Americanniversary

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Given that our first Americanniversary (see what I did there?) is almost upon us, it seemed a fitting time to pull together a wee collection of random musings from our time thus far. It was roughly this time last year that we packed all our earthly treasures into five suitcases and headed Stateside. Judah, unfortunately, was too large and wiggly to fit in a suitcase, so we had to buy him his own ticket.

Seeing as I have now experienced all four seasons, I may as well make the obligatory remarks on the weather. Weather is something usually commented upon as idle chitchat, especially when conversation falters, or one is talking to a stranger. However, my dear friend Heidi and I are the closest of friends, and always, ALWAYS talk about the weather. So, if only because I know Heidi will want to know, here’s the low down; it’s dry as a chip here. So dry. My lips are constantly screaming for Chapstick and it’s difficult to stay on top of water consumption. You can’t just have a lawn in the warmer months without irrigating it daily, and then it goes dormant in the winter. And the temps are somewhat extreme compared to what I’m used to. Summer gets as high as almost 40 degrees Celsius at its hottest, and no joke we had like -20 degrees last winter. Which also means driving on ice. It’s pretty scary and I very nearly crashed one icy day!

Another topic that will likely appeal to only a select group of nannery types like myself, is that of grocery shopping. Shopping is a two stop process these days; firstly to a place called Grocery Outlet (or as I call it, Grossout). It’s a shop that sells food that has literally fallen off the back of the truck, or train or whatever (probably not from the airplane though, although that may be the baby food). So you never know what’s going to be in stock, but it’s kind of fun. Then I go to a store called Fred Meyer, largely because they have free childcare. But they also have this app where you download coupons, and on Fridays they have a coupon for a free grocery item. I’ve had bread, muesli bars, drinks, chocolates etc. Caleb and I often talk about how you’d just never see that in New Zealand, because you know that there would be a bunch of thrifty kiwis that would rock up solely for their free stuff. Bless our frugal hearts.

You wanna know what’s fun? Americans!! Seriously, always up for a party! Every public holiday and special or not-so-special event, is celebrated with gusto! Even special days from other countries, like St Paddy’s day. And they don’t just have a casual barbie, oh no, there are costumes, decorations, tonnes of people, dancing, singing, and oodles of food and drink. Sometimes it’s a little much for this Kiwi to take in and I just want to go home, put my slippers on and get a nice cup of tea. But the enthusiasm for a good party is infectious, so give me a few years and I may even join Dave from ‘Hot Rod’ in saying, “Hi, I’m Deb, and I like to party.” (If you didn’t get that, don’t worry. If you did, the safe word is whiskey).

It’s a bit of a shock to the system moving from a country the size of a postage stamp to one that’s got 320 million inhabitants. It’s actually really overwhelming at times. I’ve never felt more like just a number in my whole life. The systems and processes that need to be in place to govern such a monstrous number of people is mind-boggling. One gets the impression that if you really wanted to meet John Key (NZ Prime Minister), all you’d have to do is write to stuff.co.nz or start a wee petition and you’d be in like Flynn. However here, I feel like you could dedicate your life’s work and savings to meeting the president and still fall short. It’s just a completely different kettle of fish. Health insurance is crazy and a bit scary, political happenings resemble a circus, and people have guns. It’s forced me to realise just how much of my security I placed in a small government that would support us if we were out of work, that pays all the medical bills, and seems somewhat accessible. Although uncomfortable, it’s been helpful in directing my trust to where it needs to lie. In God We Trust.

Something I never considered when I moved here is that people would have trouble understanding me when I introduce myself. I shouldn’t be surprised, even when I lived in Australia, I remember ordering coffee and more than once getting a cup with ‘Dib’ written on the side. The puzzling thing is that twice now people have asked if my name was ‘Tim’. Yep, Tim. Of course it’s not Tim. It’s not Bev. It’s not Dave. I’ve taken to saying my name with an accent so people get it, it’s kind of like, ‘Dab’, but it feels wrong saying it that way. Perhaps if I changed my name to Candy I’d have more luck?

I’ve got a few more thoughts about life here, which I’ll tell ya’ll about another time.

Love you,
Deb x

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The Sound of Silence

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I was chatting with a friend the other day about just how busy life can get. I remember thinking how busy I was when I was in high school. And though it was full, for sure, it was just a so much less responsible life. It was busy, but less weighty. I had to take care of school, church and youth stuff, part time work, and friendships. I didn’t have to take care of paying bills, looking after a house, fostering a marriage, raising a tiny human, buying groceries and cooking meals. And did I mention finding matching socks when folding the laundry? Damn you socks.

But it’s not just the stuff we do that makes life busy. It’s the noise. Social media. News. Music. Chitchat. Clutter. Entertainment. Games. Books. Advertisements. Fluorescent lights. The things that fill our senses, minds and souls day in and day out. It’s wearying.

Being relatively new to the country has afforded me a unique opportunity to be more considered about what I decide to add to life. I really don’t want life to be so full of stuff that I don’t have margins. Space for people, energy to play Duplos with Judah, room for spontaneity. I am increasingly aware that if I want life to look this way, then it’s going to have to be intentional.

I’ve always considered peace to be something that kind of falls on you. You know, like the dove when Jesus got baptised. I pray and it just descends, fluttering its sweet comforting wings (but not pooping on my shoulder). I’ve prayed for peace a million times for myself and others, and it always goes something like this; “Lord, let your peace that passes understanding just fall on _____ now.” You know the one. But what if peace is something we have to create space for? What if peace doesn’t so much come to us, but we go to it?

I guess my hope was that peace would imbue whatever I was doing in life. And I’m not saying it can’t, by the way. But I always thought of it as something added to the craziness of life; something to make me feel calm whilst I go about doing whatever. However, what I’m discovering, is that as I’ve become more deliberate with liturgical and contemplative prayer, peace is waiting for me. It’s waiting in a secret garden. It has a bench for me and Jesus to sit on. Beautiful green grass, a big leafy tree and a river running right through the middle of it. My liturgy is like the path leading to the gate, and then I enter the gate and just sit there. It’s so colourful and vibrant, that almost always when I open my eyes again, the world around me looks a little pale in comparison. And it’s completely full of peace.

I’m not gonna lie, I get a bit irritated reading some of the authors that write about this stuff. Not because they’re not amazing, and encouraging, and right. But because they’re often 50 plus male theologians. Likely at a time in life where they don’t have small kiddos and suffer sleep-deprivation. Not tied up with a work week that leaves them physically exhausted at the end of the day. Even Jesus was able to just take off into the wilderness for extended periods of time to pray. I would love that luxury. Please, send me to the wilderness by myself! But, my life is my life. And if I want to experience peace, then it’s my responsibility to create space for it. In small ways, this has meant that I find myself turning the radio off in the car more often. Allowing silence to settle around me. In bigger ways, it has meant carving out half an hour everyday to pray and sit with Jesus.

I read recently that silence restores our souls. And after just experiencing the relentlessness of daily life, my soul gets bedraggled. It feels likes it’s fraying at the edges. It has trouble holding itself up. It needs restoring. Not just for me, but so I am ready and able to be who God’s asking me to be in this world. I need to give from a place of rest and peace, not striving and strain. I may just need to say no to a few things in order to be able to take an intentional journey to a place of peace; to the Person of peace.

Deb xx

Let us Pray

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Prayer and I have always had a somewhat ambivalent relationship. Naturally, having been a Christ follower for many years, I have heard a LOT about the subject. I’ve always known one should pray. And I love Jesus so much. I really do. But I’ve always found prayer so boring. In my teen years I did everything a good Christian should do with regards to prayer. I had a wee book with a list of things to pray for everyday, complete with colour coding for each category. Or maybe it was a ranking of importance in case I ran out of steam halfway through. But either way, I found it to be a dry and life-sucking experience. I even timed my prayer times at one point. Because that’s how much I felt like I had to make myself stay in the prayer zone. And it was indicative of how much I didn’t really want to be there. I’m sure it even crossed my mind at some stage to make space amongst the shoes in my wardrobe to literally have a ‘prayer closet’.

As my journey continued, I experienced a freedom from the legalism that had previously marked my faith. I was no longer acting under the compulsion to do a list of things in order to feel like I was achieving status as a Christian. This was, of course, not an overnight thing, but a process over many years. The result of which meant that I no longer felt like I HAD to pray. I remember reading Anne of Green Gables for the 121st time, and one particular part of the story standing out vividly. Marilla has finally decided that Anne is going to be allowed to stay at Green Gables. In order to avoid the rest of the town knowing how much of a heathen she is, Marilla has handed her a card with the Lord’s Prayer on it, and sent her to her room to learn it. To which Anne responds, “Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone, or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky – up – up – up – into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.” This was exactly how I felt.

So no-one is more suprised than I am to find myself following a daily liturgy of prayer. What!!? Yes!! I know!! My good friend Joseph recommended a book called ‘Water to Wine’ by Brian Zahnd. I started reading his journey from a hyper-Charismatic faith, to one that is much more eclectic and includes elements from many other expressions of the Christian faith. Much of what Brian speaks of resonates with much of the journey that I’ve already been walking for quite a while now, but not in regards to prayer. He speaks of prayer as soul formation. He points out that the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, and Jesus was like, “Here you go…” Jesus did not say, “Just feel a prayer.” He did not say, “Just let it out, tell God what’s on your heart.” That’s not to say of course that those things are wrong – they’re not. They’re awesome. And needed. But just probably not the fullness of prayer as it’s understood in a biblical context.

As I read this stuff I felt my defences rising. I was thinking, ‘I like what you’re saying Bri-guy, I even respect where you’re coming from, but liturgical prayer is not for me.’ But it nagged at me. Then I thought about it. Lots. I realised that I have been surreptitiously indoctrinated by the Pente theology that is always after the ‘new’ thing. When I was a Worship Pastor, I am embarrassed to admit that I told people we didn’t sing hymns because the bible says to ‘sing a new song to the Lord’. Good one Debs. As I pondered, I realised that there was so much flawed logic in this thinking. There are any number of amazing, invaluable, really old things. Like the bible. Or mountains. God Himself is extraordinarily old.

Another argument against liturgical prayer is that it’s a prayer that someone else has written, and that flies in the face of the thinking that prayer should flow from the heart. However, we sing worship songs every week that other people have written. I, for one, am very grateful that we do. Can you imagine the immense pressure every week if we lead worshippers had to get up and improvise new songs from the heart each week? Train wreck. Even though someone else writes the songs we sing, they are no less heartfelt when I sing them.

The first time I prayed through the liturgy, I was totally floored. I had never experienced the presence of God in prayer like that before. I was flooded with joy. And relief!! I don’t have to make up words anymore. There is a space in the liturgy to pray my own prayers, and to sit with Jesus; it’s just surrounded by Scripture and the prayers of people like St Francis of Assisi. And Jesus. No biggie. Brian Zahnd mentions that people often refer to liturgy as ‘dead’. Which he says is just bad English. Liturgy is either true or false, and the heart of the person praying is either dead or alive. So, he says, pray a true liturgy with an alive heart. So I am. And it’s amazing. I’m adding my voice to the countless other Christians gone before in petitioning God with rich and resoundingly true words.

You know what’s happened since I started praying this way? I look forward to it. Like I need it badly. And I’m not in a rush to leave. And my soul feels anchored in way that I’ve not experienced before. A restlessness within has been quieted. And for that, I’m immeasurably grateful.

Deb xx

Mama Mia

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I guess it was inevitable that I would post a parenting blog sooner or later. I kind of didn’t want to because there are so many. But there is a reason there are so many. Parenting is so full on. You go from pretty much being the master of your own destiny one minute, to having a tiny sweet petulant dictator calling the shots the next. It’s a massive culture shift.

Before having Judah I was never much of an angry person. A bit grumpy sometimes, yes, but not angry. However a pattern has been developing over the past wee while with me and my Mr 2.5. It usually starts at morning nappy/clothes change. More often than not little dude is squatting and grunting somewhere down by his Duplos, and then I have to try and coax him to get his nappy changed. It is SO beyond me why continuing to play with a giant turd squashed into his bottom is even an option! Then once he’s finally made it to his change mat, he lies on his tummy with his butt in the air. Then I have to try and get him to roll over onto his back. And then to not touch the poo. And then to unclench his wee cheeks so I can wipe properly. Then stop kicking and stay still while I put his pants on. Then not run away before I can get his T-Shirt on. This is a horrible way to start the day. As if getting up at the crack of dawn wasn’t enough. Needless to say, a number of buttons are pushed. All before 7.30am.

Of late I have found my self getting more and more irritated. It used to creep into my voice after a string of infractions, but increasingly it just seems to jump straight there. My patience has been getting whittled and the buffer is wearing thin. I have become more aware that I don’t like this person I’m becoming. While it’s not the best way to communicate with Judah, I’m not overly worried about him – he’s the one of the hardiest little souls I’ve ever met. The most angry I ever got with him was when I was walking him to sleep in the pram and he was just being a little snot. I had been walking for an hour and was exhausted. Him not sleeping triggers the anxiety from the sleepless sick baby times. Finally, I ripped the sunshade off the pram and literally hissed, “Go. Toooo. Sllleeeppp.” Hissing is not good. It’s the out-in-public version of screaming. Barely controlled rage. Judah just looked at me with wide eyes, blinked, then cracked up laughing.

The thing that gets me is that I know that anger, impatience and irritation are not Kingdom ways to be. I really want to model my life off Jesus, and I just don’t ever imagine him speaking to anyone that way. I’m not beating myself up here. I realise that it’s extraordinarily trying having a giant limpet attached to your feet while you’re trying to do your workout. I am just aware that I’m on a character development crash course and I would like to pass. So for the past few days I’ve adopted a new method. I tell him in my normal voice that he can chose to do what I’m asking, or chose to have a timeout. And you know what? Most of the time he makes a good choice. And when he doesn’t it’s a no fanfare timeout. I realised that I had gotten to the point that I couldn’t be bothered carting him to the timeout chair, so I was trying to use my voice/mood to control his behaviour. It wasn’t a helpful way to get through the the day.

We got to go away a couple of weekends ago for our anniversary while kiddo stayed with the Granddies. It. Was. Amazing. To be honest, I wasn’t quite ready to come home, and I spent a portion of the day on Monday trying to ward off feeling overwhelmed by the relentlessness of parenthood. And it really is. I remember a friend telling us when we got pregnant that having children makes the highs higher and the lows lower. So true. It’s full on. But also the best. I genuinely haven’t laughed so much or so hard in my whole life. The other day I found Judah with poo on his hand and on the carpet, and as I was taking him to get cleaned up he said, “It’s not sour cream Mama.” No son, it is not.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that often the very hardest things are the most beautiful opportunities to become more Christlike. What feels so unyielding can actually be the kindest. Sometimes situations like parenthood gently, or not so gently, lead us to a place of surrender. Because the fight to keep self is too hard. So if we allow it to happen, Christ will take the grumpy, angry, irritable person and replace it with a better version of self. A restored one. One that he intended when he created us. Over time even a gentle stream of water will erode the hardest rock.

So will I smile serenely next time I’m presented with a basil pesto looking nappy? One that smells like the world’s smelliest poos decided to vacation together in that one diaper? Probably not. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll remember that in each and every small act of service to my little kiddo, I’m adding to a big Kingdom through a million tiny mundane acts.

Deb xx