Monday, January 30, 2012

Crossing the 'normal' line

We have recently reached a year in Jakarta. Amazing.

Apparently when you move to another culture, there is a point when you step over the 'normal line'. When things that seemed crazy/different/bizarre/interesting upon arrival and in the ensuing months, no longer capture your attention. You probably won't be able to define the moment when it happens. But you're no longer surprised.

So I thought I would list a few things that seem so 'everyday', but that I know absolutely were not when we first arrived. You will have to forgive the few snaps I took today from the car, during a crazy tropical storm. Because that (the storm) is normal in Jakarta (hopefully not the terrible photos!).

The traffic. How can I not start with the traffic? A city containing the equivalent of Australia's population. And without the infrastructure to deal with it. Every day, whole families travel together on a single motorbike. Teeny babies being held, while their Mum's send SMS messages from the rear of a bike. Food carts being lugged by weary men and 'bajajs' worming their way through four undefined lanes of traffic. Police sirens punctuating the sound of horns, as escorts carrying ambassadors and government officials frequently attempt to wade through traffic. The familiar sight of red tail lights in front of you, all waiting to move. A drive that normally takes 20 minutes, taking an hour - for no particular reason. And if it starts to rain, just double your travel time. The 'language' of drivers - flashing lights mean "Oh, don't go! I'm coming through!" and a beep of the horn equates to "Excuse me, careful, I'm right here, and if you don't mind I may pass you now". Because everyone in Indonesia is polite. Very polite.

And as you drive, or mostly sit in the stationary car whilst waiting to progress, what do you see? Monkeys next to your car, occasionally wearing very freaky doll masks, collecting money for their owners. People sleeping on the footpath. Many, many, many beggars. 'Jockeys' waiting to be picked up by a complete stranger, so that they can be paid about $1.50 to travel to an unknown location with the occupants who need an extra person to go in the transit lane. Little ones playing on the edge of these crazy roads, as their parents make a living selling food there. The 'warungs' where people buy meals and congregate, engaged in lively chatter. People squatting, always squatting (how do their knees cope?). People crossing the roads, waving their 'magic hand' which is code for "Please don't hit me". Burning rubbish heaps. Smiling people.

Off the roads? Don't be in a rush at the shops, because no one who works there is! It may take three or four salespersons to complete the sale, even if you are buying a pencil. And you may need to go to at least two counters, maybe three to buy that pencil. Seriously. Being stared at is expected, and not noticeable anymore. I rarely open a door, because someone always beats me to it. I'm never on my own. Whether in my house with my 'helper', my car with our driver, or walking out of our home, someone is always smiling and greeting me. Our church has armed guards. And each time we enter our apartments or a shopping centre, mirrors are run around the bottom of the car as they check for bombs. Not very thoroughly, but they check. Speaking to my boys about why they should have their hands checked for explosives doesn't seem as strange. I no longer hear the 'Call to Prayer' five times a day. It certainly does still happen, quite loudly at times, but I only notice occasionally. Then there is That Smell...actually I'm not used to that yet.

I was asked recently what I like about living in Jakarta, by someone who doesn't. I answered that it is so crazy, so busy, so different, that it is a fascinating place. You could never be bored here or expect any day to be like the last one. And the people. The gorgeous people. The Indonesians I have met are kind, polite, generous and joyful. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be in their country.

Giving thanks:
  • Watching the Australian Open with my boys.
  • Tropical storms.
  • Meaningful conversation over lunch with a special friend.
  • Changes for the 'White Box Foundation' (more on that another time).
  • Chances to do Jesus' work.
  • Booking our mid-year holiday. Cannot wait.
  • Legs that seem to be growing longer - becoming a big boy.
  • Seeing my youngest in a costume - it's been a long while.
  • Ami, our new pembantu. Her gorgeous smile and quiet nature.
  • Ibu Sri being so understanding about our change in staff.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Impending seasons

In my last couple of posts I have written about the seasons in life, looking at the past two years. It was prompted from reading, and loving,  'My Seventh Monsoon' by Naomi Reed.

2010 was a season of preparation for our family. As I gaze back there was clutching, perseverance and farewells.

2011 was a season of adjustment. It swept in loneliness. Quiet. And gratitude.

2012 has arrived. We find ourselves for the first time in a couple of years no longer fixated on the preparing and the arriving. We are just doing life. Which is a huge change. Because that is something unique when you move to an entirely different culture. You are largely consumed by adjusting to it. Which in a bizarre way provides its own comfort. A certain rhythm.

Along with life becoming more normalised, comes that desire to know what is ahead. The idea of controlling all that the future will usher in. I love control. Have I mentioned that before?

So we talk. About our travel plans this year. Which seem pretty exciting actually. About our study plans, which make me break out into a sweat because it also means moving in an entirely new direction. One I'm unsure of. Then the study leads to a new career plan. Which I lack confidence in. And finally, inevitably, the conversation turns to our eventual return to Australia. But to which city? Confusions reigns on that question.

None of the 'answers'  to the agenda items are in clear focus. Murky. There's a word to describe our attempts at wading through. Seemingly further into the depths of the unknown. Honestly, just wanting those tropical storms that happen every day outside my window, to wash away the uncertainty. 

What will the seasons of 2012 be? Ah, therein lies the beauty. I'll tell you next year.
And because he's reigning, I don't need to know how the season will turn out. I can live within the season right now and I can enjoy it. I can resist the temptation to start peering around the corner to get a glimpse of the next season. Instead, I can look for the truths that he wants to show me, right now, in this season, in the middle of the rain. Naomi Reed

Are you able to predict any seasons in your life for 2012?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Seasons of change

In my last blog I told you I was motivated to reflect on the recent seasons in my life, after reading 'My Seventh Monsoon' by Naomi Reed . I looked at 2010 in my last post, and will ponder 2012 in the next.

But for now, reflecting on 2011. A year in which I can look back now, and see what I yearned to know in advance. I was thinking that conceivably it was my biggest year of change. But then I would have to discount getting married, becoming a parent, carrying a gun for the first time... Hhhmm, perhaps it was just a very different change to make. I will leave the bigger changes that came with moving to Jakarta for another post. My list is perhaps of the less obvious seasons, but they were significant...


Not for the first time. The inevitable when you move. More so this time as we changed cultures too. Tiring quickly of giving our life history to every person who asked, and longing to have a meaningful conversation with someone. Actually, not just someone. Preferably a person who can sit with coffee in hand, mutually expressing every thought whether it was rational or not. History brings that, but we don't have time for history here. So in the midst of the loneliness came reminders that He is sufficient, that my husband is my best friend, and that I enjoy my boys (nearly) all of the time. Plenty of memories being built within the walls. Effort required outside of them. In time, gorgeous people were revealed amongst the 18 million people living in this crazy city, and oh how I value those beautiful friends.
The backdrop changes and we find ourselves in a season of adjustment. Often, the adjustments are large and they take our time and energy. Sometimes it feels like its taking all of our energy and we don't have anything left over. Maybe the thing to remember is that we do eventually get there. Naomi Reed.

Surely a huge milestone in any mother's life. My 'yang terkecil', or little one, started school. Backpack down to his thighs, height extended with pride, stepping on to the bus (yes, the bus!) with his three big brothers. I sigh, reflect on five years and realise it is not really about the five years. It's actually the ten and a half years of motherhood, around nine years of nappies, four years of breastfeeding, and 35 months of pregnancy (I could have produced two and bit elephant calves in that time). He doesn't need me to stay in the classroom or tell him what to do; he's been watching the routines since he was a mere babe. We're both ready. I step outside the classroom, no sling, pram or stroller in sight. Feeling a certain sense of accomplishment. And ready to have a very quiet cup of coffee as I reflect on my time surrounded by little people, and to anticipate a very different season ahead.


Many will read the title and not need to read further. There was a lack of joy that had become habitual. It needed to change. In a rather convoluted way I found myself reading 'One thousand gifts' by Ann Voskamp, and it altered my perspective. I discovered abundant blessings that I had been missing in the monotony. They were always there, but I had become entrenched in serving my groom and four boys, to the point where I was too busy looking at the kitchen bench, or homework pages, or soccer fields, and I stopped looking up. And it's not about rainbows and sunsets. It's giving thanks for friends missed whilst overcome with loneliness. Seeing an opportunity to love when illness abounds. And grappling with the truth of God's love whilst surrounded by millions in poverty. Did I mention that the habit of gratitude also lead me to write this blog? Which in itself has been a gift.
Adding to our ordinary pictures can be an enriching process. It can be part of a very enriching season, particularly if we choose to see it that way. We begin to see beyond what we thought was there. Naomi Reed
What about you? What were your seasons this past year?

Giving thanks:
  • Scrabble with my boys whilst lying on the bed.
  • A chest infection for one of mine, which meant a week home from school and more time to talk.
  • Sun on my bare shoulders - such a rarity in Jakarta that it was precious!
  • Boys growing in character, by taking responsibility for their mistakes.
  • A beautiful email from a dear friend - oh how I miss her!
  • Surprising bananas, with names and personalities.
  • The White Box Foundation moving into ziplock bags - tell you more later.
  • Our six, working as a team to do good.
  • News of a much awaited babe for my groom's cousin - joy!
  • A crazy but fun evening with eleven children and too few adults.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Seasons past

I've just read the most fabulous book. 'My Seventh Monsoon' by Naomi Reed. Do read it.

It's all about seasons in life. Naming them. Recognising lessons learnt. 

These past two years have been so different to the years before. And I can gaze through the fog enough to see that the next will be vastly different again. So I thought I would reflect on each of these three years in different posts.

2010 was a season of preparation for our family. Of anticipation, as we waited to leave Australia to live in Indonesia. I feel as though Naomi Reed was with me at the time, when she wrote:
Jumping ahead of yourself to the next season, well before you actually get there, usually to the detriment of the 'now'? mind goes running ahead...the problem is...that the body that has been left behind fails to use all the wonderful opportunities that still surround it. 
 My seasons included:


I held tight to the moments that would not exist in our new life. The walks to our favourite cafe, meandering through quiet streets. The ability to banish my boys to the backyard when they became noisy. Afternoons spent investing in lives, whilst boys ran wildly with their friends. Running in the dark with my gorgeous friend, no holes to fall into. The boys playing footy with their mates. The trips to wineries on a crisp Autumn afternoon. The bush walks with kangaroos bounding by (seriously). Reaching beaches with only our family's footprints on the sand, clear blue expanding beyond. Peeking beyond the now, I imagined the waters touching Indonesian shores.


Lots of it. Emotional. Physical. Spiritual. The nostalgia that came with purging our house of nearly all toys - needing only balls, lego, books and games for the next season. Not able to place an inventory value on favourite dog-eared story books and soft toys from cots gone by. Deciding how to prioritise my time to minimise regrets. Needing to 'keep calm and carry on' in terms of the administration of moving six people to a different country, whilst maximising the relationships whilst we were still present. Staring at the computer all day, willing myself to finish, knowing that until I was on that plane, I wasn't. Relying on the scripture I had been given before Tony was interviewed, knowing I did trust it to be true: 
Jeremiah 24:4 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 5 “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians.6 My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. 7 I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

It crept up quickly, and seemed so very surreal. I'm not sure when the farewells started in my mind, but that I tried to delay them to protect my heart. The hardest part definitely the lack of control - unsure of whether we would ever return to this ordinary house, with the extraordinary people, in a much loved city-become-home. Last BBQ's with friends. Coffees at the local cafe. Chats with 'the girls'. Gatherings with lovely neighbours. Kicking the footy and riding bikes on the street outside. It wasn't just about the people. There would be no more walking to school... speaking english with everyone... drinking tap water... cold weather... driving a car. Seeing my boys farewelling their gorgeous mates was tough. Hugs with precious friends, tears streaming, wishing for one more lazy afternoon in the sun. But after eighteen months of emotional preparation, it was done. Time to move forward and see what lay beyond.

Giving thanks (in 2012!):
  • A table surrounded by friends and even more noise than usual.
  • Wondering how a dragon was made with one of my boys.
  • Seeing one son massage his brother, whilst both simultaneously reading books.
  • Words taking shape for my youngest, as we snuggle together.
  • Date loaf on a rainy afternoon, taking me back to my childhood.
  • A surprise text from a friend.
  • A spontaneous afternoon of bowling and fondue.
  • Thinking differently.
  • Being reminded I am not a mere human. One for another blog.
  • Planning travel for 2012 - excited about discovering more of this world with my boys.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Taken By Surprise

I run. Whenever I can. But no longer do I run along the gorgeous streets of Adelaide. Oh how I miss those... Instead I am running around in circles in Indonesia. Literally.

It's a little dull. In fact, incredibly monotonous. As I bound around a track where I live, I see the same guards, people, plants, buildings...every run. The most exciting part is passing the lobby every lap, because I get to dodge taxis, buses, cars, guards and dozens of school children. But it's always the same.    

So I was astounded this week when something looked different. Right next to the grey path. I could see a haze of bright pink on the grass. It was stunning. And surprising.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Just one word

I'm new to naming a year. But I like the idea. 

One word that can direct you. Guide you. Demonstrate your intentions. A murmur that can effect your choices during the year.

There are so many words I pondered...nourish, joy, gratitude, generosity... But I kept coming back to the same one.


I don't hear everything my boys are saying to me. I don't engage them like I should because I'm distracted by what time I need to leave for soccer, who has library tomorrow and whether boy 1, 2, 3, or 4 finished A, B, C, or D. I have become an expert at providing the right responses so that I give the appearance of listening. I'm really, really good at it.

I want to hear these future men. Really get alongside their little minds and understand them. Because it's fascinating, and right, but especially because it is a privilege. And one that will quickly pass. I'm not sure how many months or years my 11 year old will still want to tell me everything, as he does now. But I do know if I keep going without altering my habits, I will completely miss it. 

And my wonderful groom. I could listen better to him too. Too frequently I respond in the same way. Not fully absorbed in his day, his thoughts, his life. More distraction. More lack lustre effort. Over time a lack of attention can weary any relationship. Continuing to build this wonderful marriage demands my deliberate investment.

Then there is the one that matters most. Listening to the creator of the universe. Because given He is choosing to communicate, why why why do we fail to converse? I love to read the bible. Love it. It is where I hear from Him. Often, loud and clear. But it is dangerous to hear and not to live it. For the whispers to pass, only to discard them. 
While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. Jeremiah 7:13
I want my ears to be so attentive that I don't miss anything. Because all of it is good. All is meant to change me into the person I was destined to be. If He is interested enough to speak to me about the words I speak and the choices I make, it would be mad to not just hear, but really listen. To the encouragements, the rebukes. And respond.
He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen, like one being taught. Isaiah 50:46
What about you? What will the name of your year be?

Giving thanks:
  • Trampoline fun during a tropical storm.
  • Laughing hard whilst holding my boys' hands, as they ice skate for the first time.
  • A heart on my coffee from one of my boys.
  • The privilege of a last night together with friends, before they returned to Australia.
  • Watching storms.
  • Tears from my little one, sad about farewelling friends.
  • Seeing an adult (not kids' ) movie with friends.
  • My eldest whistling 'Advance Australia Fair' as he plays tennis.
  • Sunshine! Not common in Jakarta.
  • Haighs chocolates from my thoughtful cousin - tastes like home!

Friday, January 6, 2012

5 Minute Friday: Roar

                "Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking."



Always equates to water.

I think oceans.  Waves beyond measure. To be conquered by those crazy enough to love a surf board or boat, and wait for the day which will provide fantastic fodder for 'they were this big' stories. And the ferry ride when indeed the ocean did roar, and our mind and bodies failed the test miserably.

Storms that sway trees until the roots are stranded above ground, looking out of place. Lightening and the resultant thunder that makes slippery boys run from trampolines, knowing that it maybe isn't ideal timing. The wind that drives the rain horizontal; no escape.

Rapids alongside us in Yosemite, accompanying indescribable beauty. Attracting leaf races from my boys, but yielding fatal power on the underside. Wildflowers adjacent, looking meek, juxtaposing the bellow of the whitewash.

Standing under waterfalls. Laughter gushing forth. Memories made. And walking alongside the 'mist' driving off another, rising to the top believing we had conquered something great. Peering over the edge attempting to fathom the force below. 

His power, so clear in all of this water. Power that reminds me to bow down to the creator, to the One who has all power on this earth. And also to let go of what I thought I was controlling. I'm miniscule. He is not.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolutions or not?

Ah, the New Year. Time for new plans, motivations, hopes, change. Good intentions. I was thinking about what my resolution was at the start of 2011. I can't remember. Can you? I have some vague recollection that I decided not to make one, but perhaps I did? 

Which of course makes me think that really it is all a little pointless. That, though well meaning, these resolutions often result in very little change. For the majority of people at least. How many people do you know who planned to get fit, lose weight, reduce debt, give up coke/smoking/chocolate...but with minimal impact on their lives twelve months later.

Not to discourage.

I have been pondering a couple of ideas as 2011 was drawing to a close. The first was the idea to make it my ambition to lead a quiet life (1 Thessalonians 4:11). The second is to be holy (Hebrews 12:14). All going well, I may tick both of those off by February.


Number one. How do I lead a quiet life? My four boys appear to make that immediately impossible. Really. My life is the antithesis of quiet. For many weeks I have been considering what a 'quiet life' could look like for me. I have written down my commitments, my plans and my hopes. Not forgetting my role as teacher/coach/Personal Assistant to a 5, 7, 9 and 11 year old. Commencing a Masters this year is not a small thing. And I would really like to play tennis. 

But more than those things I want to make the most of the last couple of years my eldest adores my company. I want to choose a coffee with a friend who needs to talk, over the list of things I want to achieve that day or the assignment that needs to be written. To do at least as much praying as I run. And to return to more regular 'date nights' with my husband who is also adding in a Masters to his busy life. Quietly taking hold of what is important. Over things that seem like they are.

Which means that I need to let go of other things. Which things? Why is it harder to let things go than it is to take more on? That is taking time to discover, but will be revealed in time.

Number two. Holiness. What needs to change practically? I could make a very long list, but it diverges into one word. Yield. This is no new year's resolution. It is my life's work. To submit to my creator, my saviour, the one who is loving and good. Not in 2012. But in each and every day. Broken down into moments. 

To seek Him first, His ways, His path. Holiness will follow. I read recently that:
God cares more about our response to His Spirit's leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. ('Crazy Love', Francis Chan)
So since it's the 2nd of January, let's assume that God is more concerned about our listening to Him, and then the resultant action we take today, than about what we do on the 3rd of January. Or whether we achieve our New Year's Resolutions in 2012. Because they are mostly our resolutions aren't' they? Not always leaving room for a God who created us, knows us intimately, has prepared good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), but perhaps hasn't revealed them to us in advance.

Surely you would rather be doing those things.  The really good things. The purpose for which you were intended.

Perhaps my New Year's resolution is not to make one. But to yield to the plans that have already been made. The path already forged. Knowing that is better. 

What about you?

Giving thanks:
  • Meaningful work; my man, doing tough work with grieving families.
  • Him home, in time for New Years.
  • Beautiful new friends, despite them leaving soon.
  • A girls' day out; new places discovered.
  • Six more days with a gorgeous girl before she goes.
  • Emails from cousins, who have become friends.
  • Spending time with Oswald Chambers.
  • Fireworks from our balcony, shared with our boys and friends.
  • Cubby joy on a rainy day.
  • Plans for 2012 holidays.