Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Not your average life

My five year old was setting the table tonight. He hesitated, fork in hand, thinking, before asking, "Mum, is Dad in a different country?" I replied, "No, he's in Indonesia. But he's not in Jakarta." A shrug of the shoulders, and a toss of the fork back into the drawer, as he sauntered off to do what he had been asked.

All part of a standard day.

And then at dinner, some questions about what my man was actually doing. My very matter of fact eldest answers with some authority, "Two hundred people died when the boat sank. He's gone to try and work out who the bodies are."

Because that is a normal task.

He did add, "But that would be pretty disgusting, when the bodies have been in the water for a week."

Fabulous. He's eleven years old. How does he know that would be disgusting?

Dinner continues, and we start to talk about the books they are reading.

But my mind remains in our conversation. Pondering what a strange life this really is. That my boys are annoyed that their Dad is away, not with them during their holidays. That really, at their age, it is all about them. 

Their thoughts do not immediately go out to the families of the bodies yet to be identified. To the people in far off lands, still hoping their loved ones are going to arrive in Australia, to receive opportunities they could only imagine. And then there is the attached politics which I won't begin with here...

I was encouraged when, during prayers, one of my boys prayed for the victims' families.

Though mostly, I was struck with wonder. What would it be like to have a Dad who was an accountant, a lawyer, or a teacher? One who stayed in the town he was born in, played some golf, and made it to the school interviews and concerts? Not to suggest many of those Dad's are not working some crazy hours. And my man is travelling less now than he was when we were in Australia.

But the conversation tonight unsettled me a little. Made me realise our boys have been exposed to some fairly unusual things in their short lives. 

It is our life though. And we can only walk through it together, talking, talking some more. Hoping that as a result of all of this, they will be men who will have an awareness of the world that may not be shared by some of their peers. A compassion for people that many don't gain. And of course an appreciation for what needs to be done when tragedy strikes.

I can't wait to see who they become.

Giving thanks:
  • A flexible five year old.
  • Opportunities to assist.
  • My boys understanding more about the world.
  • A replacement phone.
  • The story of a family serving in Nepal, risking all with their boys.
  • A wonderful Christmas day in Jakarta.
  • Relaxed friendships.
  • Pondering our year as we approach a new one.
  • Uncle Harvey's life. Lost suddenly from this temporary world on 23 December.
  • Confidence that Harvey is home.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Not everyone is wrapping presents

I imagine Massoud Hossaini, who took the photo, may be honoured with a Pulitzer Prize for this image. It appeared in the New York Times this month, following coordinated bombings in Afghanistan. You can read the story here

What to say? I think this photo exemplifies the value of photo-journalism. Where words are utterly insufficient to describe the emotions invoked by such an image. The gut-wrenching response my fingers cannot find on keys. The excruciating pain of a girl who looks to be the age of one of my boys.

These people, these families, were marking the death of a man, a Shiite Islam martyr.

I, with my family, am about to mark the birth of a baby, who came to save the world.

I can understand so many looking upon this picture and denying the existence of a loving God. Absolutely understand. But I know He is real. That He does love. More than we can comprehend. That he is grieved too, for we are His people.

This is not how it is supposed to be. Tragedy. Pain. Grief. Suffering. Christmas was the redemption plan. The solution to the mess we have caused. 
Trumpets sound, and angels sing, listen to what they say.
That man will live forever more, because of Christmas day.
('Mary's Boy Child', Jester Hairston) 
We must remember that not everyone is wrapping gifts, baking star shaped biscuits, and preparing table settings for family and friends.

As I gaze at our Christmas tree, lights shining bright, my heart is heavy for all of the darkness in this world. For this girl in green, amongst the red. I can only pray that all those suffering now will find hope for eternity. In the simplicity of a babe born in a manger. That the peace which evades them on earth, will be found for eternity.

For this is what is to come, when Jesus returns:
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4 
Do you have that hope?

 Giving thanks:
  • Photojournalists, in horrifying situations. Telling the world.
  • A star over Bethlehem. Telling the world.
  • Candle lit every night, reminding us of our need for light in the darkness.
  • A stolen phone - opportunity to show my boys we can "give thanks in all circumstances".
  • Praying for those who 'hurt' us.
  • Reading my son's gratitude list.
  • An invitation for Christmas lunch.
  • Counting down sleeps.
  • My man, home.
  • A surprising parcel of Haigh's chocolates - with the aroma and taste of home.

Friday, December 16, 2011

5 Minute Friday: Connected

                "Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking."
Joining for the first time today - here I go!


Experiences connect us. 

Time driving around in police cars. Seeing the very worst of people. But gaining an understanding of what their lives look like. How little choice they often have. Gaining compassion in abundance. 

Going through life with friends. Being challenged. And changed. Together. Bonded close.

Living in a country where poverty abounds. Food doesn't. Where I saw yesterday a man who actually looked like he was dead. Seriously. I don't know how he was still living. I'm connected to that man because I can't erase his image.

Connection happens because these experiences, these people have changed me. 

God uses them so I see people as He sees them. He chooses to connect them to me, because of the way he is already linked to them. 

More connections. Creation. Sin. Death. Love. Cross. Life.

A babe who came to show us the way. Connected us forever with his Father. 

For eternity.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oh so homesick today

I'm sitting here feeling homesick.

Tomorrow night is my Dad's 70th birthday party. I won't be there. I want to be there. 

And as I mope...

My man is in Australia for work. I miss him. And am envious that he is able to drink water from the tap, and eat fruit from the supermarket without scrubbing it clean with detergent. He could even eat a cherry ripe, or go for a run in fresh air.

The boys finish school tomorrow. They are at an international school, and it seems nearly everyone is heading home. Parents and kids are excited about being with family, seeing friends, being around the familiar. My man cannot get holidays. People assume then that family are coming here. But they are not.

Two dear friends have been, or are now on wonderful family holidays. Perhaps we might have gone with them. Or had our own time at the beach. Relaxed. No dengue fever risk. No tummy bugs.

Another friend had a recent health scare in her gorgeous family. I wasn't there to listen, have a cuppa...cry with relief when it was okay. Yet another just bought a new house. I love her old house. One of my boys felt that it was his second home. We won't be back there again. I can't send a meal over as she packs.

And tonight I spent my evening listening to one of my boys 'bore' his friend with details about his mates in Australia. Telling story after story it seems, of his favourite people and times there. Homesick too.


I trust that I am where I am supposed to be. Right now. And that wherever we are in the world now, we are likely to be missing someone. Which really is a blessing. Because there are people whom we love so much. Miss so much. 

I'm not called to be comfortable. Or surrounded by family and friends.

"Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well." 1 Thessalonians 2:8

That is my job here. To show Jesus. To love well. To share my life. 

And so I shed some tears. Which is okay. I can be sad, and also rejoice. Being thankful for the gift of my earthly father, and also my heavenly one.  Especially grateful for purposes that reach beyond human expectations and desires.

Happy Birthday to my wonderful Dad. Love you. Miss you. x

Monday, December 12, 2011

When will I learn?

Yesterday one of my boys was sad because he had been in trouble. Feeling sorry for himself, he opted out of a treat his brothers were enjoying. One of the remaining three bounded up to me, joyfully asking if he could have his brother's share.


Where is the concern for your brother, I asked? The compassion? The love? How can you think about yourself when someone else is feeling sad?

I realised I do the same thing. I'm a slow learner. Apparently.

Yesterday we spent considerable time shopping for and delivering nine boxes for Ethan's 'White Box Foundation'. You can read about how his foundation started here: http://sixgoodfigs.blogspot.com/2011/09/impacting-his-world.html

The boxes were delivered to people with hardly a possession. A number of the recipients were found sifting through rubbish in the hope to find some food. They are unlikely to have much food tomorrow. Or the next day. 

And I spent my afternoon wondering if I should buy that pair of shoes I saw. The green pair. The perfect green pair.

How is that any different to my son? How can I be so quick to pick up on their character flaws? And very slow regarding mine.

Ever so grateful for a patient God.

What about you? What are your children teaching you?

 Giving thanks:
  • Boys who give.
  • Boys who love.
  • Boys who fail.
  • Boys who teach.
  • Boys who forgive.
  • People who give to the 'White Box Foundation', so that my boys can give to others.
  • Home made Christmas decorations, holding the memory of their little hands.
  • Carols, played hesitatingly on the piano.
  • Carols by a gorgeous Indonesian choir.
  • 'Christmas market' gifts from the boys, one which caused tears to stream - from laughter, not joy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

What's under your tree?

How is your Christmas shopping going?

It's only the 5th of December, but some have already received their gifts. In full.

Yesterday we went to an orphanage. Thanks to the organization of many in our small group, and the generosity of the entire church community, we gave the 140 children their Christmas box.

In contrast, my four boys receive gifts from grandparents, great grandparents, aunts & uncles, brothers... The children at the orphanage have no such lineage.

They wait. They hope. That perhaps the Christmas story meant something to someone. That when God gave his son, his love in the form of a baby, that it might speak to us in a way that drives us to give to others. And orphans are at the 'top' of God's list. That is clear:

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..." James 2:1a

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." Psalm 68:5

These boxes contained toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, nail clippers, socks, a t-shirt...hopefully a little bangle or a toy car. The entire box was filled for about $15.

And they were thrilled.


Which made me examine my list. Because we are in Jakarta, all family members have put money in our bank account, and I am (happily) spending hours traveling to various places to tick off my (long) list for everyone. 

I'm spending more than $15.

God gave at Enormous Cost. Huge Sacrifice. With Overwhelming Love. A little baby. His Son. Who came to live, die and be raised to life so that we would have the rest of eternity to look forward to as His children! No one, who chooses him, will be fatherless.

My efforts at giving "in the Christmas spirit" are pathetic. Seriously. What about yours? Because that $15 box is a lot closer to what God had in mind. And giving money to charity, buying cards from charity, whilst certainly good, are not particularly sacrificial. Don't you think?

"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." Hebrews 13:16

Maybe giving to orphans, literally, is not an available option where you live. But I have no doubt there is someone in your community - at a centre, a hospital, a nearby single mum, a widow, the homeless - there is someone you could be reaching out to. In a way that moves beyond something that makes us feel good. To something that might cost time, money, effort. Perhaps something you don't really want to do - there's that sacrifice again - and really give.

Who can you think of? 

Re-order your list.

Put them at the top.

I'd love to hear about what you do.

Giving thanks:
  • 140 filled boxes.
  • 140 grateful children. 
  • A God who loves. And tells us to love. Even showing us how.
  • Gorgeous singing, and amazing music.
  • Mei Tan - an amazing lady, who gives to these children nearly every day. Sacrificially.
  • Opportunities for my boys to see so many with so little.
  • The gift of a baby. 
  • Christmas tree up. Joy in a room.
  • Aqua birds. From a beautiful friend in Australia. Telling us we are remembered and loved.
  • My little barista. Oh the gift of having a nine year old in the family producing coffees!

Monday, November 21, 2011

No more sin... as long as...

Recently one of my boys said:

"I don't want to sin anymore for the rest of my life! I hope my brothers do the same so I don't have to retaliate."

Oh how I laughed!

The first sentence was said with such sincerity, such decisiveness. The second, was kind of mumbled, and a little resigned.

But what honesty from a seven year old. What insight. He knew that despite good intentions, ultimately when we are in relationship with others, we are unlikely to do things well all of the time. Even when we mean to. Want to. 

Of course the bible is filled with people who exemplify this. Peter is my favourite. If we look for an example of 'rash' or 'inconsistent', he's our man. I love that when we read the bible we see all of the traits we dislike in ourselves, as well as the ones we desire. We see incredible failure in people's lives, and then the way God continues to be patient with them, forgive them, love them. And often, though not always, people respond in a way that gives us hope that we, too, might move closer to the potential God lays in us.

Back to Peter. He denied Jesus. Then wept bitterly. Then ran to the tomb to find it empty. Was asked by Jesus, in public, to care for his people. Became an incredible leader of the early church. Was given a vision, showing him that the good news about Jesus was for all people, not just Jews. But because he feared how he would be seen by the Jews, he avoided socialising with non-Jews and caused others to do the same! He yielded to the pressure to conform. But he did get his act together. Led in an incredible way. Oh, and wrote some of the bible.

What my boy said? I can echo that. I don't want to sin anymore for the rest of my life either. But each day, when I relate to people, even in my earliest interactions with my boys, I'm going to fail. In my thoughts, in my actions. I could give you a great example from this morning when one of my gorgeous sons attempted to make me a surprise coffee, but I don't have time, because I need to clean up the coffee granules that decorate my entire kitchen...

All going well though, tomorrow should be better than today. And in a week, I should have progressed further again. Never perfect, but trusting someone who is.

I believe what Peter wrote, when he said, "His divine power [His Holy Spirit] has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of of him [Jesus] who called us..." (2 Peter 1:3a) (emphasis mine).

Here's to a (more) godly life today. For us all. Less yielding to pressure from others to conform. And to rising above the impact of others on us. So that instead, we can be an encouragement to them, love them, regardless of how they behave.

Wonder how much retaliation will be 'necessary' amongst my boys today...

Giving thanks:
  • Insight from seven year olds.
  • Honesty about failure.
  • Peter - the maturity he showed as he dealt with his failure.
  • Surprise coffee granules all over the kitchen.
  • Well-intentioned nine year old boy.
  • A sweet gift from a special friend, belated for my birthday.
  • Knowing that Tony is on a plane, coming home.
  • Choosing coffee and conversations about God, over other, less important things.
  • Watching my five year old skip.
  • Rows of kisses with my youngest, and giggling when we get mixed up.
  • Orphans, singing gorgeous praises.
  • Waterslides, all day, with my boys.
  • Acceptance into a 'Master in Counselling'.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Where is home?

How do you define home?

I don't think I know anymore.

I was born in the country, but raised predominantly in Melbourne. All of my schooling and growing up was done there. In number at least.

Shortly after my 21st birthday, I moved rather thoughtlessly to Brisbane. To join the police. Why not? The real growing up was done there. The kind that comes when you open your eyes and see the world. Properly. See the hurt in so many lives. The place where my identity was wrapped up largely in being a police officer.

It was in Brisbane where I met Jesus. Laid eyes on the man I will love until my final breath. Bore four gifts in the form of boys. And developed friendships through faith, love, prayer, experiences. Not to mention the dirty nappies, piles of laundry and revolving door of baby showers and kids' birthday parties. 

Another move. This time to Adelaide. For my man's work. This time it was my boys doing the growing up. Friendships for me in this city were formed whilst freezing cold on the side of a footy ground, and in the school yard. Amongst autumn leaves, and in heat waves. Relaxing in back yards with a glass of wine, good conversation and a ratio of children to adults that never felt entirely comfortable.

Next stop - Jakarta. Still for Tony's work. But this time a sure sign of God's plan, vague as it was to me. I had prayed that we would be sent, and that our family would grow spiritually as a result of our experiences. I feared the effects of uprooting my boys, and my 'control freak' nature wanted desperately to know which city we would return to. The Lord, through the bible, confirmed my hopes and reassured my fears.

So we went. And here we sit. Ten months have passed since our arrival. A sense of home is creeping in, ever so slowly. Our six had only each other upon arrival, in a place with a vastly different culture, language and lifestyle. Friendships are growing at Embassy functions this time, through bible study groups, and  in extraordinary heat on soccer sidelines.

People ask where we are from. Australia is the easy answer. Otherwise I really don't know. We don't know how long we will be here, nor do we have any idea where we will 'return' to. It may be another city. A new start. Again.

The other common question - where do we want to live? Harder again. You see one city is a place I adore for the people in it, and the comfort I feel there. Another is home for my boys and happened to produce some gorgeous friends. The final option would afford opportunity to be near my parents as they age, and to be close to my sister for the first time in our adult life.

But being within my comfort zone, making things easier, being around people I love...none of these should dictate our destination. I'm not called to be comfortable, but to serve. Not to what is easy, but rather the road that is right. Not an identity in what I do, but rather in Who I follow. And it's already before me. My purposes, the places, chosen. Though it appears awfully hazy now to me, it's not to the One who has clear view of my path.

So in the moments when anxiety creeps up on me. Almost takes hold of me. As I look to uncertain times ahead. I remember that I'm looking in the wrong direction.

I need to look up.

Giving thanks:
  • Knowing loneliness.
  • Independance.
  • Our six bonding together.
  • Friends in so many cities. Now many countries.
  • Strong memories.
  • Homesickness. Because that indicates all there is to be thankful for.
  • Finding people here I want to get to know. Phew.
  • Paths I've been on. And the ones I can't quite see.
  • Dispelling anxiety, because He knows and loves me.
  • Adventures - the anticipation each time of what lies ahead.
  • Coffee beans growing. Oh, how I am glad they are replenishing what I drink.
  • Gorgeous girls in rice paddies.
  • A Masquerade Ball. Part of this experience. And lots of fun.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Anticipation & Intimacy

With a contented sigh I sit.

I have just been given a belated 40th gift. The most wonderful gift. In the form of a dear friend. She travelled from Australia to Jakarta, leaving behind her husband and three tribe members. For ten days. Ten days!

And it was perfect.

It began in an airport. With me staring at the glass doors. Willing them to produce her. Each time they opened, the anticipation. My stomach flip flopping around. Hardly able to contain myself. Wondering how to suppress excited squealing when I saw her.

I started to think about weddings. About the suspense before the bride entered. I have only been on the other side of those doors. What did my man feel in those minutes before that dress of white appeared and was carried with joy down the aisle?

Which lead me to consider our meeting with Jesus. We are the collective 'bride'. Does He feel great expectation moments before we finally meet face to face? Is there a sense of mingled excitement, joy, relief?

These ponderings helped me to pass the time at the airport.

Ten Days of Bliss followed.

Relaxing. Exhausting. Active. Quiet. Luxurious. Witnessing poverty. Laughter. Lots of it. Serious conversations. Precious hours of just us. Time with the boys. Creating more shared memories.

Someone knowing you so well means little needs to be said, but much can be. Nothing is held back. Vulnerability isn't present, because there is nothing to be protected from. Just acceptance. Honesty. Love.

Again, Jesus. Our relationship with Him now should exceed any intimacy we have on this earth. Imagine what it will be when we are able to see him. Be physically present with him. It far exceeds my limited imagination.

But I do expect it to be awesome.

If these ten days were so incredible, can I conceive of a perfect eternity? Can you? Do you share the hope, anticipation, confidence?

I'll leave you to ponder as you await those doors opening.

Giving thanks:
  • Faithful & generous friendship.
  • A weekend away together. Bliss.
  • Walking through rice fields and 'kampungs'.
  • Laughter. So much laughter.
  • Being known. And loved.
  • Giving her respite from the hard work of being a Mum.
  • Meeting our sponsor child for the first time, together.
  • Reading bibles alongside one another.
  • Hearts broken by poverty. The accountability that comes with that.
  • The farewell dance party the boys organised.
  • Supportive husbands who gave us so much time.
  • The love and interest shown in my boys.
  • Hours in the car. Nothing to do but talk and nap.
  • Endless coffees, lunches, drinks, shopping...because we could.