Row, Row, Row your Boat

image

Some of our very favourite people were in town recently for a conference. They popped in for lunch, and over tomato soup and toasties, we caught up and discussed some of what they had heard at the conference. One of the speakers had just shared a message about seasons of obscurity, which struck a chord for our friends, but also for me. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It feels like there’s nothing quite so obscure as being a stay-at-home-mum. I don’t get paid. My kid pretty much only says ‘thanks’ because we’re trying teaching him to not be a snotty brat, and he knows he doesn’t get what he wants unless he uses his manners. When I clean the house it takes all of 36.5 seconds for it to get undone again. Nobody gives me high fives for creatively arranging the afternoon-tea plate.

I have to stop myself from longing for the day when my as-yet-unborn son is old enough for kindy and I can get on with some ‘real’ work. Work where I get remunerated for my time, where I get to be part of a team building something valuable, where my ideas count for something and I receive recognition for my efforts.

In a bible study this week, I learned that the Greek translation for the word Paul uses as ‘servant’ in 2 Timothy alludes to the rower of a big ship. You know those big old ships that had a whole heap of slaves at the very bottom of the boat? Now surely THAT is the very picture of obscurity! Stuck in the bowels of a filthy great ship, no windows, no idea which direction you’re going, and breathing the meaty sweat of a shipload of smelly dudes. So unappealing, yet this is the kind of servanthood we’re called to. One in which the work we do is not for our own glory and gratification, but for that of our Captain Jesus. Now mercifully, God does so often give us tasks and work that ARE enjoyable and fulfilling. But we need to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of using our gifts, abilities and daily tasks to meet inner needs for significance and love.

I quickly learned in church life that if I could be ‘good’ at doing Christian stuff, I would get plenty of encouragement and admiration. I felt significant if ‘important’ people recognised my hard work, so I got real good at doing what it took to gain that affirmation. When people were falling off the bible-in-a-year bandwagon left, right and centre, there I was still going strong four years in. I was the moral police amongst my group of friends at school, correcting a swear word there, casting disapproving looks at anything that, in my holier-than-thou opinion, may tarnish the good name of the Gospel. In fact, looking back now, the true miracle is that I had any friends at all! (I’ve since thanked some of my old friends for putting up with me. For real.)

This way of looking at the world was unfortunately encouraged by many a sermon and youth conference; where the altar call was all too often given only for those felt called to ‘full time ministry’, or to be a businessperson for the Kingdom, and occasionally, if you were lucky, a full time missionary. There was never a mention of the person who wanted to be a P.E. teacher, chef, artist, builder, bus driver, stay-at-home parent, shopkeeper or accountant. The clear preference of the cultural climate was that one should aspire to something with social prominence. Or in other words, minor Christian celebrity. The upshot of which meant you had people auditioning for the worship team who couldn’t sing to save themselves, and a dearth of volunteers willing to help with the kiddos.

What I’m slowly learning over this season of my life, is that it will never get more significant than a moment spent singing a song to Jesus on my back porch, just the two of us. Or making a meal for a family in need. Or sitting with my son while he takes an inordinately long time to squeeze out a wee treasure on the potty. ‘Cause the thing is, Jesus is the prize. He is it. And we get Him whether we’re manning the oars or captaining the ship. We are significant because He loves us, not because of what we do. And that, my friends, is true joy!!

Love you,
Deb xx

Advertisements

Family Ties

image

This pregnancy has been pretty rough. The first one was a total breeze compared to this! I’ve had chronic migraines and a host of other lesser issues, and it’s just been sucky really. People have asked me how my summer was, and I feel like I didn’t really have one! I was a total hermity-hermit. I went underground. I lay in bed with frozen peas on my head/neck, the blinds down, and on the bad days, a tea towel tied around my head to cover my eyes. My saving grace on the bad days was audiobooks downloaded from the library (The Magician’s Nephew is so worth a re-read), and on better days I managed to churn through all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls. For the third time.

Needless to say, it’s been more than a bit dumb. I’ve been the closest to feeling depressed than I ever have before. And it got me thinking about people who live with illness all the time. The silver lining for me has been that I know it’s just a temporary arrangement. For others it’s a lifetime.

After a particularly bad spell, which ended in a trip to the ER, my mum-in-law stayed over, did the grocery shopping and made a bunch of meals for the freezer. I cannot tell you how appreciated that was. Another friend keeps texting me at random intervals and telling me that she’s bringing food around. Others have offered to hang out with Judah. These are the things that represent who Jesus is in such a real way. These are also the things that have challenged me to the core.

I’ve got friends that are amazing cooks and just seem to be able to whip up a meal for another family; blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs. Let me just say, I’m not that person. When a text goes out requesting a meal for a family in need, I’m ashamed to admit that my thought process goes though a wee grid. Do I know this family well? Will it be blatantly obvious if I don’t help out? Have they helped me before in the past? How many kids do they have? What can I make that’s big enough to split so I don’t have to cook for my family as well? But I’m realising that this thought process is just not the Kingdom way!! People in the New Testament church went so far as to sell excess land in order to make sure their brothers and sisters didn’t go without. I can’t be bothered going out of my way to make a blimmin meal.

I’m not just talking about food here. I’m talking about helping each other out with whatever needs to be done. Errands, yard work, house projects, childcare, finances. It shouldn’t be something we even have to think about. It’s just what the community of Christ does. At what point did it become just an option? What on earth has ever lead me to the place where it’s an added extra, rather than part of the fabric of life?

The thing about supporting each other in times of need is that it’s not only helpful, but it makes us part of the same family. When we lived in Christchurch we went through the fire. I won’t go into it here, but we lived a lifetime of crazy over those four years. I’ll never forget the outpouring of kindness and practical love after Caleb got impaled. I didn’t have to cook a meal for at least six weeks. People we’d never met kept bringing food over. They skipped their lunch breaks at work in order to spend time with Caleb in hospital. Magazines and HD drives with movies were delivered. Gas vouchers were given. It was incredible. And it marked for us the transition from people that attended that church, to family members that had been adopted.

You often hear people saying that “it’s just what you do for family”. That’s what we need to be doing for our Christ family. And also our human family, but that’s another post for another day.

So consider me challenged. I’m gonna just say ‘yes’ when I hear of a need. It needs to be the default.

Love you,
Deb xx

Wading into the Political Quagmire

image

I’ve purposely steered clear away from engaging in any political comment on Facie regarding the coming election. Although, I think I may have mentioned something over a year ago when I genuinely thought it was a joke that Donald Trump was running. The whole thing is making me feel tired on the inside. All the fear-mongering, nay-saying, predictions of certain doom (and its best friend gloom).

I told Caleb recently that although I’m trying to make writing a regular discipline, I only want to blog when I actually have something to say. And today, I really want to say something. I know that I’m only adding my voice to the millions. I’m hoping that this will be a non-anxious voice.

The thing that keeps hitting me in the face, is that as Christ-followers, this changes NOTHING about the way Jesus has called us to live. If anything, it highlights it. Earlier this year when I was having some medical issues, the doctor told me that it looked like I had a mass on the south wall of my bladder (who knew your bladder had a south wall?). It was unusual, and they couldn’t rule out cancer. I had to wait several days before I could get in to see a urologist for what was an unmentionably uncomfortable procedure (except to say that it involved a camera…and my bladder…). We were driving home from church the day after the initial scan, and I just remember saying to Caleb, “This doesn’t change anything. If I do have cancer, it’s gonna suck so much. But it doesn’t change the way Jesus has asked me to live. It doesn’t change his goodness, eternity, or His long term plan. It will change what daily life looks like, but it doesn’t change the fundamentals.”

I’m not saying the current election won’t have massive ramifications on America and the world. My little knowledge on the inside workings of US Politics largely comes from The West Wing (and on that note, may I just say, ‘Bartlett for President’?) But I do understand that there are implications for the future of the Supreme Court, unborn children, refugees and migrants, and countless other very, very important issues. But does it change the day-to-day example for living that Jesus set? Not at all. Jesus Himself was born into a time of political instability. I think Christians often think of him as apolitical. I can’t get onboard with that – why else would the leading powers want him dead? His politics were subversive. They transcended the political ways of human rule. They pointed people away from the sovereignty of the leaders of the land, and instead to the Leader of the Kingdom.

The same applies today. Regardless of what the rulers of the land dictate, our political mandate is a higher one. One of hope, of love, of caring for the orphan and the widow, of kindness to our neighbour. Christians living under all forms of peaceful or tyrannical government have had the same mandate. It has not changed. Panic about what the future may hold, is not the Kingdom way. Jesus himself said, “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” (Jn 14:27).

So perhaps we could see the current political uncertainty as a cool opportunity to put into practice the politics of the Upside-down Kingdom. A chance to be peaceful in a time of anxiety. An opportunity to be kind in the midst of vitriol. A moment to hold hope and joy in the face of an uncertain future. I, for one, intend to (metaphorically) hum the old Sunday School tune at the coming days, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

And that is the last you’ll hear from me on the subject!!

Over and out friends,
Love you,
Deb x

Oh Baby! (Part II)

image

You may or may not have noticed that it’s been some time since I last blogged; the reason being, I have been feeling really unwell. I’ve had a spate of migraines varying from foggy soreness to hold-my-head-howl-at-the-moon-and-spew ones. My head has been feeling like it’s not attached to my body. I’m feeling nauseous. And exhausted. Just bottomed out. But, yes Sherlock, as you’ve probably suspected by this point, I’m pregnant!!

The blog I posted a few months ago (https://adventuresoftheordinaryblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/oh-baby/) outlined the unexpected fertility journey we found ourselves on. Shortly after I wrote that blog, we headed away on a trip to California for our fifth wedding anniversary. We had been planning to go somewhere amazing in the Dominican Republic, but then we bought a house, so ended up heading to Bethel Church to spend time with Jesus instead. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

We stayed at a guest house run by a couple that are involved with prayer ministry at Bethel. The moment we arrived, they asked us why we were there, and we briefly told them about the issues my body was facing. We told them that we where heading to the Healing Rooms the next morning to receive prayer. Naturally, they prayed for me then and there. Rick is one of those dudes that seems to have a direct line to God – he just prayed for like two seconds, then his face split into the most infectious grin, and he goes, “It’s time!! Ha ha, it’s time!!”

The next morning we attended the Healing Rooms, where they prayed for me again, then we had the funnest day eating out and napping, going to the movies, drinking coffee and all the fun stuff that’s not relaxing with a toddler. The next morning at church a man next to me interrupted me in the middle of worship, saying, “Excuse me, but are you wanting children?” So he prayed for me. Then we had breakkie with a Kiwi buddy before we left on the long trek home, and I told her about Rick saying, “It’s time.” To that she replied, “That’s exactly what popped into my head the very first moment I saw you.”

I won’t go into gory details, but let’s just say that all the cramping and issues I’d been experiencing stopped from that weekend on, and now I’m almost 11 weeks preggo! I had an early scan at seven weeks and got to see our little sesame seed and hear its wee rapid heartbeat.

I was SO excited to finally have a new little Schnoops onboard! And I am still so grateful, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s been TOUGH!! I really don’t recommend being a sicky preggy with a toddler, if it can at all be avoided. I don’t know who I feel most sorry for; me, Caleb or Judah. It’s been a family affair, this trimester. Grumpy mum has made too many appearances. Judah, sensing the changes afoot has been acting out and pushing my buttons with the skill of a neurosurgeon. Caleb has been picking up the extra slack along with starting a new business. (But since I’m voting for two, my ballot box wins).

One thing I’ve been learning throughout this journey is that God doesn’t do things my way. Or in my time. Or to my specifications. And that there are moments when life seems unbearably hard, and it’s difficult to understand why He doesn’t appear to intervene. However He is always there. The very worst migraine I had was last week. I was wracked with pain, couldn’t stop vomiting, and just so over being sick. And as I sat there in the dark room, there He was. His love was all around me. He just loved me. And it was so sweet.

So! New Hargrove on the scene Feb 2017!! Eeek!! (That was the sound of excitement/nervousness – not, as Caleb would say, the squeak of ‘Preggy Piggy’ approaching a Big Mac. Although, let’s be honest, it’s that too). I’ll blog when I feel up to it, otherwise, love you friends, I hope you are well!!

Deb xx

Friends are Friends Forever?

image

I’ve been feeling super nostalgic lately. I listened to a podcast where the dude mentioned how you never forget your friends from high school days, and it set me thinking about friendships. Friendship and I traversed some pretty rocky terrain when I was a kid. My best friend from Kindergarten moved to Australia. My best friend from my very first day at school took off to Picton with her family several months after we established our BFF status. And then my very best friend at church had another BFF – it was a very awkward friendship triangle, and I always felt like the second best friend.

After my school buddy left, I found it really hard to find new close buddies for a number of years, right up until the last year of primary school, in fact. I remember wandering around the the playground by myself and asking people if I could play with them. I remember joining in other kids’ groups for a bit, but never feeling like I was part of it. I distinctly recall finally making a friend in one class, and then having to be moved to a new classroom halfway through the year because the school was growing too much. The said friend addressed me with her new cohort and informed me that, sadly, I couldn’t be her friend anymore because we weren’t in the same class.

These experiences obviously didn’t injure my quirkiness at all. I remember convincing a bunch of kids that if we wrapped certain dead flower pods in our discarded plastic lunch wrap, that they would most certainly turn into gold. I actually had a certain Narnian kind of belief that this could happen. Another game I distinctly remember having created was one called, “Handicapped-four eyes-geeky-express.” I can’t remember exactly what that one was about, but I know it involved a lot of sitting in trees and answering the ‘phone’. Undoubtedly the most destructive/dangerous was ‘The Bee Clinic’. It was as it sounds…we would stand on bees, and then ‘fix’ them in the clinic. I told everyone that when the white stuff came out of its tail, it was all healed. For all you bee lovers out there, I’m so sorry.

The funny thing is that in recent years I have gone back and read my primary school reports, and during that one particular year I was made to transition classrooms, the teacher wrote something like this, “Deborah is a natural leader, she organises people and they follow.” That is not at ALL how I remember that time in my life, but my perspective was obviously somewhat coloured by my friendship experiences. I think that perspective still clouds my perception of my friendships. I have since gone on to have many dear and close friends. As well as a lot of counselling and prayer and journeying. I can write about childhood friendships and no longer feel the sting I once did. But I do still often feel a mild feeling of detachment in the atmosphere when I’m around friends. I feel very slightly suspicious that they perhaps don’t like me as much as I like them. I’m almost subconsciously waiting for them to go hang out with their number one BFF.

None of these irrational thoughts bear any resemblance to real life happenings. My friends are gracious and amazing! It’s the echoes from an earlier time whispering to the present. I’m convinced it won’t always be like this, mostly because I’m aware of it and don’t like to stay stagnant. However, it got me thinking about the way I view friendship, and that atmosphere of detachment is a selfish one. It’s self-protective. It’s trying to keep me safe from potential heartbreak. And it’s introspective.

My view of friendship needs to make the essential shift from one where I’m primarily concerned with receiving, to one where my priority is giving. I have lately been praying the prayer of St Francis, so I’ll leave it here, because it does a better job of explaining what needs to happen than I ever could.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Deb xx
P.s. Wanna be my friend?

Americanniversary

image

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

The Sound of Silence

image

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