Back to reality

So I’ve been back from my mini retreat for just under two weeks and if the fact that I’m only now getting round to posting about it doesn’t tell you all you need to know I don’t know what will! 🙂

I had such a wonderful time away at Mt Glorious. Obviously, there was the very real break from phone calls, texts, work, other work, uni and family (as much as I love them all!) but there was also the very real experience of just basking in being with God solely for those two days. Normally, during my time with God in the mornings, one or two hours fly past and I’m very conscious of having to be ‘finished’ in order to start the rest of the day. What I loved about my time away was the uninterrupted stretches of time that almost made me giddy with joy and excitement. Oh just to be and to be able to stay was so precious. It was like experiencing a sliver of heaven, when we will be completely surrounded and filled with His presence.

So, needless to say, I came home and landed with a bit of a bump. And instead of being light and happy for my time away, I felt heavy and, well, frankly, quite annoyed! It wasn’t until I went to bible study the following week and was asked about my time away that my friend gave me the reason for my disgruntled mood – I was grieving! Grieving the loss of being totally immersed in God without interruption. Grieving not being rushed. Grieving thinking about nothing but Him.

And the funny thing was, once my friend at bible study said it, I felt complete release and was able to move on. It’s funny how, sometimes, things just need to be identified before shuffling off. My mood lightened and I felt myself slip back into the groove of the life God has laid before me for this season.

And then today, after staring at the computer all day, I snuck outside and just stood and looked around me.

My backyard.

And the similarity of the view that greeted me to the view I enjoyed while away didn’t slip past me. It was the same sort of thing – gums, blue sky, birds and quiet just not as much of it but beautiful and there to be enjoyed and revived by, nonetheless. Just like the time I spend with God here versus the time I had with Him at Mt Glorious. Here, it’s bite sized with the knowledge that there is much, much more that we will one day experience but can’t see from this life, from this current view. And I’m so excited about that! But I’m also content to wait here, with this small view and rest in the fact that the big view is coming.

And now for a year of…

…rest. Apparently.

So every year I try to have a word that is my focus and after waiting on God for this years word, I pondered what the year looked like (so far): two jobs, both needing my full attention, studying, continuing in various roles within church groups and, obviously, I still have a husband and family.

And the word that God gave me? REST.

Yeah, right. I thought it would be something like focus or intention or efficiency. But no. Rest.

rest 1 |restverb [ no obj. ] cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.

So I’m trying to rest. I really am. And I’m discovering the true rest that only Jesus can provide – “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Finding rest in this life, this world, is tricky and often unsatisfactory. But I know the One who made it all and if He says that coming to Him and resting is the only way I am going to manage this year, then that is what I will do. I will relax in His presence, refresh myself by remembering Him and all He is and I will recover strength by drawing on His spirit.

And I’ve changed the photo on this blog to serve as a reminder to rest, for there is nowhere I feel more rested that amongst His creation and in particular, when I’m near the ocean.

I’m grateful for this word. Not surprisingly, it turns out it actually is the perfect word for this year 🙂

 

 

I did it!

Yesterday, I took my last photo for the Grateful 2016 book 🙂

The book is so full it won’t close. And it’s representative of the year which has been full to overflowing too! And as I flick through it’s pages, with dodgy polaroids, crossed out words and often indecipherable hand writing, I truly am grateful for 2016. It hasn’t been the easiest one, by far. It has challenged me, caused me to look at myself with stark honesty and it has shown me that, aside from God, I really am capable of nothing. He has sustained, comforted and been by my side through the adventure of this year.

And as I look down the barrel of 2017, there are things on the horizon that scare me, things that I know will bring me joy and plenty of ‘normal’ life in-between. Perfect 🙂

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Remember me?

Gosh, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I was here! I’m going to blame uni for the absence….that and some big changes for us work wise 🙂

Yesterday I sat my first and final exam for my first semester at uni *cue big sigh of relief. Whilst it has taken up my spare time, I have thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m already looking forward to March when I’ll do another two subjects.

Now that I have a little bit more time, I thought I’d get back into posting my Grateful Book entries every day. And check out the book now! It won’t even close, it’s that full 🙂14804937_10211000219778283_1388735858_n

So stay tuned for another post tonight with today’s gratefulness 🙂

This Christmas season

My daughter was curious after hearing a teacher say they have a different ‘theme and colour’ for Christmas every year. We don’t do this in our home, so the concept was entirely new to her and she wasn’t sure what it meant. Once I explained that it involved getting new decorations each year, she said, “So you don’t use the same ones each year? I don’t like that at all. Getting out the old Christmas decorations is like opening a box of memories every year.” Ah, yes, I’ve definitely passed on my sentimentality gene!

Memories are slippery things and we often need a prompt to set our minds off wandering the past, don’t we? When I was in England recently with my dad and sister, I heard so many stories I hadn’t heard before from my dad simply because there were other people prompting incidents and activities from his childhood or teenage years. And it was wonderful. One of my uncle’s in particular, having been in the Navy for a lot of his working life, has many, many stories and it just took a word or line of conversation to trigger his memory about a particular (usually hilarious!) thing that happened.

Memories are great because they remind us who we are and they remind us of those we’ve travelled life with. They are a two edged sword though, aren’t they? Some memories that are triggered bring a wave of sadness, of remorse, or of regret.

In light of the recent happenings in Europe and other countries where lives have been senselessly lost, this Christmas will be hard for so many people, with memories both intensely painful and achingly sweet.

And it will be hard for people we know, our neighbours and our friends who have been touched by loss and grief this year or years gone by. We need to remember that each person we meet has wounds; some that are fresh and real, some that have scarred and healed but are still very much felt.

Let’s treat each other with gentleness and kindness as we rush about cooking, cleaning, buying and wrapping presents. Let’s aim at having some empathy for those we come into contact with, remembering that a smile can hide a world of pain. And if you’re the one who is suffering loss at this time, if this Christmas is especially hard because of who won’t be there, treat yourself with kindness too. Give yourself the same space and understanding as you would a friend.

Each Christmas when we celebrate and spend time together, we’re not only making new memories, we’re consolidating the old ones and engendering a greater sense of fellowship as family and friends; a greater connection to each other as all being innately human.

This Christmas season, let’s be mindful of those whose memories are difficult to manage and help make some good memories for them in the midst of their pain.

A new direction

I’ve been struggling to write here for a little while now and it’s caused me to do some soul searching and try and nut out why.

What I’ve realised is that I’m not feeling free – free to say what I want to say, free to air more opinions as well as reflections. I’m feeling stifled which is ridiculous because it’s my blog and surely I can say what I want…?

And further investigation has revealed that as my faith has grown over the last four and a half years (yikes! Has it really been that long?), my perspective has changed. When I started this blog, I never intended it to be about my faith, more just a positive, hopefully thought provoking, place to go in this topsy turvy life we live. And now I find my direction has shifted. And I’m happy about that.

So this is just a heads up. Future posts are more likely to have a focus on an aspect of faith as it relates to my life or our world in general. You see, Jesus is my life. Talking about Him and thinking about Him is what I love doing most. If you feel the same way, I hope you stick around and join in the conversation. If you don’t know Jesus, I hope you stick around too and allow me the privilege of showing Him to you 🙂

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Homecoming

Well, it’s just four sleeps until we pick up our wandering daughter from the airport. She’s had an amazing time and we can’t wait to hear all about it 🙂 The eight week wait will be over.

Whilst I am just about jumping out of my skin with excitement, there is a tinge of sadness. As I make a list of her favourite food to buy, clean the house and ensure her bedroom is neat and tidy, fold and put away any stray items of her clothing, I can’t help but think what a privilege it is to be welcoming her home. I’m acutely aware that for some, the wait is never over.

I said in a previous post that seeing her off at the airport was a hard thing to do, and it was. But it wasn’t the hardest thing to do as a parent, not by a long shot.

There are parents right now, right this very minute, having to decide on the order of a funeral service; who are folding and putting away clothes for the last time; who are tidying bedrooms that will never be messy again; who are bypassing favourite food at the supermarket because there’s no-one to buy it for.

So as I bustle about preparing, inside I weep. My heart breaks and I pray I will never have to face the complete awfulness of having a child taken too soon from this life.

And instead of the loss I know others are dealing with tainting this homecoming, I’m going to squeeze that girl of mine so tight. I’m going to breathe in the scent of her and hold her face in my hands. I’m going to soak up the sight of her and thank God for every second that I can. That He has deemed it right for her to be home with us instead of home with Him.

And I’m going to bow my head in sheer thankfulness and gratitude. It’s the least I can do to honour those mothers who would give anything to be in my shoes.

 

But everyone else is doing it!


Speeding ticket

Just recently, I received a lovely yellow ticket from a man in blue on the side of the road. It’s my second speeding ticket in the 25 years I’ve had my licence, which is not bad in the grand scheme of things. I’ll leave it to you to decide if I’m a great driver or just very lucky 😉

As I sat there after handing him my licence, I felt the car rock with each car that went past. Judging by the amount the car moved, I think I could safely say that not many others knew or chose to abide by the fact that it was, indeed, a 60km/h zone. I would not be the only one to go home with a yellow piece of paper that day, I suspect!

On the way home, I thought about how many cars seemed to be speeding past me and I started to get angry. Why weren’t all of them getting a ticket? Out of all the cars going over the speed limit on that road that day, only a small percentage would pay for it. And the fact that I was one of them didn’t sit well.

I started to feel that it was so unfair that I now had a fine and loss of demerit points, while others were going to get away with it. And as I drove, I noticed every slightest traffic infringement – evidence that it wasn’t just me who did the wrong thing, so why could they get away with it while I got caught!?

We have a tendency to do this throughout life, don’t we? We base our behaviour more on those around us than on the actual standards for living. We might treat our spouse horribly but justify it by saying, well, at least I’m not having an affair or beating them. We are impatient and yell at our kids but tell ourselves that at least we’re providing food and clothing for them. We clock off work early but fill out our time sheet to reflect otherwise and defend it by comparing ourselves to the workmate who steals company stationary.

We can’t rationalise or excuse our behaviour by comparing it to the lowest denominator. How many of us have said to a teenager “Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right.”? Yet, so often, we think things are okay for the very reason that ‘everyone is doing it’.

The fact of the matter is that I received a speeding ticket because I was speeding. End of story. The fact that people speed every day and don’t get caught has nothing to do with it.

We must decide for ourselves what our behaviour and actions will be and live accordingly, rather than looking at what everyone else is doing and lowering our standards to be the same or even just slightly better.

Our behaviour is our responsibility, no-one else’s; just as we can’t control other people’s behaviour, only they can. I think we need to mind our own business a bit more, in the right way. If we concentrate on what we know to be right and good, it’s much easier to maintain the level of living that we desire, instead of being swayed by what we see others doing.

Comparing how it is, to how it should be

Here in the land of Oz, it’s supposed to be getting cooler; it is autumn after all, and has been for nearly a month. The only problem is that it hasn’t been getting cooler at all. It’s actually been very hot.

Lately, when we’ve had 42 degree days (that’s about 107 F for all you northern hemisphere peeps) and the most common cry around our house was “It’s not supposed to be this hot!!” And that’s a fact, it shouldn’t be this hot at this time of year – but it is.

I think it feels worse because psychologically we were all geared up for it to get cooler. So how we ‘feel’ it, is more intense because “it’s not supposed to be like this!” When it’s the middle of summer and it’s 42 degrees, we just shrug and say “Well, it is summer!” We’re not surprised because our mindset is in summer mode.

And we do this with other areas of our lives, don’t we? When what should be happening is at odds with what is actually happening, we find it harder to cope with. I remember years ago talking to people older and wiser than me about a situation involving someone I love and saying “But they should be coping with it by now!” And the response that came back has always stayed with me, although I don’t always remember to live by it. “You have to deal with things/people as they are, not as you think they should be.”

We can’t change how those around us are living by telling them that they should be living differently. The only person we can change is ourselves. Whether we think people ‘should’ be over something, coping with a situation or showing progression in their thinking and growth, if they aren’t, they aren’t. And I have no business saying it must be otherwise.

Once again we find that if we focus on our own journey and are less concerned (in the right way) about where others are on their journey, we will have less time to pass judgement on those around us.

If we can accept that sometimes where people are is more important than where they ‘should’ be, we can truly begin to make a difference in other’s lives and grow ourselves.

Following footsteps

footprintsA little while ago, my husband commented to our youngest that perhaps she would ‘follow in the footsteps’ of our older daughter in a certain aspect of life. The youngest daughters response was indignant. “Follow??? I’m going to be making my own footsteps, thank you very much, not following hers!” (She does an excellent ‘sass’ head manoeuvre and executed it to perfection in this instance.)

I love it that she has a strong sense of her individuality and wants to forge her own path.

Sometimes it’s too easy to just do what others have done, to retread the well worn paths. And there’s nothing wrong with following another’s footsteps or walking the same road – many many wonderful things have been done that way.

Yet, there is also a need to strike out on our own sometimes; to look up the shoreline of the beach and instead of walking in the footprints snaking up the sand, to head in a different direction, where the sand is untouched and smooth.

One of the things I love about my dad is that he is always looking for a ‘different’ way. And not just for the sake of it, but in order to improve and/or enhance whatever situation he was facing. The result is that I, too, look for ‘another’ way whenever a problem presents itself. My husband has adopted this way too (probably more from a ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ philosophy than anything else!) so our problem solving conversations are peppered with “What if we…”

So often ‘what if’ is seen as a negative, a precursor to worry and we’re told to not ask ‘what if’. But let’s turn it around and use it positively.

Asking ‘what if’ can be a powerful springboard to a solution.

What if we forget about how something has always been done, and follow our instincts?

What if we ignore the nay-sayers and chase our dream?

What if we are the ones with just the right skill set to address that issue in our community?

What if….?

The possibilities are endless.

Next time you’re facing a challenge, try asking yourself a positive ‘what if’. You just never know where it might take you.