Advent Blog Day 14 – Here in my weakness…

It’s Friday night, the end of a rich yet busy December week.

When I came home this afternoon, I felt deeply tired, almost spaced out, weak. I’m guessing that at this point in the month and year, I probably wasn’t the only one. But as I reflected on my weakness, God brought this song to my mind…

Grace.mp3

I love the image of God chasing us down, meeting us in our weaknesses and lighting up the sky with his glorious grace. (Maybe I’m a tiny bit bias since my friend and my husband co-wrote this song). But  I’m also thankful that God uses different things at different times to remind me that I need him. When I am weak, he is strong.

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 writing

My husband just sent me this article on 15 famous authors and why they write. I could read the rationales of 100 great authors on why they write and not get bored.

Judy Blume says:

Those of us who write do it because there are stories inside us burning to get out. Writing is essential to our well-being.

I get this. Sometimes the ideas are nothing but a wretched muddle of my fragments in my head but writing can be healing. The words belong on the paper. Getting them out is good for me (and for the people around me).

As Joan Didion said:

write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.

Writing is a voyage of discovery into one’s own soul. I rarely know where my blog posts are going when I start them. The process of writing can be deeply revealing about what I think and feel and why.

Stephen King captures the two-way nature of writing:

In the end all writing is about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.

I often wrestle with the question – why would anyone want to read what I say/think? I pray my writing enriches other’s lives and I’m thankful that since starting this blog various friends, colleagues and acquaintances have encouraged me with their feedback. Most of the time I have no idea if what I write helps or hinders other people’s lives but the truth is – I would write even if I knew no-one was reading.

I am a writer.

My husband gave me a hat for Christmas just because he thought it looked like a writer’s hat. He has been ascribing me with the title ‘writer’ for a couple of years, but I’ve only recently settled into it.

the writer, the hat and the husband, January 2012

Writing makes me ‘come alive.’ In writing I learn more of myself and more of my maker. The more I write, the more I want to write. I hope and pray this passion only ever grows.

Our story

Today is five years to the day since Adam proposed. This is our story. 

At the time I was in my final year of my law degree, working as a Law Clerk for a generous, vivacious,  spontaneous, slightly scatter-brained and at times, demanding female partner of a law firm. She was an Environment & Planning Lawyer and worked closely with a bunch of councils around Sydney. Part of my job was being sent off all over the city and beyond in taxis on all sorts of escapades, to collect dry-cleaning, retrieve misplaced phones, bags, suitcases, and occasionally to deliver/file/serve documents to other law firms, local councils and courts. 

On the afternoon of Thursday 19th April 2007, my boss sent me in a taxi to deliver a parcel, supposedly a ‘tender’ to Warringah Council. Adam had taken the day off to attend his little sister’s uni graduation. My colleagues had encouraged me to take my bag and just get a taxi home. I called Adam on my way to the  council to tell him of my movements. He insisted on coming to the council to pick me up. Just thought he was being kind, until he just walked casually into the council chambers where I was waiting to deliver my parcel to the right person. I later learned that it was just some old irrelevant folder. 

We walked out to the car and I suggested we go get a milkshake or something by the beach…he then proceeded to drive us away from the direction of home and informed me that he had good and bad news and which would I like first? Bad, I said, which was ‘you’re not having dinner with Claire and Matt tonight.’ Claire was about to get married and move to the other side of the world. Sad Nai. Good? You’re having dinner with me! I think I reacted with a <mildly disappointed> ‘oh.’

As we kept driving north on Pittwater Road, I twigged to where we were probably headed and to what was about to unfold. I think I pinched myself. We had been talking about and praying about the right time to get married, having been together for four years. And yet that day I was so perfectly surprised.

Adam had sweetly bought me something else to wear so I didn’t have to stay in my work clothes…which (in the least glamorous part of the evening), I changed into in some service station toilet.

We arrived at an almost deserted Palm Beach, (where he had taken me on our very first date: genius!) and Adam, shooing me away from the car boot then laid out a picnic dinner as the sun was beginning to set over the water. Hard to remember all the details but I do recall wine, chicken and salad with fruit salad after. After a little walk on the beach he went back to the boot and my keyboard playing man reappeared with guitar.

After playing the intro through about five times, my love sang me a song – not the first music he’d given me, but the very first with words and the first time he’d ever sung in front of me or anyone. He was so nervous. 

Then he took my hand, pulled me off the blanket and we ran ever so fast down to the shoreline. He got down on knee and asked ‘will you be my wife?’ producing the gorgeous ring he had designed all on his own. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Mini chocolate cake, more wine, photos and text messages and phone calls. And then for my new fiancee, a long drive home to Stanmore via dropping in on our family in Castle Hill. 

My man still writes songs that make me cry, but is much less nervous about singing in front of people (bit hard to avoid when you release an EP). He still takes risks, buys great presents, knows what I love. Marriage is way harder than I expected, and also way better! There’s no-one else I’d rather face the joys and challenges of life with.

I’m so glad he asked. And I’m so glad I said yes. Love you husband.

Photo of us just after Adam asked me to be his wife.
Just engaged!

 

I did it!

Earlier this year, my friend Kath inspired me to embark on a two month challenge of not spending money on myself (with the exception of essential items) until my birthday. The goal – to think less about me and my wants and more about… God and other more important things. She was doing a three month challenge and is still going strong!

Today is my birthday, so I’m happy to say that I made it!

The shops were essentially off-limits, except for buying gifts for others. I was liberated from being lured into the clothing and accessories shops that lie between the office and the train station. I’d like to say I didn’t do any net browsing for pretty clothes and shoes but I mostly blame joining Pinterest for that! I have spent most lunch times outside, often reading my Bible, instead of in the shops.

now what?

We’ve always channelled some of our income into separate ‘spending’ accounts, since we got married. As a rule, he likes to spend, I like to save. It has worked a dream for us. So Adam challenged me to consider giving the money I saved by not doing any spending, to someone else. Good challenge. I prayed about it and I’m eager to do this.

But there’s more. Going to the Hillsong Colour Conference last week has left me pondering whether I could make this challenge not just a one-off thing, but a way of life. I’m so thankful for all I have received, from education to jobs to friends and family – I’m very blessed – so how could I be more generous and help others? Stay tuned! If you pray, pray for wisdom and guidance from God about the ideas and stirrings on my heart.

the joy of helping

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that, despite not really wanting to, I chose to help my husband make his music video. Here’s the finished product…

No regrets. I am so glad I chose to help. Aside from being the right decision to support my husband, it was fun pulling a tiny wooden car all over Petersham. If for nothing else than the variety of responses from passers-by (cats included!) from people volunteering to model, to people who pretended we weren’t there and forced us to do re-takes!

I’m so proud of my husband. And pretty honoured that the song he picked for his first music video is the one that’s about us.

Hooray for helping!

my soul’s longing

A couple of weeks ago when I started my new job and I found myself back in the familiar hustle bustle of the CBD, I began craving vast open spaces. I yearned from somewhere deep within to be surrounded by nature.

And then it occurred to me that I hadn’t left Sydney in almost four months, not since I touched down from our round the world trip. That’s a lot of time to be in the suburbs, in one place, with people, buildings, cars, in constant, close proximity.

The week I started my new job did end with a brief overnight visit to a conference in the Blue Mountains. Although it was an important trip for my new job, a great opportunity to meet and be inspired by the stories of some of the missionaries, by the time I left it was my sixth day at work (and up until this one I had been enjoying four day working weeks), so I was pretty exhausted.

Yesterday was date day. No sales shopping for this girl (not yet anyway!) We drove south to the Royal National Park, and once in, Adam wound all the windows down in the car. Not something I usually enjoy, but as my hair was whipped into a frenzy and I breathed in the smell of the gum trees outside, there could be no denying – it was good. Later, standing on Garie Beach for a few moments, with the southerly wind blasting the salty Pacific air into my face, gazing up at the vast cliffs, my soul started refilling.

The rest of our afternoon entailed fish and chips and ice-cream and a stroll on the beach. Stepping off the little footbridge onto the sand and wriggling my toes around in it – I think that added a few drops into the soul tank too. As did a long time just sitting in the sand, mid-stroll, watching Adam shoot videos on our new camera and the waves crashing over the low-lying rocks along the shore, each one causing tiny cascading waterfalls. Planes flew overhead, the ferry came and went, strangers wandered by and kids screamed as they played in the sand a few metres away. But it didn’t matter. If only for a day, I was back in nature and some dwindling part of me was coming back to life.

the serene view from my spot on the sand

I wonder what it is that makes us humans need nature – to feel the sand between our toes, smell the salt air, see bushland all the way to the horizon and hear the sound of waves crashing on the shore. I knew I wasn’t trapped in the city, yet I felt ‘cooped up’ to a certain degree – perhaps more by the busyness of our schedule than by anything physical. It could be a bunch of things but above all, being in nature brings me back closer to its creator. That which I see, hear, feel, touch, smell points to Him. I’m a little closer, reminded of who I am and what matters, and my soul rejoices at the Lord of all creation.

This morning, after writing most of this post last night, I remembered the words of the Psalmist…

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 42:1-2

more than proud.

“Proud” goes some way to conveying how I felt last night as I stood amongst loyal friends – old and new – and family watching my dear husband launch his EP – “Foreground Vice, Background Sky.” I felt the kind of joy and love that sits right down in my gut and makes me well up if I think about it for too long.

The words, melodies and beats forged together with his passionate heart and intensely focused mind, as he overcame barriers, both technical and personal, over long days and late nights, are completed and released. Set free rather like wild birds released from a cage.

It would be a lie to say it has been easy to walk alongside him on this road. But when a friend asked me last night whether it had all been worth it, the answer has always been and still is, a resounding YES!

It has been a privilege to be there each step of the way – from hearing the newly written songs in the raw to making decisions about mixing, from clapping out percussion tracks in the studio with friends to celebrating the completion of the final mix. I loved being involved.

To those who partied with us at the Launch last night – in spirit (from Mexico to the UK and in between), and in person (from the Shire to Blacktown), thank you thank you thank you. Thank you for encouraging Adam in the pursuit of this dream.

Adam – you continue to amaze me. It is such an honour to be your wife.

Above all, may God receive the glory! Last night saw many prayers answered. We are deeply thankful for His grace, gifts and guidance and are filled with hopeful expectation at what may lie ahead.

Curious to hear his songs? You can buy them here!

Watch Adam’s pre-launch video here.

breaking the drought

It’s been an eventful month since my last post, so I thought I’d break this little blog post drought I’ve had going with a few highlights…

We celebrated our God-daughter’s first birthday back in October. After family sickness postponed the party when it was scheduled for the day of her birthday, God blessed our friends with a glorious, sunny Sunday.  My giant pass-the-parcel seemed to go down a treat with the kiddies and their parents, and friends and family enjoyed the BBQ feast and all the sweet treats that followed. After helping cut the cake, and while posing for photos, Bethany could be found staring at the giant pink and purple butterfly before her and then with characteristic vigour, ploughed her little fingers straight into the edge of the cake. Ah the things that are ok when you’re 1…which never will be again! It is such a joy and privilege to be God-parents, and to be part of her life as she grows and flourishes. Here’s a fun photo from her party…

With our friends Jus and Suse and Bethany

Adam played his first gig in Australia at the opening of the new Ikea Tempe store. Despite pouring rain, sickness and the challenge of playing to a rather unique crowd of Ikea fans at 8am, I thought he did amazingly well. Pop over to his blog to check out the video…

And just a couple of days later, our church hosted its first major community event, Jazz for Soup. Now in all honesty I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about this when we first started planning, but it was truly a great night. I even realised that I don’t mind jazz music (despite having recently boldly declared to at least a couple of international lovers of the genre, that I ‘hated’ it). Oops. I was deeply encouraged by God bringing so many people into our church. We had the best problem of all…scrounging around for more bowls, chairs and spoons! The following video provides a little taste of the evening…enjoy!

Oh and I just remembered that my 10 year high school reunion happened a few weeks back too, but that can be summarised as fun, wierd and good.

And on that note, goodnight. The drought is broken, but I will be back soon! There are more words waiting within…

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.