has a plan for my life and things for me to do, that he doesn’t have for anyone else. It’s humbling and scary and exciting all at once. My experiences, my past, my story, my gifts – I am clay in his hands to be used by him for his purposes, his work, his glory – if I will let him. Am I being obedient? Am I being faithful? Or am I, like Jonah, saying no?