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Monday, 29 June 2015

It Started with the Basil

I planned to sit down for a few minutes this morning in a little patch of deliciously warm sunlight I’d spotted when I opened the blinds after breakfast. It looked so warm and cozy, that little spot, and I was soooo ready to sit down – right after I finished drying the basil I’d picked yesterday.

I had to dry the basil first because it was taking up half my kitchen bench space and sooner or later, given my curious not-quite-bench-height kids, it was going to be all over the floor.

While I dried the basil, I figured I’d empty the dishwasher. It made sense. I was in the kitchen anyway waiting at forty second intervals for my microwave to beep so I could check the basil.

And then I saw the recycling sitting there, taunting me, and the bin full of rubbish which had somehow multiplied overnight and now needed emptying. I’d just do that, I promised myself, and then I’d sit down.

But first, I had to get dressed since there was no way I was going outside in my daggy winter pyjamas. Of course, going into my room to get dressed also reminded me that I hadn’t made my bed yet, so I did that too. Then got dressed. And took the rubbish and recycling out. Now I’d sit down for a few minutes, I told myself.

Only, as I was coming in from taking the rubbish out, my washing machine started beeping at me to let me know it was finished and required hanging out. And I got the idea for this post which had to be written down before I forgot…

My washing machine is still beeping at me, my kids are still in their pyjamas (fortunately playing very happily as I run from one thing to the next), I haven’t yet washed up the breakfast mess (next on the list…) and that’s just the beginning of all the things I still have to do today, but I’m sitting down.

I realised, thankfully before it was too late, that my little patch of sunlight wasn’t going to last forever and if I didn’t sit down now, I was going to miss it entirely.

Ever had one of those days? Ever not? I seem to have a lot of them.

The truth is, there’s always something more to do. There will always be something to clean, something to do, someone you should be catching up with.

Sometimes, we just have to stop. Ignore it all, and stop. Spend time with the kids who won’t be little forever, spend time on our own, spend time with God. Be still, and know that he is God. It’s beyond important – it truly is a matter of life and death. It’s in those moments of quiet and stillness that we are refreshed, that we realise what’s important and that God speaks.

My patch of sunlight was only there for another five minutes. Had I hung up the washing, I would have missed it. But I also would have missed that five minutes I spent with God, thanking him for the gift of time and his reminder to keep what is important important and hold the rest loosely. 

By the end of the day, the washing was done, as was the vacuuming. The basil was dried, the dishes were all clean and my kids were back in their pyjamas. Life went on, most of the things on my to-do list got done. That five minutes wasn’t very long, but it made all the difference.

Be still and know that God is God – even when the world is going crazy around you. 

Actually, especially then.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

The Walkway with the Spider

Despite my debilitating fear of the huntsman variety (which are freakily big, fast, scary-looking even in death, and not what you want to wake up to find you’ve slept on all night… thanks a lot little brother who thought it would be funny to put one in my bed!), I’m not all that afraid of spiders. Sure, I wouldn’t keep them as a pet or study them for a living, but they’re okay. Especially those almost invisible daddy-longlegged ones.

My two-year-old daughter, on the other hand, is terrified of all of them. I don’t think it helps at all that her four-year-old sister points out every spider she sees. And names them. ‘Spidergirl’ is a yellow and black one living in our garden, ‘Lizzie’ is Spidergirl’s slightly smaller friend, and ‘Spiderman’ was a six-legged daddy-longlegs living in our garage.

It’s Spiderman who’s been causing trouble for the last two months. While my four-year-old stopped to talk to him, my two-year-old won’t go anywhere near him – which is a problem given the only way to get into the house from the garage is via the spider. She’d stand beside her car door and beg me to carry her past.

Spiderman was only there for a week before moving on. I’ve been trying to convince my daughter for a month that it’s safe to walk past that particular spot, but there’s been no convincing her. Until last week.

We’d just come home from shopping and I had my arms full. She was standing there, like she usually does as she waits for me to walk with her, but then she surprised me. She took two tentative steps then walked determinedly to the other end of the garage. A metre ‘past Spiderman’, she stopped and turned back to me with the biggest grin on her face. I was so proud of her, I almost cried. I couldn’t put into words the pride I felt right then, knowing how much courage that three metre walk had taken.

But even as I stood there, shopping in my arms, praising her as I tried not to cry, I realised something – I was the only one who knew what an achievement that had been for her. To anyone else – her sister and dad even – it would have just looked like she was walking into the house like everyone else. No big deal. And yet, it was. And she and I alone knew it.

We all have fears. Some of them are big and completely understandable, acceptable even. Fear of public speaking, spiders, flying, failure, heights. People expect people to be afraid of those things. But alongside them are the fears that make little or no logical sense, the ones we hide because they’re almost laughworthy – and yet, we’re not laughing.  They’re just as real, if not more so, because they’re so personal.   

For me, among other things, I have an almost irrational fear of making phone calls. Emails, SMS, face to face – totally fine. Love them. Actual phone calls? With the exception of family, I’ll do almost anything to get out of making them. I’m better these days than I used to be – mainly because I have kids and therefore don’t have a choice (who else is going to make their doctors’ appointments???) – but I still get nervous every time I call someone and take a while to calm down after. I fake it, pretend I’m totally confident to the person on the other end, but I’m shaking inside. I make myself lists of everything I have to say/ask beforehand because I get so flustered I forget why I’m even calling. Even then, I usually miss half of it.

I made three phone calls the other day within the space of half an hour. I made two different medical appointments and called the library to sort out a problem with my library card. My to-do list had a huge smiley face beside it when I’d finished but that was nothing compared to the sense of achievement I felt.

As I sat there, smiling to myself at the grand feat I’d just pulled off, I knew that no one else would appreciate it. No one knew I’d just faced my fears and won.

But God did. There, in that moment, God smiled with me. He knew.

God sees our fears. The big ones, the small ones, the rational and irrational ones, the ones that make us merely nervous and the ones that make us shake so bad we can’t even move.

And like me with my daughter, he stands there, so proud he could burst as he watches us conquer them. Others might not know what an achievement you just conquered, but God does.

He sees, he knows and boy is he proud of you!

Monday, 1 June 2015

A Vision bigger than Eurovision

I became part of history last Sunday when I, an Australian, voted in Eurovision.

[NB. For those of you who don’t have a clue what Eurovision is, it’s a giant European song contest held every year. It’s amazingly wacky,  highly entertaining, and somehow, Australia managed to finagle their way into it this year, despite not being a European country, and were therefore allowed to vote alongside their European counterparts. Picture Australian Idol, but a lot LOT bigger, and crazier, and a large portion of the world watching it…]

Exciting as it was, voting really wasn’t that big a deal. I picked my favourite performance, clicked a little button beside the corresponding photo and sent off a vote along with a couple of hundred million other people watching. Since every one of those people could potentially vote twenty times, believe me, my little vote didn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.

But when the winner was announced, and turned out to be the performer I’d voted for, I felt pretty proud. As if, maybe, my vote actually had made a difference. Had it? Probably not. I’m pretty certain he still would have won without my vote. But I was part of it. I voted for the winner. 

I love being part of history. There’s something seriously cool about being able to say, even if it’s just to yourself, “I was there. I was part of that.” It’s that realisation that you’re part of something bigger – that your life counts for something more than just what you can see.

It’s one of the reasons I love prayer.

I’ll admit, I pray a lot. It's always come pretty naturally to me. A friend once joked that I’d pray if an ant crawled over my foot. I laughed, not so much because it was funny as because it was likely true! Awkwardly, I’ve also found myself praying during movies – more than once -  only to have to consciously (and frequently) remind myself that one, those characters are actors and two, nothing I pray is going to change the outcome of said movie… Believe it or not, the Titanic is still going to sink…

Still, that aside, there’s just something incredible about prayer. It’s power, it’s relationship, it’s peace, it’s war, it’s something far bigger than me.

So often in life we’re rendered helpless. We watch the news and see people hurting over the other side of the world, drive past car crashes, hear of presidential campaigns, friends who are hurting, celebrities whose lives are falling apart. Much as my heart aches to help them, I physically can’t.

I remember watching the news after the Boston Marathon bombing and hearing about a young girl who’d been badly injured. In a single moment, her life had drastically changed. I was heartbroken. I wanted to give her a hug, help her somehow as she tried to put her life back together. Of course, I couldn’t. I didn’t even know her name. And yet, I’ve prayed for her ever since. Prayed that someone else would be there to hug her and get alongside her as she learnt to walk again and found reason to smile. I doubt very much that I’ll ever meet her, and yet, I know God has listened to those prayers and answers them. 

I have the privilege of praying for people all over the world – rich and poor, powerful and weak, presidents and beggars, those I know well and those I know I’ll never meet. The vast majority of them have no idea I’m praying for them, fighting for them, beseeching God on their behalf. They don’t even know I exist. And yet, God does and God is working in their lives because of my prayers.

Prayer is powerful. Never doubt that. While one vote might not make a great deal of difference, one prayer can. 

Ever feel completely helpless? You’re not – not while you can pray. Because when you pray, God listens. And when God listens, things happen. And lives are changed.

I’m just an ordinary person. With the exception of my kids and the characters in my books, I don’t hold a lot of sway (come to think of it, my characters don’t always behave the way I think they will either!)  And yet, God has given me a power far greater than kings, queens or presidents – communication with him, the King of all kings. Have you ever considered the reality of that? You, who alone have little sway in anything that happens in the world, are listened to by the one who created the entire world and can do the impossible. Seriously. Yeah, he might not always answer the way you’d like – but what if he does? What if, because you prayed, someone’s life was saved?

Believe me, exciting as it was, Eurovision’s got nothing on that!