Monday, May 23, 2011

Do you get used to this?

Today marked the first time I have had to farewell a friend here. And it won't be the last.

It was hard.

Strangely, I met this gorgeous lady on Good Friday. I think that was about a month ago. How can that possibly be a relationship worth missing?

We connected. And any female knows what I mean. The kind of friend where conversation is easy, you are relaxed, and you go away from time together feeling uplifted. Your thinking is aligned. You approach parenting the same way. They make you laugh. You respect them.

And though not essential, it doesn't hurt that our husbands and kids got along. Or that I really like her husband, even getting to know him a little more whilst running 17km together with a few others!

But it is shared faith that is surely the most significant. The chance - no, the desire- to talk about spiritual truths, growth and struggles. With honesty. Without pretense.

Dear friends are a rare find. 

I said farewell to my precious friends in Brisbane. And then in Adelaide. Lots of tears. Still the smile when I read an email, with underlying sadness it's not face to face over a coffee. Also the frustration in not being able to support them properly when they need it - definitely the worst part.

I'm seeing one such dear friend in a month in Bali!! And then here in October (cannot wait - please book those flights!!). Maybe a couple more towards the end of the year...

And I know from experience, that any sense of separation will vanish. There will not be enough hours to talk. Much laughter will be had. Joy and thankfulness for such treasured friends will be overwhelming. And whilst together I will try not to think about the impending goodbye...

But today I ponder the farewells that will be a regular event during our time here. Normally it is us who leaves! It was odd to be the one staying.

Frankly, I felt a little cranky that we hadn't met a few months earlier. Yet glad we did at all. The disappointment can lessen when you know they are going on to fulfill their purpose for life on this earth. Because that is fairly important! Especially that they will be a great blessing to others.

So as you finish reading, organize a coffee with one of your kindred spirits. Because you can.

And Boston - embrace this lady - she's fabulous!


131: A new friend.
132: Saying goodbye to one friend, rather than multiple friends!
133: Great conversations.
134: Different seasons of life.
135: Old friends.
136: Emails that sound like she is talking to you.
137: Emails that make you cry because you miss her so much.
138: Promised visits.
139: People who will go elsewhere and bless others.
140: The care shown by a God who gives the gift of a month.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mother's Day Irony

Mothers Day was different this year. We spent it at an orphanage.

150 kids, from babies to 18 year olds. No mothers for them. Or fathers.

I have been involved previously wih raising money for orphans, to provide a home and a community for those without. But meeting the kids and seeing this place is very different to raising money.

We went with our new 'cell group' (small group from church). The kids put on a concert. It ran about half an hour late. I watched the kids from the orphanage in segregated groups (boys & girls) waiting patiently. Our own kids (maybe 14 kids) bobbed up and down, hit one another with paper, chattered animatedly, made paper planes with their programs.... Hhhmmmm... Entertainment is expected for our kids.

The children from the orphanage had organised the entire concert. They wrote their own play, painted their own back drops, sang in English & bahasa, and a few even played violin. They provided a written program and explanation of the play, which was in bahasa. And it was great.

Afterwards we provided lunch. In true 'ex-pat' form, this was not particularly sacrificial - it was catered!!!! But our kids were able to hand out meals to these kids, who loved it.

The men & boys then played basketball. Our family even took a couple of AFL footys, and decided the AFL should recruit a few! I chatted to some of the girls. They were polite and mature. One of the girl's story impacted me greatly. She was left by her mother with a 70 year old relative, while she was "off doing her own thing" - she was raped by the 70 year old. At the age of 12. And now is at the orphanage with her 3 year old son.

We have four toilets for six people in our apartment. There were two bathrooms for 150 children there. 

If my boys wake up, they wander in to our room and know that someone (normally my husband!!) will wake up and listen. The boys at the orphanage, 70 of them, sleep in one room. If a litttle one wakes, they wake an older boy who is responsible for re-settling the child. I can imagine the patience level of some of the teenagers being woken from slumber...

We buy abundant amounts of good quality meat, fruit & vegetables. Here caged dogs wait until they need to be slaughtered when there is insufficient meat.

We spur our boys on endlessly. No encouragement is provided to these children. "It might make them proud".

My boys go to an amazing school, and will have every opportuntuiy afforded them if they choose to take advantage of it. Some of these kids are learning English, and a few may just have some chance of breaking out of their poverty. Maybe. Mostly not.

Every day my husband & I are consciously and unconsciously modelling 'appropriate behaviour' to our boys. 'One of the older boys at the orphanage is very intelligent & academically inclined. They are teaching him how to use cutlery so he is not immediately recognized as being poor.

I love my children so much. There is no one with that unconditional love for those kids in that place.

I often feel that I am not the best Mum I can be. But I am there.

If you are a mum, give yourself a break. I'm sure you are doing the best job you can do.

When you look at your kids, know they are blessed beyond measure to have you available to them. And hug them well. Often.

And next time your child comes to you during the night, thank God that they can.


114: A cell group who chooses to serve.
115: An orphanage. Better than the streets.
116: A wonderful concert.
117: Watching my boys playing with these kids. Getting to know them.
118: Opportunities like these.
119: The chance for my boys to be forever changed.
120: Beds.
121: Toilets.
122: Meat.
123: Encouragement.
124: Education.
125: The privilege of being a Mum. 
127: Kids who have some hope.
128: Kids who don't have any.
130: Big smiles.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Husband for your daughter, anyone?

Mothers Day came a day early this year. (The reason is the subject of my next blog...)

The day started perfectly, with eggs florentine and my five, at our favourite brunch spot.

But it was the way it ended that made me most thankful.

I was invited into a room with pillows and blankets laid out. There was a glass of water, cheese & biscuits. ED proceeded to give me various 'gifts'. He brushed my hair (for a really long time). Next was an 'eye massage' - something he remembers me doing to him when he was a baby - and though a slightly different technique was used, I was touched that he held these memories! Then a 'face pat', which involved washing my face gently. Finally, a lengthy massage. Whilst all of this was going on, Tony was receiving similar treatment from CJ (not sure how he got invited in on what should have been all about me!).

But that wasn't all.
LM played piano as entertainment.
And AC produced numerous pictures as gifts during the entire process.

Then came the chocolate. My boys know me!! And also hot chocolate - quite literally - melted chocolate in a glass, with milo ADDED, finished with the teeniest bit of milk. Never have I tasted a drink quite so wonderful. Velvet chocolate! 

In 11 years, there has not been a Mothers Day as sweet. I was quite overwhelmed by their gorgeous hearts - their desire to love and serve us.

Which led, of course, to a chat about Jesus. 

The washing of the disciples feet being such an amazing act of service, love & humility. Imagine God doing that - washing really grubby, smelly feet. Choosing that. Because he wanted us to understand the importance of Humility. Of Service. Of love.

When did you last do something like that for someone?

My boys made me ask the same question of myself.

"In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant..." Philippians 2:5-7


101: My Mum.
102: Eggs Florentine.
103: Home-made cards.
104: Massage from ED.
105: Piano playing from LM.
106: Drawings from AC.
107: Hot chocolate from CJ.
108: ED remembering something comforting I did for him when he was such a little boy.
109: Servant hearted children.
110: My boys, keeping me accountable to all I believe.
111: Opportunity to chat about the ultimate Servant.
112: The example Jesus provided when he lived here.
113: The challenge we have to live like Him.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Refusing to give in to the mid-life crisis.

I'm pretty sure I'm flirting with a mid-life crisis. Maybe.

I didn't think I was the type.

I have enjoyed every age. I loved turning 30. It felt like that was the age of a real grown up. Someone mature. Married. Kids. No longer sleeping in. Or going out when all of the sensible people were going home. Eating well. Exercising. Nine years later and I continue to feel like an impostor - when will someone notice that I am not old enough (I still feel like I am 25) nor mature enough to parent four children, one of whom will be a teenager before I spin around!

Suddenly 40 is looming. The months can be counted on one hand. And that seems exciting too - another new stage of life. The four boys will all be in school and we are experiencing life in another country. Somehow my body is holding up so that I am fitter than when I was 30. We have opportunity to travel as a family. I'm learning a new language. And perhaps I'll finally gain some of that maturity I thought I would receive by the very process of turning 30. Hhhhmmm...

So what exactly am I troubled by?

It's not because my son said to me today, "Mum, if I peeled off all of my skin I would look as old as you."Though hilarious, not that. I'm okay with the wrinkles appearing, the grey hairs increasing. What, then?

The cliched questions...

What have I achieved? What am I going to achieve? Am I doing anything of significance? Am I doing any of it well? What do I want to do? Is there time? Are my priorities all wrong? My son is almost two thirds toward being an adult - is he going to like me when he is older?  What stories will be recited when he says "I remember when you did - or didn't do - blah blah blah". Oh and there will be stories! Will my four boys be different (in a good way!) because I stayed at home with them, or could I have worked every day for the same result?

I look around me and see others doing well. Particularly in their careers. They have continued to work, to progress. I haven't worked for five years. Okay, I have WORKED! I haven't been PAID for five years. My confidence has decreased. Is it irreparable? Surely I need to work to pay for hideously expensive education for our boys. But will I ever be able to attain a position that is equitable with my (previous) skills and education and, more importantly, my passions? And the bigger question, will it pay enough?

And what of my life right now? I find myself patting myself on the back because I don't have a nanny. People here are in awe of me - seriously! Many ex-pats here have a nanny for EACH child!!! And we even clear the table and rinse our dishes. Goodness, we could agree that I am doing it pretty tough? The fact that I don't clean, or wash, and that I feel pretty special when I go to the trouble of cooking a few times a week... 

After living such a hectic life for the past ten years, a gaping void has been exposed with so much of the busyness suddenly removed.

Where is the substance? It can't be found in the malls. And there are MALLS!!!! Designer handbag anyone? Or found in the massages, the pedicures (okay, you're right, maybe just a little there...).  Not on the running track or pool, though I love it. Nor in the conversations where people talk about how inept their staff are (I love mine!), how expensive wine & cheese are (I think that  was me), or what their latest travel plans are. Though fun, also mostly trivial.

It's not enough. Only one word gives everything meaning.


I don't want to waste this very brief life doing things that don't matter. That don't mean anything beyond this life. The old saying about no one saying on their death bed that they wished they had spent more time at the office? Whilst true I am sure, it's more than that. Much more.

"He must become greater, I must become less." John 3:30

His glory.

"Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

Good deeds. His deeds. 

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10

Good plans. His plans.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

Fruit. From him. For him.

"This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." John 15:8

You see, perhaps  a mid-life crisis should be renamed...'opportunity to reflect on direction & priorities' - you're right, not particularly catchy. I know that I am going to die sooner than 10 years ago. And so are you. Who knows how many days you or I will walk this earth? Every day is one chosen for you by God, and an opportunity to fulfill our purposes exists. 

But when you open your eyes each morning, is that what you are thinking?

Or is it "I need to make lunches." "Does he have library or swimming today?" "I really should have gone to bed earlier." "No exercise for me, I'm hitting that snooze button."

Because that is not the way we want to start the day. If it's anything other than, "What do you have for me today, God?" you are missing an opportunity to serve the creator of the universe. Every moment spent, is gone. Forever. Closer to death.  You have less time here than you did when you started reading this blog. May you use your life wisely. Make it count. 

Go ahead. Have your own mid-life crisis! And change some priorities. How much of what takes up your time is ultimately meaningless? 

This life will be gone. Soon. And you will give account for your choices. I once heard that the weight of a coffin is in the regrets. Don't make yours heavy.

93: Celebrating a living God.
94: Good deeds, prepared for me in advance to do.
95: Good plans.
96: Purpose.
97: Forgiveness for choosing badly. Often.
98: A God who speaks. Giving direction.
99: Knees that can still run.
100: One great man, and four boy blessings, providing purpose enough.