Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blueberry Muffin

I can still taste that blueberry muffin. I did not want it to end. Maybe it was all that sunshine and warm breeze rustling the palms, or the laze of the days and blazing sunsets that made me relish every last bite? In October I spent 5 lovely days on a tropical island in the South Pacific with the man I married 10 years ago. The lucky dog.

I am so kidding. The past few months have really shown me the gem of a husband I have. He has been so patient and kind, loving and long-suffering, honoring and serving of me in every way possible.

Today I watched him lead his college in worship with his six strings and humility of heart. I looked on smiling with my own heart pounding with pride. Proud of who he is, who he is becoming. He's the sort of fellow who can go straight from a stage with lights and cameras to cleaning the toilets or helping someone get their motorcycle started with equal gladness. The sort of fellow who asks me to wear flowers in my hair and who possesses massive amounts of faith. It's these sorts of qualities I love so.

A few weeks ago we went to a gold class movie that was gifted to us by some friends. Gold Class movies are the First Class of movie going. We were ushered to our giant leather lounge recliners and served our courses of meal and other delights throughout the movie at times of our choice. It was fantastic. Quite a ritzy experience. Brooks had them bring me skittles, which they served in a glass pedestal bowl and he got the movie classic, popcorn. As we watched the picture show play out before us, our hands would meet in our fancy bowls of goodies, like teenagers, and my insides went a flutter. We walked out of the movies that night hand in hand. Him helping his ailing wife to the car. And me, warmly wishing to hold his hand forever and ever never to end. Like the best blueberry muffin you ever did eat on a tropical island in the South Pacific under palm trees swaying.

Dear Brooks,
Thanks for loving me the amount you do.
Thanks for making me laugh and bringing me breakfast in bed every single blasted sick day.
Thanks for being faithful, for loving and trusting God, and for serving Him only.
Thanks for smiling and counting on your fingers.
Thanks for being the sort of fellow you are.
And thanks for the blueberry muffin.

And Dear God,
Thanks for such a gift.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Prayer Salad

I haven't written lately. I feel a little nervous, I might have forgotten how. So much has happened since I last wrote a word. August has gone, September has come and will narrowly end. Much has changed.

I'm due to have a baby in April. We found out on a fine autumn day. Brooks and I had spent the day in Hunter Valley driving about the countryside taking in the scenery, watching the sunlight shift across terraces and vineyards in the valley. I had been eating starbursts most of the day and was wanting to eat popcorn for dinner but I had a notion that there could be another within and I didn't think our baby should come out all amped up on starbursts and junk food. And if I wasn't expecting I decided I seriously needed to work on my abs, after I ate popcorn. So we stopped by the store to pick up a test.

I was in such a need to know that I went directly to the Woolies bathroom. There they were, two lines. Two pink lines. Not just one line. I'd never seen two lines before. My eyes got real big and I began to laugh and smile. I tried to keep a straight face walking out of the bathroom but my smile could not be concealed. Brooks said "are you serious?" and we hugged and cried and smiled in that stark white hallway.

It's all quite a miracle and since then I've had all the symptoms.

We got to see our little baby for the first time the other day and were both moved to tears. So cute, wiggling and waving it's hands with the heart all a flutter.

We can't do this on our own. I've prayed for every good and perfect gift for this baby. For it's hands, feet, fingers, toes, brain, heart, organs, for no disease or illness to come and harm it, every little thing I can think of. I've prayed for wisdom and help to be the best parents we can be because we can't do it on our own...

I named this blog Prayer Salad and that's just what it's been in my mind. Since I happened upon this I think to it often and pray...

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Memory


I kind of gave up memorizing things a while back. I seem to have left that part of life back in the school days. Memorization is for kids who want stickers and lollies and patches for sewing on a vest, for tests and grades.

As a kid I would spend weeks out of the summer in VBS. That's vacation bible school. I would go to my Grandma Vi's church bible school and my Grandma Dorothy's church bible school, flopping back and forth from house to house, always a little concerned about Grandma's ability to fix my hair. As much as I adore my grandmothers, my house of choice for VBS weeks was my friend Kendra's. Her mom Teri was my babysitter from 6 months old til we moved far far away. Kendra and I were, well, she was my best friend. And I don't use that term lightly.

Teri was VBS super mom. She still is. She has always and forever given her time and talents to the teaching of children, caring deeply for them with the love of God as if they were her own. There was always scripture memory at VBS and as we got older the bigger the passages they challenged us with. The last VBS I can remember we were given some big long obscure passage in the Old Testament. Kendra and I decided to take it on. We stayed up late into the night that week huddled under her white cotton twill blanket with our flashlight reciting and memorizing that chapter of Habakkuk. We were careful to hear each other closely and make sure the other one was getting it. And eventually one or the other would drift off to sleep mid verse.

By the end of the week we had both mastered it. One by one those who had it memorized were to stand in front of the whole VBS and cite the passage. We were both nervous for each other. We did it all for some amount of points and a chocolate bar as I recall. Funny though, it wasn't the points or the chocolate that mattered most.

A dear friend of mine memorizes loads of scripture, still. I found that quite challenging. So after thinking about its importance and how I still live from the verses I memorized as a kid; I decided to bring it back. I picked a passage and have been memorizing it. And can I just tell you how fun it is and addictive. How good is that, being addicted to the bible? I carry my bible around with me, to the bathroom, to the kitchen, outside on the patio, in the car. I've been reciting in my head, in the shower, whilst baking cookies, to my husband, to the Italian girl who shares our wall.

Side note: I speak way more with my hands now after living with an Italian. I find this highly entertaining.

So I put my thinking cap back on and I like what it's doing in my mind and in my heart, all the memory of it.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Flooded Heart


My good good friend Rachelle told me she started her very own blog the other day. She's going to tell her story and I thought "right on" or "good onya" as they say here Down Under.

I want to highlight it because it is sure to be really good. She's one of those people who makes everything cute and creative, bursting with adorableness, but more than that it's a beautiful story. It's her story, it's God's story through her that no one else can tell. So if you want...

http://flooded-heart.blogspot.com/

Before and After Chocolate


I've been in a bit of a slump lately. Nothing terrible has happened. Just a few family upsets, friends gone home, some physical pangs and the ever present expanse between me and those I hold dear. Like I said, nothing terrible just a few frumpy days peppered with crying. Bound to happen. If you asked me how I was, I would tell you honestly, "I'm great, never better."

I cannot believe it is August and that tomorrow is Friday already. We are now 4 months from December, from catching a plane ride home. For some here at college it means 4 months from the next step, 4 months from an answer to the question of "what now?"

A good friend dealing with that question invited me for coffee last night. She is a friend who makes me laugh and lifts my spirit. She is a joy to be with and so I said of course, I'm in. Deciding it was too late to walk and we neither wanted coffee, we settled on a chocolate shop destination. We did the chatty small talk on the way there and by the time we parked the car it was getting real and honest. She went on to unload about her fears, her wants, her sacrifices made, her questions, her hopes, her desires and no answers, worry over making the wrong decisions. All the quandary of it. The uncertainty. I listened and listened some more. Still in the car, in the thick of it. As she talked I was careful to hear everything she needed to say. I wanted her every care to be validated but I couldn't leave her there. I asked her to think on all she's learned this year and started to encourage her that there is always hope, to keep the faith and that we'll do it together, that so much can change and shift and happen in a day or a month and to trust in the God who knows her tomorrows though she cannot see them. That He sees all she has sacrificed and has not forgotten her.

At a pausing point we made our way from the car to the chocolate. Chocolate shops are big here and I am a fan. You walk into a rich creamy chocolate covered dimly lit cafe with barstools and jars of cookies, brownies, sprinkles, gumdrops and melty chocolate drizzle. Big thick bars of solid chocolate line the walls. I had my usual American Marshmallow Chocolate Cocoa and a cookie. We talked of boys and dreams and looked at pictures on her phone in chocolate heaven.

On the ride home she said "I just don't know what to do, what if I make the wrong decision?" I totally empathize with her, how many times have I said that? It just came out of me and exuberantly I said "I think you should do what you love, spend time with the people who build you up and make you strong, live life, celebrate it, enjoy it, listen to your heart, yes you can plan but the Lord leads your steps." I went on to talk about how much I've learned from two favorite authors about living a great story. That maybe God just wants to live a great story through each of us, His story. That maybe He wants us to celebrate life and enjoy the gift of knowing Him more along the way. That maybe it's not so much about right and wrong decisions as much as it's about our knowing Him and displaying who He is around us. That's His will for us after all, to know Him. As much as I was speaking to her, if not more, I was speaking to myself.

Back at the house we prayed together with a lilt in our voices, offering warm hugs and leaving with an encouraged and inspired bounce. All to my great surprise, before and after chocolate.


Now this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, The one and only true God, And Jesus Christ, whom you sent. John 17:3 msg


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lathery Bouffants, Sitting in the Sink and Baby Animals

As I was washing my hair this morning I got a little carried away with the soap. I had so much lather that my hair was staying wherever I moved it. Like when we were kids and we didn't want to rinse the soap out just yet. We needed to make shampoo mohawks and spikes and fish tails. I piled my hair on top my head in a soapy bundle and giggled remembering the days of hour long baths with tug boats, water toys and Mr. Bubble.

I started reading a book that my friend sent me yesterday and the opening line begins with her sitting in the sink, just part of her in the sink. So we are clear, the character not my friend. She goes on to talk about how inspiring it is to sit somewhere you've never sat before. I thought this was so funny because as a kid I loved to sit on the counter or in odd places or wash my feet in the sink. There was just something fun and different about it.

Brooks was home yesterday at lunch time and we were having a late brunch and watching the news. They were doing a piece on zoos around Australia, particularly the zoo in Melbourne. Right now there are several baby animals and they were showing the baby elephant, Mali, romping around clumsily playing in the dirt and rolling around in the water hole. She was just so awkwardly cute splashing in the water with her trunk, kicking her feet, running, stumbling, not caring who in the world was watching. There were baby tiger cubs wrestling and batting at each other tumbling in the grass together in a little tiger ball as their mother looked on with disinterest. And a baby giraffe. That's a big baby. They were all so cute and adorable and fun and it made me want to make a beeline for the zoo just to watch them play. I'm a sucker for baby animals. At the end of the piece that news lady said we should hurry and see them while they are still playful because "who knows how long it will last."

It struck me this morning as I was making shapes in my shampooed hair, just when do we lose that spirit of play? Maybe I'm the only one who gets lost in being an adult and being responsible. You know, paying the bills, checking off our lists, getting from here to there, planning for the future, living in the nitty gritty forgetting the kid who wants to play inside.

We are getting ready for a big conference here and last night was volunteer training. In the creative worship session the awe inspiring woman who was speaking encouraged the team not to get stressed because 'joy is our strength and nothing steals your joy like stress.' I thought she was right on the money with that statement. Nothing steals my joy like stress.

I understand we have things to tend to and we should pay our bills on time, plan and be responsible and all that, I know. But why not do it with a spirit of joy? Why not sit in a funny place to be inspired sometimes? Why not turn up the music and do a little dancing in the bathroom mirror while you fix your hair? Why not laugh at too much shampoo and make lathery bouffants? Why not I say, why not? Joy is our strength no matter what age we are.

"...for the joy of the LORD is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Coastal Walk

If you are a designer or you use the Adobe Creative Suite in any way you'll know what I mean when I say I wish I had my eyedropper tool yesterday. Brooks and I did the coastal walk from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach on the East coast of Sydney. It is about 7.5 miles in total. We twisted and turned, up stairs and down, cliff after cliff, bench after bench, dog after dog. Surfers braving crashing waves. Us with sea spray in our face and the wind in our sails. On a bright sunny day the water is magnificent variations and shades of iridescent and piercing blues. Color that cannot be expressed or recreated in print or mind. Pantone's got nothing on creation, though they give it their best shot. It is a powerful thing, standing atop a brutally jagged rock face watching the tide crash in, dancing its aqua dance and taking its bow with the swirl and whirl of white sea foam.

We paused for lunch at Bondi Beach before making our trek back to Coogee. Brooks had a chicken burger and I a classic burger. We sat facing the beach and the majesty of the South Pacific and before we received our food Brooks leaned in to me and asked "do you ever feel like we are just on one big vacation?" and I leaned in and said "yes, I do." And we smiled.

Sometimes the beauty of the day and all that is in it is so good and rich and I feel it so deeply. I wish I could capture it and bottle it up and stick it on a shelf in my heart, never to be forgotten.

-

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created. Psalm 148: 4-5

Monday, June 7, 2010

Yellow Bird


















Sweetest card from Brooks today turned my frown upside down.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Reunion

I have a countdown to the day we get to fly home for Christmas break. It's T minus 209 days. I started it the day after we arrived to make myself feel better. Not that I'm not happy here and embracing our life in Australia, because I am. I just love my home, my family, my friends. Some nights, like tonight, I lay in bed and think about what it's going to be like the day we get home, the day we get to see people again with our eyes and hug them with our arms. I imagine the reunions. And I cry a little.

I think of Lucy, our dog, I wonder if she'll remember us. I wonder if she'll hop up in our arms like she does and give us a rare Lucy kiss, which means she really likes you, she loves you.

Some time ago on our way to Colorado for the first time with our dear friends, we made a stop in Kansas City to drop their daughter off at her sister's for the week. Their family, with two bright eyed blond children came running out of the house. Our friends went running out of the SUV where they collided in the yard. Tumbling down in the green grass, laughing, hugging, cackling, giggling, so enormously happy to see each other, as if it had been years, ages since the last time. It was like one of those family portraits of everyone barefoot in blue jeans with white shirts come to life. I stood there dumbfounded. I had never seen such display of sheer delight at being together again. In a way I felt like an intruder, watching their precious moment. In another, I couldn't help but behold the rightness and purity of it.

That's how I imagine it, when I think of someone and seeing them again for the first time in so long. Email, cards, packages and Skype are wonderful for now. I am grateful for technology. But there is something about being present, being at the party, being across town that is irreplaceable and meaningful. Hugging for real and helping with the meal. Picking up the wrapping paper scraps and running over to set up the garage sale.

It brings me comfort on nights like this when I long to be with someone who knows my insides and outs. I think of bowling them over with my love and tumbling right down to the green grass, laughing all the way. So happy to be together again.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Polyester Pants


I had a dream a few nights back, a good dream. My cousin and I were busy in my Grandmother's kitchen putting Sunday leftovers from the avocado colored fridge onto the 50s era metal breakfast table. The family used to come together every Sunday for Grandma's cooking and in the summer or over holidays, when we were out of school, we would stay over and have leftovers the next day...or so. Grandma always made sure there was plenty. Better to have too much than not enough, she thought.

So, there we were, two red heads in the kitchen taking lids off the saved cool whip and cottage cheese containers that now held mashed potatoes, veggies and roast meat. Buzzing about when Grandpa came to stand in the doorway. He was wearing his classic overalls and light denimy blue button up. I was so startled by his presence I stopped in my tracks. He was the old Grandpa, the good version, the jovial one we missed so much after he became so sick and unlike himself. His hair was slightly muffled like it was when he had just come in from the garden and placed his straw hat on the pantry hook. He ran his hand back through his hair as he was telling me a story. Then he laughed his hearty laugh, probably at his own joke.

I wish I knew what he was saying and that I could remember every word. I was so startled to see his face and the red birthmark spot under his chin letting me know it was him for sure, that I was shocked out of my sleep. It was so real and I woke up so happy to have seen his face. It's been 10 long years without seeing him. What warm wholesome goodness. And like we do with the best dreams we lay our heads back down and close our eyes real tight in hopes that we'll fall back to sleep right where we left off. Somehow, we can never quite get there.

I wore a dress to church on Sunday that reminded me of my Great Grandma. Every time I am reminded I can't stop remembering and thinking of her for days. It was a polyester blended dress with a black diagonal criss cross pattern. She had a pair of pants that looked nearly identical in my mind. She wore them what seemed like every day. She liked her polyester pants.

We would walk or ride our bikes to her little white cottage which was just across the way. Just across the field. We never had to knock or ask permission for things unless it was going beyond her sight. We just popped right in and she was always there, always there to greet and give undivided love, there was plenty to go around. Once she was on her feet, up from her reading chair to welcome you with arms wide open, she would freshen her coffee and tell you to help yourself to "lemonade in the fridge and chocolate chip cookies in the freezer." Always in the hard plastic brown bowl right on top, left hand side. She would head back into the living room, plop down in her chair, sloshing a bit of coffee on her polyester pants and we would follow with our lemonade and cookies for a lazy afternoon on her soft brown couch. We didn't have to say anything at all knowing we could say anything we needed. Most of the time we laid there while she read her book, safe in the silence of love. Somewhere in the afternoon when it wasn't quite so hot we'd tag along on her daily walk and on the way back she would let us stop and throw rocks in the water hole for as long as we wanted. Big ones, little ones, medium ones, ker plunk, making their different sounds as they hit the water. Those were good days.

The depth of meaning one person's utter devotion and steadfast love has becomes etched in the mind and written on our heart. It won't ever go away. It will never be forgotten. So aware of their absence like missing socks for bare feet on a cold night. The love is so much a part of you, woven into the tapestry of who you are and will be for generations to come. We are reminded unawares with the waft of their perfume or favorite cologne. When we walk into a cafe that smells exactly like their house, no one could pry you away because that aroma cannot be created and you wish with every ounce you could bottle it up and take it home. Reminded with overalls, straw hats, kleenex tucked into couch cushions, the crumpling of newspaper pages, snapping green beans and the shucking of corn. Their sights, smells, sounds. Even with fabrics; worn plaids, soft denims, plush pink robes and the pattern of polyester pants. And on rare priceless occasion with wide eyed wonder, we see them, in our dreams.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ham and Cheddar Rolls

Tonight's dinner: Blogworthy Ham & Cheddar Rolls and fresh fruit. If you want the real thing you'll have to go to On the Rise Bakery in Osage Beach. I was craving them. Thanks to Julie and PelicanLouise for meeting my recipe needs. I had fun making them and they were quite tasty too.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Blowing Kisses


I saw my life flash before my eyes today. Not in the near death way but in a quite literal way. I was importing photos into Brooks' computer. All the digital photos we have of our life together. It was like a supersonic slide show of my life. Flashes of weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, lazy days, the best vacations, houses built, babies born, dogs come home, paintings painted, pumpkins carved, stories told, dinners prepared, slumber parties, shopping trips, beautiful faces and Christmas mornings. Music and memories made.

I used to love it when my Grandmother would go around the house singing this song in her cute voice, dancing a ditty. I still love it:
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

For the most part I am the most content and at peace with myself and life. And at the same time, so aware of my frailties and broken places. For once the puzzle pieces are fitting together, falling into place and there is a deep sense of rightness, wholeness and joy. I won't pretend it was easy getting here and I won't pretend it was my doing. I am, however, glad it's landing here, finding a home in my heart.

Sometimes the homesickness still washes over me. It hits me like the swell of a wave at sea with a crash. Today as I sat in front of a computer screen I was shown what a rich and wonderful life I've had, one photo at a time. Like someone was blowing me kisses.



Friday, April 9, 2010

Easter 2


I walked with a friend tonight. I picked her up in Miss Bianca and we set out to find a reserve park she had heard about in a nearby town. It was lovely and a welcome change of scenery especially for her. She is without a car and any chance there is to get out of the 1 mile radius is exciting. I am so thankful for our little car!

The weather is perfect today, not too cold, not too hot, it's just right. We weaved in through the bright green forest talking and laughing moving branches gently out of our path. Enjoying the night air and change of scenery. As it is with the good friends, you find yourself talking about the smallest of things and the biggest of things. What's for dinner and what are we even on earth for? We talked about how annoyed I am that the kitchen floor will not stay clean no matter how many times we clean it. She told me about her country, South Africa, and the civil unrest there and how scary it is. She said we would never ever be able to just go for a walk in her country and how nice it was to be free. I marveled at this truth. She asked me to pray for her Mom's biopsy tomorrow. Of course I will. I told her about my good friend who has something scary happening in her body and she doesn't know what it is or why? We talked of politics, history, war, health care, genocide, cancer, landscaping, housekeeping and holding out hope when all seems so grim. Being positive among the pain. Being a keeper of the faith. Landing on the fact that so much is a mystery and is too big for me to understand.

On my walk home I was telling God about how things are kind of going to crap down here, as if He didn't know. I admit I did use the word crap and now I've used it twice more. I was wondering out loud with Him if it's much worse in the world now than it was when He flooded the earth and how bad does it have to get. I know He promised never to wipe us out again but sometimes I think He must want to. I was thinking about the ark and how we might need another one of those to save us from all this ugly. I'm sure He needs my big ideas. And then it washed over me, my very own flood, and I realized He already has... He did it and we celebrated it a few days back. Easter.


"And Noah...entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood."
Genesis 7:7

"But God remembered Noah...and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded." Genesis 8:1

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter

Over the past few weeks it seems like everyday we've received a new report of someone near to us with sickness, disease, despair, disappointment and even death. For someone like me it's difficult to be so far away, unable to reach out and lend a hand of encouragement. And this is exactly how I've felt:

"And I felt powerless against the body and time and medicine, and I wished that the sheer force of my love could reverse it all, and I wished that I could be ten places at once, and that if I was, it would matter...and in that moment the world seemed so fragile and life so dangerous and risky, and more than I could hold inside my heart and mind...and I felt like things were breaking and turning to dust before my eyes, like the earth was shifting and out of control." ~Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines

Yesterday for us was Easter Sunday. I had an inspiring phone call with a friend about a miracle and a Skype call with family about a tragedy. The juxtaposition of it.

Last night we went into the city for joined church services at the Sydney Entertainment Center. On Easter Sunday night they have a film and art festival. Members of the church submit works of art and short films for the event. The talent was inspiring, moving and powerful.

I submitted a small painting and it was accepted. Before the service started we milled through the gallery. It was wall to wall people. I couldn't move at times, trapped by all the people. We looked at all the art and near the end found my little painting hiding in a corner, a little knocked around from all the people, smudged. I had given it to be silent auctioned, benefitting relief efforts in Samoa.

At the end of the night it was the Artist's responsibility to pick up their piece if no one bid on it. So I kept checking back on it. No bids, so I wanted to make sure and pick it up before it got lost. I went back to grab it before we left and there was an emphatic Asian woman standing over my silent auction sheet, hitting it with her hand saying over and over "no one take dis one, dis one mine." I watched her from a distance for a moment, smiled and walked away. Satisfied that it had spoken to someone and that she would obviously cherish it.

In that moment I realized how the creator feels about the created. Seeking out what they have made, eyes open for it, making sure it's alright. Does it have good placement, good lighting, good conditions? Has it been taken care of? Will it be loved, adored, admired? And I realized the twinge of hurt when it's bumped around, hidden and smudged in a corner. How much more does the Creator feel about His created.

"Are you not much more valuable than they (the birds and the lilies)?" Matthew 6:26

"But I know your sitting down and your going out and coming in" 2 Kings 19:27

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,"even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

Psalm 139:2-18


Monday, March 29, 2010

Footprint

On Saturday Brooks and I spent the afternoon at Dee Why beach. There are so many beaches here and I wish to visit them all. Dee Why is one of the Northern Beaches which local people seem to favor. They are quiet and beautiful rather than commercial and bustling.

My friend Holly says it is a strange sort of vacationy life I lead. I agree with her wholeheartedly. I was so excited about spending the afternoon at the beach. We've been on the go with class, conferences, volunteering, work and general life upkeep. Any chance to get out and see more of the world is welcomed with open arms.

It was a perfect day. Sunshine, sand, crashing blue water waves against jutting rock cliffs, quaint surfer town and ocean breeze. I sat in my banana lounger in my long sleeved shirt basking in the sun. Napping in and out of reading my good book. We took a long walk hand in hand on the beach. I liked seeing all the footprints in the sand. Big ones, little ones, chubby ones, skinny ones, bird ones, dog ones, baby ones. When you walk near the water your footprints don't last long. I like watching the water wash over them, making them disappear.

I thought about how life is like that. Here one moment and gone the next. Makes its impression and then it vanishes. A vapor. A mist. A flower. And it made me want to seize the moment, not waste a single second. To build a sand castle in that sand, to run and jump and play and get a little crazy, just let out a hoot. To say the good things I want to say to people even though it might be awkward. To see things I've not yet seen and help people I've not yet helped. It made me want joy everlasting. In the morning, joy. In the day, joy. In the night, joy. Joy in the moment, in the mood, in the meadow, in the sun, in the wind, in the rain. Joy.

  • Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.
  • You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. James 4:14

At this moment my family is preparing themselves for the shock of a funeral. It is hurting my heart not to be there for them. Sometimes it's just the being there that matters. They are preparing to celebrate a life well lived. A life well loved. To honor a gentle giant. A man who made such a great impression, taken suddenly.

Like we all, a footprint in the sand.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Burnt Sienna


Lately writing seems like I am constantly outing myself. Perhaps that's what writing is. It keeps me honest, always posing the question, "will you tell the truth?"

I love this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, "a woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water."

Standing in the kitchen yesterday I realized that I waste so much time and energy with thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that help no one. Least of all, me. Silly things like feeling guilty for not being around when I think people might need me or being annoyed at the man I love for chomping his fruit loops SO loud while I'm trying to concentrate. Things like beating myself up for not saying enough, or saying too much, being impatient, hurt, angry, wounded, dwelling on some hurtful thing someone has said or disapproving look they flashed my way, wondering if I'll do a good enough job, worrying about the money of it whatever it is, doubting. Questioning if I'm good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, talented enough, enough, enough, enough. It makes me want to scream, all the time I waste. It's all so... about me. Like the hole in my tooth that my tongue keeps going back to, I just keep doing it over and over again. And so I ask myself who is this helping? No one. There is so much good to be done and we have so little time. Why do I waste so much of it with myself, all up in my head?

I've been dipped in plenty of hot water in my life thus far and right now it's the international move test. My true colors are shining through. Some are brilliant colors and others are dull and yucky, like Burnt Sienna. The color no one wants to use in the box of Crayolas. Today, I find myself thankful God made a way for us to move and be where we stand, away from all things familiar. And I'm grateful for turning point days like today when...

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

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

A day like this makes me want to be Jazzberry Jam, Indigo, Granny Smith Apple and Laser Lemon. Coloring the world I see with light, cheer, inspiration and goodness. To be found wanting for nothing with strength like a tea bag in hot water.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Navigator


Last week was a whopper. On Monday I turned 30. It was a wonderful day of talking to family and friends, receiving boxes and cards which are still trickling in. On Tuesday our computer crashed. On Wednesday I tried to find help for my computer and at the end of the day as I was flossing my teeth a big chunk of tooth popped out. On Thursday I began another day of searching for computer wizardry and magic, hopeful for a recovery miracle. After 4 meetings with Mac genius's at 4 different locations in Sydney I came to terms with the fact that all was lost and the hard drive would have to be replaced. My last stop was the Mac store in the heart of downtown Sydney and I had to go it alone since Brooks was otherwise engaged.

My Dad always made us pay attention when we were in the car on a trip. I remember one vacation I got to sit in the passenger seat and be the "navigator." It was his way of teaching us to always know where we were and how to get to and from anywhere. I will forever be grateful for the time he took to teach and instill the navigational system. Being here at the bottom of the world has thrown my system off. I'm still learning which way is up and which way is down. It's so strange not knowing exactly where I am.

Nonetheless, this mission had to be accomplished so I set out bravely in Miss Bianca with my GPS Tom Tom. If you've ever used a GPS in the middle of skyscrapers you must know my dilemma. They have trouble locating their signal and when they can't find it, the little car on the screen goes spinning out in the grass. Just spinning there, confused. The little lady has no idea what to tell you, so she says "turn left, turn right, turn left." Not so helpful. I ended up in 5 o'clock traffic surrounded by buses, taxis and New York City style mobs of people with my GPS telling me to turn places it was uncertain about and the little car spinning out in the grass. It was overwhelming as I drove round and round. I felt like melting into a puddle but who was that going to help? I looked out the window around me and said "God I gotta get out of here and I need your help."

Sure as the sun does rise, by the power at work within, with what I'd been taught so long ago and after a few honks from fellow road goers, I made it onto Harbour Bridge where Tom Tom could find me and breathed a sigh of relief. As I neared home I felt so proud, like I could conquer anything and in that moment I realized I had a choice to make. I could either be frustrated and put out at all I'd been through that day or I could be thankful and victorious over all God had seen me through. I chose to let the good stuff rise to the top that day, like cream.

There are FAR worse things happening in the world than a crashed computer, a broken tooth and being lost in the city, but I am finding it is in times like these, when you don't know where you are, what to do, where to turn or which way to go, there is a Navigator who never loses signal.

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live...
Deut. 30:19

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us...
Ephesians 3:20

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Homesick


To all those who are concerned about us wanting to come home:

Tomorrow I'll turn 30, though my mother says that technically I was born in America so I can celebrate both days, but really my birthday is when it's March 8th in America. I'll go with this plan since she gave birth to me and because it equals more celebrating.

The fact that we are living here in Australia, that we are not going home soon to our family and friends, that this is not an extended vacation, has been sinking in especially with the birthday here.

Brooks took me to the Blue Mountains this weekend, a gift to me. We found a little guest house to stay in, in a last minute find. Friday we packed up Miss Bianca and headed for the hills. They're not far away, about an hour at most. I'd been looking forward to getting away together, just the two of us. We were staying in Katoomba, a little mountain town that felt quite old. It attracts lots of tourists because it is home to "The Three Sisters" (which are 3 consecutive rock formations that have a mythical story) and "Katoomba Falls".

After locating the guest house we went downtown to find a bite to eat and do some shopping. An umbrella was our first purchase. It was rainy, soggy and dreary all day. Just the way I felt inside and why did I feel this way, I was supposed to be having fun.

At one of the antique shops there was a VERY strange man who was following me around, staring at me, real close. Thinking about him makes my stomach turn a little. It freaked me out so much I made a beeline for Brooks and latched on to his arm. As we exited we both agreed it was an odd experience.

We left shopping to check into our room. It was an old house. A big old house with lots of rooms. Eight to be exact and they were full for the night. As we walked up the stairs to our room Brooks looked back at me and said "don't get your hopes up." I said "what's that supposed to mean?" I was hoping he was teasing and that he really meant "get your hopes up because it's really nice." He wasn't teasing, though it was a bed with clean sheets and a shower of our own. I don't know if you're the kind of person who senses or gets a feeling about a place but I am and it happens quick. All I wanted to do was change my clothes for dinner and get out of there.

Before dinner we had time for a few more shops and some soothing hot cocoa that I wished was a bottomless cup.

Brooks had made reservations for dinner at a quaint little place that had a beautiful view of the mountains. Sadly, because it had been raining all day, a thick white fog had settled and that was our view. Dinner was at the Avalon above an old theater and it was the highlight of the day. Adorably decorated English style with soft hewed linens, tea cups, mismatched china and sweet eccentric waitresses with bright smiles. Our waitress had such an inviting face I wanted to give her a hug. I wished she would give me one because I could feel the homesick butterflies coming on. It happens the moment you realize you're not going home and that you are staying here. I realized my family and my friends wouldn't be at this table eating birthday dinner with me or singing the birthday song and a couple of tears fell into my chicken fillet.

You can try to reason with homesickness all you want but it will never work. It is what it is. I'm experienced in this area. I'm a pro. I was one of those kids who had to be picked up from the birthday party and summer camp. I've cried many a night longing for home. I feel so sorry for the pour souls who tried to console me. I've actually apologized.

We landed back at the guest house after our lovely dinner and delicious dessert. I was doing alright until we were laying in bed. This house felt like I was at my Grandma's or my Aunt Pat's without the Grandma or the Aunt Pat. When you're in one of those places you can feel the love. I wasn't feeling the love. So as it goes with homesickness, you ask to be held real tight as you cry yourself to sleep.

I had bought a sweatshirt because it was so cold that night and I wore it to bed. Since it hadn't been washed it was a bit itchy. I kept waking up wishing I had it off but kept telling myself to deal with it. Homesickness and being comfortable in this country feels like forcing myself to wear that sweat shirt and once I got up to take it off and put on the comfortable long sleeved cotton T, ahhhh, sweet relief.

In the night I was praying for sunshine. "Oh God please send some sun," I said. The next morning I woke to the wind and the sunlight, a bright mountain summer morning. Joy always comes in the morning. We dressed, found some breakfast and pointed Miss Bianca toward the mountain trails. We saw The Three Sisters, Katoomba Falls and panoramic views of the Blue Mountains. We stopped at Wentworth Falls on our way back and spent most of the afternoon and evening hiking her trails, taking pictures and hopping rocks. The cascade of the falls, the rush of the water, the cool breeze and the sheer of the cliffs was powerful and moving. I was glad to be there adventuring hand in hand with Brooks and didn't want the day to end. What a way to celebrate a birthday.

I woke up this morning thinking about that itchy sweat shirt and about how it's okay to long for home, like longing for your heavenly home. I don't have to beat myself up for missing home, for missing the ones I love, the ones I know and the ones who know me. You do the best you know how where you are until you get there. At the end of my Grandma Honey's life she kept saying she "just wanted to go home." I understood what she meant, she was homesick. Homesick for loved ones, homesick for her Creator. Her mind was set on it, like swapping the itchy sweat shirt for a cotton T. Oh, the sweet relief of it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sisterhood


I've been hearing about this event that the church we're going to has on Thursday mornings. It's called Sisterhood. They have been plugging it and all the girls around me keep asking "are you coming to sisterhood?" They seem very excited. I debated all week. Should I stay home and work or should I go? I finally prayed "God if you want me to go maybe there will be a lull in my work load." There was enough of a lull.

Yesterday I met one of Brooks' professors. Her name is Judy and she teaches Old Testament. She asked me if I was coming to Sisterhood. I told her I hadn't decided and she encouraged me to come. It has been intimidating for me to walk into the room of hundreds or thousands not knowing anyone or what to do or where to go or how this works. Walking into a room like that makes me feel lost and lonely, longing for anything familiar. While I know I have to be patient and do the work of knowing and being known, it's daunting at times.

I woke up this morning still undecided but knowing I should go. I procrastinated getting ready and with 10 minutes to spare I scrambled while Brooks waited patiently. We were there early so Brooks could serve, which meant I had lots of time to wait for this thing to start, alone. As we walked in the front doors, someone was calling my name. It was Judy. She warmly welcomed me and wanted me to know she had saved me a seat just in case I decided to come. She took me under her motherly wing and we went to the pre prayer meeting. I followed her like a lost little puppy. She would glance and reach back with her arm, making sure I was coming and hadn't gotten lost in the crowd. And if I did or if she side tracked to talk to one of many people who love her, she would call my name and gather me back again. So generous.

Before the Sisterhood service starts there is pampering and mingling. Boys walk around with trays of fruit and raisin toast. Judy said I should get my nails done while I waited. So I did and they are lovely. Gail did them, she's from South Africa. I chatted with a couple of girls from the college and met a seasoned Australian nurse who gave me her number in case I ever needed anything at all. She was beautiful in all her bright colors and it was refreshing to meet someone with wrinkles.

I made my way to the seat Judy had saved for me, three rows from the front. I was thankful to have a spot beside her. We began praising and she sounded so good and strong. An alto, like me. I liked the sound of it.

It has been a welcome change to look forward to going to church even though walking in can be daunting. We've been through a rough patch with the church the past couple of years. The details of that are neither here nor there. I'm just saying that in the midst of it my heart was bruised and I became jaded. Questioning God and Christianity, the church, all of it.

As we welcomed our speaker and were about to sit down the girl behind me handed me a folded piece of paper and told me to read it. I do not know her and she does not know me.
It said:
"Hosea 2:14 'and now, here's what i am going to do: I'm going to start all over again. I'm taking her back out into the wilderness where we had our first date, and I'll court her. I'll give her bouquets of roses. I'll turn heartbreak valley into acres of hope. She'll respond like she did as a young girl.' Keep reading to verse 23. God just gave me this verse for you in worship."

God is real and He is good. He knows me better than I know myself and met me right where I was. Judy, a well known and loved professor did not have to care for me from the moment I walked in to the moment I walked out. But she is a woman of generous spirit. Sarah, behind me, could have chosen not to pass me that note. But she did and I melted into tears. I left Sisterhood today thankful, humbled, encouraged and inspired, with promise, hope and plenty of love. And I was grateful to receive.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Giving & Receiving


This weekend was Valentine's Day. Some dear friends gave us a generous gift certificate to a lovely restaurant here in Sydney. She researched and found where an excellent place would be. A lot of thought went into the gift. I was thinking we might use it for my birthday but Brooks surprised me with reservations on Saturday. I was thrilled. I looked forward to it all week. Time for just the two of us to get out and be together and what a night to remember.

We drove into the city, down to Sydney Harbor, parked in a fancy parking garage and walked along the shoreline until we found our Wolfie's on The Rocks. Being Valentines weekend there were weddings happening all around. Bride after bridal party getting their pictures taken. Pretty dresses, fancy hair and makeup, handsome tuxes and lots of great shoes.

We arrived early so we walked about, did a little souvenir shopping and took some pictures of our own. We had a great table at dinner with the best view. I stared at the Opera House and Brooks faced Harbour Bridge. We watched ships come in and couples pass holding hands on their way somewhere important. The meal was delicious, extravagant and cost exactly the amount that our friends had given us. On the way back to our car we were holding hands and not just holding hands but liking how our hands felt in each others. It was all very magical and I didn't want it to end.

Thinking about the giver helps me receive. When I give a gift, it is out of love and my hope is that the person will adore and be excited about it. I don't want them to say "oh you really shouldn't have done this" and hand it back to me. I would be so sad. I'm pretty sure that our magical experience will bring our gift givers more joy in their giving.

We've been given a lot in life. Recently we've received so many gifts, cards, letters, money, boxes filled with thoughtful goodies and love. Its overwhelming in the best of ways. We receive not because we're deserving but because of the giver's great love.

Over time I'm learning not to put myself down. Sometimes I stand in front of the mirror and take the time to thank God for everything I see. For hair on my head, eyes that see, a nose that smells, ears that hear, limbs that move, a mind to think and create and so on. I want to live with a spirit of generosity and thankfulness. Giving and receiving with joy in honor of our Giver's great love.

You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. Psalm 119:68

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Flying Solo


It's Thursday night. I dropped Brooks off at the largest church in Australia for a meeting and then a recording session. I drove away in Miss Bianca, our 1988 Holden Apollo, alone.

My life is very different these days.

I work during the day from home. Busy with all things design and thankful for it. I put in a load of clothes here and have a snack there. I'll get the mail in the afternoon and cook up a little dinner to be waiting by the time Brooks gets home. By the end of the day I'm usually ready to get out of the house and go for a walk or a drive or something, anything. Going to the store has become a real treat.

"The shops" are open late (9pm) on Thursdays. Normally they close at 5. This is not only the Land Down Under it's the Land Laid Back.

Tonight I had the car and was on my way to Rouse Hill for a bit of shopping. Valentine's Day is near and I needed a few birthday cards. On my way I was plagued with a deep sadness. No one to shop with. No one to go with me. No one to brave this big city. No one to call. Not a friend in sight or even within calling distance. Thinking of all the friends I'd like to have in my passenger seat, sadder by the minute, I heard a little voice say "what about me, I'm your friend." Not a real out loud voice but the still small voice. God's voice. I felt better knowing He was with me, my Faithful Friend. And all of a sudden I wasn't so alone anymore.

So there we were, me, Miss Bianca and Jesus, off to hunt some Valentines.

But there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

I will exalt You,
You are my God.
Because You're with me,
I will not fear.
My hiding place,
my safe refuge,
my treasure Lord You are.
My friend and King,
Anointed One,
most Holy.
-Brooke Fraser "I will Exalt You"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Joy



Before we left the United States, my friend Holly told me that her prayer for me was "that I would walk the streets of Australia with such joy in my heart." We've been here 2 weeks today and 2 weeks ago I was wondering if that prayer would ever be reality. I was torn up inside about leaving home. Broken-hearted to the point of uncontrollable sobbing. Fetal position crying. In the middle of the night weeping. I'm not embarrassed about it. If you are someone near to me, this is how much I love you. The depth of sorrow and the missing of dear ones ached in my bones.

Brooks was so patient with me. A kind hearted gentleman. He kept saying "we can do this, it will be alright." I could have demanded to be sent home on the next flight out of here. It crossed my mind. But that wouldn't have been love. It wouldn't have been me. It would have been selfish. I am comforted knowing that "He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it."

Cutting noodles in the kitchen on Christmas Eve my grandmother said "He who called you to do this will see you through." Her encouragement and wisdom plays over and over in my head.

Two weeks have passed and a lot has been accomplished. Setting up shop. I have cleaned this house top to bottom and am feeling more settled. We are adapting well and enjoying the people around us from all over the world. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we embrace it.

I walked to the Post this afternoon to drop a letter. I ran there as fast as I could with dark clouds, thunder and lightning overhead. I dropped the letter and turned around to walk home. As I was walking the sidewalk talking to God and noticing the pattern of bricks, from deep within, joy came rising up and spilling over as the rain began to fall.

I walked the streets of Australia today with such joy in my heart.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hospitality

At church tonight I opened my eyes and what I saw was colorful. People of all nations, every tribe, tongue and skin color. Asian, black, white, latino, indian. Some dancing, all singing. Worshipping God in their own way with their own being. Some with their hands outstretched to the heavens. Some jumping fervently. Some sweetly swaying with the music. Some reflecting with their eyes closed. None better than another. All different and equally loved. Welcomed in.

After church, in our house, I sat at the dinner table behind my laptop smiling. A stunning Norwegian girl baking banana bread in the kitchen. A knock at the door welcomed David who is Mexican. He came right in, guitar in hand, sat down and began to strum a pleasant tune. Francisco from Columbia followed him in grinning from ear to ear. Arris the Greek is currently hoola hooping in the kitchen and Angelique from South Africa is buzzing happily about. There is squealing, laughter, chatter and merriment. All different and equally loved. Welcomed in.

The sights, the sounds of hospitality. The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Isaiah 55:1

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Here and There: Day 3

So we're here. In Australia now. Its a foreign land and I am a stranger here. The beautiful thing about being a part of the family of God is that there is warmth and openness and help no matter where you are in the world and I am so thankful for His help through others.


It has been a long time in coming, this trip to Australia following our hearts desire and His obvious calling and will for us to be here. Our family and friends sent us off in a great big way with the most wonderful party. It was complete with delicious food, drinks, adorable suitcase decorations and a spectacular suitcase cake. It was so beautiful. All the love. Each person who came, came with extraordinary words of encouragement and support and hope. We were both speechless and honored at the spectacle of it all and the generosity. Goodness, the generosity of everyone. Thinking back on it has helped me in dark moments and given me hope.


The journey here was so long and I was so tired when we arrived. Each mile closer to Sydney and further from home seemed to tighten my heart strings and with each step a sad note played. A mournful tune. We finally got here to our home and they left us in our room, closed the door, and I thought my heart was going to fall out of my chest. The night and the morning are hardest right now. You feel like you might fall into a million pieces. Not knowing anything, where anything is, or how it works, or what to do. Its a scary feeling. I’m not going to lie. Quite possibly the hardest thing we’ve ever done. I know that we’re clinging to God and to each other. And though I feel the pain and sorrow of moving away from all we know and love in my bones, I keep reminding myself of the steps God took us through to get us here and that He will provide and be faithful.


I keep thinking of a chapter that Shauna Niequist wrote about when she and her husband moved from Chicago to Grand Rapids. She told her husband she felt like she was a new puppy all safe and warm and happy in the box with her other puppy brothers and sisters and someone had taken her out of the box and all she wanted to do was get back in. Yes to that.


I was encouraged by my last post. It helped me to read those words I said and believe.


For us, this is where the rubber meets the road of faith. Daily, what will I choose?


For now I’m giving myself some grace to adjust and clinging to what I know to be true. I am so grateful for all the prayer and support from home and to all who have helped us along the way. Words can’t even express.


Today we got our luggage and we were so happy to get our things. It makes it feel more homey. I did some grocery shopping and everything is different and more expensive. I am missing the United States in so many ways. It is making me so grateful for our country.


It is beautiful here. The weather. The trees. The people. And still so surreal to actually be at the bottom of the world.


Brooks had the chance to drive today some and he did very well. Easier than he thought. It was a fun and happy moment along with the homemade dinner.


Things are looking up and though my heart has been overwhelmed I will not waste a moment. I want whatever God has for me to learn. I'm thinking it must be a lot so I'd better get started.