40 things to share………..or not.

I turned the big 4 0 two years ago.  Yep.  I’m getting up there, I tell ya.  At the time of my 40th I had this great idea of writing a blog post covering 40 random things I’d learnt about life.  I was going to make it a little bit quirky, a little bit serious and a little bit….whatever……..I’d figured that by the time you’re forty there are a few things you know.  Most of them learnt the hard way, of course.  But learnt none the less.

I got as far as planning out a few of my forty points……..

  •  Always wear socks on a long haul flight.  No-one wants to wear shoes on an overnight flight, but bare feet………in a bathroom on a plane…..after hour four…….that’s a big no no.  Trust me.  I learnt that one the hard way.
  • Baby wipes aren’t just for babies.  Stash some in your glovebox, in your bathroom for wiping down the basin when you have unexpected visitors arrive on your doorstep and you just know that boys 2 and 3 tend to treat toothpaste as finger paint from time to time…….and just basically don’t leave home without them.
  • Do the ‘change the time on the clock trick’ while your kids are too young to notice and but old enough to know what the clock should look like when it’s bedtime.  Fast forward your day by an hour. Trust me.  That’s a sneaky hour that’s well worth it on the days you need to do it.
  • Gee.  Such a shame.  The ice-cream van is playing music to let us all know he’s out of ice-cream.  Soz everyone.

So I worked away on some of these points.  Did the start of a draft blog…then life kinda just got in the way.  And those old thoughts of ‘who am I to give any half-decent advice?’.  ‘Why should what I think and say matter to anyone else’, made me stop in my tracks.

So I let the draft lie there…..and well…….as it tends to do……life carried on.

But just recently I’ve been thinking about this again.  And I’m glad I didn’t persevere with my original blog post.  Not because those types of blog posts aren’t interesting – they are.  I’ve read some really clever, fun and informative ones along the same lines.  I’m also always keen to learn from others.

But the main reason I’m glad I didn’t continue with that post is – I’ve recently had it hammered into me that it can be a dangerous and possibly at times, arrogant thing, to think we know what’s best for others.

People who are helpers by nature – Hello Enneagram 2 – y’all reading? – I’m especially talking to you because, I KNOW………we CAN’T HELP OURSELVES……WE LIVE TO HELP!!  We hear of problems/ issues and we yearn to be able to help.  Not just ‘put a band-aid on it’ help, but also fix the root problem help……we want to find solutions, and we want to find causes.

And sometimes we’re absolutely right.  Spot on.  Nailed it.

Sometimes it just makes complete sense that this problem or issue is happening because of x, y ,z.

But.

Even more than that.  More useful, more compassionate, more practical than me talking about whatever it is that I think you may need to hear…….(ummmm, hello, arrogant, much?)

More than that……

Better than that……..

I realized just recently that the most helpful thing I could ever say to anyone, in any situation is – ‘help me to understand’.

Help me to see things as the way you see them.

In the middle of any situation that is good or bad or sad or makes you mad, or worry or scared or doubt yourself, or frustrates you or anything……..in the midst of the swirl of anything that is going on, I have this crazy thought that most people just want to know two very important things;

1.  That they can be understood.  That their feelings are not too unbearable for anyone to sit with, to hear, to hold. That they are not unique in their reactions.

2.  And they are not alone.  Whatever they are facing….they are not facing it by themselves, because challenges in life tend to isolate us.  Whatever advice I may or may not have for someone is useless unless they know that I’m there for them.  That I care.  That I will  enter into their hard and desperate space, so that they know how much I care, before they know how much (or as little!!) that I know.

I promise to not ever presume to know how you’re feeling.  Or to know the challenges you face.  Or to bombard your inbox with 40 things that might make you smile a little, or learn a little new thing or give you the answer to a very random question in some random pub quiz, way off in the distant future, but I’m determined to do something more useful for you.  To ask you – ‘what’s going on with you?’  ‘Help me to understand.’

When we can sit down with others, and open our hearts and ears to whatever is on their minds – that’s a priceless gift.  Way more valuable that forty random things that I think may or may not be of any use to you.

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The Mountains You Climbed

I love my church.  I love the mix of people there, I love the speakers, I love the kids’ programmes and I love being a part of whatever God is up to, with this ragamuffin rag tag bunch of people that I get to do a lot of life with.

I especially love our worship team.  I love the fact that this bunch of beautiful people get up while it’s still stupid o’clock on a Sunday morning, and they practice and pray and then work together to bring us a way to reach out to God, to connect with God, through worship.  Through song.

A number of weeks ago we had a worship session that was a real doozy.  Even if you’re not a regular church go-er and you don’t quite understand the whole gathering and singing about and to a God that you may not even believe in, had you been a fly on the wall that Sunday, I reckon you’d have a few questions and a little stirring in your belly.  It was that powerful.

Now people who know way more about these things than I, would be able to give you a few reasons why that particular Sunday was extra special.  More switched on people would say things along the lines of:  it was the song choice, it was the prep that the worship team put into the morning, it was the prayers that various people prayed prior to the service, it was how open the congregation was, it was all sorts of things.  And.  Yep.  I reckon it could quite possibly have been a whole mix of things.

But I’ve been pondering this for a while now.

And while I can’t and don’t and won’t ever claim to have any ‘spiritual recipes’:  where, if you have x amount of y and add in a touch of z, with a splash of w, then – whammo – you’re gonna get an amazing church experience.  Guaranteed.

Nope.  I’d never say that. You see I believe that God is sovereign and will have His way, in spite of whatever we do or don’t do…….

But I’ve been wondering about something and that ‘something’ was evident in two of the songs we sang that day, and I really don’t think it was a coincidence that it was a ‘wow’ morning for so many people that day.

The first song of the two that were most powerful for me, was ‘Goodness of God’ by Bethel Music and Jenn Johnson.  You can watch it/ listen to it here. This song is powerful – the words are declaratory, they point to the steadfastness of God; His faithfulness and His closeness.

What’s key for me, in this song, is that it doesn’t just talk about how amazing God is when life is going well – but it talks of when we’re in our darkest days, then He is close like no other –

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
And in darkest night You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a Father
I’ve known You as a Friend
And I have lived in the goodness of God

And that’s what stood out for me as people all around me lifted up their voice in song, and declared those words, because I have the amazing privilege of knowing so many stories of the people around me.

That Sunday, singing these words:

I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never failed me
All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God, 

were people who are facing all sorts of battles and heartache and struggles.  Friends who have major illnesses – visible and invisible, families in the middle of major upheavals, those with financial struggles, and some who are in relentless physical and emotional pain.  Yet they were all singing these words, and truly meaning these words.  In and through all their yuck, God has been faithful.  And I think there’s enormous power when we can say, even when dot dot dot, God has been faithful.

The next song we sang was the old hymn ‘It is Well with my Soul’ by Horatio Spafford.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

This song is rather well known for being written by a this guy, Mr Spafford after he had learnt that his four daughters had perished at sea, and he was on his way to join his wife after this awful, life-altering tragedy.

That part of his life seems to be well known, but I wanted to know more….what made this man tick? How could his faith be so rock solid?

I’ve done a little research and will share my thoughts thus far – but I reckon there is much, much more to learn from ‘ol Horatio.

Horatio was an American.  He was a lawyer and also an investor, and lost a lot of what he had in assets in the Great Chicago Fire (1871).  Two years later Horatio decided his family needed a holiday – can’t blame him really, and they chose England as their destination because…get this….he was good friends with the preacher D L Moody and he wanted to hear Moody preach in England.  A ha!!!  Horatio had a deep faith – helped no doubt by the company he kept.  If he could call Moody a friend, and decide that out of anywhere in the world he could go, he chose to visit Moody and be a part of Moody’s ‘inner circle’ I guess.   Which speaks to me that Horatio kept some pretty cool company…..wise move Mr Spafford.

Anyway Horatio had some last minute business to attend to, so sent the family on ahead.  His four daughters died as a result of the ship they were on being struck by another ship – but his wife survived.  ‘Saved alone’ were the words on that now famous telegraph she sent to her husband once she arrived in England.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could say ‘It is well with my soul’, after having four kids die.  I really don’t think I could say it directly after their deaths, and I wonder if I could even say it in the following months or years…..but maybe, just maybe it was something Horatio had to say.  Just had to proclaim, to speak aloud what he knew to be true.  To speak it into being – thus becoming easier to believe.  I don’t know, but maybe, just maybe, in the process of telling himself it is well, it is well….then slowly, but surely, his nightmare turned into a situation where God was still acknowledged and still in control…..just maybe it was part of his healing process.

The story of Horatio doesn’t just end there with a great song, that is still blessing others today.  O no.  Horatio and his wife went on to have more children (two girls and a boy – sadly the boy died of pneumonia) and the Spaffords moved to Jerusalem, as part of the American Colony.  They led a group of thirteen adults and three children to set up a Christian colony to engage in work with the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities in Jerusalem.  During and immediately after World War One the American Colony played a vital part in helping these communities by running soup kitchens, hospitals, and orphanages.

Horatio and his family didn’t just limit themselves by what they had experienced and let their heartache eat them up.  No they persevered – they worked for the Lord, through the thick and thin. I doubt it was ever easy.  But, by golly, I bet there was rejoicing in heaven when Horatio entered (he died of malaria and was buried in Jerusalem).  Well done my good and faithful servant.  And when I meet ‘ol Horatio in heaven, I’m going to thank him for his song and the fact that it really sums up the Christian walk so well.

Bet you didn’t think you’d be getting such a history lesson when you clicked on this link.  Well, sorry, not sorry……all this is to say there’s power when we share from what we know.  When our faith is lived out and declared.  I think these two songs carried with them a whole lotta raw truth – and I think they are examples of this; the scars you share become lighthouses for people who are headed for the same rocks you hit.

You story matters.  Your faith journey matters. Those songs we sang were and are powerful, because they are showing great vulnerability and honesty. There’s nothing like the encouragement that people get, from you sharing how the goodness of God has pulled you through the messiest of storms;

‘Tell the story of the mountain you climbed.  Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide’ – Morgan Harper Nicholls.

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Vulnerability is a crock.

I saw an Instagram post this past week where someone who knows these things was showing that socks and sandals, worn together, are back in vogue.  For reals.  I kid you not.  You heard it from me……..Now while I’m no major fashion follower, and I for one, will not be following this new (old) trend, it always amazes me how many trends for so many different things come and go.  All. The. Time.

I have two jobs and in both those jobs I have a husband and wife team who are my bosses.  If I’m ever feeling a tiny bit bratty, then sometimes I’ll throw a couple of trendy words into conversation that one of these teams really don’t like……one of those words is ‘journey’.  And I’m not talking about a physical trip with a start point and a destination, an end point. ‘Journey’ has become a trendy word though.  So has ‘vulnerability’.

‘Vulnerability’ can be defined as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.

Spend any amount of time reading or listening to any kind of self-help/ leadership/ emotional growth type of articles/ blog posts/ podcasts or books and you will hear the word ‘vulnerability’.  You will.  It’s now a trendy word.  And it’s a word that carries a lot of punch.

Now I happen to love Brené Brown whose work on vulnerability has been hugely significant and her TED talk on vulnerability is one of the five most watched, with over 30 million views.  I love her books, I love her instagram posts, I love what she stands for and who she fights for and the fact that she is so well educated and is leading in her field, and she’s prepared to put the spotlight on the tricky and complicated topics of courage, shame, empathy and vulnerability.  If you haven’t already, read her stuff.  She makes so much sense.

But here’s the thing.

In reality, when the rubber hits the road, when you actually start to live out these things that you’re told are good for you and are going to be worth it, and when vulnerability is one of these things, sooner or later you’ll find that it’s actually a crock.

Vulnerability is a crock.  It’s hard.  It’s laying your heart and soul open to inspection.  It’s dumb.  It’s painful.  It’s allowing others a glimpse of what you’re rather keep dark and hidden and private.  It’s not sheltering your loved ones from that which you know may hurt them.  Which goes against the grain of what comes naturally and easily to most.

Vulnerability is a crock.  It means that others may say inappropriate things back to you.  Or say nothing in response to you.  So you’re left in limbo wondering if whatever that thing that made you feel so vulnerable in the first place was too much for them, was too big for them or too messy for them.

Vulnerability is a crock.  I know of people who have had very physical responses to the emotional work involved in opening up to others – breathing problems, insomnia, wakefulness, panic attacks, weight loss, weight gain – all these are very normal somatic responses to adversity, and for many, becoming vulnerable is also becoming open to adversity.

Vulnerability is a crock.  It makes you feel like an idiot.  It reminds you of all the things you haven’t worked out yet, that you haven’t mastered yet, and that we’re all works in progress.  It highlights all the things you’d really rather have control over and be in charge of and manage very carefully and well.

But here’s the thing.  As much as I think vulnerability is a crock, here’s what I know even more, it’s actually totally worth it.

Becoming vulnerable is worth it.

Being vulnerable is worth it.

Yes it’s hard.  But nothing worthwhile was ever easy. Ever.

Yes it’s laying your heart and soul open to inspection – but only to those who you trust. Those you respect.

Yes it’s dumb.  But so is pride.

Yes it’s painful.  But wounds left to fester cause more harm than good.

Yes it’s exposing.  But only negatives grow in the dark.

Yes it’s showing your muck to those who love you most.  But as my favourite artist Charlie Mackesy says and illustrates:

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When you’re vulnerable with someone, when you’re sharing the good, the bad, the beautiful, the joyful, and the downright ugly, then you’re allowing them to step into that situation with you.  You’re allowing them to be Jesus with skin on.  They may not necessarily be able to change anything, but sometimes outside eyes can see things you can’t.  Sometimes outside ears can hear other sides of the story, that you can’t.  Sometimes more hands than just yours can help shift burdens and barriers.  And that’s worth it.  That’s worth the pain and the reminders of what you’re still working on.

It’s been proven time and time again that simply sharing a painful experience with someone will help to ease the pain.  Brené says ‘an experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness; it is a ministry of presence.  These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain since the beginning of time’. 

We build walls around our hearts and our souls for very valid reasons, but there’s so much to be gained from overcoming the pain, the pride and the powerlessness to truly share your life with someone.To truly be vulnerable.

Becoming vulnerable is worth it. Being vulnerable is so very worth it. I get the feeling that all the noise and rumble that has come along when dealing with ‘vulnerability’ means that this isn’t some passing fad, and not just a trendy word.  It’s here to stay because we now recognize that it’s worth it.  It’s really worth it.

I’m hoping that the socks and sandals thing doesn’t stick around though.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”  – Brené Brown

 

 

 

 

My Million Dollar Idea

Don’t tell the cat, but we are secretly dog people.  I long for the day that my three boys can have a dog as their faithful companion.  Not a little, yappy thing, but a hugable, loveable, ‘don’t let him stand on your toes’ kinda four legged friend.  A border collie or a retriever or a lab.  There’s something good and right about a boy and his dog.  The problem is we’re renters and it’s really hard to have a dog and be in a rental property.  So for now, we’re cat people.  We pretend that she’s enough.  But.  Really.

Sometimes when I’m with a certain friend we brainstorm together about business ideas…things that haven’t been done before, things that we could do while maintaining order at home and other commitments and jobs, but a thing that would earn us both a million smackeroonies.  Preferably a residual income.  That’s the dream, aye?  Money that makes itself for us.  That way my husband and I could actually get a foot in the property ladder.

It’s just as well dreams are free.  We can limit the smashed avo on toast and the lattes drunk out and about – but the dreams – there’s no limit to them.

One of my latest ideas was a right proper nightmare actually.  You see I’ve got this secret to better living, everyone.  I’ve got this simple idea that absolutely anyone could begin to action, and I absolutely guarantee it will change the atmosphere of your workplace, your social club, your small group or your larger group.  It will grow relationships overnight and it will make you a better wife/husband/ Mum/ Dad/ sister/ brother/ employee/employer immediately.  Guaranteed.  In fact I believe in this so much I could sell tickets to seminars, or produce workshops that could be shared on memory sticks and sent all over the world (for a small fee of course – hence the million dollar idea), but I’m not that kinda person.  Not now and not never.  For one – my knees have fellowship any and every time I have a microphone in my hand and well, at the end of the day……MONEY SCHMONEY.  Whatevs.  I’ve actually got this open hand open heart thing going on and could never be the next Anthony Robbins.  No-one will ever make money off any of my ideas – myself included.  But, because I believe in this hair-brained idea enough to really think it could make a difference in my world and in yours, I’m a gonna share it here anyways.

The secret to better working relationships, personal relationships and any kind of interactions in any kind of way?

You ready for it?

It’s what I call, ‘the follow up’.

Yep.

The Follow Up.

This is when you check in with someone and follow up on what you’ve previously talked about.  It may be the same day, the same week, the same month…..all dependent on the situation, but it is you following up on whatever has been good/ hard/ joyful/ anxiety bringing/ fraught with frustration/ filled with blessing – whatever – you’ve last discussed with someone.

The Follow Up.  Why do I think it is so important and changes the way relationships grow?  Because it shows you care.  It shows you were listening.  It shows that even though time may have passed in between seeing this person, you’ve still thought about them and their world.  It shows that you have capacity to think beyond your own world.  It shows that they matter to you.  They matter, fullstop.

And who doesn’t need to be reminded of this, just every so often?

It’s really not rocket science, nor is it manipulative in any way, it is showing sincerity and genuine care.  It’s saying to someone, that you appreciate the fact that they opened up to you and showed a slice of their heart to you, and that it wasn’t too much for you.  They aren’t too messy or broken or full on for you.  And from there – even more trust and openness can be built. And good relationships can improve any workplace, any friendship, and setting that I can think of.

What does this look like in an everyday setting?  It can be light and simple, or bigger and deeper, depending on the feelings involved.  One of my bosses is a bestman at a wedding today.  He’s been talking about his duties for this for a while now.  You can bet your bottom dollar one of the first things I ask him when I show up for my next shift on Monday will be – how did the wedding go?  How was your speech?  And we’ll spend the whole evening dissecting all that went into the event.  Why on earth is this important?  I believe it is important because it’s showing him that I genuinely care about what was a big event in his life.  Its about being interested in more than my world.  People don’t care what you know, until they know how much you care.  In any setting.  But surely everyone would take the time to ask about this?  Surely anyone with any little amount of people skills?  You may be thinking that because you’re a friend of mine and you already have a great amount of people skills and perhaps you already action this little skill naturally, intuitively. Actually.  Not everyone does this.  You’d be surprised.  Life is so busy.  Life can be so consuming.  Some people prefer to talk about their favourite topic – themselves – all the time.  But that doesn’t grow trust.  That doesn’t put relationships on an equal footing.  That doesn’t make people feel safe with you.

Now it may be coming across that I’m trying to appear as an expert in this people business. Let me assure you.  I am not.  I stuff up with people all the time.  I often don’t know what to say or I say the wrong thing, or I clam up when I could talk.  But this one thing I do know:  if I open up to share a piece of my heart with someone, however deep or shallow that piece may be, if that person asks me at a later stage about that piece of my heart, then that builds my level of trust with them.  That helps me feel not so alone.  That reassures me that I’m not too crazy/ messy/ screwed up for them.  I think most people are aware that sharing with people, especially things that are painful. helps to divide the pain.   There’s some kind of magical maths that goes on when this happens.  And that, my friends is worth pursuing.  That’s the real gold.  That’s worth more than a million bucks.

The Follow Up.  It’s priceless.  It will make you a better person, whatever you do, whoever you are.

Now, onto other ideas………buying the next kids’ trend in games before someone else brings it into the country?  Personal shopping?  Hmmmmmmm.

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Kissing on the inside

I must have been a really weird teenager.  While other teens around me were rocking their ra-ra skirts, coloured jeans and scrunchies, digging into their ‘Dolly’ magazines and listening to Boys II Men, Guns’n’Roses and Metalicca, in 1991 I started collecting quotes that I liked.

Weird for a fourteen year old girl.

I was looking through a book that I kept these quotes in, and this one jumped out at me:

‘People can only love outside and can only kiss outside, but Mister God can kiss you right inside, so it’s different.  Mister God ain’t like us; we are a little bit like Mister God, but not much yet’ – Mister God This Is Anna, by Fynn.  (one of the cutest and most poignant books ever!)

I loved that as a fourteen year old, and I still love it, as a ah hem year old.  I’m not exactly sure how or why it meant much to me as a teen – I certainly hadn’t been kissed then, but I guess I had a growing sense of the importance of my relationship with God.  But now.  It seems even more meaningful and profound, now that I have been and I am regularly ‘kissed on the outside’.

This past week my Spunky Hunk and I celebrated nineteen of marriage.  Nineteen years, all in a row.  There aren’t a lot of things in my life that I claim to be proud of – but my marriage (and my kids!) would feature in any brag book of mine…..We’re solid.  We’re a team.  We’re real and we laugh and we adventure and we grow, together.

And.

We kiss.

Yep.

We do.

But even in the closeness we share and the ability Michael has to be my rock and my anchor and all of that, things we certainly don’t take for granted, but we’ve cultivated and nurtured over these nineteen years, even in and through all of that, as much as I admire him and truly love him, there’s also a limit to how he can comfort me.  Somehow, I knew before I took Michael’s hand in marriage, that only Mister God can kiss me right inside.

We’re now in the advent season.  A season of great anticipation.  Of waiting.  Of watching.  Of preparation.  Some people I know have had great years, and are excited for what this Christmas season holds for them.  Others around me are struggling.  It’s been a tough year.  They are dealing with massive hurts, incredible heartache, the need for physical and emotional healing, for great uncertainty surrounds them.  So – how to encourage those in such a time as this?  When the season feels like it calls for all things to be merry and bright, joyful and sparkly?

There’s so much I don’t know about life – of faith, of grief, of all of life’s big questions, but time and time again, I’ve been reminded of this great truth – this I do know – that God is in the waiting.  And it’s in that waiting, that Mister God can kiss you right inside.

This song by Kristene DiMarco, Jeremy Riddle and Joel Taylor (‘Take Courage’ – Bethel Music) says it way better than I ever could:

Slow down, take time
Breath in He said
He’d reveal what’s to come
The thoughts in His mind
Always higher than mine
He’ll reveal all to come

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

Sing praise my soul
Find strength in joy
Let His Words lead you on
Do not forget His great faithfulness
He’ll finish all He’s begun

It’s really easy to lose heart, when you’re in the middle of a battle.  The longer you have to wait for a diagnosis, or to see treatment begin to make a difference.  It’s really easy to lose hope, when you feel isolated and distances between you and others keeps increasing.  It’s really easy to lose faith when time doesn’t seem to make a difference.  But.

But God.  But God promises us that when we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.  I’ve seen God do this when friends of mine have lost their spouses, or when they’ve faced the ultimate of betrayals.  The easier thing to do would be for them to have lost heart, lost hope and lost faith.  But they haven’t.  They have chosen to set their faces like flint, to turn their bruised and broken hearts towards God and to pour out their concerns, reveal their aches and rip off the bandages from their oozing wounds.  And here’s the wonderful thing – God does come.  As gently and as wonderfully and as thoroughly as only He can – He comes, and He kisses those wounds.  It takes time and perseverance……..but He’s there.  He’s in the waiting.  I’ve seen this in some of the strongest and bravest people I know.  They’ve come to Him in their waiting.

Whatever this Christmas season holds for you – take courage. He’s in the waiting.  Only Mister God can kiss you on the inside.

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Grown up learning is hard learning.

My earliest years were spent in a land-locked country.  There were some rivers, but my memories of rivers feature funeral pyres and hindu shrines, built up on the riverbanks, speckled with bright red and orange flowers and random cheeky, pesky monkeys, stealing the fruit offerings. Never swimming in a river. I do remember boating on a lake – a row row row your boat kinda boat, but I don’t ever remember actually being in the water of the lake.  The only place where we ever went swimming, was at a hotel when we lived in the city, and how we wrangled that, I’m not sure.  But it wasn’t a common event and certainly not common enough to build any proper swimming skills in me.  So when I went to school in New Zealand and when the whole school would jump on a bus to head into the pools in the city centre, and when we were divided up into ability groups, I was very quickly plonked in the very lowest of the groups.

Bam. Teach that kid to tread water.  Teach her to float.  The very basics.

Now I was eight at the time and surprise surprise I was plonked in a group with mostly newly turned five year olds in it.  Pretty much every kid in my school level could do the basics already and were grouped in the big kids pool.  Me, I was stuck in the very shallows of the learners pool.

I wasn’t too impressed by this, so I worked on my swimming. I listened to whatever the teacher tried to teach me, then in the weekends and school holidays I got myself to the pools to practice.  And practice I did. And by hook and by crook, I pretty much taught myself how to swim, through trial and error. So that the next year, when those school buses pulled up at the school and we began our noisy ride to the steamy concrete pools, full of chlorine that stung and reddened our eyes, I knew that I wasn’t going to have another humiliating experience of being in the shallowest end of the learners pool.  I could swim, maybe not like a fish, but enough to be at least with stragglers my own age.  And that felt good enough for me.

I had a similar experience when I started ballet.  I absolutely loved to dance…….I began with jazz dancing at the age of ten and I begged and begged my parents to add in ballet as well.  They relented when I was eleven and I joined the ranks of the R.A.D students.  Now jazz dancing is easy to pick up at any age and to be in a class with any similar-age kids, but ballet, not so much.  You really need to learn the basics and master the basics and work your way up the grade levels, to be able to handle the harder stuff.  So here I was at age 11, in a class of five year olds again.  Of course at the time I didn’t see that and recognize that negative feeling I got from that was one of ‘shame’, but I knew I didn’t like it.  So once again, I just worked hard.  I practiced and I practiced. I listened and I copied and I practiced some more, and I used all the shame and embarrassment to drive that desire in me to improve and do better.  And I did.  I was never an amazing dancer, but I worked hard and I progressed up the levels and my very wise teacher allowed me to skip a grade or two and by the age of 18 when I finished high school I was dancing five days a week, including teaching lower grades for my teacher and absolutely loving everything about the world of dance.

When you’re a little bit motivated and a little bit inspired, it is amazing what you can teach yourself to do.  And.  It’s a heck of a lot easier to teach yourself things the younger you are.

How is that??  You’d think that the older you are, the more skills you’ve got in your toolbox, right?  But, no.  Somehow it doesn’t work like that.  It’s a scientifically proven fact that the older you are, the harder it is to learn new things.  There are studies galore about this…..with reasons ranging from: your brain looses its plasticity (the ability to form new pathways) with age, your experiences of learning new things aren’t consolidated as well with age, as they are as a child, and there’s even a thing where your sleep changes during puberty and the type of sleep you end up having post-puberty is not conducive to helping learning new skills.  That’s not super encouraging though, is it?  Not when you’re someone who actually likes to learn and likes to develop new skills for a job requirement or out of interest, or even as a necessary step to help manage your health (like my husband had to when diagnosed with type one diabetes out of the blue at age 35).

So what can you do to help with new learning?  I’ve been thinking about this and reading a little and have a few little thoughts on this……

Allow for more rest. Your brain is working hard.  Your body is not a battery that just keeps going and going.  You need to recharge.  You need sleep and you need rest.  Without sleep you cannot actually commit new experiences to memory.

Allow for more self-love.  I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person in the universe that blames herself for x, y and z, when that’s totally not called for, and that revs up about five thousand notches the minute I can’t do something new.  We never ever expect children to be able to read Chaucer after their first week of school, do we?  We teach reading in steps.  We progress from short sentences to longer sentences.  We advance from shorter words to longer, harder words.  We encourage and we’re patient.  We need to be the same for ourselves, whenever we’re learning something new.  Whatever that new thing is.

Allow for more courage to try new things.  I think courage breeds courage.  All you need is a little to start with, and it somehow, magically, it multiplies.  Do the next hard thing, and then the next, and then the next.  I didn’t learn to drive in New Zealand.  I had a whole heap of reasons and excuses not to, but after we moved to America, after I’d left all my friends and family and moved with my husband and two small children to a place that I’d never been to, all of a sudden I had this new found courage in me to tackle other new things.  So I learnt to drive.  On the wrong side of the road.  And I made my husband sit the test before me, so I could learn the route and feel more confident. But I did it.  What had previously been something that was too hard for me, became something I had the courage for.  And I haven’t ever regretted that.

Allow more letting go.  This is something I don’t do well, but see the need to really work on.  It’s all too easy to hold onto all the ‘I can’t dos’ and ‘I wish I could do betters’….that’s easy…a better narrative would be ‘I’m working on that’, ‘That’s something that is in process for me’.  Just recently I was working on a problem in one of my jobs, and I openly made the comment to my boss that I wished I was an accountant as then I’d be able to solve that problem easily.  And then I felt dumb for saying that.  I know I don’t have that training, but more importantly, my boss knows very well I don’t have that training  – all I need to do in any situation is do my very best and seek out help when I need to.  And let go of all the things I’m not yet……emphasis on the yet….

Looking back, I can see that teaching myself to swim and learning how to dance when I was the ancient of days in the classes, were actually easy things.  I  had oodles of time, passion and determination all in my arsenal.  It may be harder to learn things as a adult, but it’s definitely not impossible, and it helps to know you’ve got a cheering squad by your side, which is what I have in my amazing friends and bosses.  When it comes to learning anything new, I’ve got people telling me they believe in me, that I can do it.  And that makes the world of difference.  I hope you have that too.  If I can do hard things, you can too.  Let’s do hard things together.

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The Mallet Finger and Progress.

It wasn’t even the first thing he told me about his day.  It was an ‘oh by the way Mum’ and he lifted his hand to show me his flopsy finger.  ‘Oh by the way’ indeed.

We were doing the drive home after school de-brief, my middle boy and his older and younger brothers.  Talking about their highs and their lows as we navigated traffic.  ‘Oh by the way, yeah’,  I saw that he did indeed have a munted finger.  He laughed it off….and then I got the giggles….this kid…..only six months ago had the first fracture in our family – a finger – a different finger to this munted one.  I giggled because sometimes life is just so ridiculous…here he is…telling me about his finger….as we drive home and then I only had to turn around to drop him off to soccer practice and then I had to be at work for the rest of the afternoon/evening, and this was all happening in the next 30 minutes. That finger was gonna be a job for Dad to sort out. (Single parents, once again I salute you, seriously).

Turns out the munted finger is an injury called a ‘mallet finger’.  In Luka’s instance the tendon has come away from the finger and he can’t straighten it by sheer willpower.  He’s got a splint on it now, to keep it straight as it heals.  That should take about six weeks, ideally.

Ideally.

But here’s the kicker;

If, for any reason that finger joint does not remain straight before that six weeks of healing is up, then it’s back to square one, back to day one of week one of healing again.  And another six weeks begins again. (Go directly to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $100, that kinda deal)  All that hard work of healing can be easily undone, if it is not fully healed.  Talk about pressure when we’re pretending to be nurses and clean the finger without bending it.  No pressure at all. No, that’s not a nervous twitch at all.  Nope.  All this with the twelve year old’s eyes pleading up at you….be careful…be very careful…..

Now – it’s ok, remember I’m a big picture girl.  As far as injuries go this one is small in the big scheme of things.  Luka can still play soccer – so his world is not crumbling down around him.  There are no major (or minor) surgeries needed.  As far as things go, this is do-able.  This is manageable.  I know there are people all around me who are dealing with much more major things.  But aren’t you glad that when it comes to you and your life, whatever you’re working on in your character, whatever obstacles you’re persevering with, whatever you’re pushing through, whatever is in you that needs careful attention and healing, you are actually making progress.  You’re not going to be back at day one, week one of healing again – because of a harder than usual day, or because life can sometimes be like that whackamole game when something new and hard and challenging is always popping up at you again.

Quite simply – Progress is progress is progress.  Change is change is change.

We just can’t always see it in ourselves.

A number of weeks ago, one late afternoon, I was driving to work, minding my own business, driving to the speed limit, and all of a sudden someone didn’t stop at a give way sign, and distracted by the kids in her car, turned right into my lane and right into me. The old smasherooni trick.  I wasn’t hurt, and the other driver and her passengers weren’t hurt, but both cars were….you guessed it….munted….

I did what any normal female does after a wee ding like that and I cried, and I cried some more, and in between some more crying I called my husband to come and help me.  A neighbour friend of ours brought Michael to me, meanwhile, some other friends of ours just happened to be driving by and saw me stuck at the side of the road, saw that the smasherooni had happened and saw my tears.  So they came to help too.  Then a lady who just happened to be driving by, drove by but then felt to turn around and come back and see if she could do anything to help.  She helped massively by administering a loving hug and now that stranger is now a friend.  So all that happened in a short space of time, but what struck me most was that all of my friends took the time not only to check on me, but they also went to the other driver and made sure she was ok.  Every single one of us offered kind words, smiles and reassurance to her.  But.  Not one of the other driver’s friends who came to help her, took the time to come to me and see if I was ok.

Which was interesting to me.

Because not one of my friends – Nicky, Kate, Andrew, Elizabeth or Michael thought twice about their kind gestures.  They didn’t hesitate to offer a helping hand.

You see when the rubber meets the road and when you’re in a ‘not your usual circumstance’, what’s in you, definitely comes out. And when it’s something that is good and kind and positive, it comes out because –  Change is change is change.  Progress is progress is progress.  A life that looks outward and seeks to offer hope and love and affirmation to others, doesn’t always look that different to a life that is stationary and inward looking, but it is.  Hugely different.

Whatever obstacles you’re overcoming – they are being won over.  Bit by bit.  Little by little.

Whatever you’re working to develop in your character, while it may not always be apparent to you that change is happening – it’s more than possible that it is more obvious to others, than it is to you.  There’s always someone listening to you, watching you, imitating you.

Whatever is in you that needs careful attention and healing, is being healed.  Bit by bit.  Little by little.  We can’t always see it, or feel it, but I believe change is happening.

At the time of my smasherooni, my friends were just being their amazing selves, they probably wouldn’t know how different they actually were to others present, if I didn’t tell them. So I’m telling them now.  They were amazing.  They are amazing. You can’t always see change and progress in you – but others sometimes have a better view of that. (And that change and progress – well it’s a natural byproduct of developing Jesus’ eyes, imitating His heart and that happens by getting to know Him and growing in our faith).

I’m so grateful that in my life only mallet fingers have such a ‘one strike and you’re back to square one policy’, pretty much everything else can go by the ‘all is grace’ policy.  I like that one much better.

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The tightrope and the juggling.

It was one of the cooler mornings that we’ve had recently.  We sat there, hands cupping our coffees, tucked into the corner of one of my fav little cafes in the area.  First came coffee, both of us had just rushed around doing the mad school dash.  Then came the standard going through the mental checklist – husbands, kids, jobs….how are they all?

Twenty minutes later after we’d both assured each other of health and general happiness, the wealth was still to come though…Liz sank down deeper into her chair, momentarily closed her eyes and and then I saw her whole chest rise up and down, as she took some deep breaths.  ‘Fee’.  Her voice faltered a little and I could tell things were fast changing gear.  ‘It’s hard’, she whispered.

I leaned forward, and took one of her hands, the one that was mindlessly twisting her rings around and around.  Knowing that Liz is one of those dear friends who listens really well and prefers not to speak unless she’s got something really meaningful to say, I knew this was big for her.  Gutsy.  Brave.

She looked up from her coffee cup and gave a half smile. That reminder she gives from time to time when conversation does get deep, as if she’s declaring her own strength to the world and doesn’t want me to worry; ‘yeah I’m sad and this is hard, but I’m going to be OK’.

I smiled back, and released her hand so it could go back to the endless twisting and twisting.  ‘Tell me about it’.  I whispered back.

Liz is facing some major challenges at the moment, that much I knew.  I know some of the details of the challenges of her life, but there are many details I don’t know.  Her story is only hers to tell, but I do have her permission to share this much today.

A couple of tears managed to sneak out of Liz’s eyes, and just as soon as they appeared, Liz swiftly wiped them away.

‘I feel like I’m on a tightrope, and I have to place my feet so carefully on this tightrope. It’s the only way over, the only way across the danger; the hurt and the hard.  I can’t go backwards, and if I stand still for too long….well I can’t…..I have to go forward. And I don’t even know where this tightrope ends. And that’s a frustrating thing.  Most people can see what the end goal is, where they are headed.  But I don’t.  I just have to keep going.  And not only am I on this dangerous tightrope, but as I’m walking it, I’m juggling all these balls.  These demands on my life.  Walk, walk, walk, juggle juggle, juggle.  That’s what my life feels reduced to’.

And in an instant I understood.  Liz was being very real and open about the weight of expectations on her.  The things said and unsaid, the lists of thou shalts and thou shalt not…..sometimes even from the most and best meaningful of intentions.  Because Liz was facing x y and z in her life, by hook or by crook she needed to react in a b and c ways.  That was how she needed to be, that was what it felt like to her.

I nodded in agreement and understanding.  I’ve had my own share of balls to juggle and fear of dropping them.  Haven’t we all?  I didn’t and couldn’t think of anything more helpful or caring to say, right then and there, other than, ‘I know’, and by then, Liz, realizing that the chinks in her armour, the armour she wears to enable herself to function as best as she can right now, had started to show, was embarrassed at being the focus of our attention, and what was left of our quick coffee catch up quickly moved on to other things.

Well the conversation moved on then.  But my thoughts have kept coming back to Liz’s picture.  Trying to understand. Trying to think of how some glimpses of hope can be offered to her.  Trying to gather some truth for her.

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Tightropes are do-able.  They are not impossible.  Hard, yes.  But not impossible.  Thinking back to when I danced and even when I did gymnastics and did any kind of hard foot work like that – it helped when I looked up.  Looked ahead.  It keeps your centre of gravity in the right place to help most with balance.  So that’s what I’d tell Liz now.  Look up.  Keep looking up.  It doesn’t matter that you don’t know when or where this tightrope will end, just keep looking up.  Even if and when people place expectations on you – even when they are misdirected but well-meaning…keep looking up.  Keep seeing the good in their intentions.  Keep looking up to where your help really comes from.  Seek the Lord and All His goodness.

Another thing about tightropes is that it helps to have a supportive audience. The best circus performers have supportive audiences cheering them on.  They may be holding their breath, as they are nervous for the tightrope walker, but every single one of them is urging the person on.  No-one wants to see that person fall.  And so I’d remind Liz that she has people around her, urging her on.  They can’t walk the road that she’s on for her, they can’t do the hard work that she is needing to do, but they are with her, every step of the way, urging her on.  Feeling her pain.  Feeling her frustration.  But cheering her on.  As hard as it is for Liz to let people in, to share with them her pain, her hurt and all the messy feelings she has, that audience may well be her biggest ally in forward momentum, in helping her stay on that very narrow and flimsy path she’s on.  They can lend her their strength.  They can give her courage. They can remind her of who she really is, when circumstances around her try to steal that away from her.

How about the juggling balls?  We’re all juggling so much, all the time, aren’t we?  But here’s the thing…..circus performers don’t start off with all the items they have to juggle.  They have a few things, then they have more added to their performance, and then sometimes these items are taken away and/ or swapped out for other things…and then eventually, one by one, they catch every item they have and finish their routine.  I’m thinking that sometimes we forget that we can throw back some of the balls that we juggle.  We don’t have to always be juggling so much.  Sometimes we have the capacity to juggle more, and sometimes we don’t – it keeps our routines fresh that’s for sure.  The hard thing is to know what and when to throw away some of the balls/ items, right?  Without the whole routine not going completely out the window.  But its possible.  And  – what’s the worse that can happen?  We do drop some balls?  Even seamless circus performances can go badly wrong…..and what the audience doesn’t see are the hours and hours of practice put in, to make those performances as near perfect as possible.  We’re allowed to drop some balls from time to time if we give ourselves enough grace, and when we have the people around us, to either leave those balls by our side and urge us on anyway, or to helpfully hand them back to us, when the timing is right, and we can once again include those balls into our timetables and routines.

The tightrope, and the juggling…….not easy….not really much fun when so much energy and focus is needed…..but do-able my friend, dear Liz.  It’s do-able. Especially when you keep looking up, and you keep your biggest fans by your side.   It’s do-able my friend. xx

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The Naughty Little Sister (and leaning into hard)

I was a good kid.  I never got into trouble at school, I was always wanting to please all the teachers, all of the time.  I was also a good girl at home.  I was helpful, responsible, reliable and all of that.  ‘Naughty’ was just not done, in any way/ shape or form, apart from in the ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ books by Dorothy Hughes.  Gee I loved those books. I delighted in those stories. Maybe I secretly envied what the naughty little sister did.  I dunno.  But I do know I was a very good kid.

Apart from that one time.

That one time when I did do a very naughty thing.

A very naughty thing indeed.

I must have been seven, and my older sister was away at boarding school.  No this isn’t a common thing for us New Zealanders, this was when we were ‘Missionary Kids’ in Asia.  My sister was a couple of days’ train ride away from me and what was our home, but she’d left her precious little bottles of perfume behind.  Wise move on her part, so she thought. Keeping those items away from dormitory life.  But they weren’t away from her naughty little sister, were they? My not so wise move was to take those tiny little bottles  – that held massive meaning for her – and I added some water to them.  I thought I was doing her a favour.  I thought I was extending the life of those perfumes.  I thought I was making them go further.

Nope.  No I wasn’t. And yep. Was she mad.

Rightly so.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to touch her belongings.  But I did.  Naughty, naughty me.

You see seven year old me didn’t know that the act of diluting the perfume was in fact going to take away its strength. Its power.  To dilute is to make weaker in force, content or value by modification or the addition of other elements.

When something is diluted it is diminished. Reduced.  Decreased.  Lessened.  Quietened and Moderated.

Those aren’t very inspiring words.  Not things I’d like to aspire to in life in general.  Not life goals worth having.  And don’t you think that sometimes when the mundane in life tries to take over, and you find yourself in the hamster wheel of  doing same old, same old ‘life’, and actually you want to make the absolute most of whatever blessed life you’ve been given and whatever you have left ahead of you.  Sometimes you just get this fire in your belly, and you realize that you don’t want to live a life that is diminished. Reduced.  Decreased.  Lessened.  Quietened and Moderated. In any way.

Nope.

So what can you do?

From being around some good people, and from reading good books and from hearing people’s stories, the thing I keep hearing time and time again, about all of this ‘living your best life’ stuff is:  (buckle up friends, you may actually want to tap me on the head, with a hammer, over this one) you can’t shy away from hard things.  You must do hard things.

You must.  In whatever shape or form these hard things come into your life – whether you open the door to them, or they just barge right on in, uninvited, and then stay on and on and on, you can and must do these hard things.

Hard things……..are…………..hard.  Pain, grief and suffering.  Nothing can prepare for those things.  Nothing.  They push people to limits they didn’t even know existed, and then some.  People things are hard.  People are so…….peopleish.  Sickness is hard.  It is simply awful seeing someone you love in pain.  Relationships can be hard. The family unit can be hard. Financial problems can be hard.  Infertility.  Miscarriage. Job loss.  Addictions.  Hard hard hard hard.

Everyone on God’s green earth, at some point or another is going to, or has, or is currently facing something that is HARD.  And you’ve got two options with what to do with that situation, whatever that situation is.  One – you can run like the wind and you choose not to have that conversation.  Or make those changes.  Or seek that advice.  Or heal that wound.  Or two – you lean in to that hard.  Sometimes with teeth gritted, and chin thrust up, sometimes with tears and moaning and groaning.  And you deal with that hard, in the trenches, fighting the battle, sometimes fiercely, and sometimes with no energy to spare at all, but you face that hard.

Elisabeth Elliot said ‘Sometimes fear does not subside and one must choose to do it afraid’.  I think of my friend Treva when I read that quote.  She lost her husband nearly a year ago.  This first anniversary of Jeff’s passing will be extremely hard for Treva and her three children. But this is what she wrote just last week: ‘It’s a battle to trust the Lord, to keep my eyes focused, and to heal the hard stuff. But I am excited for our future. God has big plans and never leaves us alone’.  Treva has been real and raw and authentic as she’s allowed people to see her grieve. Follow her on instagram (trevalavonne) if you want to see what a brave and honest faith really looks like, in the face of adversity.  It’s been a huge privilege to see how she can be truly ok, in the midst of such heartache.  Paul in the bible says this: ‘God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us’ (2 Corinthians 1:4).  My friend Treva knows what it is like to have God as her rock, as her ever present comfort, because all else has been stripped away from her.  And as she’s been carried, in the hard times, she’s also been able to reach out and help others who are walking their own grief story.  That’s right, not even a year into her widowhood and she’s reaching out to others and speaking life and hope into them, because she’s not afraid to lean into the hard.

This leaning into the hard, this dealing with whatever curveballs come your way, why does it even matter?  (Especially when avoiding the hard is actually easier/ more convenient/sometimes cheaper/ less stressful). I think it matters because people in general have pretty astute crap-o-meters.  Most of us can tell the real deal from the fake, and the most respect I have and the most admiration possible, goes to those who can speak into my life from a place of ‘knowing’.  From a place of authenticity.  From a place of having walked the hard yards, they can hold genuine empathy for you and their encouragement is real. Those people – what they say really matters.  And it matters because, as a by-product of having gone through the hard, these people aren’t reducing themselves, or their God.  They aren’t diluting Him or His power.  They aren’t lessening or decreasing or moderating or quietening.  Quite the contrary. They are shining a spotlight on Him. On His power.  On His grace.  On the Hope we have in Him.

So, be encouraged.  Do the hard things.  Even if you’re doing them while kicking and screaming and stamping your feet like a petulant five year old. You’re still doing them.  Walk through those valleys, knowing you are not alone.  Make those connections.  Be that good friend.  Make that appointment.  Be that advocate.  Make that decision that gives you goosebumps.  Lean into God, and know that what you carry is strong, and powerful, a fragrance that is not diluted.

And one day, because you can speak from a place of authenticity and your story carries with it power, be encouraged that ‘the scars you share become lighthouses for the people who are headed for the same rocks you hit‘.

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Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.

Have you ever had a rather profound thought in the middle of what was actually quite a ridiculous situation?

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A couple of weeks ago my family and I stuffed our car full of all the bare necessities you need for a camping holiday, and we took off in search of sunshine, warmth and adventure. Much to our delight we did find lots of sunshine and warmth. The weather for the weeks on either side of our holiday week was awful – but not for our holiday. And much to our delight we found a few adventures.

Well.  Actually.

Not all of the adventures were all that delightful.

Leading up to our holiday I’d been unwell. I’d also been doing some extra hours at one of my jobs and I left it for a few too many days before I took myself off to the doctor to get some antibiotics for a double infection.

So I was already pooped before the first day of our holiday; I worked the night before and then we were up early to head out of town.  All of those factors added together, combined with the fact that my antibiotics were slow to kick in meant that my pain factor went up and up.  We set up our campsite, explored the beautiful area, and I made dinner, all with my ‘fine face’ on.  Then as soon as the kids had gone to bed, my pain levels increased even more and I started to throw up.  Mmmmmm mmmm. For the first reappearance of my dinner, I managed to make it to the campground facilities. Hi de hi campers!  That’s a rather humiliating thing…..have you noticed that no matter what time of the day or night when you’re using communal facilities, there’s always an emphasis on the ‘communal’?  No chance of spewing solo thank you very much.

Anyway.  I made it back to our tent just fine, but the next five episodes of being ‘chunderstruck’,  had to happen in the tent.  Fortunately I had some plastic bags with us.  Unfortunately some of those bags had holes in them.  Unfortunately I managed to find and use exactly those ones.

By the time the seventh vomit came along I was sitting in the car, while my dear husband (in sickness and in health) was packing up what belongings we thought we might need for a trip to find Fiona some help. (We knew I needed stronger painkillers than what I had, some anti-nausea meds and some decent hydration). Just before he woke up our three sleeping children to bundle them into car, to drive to who knows where (we honestly didn’t know where I could get the medical help I needed because we didn’t know what small towns near us had middle of the night urgent care), I remember looking up at the sky and marveling, just for a moment, just before I reached for the spew bag again.

You see those stars were dazzling.  They were scattered across the night sky, blazing boldly. It was a stunning sight.  Apparently on a clear night you can see about two thousand stars from one vantage point. I think I glanced up and saw my two thousand and it took my breath away.

I saw them and I couldn’t help but think, ‘hello my old friends’.

Now I was pretty sick, and pretty out of it for a while there, and it took me the whole week to recover, but I promise you that me thinking of the stars as my friends was a perfectly sound and rational thought.

When we lived in the Northern Hemisphere the night sky there was something I was unfamiliar with.  If I had taken the time to study it and to get to know it, I’m sure I would have loved it too.  A few years ago I remember talking to someone who was about to become a parent for the first time. I told them I reckoned that looking at your newborn baby and getting to know that baby, studying his/ her features and expressions and mannerisms was way more entertaining that television ever was.  That person may have looked at me weird at the time, but now as his baby three is on the way, I reckon he may be in agreement with me there.  You see the night sky that we see here in New Zealand is something I’m more familiar with, because I’ve gotten to know it a little. I’ve studied it a little. I’m not a constellation expert, but when I see some of the main formations that are visible to the naked eye, I see them and I know them.  They are comforting to me.  Old friends.  And they remain constant.

Life is so very full of movement and change.  Family dynamics change.  Kids change year levels at school and sometimes begin different schools. Jobs change.  Expectations change. All sorts of situations change and even our physical selves are constantly changing – we gain weight/ lose weight/ grow hair/ lose hair/ lose skin cells every single day.

Sometimes change can be overwhelming, especially when it is thrust upon us.

When I was in the midst of being so very sick, on what was supposed to be a glorious summer family holiday, and I looked up at the magnificent tapestry above my head, those stars reminded me of God’s steadfastness.  Those stars that I’d admired as a teenager camping with friends, leading camps for small children in the summer holidays where I got to tell them about a great big God who loves them so, those stars were the very same stars twenty five years later. Old friends. We didn’t know where we were going, we had three pretty worried and tired children with us, but as I gazed up with wonder, I knew that God was also with us.  He is steadfast.  Resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.

When I think of steadfastness, I can’t not think of God’s love.  Sometimes we don’t always feel it, or see it, just like we can’t and don’t always see the stars.  Sometimes we choose not to look up.  Sometimes there are things that move into the space between our line of sight and those stars – but that doesn’t ever change the fact that the stars are there. Shining brightly.  Shining gloriously.  Sometimes we just need to drive out out out, far far far from the hustle and bustle of the city’s own lights.  There’s a verse in the bible that says God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!’ (Lamentations 3: 22 – 23, The Message. And for me, living in the world with some much change, so many unknowns and variables, it is remarkable how comforting and calming it is to know that God’s loyal love is never going to run out.  Another version of the same verse says this: Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness’.

This world will continue to swirl and the pace of life doesn’t seem to calm as much as we would like, but we are not consumed.

The next time you feel a little overwhelmed by change or you’re holding onto your sanity by your fingertips, because life can be incredibly hard, take some deep breaths until it is dark outside, then take a little walk and look up.  Look up and know you are carried.  Look up and know He cares.  Look up and know that creator of those stars is creating new mercies for you every day.  You are not alone.  You are not forgotten.  There is a love that never changes. Look up.

‘If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how men would believe and adore’. – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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(And if you’re wondering, we ended up driving 40 mins to the closest town and talking to the ambulance service, before I spent about three hours at the small hospital there, and the kids recovered just fine, but I’m never going on holiday without anti-nausea meds again…..)