Monthly Archives: April 2012

My quest for a home

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I crave a homebase. A firm unchanging place. A place I can go if all else fails.

When I first moved to the US, I felt very alone. My host family sister says I cried in my sleep every night.  A dear friend from home called me one night and I remember crying the whole call.  She said, “Honey, if you hate it you can come home. You can always come home.” And she was right.  I could.  And it was so comforting.  Comforting and strengthening.  I stuck it out here because of that hope.  I can always go home.

Home. My home is with my parents. Wherever they are, that is my home. They are my homebase.

There are many Aussies in this part of the US.  There are two large companies that bring Aussies out here for work.  I’ve met some of these Aussies at local parks and playgrounds.  I try to reach out and connect but they don’t respond.  One of them was kind enough to explain, “We are a tight group. The families of the company.”  They have created closed communities and I don’t qualify.  Firstly, my husband doesn’t work for either of those companies.  Second, he’s American so even if he did, I may still not qualify.

One day I was skyping with Dad about my struggles with the conflicts between Australian and American culture. I was sharing with him that I doubt that I’ll ever feel like I “belong” here. But I also felt like I don’t “belong” back in Australia either. I am now a mix of cultures and I don’t belong to a place or a people.

Dad spoke vision and hope into my heart.

We are citizens of heaven. (Philippians 3:20)
We are aliens and strangers in the world. Temporary residents and foreigners. Sojourners and exiles. Wayfarers and pilgrims. (1 Peter 2:11a in several translations)

My dad is an incredibly wise and insightful man.  He also is full of God’s Spirit and has a godly gift of wisdom which adds a whole other layer to his natural wisdom.  He says profound things that change me.

He reminded me that Philippians and 1 Peter show us our true identity.  He encouraged me that my feelings were not unique to me.  He suggested that most humans feel like they don’t quite belong and that they live life looking for people and places where they can feel like they belong.

Isn’t that true? Don’t we do that?  Search for a place to belong?  And isn’t awesome when you find someone who seems like you?  There is a calm and peace that comes in those kinds of relationships.

That craving of our hearts… our search for belonging… our need for a place to be a home… is not a problem. It’s a reminder.  It’s truth.  It’s our guide.  We don’t belong here.

Our Father God created us to be in relationship with Him.  Not from a distance but in-person.  Walking side by side with Him.  This life we are living is a shadow of the life He created us for. Our bodies groan and cry out for the real life we were made for (Romans 8:23, 2 Corinthians 5:4).

And you know what?  I’ve found a group I belong to: the aliens and sojourners. The citizens of heaven who have come to grips with the fact they don’t belong here.  I’m inspired by them.  For now, my home is with them. Wherever they are, that is my gypsy home too. A community dedicated to living out God’s love as they journey in this foreign place.  I’m drawn to them. I am one of them.

This is my true homebase. A firm unchanging place.  Everything else will fail. God and His people are my home.

This song by David echos the hearts of my people.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God… How happy are those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. Happy are those who are strong in the LORD, who set their minds on a pilgrimage to [God’s city]. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains! They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem…  A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked. For the LORD God is our light and protector. He gives us grace and glory. No good thing will the LORD withhold from those who do what is right. O LORD Almighty, happy are those who trust in you. (Psalm 84)

How are you doing? What is God doing in your life in this area? How do you find strength as a sojourner and citizen of heaven?

 

Want to read through the Bible with me?  Today’s Readings: Psalm 18:25-50; Luke 10:25-42

Sometimes that happens

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Col 3v13This morning my almost-four-year-old and I went to Freddies. It was a typical Saturday morning at Fred Meyer’s: busy busy busy. The parking lot was pretty full.

I saw a spot to my left, put my indicator on and paused to wait for an oncoming car.

And that guy took my spot. Hello sir, I had my blinker on! Rude.

Me: “That guy just took the parking spot we have been waiting for!”

Almost-four-year-old: “Sometimes that happens. You just need to forgive.”

Oh sweet pea. You are so right.

I wish forgiveness was as easy as she thinks it is. My heart seems so complicated. My daughter is my mentor.

Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14)

How are you today?

Truth gave me an anchor today

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Today marks one week of treatment.  I’m now up to the full dosage on the five supplements I’m taking this month.  It’s been an interesting week.  Working out a treatment schedule, getting on to a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, researching other treatment options, etc. etc.

I’ve been feeling quite blue through it all.  So many questions tumble through my mind.  How sick am I?  Will I recover?  Is the cost of the treatments worth it?  How much time do I want to spend on research when I am trading precious time with my kids? On and on.

Our church community is reading through the Bible together.  Today’s Old Testament reading is Psalm 18.

I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. (Psalm 18:1-3)

Truth!  Lord you ARE my strength.  You ARE my shield.  You ARE saving me from the enemies in my body. Thank you.

What about you? How is your day? What promise from God is giving you hope today?

 

The cost of my treatment is expensive and not covered by insurance.  I’m thinking about starting an Etsy store to raise funds.  I’ve done a few sample designs for Nursery Art.  Do you like to critique and give your opinion?  Check out the initial designs and let me know what you think.

Oh Hunger Games

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Friday night a dear friend took me to see Hunger Games.  Sunday morning another dear friend loaned me the book series.  This morning I finished the final book, Mockingjay.

I immediately began to miss the characters. That’s my personal measure of a writer’s gift: whether or not I miss the story when it comes to an end.  Suzanne Collins, I’m a fan.

(Spoiler alert: I’m about to talk about the characters in the books…)

Is it just me, or does anyone else relate to the way Katniss struggles to connect with people and make friends? The way she can’t see a good thing for a good thing?  They way she over-thinks and self-depreciates?  The way her inner warrior is her greatest strength?  The way her regrets and failings haunt her?  Love her character.

And how could I not love Haymitch and Finnick?  And Prim.  Boggs, Beetee, Cinna, Effie, and… everyone.  And of course, Gale and Peeta.  Such great characters!

All these fabulous characters has me thinking about the people in my life.  The mix of personalities, giftings and passions that influence my life and make me a better version of myself.

Mentors, advisors, friends…  so many wonderful people in my life.  I want to list names but it would be a ridiculously long list.  God has filled my life with such a special community.  So grateful.

The character I love the most is Peeta. His “goodness” and comfort were so familiar. Don’t get me wrong, I love how Gale is an equal for Katniss.  I love how he spurs her on.  He infuses her with strength and valor. But Peeta brings something “other” to Katniss’ life.  He is not like her. He brings her balance and rest.

I have a Peeta.  A person who is not like me and fills my life with balance and rest.  My husband is the most amazing person I’ve ever known.  I couldn’t help but think of him as I read about kind, gentle, steady, faithful, uniquely powerful Peeta.

My husband has, once again, been a rock and comfort this week as I wrestled with the diagnosis and treatment plan.  He is one of the most genuinely “good” people I know.  The beauty of his “goodness” is he has worked hard to develop it.  He has chosen to walk in a way that I don’t see many chose.  He is fast to identify any selfishness and pursues God’s freedom from it.  He is slow to judge and never speaks a hurtful word.  He makes everything better.  Whatever he touches, wherever he goes, whatever he says brings life.  I don’t like to do things without him, because with him things are so much better.  People love him.  They want him to be on their team.  They want to be on his team.

Ok… I’ll stop.  I could go on and on.  Clearly I’m enamoured.

But who he is today was not who he always was.  I remember him limping in life.  I remember him struggling to know his identity and walking in it.  I remember the stories of pain that were keeping him bound up.

Over the 13 years of our marriage, I’ve watch God transform him.  I watched as my husband chose to believe God’s Word about who he is.  I watched him put aside lies, cut off the past pain and move into today.  He is my hero in so many ways.  The work of the Holy Spirit in him and through him is so very good.  He seems to be bursting with the Fruit of the Spirit.  He is no longer who he was.  And I love watching how his life cuts a path for me, our children, and others to follow.

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

How about you? What beauty do you see in the people God has surrounded you with?  Stop and consider them… do you see the gifts they are to you?  Do you see anyone that seems to burst with the Fruit of the Spirit? 

How do I want to live?

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As you read this story, it’s not all it is. This story belongs to a bigger conversation but the rest will have to come in layers on other days.  It’s just a single bite of pepperoni taken off a large supreme pizza.  There’s so much more and this is not a good representation of the whole.  But I have to start somewhere… so here it is:  A taste. A layer. A glimpse. A foothill.

When I was young, my country had a financial recession.  My parents were small business owners and had employees. During the recession Dad and Mum did everything they could to pay their team first and whatever was left, if anything, was for our family. My parents have amazing stories of miracle provision during that time.  I remember several occasions when I came home from school to find a box of groceries on our doorstep.  I watched my parents walk out their faith and trust in God.  I watched them closely.  And I saw the realness of God and His love and care.

About 20 years later, my husband and I enter a crazy season of life.  Both our jobs ended due to the US financial crisis.  My husband started working every odd job he could find.  I was at home with our one-year-old and racked my brain to work out how to make money.

I didn’t find a way to make money but I did think of some practical things I could do to help reduce our living expenses.  We trimmed our budget down to bare essentials.  I worked out ways to cut costs everywhere.  And I worked out how to ration our food.  I went through the fridge, freezer and pantry and made a list of everything.  I worked out we could eat for about three weeks without shopping except for some fresh items for our daughter.  After our food ran out, I had no idea what we would do.

Several challenges came during those weeks.  Some friends needed a place to stay and we fed them while they were here.  Many friends popped by to show their support and I worked out some creative refreshments to serve.  Then my husband’s family came for a weekend.  His parents and his siblings and their families and dogs.

My husband had to be gone that weekend but he said he’d spoken with his family and explained our situation.  He said he’d arranged with them to help with meals.  We were to provide breakfast and they would take care of lunch.  Ok.  I could do that.  We had lots of oatmeal and we had milk for the baby.  Ok.  I could do breakfast for everyone.  I put on a happy face.  I needed to ignore my fears of what the weeks ahead could hold.  I had to choose to enjoy life.

Breakfast went well.  I remember pushing aside fear as I scooped many cups of dried oats into the pot.  I remember serving those bowls and choosing to give them with joy.  I remember how quickly the food was eaten.

Then lunchtime came.  My sister-in-law asked, “What is the plan for lunch?”  My heart dropped.  If only my husband was here and could say something to clear up the confusion.  But he wasn’t.  So I gathered my panicked thoughts and explained that we were in a difficult season.  “Don’t worry,” she said. “Let’s look in your pantry. I’m sure we can find something that will work.”

It was a beautiful and encouraging thing for her to say.  What she didn’t understand is I knew EXACTLY what was in the pantry.  She grabbed somethings from the pantry and the freezer.  I didn’t even have to look to know what she had.  Dried pasta, canned tomatoes, frozen chicken breasts, and frozen veggies.  That food was supposed to feed us for a whole week of dinners.

I excused myself, went to the privacy of my bathroom and cried.  I cried and prayed and cried.

Then I felt God speak to me: “If it’s your food and you run out, it’s your problem.  But if it’s My food and you run out, it’s My problem. How do you want to live?”

As a child I’d watched my parents walk this out but I was just an observer of that relationship journey.  Now, it was my very own personal journey with God.  The lack I felt as a child was being redeemed through the lack I was feeling as an adult.  I had watched Him be Jehovah Jireh but know I was personally knowing the Lord my provider.

I pulled myself together, made lunch, and watched it be eaten by people who didn’t know its full value.  Each second I had to push away my feelings of anxiety and choose to give with joy.  I don’t know what my face looked like.  I feel terrible for being such a poor host.  I was not feeling very generous or hospitable.  It was not my best day.

We cleaned up and the family got ready to leave.  As we cleaned, the doorbell rang.  Two dear ladies from church stood on my doorstep.  They were carrying bags.  Bags of groceries.

I was almost ashamed to accept that food.  It was food I did not deserve to have.  God had provided for us despite my fears and bad attitude.  He gave me grace and mercy and love when I hadn’t been trusting Him at all.

As I said, this is just a small story that’s part of a much bigger story. This was just one of many stories of miracle provision.  But it also stands on its own fairly well.  A Standing Stone to remember God’s goodness.

“So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life — whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not. And why worry about your clothes? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you? You have so little faith! So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day-to-day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

How about you? How has God led you to know Him more deeply?  How has He shown you how to trust Him to provide? What are the stories of your Standing Stones?

The recesses of my pantry… and my life

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I found the most incredible things in my pantry last night.

Everything with gluten or dairy was bagged up and delivered to neighbors.

So long beautiful white flour.  So long obligatory whole wheat flour.  Goodbye chocolate stash.  I love you.  I miss you.  Every day at 3pm I will think of you and long for you.

Bye random cans of food that shouldn’t have gluten but do.  Bye pasta.  Bye dog food. What? Dog food?  Our dog went to live with Grandpa & Grandma a year and a half ago.

Why do we still have a big Ikea tub with dog food?  Oh. It’s because we didn’t want to purge you from our lives, sweet dog.  You were our family for ten years.

Why do we have Pavlova Eggs that are long expired?  Oh. It’s because they were homeland gifts from my sister and they are precious to me.

Why do we have so many weird food items? Oh. It’s because I still am holding on to food just in case.  (Hmmmm… I haven’t blogged about that yet, have I? Maybe tomorrow will be a good day for that.)

What do I have in the recesses of my life that I don’t need anymore?  What am I holding on to?  I’m sentimental about relationships, about my homeland, about my family, about my past, about so many things.

I have to face facts: the pantry was not functional for my needs of today.  I had to clear it out to give myself a chance to succeed in being fully gluten- and dairy-free.

What in my heart do I need to clear out?  I’m praying about that today.  Praying to see what is clogging up my life.  Praying to be shaped and prepared for what I need to be for today.

“I am still not all I should be,  but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead”   (Philippians 3:13)

I’m also mindful that my journey always affects the people in my life.  I can see through my life that in growing and in times of “recess cleaning”, the people I love are affected deeply.  I also see that my journey requires their help.  And vice versa.

Last night my dear friend came to help me.  She is logical, practical, and sensible.  She is wise, caring, and pastoral.  She is supportive, understanding, and faithful.  She also has issues with gluten so had the vision and patience to look at each item one at a time.  She was the perfect person to help me.

Problem is, she was exposed to gluten as we cleaned out the shelves.  My baking flour had left a layer of gluten-rich dust over pretty much everything in the pantry.

In the journey of life, we need people.  We need people who know us and love us.  We need people to help us carry out difficult quests.  And in the process they will be exposed to our toxic purgings.

It is foolish to try to protect people from those things.  It is unwise to keep things private and hidden.  We are created to be in community.  We are created to be intertwined and interconnected.

Even though she was exposed to gluten last night, I know she had counted the cost and chose to be there to support me.  She knows, I would never have cleaned that pantry in one night without her practical and emotional support.  And I know that I have given that kind of support to her many times too.  I love this interdependency.  This life-giving relationship.

Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Thank God for this family I have. My church community, my dear friends near and far, my amazing biological family.  They are all sisters and brothers who bring their gifts and perspectives, and totally change my life for the better.  (I love you guys so much.)

How about you? Do you have somethings in the recesses of your life that need to be cleaned out?  Do you have godly, wise community to support you?  Are you a godly, wise support to them as well?  Do you have relationships of healthy equality?

Mindful Mind Full

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Days speed by and many layers of my life are running on autopilot.

Three years ago my job ended and I entered a new season of being an at-home mum. At the same time I was doing weight watchers.  Others in my meeting seemed to struggle to follow the program but I found it quite easy.  I realized why: I had space. My heart and mind were not overwhelmed or tangled up. They had been for many years… Tangled up. Burdened. Overloaded. But now I was in a season of simplicity. And I got to be “mindful” about my eating each moment of each day. For years I hadn’t had the emotional or intellectual space to be mindful about my eating. But now I was fully able to breathe, pause and think about it. And so, my weight watchers journey was easy. I dropped 50 pounds. Dude that’s a lot of weight. And then I looked in the mirror and saw the me I remember. I was mindful and the me I knew was able to exist again.

This week I have entered a new season: I finally have a diagnosis and treatment plan.  I have to be aggressive in a totally new way. I HAVE to clear space to be mindful. When I did weight watchers, the space had been cleared for me. This time I’m having to clear it myself.

As I process the reality of my diagnosis, I’m having to overcome a huge amount of emotional tangles amidst the busyness of raising little ones. I’m having to use all my muscle and determination to be able to think clearly.  I’m not being very successful yet.  But there is a long journey ahead so each day I will try again.

This month, I’m juggling 5 meds. I have to ease onto them so not to overload my system. Friday I started a twice a week med. Saturday I started a three times a day med and a twice a day med. Today I added a second twice a week med. tomorrow I take the first one for the second time. On Tuesday I start a third twice a week med. Repeat. Many times. Until, the meds need to be changed. The bacterial infection I’m fighting is a mutator. It twists and changes to avoid death. Each month my meds will change to beat it at its own game.

I also have to be gluten- and dairy-free. Today is day four of my new GF & DF life. I failed on Friday but I now know that regular soy sauce has gluten. I failed Saturday but I now know about gluten cross contamination from processing, transportation and cooking devices. I failed Sunday but I now know that ketchup has gluten. I emailed my nurse to double-check: how fully GF do I need to be?  Her answer: You should avoid gluten at all cost, it can feed the bacteria. Trace amounts are not ok!

My brain is totally MAXED out. I have a mind full.

Saturday night I had extreme anxiety. I heard about a man in our community who died from the same bacteria I have. I was really discouraged by the discussions on some online support groups for this disease. I watched a movie where someone died too young. Anxiety tied a rope around my lungs. My heart raced. My mind went wild.

My husband was at work late into the night so I called him and he prayed for me.

The treatment causes flu-like symptoms and my body was in pain. I took my evening doses and forced myself to sleep.  Sunday morning I was supposed to play keys for worship team at church. My team gave grace and made last-minute changes to cover me. My hubby is on AV team so he took one of our kids and went. Baby went down for morning nap.  After my GF oats, flax, blueberry & rice milk breakfast, I settled on the couch to watch church live streaming.

God met me.

I knew the worship set list because we have a midweek practice. Yet, the songs surprised me and the Word in them was a sword of Truth that cut me free from the ropes of anxiety.

Tears rolled down my face. Sobs came from my heart.

“He is Faithful. He is Glorious. He is Jesus. All my hope is in Him. He is Freedom. He is healing right now. He is hope and joy, love and peace and life.” (Bryan & Katie Torwalt)

“You are the One who saves. You are the One whose hands lift us up from the grace… Jesus you are my rescue. I give you everything I am” (Brenton Brown)

“You are God with us. You’re victorious. You are strong and mighty to save. Your Word strands true. There is none like you. And when all else fades, You remain. When trouble comes my way. You guide and you sustain.” (Starfield)

“Before the throne of God above I have a strong and perfect plea; A great High Priest, whose name is Love, who ever lives and pleads for me. My name is graven on His hands. My name is written on His heart.” (Ban­croft. Shane & Shane)

The sermon yesterday was part of a series in Revelation.  Our pastor is a highly educated man and his teaching gift totally meets my mind’s needs.  He also is determined to know the heart of God and his prophetic gift totally meets my heart’s needs. I love getting to study with him each week. Yesterday’s message in Revelation 16 was not about the horrors of that passage but about the love of God.  It was about the unending ways God offers a relationships with Him and takes care of His children.  One of the companion passages he used was Romans 8.  And it gives me an anchor in this weird new season of my life.

For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we will share his treasures — for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children,   including the new bodies he has promised us. Now that we are saved, we eagerly look forward to this freedom. For if you already have something, you don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t have yet, we must wait patiently and confidently. And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.   (Romans 8:16-28)

I have to be mindful about my treatment plan.  I have to be mindful about gluten and dairy.  I will also be mindful in walking with God and trusting His Love.  I will be mindful to not allow anxiety and fear to steer my days.

As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. (Genesis 50:20)

How about you?  Do you have a mind full?  What is God speaking to you?  What things help you to be mindful in times of chaos?