musings on life and holidays from Spain

Street art in Valencia

Today is about the halfway point of our holiday in Spain, and I woke this morning feeling anxious to make the most of both the day ahead and the rest of the trip.

With little more than accommodation and flights organised beforehand and our longest overseas holiday together since our honeymoon, I really don’t want our spontaneous adventures in Spain to end!

So this morning I was already thinking ahead to the end of the holiday, sad that our adventures would be over and apprehensive about going back to work with zero days of leave.

Holidays are wonderful high points in life – a concentration of new experiences and a time for refreshment and reflection away from the usual busyness of the everyday. I’m really thankful for this opportunity and that I live in an age and culture where holidays are encouraged.

Medieval gateway in the streets of Valencia

Five years ago I booked a trip to Melbourne within a week of returning home from my first overseas trip. I needed something new to look forward to. I love having good things to look forward to, especially holidays. But as I get older I realise it’s dangerous living from holiday to holiday.

John Lennon once sang,

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

It’s true. This morning I was imagining myself feeling sad days in the future, but as I did that I was missing the real life happening around me here, on the holiday I was anticipating the end of. Things like the sounds, smells, sights and flavours of daily life in Valencia: the squeals and laughter of children heading home for siesta in the middle of the day, impressive medieval gateways, even the regular whiffs of sewerage on the footpaths and the cross-shaped neon green ‘Farmacia’ sign flashing outside the window of the apartment.

Modern architecture in Valencia

Even if holidays aren’t what life’s all about, I think it’s natural for us humans to look forward to and enjoy rest. We were made in the image of a God who rested after his work of creating the world. He created rest – but we were made to glorify him not the good things he has created.

As a Christian, my challenge is to embrace the tension of living in the moment and enjoying God’s good gifts, including holidays, while at the same time fixing my eyes on the only true rest possible, in eternity. And as Adam reminded me, our spontaneous adventures won’t be over when our holiday ends…marriage is a lifetime of adventures! Five great years of them tomorrow actually.

Yesterday’s adventure – we cycled to the beach in the pouring rain and celebrated accordingly!

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.”

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.

adventures in adelaide

Almost a month ago now, we headed south east for a long weekend in Adelaide. It was a belated wedding anniversary celebration as well as an opportunity to catch up with Em and Andrew and their little daughter Talia.

We had such a lovely time. And although I didn’t visit the city itself (not much there apparently), I can understand why people would live there. You can live in the bush in the Hills and be 20 minutes from the airport, the city and the beach. Nice huh! Little bit different to Sydney life where everything is super far away.

Bits and pieces from our roadtrip into McLaren Vale and surrounds

1. On our Friday afternoon roadtrip into McLaren Vale from Belair, we were heading into a little town called Clarendon , when we saw this…

a koala out for its daily

I thought all they did was sleep!

Pretty awesome sight!


best jam donut ever.

3. First we headed to K1 winery – a recommendation from a local friend. Stunning place and tasty wine.

K1 driveway
the view from K1 cellar door
enjoying our wine tasting!

We asked the people at K1 where we should go next, and they recommended the Three Monkeys Cafe in Willunga. It had gotten quite chilly by then, so the thought of a cozy cafe was very appealing. So off we went….

There we found an amazing cheese platter, great coffee and a free iphone app audio tour of the whole region.

goats cheese, olives, beetroot dip, figs, proscuitto and other tasties!

Some locals we got chatting to in the cafe suggested Primo Estate next and the Willunga markets in the morning. The locals know the ways…

Primo was another tasty, pretty experience and the winery cellar door is architecturally very impressive too.

As we arrived at dinner in the evening, we were blessed with an incredible sunset too…

pre-dinner sunset over the vineyards.

4. Saturday morning we checked out the Willunga markets (although hard to buy much farm produce when you’re hopping on a plane the next day), I found delicious sweet strawberries and we made a beeline for the coffee and the bacon and egg rolls! Then our iPhone audio tour directed us out to the coast…to Australia’s first nudist beach. It was pretty cold so no nudes in sight fortunately! Took some happy snaps there and then we headed back to the Byrnes.

Catching up with friends

We spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with Em, Andrew and Talia. We helped ‘warm’ their lovely house with their friends and family, played with Talia, visited their church and lunched with them at Windy Point.

the joneses and the byrnes at windy point

We were so thankful to Em and Andrew for hosting us for a couple of nights. Wonderful hosts they were. We also had a little insight into what its like having a baby sleeping in the next room. 🙂 Good practice for one day in the future…

We also got to catch up with some of the girls I went to Uganda on short term mission with – we wandered out to Glenelg pier then had yummy hot chocolates in a uniquely South Australian chocolate shop (whose name I can’t remember!) Was great to reminisce about our time in Uganda and hear what was happening for them these days.

reunion with the Adelaide girls (missing Katie)

All in all, a wonderful three days of friends, food and quality time with Adam. Felt very full in belly, soul and heart at the end. And yes…there are aLOT of churches in Adelaide, but that’s a good thing!