Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Reflecting on 2015: What I learned this year

I have come to accept that my memory is not great. Looking back on the year that was leaves me with general impressions, swaths of emotions over time periods and only a few distinct memories. I indulged in a couple of hours of reflecting on 2015 and looking ahead to 2016 using Amanda Viviers questions, a highly worthwhile exercise-especially if you are a writer or creative in any way. I was left with impressions of these being my take away lessons from this year:

  • Deep community can develop in only a year- I find it hard to fathom that some of my closest friends today were really only acquaintances at this time last year. It has taken pushing myself out of my comfort zone, being more open than usual, serving together and God's timing!

  • Growing capacity does not equal perfect performance in all areas- there is no doubt in my mind that my capacity has stretched immensely this year and yet I feel so far from the expectations I hold in my heart in many ways. I have to let go of perfect and view progress. 

  • Time with my daughter is truly precious and short- my baby starts school next year. I don't think I had really processed that before today. I hate how often I am more caught up in my phone or housework than in the moments I have with her. I say no to play too often and don't take enough time to stop and really see her. She has changed so much over this year. I love her personality emerging. These days of her wanting to be held and spend time with me are numbered. I want to treasure them.

  • You don't have to have been really close for someone's death to have a profound impact on you- I barely knew the person that I am thinking of and yet her passing stands out as a core memory from this year. I know it is because I saw myself reflected in her. Our daughters are similar age and it forced me to look at my own mortality and consider the reality that none of us is immune from death, even if we are young with a child. My mind and heart were taken to that place of considering what it would be like to have to say goodbye to your child and loved ones. 

  • God can call you in wholly unexpected directions into a position that you feel dramatically unqualified for- I trust He knows what He is doing and that He is growing me into this!

  • It is possible for me to stick to a Scripture memorisation plan- I didn't keep up with posting my verses on this blog but I did keep up with memorising Scripture for Beth Moore's Siesta Scripture Memory Team. 24 verses with a few extras from church thrown in as well. I may not have them word perfect but they are buried in my heart now and have resulted in much more time meditating on His Word than previously. I plan to continue the pattern of a new verse every 1st and 15th of the month for next year.

  • I am a writer and thrive when I give myself opportunity to do so- the Write 31 Days challenge was particularly significant for me and solidified this part of my identity. It may not always look like I want it to and the words may dry up at times but writing is in my soul. Where that will take me, only God knows!
2016 is shaping up to be a year of change for our family, requiring all the lessons on increasing capacity and being brave that I have absorbed this year. I have chosen My One Word for next year and will share more on that in another post.

Linking up with Emily Freeman here.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday is here for another week. This will be the last link up for this year with the fullness of the Christmas and New Year season. Join me in noticing the good in the midst of a potentially busy and stressful season. I know for many Christmas brings a lot of pain and heartache.

  • The privilege of having a child to do Truth in the Tinsel with or make a sheep costume for, or even to be woken up in the middle of the night by. My heart aches for those who battle infertility and I am reminded to be so thankful for my daughter and all the aspects of parenting that come with her.

  • Experiencing my daughter's first pantomime with her. It was a spontaneous decision to go after being offered tickets and was such fun. I was concerned how she would go with the noise and crowds (some issues but not meltdown level and able to be managed). She loved it and even ran straight up to some of the characters for photos afterwards. 

  • The bliss of holidays with a couple of precious child free days to finish up errands and have some recharge time. Monday saw the Christmas shopping completed with the freedom for cafe breaks in the midst of the to do list. Today I am seated in a cafe on the beach front overlooking a gorgeous blue ocean on a warm sunny day with the time to write!

  • Eleven solid years of marriage to my incredible husband. We have had our ups and downs in that time but I couldn't imagine doing life without him. He has given me the space to flourish and take on new opportunities and I am so grateful.
  • Feeling at peace and joyful in what is often a stressful season. 
  • The delight of getting delicious smelling wax melts for a Secret Santa and having my house filled with the scent each day. Indulging my love of fragrance.
What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

"The Gift of Jesus"- spoken word performance

I have the incredible privilege of being on a MOPS team with the fabulous Eloise Allbury who has been such a huge source of encouragement and blessing in my life. At our final MOPS meeting for the year, Eloise performed a spoken word piece that she had written about what the gift of Jesus means to her. POWERFUL!! It had to be captured on video to share with others. I may not have the best camera or audio equipment but we recorded her performance. Listen to the words and may the truth of Jesus be ignited in your heart.

Linking up with Inspire Me Monday and Literacy Musing Monday.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Navigating through the fear

The plan for writing today was an update on our Advent celebrations and some personal reflections on this time. I guess my heart has other ideas as this has been brewing within me all day, and has been bubbling under the surface all week. I wrote in this post about the new leadership opportunity that I was praying through and had accepted. I have taken on the role of North Metro Regional Coordinator for MOPS Western Australia. I was stunned at being asked, excited about the next step I felt God calling me into and nervous about the demands of the role.

This week it all became official. It became real. I got official confirmation of my appointment along with the handbook detailing all it entails. I spent time talking to the outgoing coordinator catching up on how each group is currently going and the support needs already identified. 

Throughout this process there have been whispers of fear and doubt. Those whispers have now become roars. I find my thoughts pulled back to it constantly throughout my day. 

"Who am I to take on a role like this? I have only been in MOPS leadership for a year. How could I possibly expect people to turn to me for support and guidance?" 
"Have I made a mistake? Was I so caught up in the thrill of being asked that I just thought I was hearing from God?"
"There is no way I can do all I need to do for this role, my current MOPS role, work and family. I am not enough."

Hello fear! This feeling is a familiar blanket. I know these thoughts. I know this overwhelm all too well. The start of every semester at university would bring the same fear of not being able to meet all the demands. The start of a new job. The start of being on a MOPS team. A myriad of events, opportunities and occasions throughout my life have been accompanied by this grip on my heart. How many times have I allowed it to hold me back or to steal the joy and peace that would have been possible? 

I realised today that it is no coincidence that my daughter's sleep has been so awful again in the past week or two. Tiredness has been a tried and tested weapon of the enemy to knock down my defences and leave me vulnerable to fear and lies. The difference now? I see through those plans. I am learning more about how to combat these strategies each time, although I would be lying if I said it was an easy win all the time!

I believe it was also no coincidence that one of the devotions in "Unwrapping the Names of Jesus" this week looked at Jesus as Truth. The challenge was to write down lies that we are battling and write down corresponding truths from Scripture. It was called a challenge for a reason! I was encouraged that I was able to identify those lies though. I am more able to tune in to the subtle differences in the "voice" that carries those thoughts in my mind. How? The time I spend listening to God's truth in Scripture, in spending time in His presence. In many ways the thought I have of not being able to do all I need to do is true. I can't do it all in my own strength. It can only be through partnership and equipping by God. This is simply taking the lessons learned to the next level.

I have been more intentional about playing praise and worship music during the day. This sets an atmosphere of God's truth that helps to dampen the effectiveness of the fear. This fight is not in my human strength. It is a spiritual battle and the weapons I use need to be spiritual. 

The thoughts of inadequacy about my leadership skills sparked the thought to listen to Christine Caine's podcasts again. Her teaching on leadership is magnificent. I was left feeling encouraged and inspired to grow in my leadership. I was brought to tears at the same verse being focused on in one of the podcasts I listened to that was highlighted in the Regional Coordinator handbook: 
Image credit: You Version Bible App- NASB version

This was a glaring reminder that I don't have to, in fact must not even try, to do this on my own. I have been placed in a community and teams for a reason. 

I don't pretend that the fear is vanquished once and for all. It is subdued and rendered powerless to change my actions when I keep close to God and lean into the spirit of power, love and a sound mind that God gives. When the fear is quashed, I am able to tap into the stirring of excitement and expectancy for how I can dive into this role. I am drawn to the opportunity to come alongside the group coordinators to support them to grow and develop their groups. I look forward to being able to help equip them for the task at hand. I am passionate about the ministry that MOPS provides and have seen the difference in my own life. I get the privilege of contributing back and having a hand in even more women finding the soothing balm of MOPS and the Jesus-with-skin-on love we can show them. For now I focus on just the next task in front of me.

Thankful Thursday

The countdown to Christmas is well and truly on. At this moment, I am not feeling stressed by this (my first thankful!). It is my last week at work for the year. It is the last session for MOPS this week. I am almost finished my Christmas shopping. It is a busy season but I am not feeling hurried. Noticing the good and choosing what I focus on is certainly a contributing factor to this overarching peace.

  • Our bottlebrush bush is finally blooming after many years of surviving but not thriving. This has been a positive to our neighbour cutting down a tree that hung over our side of the fence.

  • Advent joy: I have loved watching my daughter get so involved in our Advent activities and loving the craft parts so much. Trying to get nice photos of her has been a different story, but even that has highlighted the cheeky side to her that I so love. I am sharing daily photos on Instagram of these activities if you want to have a look. 
  • A brilliant chiropractor and the finances to allow monthly adjustments for me and my daughter. It frequently amazes me how accurately she can identify issues that we have been having within a couple of minutes of examination. I love the improvement it gives to my daughter's sleep and from the latest adjustment, to her toilet use too.
  • Belonging to a church that does so much for the community and our world as well as gives powerful messages that encourage and challenge me. The podcasts are available here. The first message in the Thrill of Hope series is particularly brilliant.
Photo credit: True North Church social media

  • Catching up with long time friends who we rarely get to chat to these days. They were in our bridal party 11 years ago!
I feel I could adding to this list but will leave it there. So much to be grateful for and my heart feels full.

What are you thankful for this week?

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Thankful Thursday

Another week has passed us by. What impression lingers in your mind and heart? Has the good stuck with you or are hard things overshadowing this week? My heart is heavy about a few things that I have been involved in this week which makes this list essential. 

  • Advent has started and we got our Christmas decorations out. I have been so looking forward to this season. My daughter has caught that excitement too which is a joy to watch. She has embraced the Advent candles and Truth in the Tinsel activities.

  • Getting to spend time with my brother, sister-in-law and adorable 2 year old nephew. Watching him and my daughter playing so beautifully together, putting on "shows" together and having fun in the pool was so precious this weekend. Distance and busy schedules makes the time we do have together even more special.
  • The opportunity to work for an organisation and be hands on in bringing transformation to young people's lives. Many happy tears moments at our end of year Awards and Graduation night for Alta-1 College. So proud of each of my students and the hard work they are doing to overcome the obstacles in their lives. There have been some hard and heart-breaking moments with a couple of students this week and I am so grateful for the incredible team we have working with them. 
  • Encouragement to keep writing from friends. It means so much to me to have people in my life that not only read what I write but actively encourage me to keep going.
What are you thankful for this week?

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

What I learned in November

Can you believe that it is December already?! As Advent starts, I am taking the time to take stock of what I learned in November. 

  • I really love Gilmore Girls
One of the Australian TV channels has be airing reruns of Gilmore Girls and I caught it at the start this time. It is not at a time I can actually watch so I have a series record set. I indulge in an episode on several nights. It brings back memories of my teenage years where I would share this show with a special friend. It is still as hilarious and engaging as it was back then. I even catch my husband laughing at it.

  • Our cat is very tolerant and actually loves my daughter

  • My love for Christmas and Advent is growing each year.

It has brought me so much joy and excitement to plan and get ready for Advent. I especially love that this excitement is being passed on to my daughter. You can read more about our Advent plans here and here.

  • My idea that my brave steps were done for a while was very wrong!
The invitation to take up a position on the MOPS Western Australia team was entirely unexpected. It is exciting but daunting. I think next year is going to take more bravery than the steps I have already taken this year.

  • It is actually possible for me to write on a somewhat consistent basis.
Write 31 Days has been over for a month and I am still writing. I lack some of the focus that a series brought for me but I haven't given up. I have created the time to write in my days, placing greater priority on it for the first time. I don't know what shape and purpose my writing will have in the future but for now I am content to release what is in me. I am blessed to have a few cheerleaders in my life who encourage me to keep going.

What are your takeaway lessons from November?

Linking up on Emily P Freeman's blog today.