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!

 

Advertisements

truly good

There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to him and bad when it turns from him.

C S Lewis, The Great Divorce

I love the simple truth of this quote. It’s black and white. Only God is truly good.

I recently finished reading The Great Divorce, a challenging, vivid and at times, harrowing story of what it might be like when we face God. In the book, every character who arrives in heaven still has something or someone they are holding onto from this life. And most of them can’t let go – to the extent that they would prefer to return to hell.

It feels uncomfortable to say that the entire creation is good when it looks to God and bad when it turns from him, but then, often truth is painful. God’s not exactly interested in what sounds nice. He’s on about redeeming souls – those who turn to him.

Pondering. Praying.

Am I fully turned towards God? 

What do I need to let go of? 

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!

new year, new hope.

When I flipped over our photo calendar on January 1, I saw what I’d written last year on the front cover – “Adventures and challenges, hopes and dreams, joys and trials await.” I didn’t know what they would be, I just knew they would come.

From beholding the Swiss Alps and being drenched in water on a boat at the base of Niagara Falls with Adam, to finishing up my work with International Teams – a job that was more than a job – it was a deeply life-changing chapter. From the joys of witnessing up close our precious God-daughter’s growth and development and the new adventure of moving in with another couple, to a very dark week when people we loved passed away and a close friend’s marriage fell to pieces.

God knew it all before the year began, indeed before time began. And He was right there with me, with us, with my friend through it all, and always will be.

And so, as I write my first post for 2012, I wonder what it holds too. When it struck midnight on New Years Eve the people at the party were all exchanging resolutions – one said no caffeine, and another was resolved not to speak negatively about herself. I hadn’t really thought about it. Last year I resolved to write a blog post once a week all year…and that went well for the first few months and then petered off.

Was it even helpful to have one? New Year, new start…an external motivator to seek some internal change and growth. Can’t hurt! (provided I don’t get guilty about not doing it!)

Since I tend to default to worry in most situations – always scanning the future for possible issues and discomfort, and instead I would really like to be more fully trusting God with my future, from little to big things, I’m trying to think of at least one thing at the end of each day that I can thank God for. It seems easy and simple, (the hardest part will be to remember to do it…maybe I should be writing each thing down?), but I sense that it will help me see the day-to day things of life more positively and that thankfulness, no matter what life brings day-to-day, year to year, is an important part of growing in Godliness.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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.

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.

letting go of control.

Train, train, bus. That’s how I get to work and vice versa home. You know how it goes…one is late and you miss the next one or two. When one of the trains just stops plain still on the tracks, not at the station, I get frustrated and anxious and struggle to think about anything other than being late and losing precious minutes of time…

I want control. I want a plan. I want the weather forecast, the train timetable, the social agenda for the month ahead. I also need the cupboard doors to be shut when I go to bed. I’ve needed that for as long as I can remember.

So what to do when the weather turns surprisingly cold, people cancel, trains run late or all the other things in life that don’t go to plan. My default: get angry, anxious or sad or a combination of the three.

This is crazy isn’t it? Cupboard doors aside, I have no control over any of these things! So why do I yearn for it? The (elusive) promises of comfort, security, efficiency, ease.

I can be controlling over people in my life too (or at least on some level I want to be). Again, I have zero control here. I have struggled with this temptation to sin by being controlling for a long time. I confess it to God on an almost daily basis – probably should be about 10 times that! As part of a new Bible Reading Plan, I was reading Genesis the other day….

Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”

Genesis 3:16

And the part about the “desire to control my husband” really struck me. On one level, this passage validates the desire I have, as one of Eve’s daughters, as a result of the Fall. God knew when He made me, that one day I’d want to control my husband. But it doesn’t end there. He also made me for a relationship of trust in Him. For a life where we choose to let Him ‘take the wheel.’

The world and the evil one, seem to love spinning me the lie, that I can or should be in control. Believing this always ends badly, with anger, disappointment and tears. Being controlling isn’t the way God intended me to relate to people. God’s plan for me and for all people is…

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

What an astonishing counter-cultural instruction and promise this is:  entrust your whole heart to God, don’t go thinking you know what’s best, let Him be in control and this is the way to life!

The words in this very passage recently played a big part in a step of faith for some very newly married friends of ours. They went to the other side of the world to study at Bible College less than a month after they got married. Doesn’t make sense, but then God’s plans are bigger than ours. Always.

A personal challenge

Inspired by a friend’s commitment to abstain from TV for a week cos she spends too much time watching, I’m thinking of trying to “let go” for a week in an area where I seek control regularly. Next week’s probably not the week to face the train times or the cupboard doors since I’ll be away for a work training course in the Blue Mountains all week. I wonder if I could abstain from looking at my weather app? Scary thought. I’ll see how I go!

And perhaps every time I worry about the weather, and the potential consequences of it being different to what I expected, I can recite the words from Proverbs 3 in my head! I suspect that the more I let go and trust God, the more life I will find in Him, the more adventures to be had.

An update…

I posted a couple of weeks ago about two things which were very much on my heart to pursue and I made a commitment to take steps to pursue them. Read more here.

1. Missions at Church – I’m taking on being the missions person at church. We have an exciting opportunity to be strategic about who/what we support in the year/s ahead because of various changes happening at the moment.

2. Volunteering at IARC – Application submitted this week. Got a response that said no need at the moment but we’ll put you on the list. To be honest I’m really ok with this. Applying was most of the battle

music and my heart for justice

the week

A Tropical Cyclone in Queensland and a heatwave here. My love of summer has been somewhat diminished by this crazy week.  Right now I’m loving the relief brought by the evening breeze.

This week is my sixth postaweek2011 post. Yay! I’m trying to stick to my goal with loose rules about what counts as a ‘week.’

live music show #1: sufjan

We had the blessing of seeing two great musicians in two nights last Friday/Saturday. The first was Sufjan Stevens at the Opera House. A great last minute decision to take some cheap tickets offered by a friend (spontaneous decisions to change my plans for the evening are not my forte, but I am learning to embrace them!). Sufjan is a very talented, rather eccentric performer – but I confess I spent about half the time watching the backing vocalists as they sang, danced, played percussion instruments and other bits n pieces. I also loved that a giant net of balloons, small and large was let down in the last song. They used to do this at the Family Concerts my parents took us to at the Opera House when we were kids and as they bounced about the audience and the stage, it brought back fond memories.

live music show #2 – brooke

Brooke Fraser - Live in Sydney

I bought the tickets months ago. I’ve listened to her albums over and over…and over again. This show was much anticipated and did not disappoint. Brooke Fraser‘s songs are rich with stories of life and love, loss and hope. And you can appreciate them through your iphone headphones, but the words and melodies have a whole new depth when she sings them live.

I hadn’t paid much attention to the title track of her latest album Flags. But this song brought me to tears on Saturday and it’s hard to put into words why. I think the song paints a picture of our broken world – of injustice to the vulnerable and innocent. This is the part that got me:

You who mourn will be comforted
You who hunger will hunger no more
All the last shall be first
Of this I am sure

You who weep now will laugh again
All you lonely be lonely no more
Yes, the last will be first
Of this I’m sure

Oh what a beautiful day it will be when the broken world is redeemed. I look forward to this day so much, but for now on this earth and in light of my faith, I can’t ignore injustice. It tugs at my heart like nothing else. I hate it. I hate it happening to people close to me in small things and I hate it happening to people I don’t know in big ways. I can’t let my life ‘blow about like a flag on the land,’ as Brooke says in this song. I want to stand up and make a difference with my life count.

During the song I sensed God answering a dilemma I’ve been struggling over for a couple of weeks. I’m still praying about it, so you’ll have to read one of my future posts to find out more.

But for now…

“Open your mouth and sing out your song, life is short as the day is long.”

(‘Here’s to you’ by Brooke Fraser)

Will you sing out your song too?

summer holiday blessings.

Summer is my favourite time of year, and I deeply treasure spending time with my friends and husband. So a summer holiday by the beach with Adam and a bunch of friends pretty much equals living the dream.

We just spent an exceptional week away with five other couples in a quiet little holiday town near Coffs Harbour. Our abode was a quirky house with a stunning view on a headland.

With all of us staying in the one place, people have asked me “Are you all still friends?” The answer…a resounding yes! (phew!)

Most of us girls are experienced at holidays but bringing the husbands along was a first. We loved watching them bond over…simpsons quotes, beer, soccer games, coffee and fishing expeditions!

Just thought i’d share my top ten holiday highlights…

  1. waking up to the sound and sight of the beach
  2. taking crazy photos (especially on the tree washed up on the beach from the floods!)
  3. playing beach frisbee (brought back memories of my Ultimate Frisbee days)
  4. watching the full moon over the ocean
  5. standing up on my surfboard a few times
  6. playing Cluedo
  7. sitting out on the headland watching the boys fish and chatting
  8. daily zooper doopers, wine and coffee
  9. a very long swim in the ocean with the whole crew as the sun was setting and cheering everyone on as they tried surfing
  10. falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the shore
holiday highlights

It truly was a blessing of a week. Thanks God! I feel so thankful for the opportunity to relax in the sunshine with such great people.

A few post holiday reflections…

I am now slowly shaking off the holiday brain (one day back at work then Australia Day today!) and reflecting and praying about the year ahead. Who to spend time with? How to use my time in a way that honours God? How to get to work on time more consistently?(!!) Where will my work take me this year? What steps will I take in the direction of my heart’s desires this year?

Trusting God’s plans for the future is something I struggle with most days, even though I know in my head that it’s the best way. I can’t control the future so why worry about it…easier written than believed in my heart. Do others struggle with this? I would love to include you in my prayers as I seek to rest more and more in God’s plans.

 

holding on to hope

As I read news broadcasts and see photos and videos about the flooding in Queensland, I’m reminded both that life is precious and this world is a broken place. It is hard to comprehend that much water, that much devastation to lives and families, happening in my own country.

And today I have also been thinking of Haiti. It’s one year today since the earthquake. Though there are stories of hope and survival which have come out of this very poor country at its darkest hour, I have read news reports today that life remains dangerous, many people are still suffering and homeless and rebuilding is slow.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be there. But a few months ago we met Joel and Rachel when they were looking for a church and thought ours in Redfern might be local to where they hoped to live. This amazing couple have helped us get some kind of idea.  Joel and Rachel were working as missionaries in Haiti and were two of only a few people in their building to survive the quake. They lost almost everything except their lives. They left Haiti soon after the quake for medical treatment etc and sensed God moving them on from there – ultimately to Sydney. Today Joel posted a song on their blog which paints a picture of what it was like.

As we have shared meals and life together over the past few months, I have gotten this deep sense that God has purposed this friendship. Joel and Adam share a unique passion for creative expression and Rachel and I share a heart for justice for the poor and oppressed.

I’m so thankful that God was watching over them and that we have the honour of being their friends. In their courage, passion, wisdom and strength, they inspire me. I’m praying for them today – how hard to reflect on something so harrowing and life-changing one year on.

In times like these – as floods and earthquakes devastate the physical world and human life – that I am struck again by what really matters in life. For me that’s people – family, friends, the lost, the poor and oppressed.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

I want to hold on to hope because I know Jesus will be ultimately victorious and that a day will come when the turmoil of this earth will end.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:19)

hanging out with rachel and joel in Balmain