Saturday, 19 October 2013

Don't take the goat


I came hurtling around the laundry door about to launch into a fascinating story about who I had just bumped into down town when I realised Craig was on the phone.

“I just don’t think so”.

Silence

“Uh um, yes I understand”

Silence

Always the eternal sticky beak I was ease dropping, his tone was much more serious than usual, he was really concentrating and I could not figure out who he was talking to or what they were discussing.  After a long pause he says “Ok then, we will see how it goes, bring her out this afternoon”.

After he hangs up the phone my very practical and very kind husband turned to me and said “Fr Scott is bringing out the goat this afternoon.  She has destroyed their backyard and he isn’t allowed to keep her”.  Without taking a breath he continued “Council have already been around to say it is prohibited to keep a goat in town.  He has nowhere else to take her, we will just put a pen down in the paddock, and it will be fine.  Templeton and the goat might even become friends.”

I gently reminded him “I thought you told me, when we saw the very cute baby goat at the Bazaar, in no uncertain terms Don’t Take The Goat, it will destroy everything”.

“Yeah I know” he said, turning to head outside, he mumbled on his way past “It will be fine, I will make sure she can’t get out of her pen”.  The gauze door closed and he was off  to plan what to do with the goat.  I know he didn’t really want the goat either, but when it comes to animals he is a softy, he befriends them, talks to them and they are extremely loyal to him in return.

After lunch we headed to the paddock to goat proof the pen we had been using for our poddy calf.  It was hot, hard work but we were proud of it, it looked like a fort, completely impenetrable.  Not long after we had finished a young, enthusiastic, kind of ugly goat arrived.  She was not a cute baby goat anymore, with big floppy ears but rather she had long skinny legs, a fat tummy, crazy eyes on either side of her head and a kind of speckled black, grey shaggy coat and two stumpy little horns starting to grow out of her head.

Not to be deterred we introduced her to the pen and Templeton, the poddy calf, who she was suppose to become friends with.  After trying to head butt the calf repeatedly with her tiny little horns she went exploring, and right there in front of us she jumped up and over the pen we had worked so hard to build!  Here began a long and repetitive pattern of Goatie escaping from the pen, Craig adding more wire and mesh to try and keep her in and everybody shouting ‘That bloody goat’.

Every time she escaped she would head straight up to the house.  She had spent the first few months of her life in a residential backyard, with two other dogs, four children and some chickens, she was absolutely domesticated  and thought she belonged up at the ‘main house’ and was an integral member of the family.  We had a very different idea, we wanted to fatten her up quickly and eat her as soon as possible.

We did try to be loving custodians of the goat, we would go down early in the morning and cut new tree limbs for her to munch on, we would let her out so she could run around the paddock and stretch her legs.  Each time she would do a couple of crazy tricks, running really fast, then jumping up in the air ducking and weaving her head.  We thought it was hilarious, we would start to relax and enjoy the fun but next minute she would do a mad dash back towards the house and eat the new growth of all newly planted jacarandas, rip the newly laid turf out at the roots, jump on the beautiful timber outdoor setting and cause mayhem and destruction.  We would then chase after her shouting “That bloody goat”.

After a week or two we would forget these incidents and we would let Goatie out again.  On one occasion we thought it would be brilliant to include Goatie in one of Sage’s eKindy web lessons.  We went and dragged big branches onto the deck, laid down some blue fabric for the creek, got big rocks, it looked beautiful, and then we added Goatie.  Well only about 30 seconds into the web lesson with the Brisbane based kindy teacher Goatie jumped onto the table and head butted the computer, scaring the life out of the teacher, Sage cried because Goatie was ruining everything and I tried, in vein, to regather and make the session work.  Eventually we gave up, I mumbled “That bloody goat” under my breath and dragged her back to the pen. Goatie thought the venture had been a great success, she couldn’t understand why everybody else wasn’t happy.

So finally, Craig had perfected the pen and Goatie was securely restrained then a friend who is a Vet popped in to visit, she suggested the goat probably had worms and would need to be wormed and have her pen relocated to a different part of the paddock.  Well this did lead to a number of expletives being expressed but we did it, we moved the 10 very heavy steel panels and all the wire and mesh down under a beautiful shady tree.  It took weeks to secure it because Goatie got out every time we turned our backs.  On New Year’s Eve we had all just gone to bed at about 1am, we had friends camping out on the deck, at about 3am we heard a loud shout of “The bloody goat is trying to eat our tent”.  By the light of the full moon only 3 hours into the new year I could see her out there chomping on the leaves of our house yard trees, the pen was too far away so I chained her up in the shed, next to a huge tuft of grass, where she ‘bleated’ all morning until the sun came up.  So on New Year’s morning we all rose from our beds saying ‘that bloody goat’.

Eventually we gave in to Goatie’s demands, we built a pen in our backyard so she could see us and talk to us all the time.  This made her so happy, plus we could feed her extra food much more regularly so she got too fat to escape from her pen.  All was good, but we did want to reclaim the back part of our yard, so the time came to ring the abattoir and enquire and the humane slaughter of the goat.

It was a Wednesday afternoon, the girls and I were out and Craig came home from work to take her to the abattoir.  It was such a difficult occasion, we thought we hated that goat but we were sad.  She had worked her way into our hearts and we had developed a relationship with her, that was not supposed to happen.  It was not made any easier when the slaughterer said to Craig “Is this your pet mate?” as Goatie looked up at Craig and bleated pleadingly to be taken home again.

On Friday 18th October Goatie was lovingly marinated using a traditional Ugandan recipe and she was  BBQed on Saturday, when 45 of us gathered in the name of fellowship and fun to taste the  bloody goat and she was delicious.  It was an afternoon filled with laughter, singing, love and joy, it was a memorable event that people will talk about for years to come.  In the end Goatie bought us all a huge amount of joy and we are so eternally grateful that we did take the goat.
At the end of the feast Fr Scott said "Today at the Farmer's Markets I saw turkey chicks ... anybody keen"!!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

She has lost another shoe


An ongoing dilemma in our home is shoes being lost!  Not the pair of shoes, it is usually just one and it drives me batty. I make threats of “If you lose these shoes you are not getting anymore” but the reality is we live in a town where the temperature is 35 degrees plus from September to April so if you walk on a footpath or road with no shoes it does actually seriously burn the sole of your foot.  As soon as I see a shoe removed I search for it, in an attempt to return it the shoe basket, but sometimes I must admit I get distracted and in a blink of an eye the shoe is gone.

 I have not found an effective way to overcome this problem, so off we go down to Target to buy yet another pair of shoes and this sparks a great dialogue in my head about how money doesn’t grow on trees, then I start listing off all the other bills that need to be paid in the next month, including electricity, telephone, rates, food, car expenses, the myriad of insurances, birthday presents, Christmas presents and I start getting a feeling of dread deep in my stomach.  Sadly, this does not curb my spending; it actually inspires me to spend more because I think ‘Well this ship is going down so we may as well go out in style’.  If there are any Financial Planners reading this don’t panic, I have already been told that I live in a perpetual financial crisis that is not going to end well.

So, as you read in a previous blog, the realities of life sometimes lead to me suffering from the symptoms of P.I.M.P’s or alternatively I pretend my  life is a classic Australian television drama, and I am one of the main characters.  In my television drama I am the well educated, corporate who has abandoned the rat race to realise my organic, hippy, free range tree change in a small country/coastal town, not very original but it works for me.

Haha, do I sound completely mental now, I do love being in my television drama.  After writing my blog about having a poo in my pants a number of concerned friends and relatives urged me to expand my mind, one signing me up for a brain detox program, one suggesting I join the local writers group and one suggesting I need serious therapy.  Following their advice, today, in real life, I went to the library and participated in the Roma Creative Writing Group which I loved and I am going to embark on writing short stories to help expand my mind.  Then I took the girls for a milkshake at a cafĂ© and I knew everybody there so had fun partaking in light hearted chit chat and it was all so Home and Away/Koala Brothersish.  It made me feel happy and slightly aloof from the reality of bills, endless (endless) housework and the demanding squeaky voices of my beautiful children.

As I write I am starting to think that the heat and wind, the lack of structure that school holidays bring and spending a vast majority of my time with a 3 and 5 year old, I may have lost my grip on sanity, I may be slowly descending into a weird and wonderful world of lunacy.  The exciting thing is I have been reading my Bible a lot more in the past week and every time I open it I feel like Jesus is encouraging me to explore this (temporary) craziness.  So I am keen to document the process because I am hopeful once school returns and structure becomes important (I know I function much better when I am busy) my mind will recalibrate and I will be far more normal, and I remain confident my life has a definite and meaningful purpose and this little journey is integral to discovering my specific objective.

Anyway, I’m off to start my brain detox so my mind will be clear and clean which will hopefully lead to much more normal posts from me - fingers crossed  J

Thursday, 26 September 2013

I had a poo in my pants


I often get a poo in my pants, not literally of course, but you know when you just feel sorry for yourself, thinking you are awesome and getting frustrated because the rest of the world doesn’t see it.  You feel unappreciated and taken for granted by all those around you.  It is this awful feeling that I am referring to when I say I have a poo in my pants (P.I.M.Ps).

When I am experiencing all the symptoms of P.I.M.Ps life if not fun, I suffer dark moods, paranoia, helplessness and frustration that nobody understands me.  It results in a lot of sulking but sometimes it leads to me quitting jobs, ending friendships, yelling at my children and sometimes husband with threats to leave home FOREVER and I get cranky at God!  It is all consuming. 

The best way to describe it is like a beautiful crystal clear warm beach, lovely gentle waves, everybody safely swimming, laughing, joking, completely emerged in the magnificence of the moment.  Then completely unexpectedly a big, angry wave starts to quietly form in the background, no one notices and then all of a sudden it roars towards the shore, sucking up more water, building force and then crashing with ferocity on the sandy beach, leaving everybody dishevelled, upset, a little scared and debris scattered across the sand.  In this scenario I am both the wave and one of the innocent people dumped by the wave and unceremoniously plonked on the sand with my swimmers dislodged and revealing some of my most private areas to all other beach goers.

The severity, duration and frequency of the illness is irregular and difficult to measure, it wouldn’t occur more than once a month and can last for one hour to one week, depending on how successful I am at convincing myself that my life is repetitive, my family is ungrateful and nobody understands me because I am obscure and truth be told fascinating in a way that words cannot describe, haha. 

There are a number of treatments to remove the poo from my pants and improve my outlook on life.  Firstly I eventually realise I have ‘a poo in my pants’ and usually this thought makes me smile and the symptoms pass.  Otherwise I see something shiny, sparkly or pretty and this also makes me smile and the symptoms pass.  I can see a beautiful smile from my friends, children or husband, or even just go outside and water my seedlings all of which can make the symptoms pass. 

Once the poo is removed from my pants I can see the sun shining, I hear the birds singing, I can enjoy the children laughing and I remember how incredibly awesome my life is.  I am being a little bit cavalier about this but I do generally worry that one day the feelings might overwhelm me and I just might run away.  I also worry we may be creating generations of people who will suffer this illness, some with less severe symptoms and others will suffer profound and possibly life changing side effects.  At the slightest setback, whether it be feeling a little bit lonely, not having the perfect day, having to work a little bit harder to get something, waiting in line a little bit longer than expected, any of these little inconveniences can lead to the onset of the dreaded P.I.M.Ps. 

Building resilience is vital, and there is a lot of research around helping to build resilience in our children.  I think awareness is also important and I look forward to seeing a government advertising campaign in the future helping people recognise the symptoms of P.I.M.Ps and suggesting possible treatments.  Heheheh that makes me smile J

Saturday, 21 September 2013

I've got peace like a river ... not

Just a few minutes ago I was standing in my dark pantry, quietly unwrapping my last Lindor chocolate, trying to enjoy the soft delicate milk chocolate before my children found me and said 'I want one', 'I'm hungry', 'What can I do?' ... Luckily I could have a quiet chuckle to myself about how absurd it was to hide from my family and eat a chocolate but it did make me realise how hard it is to find peace sometimes.

Recently in Sunday School and Religious Instruction we have been singing 'I have peace like a river, I have peace like a river, I have peace like a river in my soul'.  I love this song but I can't say it truthfully applies to me. For a big part of my teenage years and most of my 20's I had very little peace, I was searching for something and I did not know what it was.  Soon after giving birth to our first daughter I found God and I found peace, since 2008 I have loved Jesus with my whole heart and just writing it makes me smile.  However I am still searching.  There is so much more God has to offer me and for a million reasons I can not quite grasp it.  It is an ongoing journey, and my challenge is to find peace, not be constantly frustrated by my inability to fully comprehend God's promise to me and all of mankind.

Some of my most peaceful moments are watching my children, whether it is trying to do long jump for the first time, to finish a puzzle all by themselves, dancing their little hearts out in the annual dance concert, singing in Sunday School or sleeping peacefully in their beds.  During these moments my heart feels completely at ease, completely captivated by their brilliance and beauty.  However, the mess they make, the continuous questions they ask, the food and drinks they need, the number of clothes they wear in one day all of these things do not bring me peace.  I can sometimes feel suffocated and very angry that my whole life revolves around serving them, what about me?  I need to find peace in every aspect of being a Mum, not just in the perfect moments.

I have been blessed that I was born at a time and in a country where every child has an opportunity to be educated, I was fortunate enough to go to university and obtain a degree and I have had a number of really enjoyable and rewarding jobs, that enabled me to be creative, productive and be recognised and appreciated within my community.  However, I am left feeling incredibly frustrated now because I don't know how to combine working in a meaningful and enjoyable job and being a good mum and wife.  I don't work at the moment and keeping up with cooking, shopping, washing, cleaning, homework, gardening and still having enough energy to be emotionally available and kind to my family and friends is a struggle.  I can't see a solution.  Instead of just enjoying this time at home I panic about what kind of job I will ever have in the future that will not cause our family unnecessary stress.

To add to this I feel so guilty that I don't feel peace all the time.  I read books and blogs about it, I pray about it, I am sure I bore my husband to tears talking about it, but none of it changes the fact that most of the time I do not feel peace like a river in my soul and I don't know how to change that.  I will continue to practise thankfulness, because I am truly overwhelmed with the abundant blessings in my life, but I just hope I don't have to wait till I get to 90 to feel peace here on earth.

Do you feel peace like a river in your soul?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

A salty kind of day

Wikipedia says "Salt is essential for animal life, but can be harmful to animals and plants in excess. Salt is one of the oldest, most ubiquitous food seasonings and salting is an important method of food preservation . The taste of salt (saltiness) is one of the basic human tastes.

Last night I was watching Grand Design on ABC and the couple built their home in a 1550's shed, it was massive, an overwhelming project but the result was nothing short of spectacular.  The lady with multi-coloured hair whose name was Freddie said "I just want a different experience from life".  She didn't want to live in a house with separate rooms and cosy carpet, their home became a creative masterpiece and their daughter could roller-skate everywhere and they had a wild meadow that grew up to their back door! 

It made me think of how much we do in life just because everybody else does it, how early in life do we stop asking why, how young are we when we stop thinking there might be a different way?  Often I see quotes that say "Life is too short to be ordinary" or "Refuse to be average.  Let your heart soar as high as it will".  The Bible says "You are the salt of the earth.  But if salt loses its saltiness...It is no longer good for anything...You are the light of the world...let your light shine before others" (Matthew 5:13-16).  Salt adds flavour and light gives life.  How much salt and light can your life have if you are average, if you are doing exactly the same as everybody else? When I hear quotes like these my heart goes a flutter, I get all excited, but the truth is I don't actually have any idea how to push boundaries, how to be anything but average and ordinary.  My parents, my schooling, my extended family and friends did a great job of making me pretty normal.  I have never had any real life experience with people who question the norms and live an alternative lifestyle, I have no real concept of doing anything other than what everybody else is doing, what I have learnt to accept as normal.

I get glimpses of a different way to be, but I am way too comfortable with my existing life to really challenge my way of thinking or change anything, but as I gain a deeper understand of the Gospel I get a strong feeling there are alternatives.  I do not want to be weird, I want to fit in, but at the same time I do want a different experience from life, I definitely want our daughters to have a different experience from life.   How can our heart soar with so many long held and deep seeded beliefs securing it tightly to this earthly world.

Jesus said "I've come to change everything, turn everything rightside up - how I long for it to be finished" Luke 12:49-50.  I think we are still a long way from understanding and comprehending the wonderful life that is available to us.  Oh but how to unlock the answers, how to discover the best way to enjoy earth for the short time we are here, without going crazy questioning everything just for the sake of it.

So my philosophy for the moment is "Don't think about it, just heart it", that is a Justine Miller original quote right there.  I have all the answers inside me already, placed gently on my heart from the moment I was created.  It is my head, silly logic, my fear and worry, my previous experiences and hurts and learnt knowledge that keep the answers hidden from me.  I want to release myself from unnecessary conventional thinking and unloving social norms and discover what it truly means to live in the spirit, I want my life to have the perfect amount of salt.

What are your  thoughts on salt, and life?

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The possession obsession

Is a lot of your time taken up looking after all your things?  Tasks like washing, drying, folding and packing away, picking up, washing up, cleaning, maintaining, painting, mowing, detailing and working longer hours to earn  enough money to pay for all these things and buy some more.  Is your pantry full of food and you still don't know what to have for dinner?  Does any of this really bring you great joy?   I almost feel smothered, physically, emotionally and spiritually, by the stuff, the responsibility, the financial burden of all that surrounds me.

I think I am trapped in a possession obsession, which helps makes some people very rich but just keeps most of the world enslaved, destroying our souls, distracting us from what is truly important.

I look at our gorgeous girls, filled with so much love and fun, learning new and amazing things every single day and I do not want them to go to school, get a good education and earn money just so they can spend their entire lifetime wanting and needing more stuff.  Surely there is more, this can not be our purpose.  I do not want to be a rich fool and I do not want to raise our children to be rich fools.

I do love nice things, I agree with the mantra 'Life is short, live beautifully'.  There are spectacularly beautiful things everywhere, it is truly special to be able to own some of these beautiful items, but we don't need to own all of them!  I entered the workforce in 1999 and nearly every cent I have earned in that time has been spent on me, on creating and maintaining a lifestyle that I enjoy, buying clothes, shoes, going to the hairdresser, purchasing magazines and books, travelling around Australia, buying gifts, a car and a family home etc.  None of these things are bad, I have not lived excessively but I have lived greedily and selfishly and I still do.  In this time I could have put a lot more of this money to greater use, I could have sponsored more children, invested more heavily in projects that genuinely improve the life of others, respected each dollar for what it was, a gift and a blessing to be used to bless the lives of others.  I have not used this money wisely.

I still don't have the urge to get rid of all my things, I am not courageous or committed enough to sell all my possessions and give the money to the poor and then live a very meagre existence.  However, I am going to consciously work on my attitude and approach to the purchases I do make.  As a family we will look at all our things and donate what we don't really need and then be much more stringent about the items that do enter our house, and be much more purposeful when we buy gifts for others. 

I will always love beautiful things, these are precious gifts for us to enjoy and appreciate, but I do not want this short, beautiful and amazing time I have on earth to be focussed or obsessed with owning, maintaining, looking after and admiring possessions.  After all, the day I die it all ceases to mean anything at all, my family will probably look at it all and drop it off at the closest op shop.  I don't want my life's worth to be put in some cardboard boxes and dropped out the front of Vinnies.  Do you think you might be trapped in a possession obsession too?

Friday, 19 July 2013

Is shovelling manure the answer to all of life's big questions?

The closer I draw to truth the happier I am.  Life is bright, light, joyful and happy.  I am happy to my core.  However the truth is easily shaken by fear and worry.  It is so easy to let go of what I know to be true when I start to worry, fret, compare, analyse, fear and plan (sometimes 10-25 years ahead).  The joy is quickly lost in a heavy fog of hopelessness, guilt and self-loathing.  While I am doing something I'll be feeling guilty that I am not doing something else, it is an annoying state to be in and nothing good comes of it.

The trouble with truth is it is constantly expanding and growing and unfolding.  A commitment to living in truth is a commitment to constantly being challenged and expanding and questioning deep seeded beliefs.  Living in the spirit is mysterious, it requires strong faith and it can easily be shaken by worry and fear.

J.R.R.R Tolkien said "All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost", for those committed to living in truth it can feel like a constant journey, wandering a long a path that seems to go on forever, but hopefully we are not lost.

At this point in my life it feels like I am wandering along the path of truth and also building strong foundations, all at the same time.  How is it possible?  If this makes no sense don't worry, it is pretty unclear for me too.

I feel like I am being guided to explore, question, delve, learn and build; specifically in relation to my faith, our family and our home.  This is exciting, empowering, exhausting, monotonous, slow, dull and seemingly endless.  There does not look like there is a clear end in sight, because it relation to these three areas there isn't one perfectly correct answer, solution or technique.  Again this brings a sense of freedom and frustration.

In an attempt to not have a mental breakdown I am going to shovel manure, literally and metaphorically.  It is all good and well to ponder and discuss matters of the heart and soul but at some point this is life, it is a beautiful gift, and we need to live it the best we can, with what we have and what we know.

There is no sure fire way to have a long and happy marriage that results in children that grow into content, well adjusted and useful adults, and although it is time consuming I reckon if you shovel enough love it should turn out alright.  No matter how often you go to Church, read the Bible and pray you can never really know you are living the life God created you for.  Even though it is time consuming, if you shovel enough love and faith you should get pretty close.  No matter how much water, money and creativity you pour into the garden it is probably never going to look like something in Gardening Australia magazine.  Although it is time consuming, if you shovel enough manure, worm juice and compost you should end up with something lovely.

The trick will be to ensure I shovel love on the family and manure on the garden and not get them mixed up!!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Don't be afraid to sparkle a little brighter

The word sparkle has been placed on my heart for two days now, despite my best efforts to ignore it.  We have been driving for the past day and a half returning home after visiting family.  It is a long, dull drive and the word sparkle kept coming to mind, I definitely didn't feel like sparkling.  When we finally got home we discovered the power had been off for at least a day maybe more, most of our food was ruined and had to be thrown out, again the word sparkle came to mind, my response to this word was not favourable.  Then at 3am last night our sweet little 3 year old started vomiting and has been unwell now for hours, actually vomiting directly into my face, and what word came to mind, SPARKLE and I thought hell no I don't want to sparkle.  Today is the first day in 16 years that I  am completely unemployed, not earning a single cent or directly contributing to the economy.  Whilst this is a conscience decision I am scared and again all I can think is sparkle, are you serious?

Despite all these inconveniences and a few fears and worries, I do want to sparkle. The word makes me smile, 'a glittering flash of light' or 'to give off or reflect flashes of light'.  Once I started thinking about it I had in fact had a solid fortnight of sparkle moments.  We had beautiful friends visit who radiate love, compassion and joy and they filled our home with indescribable happiness = sparkle.  Our daughter attended her first motorbike gymkhana and smiled big all day = sparkle.  My husband and I were invited to be Godparents for the most adorable little boy and the baptism ceremony was amazingly spiritual and soothed my soul = sparkle.  My husband had a birthday, our girls decorated glasses and lit candles and friends came for dinner, there was lots of laughing, yummy food and good wine = sparkle.  We got to visit my family, and my nieces are blow your mind amazing in every way and our daughters were smothered in pure love = sparkle.  I got to visit Circular Quay in Sydney on a breath takingly beautiful and clear winters day and the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge shone bright, warming my heart and my senses = sparkle.  As we drove home after our big road trip our daughter saw and school and said 'yippee, I love my school' = sparkle, on and on these sparkle moments go, no wonder the word was placed on my heart.

Our world, this society we have created, media, gossip, fear, greed and worry are all working towards dulling down our sparkle.  Each day there is a constant battle between sparkle and not to sparkle, we make the choice which way we will look.  We decide whether we will add sparkle to this world or whether we will detract sparkles.  We do this in our homes, our workplaces and our community, we do this by the words we speak, the things we do, how we spend our time and what we prioritise, the shows we watch, the music we listen to and every single choice we make. 

There will be people reading this and thinking I am being unrealistic, unsophisticated and maybe superficial, that life can't be all about sparkle because life is tough.  Yes life is tough, sometimes terrible things happen, but I still see it as the most worthwhile of all pursuits to add love, kindness and sparkle and try and make the world a little less tough, a little less hurtful and a little less selfish.

So 'keep calm and sparkle on' is my motto at the moment and I hope you will join me in trying to share your sparkle where ever you are, even if you don't really feel like it sometimes.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

I heard love

Yesterday I heard love and it had a physical effect on me which I’m still feeling 24 hours later.  It is so difficult to try and assign words to this amazing spiritual experience but I’m going to give it a try.

When I heard love it was a very uneventful moment, my husband simply said to our youngest daughter “Are you coming to clean your teeth munchkin”?   It was in the midst of everybody getting ready for school and work and it could be considered very unremarkable.  In that very moment, in those very words, I heard love.  Not plain humanly, earthly love but heavenly Godly love, life giving love, love that makes you believe love is all we need and love can change the world.  Love that flowed directly from the heart. 
 
There are so many passages in the Bible that refer to the fact that what is in our heart flows from our mouth, one such instance is in Luke 6:43-45 (CEB) Jesus says "A Good tree doesn't produce bad fruit, nor does a bad tree produce good fruit.  Each tree is known by its own fruit. People don’t gather figs from thorny plants, nor do they pick grapes from prickly bushes. A good person produces good from the good treasury of the inner self, while an evil person produces evil from the evil treasury of the inner self. The inner self overflows with words that are spoken.

The words from my husband were not planned or rehearsed and as he spoke them he did not know the effect they would have on me and our home, they simply flowed from the good treasury in his heart.  In those simple words I heard God express love to our daughter.  The tone and the strength combined with the love and genuine kindness in these simple words was indescribably powerful.

It felt like God used Craig as a vessel to express love in that very moment, to breathe love into our home in that instant, on that ordinary Tuesday morning.  Do I sound like a crazy person?  Maybe, but I feel like there is a powerful reassurance in this experience.  It shows that God can use us to express His love and compassion for all His people in ways we could not even dream of.  Ways that seem absolutely insignificant and unimportant, ways that we do not recognise at the time but in ways that are so much more powerful that we can ever intend them to be. 
 
In Matthew 15:17-18 (CEB) Jesus said "Don't you know that everything that goes into the mouth enters the stomach and goes out into the sewer?  But what goes out of the mouth comes from the heart”.  The words Craig spoke the other day would not have had any effect on our home if his heart had been contaminated and we live in a world where it is so easy for our hearts to become contaminated.  If something, or somebody, makes your heart feel good I suggest you invest heavily in these things and people.  It may be equally important to reduce the number of things that make your heart hurt or feel heavy and sad.  Don’t apologise for this, Proverbs 4:23 clearly says “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Friday, 10 May 2013

I want the truth ... but not really cause I can't handle it

Today is a lovely sunny Saturday.  I have done some washing, craft with the girls, had a cuppa with a friend, folded the washing and did the grocery shopping.  Then at 3pm I changed into my pyjama pants because they are so comfy!! Gasp, shock horror.  It has happened.  I have turned into my mother and sister!!  This in itself is not a problem, as they are both awesome, but I have spent the best part of the past 35 years denying I am anything like my family.  My teenage years and most of my twenties were spent aggressively proving I was oh so different to them.  I fought this battle in vein, it was already in my genetics, and it is only now I am beginning to accept this truth. 

Another truth that I have been faced with this week is my children are turning into the people I have prayed they would.  They have a great sense of fun, they are light and free, they smile a lot and don't seem to have a care in the world.  So why do I get upset when they aren't particularly good at any of their chosen hobbies?  When another mother says "Oh I can't believe your daughter isn't doing the dancing exams when she has been dancing for so long, my daughter just started and she is already good enough."  I get all worked up, feel guilty that I am robbing my children of the opportunity to be successful because I do not put enough pressure on them to practice and train and I quietly panic that they will not succeed at anything in life :-/ 

The truth is my children are probably going to be mediocre at a lot of things they do, and the truth is this makes me unbelievably happy so long as what they are doing makes them happy.  I know they have been blessed with many gifts and they will excel in these areas, these blessings may be growing flowers, painting love hearts, raising children, making deals, designing clothes, doing hair, investing in real estate, caring for elderly, praying with conviction.  I have no idea but I need to remind myself that I love them unconditionally and with no pressure and I will not get robbed of joy by trying to keep up with other mothers, their children have been blessed differently to mine.  A truth I will need to constantly remind myself of. 

A third truth this week I have had to acknowledge is I am a little cowardly.  I had made the decision to discontinue attending a group I had been part of for over 3 years.  Instead of telling the group of my decision I really just wanted to quietly retreat, secretly disappear never to return again.  This would have been perfect until the group leader discussed it with me.  I thought I was an honest, up front sort of person, turns out if the chance arises to just turn and run away this just might be the option I choose.

In the face of all this cold hard truth, it is the Bible that is bringing me some peace. John 16:33 says "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  This helps me not to take any of the above truths too seriously :-)

Saturday, 4 May 2013

I want to dance like Jesus

How different would like look without the words should, ought to and could?  These three phases rule my life, they circle my heart like flaming scorpions, searing into my soul, haunting and defeating me every time I think or say 'I should do this' or 'I ought to be doing such and such' or 'If I only could ...'.

The word, the very simple word that sets me free from all of this is 'is'.  This is how much God loves me, my life is full of blessings, this is what I look like and this is what I can do.  Is, this one word, dangles from my heart, it reflects light and beauty, it is peace and kindness, it is love.  God is love.

When I free my mind from the shoulds, coulds and ought tos I have this amazing image of Jesus dancing.  I'm not talking polite swaying, or closing eyes and raised hands kind of dancing, Jesus is fluorescent blue, green and white.  He is dancing to the groove, His whole body is alive with the beat.  He is captivated by the tunes.  He is so happy.

I often get the feeling we have it so very wrong.  If we believe God created us in His own image and to be His friends than there must be so much more.  There must be more than quietly singing bad hymns, there must be more than eating cake with friends watching the kids play after Church on Sunday, there must be more than politely discussing the relevance and meaning of parables from the Bible once a week at Bible Study.

I can not believe God created us to be mundane, to be mediocre, to be ordinary and to simply go with the flow.

If I had created people to be my friends I would want them to be free and happy to dance like the Jesus in my mind.  I can't help but think it is the shoulds, coulds and ought tos that keep us from dancing like Jesus.

I want to dance like Jesus each and every day.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Me and my herbs

Since 2007 herbs have become a very important part of my life, not as a result of any real plan or sense of purpose, they just have and their names, scent, meaning, use and mere existence evoke a great sense of joy and wonder in my heart. I am by no means a herb expert, it is their simplicity and usefulness that appeals to me.

Today as I stood alongside a great big bottle tree planted in remembrance of a local Roma man who died in World War I, holding my Sage close, I thought of my herbs and how so many men and women gave their lives so I could grow and tend a herb garden in peace.  As we waved, clapped and cheered as the old diggers were driven past I was overcome with emotion and pride and Proverbs 15:17 came to mind "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it".  We have so many small blessings in our life, including a simple and delicious herb garden grown with love, but if brave people throughout history had not fought to protect our freedom who knows how life, and my herb garden, may look.

My herb garden has already become a symbol of love, faithfulness, discipline, self sufficiency and joy but now it has even more meaning.  I will not pick some rocket for my salad, basil for my pizza, mint for my chilled summer drink or thyme for my spaghetti bolognaise, I will not hold, love and smile at the sage and rosemary without thinking of, and giving thanks, for all those who have gone before me.  All those who have made the very act of growing and enjoying herbs possible.

We look forward to sharing our love of herbs at the Church Bazaar later in the year where we hope to sell Herbgully Herbs as part of the plant stall.  Our intention will be that each little herb takes with it love, joy, purpose and hope to each and every garden and gardener.

This all sounds a bit peculiar, and I am not sure there is any real point, but today just got me thinking that men in battle grounds 98 years ago, women in hospitals in remote and far flung locations, would have done things, made decisions and choices that have made it possible for me and my herbs to live and grow happily. 

It is impossible to comprehend how the things we do, say and choose today will influence the lives of future generations but they will.  Our life, not matter how small and insignificant, will influence our descendants, so let's live purposefully and lovingly and sow seeds of love and peace and joy, seeds  that people will get to harvest for generations to come, long after we have gone.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The greatest influence in my life

I wish I could write the Bible, Jesus or Mother Theresa but I think A Country Practice may actually be the greatest influence of my life!!  Yes, the Australian drama series that ran from 1981-1994, I watched it faithfully for my entire childhood.  My husband does not like it when I refer to him as my Dr Terence Elliott but is the greatest compliment I can bestow on him.  I grew up admiring the tall, caring, passionate and intelligent Dr Elliott and the comment from Matron Sloan rings in my ears "You are a good man Dr Elliott", so too is my husband.

Not only did this show influence who I married it affected my career.  I loved the community of Wandin Valley, they all cared for each other, they stood up for what they believed in, many worked in roles that  improved the life of those around them such as Doctors, nurses, foster parents and teachers, when they had a party the whole town was invited and generally they were committed to a healthy and sustainable way of life.  My professional career to date has involved me studying and working in the field of Community Economic Development.  I actually was employed to support, promote and build inclusive, healthy and vibrant communities.  The best job in the world I thought.  This career path has meant I have always lived in smaller rural communities and when I travelled around Australia I got so much joy visiting all the little towns and experiencing their communities.

Proverbs 4:23 says "Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life".  A Country Practice is not really the point but consciously thinking about what you watch, read and how you spend your time is the point.

What our family watches on television, what we read, who we spend time with; is it just harmless and funny or is it influencing the course of our life.  If we live in an environment where inclusiveness, tolerance and kindness is  abundant chances are this will impact on the way we behaves towards others.  We can surround ourselves with joyful, kind, generous, thoughtful people and this will likely impact on the way we behave. 

The great news is the choice is  all ours.  You can blame the influences of the world or you can simply make different choices. Proverbs 27:17 says "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another".  I am not making a comment on what anybody should or shouldn't watch, read, listen to or who people should spend  time with or go to school, I write this only to highlight all these little, seemingly insignificant things, can impact on your life in a significant way.

What has been, or is, the greatest influence in your life?  Be honest, it can't be worse than A Country Practice!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Plodders have a place - don't we?

I am a plodder, it has  taken me a long time to come to terms with this, but I am absolutely at my happiest when I am plodding.  I can not recall ever being in a hurry to do anything much, a 'late bloomer' I think my mother use to say, but in fact I have just always been plodding along.  So from this point on I am going to be a proud plodder. 

The only solid evidence I have to suggest that being a plodder is perfectly acceptable is the wonderful and wise parable of the tortoise and the hare, and surely that is enough to base my life philosophy on, isn't it?

Unfortunately plodding is made difficult in this modern day, fast past, winner takes all society but I think there are definite health benefits associated with being a plodder.  Young people might not be in such a hurry to grow up if plodding was encouraged, the divorce rate may be lower if everybody just sat still for a little bit and thought about it, stress and anxiety would have to be reduced and road accidents and fatalities may also go down if people weren't in such a drastic rush.

My definition of plodding is not to be confused with laziness.  I like to achieve things, be involved in projects and I like to always give my best.  If I say I am going to be somewhere at a certain time it is very important for me to be on time and I pride myself on always doing what I say I am going to do. However, when my time is my own that is when I like to dilly-dally, just saying it makes me smile.

These are plodding words: dawdle, amble, hang out, loaf, saunter, dally, toddle.  On the other hand the opposite to plodding is hurry, push, rush, speed.  It gives me heart palpitations just thinking about it, but oh the joy that comes from plodding.
Plodding certainly enables me to build stronger relationships with the people I love, it provides the opportunity to observe and enjoy the many blessings in each day and it gives me the chance to do each task with purpose.  It is a lighter way to live whilst also giving each day greater intensity and meaning.

Admittedly, if you are a self confessed and proud plodder, the people you share your life with need to embrace and accept your plodding otherwise they may strangle you, which will immediately put an end to all future plodding.  Another great mistake is to deny your inner ploddingness, this just creates frustration and anger which robs you of the great joy plodding can bring to your life.

You will know that I have lived a happy and successful life if you walk past a cemetery in 70 years and my headstone says "In loving memory of a proud and dedicated plodder".

I have no opinion on that ... anymore

From the time I was sixteen, maybe earlier, I had very strong opinions on a great diversity of topics, including the environment, youth and alcohol, homelessness and probably politics and religion, things that I knew very little about.  If you sat still long enough I would give you a passionate speech about the latest injustice or global controversy and going to University just fuelled this passion for debate and argument.

Until recently I had fairly definite beliefs about success, homosexuality, women liberation, marriage, family, faith, equal rights, racism etc, all of which I was confident I was right about.  Slowly all of these ideas I held tight are giving way to one simple idea, which is love. 

 

One of my all time favourite books of the Bible is James, and in Chapter 3 Verses 17 and 18 it says "Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterised by getting along with others.  It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced.  You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honour" (MSG).


What if we all just stop for one minute, stop thinking about ourselves and what we deem as right, and feel love towards the people we are bagging, judging, bullying, mocking, abusing or ignoring, how different would your world look?

I am becoming far less opinionated on nearly all topics.  Does this mean I stand for nothing; absolutely not, I stand for love, which is everything. Loving yourself so you choose healthy relationships, loving your children more than any amount of money, loving your husband so you stay faithful, loving truth so you never bend it, loving justice more than item produced using slave or child labour and loving your neighbour enough to say hello.

 

It is not new to proclaim "all you need is love" but as individuals and as a society we just don't get it.  World leaders have lost their lives for making this statement.  Many would argue love doesn't put food on the table or pay the bills.  For some reason the concept makes people feel very uncomfortable and it is hard to grasp in its entirety.

It is worth considering though, before you share an opinion, end a relationship, commit to  a purchase or make a decision, ask yourself if it contributes to the objective of "getting along with each other".

Saturday, 13 April 2013

So you think you are pretty clever

You wear nice clothes, you have beautiful children, you drive a lovely car and you own a home, or two or three - so you think you are pretty clever.  You buy organic food, you have an abundant kitchen garden, you don't eat preservatives, you have free range animals, you cook cakes from scratch and you eat 2 fruit and 5 veg every day - so you think you are pretty clever.  You went to a fancy school, you know big words, you go on exotic holidays, you can speak more than one language, you have sponsor children, you have a university degree/s - so you think you are pretty clever.  Your picture is in the paper a lot, you have hundreds of people follow you on Twitter, your blog is read by thousands, you take great photos on Instagram - so you think you are pretty clever. 

Who ever you are, what ever you do or don't do, I absolutely agree you are pretty clever but no more, or no less, clever than anybody else.  Most of your cleverness has been determined by the amount of unconditional love you received as a child, the country you were born in, the level of education you received and your genetics.  So much of your cleverness is out of your control.

So definitely believe you are clever, but you have been created clever on purpose.  You have been created clever to help your fellow human beings, to love your neighbour.  You have been created clever so you can make the world a better place, to bring joy to the lives of those around you and to love deeply.

You will experience great disappointment if you think your cleverness is purely because off you, and solely for your benefit.  Never think people you deem less clever than you should be treated differently to how you want to be treated, that is not very clever at all.  Never think you are the most clever, you are wrong. As Proverbs 27:1 says "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring", this is worth remembering before you start telling everybody how clever you are.

So whether you can read or not, whether you are good at maths or not, whether you are black or white, whether you have lots of money or not, whether you can paint, dance, sing or not, whether you are employed or not, whether you have no children or 10 children, whether you are beautiful or not, whether you have a home or not, whether you are young or old, whether you are hungry or not; the truth of the matter is you are so very clever.  The trick is turning your cleverness into joy, positive change, compassion and empathy - now that is clever.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Guacamole and snow peas


I scoop a sweet crisp snow pea into the delicious guacamole and top with a juicy purple grape before popping the taste sensation in my mouth.  It is simple and good, which is the hope I have for my entire life.  This yummy random treat reminds me just how full of hope, love and joy my heart is right at this very minute. 

I experienced a wonderful spiritual journey during Advent, this particular bible verse from the Christmas story captured my heart and imagination “When they heard the king they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” (Matthew 2:9-10).  I have no idea how far the Wise Men walked before they arrived at the manger where Jesus had been born, or how many there were, but can you imagine being filled with such conviction, having such a strong faith, that you would pick up and just follow a star.  I love to imagine what exceedingly great joy might have looked like all those years ago but I reckon it was pretty awesome.  This one verse filled my heart throughout Christmas and has followed me into the New Year.

Three other quotes that repeat themselves constantly in my head at the moment are “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” Proverbs 4:23; “And Jesus went about Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23) and “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

If you watched the news, listened to the ABC radio, went on Facebook or Twitter during the festive season you would have been bombarded with horrific stories of stabbings, shootings, fatal road accidents, drowning, fatal quad bike accidents, gang rapes and the list goes on.  These stories seep into your mind and heart like toxic smoke, they make it hard to breath and your perception of mankind, the world and your life is altered.  I very actively try and limit worldly negativity because I simply cannot carry the burden, my heart aches and I see pain all around me.  I do not believe our light can shine if we are weighed down with the heavy burdens of the world. 

At the same time I know I have a responsibility to my global brothers and sisters to help overcome and address poverty, injustice, human trafficking.  I feel I have been abundantly blessed so I am better able to help those less fortunate then myself.  However, watching and talking about the misery, pain and suffering of others does not actually help anyone.  I see our community and country overrun with fear, worry, guilt, depression, anxiety, obesity and brokenness and yes I feel a huge desire to help, to help ease the burden of others, but I still believe there is a freer, more liberating, joy filled, love focused existence available to all of us.  If only we could have child-like faith in God, if only our hearts and imaginations could be captured daily by the mystery and magic of the Christmas story, I think it could be so much better.

Am I over simplifying life, maybe? I just feel if we surround ourselves with good, happy, fun people and experiences, like Jesus and the wonderful stories about what He said and did while he was on Earth; if we read, listen to and participate in what makes our hearts feel happy and light then just maybe we could be healed of all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.  We would be healthier, more rested and better able to answer the call of God.  What do you think?