A new year, a new word

For the last few years, through prayer and pondering, I’ve had a word for the year. This year, the word that came forward and offered itself was ‘promise’.

No specific promise came along with it, so I began to look into the word itself and it was the second verb definition that resonated with me:

with obj. ] give good grounds for expecting (a particular occurrence or situation): forthcoming concerts promise a feast of music from around the world | [ with infinitive ] :  it promised to be a night that all present would long remember.

Mmmm…a year of promise – a year full of the expectation of – I’m going to go ahead and make it a positive, as you knew I would 🙂 – good occurrences or situations. I quite like that.

The words I’ve had previously have had an application aspect to them e.g. rest – deliberately concentrating on being restful; or intention – requiring me to really think and plan. But promise, well, promise requires me to do nothing but hope and keep my eyes open for the forthcoming good things.

And I’ve also been challenged by what I define as good. As is often the case, my definition of a word isn’t always what God means by that same word. And good definitely falls into that category.

For most of us, good things are the things that make us happy or make our life easier somehow or have some reward or kickback. Yet even a cursory read of the Bible should cause us to rethink what God means by good. By God’s definition, it seems good is anything that brings me closer to Him. And we all know that those things aren’t always what makes us happy or life easier, nor do they always carry a reward we can see in the here and now.

I like the freedom that this word brings and it ties in nicely with last years’ word of rest – rest in the promise of all this year holds 🙂

And what says promise more than the dawning of a new day? This pic is from a couple of years back that I love because it captures two of my favourite things – the beach and a fresh new day rising to meet us.

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Happy new year 15 days in :)

The other day, I listed on a used furniture site a sofa bed that had become superfluous due to a change of room configurations and the change in location of my study area (bear with me, I do have a point…well, sort of) and by doing so met the beautiful soul who came to buy it. Unbeknownst to me, my listing on the site also included the link to my blog and, Donna, the buyer of aforementioned sofa bed, had read a few of the posts. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about the blog for awhile and it was kinda nice hearing someone talk about it enthusiastically. And it made me miss it.

I caught up with a friend recently who asked if I’d written any more on the book I’ve been trying to finish for the last gazillion years. And of course, my face gave her the answer. And now after talking to Donna as well, I realised I had allowed writing for work and writing for study to take away my creative writing time and that in light of a new year, I could pencil in some blog/book writing time. It might just be half an hour a week or even a month. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” after all. So, although I’m not a new years resolution type person, that’s one little goal that is just for me – no benefits to anyone or anything except for keeping my inner creative pixie quiet and happy.

Some of you may remember my Grateful Book of 2016. Well, I didn’t have a special project last year, so as 2017 turned into 2018, I had an idea for a new project. Essentially, it’s a cork board specifically for polaroids of anyone who comes and spends time with us – for coffee, a meal, a swim, a wine, a night or two.

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We can’t wait to watch it fill up over the year and have a board full of all the friends and family we have had the privilege of having in our home. Tomorrow night there will be another one up there – the trick is going to be remembering to take the polaroid each time!

It’s also a great visual cue for me to be intentional about asking people to our home – aka actioning my lesson and word for the year last year (rest) by replenishing and refreshing myself by the presence of those people I love.

So, this year, while still full and somewhat uncertain, is off to a good start. And I’m excited to be back here, writing again 🙂 And thanks Donna for your encouragement even though you probably didn’t even know that’s what you were doing! 🙂

 

Do the hard thing.

To say my brain is a bit frazzled of late would be an understatement and the events of today have only served to prove it.

My 11 year old daughter had try-outs for a sport after school, meaning that she needed to be picked up later than usual. So I planned my day around picking her up at the appointed time. As it was raining, I figured the try-outs would be in the massive auditorium her school has. I turned up, the hall was full of seating and NO STUDENTS.

Now, I should point out right here that one of my children not being where they are supposed to be at any given time is a major panic button for me. Throw any other crisis at me and I am rational, logical, calm. I am generally your ‘go to girl’ for anything – except if one of my children isn’t where they should be.

I began, as you can imagine, to run (something I typically avoid at all costs). I ran to the sports office, frightening, I suspect, the poor teacher sitting quietly at his desk, frantically asking where my daughter was. Then I ran to the main admin, rang the buzzer about 13 times and started going into all those ‘staff only’ places. Then I ran to the middle school admin block and then I ran when I saw my daughter patiently waiting for me.

If you’ve ever lost a child in a shopping centre, in a park, anywhere – you will know the feelings that swept through me as soon as I clapped eyes on her. I cried. Which made her cry. Which made me cry even more. We hugged as though we’d been separated for months instead of just one day and only an hour and half more than normal.

You see, I missed the call on my phone to tell me try-outs were cancelled, and forgot to call the number I hadn’t recognised back when I got home. I didn’t look at the two emails telling me the same thing.

Because my head is full and it’s making me scatterbrained.

Because in one week, one of my children will be hopping on a Nepal bound plane and won’t be on the return flight for eight weeks.

Eight. Weeks.

She is going with a great organisation. She will be doing all sorts of wonderful volunteering activities. She will be having the time of her life. And I couldn’t be more excited for her.

At barely 18 years old, she is stepping into the life God planned for her. She is stretching her wings. Stretching her faith.

She is bold. Brave and gutsy. “I want to do it because it’s hard. Because I don’t want a ‘safe’ life. And what are we doing if we’re not helping people?”

And this mama’s heart is breaking and bursting with pride all at the same time. Her bravery inspires me. Her courage gives me courage, urges me to rally and not get stuck on ‘what ifs’. If she’s brave enough to go, I need to be brave enough to let her. If her faith is big enough at 18, mine surely better be at 43.

So how’s this mama going to cope with an eight week trip to Nepal when a simple time mix up sends her into a flat spin?

I guess I’ll just have to take my lead from my now grown up baby – be brave. Do the hard thing. And have faith.

……I might have to add a little wine to that list though 😉

 

 

Love is bittersweet

A dear friend of mine is facing tragic news about a loved one. In telling me the news, something she said brought even more tears to my eyes for its sheer beauty.

“We’re just trying to keep things normal at the moment, you know, doing all our usual things. We don’t need to suddenly focus on spending time doing special things together and savouring every moment because we’ve always done that.”

And it’s true, the relationships I see that surround this friend are close, connected and full of appreciation and love for one another. It’s real, not saccharine in any way, and it’s beautiful.

So many people don’t realise they need to do the special things now. They wait until an impending disaster looms before seeing that it’s the people who matter. They wait until the news that they are going to lose someone they love hits them right between the eyes before they begin to value them above work, money, success or security.

How refreshing, how heartbreakingly wonderful, to know people who get it and live like it. It’s been a reminder to me to live in the moment more; to appreciate, really properly, those around me; to not wait until I only have weeks, months or a couple of years to enjoy and delight in those I love and who love me.

There’s a bittersweet sadness that comes from losing a loved one you are thoroughly invested in. It makes it harder that they are going but there’s such enormous comfort in knowing you gave it all you had, that you loved without limits or conditions. Bittersweet but completely worth it.

Are you wasting time working, accumulating things money can buy, on the false notion that there is time later for relationships? There is truly nothing more devastating than knowing you’ve been focusing on what doesn’t matter and doesn’t count at the expense of those around you who might be gone in an instant.

You might live to a ripe old age, and all your loved ones too, then, how wonderful to have lived a life rich in love, full and brimming with joy because you relished it. And if you don’t, or if a loved one doesn’t, you will know you sucked the very marrow out of life for however long you had together.

Don’t place value on things that don’t deserve it.

Don’t wait. Live the special moments now. And do it with all your heart.

Where are all the jesters?

I read on another blog recently (can’t remember where!) a one-liner about the role of the jester in court life. One of the privileges that was afforded the court jester was his freedom to speak his mind when no-one else could. He (or she, but mostly he) could poke fun at the lords and ladies and even the royals themselves. Their role was not only to bring comedy and generally run amok, but also to speak the truth and have permission to keep everyone in their place. What a cool job 🙂 If I could spend my days being paid to make people laugh one minute and speak the truth to them the next, I would nearly die from sheer enjoyment and job satisfaction!

It seems to me that one of the things wrong in our society is that we have no court jesters – there’s a distinct lack of ‘no-men’ but an abundance of ‘yes-men’ in our political parties, our big businesses and in pretty much any other hierarchical system around.

One of the things I love about our Aussie culture, is the good natured teasing. You know someone loves and accepts you when they make fun of you 🙂 The more enthusiastic the banter between friends, the greater the love. And somehow, we all know where the line is, and it’s rarely crossed.

We have had to teach two of our children in particular to learn how to laugh at themselves and how to take a joke. I’m not advocating for bullying or taunting, but the world is not going to treat us with kid gloves, so we need to teach our children how to roll with the punches and laugh along with the joke, even if they are the subject. And, importantly, how to not take offence. (On a side note, how debilitating and deflating to a nasty bully if their subject laughs and joins in the joke! Very effective at defusing tense situations.)

I know some adults who could do with having a court jester in their lives, not only to make them smile but to bring some truth. With all our pop psychology these days about [cue rainforest soundtrack] ‘surrounding ourselves with good energy and only those who accept and love us as we are’, it’s easy to see why people are becoming more sensitive and self centred. What those type of quotes are really saying is ‘surround yourself with people who think exactly the way you do and are not going to point out when you are doing something wrong, hurtful or selfish’. Essentially, do away with the court jester and only allow the ‘yes-men’ into your circle of friends.

I’m lucky enough to have a few jesters in my life, and I am so very thankful. They keep me grounded in reality, frequently tell me things I don’t necessarily want to hear and don’t allow me to ignore those character traits that need adjustment.They also help me to laugh at myself and life in general.

Do you have a court jester?

Mirror, mirror on the wall.

In our house, we have what we call ‘the mirror of truth’. This mirror is not for the faint hearted, or for those who are feeling their age and concerned about wrinkles and the like, or for those who generally want to feel good about their appearance.

I can have a full grooming (and by that I mean eyebrow waxing, plucking, shaping) session, pop into the other bathroom that has the mirror of truth and wonder if I did the whole thing with my eyes closed. Stray hairs, grey hairs, small hairs, large hairs – all are magnified beyond proportion and alarmingly obvious in the mirror of truth.

And if ever I am in doubt as to whether I look my age, a quick glance in the mirror of truth exposes the comments of smooth talking waiters to be pure flattery with no basis in reality whatsoever. When I’m cleaning in there, I sometimes always avoid looking in the mirror.

The last time I passed by there, and scared myself, it started me thinking about the differences between that mirror and the mirror I use most often – one gives me the truth, as harsh as it is, and the other gives me only half the truth, which is a much nicer feeling.

If you’re anything like me, you’d rather the half truth than the whole truth when it comes to your flaws and shortcomings. It’s not pleasant to be faced with the cold hard facts about who we are, yet it’s a necessary part of our growth.

I have several people in my life who are ‘mirrors of truth’, and while I might not always like it, they let me know when I’ve spent too long looking in the half truth mirror and have a few stray hairs that are overdue for attention.

We need people who can be honest with us. And we need to be brave enough to stay in front of that mirror and address what it reveals.

Do you have someone who is a mirror of truth for you?

PS. Since it’s my 42nd birthday tomorrow, guess who’ll be avoiding the mirror of truth in our house? I can at least have one day of half truths about how I look, can’t I???

 

 

I’m tired.

The post I had in mind for today (I know, I can’t quite believe I actually planned one ahead either!) was to do with marriage and making it work.

Throughout the course of the day, I’ve checked facebook. Because of the pages I’ve ‘liked’, the causes I’m associated with, and the calibre of friends I have, what I see on facebook is diverse. Cute kittens to human trafficking and everything in between fills my screen every time I log on.

Today, though, there seemed to be an abundance of posts about the state of our oceans and their inhabitants; graphic photos of the abuse, torture and murder of people in Egypt; the new scientific proof that pornography damages the brain; appeals for money for families affected by disease and/or trauma.

And now, instead of writing an upbeat encouraging post about relationships, I find myself feeling angry, irritated and sick to my stomach.

If you’ve read even a handful of previous posts, you’ll know that I take an interest in the bigger issues of life, have concerns for the many, many marginalised sections of the world and am not one for sticking my head in the sand.

But today, it’s all too much. Social media, for all it’s wonders that I love, has the dark side of giving us emotional overload. Compassion fatigue, I think it’s known as in psychology circles.

I’m tired of all the problems in the world. Tired of being asked to support so many worthwhile causes. Tired of feeling the ‘affluence’ of living in a first world country. Tired of feeling like I can’t do enough. Tired of the horror humans inflict on their fellow man and on animals. Tired of the relentless sexual objectification of women and girls. Tired of hearing about how we are raping the earth. Tired of hearing that climate change is going to kill us.

I am tired, not because I don’t care but because I do.

Anyone else ever feel the burden of knowing too much?

Trust and the fear that stands next to it

A few weeks ago, I sent my partial manuscript to a friend for a read through and some feedback before I headed back in. This friend (you may remember her from a couple of guest posts she wrote when I was sick last year) is part of a writing group I’m a part of. The other members of the group have read parts or most of it too.

It was a bit daunting, knowing it would be read, with all it’s flaws and inconsistencies. As a writer and artist, I feel so vulnerable and exposed when showing anyone my work. That’s me out there in those words, in that paint. And if my work is rejected or not liked, well then, I’m rejected and not liked too.

It’s hard to make ourselves vulnerable, isn’t it? In a world that constantly celebrates the strong and encourages us to be stoic and tough, it feels like weakness to be afraid. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of sharing something personal with someone, only to discover too late that our confidence is betrayed, used against us or twisted.

I must confess that I find it hard to make myself vulnerable. I take a long time to trust someone with my innermost self and will withdraw at the slightest sign that the trust has been compromised. I am extremely picky about who I share with, how much and when.

Trusting people with ourselves is hard for all of us, not just writers and artists.

Before sending my document to my friend, I knew some things about her that helped me not be too anxious about her seeing me in my novel. I knew she has experience in the industry; I knew she is an amazing writer herself; I knew her to be trustworthy by observing her dealing with others; and she has proven many times that she likes me and we are friends 🙂

We need to be careful where we put our trust. We need to know people and have some sense of who they are before we hand them ourselves. Rather than not sharing or being vulnerable with others, we need to be discerning. We need to make good choices about who we share with.

And what did I get for my vulnerable calculated risk taking exercise? What came back to me was encouraging, useful, thoughtful feedback on my novel. Feedback without which I wouldn’t be feeling the confidence to dive back into writing again.

Sometimes, we need to risk being vulnerable to reap the benefits. Sometimes, we need to put ourselves out there and trust ourselves that we’ve trusted the right person.

Do you need to be vulnerable to move ahead from where you are?

Beach escape, day four – seaweed and stones

Sometimes, my life feels like seaweed, washed up, messy, dirty and a bit smelly when the wind blows in the wrong direction.
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And other times, it feel like smooth stones, balanced, harmonious and serene; perfect in it’s imperfections.

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You can probably guess how I’m feeling this week, so how are you feeling? Like seaweed? Or like the stones?

 

 

Doing the right thing

I read a little quote the other day by good ole anonymous that I absolutely love. I wish I had thought of it first!

There is no right way to do the wrong thing.

It reminded me of a situation our son was in just recently. He needed to leave work early to attend an information session on becoming a fire fighter. Now, obviously, the intent here is that he would ultimately leave the job he is in, to be able to join the fire service.

He was unsure as to how to get an early mark at work without putting his job in jeopardy. The risk, of course, being that once they got wind of his aspirations to join the fire service, he would be dismissed. And as the start date for the fire service, should he be selected, isn’t until June, that would mean quite some weeks with no pay.

We talked around it, under it and over it; we talked about ways to kind of tell the truth but not really, of being evasive and hoping they didn’t ask questions. And yet, we kept coming back to the same conclusion: he had to be honest with his boss and tell him his plans.

I knew that he shouldn’t lie to get the time off – and it turns out, so did he.

He wasn’t willing to compromise his integrity. He wasn’t willing to compromise on his beliefs. If he is wanting to move forward in life with God at the centre, as I know he is, then he needed to stay true to that.

He realised that there is no right way to do the wrong thing.

So often in life we think it’s okay to lie or bend the truth for the ultimate good. And it’s not. It never is.

We excuse our behaviour and our actions because we think that the ends justify the means. They don’t.

Ultimately, the wrong thing is the wrong thing, no matter how much we try to do it the right way.

And you know what? Our son was honest about what he wanted the time off for and he got it. And he still got to keep his job, too. Because more often than not, God honours our uncompromising stance on even the smallest issue, when the world would tell us it is okay to compromise. God sees our hearts, and in this case, He saw the heart of an upright young man who was willing to do the right thing, no matter the consequences.

There is no right way to do the wrong thing.