Well, I'm glad that's over!
Monday marked my arrival at the glorious and happy land that is the second trimester. There's still some tireds. There's still some post-dinner headachery. But for the most part, I have energy again! And I can focus on a topic for more than ten seconds straight!
I'm tellin' ya, it's a glorious thing.
So, now I can think a bit again, here are some observations...
#1: The First Trimester is Hard.
Tired. Tiiiiiiiiired. Sooooooo tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiredddd.
I'd finish dinner, feel awful, go for a brief lie-down... and get up the next morning. Or spend the evening in a vague, trance-like state on the couch.
Evening? Yeah, afternoon as well. Sometimes I'd fall asleep there on the couch, while two children climbed on my legs and ribcage.
Okay, and morning.
I'm vastly grateful for the lack of throw-uppery, but that's not to say there was no nausea. And did I mention the tiredness?
That early pregnancy brain-fog is pretty hard to get through, I hafta say. First time round, you shrug and blame everything on baby brain and go easy on yourself wherever possible. Third time round, you have two little ones depending on you just as much as they did a few weeks ago, back when Mummy was normal.
It's hard work.
My advice would be: plug away. Do what you can, when you can - and when you can't... don't. My kids watched a lot of cartoons, not gonna lie. And ate a lot of convenience snacks, because who can stand vertically and cut up healthy stuff when they've already gone to all the trouble of dragging themselves from couch to kitchen? Isn't that enough??? Some days just getting the pantry door open was so exhausting I'd have to go lie down again.
But above all: remember. Not remember what you just said to someone, or where you put your car keys / important paperwork / chocolate / child, or whether you already put conditioner on your hair... but remember what it is that you're doing. During all the things you're forgetting even as you do them. Because you know what? Your body is building a person.
"As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit [wind], nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all."
- Ecclesiastes 11:5
Read stuff. Read about how big baby is this week in comparison to various fruits. Read about how your little one is developing. Because the more you know, and the more you are in awe of this miraculous process, the more you will remember. When you're so tired you can't think any more, remember. When a baby right now seems crazy, remember. When you're wide awake at 3am for no reason other than your body is confused... use that time to remember.
Your body is doing an amazing thing. A few months from now, you're going to meet a little person who was not a little person at all until your body put in all this work. And that little person is going to grow. Into a child who runs and laughs and kisses you with sticky jam-lips. Into a youth who learns and blossoms and amazes you. Into an adult with ideas and experiences and wisdom. You're growing a person in there. Remember that, when you drag yourself to the fridge because you're starving for the umpteenth time and cry because nothing in there looks good. You're doing amazing things. You got this.
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
"I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
- Philippians 4:11-13
#2: As In Pregnancy, So In Parenthood.
So, pregnancy is hard. We've covered that. It's tiring, and stressful, and weird.
So is parenthood.
But also, pregnancy is amazing. A tiny speck of nothing much grows inside you and becomes a little person. Fingers, toes, eyes, ears, heartbeat... it's amazing.
And as a parent, we're blessed to witness an extension of that incredible process. First smiles, first steps, first jokes, first friendships... first car, first job... Step by step, day by day, as a parent you get to help shape the people your children will become. You smile bravely on a difficult day and point out a rainbow, and you cultivate a positive approach in them. You sing them to sleep for an hour when they're sick and miserable, and you teach them compassion. You pick them up and set them on their feet again when they fall, and they learn to persevere.
You love the Lord with all your heart, and reflect that love in the words you speak and the choices you make and the life you live... And don't think they don't see it.
"For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him:
"Therefore also I have lent [granted] him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord..."
- I Samuel 1:27-28
Here's what I remember, as I look at these little children with whom the Lord has entrusted me: He's got a plan for them. My daughter, my son. Foreseen and planned. All I have to do is what I can.
"He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."
- Isaiah 40:11
And the littlest one? This new life, still being formed, just the size of a lemon... This one, too.
"Then the word of the Lord came unto [Jeremiah], saying,
"'Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I [set thee apart], and I [appointed] thee a prophet unto the nations.'"
- Jeremiah 1:4-5
I don't even know if it's a boy or a girl. I don't know what colour hair he/she will have; what colour eyes; whether he/she will be good at sports or music or art or words... But: He knows.
And just as in pregnancy I get to carry this process of miraculous development around with me, so in parenthood I get to watch new chapters of the miracle unfold. I get to see God's grace in the lives of my children - and they get to see it in mine.
"Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts..."
- Isaiah 8:18
On Monday, half an hour before we were due to leave for kinder drop-off, it started to rain. Again. (Seriously, lately it's been like clockwork for drop-off and pick-up.) I heard it start, and commented to Ellie, who gasped and said, "Oh, no! What are we gonna do?" I replied that we'd just have to go in the rain. Or maybe we could pray about it, I suggested.
And just like that, right then and there, sitting on her bedroom floor in the middle of putting on her socks, my four-year-old girl bowed her head and thanked the Lord for a lovely day and asked him to stop the rain so we could get to kinder without it raining on us.
Within five seconds, it stopped. The sound of falling rain simply faded to nothing. Just like that.
The faith of a child - and the grace of God to hear and answer. No number of solid nights' sleep, peaceful lie-ins, quiet weekend mornings - or even just trips to the toilet alone - would be close to enough for me to miss out on all of this.
I am so blessed to be where I am, with what I have. Look at it that way, and one more child isn't more work, or more noise, or less space, or less money. One more child isn't more sleep deprivation, Cheerio-encrusted chairs, and supermarket meltdowns.
It's one more blessing overflowing with blessings, to add to the collection.
"Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward."
- Psalm 127:3
(And it's certainly not "we moved away to do something and now whoops, we're having a baby". We've known for a long time that sooner or later, this child was coming. And by "a long time", I mean since his/her big sister was born. There's been someone missing, just out of sight, just around the next bend... But definitely coming...
And now just seemed right, somehow. Not right, in that I wish we could be having this baby surrounded by family and familiarity and with a midwife I know and trust. But... this baby will be born on an adventure. And what an adventure!
And as to what's missing - I've had my moments, but for the most part the Lord gives me peace. Peace, and a certainty that it'll be fine. Better than fine. Blessed.)
#3: It All Works For Good.
I am convinced that the hardships and trials of pregnancy are not for nothing.
"...but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
"And patience, experience; and experience, hope..."
- Romans 5:3-4
There's the bit at the end, when you're tired and heavy and uncomfortable and restless and nothing fits except that end-of-maternity uniform of one pair of stretchy pants and one black top. How eagerly does an over-it heavily pregnant woman look forward to giving birth? "Anything to this baby out of here," she says. That discomfort and impatience outweighs any uncertainties she might have had about the birth. Bring it on! See what I mean? Not for nothing.
And there's the bit at the start, when you're tired and queasy and constantly hungry and moody and sick of people and sick of pants that don't quite fit and sick of your daughter singing so loudly and sick of that noise your son makes with his mouth when he's breathing next to you...
All you want to do - all I want to do, anyway - is retreat from the world and cocoon myself in blankets and sleep and eat pastries until Week 14. I couldn't do that, for numerous (and mostly obvious) reasons. But I did do some serious retreating. And again, I believe that compulsion to withdraw in and inward is not for nothing.
My life is full. Full to bursting. I have two busy young children who rely on me for pretty much everything. I have a busy - and awesome - husband who relies on me to do the stuff I do, so he can get on with taking care of the stuff he does. These people all want, and need, and deserve, my time and energy. I have a nice home that won't clean and tidy and maintain itself. I have a beautiful little fellowship, to which we moved here to contribute. I have the Lord, who deserves all I can give and then some.
My life is full. But somewhere in there, there is room for one more.
The past few weeks - weeks of retreat and hibernation and foggy-headed bewilderment - have been incredibly valuable to me. It's forced me to take the time and space I needed to adjust to this addition to our lives. It's given me chance to fall in love with a little someone I'm yet to meet.
I sat at the dining table one evening a week or so ago, feeling BLEGH as usual after dinner. (Seriously, it's like that meal comes as a surprise to my body every single day. Get a grip, dude. You cooked this!) Leaning forward (I may or may not have been resting my face on my tea mug), I could feel something. Not digestion-something. Baby-something. I'm not new to this. I know baby-something when I feel it.
And "Blegh, I feel horrible, this is horrible, it's all so hard, BLEGH!!!" suddenly turned into "Oh, hello, little baby! What are you doing in there? Having a nice time? I'm looking forward to meeting you..." Honestly, it was immediate. Buckets of love. Buckets of everything is fine.
And it made me realize how far I had come in the last few weeks. From notion of baby to genuine love. From weird things happening to my body again to this child is part of our family already.
Before I even knew I was pregnant, I was determined that this time I wouldn't wish pregnancy away like I did last time, in my impatience to be done with it and meet my child. This time, I would have a mindful pregnancy. This time, I would embrace it all - every weird, wonderful bit of it. And I still don't know that I would have, if I'd breezed into it with the ease I experienced with Ellie.
Well, there has certainly been no breezing. It's been a bit lonely at times, and a bit long, and a bit... I dunno... whatever. But I'm so thankful for this exhausting, nauseated ride that has been the first trimester this time around. Because it's given me time to count my blessings, and remember to add one. It's given me time to remember what I've always known I wanted.
It's given me time to fall madly in love.
"He maketh the barren [childless] woman to keep house [dwell in a home], and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord."
- Psalm 113:9
Amen to that.
#4: The Second Trimester Is Better.
So. All that said, I'm so glad the first trimester is over. Appreciate it and what it's meant for me more than I can say. But still, so glad that rollercoaster ride of exhaustion is behind me.
Hello, second trimester. Energy returning... Head-fog clearing... Nausea abating... Appetite normalizing... Mood stabilizing... Stretchy jeans fitting...
I'm ready now to emerge back into the wide world, blinking in the dazzling sunlight, secure in the certainty of what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. That was good. This is good. I love my baby. The Lord's got plans for this kid. Life is pretty fantastic.
(Um, hello? Ballarat? I said "blinking in the dazzling sunlight"... ??? ... *sigh* Nothing? Really? Cos, no pressure, but it's nearly November... Oh, well. Guess I'll hafta get Ellie onto it.)
Well, I'm glad that's over!
Sometimes it's about planning it all out. Sometimes it's about hanging on for the ride.
I think maybe one of the biggest challenges and lessons of parenthood is finding a way to balance yourself - and your family - between the two.
Or maybe that's just life in general. But amplified by the presence of small children.
Planning a roadtrip to pick up an eBay win? Haha, no, cos now you're all sick. Take that, plan-lady!
Fine, we'll go another time.
Complete with impromptu coffee shop stop for gingerbread men and squashy couches.
Go to Gisborne. Pretty. Also, saw an eagle, right by the side of the road. It may have been eating roadkill, but still... eagle.
Oh, and it was a lovely drive, despite the winter sun-in-eyes thing.
Speaking of winter...
Frrrosty! The last few mornings have involved crunchy grass underfoot and a deep gladness for a garage with an internal access door. Haha, take that, Outside! Thought you'd freeze me, huh? Not today!
Although, in another fine example of plans gone awry, an hour of repeatedly putting our son back into bed the other night (and putting away the toys, books, and hair clips he kept finding in the dark) ended with me forgetting to get my jeans in off the line. Long story short, by the time I remembered them it was morning and they were frozen. Yup. Frozen pants. This, I had not planned for.
's okay. The novelty factor of frozen mornings is actually still pretty exciting. And it turned out to be a lovely sunny day. Basking on a blanket in the sunshine streaming through the window, pretending to be on the beach... that's what I'm talkin' 'bout.
Too-small top, pj pants, sneakers, sister's bling... Yup, the bonce life has chosen him.
I had things to do - but those things could wait. When it's sunny out, and a little boy wants to do bubbles... well, let's just say we've got our priorities sorted.
This boy isn't one to stand by and let an adult blow bubbles for him - no, sir. I blow bubbles for Ellie, and she giggles and frolicks among them for about three minutes, and then she's bored and moving on. I try to blow bubbles for Owen, and I'm told in no uncertain terms exactly where he wants me to put that bottle down.
Cos it's his job.
And I have to say, I love it.
There's a part of me that goes "Erghhh... he's getting it everywhere..."
And another part of me has to quietly remind that first part that we can put him in dry pants (and tshirt... and shoes...) after. But for now, this is good.
I love his concentration; his determination to work it out for himself.
And how thoroughly he gets involved.
If you're not turning it into a bottle of froth, you ain't dipping hard enough.
And I have to say, kid gets results.
So his clothes get soaked. So he inevitably spills half a bottle of bubble mixture at some point. So he feels it's necessary to put the stick on his mouth to blow - and Will Not be shown otherwise.
So he ends up with a bubble-beard.
Big deal. The kid's awesome.
He's figuring it out for himself. Today, bubbles; tomorrow, fixing my car. One day, taking on the world.
Mess and all, I love watching him work. And that's all part of the balance, the letting go, the embracing of occasional unplanned chaos - for the greater good.
An extra load of laundry is no big deal. Three to four outfit changes a day is no big deal. Slimy hands on my freshly washed (and thawed) jeans is no big deal.
Growing people is a big deal. Every opportunity for trying, experiencing, learning... is a big deal. Having the incredible opportunity to help little folk grow into good people? Big deal. Really big deal. One I won't take for granted.
I think maybe that's the key to the balance I was talking about between the planned and the unplanned, the carefully thought out and the going with the flow: Big Deal, or No Big Deal?
The kids have woken up super early, and are ready to burst forth into the day? Sure, we're tired. But grand scheme of things? NBD.
Little girl sneaks juice into the lounge and - inevitably - spills it? Scrubbing the carpet is going to leave us running a couple of minutes late. A couple of minutes. NBD.
Trying to finish a blog post while Ellie plays outside with chalk, but it's been three minutes, so she's finished? Results in some pretty fragmented thinking as I try to redirect her without losing my train of...
What was I saying?
Oh. Right. NBD.
I think the balance comes in remembering to keep focus on the Big Deal stuff. Of course we need to deal with the little things too - the NBD stuff - but don't let it steal you away from what's going to count in the long run.
We plan for the Big Deal stuff. But sometimes it sneaks up on us while we're dealing with things we thought were BD things. And the trick is to be ready to shift focus when this happens.
Coming home from the shops, ready to start preparing dinner... but two out of two kids are grumpy, fighting, heading for that terrifying 5pm downward spiral...
Dinner might be a little late. NBD.
We've got dancing to do. More specifically, faux-ballet.
And when the five-CD random shuffle lands on Ellie's favourite song, and she's stoked because one of our clever friends has turned it into a "ballet song", and there's a wonderful moment of Mummy-realisation that Ellie's Favourite Song, out of all the songs in the world, is one that goes like this:
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace..."
Take the BD moments. Embrace them. Sometimes they look like things you've planned, and that's wonderful. Sometimes they come disguised as nonsense.
And that's wonderful, too.
We had plans for this day, man. Maybe catch the train into Melbourne, do Vic Market, walk the city streets, lunch at Southbank... All that stuff I used to love, pre-kids, and haven't done since. Cool fun.
Instead, we came back from our Adelaide visit with all kinds of horrible going on, tummy-bug wise. Yerrrrk. Obviously, all ambitious travel-and-sightsee plans were immediately stowed in the "not this weekend" bag that we'll pull out some other day. Hopefully before the kids are in their twenties.
I woke up this morning knowing I was better. Now for that glorious post-sickness phase, code-named "building up strength" - aka lounging around in comfy pants, finishing a good book and eating whatever, whenever. Dude, no judging, I'm building up my strength!
Now Liam's sick.
So we ended up having one of those days we never plan for, but always end up so much the better for: an off day.
I was in my pjs until 2pm (at which point I sat on a cushioned garden bench I had thought was dry, and realised it actually very definitely wasn't).
Owen got to nap in his bed for over two hours, because we weren't dashing off anywhere.
I finally finished that book I've been snatching spare seconds for over the last few weeks (how weird is it, coming out of the world of a good book at the end?!).
Liam and the kids played sunny-day-wet-garden games outside, soaking socks and pants and a toy pig in the process.
There were story readings, and cushion-beds, and raspberries on bellies.
I served the kids' favourite "tasting plate" for lunch, and made coffee for the grown-ups.
And there may have been some dancing in the kitchen to old-school pop hits, which Liam may or may not have been drawn into against his will...
We had fun. We did nothing much - just the bare minimum of laundry, dishes, etc; the things that have to be done to keep the house running - and it was great.
And this evening? Are we catching up on what we didn't get done during the day? I'll answer your question with a picture:
No. We're watching a movie and eating marzipan chocolate, thank you very much.
And thank you to my ugg booted fairy princess, for helping Daddy pick up supplies while Owen and I stayed home and read the Jemima book again.
We don't do this often enough. Why don't we plan for "off" days? Why do we see "free Saturday" on the calendar, and immediately say, "Oh, good, now we can..." and fill it with chores and errands and activities and plans? Why can't we just leave a free Saturday... well, free?
Is it guilt?
Do we see everyone around us keeping busy, and feel that that's the "right" thing to do? Do we feel "lazy" if we take a day off from being so busy? Do we fill our lives so completely that there's no room for a day of rest, lest we "fall behind"?
Who decided "busy" was so important, anyway?
Why shouldn't I have time to finish that book, to sing Backstreet Boys at my super-tolerant husband, to throw things repeatedly for a girl who thinks she's a puppy, to play in puddles with a little boy and change his socks after?
Why should life be a rush?
How many times have we been frustrated with our children for taking too long, being too slow, messing around when they should be [insert urgent instruction here]? How often are we stressed, tired, distracted?
Multitasking has its place, certainly. But why should it be the optimum living standard, each and every day?
We live in a world of more, of better, cleaner, smarter... More, more, more...
And it urges us into a feeling of rush, of living quick, of keeping busy busy busy.
Sure, there are things that need to be done. And let's do them, with a willing heart. But let's never get so caught up in the busyness of life that we begin to feel guilty about planning an "off" day - about keeping a "free Saturday" just that.
There's a quotey thing floating around Pinterest - and I'm pretty sure I've accidentally multi-pinned it, such is my enthusiasm for its message - that says "Stop the glorification of busy."
After today, I'm'a print that out and pin it in my office, right next to my fortnightly planner and my calendar and my weekly goal thing.
Because if you haven't got time to fill a child's cup, decipher some frantic shouty toddlerese, and then go get the other cup and fill it too, because only the right cup will do at any given moment...
Or if you haven't got time to drop what you're doing to chase a child down the hallway pretending to be a monster while she screams and runs and screams and falls down and screams and gets up and runs some more... Maybe you're too busy.
Go have a good one.
Admittedly, it does feel like quite a while since it was summer. But still. I was just getting into this autumn-in-Ballarat thing!
Dancing in crunchy golden-brown leaves and filling vases with them (and picking bits of them out of my carpet... thanks Owen...) has got me thinking.
See, the trees do this every year. Maybe it's a surprise to them, but I'm pretty sure not.
"Do I look bovvered?"
One minute they're cruising through glorious verdant summertime, all glossy leaves and growth and butterflies... and then the seasons begin to turn. There's a bite to the air in the mornings, and the days are noticeably shorter. Without getting all sciencey, let's just say that on a chemical level the leaves stop producing some stuff (chlorophyll, okay?) which was keeping them green. Suddenly, we see different colours - vibrant gold, muted brown, brilliant red. These colours were already there, but were less apparent because of all that lush summery growing-season green.
Also on a chemical level, the leaves stop producing something else (it's auxin). And that weakens the leaf's hold on its twig. Or the twig's hold on that leaf. Whatevs.
And why is all of this happening? Not for no reason. Not even just to give us great heaping drifts of crunchy leaves to jump in (I know, I thought that was it, too). It's happening because the leaves these trees were using to catch sunlight during the glory days of summer will soon become not only fairly useless, but a liability. There's frost to worry about, and a general lack of the sunshine required to fuel growth. The trees will stand dormant through the harsh winter weather - who needs leaves for that?
You see where I'm going with this. After a time of living easy, looking good, and making steady progress through life, the seasons change. Without warning and for no apparent reason, circumstances shift and the things that were so wonderful and useful become... less useful. Obsolete, maybe. Perhaps even risky to keep around.
There's a choice at that point. (I don't think trees get to choose.) Hang onto that thing, that activity, that idea, that perspective, that plan, that whatever, which was so useful before. Hang on tight, no matter what - eyes squeezed shut and yelling "Lalalalala," if necessary - whatever it takes to keep holding onto that thing while all the evidence is telling you it's no good for you any more.
Or. Let go.
It's not a lazy thing. It's not an apathetic thing. I'm not talking about dropping something because you're indifferent about it. These are things that mattered (or at least seemed like they did). And they don't now, but it's hard to let go, because what if you need them again? Then where will you be? And who will you be without them?
When life is cruisy and easy and nice, enjoy the summer. No, really, don't just cruise - enjoy the cruise. Autumn will come. And when the days get shorter, and there's a bite in the air, and the things that were serving you fine before just aren't...
If you cling to them, they'll drag you down. You can ride this out without them - you were designed to. It might not even hurt as much as you think; when a tree drops a leaf, it forms a layer that seals the break, so nothing else is lost.
Sure, it's a scary thing, letting go of what covered you. (How will you look, when you step out of the uniform green?) But when you're facing down winter, the things that aren't good for you have no place any more. They've already lost their green. They've become purely decorative.
Let go. Do it for yourself. Do it to feel better. Do it to get strong. Do it to survive the winter.
Above all, do it because you want to see the spring.
Because spring will come. That's the promise the trees already know - that's why you don't see them panicking when autumn hits (that, and the fact that they're, well... trees).
Spring will come. And with it, new growth. Not regrowth - those leaves have been dropped, and once they're gone, they're gone. But brand new shiny bright green fresh growth. And you'll be strong, and you'll be refreshed, and the sun will be shining again.
Because the secret to letting go is knowing and trusting in this: In every autumn lies the promise of spring.
It's just around the corner. Be ready.
"It's nothing personal," I assured her. "In fact, I'm sad to be leaving this job. But we're moving to Ballarat, and... well... it's a bit far to commute back to Adelaide a few times a week!"
And then she asked the question I'd known was coming.
Now, this wasn't a question I'd feared. And it wasn't a question I didn't know how to answer. In fact, I'd actually been looking forward to being faced with it - I knew it was the first of many similar conversations, and I relished the invitation to speak about this most important of all things. But it was a defining moment. We all have these, and sometimes they're big things like the birth of a child, and sometimes they're little things. Like answering a friendly one-word question over the phone.
Because the thing is, I've never hidden who I am. I've never hidden what I believe in. I've never wanted to hide it.
But maybe I haven't advertised it. And maybe I haven't made it clear before just how huge it is in my life. I was never actively trying to fit in with all those "normal", non-threatening, nicey-nice, church-on-Sundays-and-that's-about-it "Christians". But maybe by omission, that's what I was doing.
Hi, I'm Zoe, and I'm a Spirit-filled Christian. A baptised-by-full-immersion, speaking-in-tongues, Spirit-filled Christian. A praying-every-day-about-everything, scripture-quoting, Jesus-loving, going-to-heaven-when-the-Lord-returns Christian.
That's not what I said. She kinda pretty much knows all that. What I said was something along the lines of, "To support our church, who've been starting up a little group over there... To tell people about God."
Something along those lines.
And there's at once both nothing much, and very much indeed, in those few simple words.
Because it doesn't tell you much. But at the same time, it tells you that here is something for which I am willing to uproot myself and my young family; to leave my nice house and my nice neighbourhood and my nice family and my nice friends and my nice job... and my nice beaches... and, with my husband and children, travel interstate to live in a country town I barely know. (And a loooooong, looooooooong way from the beach.)
Here is something more important than any of the stuff with which we surround ourselves.
Others at our stage of life are getting their houses nice, considering schools, enjoying some job stability maybe... (And I'm saying nothing against these people - as long as they're still prioritising their relationship with the Lord and their involvement in His work. The Work needs people who are stable, as well as nutcases like us.) We, on the other hand, were planning an interstate move, based on the hope that we would find a house in time, the hope that Liam would have a job to go to, the hope that we'd find tenants for our house in Adelaide... the hope that this would prove to have been a good choice.
And the certainty that, if it was right, the Lord would fulfill all these things - and so much more.
He did. And he is.
It's not madness, a move like this. It's "weird", by "normal" standards, sure. It's not a wise or even particularly safe move financially, or emotionally, or in any practical sense. But spiritually, this made so much sense for us. The growth we would experience in our relationship with the Lord, and our understanding of - and hence faith in - him, would make it worth the practical and emotional losses.
And for me, the journey began right then, sitting on my back lawn, answering the first of many "Why"s. Laying all of my faith out in the open, for anyone and everyone to see.
And rejoicing in it.
See, we've seen amazing things. Amongst this church, this body of Christ, this fellowship of people whom God has graciously filled with his Holy Spirit, we've seen signs, wonders and miracles. Some are dramatic cases of healing, protection, life changes. Others are less outwardly dramatic, but no less miraculous - provision in desperate times, broken hearts healed, the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit.
We know we're blessed to see and experience such things. And we know it's nothing we deserve - it's been given to us, undeserving, by a God who loves us anyway. Whose Son died for us to have a new life.
My favourite scripture is Luke 10:19-20...
"Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven."
See, that's the thing. I've seen miracles, nearly all my life; since I first came across this whole thing with my parents when I was ten. And it's amazing. I've been healed of back injuries, twice. After miscarriage, I experienced the incredible comfort of the Lord through the Holy Spirit. I saw my seven-week-old baby daughter healed of a blocked tear duct and awful eye infection, overnight. I've lived with the peace that comes from knowing that if I leave it all up to the Lord, he'll make it all work for good (Romans 8:28 - another favourite).
And for that alone, I am more thankful than I, with all my words, could ever express. If there was only this much to it, I'd still be wanting to go out and tell people about the amazing life they could be living; the miraculous things they could be seeing with their own eyes, and experiencing in their own lives.
But wait. There's more.
See, back in Luke 10, verse 20 reminds us that it doesn't end with miracles. I'm not here to offer you divine healing - though you will see and experience miracles if you choose this path. I'm here to tell you what's at the end of the path.
One day, this world is going to come to a dramatic end. And Jesus Christ is going to come back for his people. The Bible clearly states this. And it's the same Bible that clearly describes the exact experience I had when I received the Holy Spirit, as it told me I could. The same Bible that talks about the signs, wonders and miracles I have seen for myself, and you can see too.
Where will you stand? I know where I'll stand. And I know I won't deserve to stand there. No amount of being a good person could get me there. Only God's grace. Only Jesus' sacrifice. Only the cleansing of the Holy Spirit.
I'm a baptised-by-full-immersion, speaking-in-tongues, Spirit-filled Christian. And one day, I'm going to find myself in the kingdom of heaven. For realsies.
Don't roll your eyes. Don't discount this post as some religious nonsense. I don't need you to believe in me, and I have no intention of guilting you into listening (reading, whatever) by all my talk of how my husband and I uprooted ourselves and our children to come here and tell you this.
I just don't want you to miss out. I want you to see what's available: the choice that you can make for yourself. A life of peace, and comfort, and miracles, and protection, and adventure, and inspiration, and guidance, and never being alone, ever again. (I don't mean in a parent-of-a-toddler-trying-to-go-to-the-t
You, too, can be one of those speaking-in-tongues weirdos. Feel weird about that? Just wait until you see the whole new perspective the Holy Spirit gives you. Just wait until you see clearly, for the first time, what's truly important; with all the dross of the world taken away.
When you find something so completely amazing - and free - you want to share the opportunity with others.
Like I said, one day I'm going to find myself in the kingdom of heaven. ("For realsies," I believe was the term I used.)
I want to see you there.
That's why I'm here.
Want to know more? Want to question my experiences? Want to tell me I'm crazy? (Want to know where to send me a jar of Port Noarlunga beach sand?) Drop me a line on Facebook. As you may have noticed, I'm happy to chat!
Her voice wakes me
Pulls me out of deep slumber
Though it's early
I rise without fight.
She settles cheerfully
With blanket-and-teddy lap
And morning cartoons.
Into the kitchen
I pad on bare feet
To cool morning tiles
Light morning windows
And hot cup of tea.
I retreat to my room
Place my cup with quiet care
Bind sleep-mane into ponytail
Revel in moment of quiet solitude.
Curtains open, blind lifted on new day,
I breathe deep of the neighbourhood's morning
Seeking a taste of the ordinary,
The car-starting go-to-work community
That surrounds this little island.
For I live in a different place.
Here I wake to child's voice, not alarm tone.
Here I plan my day of work
From an office of pillows and bedside tea.
I have no union to stand for my rights -
Whatever they may be -
But a God to turn to.
And the hours are all my waking minutes.
Immersing myself in this place,
Embracing this chosen, unexpected life,
I may be forgiven for forgetting
How the rest live.
But, daily, woken early by daughter-alarm,
I breathe myself clear of sleep,
Throw curtains wide on a new day with its
distant hum of traffic
And greet the morning shift.
And back in my bed,
Warm tea inside me,
I plan out our blessed gift of a day
And give heartfelt thanks for this life, this island, this moment.
Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.
I have a real love/distrust relationship with Pinterest, which I think I'll discuss in another post. But at the moment, we're in a tentative love phase - you know, the kind where you've been through a breakup, and decided to get back together just to see how things go... So you're equal parts hopeful for the future and watchful for signs of trouble.
So far, so good.
I recently came across a pin I'd overlooked a while ago: a list of points on how to care for introverts. And went, Whoa. That's Ellie. And not just a little bit.
Not seen it? Then see it now! (If you want to. Whatever. I'm not the boss of you.)
It's made me pay real attention to something I've only been vaguely aware of until now: there are things that work for kids in general; and they aren't always the same as the things that work for one kid specifically.
Take, for example, visitors. As anyone who's come to our door over the last couple of years has probably noticed, Ellie does not cope particularly well with people arriving at our house. This even applies to Daddy coming home from work. There's something about the social implications of a visitor's arrival that have her running for cover, hiding her face, making angry little warning sounds. Like a cornered animal.
We've found the best approach is to greet her casually and leave her be - not excluding her; just giving her space to adjust to the new social situation. Sooner or later she'll be ready to throw herself wholeheartedly into interrupting our conversations, demanding beverages, and inviting you to come and see her room.
See, she means to like you. She just takes time to warm up.
It was because of this struggle that I decided to implement... (da da-da daaahhhhhh...)
It's Ellie's new Calendar!
Every morning, we go through our plans for the day. And every evening, we look again to recap our day and discuss what's happening tomorrow. Then I smuggle it out of her room to switch things around for the next morning.
She loves it. And it's been working great. It gives us time to start preparing her a day in advance for the arrival of those dreaded visitors (when we know that far ahead, anyway).
Oh, and that wiggly pink thing in the "house meeting" one? That's her sleeping bag. It's okay; she knew.
Last night we were discussing the "at home" morning we had planned for today, and I asked if there was anything she'd like to do instead. The beach, for example? She was so keen, she made me pull out the "beach" card right then and there and stick it on. Lock it in, Eddie.
So, this morning we were driving to the beach, and I was thinking about this whole calendar thing, and this whole "introvert" thing, and this whole knowing what works for your child thing, and about the fact that while knowing how Ellie works is incredibly helpful, I don't want "that's how she is" to be the end of things. I'm a firm believer that how you are today doesn't have to be how you are tomorrow.
I want to give Ellie more than just a safe place to be an introvert. I want to help her learn the skills she'll need to be fine in the situations that challenge her.
I want her to be able to be polite to guests - not for appearances' sake, but so one day she can experience the pleasure of welcoming guests into her own home.
As I drove, and basked in the sunshine, I reflected on this notion:
Parenting isn't childminding.
Parenting is raising boys and girls to be men and women.
See, I can figure out what works for my kids. I can learn their strengths and weaknesses, and compensate accordingly, and life can be easier. And that's nice.
But. That's childminding.
When I'm temporarily looking after someone else's child, I don't feel the need to teach them things, or plan for their future. I'm just trying to keep them happy and safe until they stop being my responsibility.
That's not parenting. If we spend our kids' childhood trying to keep them happy and safe until they stop being our responsibility, then who will they be once they're out of our hands?
What kind of adults are we making?
This has been a good reminder for me. As a parent it's easy to focus on the challenges of getting things done, and managing behaviour, and reaching the big mainstream milestones. But if parenting is raising boys and girls to be men and women, there's gotta be more to it than that. At some point, there's gotta be some conscious decision making.
Who do I want my child to be as an adult? What will that look like?
I can't dictate who Ellie and Owen will be. They'll make their own choices, and find their own way. But I can have some pretty big influence over the tools they have at their disposal as they figure all that out. I can dream of the kind of people I'd like them to become, and then plot a course from here to there. I can let those dreams inspire me as I make my daily decisions about how to behave as their parent.
If I want them to have patience, instead of hurrying their dawdling I'll show them patience. If I want them to be hospitable, instead of being busy with my own things I'll demonstrate hospitality. If I want them to be content, instead of complaining about my day I'll let them see me counting my blessings.
Ellie is shy. That doesn't mean my picture of her future has to have her isolated and alone, spending all her time at home where she feels safe. As anyone who has met her can testify, there is much more to her than this shyness. Much. More. And we can use this, this more, to work through the shy towards a vision of my girl as a woman, welcoming friends into her home, showing kindness to strangers, enjoying the kind of meaningful social life I know she could enjoy. It's not my job to get her there by force. It is my job to show her the way.
Owen is impatient. As a newborn, every basic need was an emergency. Now, a moment's wait is agonising to him; a small setback is infuriating. But still, I can envision him as a kind and patient man. We'll use that sweet, loving nature and that strength of his to make a way. It's up to Owen to be that man; it's up to me to show him to Owen.
Different parents have different dreams for their children. My vision for Ellie is quite different to my vision for Owen, and yes, that divide lies largely down gender lines, and no, I don't make any apologies for that. When I see parents deal differently with their children to how I would have dealt, I'm not seeing "bad parenting". And "oh, I wouldn't have done it like that" is irrelevant. Because I'm not seeing them "doing it wrong". What I'm seeing are parents raising their boys and girls to be the men and women they hope for. Different men and women, perhaps, to the man and woman I would like my son and daughter to be. But since when is that up to me? If everyone turned out the same as Ellie and Owen, then Ellie and Owen would have a pretty dull life, no?
I'm so thankful for these children of mine, with all their strengths and weaknesses and idiosyncrasies and potential. And I'm so thankful for this opportunity of mine, to be an influence in their lives; to help guide them, in whatever small ways I can, towards the future I hope for for them.
I'm so thankful for the vision God has for them - which is, of course, the greatest vision of all. I'm happy to let his override mine. And I'm so thankful that, when they stop being my responsibility, they'll still be his.
He's better at this stuff than me.
Last night we heard a great talk about the value of gratitude. It included a reference to this experiment, which I'd heard of before, in which three groups were asked to keep a diary - one group recorded events in their day, another recorded the unpleasant events, and the third recorded things for which they were grateful. And the gratitude group were happier, healthier, nicer, more active...
And we nod, and go, "Yep, makes sense." And then, maybe, we go back to our normal, stressed out, whinging, wanting-more perspective on life?
Anyone who's read a few scriptures - or a few nice quotes on Pinterest - is familiar with the idea that gratitude is good, and perhaps has it tucked away in that mental list with the other things they should work on, one day, when they've got a minute. You know the list... exercise more, eat better, de-clutter That Room, waste less time on Pinterest, practice exercising gratitude.
It'd be nice to be that way - and maybe I will, one day. Right?
Gratitude is good. But is it an optional extra? Is it something to maybe add to your repertoire someday, when you're in the mood for a bit of self-improvement, along with taking a defensive driving course and making your own bread?
Or is there more to it than that?
Because this is what came to me last night, after listening to that talk - a realisation:
Yep, I made a chart. Everyone does that in their spare time, right?
See, for those who see a chart and black out, here's what I'm saying:
There are four options. Two variables, with four possible outcomes.
Do you focus on the blessings in your life? Or do you focus on the things you lack? Do you see God as the orchestrator of all of this? Or do you hold yourself solely responsible?
A focus on lack, without reliance on God, can only lead to guilt. "This is all my fault." "If only I'd done [whatever] differently..." "Obviously there's something wrong with me."
"There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God... Destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known..."
(Romans 3:11, 16-18)
So, if we turn to God, everything's fine? Well, that's not quite all there is to it.
Even belief that God is in control, when combined with that focus on lack, won't do you much good - it'll just lead to blame. "Why aren't you answering my prayers?" "Why does God let this stuff happen?" "Why are you doing this to me?"
Not happy yet.
So, we focus on the positives. Power of positive thinking, right? I'm a positive person, so everything's peachy, right?
Combine a focus on the positive with a belief that it's all down to you: pride. "I deserve this." "I don't need help." "Behold what I have achieved!"
That might sound kinda nice. But President of your own fan club can be a pretty lonely position. And it comes with all the pressure of that nagging awareness that it's all up to you. And you're only one step away from that square with "guilt" written in it.
"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools".
So what's the alternative? Try this: count your blessings.
"Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."
Simple, right? Right.
Count your blessings. Two parts:
a) Looking for the good things in your life, identifying them, paying attention to them.
b) Recognizing them as blessings - acknowledging where they came from.
You do that, and, TA-DA!!! Gratitude.
So, gratitude is not just a nice thing to have, a trait to be worked on sometime. It's a simple, natural response, which we find when we follow the advice to count our blessings.
"That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son".
A grateful, humble attitude, it turns out, is at the opposite end of the spectrum to feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Humility and gratitude aren't about bringing yourself down - they're about lifting God up. And when you do, he lifts you.
And there you are.
I've drawn up a super-rough version of this chart on the whiteboard on the side of my fridge. I think maybe it could come in handy as a simple, at-a-glance guide to where I am, where I want to be, and how to get there. You identify the symptoms you're experiencing, find your current position on the chart, and you can see which direction you need to move - which habits to address - in order to reach that "attitude of gratitude". A shift in focus, from what you lack to what you have? Or a change in who you're putting in charge? Or maybe both? We all need these reminders from time to time. I hope it helps.
Usually, when I'm heading out somewhere with the kids, we sit in the car and have a chat to the Lord before we go. Giving thanks for the day, and for what we have; asking for help and guidance in our day; all that kind of thing. I think I started it to help teach my children how to approach their day, and quickly realised it was a good habit to have. Now, if I hesitate for a moment - to plug in my phone or grab a chewy, perhaps - Ellie's on me. "Prayer, Mummy..." "Okay, I was about to!!"
It's become automatic, I guess.
Good habit to have, certainly. But if it's automatic, how much are we thinking about it?
Automatic no more.
Today was a bit of a different day. Liam left for work super early, and Ellie was awake before he even left. She ended up sitting on my bed watching her "movies" (ie YouTube clips of animals) for a while, so Mummy could get her head together (ie try to sleep in). Then, instead of the usual Monday morning rush to get ready and go grocery shopping, we relaxed. We've managed to wrangle Owen back into his good old sleeping habits (ie wake 8:30am, nap 11ish to 1:30ish, bed at 7pm - rather than his recent nonsense of waking around 11am, having no nap ALL DAY, and then fighting sleep from 7pm until 8:30ish or so...); off he went, and Ellie and I had a nice relaxing time, pottering around, hanging out some washing, pottering some more...
And then the kids went for a play at Granma's, and I went grocery shopping by myself. I know. It was bizarre. I LOVE grocery shopping with my kids, and wouldn't trade it for solo shopping on any kind of regular basis. But as a one-off, it was pretty nice to be able to think about what I was buying, in store, rather than having to blindly trust my list while handing out snacks, listening to constant chatter, providing backing vox for nursery rhymes, denying bizarre requests to buy sourdough or pink mouthwash, and making emergency toilet dashes. Ahhhh.
Brought the shopping home, put things away, got different things together, and headed back out to join my kiddies for dinner at Granma's. Remembered everything, right?
Halfway out of my driveway, I realised.
That automatic prayer thing? Not so automatic when the kids-in-the-backseat prompt is removed.
So, right then - better late than never - I parked outside my house and thanked the Lord for my day, and for the evening's opportunity for fellowship. And apologised for not getting in touch earlier.
I'm not wanting to be overly dramatic here. I wasn't being amazingly spiritual. And I certainly wasn't feeling condemned for my lapse, or anything like that. Just a simple, genuine apology for some slackness; and some belated gratitude for - and dedication of - my day.
And in reply:
Nothing much. Just three little daisies, my favourite wild flower. Just three little daisies, sprouting out of the curb right outside my house, right by where I happened to have stopped my car, right where they'd catch my not-so-observant eye in the sinking afternoon sunlight. Just three little daisies, where I have never seen daisies - or any other flower, for that matter - grow before.
Just three little daisies. For me.
Two ways of looking at this.
Maybe daisies always grow there, and I've never noticed, and all the timing and the favourite flower and whatnot was simple coincidence. Maybe I saw a weed, and read a lot into it because of what was on my mind at the time. Maybe it's nothing.
Or maybe not.
You can think what you like; I know what I'd prefer to believe. I have all the proof I need; I can offer no more on this for now. One day, when the Lord returns, we can ask him, if you like. Whatever. (Or maybe we'll be a bit preoccupied at that point.)
But here's what I see:
I remember the Lord. He remembers me.
No more autoprayer.
Here's a fact: You don't know what you've got. You. In your life, right now. You have no idea what's in that.
What I mean is, each little thing, each little aspect of your life, holds so much potential. Some of those things in your life (like little acorns) are going to grow into something that, looking at them right now, you just can't see yet.
And the beauty and the challenge of it is not knowing what - or when - or how - or why.
Everything changes. Every phase of life, every era, comes to an end. And a new era is ushered in. You can never know where this present phase of your life will take you before it ends. And you certainly have no idea what's coming in next, or where that will go. It's not until you look back over those times that you can see a path, a course plotted back from step to step, bringing you here long before you knew where here was. And be assured, you won't stay here long. There's always something else coming.
1,113 days ago (I wish I'd noticed this two days ago - how cool would that have been?!), I was handed a baby. I knew nothing about this tiny person, other than: MINE. Gender, size, weight - all of that came moments later. The rest is still unfolding before my eyes.
I had no way of knowing, on that spring morning three years ago, how this child would turn out. I had my hopes, certainly; and my good intentions. But of her character, her preferences, her future, I knew nothing.
I knew nothing of the girl who would learn to walk at our own hands, and then take her first thrilling steps while her dad was away.
I knew nothing of the relationships she would develop - real and imaginary - or the kind of friend/daughter/grandchild/niece/wife/mo
Some of those I'm still learning. Some are yet to come.
I knew nothing of the personality inside this little person. I knew nothing of how clever she would be; how strong; how compassionate. Or how crazy.
L-R, top to bottom: potty hat, nappy cover hairnet, licking the shower, snogging the clown.
I knew nothing of the bond that would grow between us, mother and child, from those strange and foreign early days of adjustment, to the secure and adoring relationship of the toddler years, to whatever it is that lies ahead for us. I knew nothing of this. How could I have known?
I don't know what the future will bring for my girl. When we took her to her first swimming lesson, we knew nothing of the way she would take to the water like a fish, bringing us years of fun - and amazement - in the pool with her. When we added a sibling to her family, we had no idea of the impact his arrival would have on all of our lives, or the bond that would grow between this girl and her brother. There is still so much of this child that is an unknown. We don't know who she'll be, or where her life will take her - only that she'll be someone, more than she is now, and somewhere different to where she is. That's the only given in life: change.
I am so excited to see how it all turns out.
But this isn't a post about Ellie. Not entirely, anyway. She's just helping me to illustrate my point, which is this: You don't have nothing. You don't even have nothing of value. If you can't, looking around at your life, see things of value, don't for a moment believe that that means they're not there. Maybe they haven't blossomed enough to show their potential yet - but things of potential are of ultimate value. That sounds complicated. Think on that for a moment.
Because here's the thing; the point my girl has graciously assisted me in making:
Think on that.