29 October 2014

glory in the storms

After initial shock and some bouts of tears this week, today I sit here and laugh. My word! What a  journey I'm on! Life is crazy but, gloriously, God is good. I shall continue to trust that truth.

Never would I have imagined being on such an adventure as this. Yet here I am--about to make my 6th move and end my 4th job in the space of 12 months. After my last job ended I had a another month of unemployment followed by a month of adjusting to my new job whilst a totally awesome friend of mine shared his home with me.  Last week I signed a lease to share a house in the lower north shore of Sydney.  Between then and starting work this week,  life has changed for this new work family and I was given notice on Monday morning. Needless to say my emotions have been fluctuating. I'm sure they still will in the coming days and weeks but for this moment I feel peace. I feel as though my spring is approaching after a long dark winter. Just maybe something new is about to begin. I just need to hang on to God, seek Him, trust and follow.  For all the intense craziness I feel about my life this week, I have worshiped God my Rock from a deeper place finding peace as I rest in Him.  The following lyrics come from a song that has significant meaning in this turbulence.

When Darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour's love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

While this is a challenging time, I wait curiously to see where He leads and what glorious unfolding takes place in my life. I rest contentedly--though at times with difficulty--that my God is ever with me.

10 August 2014

the twisted path

God works in mysterious ways.  So mysterious not even I know how He's working in my life.  Mostly He doesn't fill me in on His plans.

It was over much deliberation and conversation with Him and my wonderful sister in law who I was staying with at the time that I came to be where I am today--working as a nanny in northern Sydney.  I've moved around so much since I moved out of my childhood home a good decade ago.  Mostly due to my 'off-adventuring' status.  Even in between my USA year and my UK double though, the longest I've stayed in one place is two years and that was with a tidal ebb and flow of work.  The past twelve months alone has involved five moves and three different jobs with a few months of unemployment to spread it out.  I'm ever thankful for my older brother and his family letting me overtake their spare room for weeks on end when my jobs have fallen through.  Such generosity!  Although this current job always was a short term position I find myself challenged again with another twist in my path having my contract shortened to now end with August.  In fact this whole idea of a twisted path runs across practically all areas of my life over the last several years.  I round one bend, climbing over tree roots and tripping on rocks, only to see a metre or two ahead to the next bend.  Sometimes it's hard to clarify if I'm actually making any progress.

In these unknown and unsure times, I often hear people read or quote Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.

It irks me.  I don't like the wording of the latest New International Version.  In my opinion, from my point of view, life is just not like that.  It's anything but straight.  Even with God.  In fact, I don't WANT it to be straight. I've found comfort, hope and strength in reading Psalm 23 this year.  The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need...  Partly coz the last several years have felt like walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  And with my imagination it's easy to picture journeying through a valley that is so overrun with vegetation that it's darkened and difficult and you can only hope that this twisted path is winding it's way out the other end.  It's bloody tough.  And that's an understatement!  But it's an adventure!!

A friend read out Psalm 23 for me a few months back and where she said, "He guides me along the right paths for His name's sake" I initially thought she said "wide paths".  It got me thinking though.  Wide paths?  I don't want to take the motorway with it's multiple lanes, whizzing along traffic and boring scenery.  I like the back roads twisting through the less visited places and interesting scenery.  That's where the adventure is.  And for me, life is about the journey; not the destination.

So I'm sticking with the way I originally learnt the Proverbs passage way back in the day; like the New King James Version words it:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.

I want to stick close to God.  I want Him to lead and direct me.  A little more clearly or directly would be nice since it's difficult to trust without knowing where you're going.  I'm all for getting out of this valley, even with the appreciation of how I've grown from it, but I'm content with taking the twisted path.

13 June 2014

as I am

That God would create me, in all my uniqueness, and then expect me to fit some Christian mould is absolutely absurd!

Why would He intricately design and create me and then want me to relate to Him contrary to that design? That would be like saying His design wasn't good. Have you read the creation story in Genesis? It's peppered with God creating, pausing to observe His work and declaring,  "It is good".

Granted I am part of a broken world where imperfection prevails but it is still true that my design is good. So to celebrate and embrace who I am is to glory in God and His work. He delights in me being who He designed me to be, including how I share in my relationship with Him. He wants me to interact with Him in a way that is real and honest and true to me.

And it's the same for you. 

31 May 2014

the coming of a new age

That day of the year has come again.
That day that marks another completed lap of the sun.
I've been so far blessed to make thirty four of them and I'm off on my thirty fifth.
It's strange to pause and look at my life.  What I have is far from all my imaginings.  I actually have to remind myself that that's not a bad thing.  Birthdays are a great opportunity to reflect on the blessing of life. For all my imaginings I have done multiple things I'd never dared dream of.  I have walked paths I never would have chosen if I'd had the option.  I've gone on numerous journeys of exploration and adventure and many of them solo.  I have discovered that I am strong and quirky and capable of much more than I give myself credit for.
I am ever learning; ever growing; ever shaping.
I am who I am today because of the journey my life has taken and how I've taken on my life.
Things often don't roll the way I would like but I find that God blesses me in unexpected ways. Personally, I think He does it on purpose.  I can almost hear Him chuckling.
My trek through life has been pretty darn challenging at times but I am most grateful for the way that God has watched over me and remained with me.  I'm incredibly thankful for His patience with me and His involvement in my life.  I will continue to dream, to journey, to grow and to trust in the God who masterfully oversees it all--whatever unfolds.
As for this year's celebration day, it was filled with things that make me peacefully smile: just a little bit of work, celebratory food (pancakes and all the toppings for breakfast), relaxed home lingering, chatting and praying with a friend, listening to music while painting, flowers and thoughtful gifts and dressing up for a night of fun with friends.
And so here's to the coming of a new age and all the twists and turns and unexpected blessings it will hold.

24 May 2014

sketch club satisfaction

When I last worked in Sydney, I came across a Sketch Club online that sounded like fun so I joined the group.  Unfortunately my job ended sooner than planned and I moved out of the city.  March this year brought me back again and I immediately rejoined.  I've been to three gatherings so far now and I'm looking forward to more.  Today we went to the Botanical Gardens and it was the perfect day for it.  For only just over a week til winter officially clocks in it was delightfully sunny and warm.  A cosy 25°C and being surrounded by an amazing variety of nature with sketchbook and supplies in hand it was a calmly blissful day.  I arrived late but I stayed late too.  I found and wandered around the Botanica exhibition where we were due to meet and then went wandering, sketching and chatting with other sketchers I came across.  After sketching happily for a couple of hours we always get together for a bit of 'show and tell'.  We lay out our sketches from the day and have a look at what everyone did.  Some of the talent is simply amazing.  I love looking at all the different styles and what people chose to sketch and get ideas and inspiration.  Then we usually have some lunch together.  Today most of us sat on a grassy patch and picnicked.  People leave as they wish, or go sketch some more or sit around talking.  I chatted with some ladies for quite a while until they left and then sketched a little longer before making for home myself.  It makes a great little outing and the organiser has so many interesting ideas for locations and experiences.  I'm so glad I found this group to go sketching with.  Fun and practice and learning.

My own talent is increasing and broadening as I practice and explore.  These are my sketches from today.

12 April 2014

shoes for college

While I was staying with family in the Southern Highlands of NSW, we went to the local show (or fair).  There were a number of stalls which I stopped to look at that had fair trade and post-slavery made products.  There's quite a range out there these days.  What I did buy were these fantastic sandals.  So inventive but with a great story behind it.  As the slogan says, "Every sandal has a story."

"Sseko (SAY-ko) Designs is an ethical fashion brand that hires high potential women in Uganda to make sandals to enable them to earn money through dignified employment that will go directly towards their college educations and ensure they will continue pursuing their dreams...We believe that every woman has a dream. When she is given the opportunity to pursue those dreams, we are collectively walking towards a brighter and more just and beautiful world."

The people at the stall also passionately told me how often the Ugandan women finish high school and don't get the opportunity to go to college.  The women Sseko employ for a short period provide not only income to save for college but also bring in people to speak to the women to inspire them and help guide them in their choices for further education.  I love the support these shoes provide...and not just to me!

Sseko sandals are bought in two parts: the sole and the ribbon.  The sole is well made and has elastic loops to thread the ribbons through to tie the sole to your foot.  This, along with the huge choice of ribbons, allows for a whole assortment of styles from the one pair of sandals.  Ingenious!  So far mine are fairing very well and I'm very happy with the quality and the feel.  And since I'm living in Sydney, there's lots of opportunity to wear them--even in the middle of Autumn.  Below are some of the styles I've tried.  The Sseko ones you can learn how to tie from their site but the other ones are my own twist.  I bought the red ribbon at the local show stall along with the soles and the floral ones I made from fabric I had and the black ones are just a length of lace ribbon I bought.  The ribbons I made I added extra length for easier wrapping of my chunky feet.  I want to buy another Sseko ribbon with a pattern though. 

Sseko also have other items for sale and you can also find out lots more from the Sseko Designs website.  If you want to buy some in Australia you can try this website.

Quality in product and ethics.  Bonus.

03 April 2014

change change change

I'm someone who likes to settle into a groove.  I like being comfortable and knowing how things roll.  I like having the same ol' friends whom I know well and who know me.  It's therefore a little strange to realise how much change has happened in my life since I moved out of home ten years ago.  In that time I've not stayed anywhere for longer than two years and I've only done that twice.  I've lived in three different countries and visited a dozen more and I've had at least 15 different jobs.  And certainly there has been a lot of changes in myself and who I am as a result.  Hopefully it's been mostly positive growth.  A bunch of these changes were unexpected exits from the path I was cruising along on and some quite sudden.  My summer has been an interesting season of change.

About a week or so after my last post I was told the family were moving to Bali to help set up some stores in the airport there.  My 12month contract suddenly became a lot shorter.  They were a delightful family and it was a little sad on my part but an exciting adventure for them.  I had a month to pack up and move on.  Early December I said goodbye and my lovely big brother picked me and my load up and drove me off to his house a couple hours out of Sydney in the Southern Highlands.  The week I moved in with them was the week they were moving house so there was lots of cleaning, carting and entertaining their youngest to help out.  I did squeeze in a birthday treat for my sister-in-law and took her shopping for the best part of a day with intense chocolate themed afternoon tea.

I then went to Canberra for a two week stint as a trial for a job.  This family sought me out and practically tried their best to persuade me to come which is an interesting way to be offered a job.  Twin 6yo boys was  a bit of change after years of under 5 care.  I actually found I missed little kids.  Canberra is a lovely place though.  Quite relaxed and filled with nature.  Half the time when I was driving places it seriously looked like I was driving through country.  I also got to catch up with a lovely couple I met on my Scotland tour and then ended up living close by them in London.  We went together and saw the house which had the Guiness World Record for having the most Christmas lights on a domestic property.

After two weeks I finally decided to take the job (such a torment to myself to suggest a two week trial which I then had to make a decision at the end of when I usually give myself a month to settle into a new job) and returned to the Southern Highlands for a much anticipated family Christmas.  Unfortunately my sister and her family couldn't make the 12hr drive up but I was so delighted to share Christmas with the rest of my family again after two years away.  With four family groups totaling thirteen people we organised a basic meal plan for the week and a helping duties roster.  It was fun going shopping with the women, celebrating Christmas with an indulgent lunch and opening presents together, having a family beach day (enjoying real beaches in hot weather but not so much the scoring a bad sunburn), relaxing and dressing up and playing games to celebrate the arrival of the new year.  I camped out the longest with my big brother's family since my new job didn't officially start until 20th January.  I got to watch (and explain some) cricket with my nephews, draw with my nieces, celebrate the youngest's 2nd birthday and treat them to movies as well as typical hanging out stuff.  I also particularly enjoyed the evenings with just the adults talking and watching shows like "The Long Way Round".  I also used my brother's car for an overnight trip to Canberra to move my stuff in and went to watch England play the PMs XI and finally got to see England win after a dismal performance all summer.  A week after that quick trip I headed back there to begin my new job.

School kids are a bit different to work with.  I've not previously looked after only school aged children before either.  I missed the cuteness of toddlers and older children are more intelligent and knowledgeable in their objections to follow directions.  I found it challenging though for the most part it was quite ok.  It was lovely to sit by the pool while the boys swam and call it 'work'.  I was in Australia's capital city for Australia Day and watched the firework display from Capital Hill where parliament go about their business.  I explored the city during school hours visiting parks and shopping centres and watching the amazing work of the glassblowers and got myself set up and started meeting people only to find out two weeks into this new job that the parents realised they didn't really need a live-in nanny.  I worked two more weeks before I packed up again and used the family car to move back in with my brother.

So I began the mentally arduous task of searching out a new job.  For a while I seriously considered going to New Zealand since I wasn't locked into life here and I don't need a visa and it's one place I'd quite like to visit.  I even applied for a number of positions.  After receiving the same advice from a few different agencies that it's unlikely I'll get a job until I'm there to interview in person, I decided to look in Sydney again as I didn't have the funds to stay long in NZ without an income.  So perhaps in the near future I'll get there.  In between the job hunting I took the time to enjoy being with my family.  I took my two year old niece out to a playcentre and bought her fairy bread and I took the boys to the International Cricket Hall of Fame (The Bradman Museum) and we got to see Carberry's bat that strangely just snapped in two during a match. The boys learnt how to play Age of Empire 2 and my S-i-L and I managed to link our computers up to play together (we even had multiple evenings after the kids were in bed where we played too).  I had some great chats with her during the day while the older kids were at school too and I got to see the Mainly Music group that they started up in the area.  My 2yo niece loves music and dancing and gets right into watching Playschool on tv too laughing, repeating things and jumping about when they do.  I also got to see countless drawings by my older niece that are increasing in talent and experimentation as well as hear her incredibly natural singing talent on the odd occasion and be there for her 14th birthday.

 Towards the end of another five week stay with them I had a week of drama in the decision making department after an interview I had in Sydney.  It felt like it would be a good job in a number of ways but there were a few things I just wasn't sure about. But after talking it over, thinking it through, praying about it, and further talks with the family I felt good about it and said I'd be happy to take the job.  I then had to wait a couple more days before I was officially offered the job and I spent a final week in the Southern Highlands before packing my bags again.

And that brings me to now.  I'm two weeks into my new job and so far so good.  I think personality wise I fit pretty well with this family.  They have two boys 5yo and 2yo and mostly it's just before and after school.  The 2yo goes to daycare three days per week so I have him for two full days.    I have a sweet hub of my own scoring the top floor bedroom with ensuite and balcony.  Below was this morning's view toward the Pacific Ocean just beyond those hills and Sydney city is just a little way to the right over the iconic Harbour Bridge. It's still early days but it's also been the best start to a new job that I've had. I'll just live the moments that come and see how the rest rolls out.