The Animal's Version of Christmas



It was delicious. Typical performance theatrics aside, the true spirit of the drama was poignant and watching it played out by our children was a breathtaking priviledge. They worked very hard to pull off such a heartfelt rendition of the Christmas story, told through the words of the stable animals (give or take a few artistic characters like the Police Dog and the Lion and the Dove). The leaders and parents who unselfishly gave of themselves to coach and organise the kids, and then treat them afterwards with a lavish party were amazing. I was blown away observing the hands that together lifted strings of cheerful bunting, christmas lights and whisked a vacuum over the mess afterwards. The hands that served platters of food, painted faces and scooped icecream. The hands that clipped on headgear, took off shoes, passed microphones and led dance moves. Those hands all linked to form a cradle of investment for the crowd of little ones that are growing up together. Encircling the future.

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Fresh Moment


The crammed diary splattered with coffee is old news.
But a pocket of refreshment came in the year-end celebration of our young mum's group.
I love this sense of community, this village raising our children together. Watching two dear friends coach Mishal down the fireman's pole became a profound moment for me. Other's hands reaching out to support, carry and say we're doing life together.

The reason we do what we do sprang into fresh focus for me. The formative and foundational efforts to turn love into a working machine that grows into the factory of society.
The care and nurture of our young is what brings us all into this fabric of motherhood, together. Because even though we don't always get it, we are all unconciously training the leaders of tomorrow's boardrooms, classrooms and theatre rooms. And the diary pages bulging with school visits, secret santa trysts, christmas shows, late night shopping, sewing pageant costumes, prizegivings, and class party days are all part of it. Those pages are the proof that we construct our lifestyles around provision of life.
And although the above sounds cliche and obvious, I admit to frequently being blind to the bigger picture. I confess to staring sadly into the bottom of an empty coffee cup because it means I am meant to be swinging back into action, much to the disgust of my muscles and aching brain. Eyeing the fridge, oven and grocery list, the rolls of wrapping paper and the unmade beds, the sticky windows and the crumby floor makes my internal hard drive freeze.
I forget why I exist.
And then a day like that happens and I remember. And my limbs move of their own accord, to facilitate and express the joy of this season, so that my future generation changers will be able to do the same for theirs.


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Wordless Wednesday

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Pendulous in the Park

Those of you who know me personally might remember that at the beginning of this year, I decided for the first time in my life to get in shape. Properly. Gym and all.

It was a hilarious adventure, but I gave it 100% effort and was pleased to feel stronger and more alert. However, a couple of health hiccups derailed my progress and things had to go quiet for a bit while those were addressed.

A few months on, I am picking up the baton again, freshly inspired by Gail, who sets a fantastic example. Also, going away to Fiji last month was another kick in the motivator pants. We made some lovely kiwi friends, one of whom was a personal trainer.
We would stand in the ankle-deep water and chat while watching the kids swim, and I would find it hard to drag my envious eyes away from her smoothly sculpted, bikini-clad form. I would catch a glimpse of my own generously rounded shape, discreetly covered up in board shorts and tee shirts (not that I have ever hankered after a bikini - sun damage alone keeps me conservative!) and wince in shame.
She squeezed twice as much out of her holiday than I did, although admittedly did not have pre-schoolers (and that, my dears, is the secret to vanishing sanity). She would get up at five am and hustle the whole family down the gym at dawn, whereupon her children would happily paddle about on the sand, or read, while Mum and Dad pumped weights and leapt about on the machines.
I however, lay like a water buffalo under the sheets, terrified to breath loudly lest I wake one of the offspring we shared our room with. On a couple of occasions, if Greg hadn't beaten me to it, I was able to squeeze out of a crack in the sliding door (as water buffalos do) and walk on the beach. Slowly though, as the rocks were sharp and I was usually barefoot, er, hoofed.

Despite what it sounds like, more than appearance is the desire to feel good, to wake up with energy and to keep being active for the sake of my kids and my future health. That was enough to see me scrabbling about in the dark for my running shoes early yesterday morning. In the quiet half dark I grabbed a bra, singlet and exercise pants. Creeping out into the drizzle, I left a note on the bench, scribbled onto the back of a paper bag. 'Gone for a walk in the rain'.

Off I went, moving limbs unaccustomed to activity and feeling jerky and uncoordinated. One of my problems is that I have very stretchy ligaments, due to oestrogen dominance. This means that the high arches in my feet keep collapsing and this makes my calf muscles tense to compensate. In turn, this pulls apart the muscle running down the shin and I get excruciating shin splints that make me stagger, despite excellent, fitted footwear.

As you know, we live on the boundary of a park fit for a King. Actually I would not be surprised to see God himself wandering through the majesty of the rising halls of oak and bough. The lines of meadow in morning dew and the slant of the sun upon the matchstick bars of fence made music in my head, and I plodded happily on, breathing in the beauty about me. It is a popular place for joggers and walkers, and after warming up I threw all sense to the wind and began to run, prodded into competative action by being overtaken by nimble granny effortlessly speeding past. Shortly after that my fleece jacket was stripped off and tied about my waist. I walked for a bit, ran for a bit. It was when a passing biker did a double take at me, nearly undoing his vertical experience, that I began to contemplate my position.

Sadly in the half dark while goping for an outfit, good sense did not prevail. I had chosen a non-sports type bra and had some wild action happening in that department, if you get my drift. In addition to this shameful state of affairs, my singlet top happened to be flesh pink. It looked for all the world like I was jauntily jogging topless through one of Auckland's prestigious parks.

Okay, maybe not jauntily, because there was still the sad case of the agonising legs, but I was looking up and the artist in me, the child in me, the worshipper in me was engaged in admiring a creation beyond my dreams. I went through glades where pidgeons, pheasants and chickens were pecking for their breakfast. Over hills that overlooked sunlit cityscapes. Passed some of the most interesting people, some of whom made me chuckle in my head. Through gates, over stiles and finally, a wet waddle through the cow patties back to my own back garden.



I probably need not tell you how I am feeling now. But let us just say that my fingers on the keyboard and my raising eyebrows are the only movements I can make without a sharp intake of breath. We attempted some Christmas shopping at a large nearby mall after my Ralk/Wun, without a wheelchair for me. Needless to say, the crowds and the fact that malls hold no scope for the imagination, leave me with no progress in this department.

But I fell into bed last night content, many parts of me aching, but another, bigger part giving thanks for a body that actually moves, unlike many others who could only wish for such a priviledge.

My eight year old has been commissioned with tracking my progress on a weekly basis. She wrote down the numbers that the scale flashed alarmingly at us, and the date, down under an impressive title;

Diary of A Cool Mum (fat one too).

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Thoughts on Hope



A very dear kindred spirit's post on one of my favourite quotes of this year has prompted me to fulfill my months old intention of sharing my own thoughts on these words.

In a definingly bleak moment a number of months ago, spoken through tears of empathy, a praying friend said these words in the howling midnight of my storm. My girl, let hope rise.

Wobbling insecurely on the knobbly twig-edged nest of disappointment, I painted out the words I did not feel. Shuffling frail feathers and kneeling over the canvas, uttering the letters as they formed under my brush tip, in the absense of answers.
A noise caught my attention, a rustling. I peered out from the gloom towards the lightening sky with goosebumps puckering the skin of my vulnerability. But a rushing wind swooped past, and in the surprise I lost balance and toppled out. Into the slipstream of strong wing-beats I found myself tumbling, and without thinking my wings suddenly unfolded.

Hope became a current.

I have just kept wings outstretched.

The sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.

It is possible that hope might, just maybe, be my favourite word this year. For it is the complete, tender opposite to what reason tells us is the truth.

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Shepherds saw him first...

This month is crazy, add a move into the mix, and I am seriously beginning to unravel at the edges.


But today the Lord has still been my Shepherd. I have not been in want.


He has still made me lie down in green pastures, despite of my tendancy to run between jobs and clock-hands, and sit bowed at my sewing machine, whizzing up mermaid frills and birthday presents; wiping baby faces, listening to little voices utter worries, hang washing, sweep up spilt sugar, iron pleats in crushed netball skirts.



In the midst of recipes, sick kids, ringing phone, bulging appointment book and spilled paint,
He has led me beside quiet waters.



He restores my soul, in the hinge and see-saw of big decisions, I know He sees it all.


He guides me in paths of righteousness, even though I get stumped by which direction to go in.


Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, despite how the circumstances threaten and my lack of headspace tricks me into feeling small and powerless.



You are with me. On the merry-go-round of motherhood, the weighty cycle building of young people's lives, the careful words, the nourishment of emotion, of food, of nurture.
In the fields of drought and provision, of covenant, of blessing; in the frantic incessant nature of life as we know it. You are here. Above it all.


And I have to actually stop to see it. Put down the dishcloth, the appointment book, the phone.

Walk in. Rest. Drink it all in.


He's here. Can I make room? Or will I be too full up and miss Him, like the inn?
Too chaotic to notice the Son?



I will make room. Today. Now.
Will you?

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I've heard...

...that sometimes if you look carefully you can find fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Um, not at our place.











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The Physics of Gratitude




I would like to put out a theory in this season of celebration, harvested from a year of deep interest, practice and the reception of some gifted teaching on this topic.

Could it be true that gratitude is a force?

An effort applied to cause movement?

A key to being made whole?

A personal and voluntary push, needing to be activated by choice into existence?

For is it not true that pure gratitude does not hinge on great things that deserve thanks?

Is it not the blind thrust of action, sure-footed on a realisation of the depth we are loved beyond the sight of our circumstances?

The staggering cost paid for our sin, the indescribable value of eternal life and the faith we instill in the belief of promise, could this be enough to generate fundamental motion?

Could a no-strings-attached intention beyond the mirrors of self, lead to the experience of the principal of cause and effect?

The energy of gratitude applied to the vehicle of attitude causes our wheels to turn.

The cart of our contentment starts to move.

The joy-ride begins.

The more we close eyes and push out praise in heartfelt thanks,
for each breath,
for each dawn,
for life and salvation,
the faster the cart gets underway.

If thanks is felt but not expressed, no pressure is applied to the vehicle.

It takes sheer, exquisite, forceful effort to shove motion into wheels that are pinned with knowledge to the carriage of grace.

But once the journey has begun,
a habit of gratitude keeps the momentum;
regardless of the direction we find ourselves pointing.

How astonishingly simple!

How thrilling a ride!

All that is left is to cling in breathless and laughing wonder as we are hurtled into the embrace of a Saviour.

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Blessed

My late habit of typing out my thanksgivings has been sideswiped by lack of internet connection, a family holiday and moving house. But in my heart I have carried those thoughts, and they have whispered from my lips in the still places. Cradled on the lap of gratitude, my actions have grown to embrace the new, and contentment is often nearby.

I am still surrounded by many of these, but I am full of gratitude for the walls of a sturdy home, unlike many who live in cardboard cities. So thankful that these boxes are full of stuff, stuff I am thankful to have. Clothes, toys, art gear, dishes, books and food. So many, so, so many people have not enough to call their own to even cover the bottom of one of my boxes. And we moved like, a hundred. Blessed.

An open door, a home. Come in it says. Be blessed.

Warmth, comfort, rest. Be blessed.

The twinkle of this joyous season. Be blessed.

A gathering place. A meeting space to eat, talk and create. Be blessed.

Windows frame the world, clean air, wide greenery. Be blessed.

The time for beauty. Oh, be blessed.



Blossom of seeds, planted dark in winter's bite, now a tangle of fragrant petals. Be so blessed.


I am blessed.

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Meep

It is a sad day. I have just returned from re-homing Murray, the kitten my sister got last christmas. Due to unforseen circumstances, he became ours and adapted to life at our place. He used to chase the other cats around the house, hanging off their tails, in fact he rattled Oscar so much that the vet said he had developed anxiety issues! But he settled down and it was with much remorse that I found a new home for him, as we felt the new house was just not safe enough for him, being on a busy road.

The lady who wanted him turned out not to be what I had expected. I forced myself to drive away. And pulled over 100 metres down the street and burst into tears.
My overwrought sense of responsibility shrieked at me, Hey! You can't just leave this little guy with a lady that you didn't meet first.

My grief yelled at me Not another loss! Not so soon.

My maternal heart screeched Go back and get him! She might not love him like you do.

I then made a fatal mistake. While parked up on a strange street, I called my sister and sobbed out the story. She began to cry too and soon the two of us were wailing on the phone to each other and Mishal began to fuss in the backseat. Thus began the messy emotional process of trying to get him back, to re-re-home him.

But before I sent the message to the new owner that we had changed our minds (no money had changed hands we told ourselves, it was alright) I waited to run it all past Greg.
In between meetings he listened to my tale of woe. Bloody ridiculous he said. And listen up darling. The cat will be fine, she'll love on him as she is home all day, she was respectful and intelligent over email and pursued wanting Murray. Don't stand in judgement of her because she is different to you. Let him go, let the responsibility of re-homing him go. New wineskin time, don't you dare get him back. It would be wrong.

I sniffed. True. All true. Thank God for a steadying husband who does not function solely out of the quicksand of maternal emotion.

And so I head off now, dust mask on, downstairs to wash and pack the filthy stuff that has been covered in concrete grime from the landlord's repairs, with a lumpy feeling in my gut and reddened eyes. And no chocolate, what was I thinking when I did the grocery shopping - moving week and no Cadbury's Energy Scroggin? In two hours my children will be home and the tears will start all over again as they realise Murray is gone. Then off to dance/drama lessons and later to the Town Hall for Kenzie's school choir performance. No time for tears. Especially not when I have a six bedroomed house to pack up in three days.
Moving forward...

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Heart of the Issue

Yes, I realised belatedly that I had missed the post where I announced we were moving. My apologies for that.

As some of you might remember, moving up to Auckland was fairly difficult for me. I can say a year on though, that it has been a wonderful place to live and was just what we needed, I was merely blind to this at the time. I am so relieved that God allows us to mutter and moan but still pushes on in His plan despite our tantrums! The home we have lived in this past year was found in a tight spot, where we had a matter of days to leave our apartment and needed somewhere urgently. Although we originally had no intention of living North of Auckland, again, God knew better and we have enjoyed living over the harbour bridge and being a part of this laid back community. The children's school has been excellent and to all intents and purposes, one might wonder why we are moving on.

Hard to say really. The point came when I returned from Tonga and turned to Greg in the car on the way home from the airport and said out of the blue "we need to move to the heart of the issue." And he looked at me and laughed, saying those exact words had come to him during the week. Neither of us are sure why, but we both felt a prompting, and whereas we could have reasoned it out logistically as a bad idea, we decided in our true fashion to push the door, so to speak.

The house we have found is one I think I have been to in my dreams, unlike the current one. As an artist, and after a few experiences as a child that left me feeling like the world had broken, it is very important to me where I live. This desire of course has been surrendered many times, and will be again no doubt in the future, but for now, for whatever reason, the door is open to a place that wraps its arms around me with welcome. It is a home.

Possibly the most special element is the outlook, as this new house is set on the edge of a green farm park in the city of Auckland. Beyond the garden fence, fields lie. For a girl who literally sets up camp in Psalm 23 at times, green pastures speak to me in a profound way and I completely delight in them. Also, to the part of me that grew up on a farm in the savannah, a spacious place is profound and every hemmed in house has me itching for a visual stretch.

The house is an unpretentious typical kiwi family home, four bedrooms with hardwood floors (no more mess on carpets), and white roses in the garden. I will post pictures when we are in, this time next week. Greg, who has commuted lengthy distances to work for over a dozen years, will for the first time, be within walking distance to the office should he every choose to leave his beloved car in the garage. And the schools in the area are highly thought of. But as there will be three more weeks left to our NZ school year when we move, I will drive the children back to the North Shore for school each day. This is not a pleasant thought, but will at least allow them the honour of seeing out what has been a year of challenge and reward, right to the end.

Funnily enough, it turns out after we had signed the lease, that this location is dead centre on a map of the city.

The very heart.

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