Sunday, 10 August 2014

Holy joy-balls!!

The title of this blog has been placed on my heart for some time but I have been reluctant to write it because I was afraid it might sound a little bit blasphemous, but I intend to sing the praise of God so hopefully all will be forgiven.

It is impossible to ignore all the terrible news in the world at the moment.  My goodness, I try not to watch, listen to or read news but in this connected world we live in it is not possible to avoid it.  My soul is continuously troubled by the Israel/Palestine conflict and I have cried for the innocent victims of the MH17 plane crash and their devastated loved ones.  Locally stories of beautiful, long awaited babies being born sleeping never to go home with their Mummy and Daddy or innocent children having to fight for their life against some rare form of cancer or the sweetest little girl being placed in foster care again, all wears you down.  It is hard to cope and it makes you wonder about what is truly important.

Each week the hum-drum of daily life is also tiring, even without drama and tragedy.  Going to work, paying bills, packing lunches, meeting commitments, doing the dishes, cooking meals, watering plants and on and on it goes and really what is it all for anyway.

Then nearly every single Sunday I am reminded of what it is all for.  I do not intend or specifically set out to discover the true meaning of life every Sunday but somehow God repeatedly reveals it to me.  He slows me down just enough to feel the spiritual rhythm of my life.  I know the spiritual realm is always close by but in the busy-ness of life the beauty, wisdom and peace of it seems to get swept just out of reach.  The meaning of life for me is a feeling that I experience from time to time. 

It is really hard to explain what it feels like when I am existing in the awareness of the Spirit.  When I can feel it inside and out, when I breathe it in and it moves through my entire body.  It is peaceful and loving, it is all about simple pleasure, gentle kindness, it is colourful and comforting, it brings me joy and I love it. 

This Sunday I felt the Spirit in the warm sun on my back and in the cold wet mud as we planted our first ever potato garden.  I can see beauty and hope in the full moon as it rises in front of me as I write these words.  I saw it as the butterflies fluttered around my beautiful flowering lavender and as I heard our girls sitting up in the tree chattering together.  It is magical and magnificent and it brings me great great joy.  It is this joy that I think is the purpose of life.

I don't willingly accept that what brings me joy is so simple.  I often grumble that my life is dull, lacking in excitement and no where near as glamorous as I had planned when I was younger.  I never dreamed that being a mother and wife, a sister and friend, an active member of my Church community organising great local events, an RI teacher and living in this dry and isolated place would be good for my soul.  I never thought this would be the meaning of my life, but right now it is and it feels so right and very often it brings me great joy. 

I thank God that he reminds me regularly that the meaning of my life is joy and love, and nearly always that looks and feels different to what I imagined, but I try to embrace it, experience it and appreciate it as it happens.  It is this joy and love that makes it possible for me to walk on this Earth with all its pain and suffering and hopefully make a small difference in the lives of the people I know and love.

So holy joy-balls I say go and do what makes you joyful this week, do it in the name of God, no matter what it is, enjoy it, try not to over analyse it or judge it, but just let it be, experience it in all its glory, don't rob yourself of it.  Joy is not an indulgence or a luxury it is vitally important and necessary if we are going to survive and thrive in this often tragic world.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Tempo's lost loves


It is hot, where is the breeze, it is a little hard to breathe, if only there was a breeze.  Jen looked up at the bright, clear full moon and listened to the crickets.  She got the hose and began to water the frangipani tree that was continuing to punch above its weight.   “Are you fighting a losing battle little buddy, with enough water and tender loving care can you harden up to the unrelenting summer sun and the harsh winter frosts and prove all the experts wrong?” Jen spoke to the precious tree, she waited a little while as if truly expecting a response but there was no audible answer.  Jen hoped against the odds that it just might be possible that a sweet, gentle pretty tree could survive out here in this harsh climate, one day they might smell the soft aroma of frangipani flowers and she could stop buying the fragrance in a bottle for the oil burner.

She  looked up to the clear night sky, enveloped in the smell and sounds of water hitting the hot dirt and the faint aromas of basil and lavender from the garden and the cherry blossom soap on her skin from a recent shower, enjoying the overwhelming feelings of love and contentment. 

Tonight the serenity was broken by the mournful bellow of the poddy calf, “Oh Templeton” Jen whispers.  He is calling to his three friends who went on the cattle truck, or beef bus, yesterday afternoon.  Jen tries not to cry, but tears spike her eyes. She knows it is the circle of life, but she thought cows were dumb, who knew they loved the other cows and missed them when they were gone.  Templeton had been pacing their small block since yesterday morning, occasionally calling out for Harry, Tim and Craig.  Today he caught sight of a cow in a neighbours paddock and went straight over to see if it was his mates, but to no avail, he came back, head lowered, disappointed and sad.

The mournful bellow reminded Jen of a time when her soul was lost and lonely and called out into the seemingly empty night sky.  It makes her think of all the other relationships that we give no thought to, have no respect for and the understanding we lack of the importance of love.  Jen thinks to herself how much importance is placed on money each and every day, yet it is some kind of peculiar cow love that is making poor Tempo bellow loudly into the night. Love, it always always comes back to love. 
The cow is persistent, the cry is desperate and loud and each time he pauses in hopeful anticipation that his friends will call back and they will be reunited.  She slumps her shoulders knowing that they will never be reunited and wondering how long Templeton will exist in this sad, but slightly hopeful, state.

Her husband, Chris, steps into the garden and startles her at first, but then she says “Oh my goodness Chris listen to Tempo, he is till calling out to the other cows, and he is just a simple  cow, his sole purpose to provide us with food but he is sad, he is broken hearted.”

Chris was sad too that the poddy was so distraught but he said nothing.

Jen continued, getting quite upset “His cries make me think of all the people who are deprived of love their whole lives.  Walking through life, bellowing just like Templeton, calling into the darkness hoping against all odds that somebody they love, and who loves them back, will call back, offer security, friendship, comfort and joy.  Every time he calls out my heart breaks for the lonely, the scared, the heart broken, the deprived, the hungry and the vulnerable.  I can’t even help this poor cow, I cannot bring his friends home, how can I help anybody else who is suffering?” 

Chris is quietly mumbling something in agreement but has wandered off to move the sprinkler, he is reluctant to get caught up in Jen’s ‘we should change the world’ scenarios. He can not understand why  she has to read so much into a basic reality of life.  He would never say that out loud again, he did that once and still regrets the sermon he received how justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.

Before the misery gets too overwhelming Tempo thankfully stops bellowing  and they are both distracted by the other shapes, noises and smells and  enjoy the quiet evening in the garden.  Chris and Jen soon head inside, ready for bed, it is still too hot to sleep but the whirring sound of the ceiling fan is relaxing and comforting and sleep will not be too far away.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

We are all so fragile

I love the song Breakable by Ingrid Michaelson, the chorus goes "And we are so fragile, And our cracking bones make noise, And we are just, Breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys".  It is a great reminder that we are all so fragile, sure some people might hide it better than others, but each one of us is a breakable boy or girl.

I don't love this because it makes me feel vulnerable, trust me I don't need a song to do that, I love that it reminds me to be more gentle with everybody, the people I love and the people I don't.  I can quickly and effectively convince myself why I shouldn't extend the hand of friendship or just offer a gesture of kindness to some people, the fear of rejection or embarrassing myself is often the prime deterrent, protecting my pride, but this really isn't a good enough excuse.  Laziness is another excuse, some people are hard work and exhausting so withdrawing from them is an easy option.  Other people make me feel more vulnerable and fragile than I am comfortable with so avoiding them in the name of self-preservation makes sense.

To remind myself that each one of us is fragile, we are just breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys might help me overcome these barriers.  Tonight with all these thoughts whirling around in my head, I was helping to put pyjamas on our 6 year old daughter when she said "Mum we are given life so we can love people" and then kissed me.  Instantly tears welled in my eyes, and I hugged her and said "Yes, that is right".

We have been created to love people.  It can feel like loving people makes us fragile.  It is hard to love, to see past people's faults, to remain loyal in the times of trials, to stop judging for 5 minutes and just love.  Loving without any expectations of how people should love you back. 

I am blessed to know a couple of people who love unconditionally and you can not help but love and admire these people.  Sure they would not be described as 'high-achievers' by earthly standards, and people don't always treat them right, but I admire them and aspire to love like they do.  There are also people in my life who I love more than they love me, and it hurts.  They aren't bad people but I can't help but get angry and resentful, it isn't even their fault, they didn't make me love them I just do.  There are others still who probably love me more than I love them back, it saddens me if I hurt or disappoint them.

There is no doubt that lately I have been a little frugal with my love and I am feeling disengaged and a little more vulnerable than usual.  I need to lift the lid on my love, stop holding back in the name of self-preservation, it is stupid and unproductive, it is arrogant and resentful and it makes me feel unpleasant.  Today at work a super sweet work colleague gave me a little book entitled "His Princess: Love Letters From Your King" and I am sure this is a little source of encouragement God has placed on my path to help me re-connect to Him and to love.

People can think it childish and whimsical to talk too much about love, it is a thing for Mums and small children, little girls and fairytales but the reality is it is everything.  In 1 Corinthians 13:7 love is described this way "She bears up under everything; believes the best in all; there is no limit to her hope, and never will she fall", isn't that so beautiful.

I have such a clear image of when I have passed away, my lifeless body is in a coffin, in a fairly empty, light filled room and all I can think, feel, see, comprehend is a voice saying "The only thing that matters is who you loved and how you loved them".  You cannot love properly if you just love the people you want to, or the people you like, or the people who are of some benefit to you.  You can only learn to love, truly love, when you practise on everybody, including yourself!

What do you think?  Are you good at loving and being loved or do you think you have some work to do?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A burst of lime

I recently saw an advert for Colorme Temporary Hair Colour, it states "Introducing a fabulous way to temporarily colour your hair ... Change your colour and your look at a moment's notice without commitment ...Create a burst of lime in your hair without fearing the worst".  I related to this instantly, but not about my hair, just my life and my moods.  I'm sure my husband would agree that I can change my colour and look at a moment's notice!  The burst of lime reflects the little bit of crazy running through my veins.

Yesterday was one of those burst of lime, or Eeyore, days.  You know how it goes "Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning," he said. "Which I doubt," said he. 

My beautiful best friend asked me what was the matter and I replied "I don't know, everybody is giving me the s*^ts" and she said "What even me" and I replied "Yeah, a little bit".  It was the burst of lime, sorry.

I tend to get angry and disappointed in myself when I feel this way.  I know I have so much to be grateful for but on these days I have an urge to change everything in my life, I want to move towns and get a new career (everything gets considered from being a Priest or a teacher to a naturopath, I think I might have even considered becoming a Police Officer). Everything looks more exciting and interesting and wonderful compared to where I am standing. 

On these burst of lime days my first impulse is to see the dead and frosted trees and grass, all the bills, the dust on the cabinets, the long days, weeks, months and years of cooking tea for my family and having to do the grocery shopping and all the washing and the minus something mornings and the lack of rain.

Thankfully though, despite my tendency to be a little inconstant, my God is not, Hebrews 13:8 says "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever".  It is His Word that is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path (Psalm 199:105) and I am ever so grateful for that.  It is the shining light of God's love that helps me to see the flowering lavender in my garden, the ripening lemons on the tree, to appreciate looking out my window to see my daughter up the tree. 

It is He alone who renews my desire to write, to stay firmly planted where I am.  I hear His promise
"Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12). 

Burst of lime moments can be equally exhilarating and exciting as they can be gloomy and glum.  I can have lime mountaintop experiences and lime valley moments, and this can all be within one hour :-) Without the consistent love of God and His constant presence in my life this emotional rollercoaster we call life may be overwhelmingly exhausting.

 I  take great comfort from the saying
"Ups and downs show signs of life.  The day it becomes smooth and straight ... life ends".

          

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Behold, I am with you always

This one phrase gives me so much comfort, Jesus says "Behold I am always with you, to the end of the age" Matthew 28:20.  Jesus is with me always, and sometimes I can feel the presence intensely, other times it eludes me.  This afternoon I felt God's loving hand on my life and it was extraordinary and pure. 
 
In Church today our Priest talked about how God is love, and God can be felt and found when we give and experience love.  1 John 4:8 says "Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love".  This gives me great encouragement because I feel called to love, to love God, love my husband and children, family and friends, love my Church, love my community and my earth.  Often this can be a very hard calling to explain to people or even comprehend myself.  It is very challenging to implement too.  I am fairly reserved, conservative, judgemental at time, I am afraid of getting hurt or feeling rejected and I am not naturally very huggy or kissy but I still feel called to love.  I am often scared of not doing it right.  I think it would have been better if I was called to be clinical and distant, but that wasn't to be .

I know without doubt I am called to love because when I do love (the patient, kind, hopeful, persistent kind of love) the feeling is exhilarating, it is when I know why I am alive, what I am here for.  I know that when I am eventually put in my final resting place the only thing that is going to matter is how well I have loved the people placed on my path to love,  everything else is merely secondary. 
 
The truth is I am not special, we have all been called to love, and it doesn't have to be extravagant or outlandish.  This afternoon the things that made me feel love, and experience God were:
There was rain in the rain gauge.







Because of the rain our small paddock of oats has germinated which is the cause of much excitement.










It fills me with love that our eldest daughter is taking a big strawberry that she has grown for 'Show n' Share' at school tomorrow and that our girls spent the afternoon up a tree.






It fills me with love that our youngest daughter loves our crazy dog!

So many simple things in every day that let me know that God is with me, and will be until the end of time.  It is this knowledge that helps get me through the more monotonous aspects of every day life, it is these direct interactions with God that help me stay hopeful when I accidentally hear the news or talk to sad people. 

I feel like the young boy in the Bible that handed Jesus his 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread to help feed the crowd of 5000 people.  Obviously what he had in the basket was not enough but once handed to Jesus and blessed by God it was more than enough.  That is what I am doing with my love.  My small amount of imperfect love is not enough to change the world, it will not undo the hurt that people feel, it will not stop wars, it will not feed all the starving people, but if I give it to Jesus and let God bless it, who knows what is possible.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Serenely superficial

I look at the clock at the same time every day, like I have done since my own babies started school, it is just after three o'clock and my heart leaps with joy because I know she will be here soon.  Kate is beautiful, there is no denying she is delightful to look at and inspiring to talk to and being in her presence feels like a ray of sunshine and warmth shining right from heaven to my heart.

At the tender age of 16 she seems more centred, more in tune with her higher calling than most adults I have ever met.  As her Grandmother I find her completely unnerving and fascinating.  Despite her youth she already seems so much wiser, and more worldly, than me even though I am some fifty five years her senior, it hardly seems fair. 

She lives just down the road, easy cycling distance and so I have seen her almost everyday of her life and I love her intensely.  I start to get sad thinking of her heading off soon to explore the world, thrilled and excited for all the potential and opportunity that exists for her but fearful about the loneliness I will feel without her here with me.

The thoughts of my eldest Granddaughter are broken by the sound of footsteps outside on the pebble pathway.

"Mimsy" she says in her lyrical way as she comes through my old screen door, "have you seen these beautiful flowers down the lane, do you know what they are called, did you plant them?"

"Hello there my Kate, and how are you?", I say teasingly because she often forgets to greet me at all, she says it is because she talks to me all day even when I am not there so hellos and goodbyes never seem necessary, but I'm not convinced.

"Maybe they are Muscari flowers, they are so beautiful and each year they just come up of their own accord, every time I see them I give thanks for the wonderful person who planted them originally, who ever that might have been".

As I talk, I am not sure if my words are even audible, I watch her arranging the beautiful flowers in a vase on the kitchen table.  Everything is brighter when Kate is here, her youth is so refreshing and wonderful and I love the slight thrill of never quite knowing when she might skip in, or out, of the house.  I am so jealous.

I spent my entire life planning everything, from the earliest age I remember feeling responsible and sensible and that feeling has never left me, no matter how hard I try, I just can not be unorganised or spontaneous.  I am one sensible Nelly there is no denying it and Kate is everything I always dreamed of being.

"Mimsy I've been reading some interesting writing of some olden day German scientist, not sure how I even stumbled across it, I think his name is Georg Lichtenberg, or something like that, have you ever heard of him?"

I had heard of him because all my life I have loved journal writing and often found quotes to help focus my writings, and Georg C. Litchenberg had some entertaining, sarcastic and quirky quotes that I often referred to.  Before I had time to answer she was continuing.

"He said that to be content with life or to live merrily, rather all that is required is that we bestow on all things only a fleeting, superficial glance; the more thoughtful we become the more earnest we grow.  You have intense convictions on lots of things, do you think that has robbed you of contentment?".

She was sitting close to me now, looking at me with great anticipation, waiting for some wonderfully wise words to be imparted by her dear old Mimsy.  My first response has always been to answer questions quickly, I fear people will be gone if I take the time to form a thoughtful answer, but Kate had really pierced into my soul with this question. 

Striking the right balance between passionate conviction and superficial merriment has evaded me my whole life. I regret that too often I abandoned passionate conviction simply to fit in, to appear normal and have friends and to keep the peace.  Fear of being wrong was always a huge deterrent in speaking what was on my heart and in the end spending more time alone has been my answer.

I looked into the sweet, innocent, love filled eyes of Kate and decided not to give her the cynical, harsh and unappealing answer of a tired old woman but I wanted to give her an answer that would give her hope that she could be passionate and also happy and content, just because I hadn't mastered it in over 70 years, didn't mean Kate wouldn't.

"Oh Kate, there is so much I want to share with you ...."

Just then the old grey cat started clawing at the door and meowing to come in.  Kate got straight up and cuddled Anne but discovered she had killed another baby bird, at this Kate went outside, taking Anne with her, off the verandah and into the overgrown garden with all its colour, scent, sounds and movement to reprimand the stubborn old cat and the conversation was forgotten.  I thank God that Anne interrupted at that very moment because I fear if I had of continued I may have inadvertently tainted Kate's view of the world and that was never my desire or intention. 

They say wisdom comes with age but maybe the wisdom is just to say less.


Sunday, 2 February 2014

The Butterfly Experience

In December last year we visited the Butterfly House near Coffs Harbour.  The girls were desperate for a butterfly to land on them; they sat still and quietly for a long time in a relatively warm and humid hot house , which is to be commended for a 4 and 6 year old, willing a butterfly to land on them.  Eventually after waiting and waiting to no avail the lovely lady who worked there carried over two very delicate butterflies and sat one on each of the girls.  They were overcome with excitement and happiness. 

These butterflies were only 4 hours old, as the butterflies sat on the girls they opened their wings for the first time and started moving them, pushing the blood into their beautiful new wings so they would eventually have the strength to fly.  The butterflies are very fragile and vulnerable during this phase but they must move through it to become stronger, more independent and to become the beautiful creatures they have been designed to be.
Today as my little girl clung to me, burying her head into my neck, trying so hard to be brave but quietly sobbing I thought of those sweet little butterflies.  She has been basically attached to me for four years and now she has to stretch her wings out and it doesn't feel good, for either of us.  I know that if I hold her too close she will not have enough room to stretch those wings out fully, she needs time and space to start flapping those tender, new wings of hers. 
As she clung to my arm, crying out she wanted to stay with me, saying she loved me, I had to remove myself.  I wanted to cry too, I wanted to grab her and hold her oh so tight and take her home, but I didn't.  I know in my heart, stepping out and starting to explore the big wide world without me by her side, in a safe, caring, stimulating environment, for a few hours a week, is probably a worthwhile and beneficial thing for her to do.  Plus I need a little bit of time too, quiet time, time to earn some money, time to pursue my dream of writing.
I know I have many more moments just like this ahead of me.  I've already had a few when our big girl started school, caught the school bus for the first time, didn't get invited to a friends birthday party, all these experiences that they 'need' to have to grow into independent, compassionate adults who can contribute to make the world a better place.  Man it is tough!
Every time 'we' have one of these experiences I think of their beautiful wings getting a little bit stronger.  I hear a chorus of angels singing around them, cheering them on; I see the Holy Spirit surrounding them with love, peace, mercy, strength and joy; each time I see the colours of their wings get more vibrant and their wing span get wider; their heart get bigger and yes I cry when they aren't looking.  I cry because I am proud, because I am filled with love and yes I get a little bit scared that if I feel anymore my brain and heart just might explode, but this is the cycle, and beauty, of life.
How wonderful to be able to witness the unfolding of these beautiful wings so closely, what a genuine gift to hold them tight enough to give them strength but still let them fly when they need to.  What a miracle it is to stand by their side for the rest of my lifetime praying for them, encouraging them, loving them and being able to play a small role in supporting them to humbly and gracefully be the magnificent God created masterpieces they are.
So if you see my little butterflies out there in the big wide world, flapping their wings, trying to get strength can you give them a smile, encourage and support them and I will do the same for yours, ok.
 

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Why did Sam fall off the bike?

Yesterday morning my 6 year old daughter and I headed off together on a bike ride.  My husband got me a new bike seat and new bike tyre tubes for my poor old bike which had been left to rot under the house since having children, and he 'restored' it (the gears are still stuck in one place but never mind) for my Christmas present.  Bike riding is the only form of exercise I have ever enjoyed so I was pretty excited. 

Since Christmas I have been riding down to our letterbox, about 1 kilometre, and back every few mornings rediscovering my love of bike riding.  The breeze, the freedom, the physical challenge, the practical aspect of getting somewhere quicker than walking and the knowledge that my heart, lungs and leg muscles are enjoying themselves too.  I'm slowly building up the courage to go further up the laneway but I'm a bit scared of being run over, anyway I digress.

Yesterday Sage woke up just as I was heading off on my ride and she wanted to come. There was a slight breeze, the tree of abundance at our back door was flowering, the birds were singing and as we were riding along I was daydreaming about how perfect this scenario was.  If I could whistle I would have been whistling a happy tune.

Oh yeah, why did Sam fall of his bike? .... Because Sam was a fish :-)

Sage got ahead of me, beating Mum at everything seems important at the moment, and as I looked up I saw her falling quickly, then her head went 'doink' on the metal grid, she cried loudly and hysterically.

I rode more quickly towards her, trying to stay calm, her head just hit a grid, with nothing breaking her fall, I knew that would really hurt.  We left the bikes, I carried her home, there was a massive lump on her head in seconds and there was a slight cut.  Oh and she was still crying very loudly and hysterically.  As we walked inside I looked again at our flowering tree of abundance and thought how quickly situations can change.

After a few hot weeks of school holidays, basically being confined to the air-conditioned part of the house, I was really starting to feel like my children were the most ungrateful, wild, whingy whiny, painful creatures and I was the crankiest, most awful, fun-less mother to ever exist.  So this bike ride represented a change in attitude, a new approach, an uplifting of our spirits, bonding, a commitment to enjoying the remaining week or so of holidays and then came the 'doink', the ice, the cuddles and the Panadol.

I don't know about you but I often put so much pressure on certain events, activities or occasions that it is impossible for them to live up to my expectations.  I am getting better, once upon a time I might have been quietly cranky that an accident ruined my perfect moment in time, I would have repressed these emotions because they were irrational and awful, but they were real.  Highly strung you might say.

The longer I live the more flexible and fluid with the flow of life I am becoming.   The truth is there is hardly anything in life I can really control, when I let go of my tight grip often far more extraordinary things happen.  It is a constant process of prayer and enlightenment for me to give myself over to the flow of life, and I regress often.  I quietly and repetitively mumble to myself “Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force,” by Laozi, this tends to help.

Anyway, my big brave girl recovered from her fall quickly, the ice meant the wound on her head went down surprisingly quickly.  It meant I got to sit and cuddle and comfort her for a long time, which was actually really lovely.  The next morning she came riding with me again, without incident, and it was very beautiful and enjoyable.

I'm not sure there is a morale to this story, except life is happening every day, no matter if it is the way we expected or wanted, and there is beauty to be found in lots of situations.

There is a dead goanna under my step and it stinks

The goanna had been peacefully patrolling our yard faithfully all summer long, keeping away brown snakes whilst not being a threat to us at all.  Sadly we have a not so intelligent Labrador, Minnie Mae, who thought the goanna was a threat to us, so when it ventured under the house Minnie Mae protected us by killing this unknown intruder.  I was very upset that the useful goanna had been killed by the useless dog but such is life.  Now the poor dead goanna is so full of maggots its skin is crawling ... too much information sorry, it is really gross?

Anyway, for some reason this poor goanna has made me think of what I will be like when I am old.  No matter how useful and peaceful I am now, I will get old, and eventually suffer the same fate as the goanna, hopefully in a grave not under a step.  The Bible says "The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty ... they are soon gone, and we fly away."  Life is precious because it comes to an end, I really do want to make the most of it, right to the very end.

In my various roles in the field of Community Development, and as a member of a number of organisations over the years, I have had the pleasure of spending time with a broad cross section of the community.  I have met many elderly people who continue to contribute and inspire no matter how old they get, they have enhanced my life and I love each one of them dearly.  I also have an amazing Nan, she turns 93 soon, she is generous and graceful and kind and every time I see her I leave feeling happy.  So I am blessed to have many elderly role models.

Alternatively I have met many elderly who are bad tempered, threatened by youth, stand in the way of change and generally annoy and alienate most people.  The ones that make you silently groan inside when you see them coming towards you.  The same can be said of any age group really, but for some reason the difference between the two groups seems to be accentuated with age. 

Recently two people in Roma have turned 104, they are still pretty spritely too and they continue to amaze and inspire their whole community.  They have both said that getting plenty of sleep,  eating lots of healthy food and being true to yourself and following your dreams is the secret to their longevity.  There has to be some truth in that. 

Some other words of wisdom from elderly people I have found online are:
  • Look in your back pocket. If you're lucky you'll find some money. If you're more lucky you'll find a note from your girl that says 'I love you'.
  • Don't cook bacon in the nude
  • The grass is always greener over the septic tank
Dr Ye Li of California University is Riverside said "The findings of a recent study confirm that although brains slow down with age, experience and acquired knowledge from a lifetime offset the declining ability to learn new information".  Wisdom really does come with age.

We live in a country with a growing elderly population, if we are lucky we will get to be old people one day too, so planning for and considering what we will be like in old age isn't really all that silly.   Again the Bible says "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day," 2 Corinthians 4:16.  There is hope and purpose even in old age.

I do pray I can be a helpful, kind and inspiring older person, making a positive contribution to my family and community right up until I take my last breath, just like our poor goanna!  If you know me when I am old and I am being obstinate and cranky please remind me of this goanna story :-)

Are there any elderly people in your life that continue to inspire and encourage you?  What sort of older person do you think you will be?

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Identity theft

In 2007 the Justine Miller, or Justine Brotherton, that had existed for the previous 30 years some how disappeared, in an instant my identity changed, how I felt about myself changed, my purpose for living changed and the things about myself that I considered important changed.  It was nobody's fault, I became a Mum, and after a long, emotionally draining IVF struggle, as I held that little pink bundle in my arms I promised myself and God that I would love this person with all my strength, every day of my life.

"Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of light" James 1:17.  I see both our children as perfect gifts from God, I see my Heavenly Father in their sleeping faces, I hear Him in their laugh, I see His goodness in their kindness and capacity to love, and mostly I feel undeserving of such gifts, I look at them and wonder why I got so lucky.  Subconsciously I feel how I love my children is a direct reflection on how I love God.  If I don't love them enough it means I am not grateful for the gift God gave me and I am letting Him down.  In my conscious mind I  know this is not true, but I have basically devoted the past 6 years of my life completely to the well-being of our children. I wanted to be the best Mum I could be (P.S. I still do not know what this means).

I do not want to interfere with the wonderful human beings the girls have been created to be, but I know they still need guidance and look to us as their parents to decipher wrong from right.  I have attended parenting workshops, read books, blogs and articles on the importance of play, attachment, early brain development, nutrition, spiritual growth etc. 

For six years I have played, listened, sung, photographed, documented, danced, created, painted, moulded, anything that helps them to express themselves, explore their creativity and develop skills.  We have gone to swimming, gymnastics, dancing, speech therapy,to ensure they get enough stimulation.  We bought 60 acres so they could explore and be free and let their minds expand and not be limited by fences or walls and so they would be physically active.  They ride motorbikes and horses, pushbikes and sometimes help drive the car or tractor.  Fun yes but exhausting, occasionally I get in the car and just drive off and for 20 minutes pretend I am free from the responsibility of caring and guiding them.  I feel perpetually guilty that I am messing them up, they seem so wild and free and out of control sometimes, actually most of the time.

Now, for the first time in six years, with the girls going to Kindergarten and School, I have to let go of my identity solely revolving around their fulltime care.  I will let go of their sweet little hands as they walk through the gates of their prospective schools and I will be left wondering 'what now'.  I will have 5 days a fortnight to explore what it is I want to do, but what the flip is it I want to do!!!! Emily Freeman in her book "A Million Little Ways" says 'Do you desperately fear you have nothing to offer the world but secretly hope you're wrong"?  Ummm, YES. 

As the years pass by and the girls become increasingly independent there will be more time for me to do the things I love, pursuing what I am passionate about.  I get heart palpitations just thinking out it, a mixture of excitement and fear.  Adele Basheer says "The best thing about starting at the beginning is you can only go forward", so this will be my mantra for a little while.

I know I will never regret my choice to spend so much time with the girls when they were small, and every moment spent with them is a blessing to be enjoyed and cherished, but I also have to give myself permission to live my own individual dreams now too :-)

“The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become - because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. . .It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” C.J. Lewis 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Let It Be in Twenty Fourteen

As the  festive season came to an end, and I was faced with the reality of the year ahead, I felt a little hesitant. The temperatures are over 40 degrees, there has been no decent rain for months, it is hot and windy, dry and dusty, there are already a pile of bills to pay, farmers all around us are gripped in drought, I am stuck inside with two small children trying to stay cool (they have squeaky little voices, they are always hungry and they make masses of mess EVERYWHERE) and after we sat down and wrote our goals for the year ahead I was exhausted and overwhelmed.  I bemoaned to a friend "I don't know if I'm looking forward to another year exactly the same as last year, how boring".

Then it all changed, I opened my "Arrow Bone Marrow Transplant Foundation" newsletter and read about how Allan Frenkel underwent treatment for Acute Lymphatic Leukaemia at 18 years old and how the Walk 4 Whit team participated in the City2Surf in memory of Whitney Lane who passed away last year aged 19 years.  Now I am praying I have a year exactly the same as last year.

I pray my children continue to grow and learn, to be happy and safe and to be free and spirited.  I pray my husband and I continue to be fit and healthy so we can keep working hard to build our dream and  laugh and live side by side and take time to enjoy all the special moments shared while we have a young family.  I pray I get to keep talking and laughing with my sister and friends and that I keep growing and learning.  I pray I have a spiritual and creative year ahead.  I want to be softer and kinder to myself and others and now I am excited.

This quick and significant change in my attitude made me realise how easy it is to become a spoilt little toad when we have so much.  I have so much of everything; love, food, freedom, time and I still want more of everything, something.  I had the hide to say that another perfectly peaceful and happy year would be boring.  I kind of want to slap myself.

My theme song for the year is "Let It Be" by the Beatles, every time I try to plan years into the future, or fret about money I am going to sing this song and hopefully relax.  For as long as I can remember I have wanted to see how the future will turn out, this has never happened, but so far each time I get to the future it has been more amazing than I could of ever dreamed possible.  I need to trust this will continue to be the case.

We watched a movie about magicians the other night and they said the closer you look the less you will see!  I think this is true of life, when I look too closely at things, overanalyse thoughts or ideas, think too long about small decisions, try and micromanage each day and force decisions and outcomes, give myself nightmares over things that might not ever happen, then I become blind to the beauty and the gifts right in front of me.

After all the Bible says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths" Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV.  I'm going to Let It Be and not keep such a tight grip on this life which is fragile and precious, and see how it all works out :-)  Happy New Year!!