Advent Blog Day 25 – Christmas Day

It’s technically Boxing Day now, but nevertheless, Merry Christmas! After three family gatherings, two church services and our fair share of driving across the city over the last two days, I’m exhausted (and there’s still another lunch tomorrow). So I thought I’d simply share some photos today.

We’ve never done brunch before – it was refreshing to share a different meal!

ready for Christmas Brunch

ready for Christmas Brunch

Opening presents with the family, and a selfie from my brother-in law.

family!

family!

We do a Kris Kringle with my family, and this year I got Dad – he asked for Bunnings vouchers for a proper composter – he looks pretty happy about effectively reusing kitchen waste!

Dad looking pleased with his gift!

Dad looking pleased with his gift!

My sister made this super cute Christmas card for me. Isn’t she creative!

Christmas card by Heidi

Christmas card by Heidi

My siblings may not be impressed, but after finding all of these, I couldn’t resist sharing one of our Santa photos – complete with matching Christmas dresses made by Mum.

memory lane – our 1991 Santa photo

memory lane – our 1991 Santa photo

It may not be his favourite time of year, but I still love sharing Christmas with him.

my love.

my love.

The tradition continues in 2012. Gingerbread house demolition pose:

Adam ready to smash our gingerbread house!

Adam ready to smash our gingerbread house!

Today I got to bring along my first Christmas dessert. The cooler weather worked in my favour and my choc-mint ice cream slice didn’t melt in between home and my Aunt and Uncle’s!

Christmas dessert

Christmas dessert

This is my final Advent Blog for Christmas 2012. What started as a crazy, seemingly impossible ‘shower’ idea, became a very challenging but rewarding journey through advent. Thanks for reading my blogs over the last 25 days.

There will be new posts and new challenging blogging opportunities in 2013. For now, I’m looking forward to doing some more reading and craft during my short break from work, and a little more sleep each night! God bless. Adios.

Advent Blog Day 23 – Why remember Advent anyway?

Today in church, our student minister asked us to reflect on what we’re hoping for this Christmas. A certain present? Quality time with friends and family?

Advent calendar

I have always loved counting down to Christmas Day on advent calendars. Last year I enjoyed having one of the cheap chocolate advent calendars from Aldi. Keeping a blog has been far healthier…except perhaps when it comes to sleep. I remember fondly some of the advent calendars we had when we were kids, and in particular, a felt one that I made myself. For each day there was a Christmas stocking with a unique decoration on it, and each one had a lolly inside and a little slip of paper with a Bible verse on it. I do remember wondering though why there were only 24 days on my calendar. Why wasn’t the most important day included? Perhaps because the wait is over come Christmas Day.

I learned today that the traditional season of advent doesn’t necessarily start on 1 December. It actually starts on the fourth Sunday before 25 December (anywhere between 27 Nov and 3 Dec).

Even if we have simplified the start-dates, there remains significant purpose in advent. According to trusty Wikipedia, for Christians:

The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.

Advent is all about Jesus. It’s about sharing in and remembering his coming to earth as a man, the first Christmas – God with us, as well as looking forward with true hope, to his return.

Bible Society #25days Advent Calendar

Bible Society #25days Advent Calendar

I’ve enjoyed receiving the #25words thoughts and videos as part of remembering Advent this year. Today’s email said:

Christmas is one of the world’s great stories. But it’s only the beginning. There’s the life Jesus lived, the teaching he brought, and the benefits of his death and resurrection. Still, there’s better yet to come. Especially to those who are broken, who suffer, as you’ll see:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

As we eat our final chocolate(s) or write our final Advent Blogs, we can remember that Christmas is worth hoping for, but the best is still to come. What are you hoping for this Christmas?

 

 

Advent Blog Day 17 – may grace increase

I was pleasantly surprised to hear our intercom sound this morning – I knew it could only be a Christmas present I had ordered for a family member on Friday. Talk about fast delivery. But when the delivery man cheerfully informed me that there were not one, but two packages for me, the surprise was of a different nature.

The identical parcels both contained the item I had ordered. And I flipped out. I immediately assumed that I’d clicked to place the items in the online shopping cart twice, and was feeling pretty guilty about wasting money.

But when I checked my emails, it was clear that I had only ordered one! It was their mistake, not mine.

I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but as I reflected on my reaction, I realised that when something around me goes wrong, I almost always have one of these responses:

  1. Assumption of error – I did something wrong, I am guilty, and I must profusely apologise and/or suffer as a result.
  2. Deflecting blame – No, I definitely didn’t do something wrong in this case – and so I want to make sure others know I am innocent.

My response seems to be either brutal or defensive, and I think this stems from pride and a fear about how others see me. It’s not pretty. Where’s grace? God has forgiven and continues to forgive me, so I want my default to cease being this assumption of error and blame, and start defaulting to grace – to others and myself.

The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 3:20-21

Amen. May grace increase always.

walkontherocks

Advent Blog Day 16 – Stronger than time and distance

catching up with our dear friends from Canada

catching up with our dear friends from Canada

It was such a joy to spend time with Matt and Claire and their gorgeous kids Malachi and Elleke. They’re visiting Claire’s family in Sydney for six weeks .

They came along to church, then we had lunch together back at our little flat. It was such an encouragement to have them choose to spend their first Sunday here with us. Though it’s been over a year since we last saw them in Canada, they are the kind of people we can just pick up where we left off.

Malachi

Malachi

The passing of time between catch-ups is more noticeable since Claire and Matt had kids. Little Elleke was only five or six weeks old when we were visiting them – now she is a sweet little toddler. And though only three, Malachi seemed to remember us, and quietly listened to me read an entire Dr Seuss story and later had a great time driving the famous Birds in Branches toy cars all over our apartment.

I’m so thankful for the blessing of this friendship that stands the test of time and distance.

 

Advent Blog Day 15 – Saturday sanctuary

There was a time in my life when not having something sociable and exciting on a Saturday night would have made me sad.

Oh how times change. After being at a work conference in Katoomba today (great spending time with missionaries, but very tiring doing almost four hours of driving in a day), tonight was a different story.

Our night consisted of Thai at a very basic but bustling takeaway restaurant, and doing our weekly grocery shopping. No sadness, no shame. It was a brief but much-needed little sanctuary.

 

Advent Blog Day 12 – One year at CMS

It’s a year today since I started working as the Communications Officer at CMS. As I reflected in November 2011, I started in the job with a great sense of God’s leading – it wasn’t my plan, but his.

I had to hit the ground running when I started, and though I’ve taken some holidays along the way, it is by far the busiest job I’ve ever had. The deadlines just keep coming! Quite a contrast to my experience as a solicitor – when I would often have to drag my feet around the office asking for more work, which was actually quite demoralising. Busy is definitely better – especially when the work is varied and fulfilling!

I have spent a large chunk of the year working on CMS’s quarterly publication, called Checkpoint – and along the way have learned a lot about working with and communicating with people. Like how do you tell someone you’ve never met in person that the article you have already asked them to re-write once is still not appropriate? That was not my favourite day, but I have learned from the experience.

Some of my favourite times this year have been training new missionaries in how they communicate with churches and supporters, when missionaries have popped into our office to say hi, and the opportunity to spend time with some missionaries in Spain when we went there on holidays. In the last few weeks I also got to try my hand at writing kids’ activities, which has been a new and satisfying

There have been some challenging times over the course of the year. Sometimes being the one female on a team with two guys can be hard – but I have learned to expect the weird looks I get from time to time! I have no doubt that there are more challenges and opportunities for growth to come.

As I look back over the last year I am deeply thankful for a job that’s usually not hard to get up for in the morning, where I can serve God using my passion for writing and editing, and also help others as they reach people for Jesus all around the world – from Germany to Cambodia, Namibia to Chile and many places in between.

my editor's sign-off!

my editor’s sign-off!

 

Advent Blog Day 11 – ready in Redfern

beautiful Christmas dinner table

beautiful Christmas dinner table

There’s something truly delightful about a set dinner table, and especially one set for a Christmas meal. The readiness brings with it a great sense of anticipation. Just waiting for the food and the people to bring it all to life.

The one above is the handiwork of my friend Naomi Johnson, set tonight for our church leadership and staff end-of-year dinner. It was such a joy to be gathered around one table, sharing delicious food and funny stories with the people I have served alongside and sat under the leadership of this year.

And there were no useless plastic toys, paper hats or bad jokes to be found on this table. Lindt chocolate crackers…genius!

Naomi's pretty table centrepiece

Naomi’s pretty table centrepiece

Adam is working in Perth for a few days so sadly he missed out, but I’m feeling thankful for a relaxed evening of fellowship and food. I also have a new-found appreciation for Christmas pudding. Tonight’s was ice-cream based – think I might have to get that recipe Hayley!

I don’t tend to host big dinner parties, but I still like to set the table even if it’s just the two of us. I like the table to be ready. But as I reflect on the value of being ready, I’ve been thinking not about pretty tables or completed Christmas shopping, not even about Jesus coming as a baby as he did the first Christmas, but coming again.

I saw this Christmas card yesterday, just in a regular shop:

Jesus is coming

Jesus is coming

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

Revelation 21:2

Will I be ready when he comes again? Will you?

Advent Blog Day 10 – FFM Christmas fun

Now that my friends and I live all over Sydney, we all try to get together at least once a month (usually on FFM, the First Friday of the Month), to eat takeaway and catch up on life.

Except in December – when we have a Christmas Party of course!

This year two of the girls organised and catered the evening with a Christmas theme, including a photo booth. So much fun! Here’s a little taste…

FFM group shot!

FFM group shot!

FFM group shot #2!

FFM group shot #2!

I’m so thankful for my beautiful, precious, fun-loving FFM girls! We have been through so much together over the years – the highs and the lows. Love you very much xx

Oh, and here’s one of the husband. What a catch…

my grinchy and I!

my grinchy and I!

 

Advent Blog Day 3 – Clive the Christmas Tree

Yes we have a Christmas tree called Clive. He’s three Christmases old now.

We almost lost him after some serious western sun exposure at our old place in Petersham. Thankfully he responded well to our ‘Clive Alive’ campaign last November (aka water and a decent pot).

Now I wouldn’t necessarily say Clive has grown significantly since Christmas 2010, but he has certainly evolved…

Clive, December 2010

Clive, December 2010

Clive, December 2012

Clive, December 2012

Clive is a unique tree, or to use Adam’s words, he is ‘the ugly duckling’ of trees – still becoming something beautiful apparently. I wonder why his pine needles are confined to the ends of his branches now – he’s all spindly in the middle, and somewhat lost his Christmas tree shape.

There’s something special about having a real pine tree in your home at Christmas. We had real ones when I was really little, then one year Dad planted the tree in the garden and a plastic one took its place. I’ve rediscovered in recent years how much I love the pine tree smell, and plus, it feels good to simply return him to the balcony in January. I just hope he doesn’t droop under the weight of the decorations…

Advent Blog Day 2 – Denarius Day

Our church, one1seven in Redfern, Sydney, sets aside a Sunday each year for ‘Denarius Day.’ This year’s was today. A denarius was a day’s wage when Jesus walked on earth, and so each church member is encouraged to give a day’s wage on this particular Sunday. The money collected then goes to a special designated cause.

Denarius coin, possibly similar to the one Jesus referred to

Denarius coin, possibly similar to the one Jesus referred to

We choose a different project to give to each year. Last year we supported the Anglican Aid East Africa Famine Appeal and the year before we supported a ministry to the homeless in a neighbouring suburb.

This year we are supporting a project of one of our missionaries, Viorica. Viorica works with a team called Nea Zoi, reaching out to women and men who have been enslaved in prostitution in Athens. The team is reaching out to women working in brothels, helping women get out, helping them find alternative employment and above all, sharing God’s love in Jesus with them.

The team is planning to set up a short-term shelter space. Viorica shared this need with me several months ago, saying that having the space will “mean that when a girl wants to come out, day or night-time – we can have her stay in that room for 2–3 days until she feels safe and secure, calms down and decide what she wants to do next”. The team will then help her go to a long-term shelter, or help repatriate her to her family.

As Missions Coordinator at church, I’ve had the privilege of sharing about this vital project with our church. I’m thankful for the way our church has supported Viorica and her ministry in Athens today. I’m looking forward to seeing the transformed space and praying God might use it for his glory.

We’re blessed to be a blessing to others.