Another human

My belly is larger than it has ever been and I felt an affinity with a mother kangaroo with a joey in her pouch the other day. I’m six months pregnant.IMG_6163

Despite this fact, most days I have to remind myself that in a few months time I’m going to have to give birth to a baby. And from that point on I’m going to be a mum for the rest of my life. Sure, there are lots of reminders. People asking me how I’m feeling or how far along I am (to which the usual reply is “You’re tiny!”), the regular loo trips, the sometimes fluttery, sometimes forceful movements from within day and night (including as I write this) and an often unexpected level of exhaustion.

I feel like I’ve been dreaming of and looking forward to this season of life for many years. I loved looking after my little cousins when they were babies and in recent years have cherished getting to know our goddaughter and her little sister, my friends’ new bubs and the many delightful little ones who are or have been part of our church. Always such a joy, but never quite the same as having your own.

Even so, it’s a bit hard to believe that it’s our turn soon. I have sometimes wondered if it would ever happen. On the one hand, I assumed and hoped for it at times over the years, but then once I found myself in this season, I realised I couldn’t assume anything – it was totally in God’s hands. Now there are only about 90 days until our little lady will be with us on the outside – a reality that’s hard to get my head around. I find myself taking note of ‘Best Before’ dates on food and thinking, before due date or after due date. My brain may be weird, but this is just one of my little ways of getting accustomed to the changes ahead.  IMG_6187

Ultimately I’m humbled that, God willing, we will have the joy of bringing another life into this earth to raise and care for. Not everyone gets to do that. I can’t wait to meet our little one. And if I could have spoken kangaroo, I would have wanted to say to her, “Me too.”

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sharing our home

A year ago we moved to a two bedroom apartment with our friends Joel and Rachel. We didn’t make the decision lightly. We prayed about the opportunity and sensed God’s leading, so we took a step of faith and moved out of the only place we’d called home together.

I’d never lived with anyone other than my family and Adam.  So, like most married couples do, we learned many times over that ‘normal’ isn’t quite so normal after all.

Going into sharing with friends, I prepared to learn this all over again. We felt taking this risk was right and we trusted God would sustain us, but in truth I had many expectations and concerns. I like things to be done a certain way. I agonised over questions like:

  • How would I deal with other people’s mess?
  • Would we fight in front of our friends?
  • Would I be a ‘bad’ housemate? (I was really anxious that I would spend too long in the bathroom!)
  • How would we share the kitchen space, the cooking, the couch?
  • How would our relationship change?
Sunset view from our living room.

change

We found out a week ago that our friends are moving to Melbourne for work, so our time of sharing is fast coming to an end. God has blessed us with the provision of a new place in a short space of time, but that’s another story.

As the sun sets on this chapter of our lives, I’ve been reflecting on the year that has been.

adaptation

Sharing has been a year-long lesson in adaptation. For someone who doesn’t like sudden changes of plans and really likes things to be ‘just so,’ this has been beneficial. For example, while I was overseas, Adam and Joel had placed our microwave in the cupboard to save bench space. I thought it bizarre at first, but it’s still there, and who knows, maybe the microwave will find a similar home in our new apartment too.

simple living

Joel and Rachel lost almost everything they owned in the Haiti earthquake except their lives. They have lived in countless cities since they got married and most of their current personal possessions represent the bounty of keen op-shoppers and council clean-up opportunists. In many great ways we have been challenged to be more thrifty and to live more simply.

family

Joel and Rachel feel like family in lots of ways – we haven’t just shared rooms. From a great café or small bar find, to lengthy discussions about pacifism, theology, politics or injustice over long dinners and glasses of wine; from brunches with friends to endless cups of Rachel’s mum’s Anzac Tea Parlour tea, we have shared our day-to-day lives with these guys for the last year. We even created a mythical character together…a monacle & top hat wearing gentleman called ‘Audley Chester.’

Rachel & Joel at an Audley Chester Brunchorama!

Of course it hasn’t always been easy. There have been times when I have craved my own space, or my own way and times when indeed we have disagreed in front of our friends.

But in these moments I have received little lessons in patience and perspective, as I have been reminded to be thankful for our home and that living here for this season was part of God’s plan for our lives, so all I have to do is trust him.

As I look back I’m thankful for the adventures, laughter, and stories we have shared, for a friendship that has survived and evolved along the way, and for the many lessons God has taught me over the last year, both through our friends and the experience. Sharing our home was a risk worth taking.

With Rachel on a day trip to the south coast
Joel and Adam

it’s not about me … (part 2)

The Christian principle that needs to be at work is Spirit-generated selflessness – not thinking less of yourself or more of yourself but thinking of yourself less. (The Meaning of Marriage p.66)

I’ve been thinking about these words a lot in the last few weeks. How do I think of myself less?

In a recent sermon at church, I was challenged by the passionate words of David in the first verse of Psalm 18. David declares, “I love you LORD.” It is something I have wrestled with for many years – in my mind I think, well of course I love God! But when I examine my heart and I look at the rest of my thoughts, actions and the way I spend my time, I wonder…do I really love God? Heart, soul, mind, all?

Every day I let the small things weasel their way in. Through the Spirit, there needs to be a “find and replace” edit of my thoughts and attitudes. From the concerns and obsessions fueled by fears and wounds from the past (Keller says it’s primarily our wounds which make us self-centred), to the foot of the cross. To Christ. To the fear of the Lord. To loving God.

Five years ago as I went to Uganda on short-term mission, my prayer and heart’s desire was that my love for God would grow. In the space of a few weeks I witnessed God powerfully at work in the lives of my African brothers and sisters, despite the poverty and hardship they faced. They taught us a simple African chorus called “My God is Able,” and we sang this many times over. Oh how my passion for God grew. He is so big and yet he loves, knows, cares forgives me! My prayer was answered.

gorgeous girls at church in Uganda

My mission trip to Africa was wonderfully life-changing but I can’t take a trip to Africa every few years to get a boost of excitement for God. I struggle day to day to feel excited about God, but I want to have an enduring, passionate love for my creator, Lord, redeemer, saviour, friend, Father, comforter, refuge.

But how?

Two small steps for now…

1 – God above all

I’m convinced that the only way to truly fill my heart with God above all, is to spend more quality time with him – whether the desire is there or not. Last year I borrowed Shopping for time, by Carolyn Mahaney et al., from a friend. It’s a little book with big challenges and comes highly recommended! Through it I was challenged to prioritise spending time with God by doing it first each day – no matter how early that meant getting up. (I know, yikes, right?!) It was great when I did it, but unfortunately it didn’t last. I’ve decided to order my own copy, with the hope of getting (back) into the habit of regular quiet times.

2 – Devoting less brain space to consumer decisions…

Another friend’s decision to spend less money on herself, by not buying anything except essential items (so no clothes, shoes, homewares, jewellery etc) has inspired me to do the same thing for two months, til my birthday. So I am trying to think about myself less by pre-making the potentially daily consumer decisions I am blasted with every day as I work in the CBD. It’s been 12 days so far!

As I close, it would be crazy of me to think that in the doing or not doing of things that I would be come instantly less self-centred. But I pray that these little steps and challenges help my heart to change in a lasting way and that my love for God deepens, as I look away from me and look up.

So what about me? (Part 1)

Which ones today? Thanks husb. Fun, beautiful gift!

What should I wear out tonight? I need more sleep. I really feel like a smoothie. I hope Adam comes home soon. I wonder if anyone has liked my Facebook status?

me. me. me.

I don’t know about you, but I think a lot about myself and all the things that (have the potential to) affect me. I worry, wonder, ponder, think, ruminate. And I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. Sure, self-preservation is probably just part of being human, but I know deep down that me, me, me, is not the way I was intended to spend my days.

For the last few weeks I’ve been reflecting on my self-centredness as I’ve been reading The Meaning of Marriage, by Tim Keller and I’m only a few chapters in. So far it’s authentic and a very interesting examination of marriage – firstly from society’s point of view and then digging into the meaning of marriage according to the Bible.

There can be no doubt that marriage exposes our sinfulness, our selfishness, who we really are. Married friends counselled us with this advice before we got married and we nodded and smiled. How right they were. The ups and downs on the marriage journey have brought to light ugly parts of my character that I barely knew existed.

The book has put words on a page for my own struggles with self-centredness (guess that’s almost ironic) and the ways that this has brought difficulty to us.

Self-centredness by its very character makes you blind to your own while being hypersensitive, offended and angered by that of others. (p.57)

Yes. Blind. How many times have I thought “He’s being selfish…Why doesn’t he think of me?” It’s almost ironic.

Every day offers opportunities to pursue our own gain or that of others. One Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I had my usual to-do list – baking washing and grocery shopping, and probably other wishful ideas in my head. But Adam needed me to help him make his music video.

I’m not going to lie, I said yes to helping because on some level I knew it was right but for the first half an hour or so I wrestled with anxiety about not doing my things. By the end of the session, I knew I had made the right call. We struggled to understand each other at times, but it was lots of fun and we had this rare opportunity to get outside and wander around our area and create a story together. The fruit of that afternoon (and a few others) will be public in the not too distant future, we hope! Keller writes (p 60),

Fulfilment is on the far side of sustained unselfish service, not the near side.

I’m pretty sure that joyful unselfish service is the key to authentic love. In the famous Bible passage about love, Paul explains to the Corinthians…

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

After four and a half years of marriage God continues to reveal my selfishness on at least a daily basis. Apparently, it goes to a whole new level when you have kids, so I’m glad to trust in God’s perfect timing for this and look forward to the ways it may refine and grow me anew!

This is how we are to love – by being others focused and it is Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is the ultimate picture of what this truly means.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

So what about me? It’s not about me, it’s about God. Stay tuned for Part 2…

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.”

Not my plans but yours, oh Lord.

This time in two weeks I will have just finished my first day at my new role as Editor/Writer at CMS Australia. Not quite what I had planned to do two weeks before Christmas, but it seems God had other plans. Typical.

I have been quite content in my role as Executive Assistant at International Teams. It has been an incredible time of growth in faith, of being humbled daily  and has opened so many doors for me to go deeper in my passion for mission and to really help make a difference – just exactly what I had hoped. I have been contentedly plugging away at International Teams and wasn’t looking to leave anytime soon.

One of the things I have really loved at International Teams has been writing stories of God at work, developing the website and publishing. I get a certain pleasure out of seeing things that really matter (especially in an eternal sense), communicated well. And I rarely just read. I proofread.

When I saw a tweet about the position at CMS Australia back in October, I was curious. The job description sounded a bit like my dream role… writing and editing for a mission organisation full time? Really? With the bonus of one quick train ride to the city. So I applied, still unsure if I even wanted to leave, but trusting that God’s purposes and plans would prevail.

Just a couple of days before I submitted my application, I saw a profile I’d written of myself in a Year 12 ‘memories’ book, which had been brought along to the reunion. One of the questions asked what would I be doing in 10 years time? I said something like…

Married; working as a journalist and involved in making a difference in the world.

Wow. I had forgotten how long I’d had this dream.

As I went through the Application process, God just kept opening the doors and one week ago, I accepted the offer of the position and resigned from my current role. God has taken me on an incredible journey over the last ten years to get to this (from media/law studies, short term missions, planning lawyer, Executive Assistant and soon Editor). And the exciting thing is, the journey continues.

I’m looking forward to sharing new stories of God at work through His people all over the world and how Aussies can be involved in what He is doing and learning from the team I will be working with. I am especially looking forward to all God has in store for this new season as I continue to grow in trusting Him and His plans for my life. They are always much better than mine!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

I have peace knowing also that God will provide for International Teams in my absence also. Already there is someone to work a couple of days doing my job and I will keep championing for RenovArte Café, Mexico too. It’s all His work after all.

Getting poured out in Sydney

The four of us sit at a plain round table. Inside the room is a there is a stillness but it is not quiet. Other tables and chairs surround us but they are empty for now. Peak hour continues on the busy city street visible through the window. A taxi toots its horn, a bus slams on its brakes, the pedestrian crossing makes its’ ‘green man’ noise.

I am one of the women in the room and I’m there to join in prayer for Sydney, for the people in my city who are lost and broken, poor and oppressed, in desperate need of hope. And for God to use His people here in this city to help love people – that they might see Him, know Him, follow Him.

Hope for Sydney is the name of this network and tonight was their third monthly prayer meeting. It was my first meeting with them. I’m told that different people come each time and there’s usually a few more than tonight, but we know it doesn’t matter – God will hear our prayers!

The Hope for Sydney mission:

Connecting volunteers with Sydney’s poor and marginalised in the name of Jesus Christ.

We shared little snippets about our own churches, read from Isaiah 58 and reflected on the picture therein of God’s heart for the restoration of the oppressed.

We prayed for God’s people here in Sydney to be convicted by the Spirit of God’s love and that we would generously pour ourselves out for those in need. And we prayed for Partners like Anglicare, the Salvos, Mission Australia, International Teams and others, who are already engaged in helping the poor and marginalised – from the homeless, to the disabled to the refugee. God loves them all, and as His people we need to share His love with them.

I am excited about this movement of people uniting in prayer, and mobilising toward action. Ever since reading Generous Justice by Timothy Keller, I have been praying and dreaming about how I could be more deeply engaged with reaching out in Sydney, and how I might help others get involved too.

This is just the beginning, but I have a sense of being part of something bigger than my little world, that God is on the move and that change – both within our churches and our communities – is possible – only by His grace and guidance.

A deep social conscience and a life poured out in deeds of service to others, and especially the poor, is the inevitable sign of real faith and a real connection with God. ~ Timothy Keller

the power of the story

Stories become more true in the telling.

I started this blog because I wanted a place to reflect and write as I sought to live a better story with my life, something I was challenged to do after reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller.

Stories are intrinsic to our lives. We tell them every day – stories of conversations overheard on a bus, about the strange dish we had at a restaurant last night, the holiday we had, the dream which woke us in the middle of the night and the prank we played once on our younger siblings. We love to tell our story. We want to be known, heard, laughed at.

Tonight we went to see the movie “The Help” and I was reminded again of how powerful it is when someone who has never been able to tell their story, has the opportunity to do so. Without spoiling it, a young female writer listens to, and writes the stories of the “helps,” the African-American women who tend to the wealthy white families in Jackson Mississippi in the 1960s. I was horrified to watch the way that the white people, especially the women, treated African-Americans, – who were practically raising their children, generation after generation, for them. How could humans treat other humans this way? Fear, manifesting itself in various ways seemed to keep people quiet and compliant with the status quo.

It is a profoundly moving film. It has inspired me to write, and to keep seeking and listening out for the stories that need to be told, to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and to live in faith, without fear for breaking the status quo. Because stories do become more true in the telling.

In the last couple of years I have had the opportunity on a few occasions to tell the story of my life – from earliest childhood memories to the present, and I have listened to the stories of those who listened to mine. On one of those occasions, I had forty minutes to tell it and it took all that time. It is a most humbling, emotional and wonderful experience all at the same time – both for the listener and the story-teller. It is my hope that others get to have this opportunity sometime in their lives.

Our lives are stories, and the days, months, years ahead – they are blank pages waiting to be written. What will I write in my story tomorrow? And whose story can I listen to, that it might become more true?

Charcoal chicken, reverse parking and sitting in the sunshine…feels like home

Well where to begin? It’s been almost a whole month since my last post. And two weeks since we returned from our trip overseas to a new home.

Departing for the trip overseas from our home in Summer Hill, and returning to our new place in Petersham where we’re living with friends was always going to be a challenge for me. (Adam moved us while I was en route to Switzerland).

Having lived in our little flat in Summer Hill since we got married almost four years ago, it was the only place we’d known as home together. But as Adam kept reminding me as we packed our lives there into boxes, home is where our family is – it’s not about the walls, kitchen bench or furniture we were leaving behind.

The first few days of dealing with jet lag, searching through big bags for my clothes and asking endless “Where is my _____?” and “Why is this here?” were challenging to be sure, especially for my patient husband.

But with a bit of sleep, a lot of prayer and a trip to Ikea, it’s amazing how quickly this place is starting to feel like home. The air smells like charcoal chicken from 10am in the morning and Adam’s studio is in our bedroom, and I’m getting experienced at reverse parking in the narrow streets around our place, but it has its’ charms! This afternoon I took great delight in sitting on our couch bathed in the sunshine as I finished a book (particularly since the only place to sit in the afternoon sunshine at our old place was on the loo!) and on Thursday night I walked to bible study at a friends’ place!

Courtesy of our new combined iTunes library with our housemates, this song called Feels like Home, which I’d never heard before, played as I was writing this post

…coincidence? I think not.

Looking forward to all God has in store for us in this adventure of living with friends in this season of our lives.

the real life

The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s “own” or “real” life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s “real life” is a phantom of one’s own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it’s hard to remember it all the time.

C S Lewis (quoted in “Shopping for Time” by Carolyn Mahaney et al)

Oh to live with this biblical truth planted firmly within. Of course. It makes sense. There are no accidents in the life God lays out for us. Hard, unexpected challenges yes. But mistakes, no.

We are in a busy, unchartered season of our lives – I suppose most seasons are – but this one seems bigger – planning for an overseas trip and moving out of our place to share with some friends…and doing both in three weeks time, within days of each other. There are lists and plans and thoughts rushing through my mind constantly and both large and slight upheavals of expectations have led to fears and tears.

This brilliant expression of biblical truth reminds me that all of these unexpected changes and interruptions are indeed ‘real life’ and that the path towards these changes and adventures is just as significant (or more) in God striving to make me more like His son.

And so I must continue to learn to ‘roll with it’ as Adam likes to say – for this is the one life I have been given, and its interruptions, or “sovereign deliveries” (as the writers of Shopping for Time call them) are all part of His glorious plan.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11