15.5.14: mum for a week

Today was the day our daughter was due to arrive in the world. I thought I would be taking another selfie of my belly in the apartment lift, relaxing on the couch, distracting myself with craft projects and/or needlessly cleaning some unseen surface of our apartment. First babies are typically late. Everyone knows that.

Beautiful Eva surprised her usually late-running parents by arriving eight days before her due date, last Wednesday 7 May 2014. Instead of the cleaning, waiting and discomfort of the end of pregnancy, the hospital let us take our daughter home on Saturday morning – despite our total cluelessness about being parents – and we’ve now had a week together as a family of three. We really, actually get to keep her. Amazing. Daunting. Humbling.

Eva

I’m a Mum now…and always will be. I have looked forward to this role for a long time. Now it’s a reality. On Sunday I had the joy of celebrating my first Mother’s Day. In only a week, motherhood has brought me to tears many times (happy ones), changed my priorities, made me feel more protective than ever before and thrown open my heart to a new kind of love. It’s given me new respect for every mum who’s gone before me.

A book I was given by my boss before going on maternity leave describes motherhood as the hardest job you’ll ever love. This feels true so far. I have no manual for my little girl. I am loving getting to know her a little better each day. As I guess and try things, succeed, fail, and persevere, I think Eva will show me how to be her mum. My prayer is to seek to be faithful to God in this new role and to be the best Mum to Eva that I can be.

 

Neighbours – so close and yet so far

It’s more than seven months since we moved into our flat. We love so much about living here – from the balcony to the dishwasher, from the parking space to the pool. We love sharing our home with our families and friends and our new small group every Thursday.

But when we moved here, close to church, into a huge apartment complex, we really hoped and prayed that we’d be able to connect with our neighbours. On our floor alone there are 11 other apartments. But most of the time our hallway looks like this:

our empty hallway
our empty hallway

So the best (and only?) time to interact with our neighbours is in the thirty seconds it takes to use the lift from the parking lot or ground floor, to our level and vice versa. In theory. And preferably going up, so that the conversation continues down the hallway. We soon learned however, that other people don’t really want to talk to their neighbours. Perhaps living in close proximity to so many others makes people more private. Perhaps Australians aren’t as friendly as we make ourselves out to be. Perhaps people don’t want new friends.

So we have become those people. We try to smile at our fellow building dwellers when we share the lift (although headphones and back turners can make this rather difficult) and strike up conversations ranging from the weather to work and little else in between. Beyond the lady next door and her cute little one year old, we don’t even know anyone’s names on our floor…

It can’t stay this way, that much is clear. But how can we love our neighbours if we don’t know them?

Should we start a building Facebook group like others in our community have done? Where to begin? What would its purpose be? Do we have the energy to establish and sustain something like this…and what if we move? Should we start small – a meal with the couple next door or invite our whole floor to casual drinks on our balcony? The ideas excite and scare me at the same time.

What if people aren’t interested or are too busy? A friend told me a few months ago about how their new neighbours in a very different part of Sydney declined to come over for a BBQ, full-stop. They were too busy. It would be sad, but it would be ok. At the very least we would know we had tried. And I really hope that in the next few months we will indeed try. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:30-31

 

 

Getting my craft on

I’ve been finding it hard lately to be motivated to write on here. It’s not for lack of ideas. Even though I love writing and I am deeply thankful for the opportunity I have to be paid to write and edit for CMS, it’s not always what I feel like doing when I come home at night – not for a few hours anyway – and hey, then it’s almost bedtime (or past it, like now).

My sister Heidi gave me a cross-stitch for my birthday. My first one. I’m proud to say that after watching some rather nerdy ‘How to cross stitch’ YouTube videos, I’ve already started it (one of the blessings of an Easter long weekend) – by which I mean two small rows of stitching. It’s a good feeling to be creating something which doesn’t require an electronic screen of any kind! Just precision, the ability to count squares on a grid and a whole lot of perseverance. A cinch…or perhaps not. I sense that, like many things in life, it will be more about the process than the finished product. I’m ok with that – and I wonder what I’m going to learn about myself along the way?

surprising myself

It’s been really cool to see a friend of ours on the show Excess Baggage – especially to see the difference it has made and continues to make in her life. Go Sarah!

We’re all made different and for whatever reason, weight isn’t something I have had to struggle with so far in life. I feel for my friends who do. Women apparently naturally gain weight as they age, so losing weight (even only a little) just seemed too hard.  When clothes stopped fitting I just gave them away.

I never thought I’d call myself a gym junkie. But these days, I kinda am.

anti-gym

I’d always been against gyms for two main reasons:

  • why choose exercising at the gym over exercising outside in the fresh air?
  • way too many people pay for gym membership with good intentions but then stop going and lose money.

A bit over six months ago, I joined the gym around the corner from our new place. Truth is, I like going to the gym a whole lot more than expected. As far as my first objection goes, fresh air is all very well, and I do occasionally still go for walks/runs provided the weather conditions are appropriately aligned…not too hot, cold, windy, rainy, stormy etc. These are no longer good excuses to sleep in or slouch on the couch.

beyond gym membership cynicism

My gym is not your ordinary gym, it’s a Curves gym, and despite initial skepticism…(a) would a women only gym be totally weird? (b) would I get bored with doing the same circuit every visit? and (c) would I give up and lose money?!

At least for me, the answer to (a) is no, and there are lots of reasons for this – but I think there is a sense of “we’re all in this together” and after six months it just feels normal. The sight of a man in there would be weird. I like that women from my community of all ages, shapes and sizes feel comfortable there and there’s no mirrors. I like that too.

As far as (b) goes, in all honesty, sometimes it does get a bit monotonous, but  simply going through the motions is really all I’m capable of at 6.30 in the morning!

When it comes to (c), putting the membership to waste hasn’t been a problem for me (and to be honest, isn’t likely to be), especially because I have an overactive guilty conscience and I’m pretty careful with money.

when achieving is a good thing

Curves records my every visit and rewards certain milestones and achievements and running competitions with good incentives from time to time. As I have learned with surfing, life isn’t defined by achievement, but in the gym, I’ve found a place where my natural inclination can be channelled towards more positive ends. I feel a sense of achievement in the very fact of going and regular exercise seems to fulfil its promises to my mental and physical well-being. I have muscles where I didn’t before, I’ve hardly been sick since I started going, releasing all those endorphins (I think that’s right – thanks high school PE) seems to be helping make me a more positive person most of the time and I’ve dropped just a little weight.

happy boat

Despite all this, my husband says that he would prefer to be married to a ‘happy boat’ than a skinny sad stick. While he sure has a unique way with words, I’m thankful for his unconditional love and the reminder that when all is said and done, this body will be made new and my outward appearance isn’t God’s priority – he cares about my heart. I think it honours him to look after my body, but what he wants is for all of me to be head over heels for him. Like Mary in John 12 as she poured the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. Totally adoring.

Tomorrow morning I’m off to brave my second Zumba class at the gym…

This post is dedicated to two of my friends in the UK – to Tiffany, for enlightening me with the above photo, and to Bek, for loving Curves even more than I do. 

on seasons and surfing

Having just finished reading My Seventh Monsoon, by Naomi Reed, I’ve been thinking lately about the seasons of life. The seasons changed quickly for me recently. As I left International Teams, one season ended, and then another began when I started at CMS a couple of days later.

One of the main conclusions Naomi draws in the book (yeah I know it’s weird for this Naomi to write about another Naomi’s book, but bear with me!) is that God provides for our needs differently, but always for His purposes in the different seasons of life. This rings true and is deeply comforting as I am in the beginnings of a new season.

At four weeks in to the new job at CMS, I think I’m just starting to get used to it. There was a moment in my third week there, when I found myself staring at the two blank computer screens, interview notes and emails all in front of me. All I needed to do was write the article. If only it was that simple. Don’t get me wrong, I feel hugely privileged to be in a role where I am getting paid to write about things of eternal value. Then and perhaps most days in this season I’m going to be up against the age-old enemy of writing and all creative pursuits: resistance.

But enough about work, this week we’ve been away with friends staying in a lovely house in Green Point, NSW with an amazing view of Wallis Lake. After the big, quick change, this week has offered much-needed soul refreshment. Up until this week, amidst the busyness of Christmas and learning all the new people and operations in the new role, I was functioning in survival mode. Now after waking up to the sounds of birds tweeting and insects screeching, and watching the sunset over the lake in the evening, I think my head and heart may have almost caught up to my body.

Reading My Seventh Monsoon has also challenged me anew about focusing on being not doing. I find this hard, because I really like to achieve. Hence feeling rather frustrated with the writer’s bloc and wondering what exactly I had produced that day!

This in-built desire to achieve is something I have struggled with in learning to surf. Surfing is hard and achieving is close to impossible. Today, out of the many waves I bumbled onto, full of hope, there were many rides which could be considered failures, and maybe only one or two where I felt like I was really riding the wave in any sense of the word.

Given that I emerged from the surf today with a twisted ankle and some cuts on my toe and the usual knee grazes…was the half second ride worthwhile? I have to say, it’s a resounding yes. The beauty of surfing is in the journey of just being there in the waves, under the bright blue sky, with the sunny glare reflecting hard into my eyes and the headlands rising up on either side of the coast.

in it for the fun!

Learning to surf has taught me a few lessons over the years…

  1. Enjoy the journey. Along the lines of the being not doing.
  2. Control is illusive. When you are surfing, you have almost none. Certainly no control over the waves, the currents, the clouds, the wind.
  3. Some risks are worth taking. I decided to start surfing because I was over sitting on the sand watching Adam and others have fun. Even if I never quite have the courage to venture “out the back” to where Adam rides, I still feel like taking the risk of trying to surf is worthwhile, compared to not trying at all – because of the sheer fun – and nothing to do with whether I’m actually any good at it.

I look forward to the surfing and the lessons learned from it in years to come. But for now, one closing excerpt from My Seventh Monsoon that resonated with me, Naomi and her husband Darren were discussing whether to go back to Nepal with their three kids…

N: “…what would it say to our kids if they knew we had taken a deliberate risk, and died?”
D: “It would say to my kids that more than anything else, I’m on this earth to follow Jesus. If following Jesus means taking the hard calls, then that’s what I want to do. I want my kids to know I took risks.”

a special good morning from God today…

This week I have the deeply humbling privilege of being at the International Teams Europe Conference – a conference to refresh, encourage and equip those who serve with the organisation in Europe – from Greece, Scotland, Austria, Italy, Spain and Albania – just to mention a few!

The conference is in Beatenberg, Switzerland and every time I look out the windows, I am amazed that God has placed me here now.

This morning I saw this when I opened the curtains…

"Good morning!"

The highest three peaks had been covered in cloud since we arrived two days ago – what an incredible “good morning” to receive! They were there all along but we could not see them until He moved the clouds.

The Psalmists’ words “O Lord our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth” just keep coming to mind.

I am loving hearing stories of God at work throughout Europe – just last week four new Iranian believers were baptised in Athens, Greece. God is good!

What is promised…

…is the best:

I will go before you and make the crooked places straight…I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places. Isaiah 45:2-3

Thank you God! I embark on this adventure with Him and look forward to all He reveals.

something different

With my husband quite focussed on his EP over the Easter weekend, I decided I needed projects of my own. In five days I didn’t end up spending a huge amount of time on these things, but I did manage to drag my container of assorted art supplies out from under the desk and re-explore its contents.

And so I painted.

Now keeping in mind that I’m quite the perfectionist and have a nasty habit of wanting to be good at certain things pretty much immediately (eg. surfing!) pulling out the art is indeed risky. Perfection is unattainable – perhaps because it is just not the point when it comes to painting, or the arts in general.

I gravitate towards painting landscapes – trees, sunsets, clouds, mountains – but like to try and make them look realistic, so not easy. I have one of those in the works.

When Adam popped out for a break and saw me painting, he broke my perfectionist train of thought and encouraged me to “just paint anything…it doesn’t have to be something real.” True. Obvious even.

So I fought the perfection, and gave this free painting thing a go.

Here’s the result…

burst forth

Nothing compares to this love.

On a different note (and because I might be a little behind on my post-a-week commitment) this song has been in my head since I heard it for the first time just over a week ago. It’s beautiful so I wanted to share it with you lovely people who read my blog (in case you haven’t heard it yet).

 

 

I find myself here on my knees again. Caught up in grace like an avalanche. Nothing compares to this love.

So profoundly true. Thank you Jesus for your endless love and grace.