the to-do’s that can’t be done

In the past week I/we have booked flights to Spain, searched for, inspected, applied for and been approved on a new apartment to rent, organised removalists, cleaners and squeezed in a wedding and a long-planned day trip with my mum.

I like ticking things off my to-do list. And yes – sometimes I write things on and then immediately cross them off.

But after all that productivity and busyness perhaps it’s no surprise that I’ve been unwell. My doctor basically told me to take three days off work. That seemed extreme but it’s now the end of day three, and I’m feeling pretty determined to go back to work tomorrow, even though I don’t yet feel vastly better.

With all this time at home, I’ve been reflecting on the fact that some things in life can’t simply be ticked off.

I have lamented before how frustrated I feel when I get sick. I can try to do all the ‘right’ things to help myself get better (rest, water, vitamins, healthy food, take my medicine) but the time it takes is ultimately beyond my control.

Given that it’s only been a few days, not being in control of my rate of healing is a good reminder that control is always an illusion – even things which look under control generally aren’t and never will be. God made me, and sustains me at all times, so I guess I have to let the to-do list go and simply trust him.

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

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

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.

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

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

a new year!

sydney fireworks!

A new year. New hopes. New adventures to be had. New challenges to face.

I’m not really a new years resolution kind of girl.

Although in the back of my mind there are thoughts like…this year I’ll… do more exercise, spend more time with my family, read my bible more often, be a better friend… As I reflect on these things I see that while all very good things to aspire to, they are very immeasurable goals. More than what? More than in 2010? Knowing me I’ll probably feel like I’ve failed at these things by next Wednesday because I tend to think alot in terms of “I should…[fill in the blank with some kind of regret].”

This brings me back to something I have written about in a couple of posts about living from the heart and pursuing that which makes you truly come alive. I have realised lately that while I have been seeking to encourage Adam and others in the desires of their heart, I have been ignoring my own.

One thing I have done to help Adam is to schedule in time in our calendar for him to work on his EP and then try to ‘defend’ that time when other also good things come up. It is easy to support Adam in making his EP.  I believe in him and I think he’s capable and that it is a worthwhile pursuit in line with his passion to make music. And besides I love him and want to see him doing that which makes him come alive.

Believing in myself however, is so much harder. I don’t default to belief in my own capability – I default to thinking up a million reasons why I might fail or it might not be the perfect thing to pursue. I forget God’s promise that when I trust Him and not my own understanding, He will give me the desires of my heart (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I also get sucked into believing that dangerous lie that life should be easy and hard work is to be avoided. Believing this lie is poisonous to living from the heart. It leads to a pursuit of comfort, ease and pleasure and constant disappointment – because the truth is, life is hard.

“Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.”

(Bruce Cockburn, ‘Lovers in a Dangerous Time,’ quoted in Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge).

And so I must, we must, embrace the fight, the battle, the hard work. Annoying but true. Especially if I want to live a better, brighter story with my life.

While I don’t have a huge amount of clarity about the desires on my heart, here are a couple of little things that Adam teased out of me last night which I want to pursue (but to date have found reasons not to do so);

  1. I have been eager to play a role in helping our church do Missions for some time now.
  2. I want to apply to be volunteer at the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre (I filled out the form a month ago and then filed it away in the ‘too hard’ pile, because I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to do it).

We prayed about them and I have now written them down here, so the plan is that I am going to take the first step towards pursuing them! First step with #1 is to get contact details for our church’s link missionaries & perhaps write down my missions ideas for church. And first step for #2 is to write a covering letter and update my CV, and then submit them with the form.

I don’t expect it will be easy, but just as I am still learning every day, hard work is ok. I’ll update you on my progress soon.

New Year’s PS: We were blessed to celebrate the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 in Bellevue Hill at our friends’ apartment. Here’s a pic of us all down at Redleaf Beach waiting for the fireworks! Amazing!

happy new year - bellevue hill style!

 

a brave step

My husband is pursuing his dreams.

He has taken time off work and uplifted almost his entire home studio setup and driven up to a little house in Katoomba to record for a few days. In the last few months he has written and recorded demos of 10 songs, with the plan to record an EP of 6 songs. The recording starts now…

And I could not be prouder!

The fact that he is simply there; ready to record is a success in itself. He may spend a large chunk of his time trying to help people use water more efficiently as an Environmental Engineer but I think most of his brain space is devoted to his music. And to that he is deeply devoted – from gear to software to singing techniques – he reads about it, thinks about it, talks about it, loses sleep over it, and would love to be making it as much as he could. It is truly his passion.

Adam loves his gear

 

If only there was some way it could actually make money for us to survive on. His is our main source of income now since I took my job with the mission organisation.  We hope and pray that someday, somehow he can be spending most of his time on his passion. That’s in God’s hands and even though it seems impossible now we are trying to keep trusting that he’ll work things out for good!

One of his big dreams is for us to live in a house with a studio by the beach – recording all day, afternoon surfs. So a borrowed house in the Blue Mountains with road cases as tables is not quite the same but all things considered, I think it’s a brave step in the direction of his heart’s desire. And as his wife that is a source of great joy to me.

By the way (and i’m not biased at all) his songs are powerful and honest. The man is talented… http://www.birdsinbranches.com …is where you can find out more and read his blog!