The Rim of Duty

Probably one of the most extravagent blessings of being able to be in Tonga, was the lack of walls put up by people. I notice how easy it is in our busy westernised lives to scurry about behind our closed doors, down our long driveways, between the arms on the clock face. We make our meals in quick crockpot or pasta ease, view the world through the selective eye of electronic screens and relate instantly through choppy text letters. We churn with effort to keep our plenty managable, juggled and uncluttered in a crowded plastic culture. We lack the flow of community and simplicity.

Desperate poverty aside for a moment, third world countries have this and are the richer for it. Many homes have no doors, and meals become a family effort, feeding many and all pitching in. The children clamber over aunts and uncles and there are no tight lines of boundary and rule. And when you look into the eyes of the people there, you see them for who they are. Sometimes when talking with other women, I feel we have to track through the mental gates of first world motherhood; past the committee woes, the household budgets, the hunt for lunchbox fillers, the best recipes, the struts of our profession; the poles of influencing our children and the bars of running a household.

Then we can really talk. Heart to heart.

What an honour it was in Tonga to be able to communicate without digging like this.

One night at conference, our wonderful speaker expanded on the way Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, and drew her up from the depth of her past shame, meeting and quenching her thirst. I love this story and how He is so real with us, meeting us in the heat of the day (the Samaritan woman collected water at this unfavourable time because she was shunned from the other women who gathered in this community during the cooler hours), sitting with us in our isolated shame and quietly, knowing everything about us, going down in layers to the heart of our thirst.

He was sent to meet us at the well of our own self-set expectations, the hollowness of perceived protocol and the deep ridigity of our laborious performing; in the depths of our disappointment, our buried heart fears and our guilt riddled bucket of motherhood. He is the gift of God sent to release us from carrying our weights of emptiness. He sees us as women, and wants to meet us face to face on the sun scorched rim of duty.

Would you pause with me in the heat of your day and let the giver of living water refresh us? Shopping lists, defrosting chicken, vet bills and overflowing laundry piles not withstanding? Could we just sit with Him and listen? Could we fill up first not on the soda pop of first world busy-ness but could we give Him the opportunity to drench us in fountains of everlasting life in order that we might walk fully free?


Bringer of Grace

She sat, brown hands uncurled and open on her lap, while tears ran out from under dark lashes. Bare feet together on the woven mat, we pressed in around her and prayed. And the sorrow of years fell like rain, the disappointments broke and joined the flood and we lifted our voices to the King, the Father, the Healer. To embrace and overwhelm the broken heart, filling and breathing new life into the empty places.
Grace and peace be multiplied.
Lifting her countenance, white smile shone through and the gold glinted. She stood and walked while we watched with goosebumps. She was free from the weight of condemnation and shame. In a culture acceptant of royalty, she walked with regal height and head up. We stood and watched her leave, smiling and quietened in the moment of grace and peace.

By the end of the trip, we had changed her name to Sarah. Princess.


Journal peek - Day 2

Honest words fell into diary pages on the second day, muddled and unformed in direction. As this is an essential part of journeying, I let them stutter forth without trying to think things through too much. I let comments slip out uncensored and did not try to wrestle them into boxes of reason - there was the small matter of my future at stake. Interestingly, this was the last time I needed to journal this way, after this my writing time became much more focussed and dealt to heart issues that I was able to uncover and unpack into the light for the first time, thus propelling me into a unprecendented heights of freedom.

It is mid-afternoon, sleepy time. Apart from the singing shouts of neighbouring children and the incessant whining of a chain saw, the noises of the night are gone. I am assuming in the heat that the animals have gone off to sleep curled up in the shade.

We drove around the island this morning, and I shot the country through my lens, freezing the broken, peeling buildings and dilapidated street side stores. It is poor, run down and some places lie in ruin. There is a slow undercurrent, people move like treacle and sit staring into space, waiting. They walk with casual steps, under the shade of parasols or drapes of fabric over their heads. Dogs roam the streets, heavy with whelping and cattle are tied by the neck to trees and graze amid the piles of rubbish that line the narrow strip road. Tiny striped piglets trot squealing after lumbering sows through plantation green plots and frangipani trees offer twirls of white or pink flowers on their grey twisting arms up to the rainclouds.

The water is serene, wave-less and dotted with fishermen. The cafe we went to for lunch was on the waterfront, simple and bright in the sun and sea breeze. I tried the internet there but it crept so slowly that I lost patience.

Afternoon sleep is elusive, now loud traffic noises on the busy road, and throbbing music beating from a nearby building. I think of the ones at home, in the sunshine and routine, I hear they are playing outdoors, giggling and having afternoon tea. I press my toes into the bedspread, noone is here is ask me for permission to watch something on tv, or to eat something from the lolly jar, and no baby needs me. I am free yet holding back, although not sure why. I would like to cry, and the lump is big in my throat but no words are linking to that place and no tears will fall.

The journey back to remembrance has been stark. Third world mission trip meets the new life I have crafted about me. I am overwhelmed by the separation from routine, the new experiences, the level of need, feeling so small in this place and yet can sense a deeper part of myself is beginning to freefall out of dark folds.



Hello Darlings, I'm back!
With lots of washing, dusty sandals and a heart that has undergone a transformation. Who could ask for more?

Bit by bit I hope to condense some of my thoughts into a couple of posts, at the moment I am caught between children, clothes pegs and working on the images I took while there.

But today I'll leave this thought with you.
God's hand is ALREADY raised in victory. Whatever it is we are going through, owning the reality of this is a leap from sitting back and waiting for something amazing to happen. Stepping out with praise, even in the opposite spirit to what the circumstances dictate, unleashes a download from heaven. I have seen this firsthand this week like never before and my heart is smiling :)

I was right on the cliff-edge, ready to fall, when God grabbed and held me. God's my strength, he's also my song, and now he's my salvation. Hear the shouts, hear the triumph songs in the camp of the saved? "The hand of God has turned the tide! The hand of God is raised in victory! The hand of God has turned the tide!" Psalm 118


Walking Into the Future

It was agony watch to my girls walk wailing up the hill to school after our last hugs. I lay on my bed and cried with the sheer force of walking through my determination to make a new start, with the etching of a new line in the sand. But it was also a calm grace that propelled me forwards, for the sake of my children, to allow the future to be severed from the fear of the past and to release them into their futures without trepidation of history repeating itself. I carried a weight of significance throughout the rest of the day, alert but a part of me felt numb. Saying goodbye to loved ones is a particular wrench and brings I know for both my husband and I, a fresh respect for those who lose loved ones forever. The permanancy of being apart from each other carries such a unique despair that I wonder how those who have endured this tragedy manage to ever see beauty again. But I guess that's where the nature of God comes in and as we lean into His everlasting arms, we realise we cannot outrun Him and that no matter how deep the sea of grief, He is there with us.

Below is my journal entry from first thing today.

It is early morning and the cacophony still continues but now in the light of day seems softer somehow. Rumbling, rattling diesel trucks churn past the open slat windows in the equivalent of Tonga morning rush hour. The neighbour's china chinks. Birds twitter, geckos bleat and the roosters that began their morning chorus at midnight are still huskily giving the new day song. I have learned something new about roosters. Once one starts, a chain of rooster harmonies ensues. We went to bed at midnight, washing our black soled feet before climbing into bed. My pillow is roughly quilted on one side and satin on the other. I slid constantly off it during the night, while listening to the pig snuffling and snorting outside my window, the cat fight, the generator and during the incessant barking of many dogs. I feverishly worked my ear plugs to try to block out the worst of what was the loudest night noises I think I have ever heard, but I still woke up repeatedly as a crashing animal or shouting person jolted me upright. At one stage I thought I was at home, in my own bed and it took me a moment to make out the back of a sage green door, and the moonlight squares of window, covered with sheer panels of pale green beneath a thick tasselled polyester brocade fabric, tied in the middle.
Our flight was good, and we arrived in the dark. I was taken on a trip to Africa with memories of little men waving us in with batons, and others shuttling the plane steps up to the exit door. We piled our baggage into the van, and joined the screaming baby in the back for the trip to our accommodation, stopping first at a store for water.
We are in a simple home, but palacial by Tongan standards and after driving around today snapping photos of the island, I am feeling blessed to be in such clean surroundings. I even bought my tea bags, I know, silly creature comforts, but it is quite amusing to make my tea, in my own mug amid the geckos and coconut palms when I know that last week I stood in my own kitchen.

At this moment it is dusk, and I am alone in Friends Cafe with pacific music piped out from the speaker tied to the curtain rail. My dinner was the toughest beef curry known to man, and after I had shooed the feral cats away, I settled to post this before I am picked up. Sadly for some reason, no photos will load, but I will try again when I can.

My thoughts are at home, lightly only because I know that thinking too hard will reduce me to rubble. Know that you are loved my little ones. And G, you are missed beyond expression.


Hall to Light - 1000 Gifts

My bag is half packed. The cat keeps nosing in under the lid and trying to nestle into the tumble of contents that I have placed in there. In there I have cartons of long life milk and hand sanitizer, journal, suncream and nurofen. There are skirts for church meetings and shorts for play, the camera, the lens, the chargers, my art box. But more than that, more than the equipment and gear, I am carrying an expectation.

To go away on a mission focused trip, without my children is about re-writing the past. It is my line in the sand that says the history of trip related trauma does not dictate my future. The two words mission and abandonment have been welded together since my parents were abducted when I was eleven. Although my heart beat in time with a call for nations, my head told me in no uncertain terms that the cost to my children was too great. But I am walking out this journey, in the opposite spirit, one foot following the next, unsure of the details but fully assured that despite the outcome, grace will be sufficient for my needs.

It is not only a wife and a mother of three that is embarking on this trip to Tonga. It is an eleven year old girl, willing to walk back down hallways that used to be narrow and dark. It will be with upturned face that I will see the light. It is the passion I carry for broken women that spurs me on, footfalls through the valley to get me to a place where I am no longer afraid of what has bred my fear to date. It is the dream that gives momentum to my steps. And it is the gift of being able to dig deeper during a shadowy passage, to find that eternal hope, the one that outlasts the terror.

Here is what I am grateful for today:

110. For feet. Will we let them take us to places that need to hear about Real Love?

111. For shoes.

112. For a husband who releases without pressure, gently pushing me to take bigger risks.

113. For a passport, so many have no way to get one.

114. For a delightful diva who lent me her funky top so that I could make one to take with me.

115. For birthday parties.

116. For Sunday papers.

117. For brave daughters.

118. For a great book.

119. For heart song, bird song and watching my three girls sing with gusto to Hoe Down, Throw Down.

120. For laughter, last hugs and e-tickets.

Come away with me.


Crazy Eights

Turning eight is terribly important.

Somehow the mere silliness of life up to that moment leaves the field of the involuntary and a focus on refining the act of childhood takes to the fore. The accidental delight of being younger than this is replaced by the ability to recognize the power of choice, and how to steer the vehicle of one's mindful actions into certain places.

The acknowledgement of consequence begins to build and a familiarity with one's own capacities emerges, yet still, deliciously, a pond of possibilities still exists beneath the practical. In these lucid depths, imagination stirs and sparkles, only now, with the added strength of focus, childhood's vessel is sturdy enough to row into the sunlit ripples.
Here is where talking peacock fish are caught on threads of silk, and blossoms fall from trees of fancy to float upon the water. Here is where the child takes herself, aboard her tiny craft of emerging mental independance, to sit and sing and weave jewels of the sun between the strands of her hair.
And over the years as the boat improves in capacity, the adult in the child will still find go gliding on this secret pool of paradise. And emerge energised, armed with dreams, proposals and visions. Recipes, models, maps, concepts, experiments, novels, blueprints, doctrates and essays all surge from this stillness between the oars, watching and listening and rocking in careful quiet joy to the motion and art of play.
Eight is the platform of dreams.

Eight is the meeting and intertwining of logic and fancy. Simple block towers become complex lego structures, and many years on, add to city skylines. Leaf cups of nectar grow into scoops of sherbert and later, platters of culinary worth; playdough patting and rolling morphs into sculpture, gardening and landscape design, stick figures and dolls clothes parade down fashion catwalks and paintings; the stories of emerging childish words unfold into publications that line the bookshelves of many.

8 is a number associated with new beginnings, Creation took 7 days and the eighth was the start of the functioning of all that had been spoken into being.
8 is a fascinating mathematical number, being the first cubed prime.
8 is the base of the octal system, on which is built an impressive empire of computer logistics.
8 is the number of B vitamins that play a role in cell metabolism.
8 keys form the scale in one octave, the foundation of the art of music.

For us, watching the unfolding of our second child into eight is like watching a rare and delicate species unfurl the petals of undiscovered beauty into form. Especially with this child, who is introverted, wild and in possession of incredible determination. Her competative nature, sensitivity and common sense sometimes overwhelm the softness of just being. She is dominated by her desire to belong, to have friendships that satisfy with loyalty and depth, to be the first. These powerful motivators are weighty beyond her years and it is with great interest and love that I hold back on busy things in order to give her imagination a chance to cradle the hot coal of impatience she nurtures. We try to keep things simple, uncluttered, unrushed. Just be we say. Rest-time. But she writhes and squirms and puts down her pen in frustration, not being able to write as fast as the words that tumble from her mind, or read quickly enough to gallop the story along as was its design. She scoffs at safety, at sedate pace and at not succeeding. If a challenge cannot be conquored immediately, and with excellence, it is severed. Her alarm bells ring when she is forced to be adaptable and still, or wait. And emotion spills from those blue eyes at injustice and heart hurt.

She is our child on the fly; glittery, skittish and impossible to catch, yet ignites the imagination with a sweetness that catches each breath of wind.

She was born at 8pm, on the 16th, weighing 8lb8oz.
She no longer sleeps with blanky.
She still sucks her thumb. A lot.
She is outgrowing the love of pink.
She loves shoes.
And winning.
And red toenail polish.
She adores animals, still wants to be a vet.
Deeply longing for a puppy, year after year.
She loves cuddles, bedtime stories, jumping on the trampoline.
And like last year, sausages still top the food list.
Her favourite dvds this year have been Mamma Mia, Little Rascals and Yours, Mine and Ours.
She will no longer be co-erced into eating fish and chips.
Her skin is the softest we have ever felt, her cheeks like rose petals.
Subway is her best takeout.
She is fierce in her loving.
Soft in her care of little ones, very good with directing and protecting Mishal.
She has struggled at school this year, with bullies and lack of deep friendships.
She still does gymnastics but her lack of flexibilty causes her strife, however her natural strength and balance compensate.
She is walking in that unique girlhood way, through the door of awareness from babyhood to the beginning of wisdom, and shedding the layers as she goes. She was my fiesty baby, picky eater and clinger. I said then that she would probably grow to be an astronaut or inventor so separated from conforming was she. Equality and medocrity irritate this child to the heights of exasperation.

She was born to run at the front of the pack. Not an easy task for a second sibling, at the shoulder of a strong leader sister. She is hardwired to escape the shadow, and seek out her own limelight.
She sparkles, shines, screams.
She is spirited.
She is eight. This is her year.


Scrambled Womble Eggs with Diamonds

In a crumpled bed, quickly moving my rusty fingers over the keyboard as he gets ready to go to work and take with him my link to the world. How I am missing my online community. Heavy downpour outdoors, thinking the children are going to need galoshes and mackintoshes to get to school this morning, if only we had such Paddington bear-ish props. I have had a busy few days and heading into a few more, making next weeks meals so that the poor guy does not have to cook as well and be a solo parent while I am away. So I have five meals to make today, and it is Maddy's birthday tomorrow, party on Saturday. Class treats to bake and the party to cater for, all the while eyeing what clothes to pack for Tonga, and whether we have enough wrapping paper for Maddy's gifts, and working out how many sachets of cat food will be needed until I get back. It all mounts up madly, and I enjoy it, but need time to sift through and get it all done methodically. That's the crazy part, Mishal is double trouble at the moment, ignoring each demand to stop doing something, and on a mission with those tiny fingers to find every bead, crayon and lipstick she can. She refuses to be buckled in, eat her dinner, get out of the bath, have her hair brushed, endure a channel change, give something back that she took. She's done several reverse raspberries that pierce the skin with love, and has most alarmingly taken to running away, a great joke. In light of the dear little girl who ran away in NZ last week and was only found a week later, this is extremely underlined in my thoughts and each list, or recipe, or washing sorting moment is fractured with me rushing around trying to find her.
I am trying not to be defined by motherhood. I am trying to think and speak clearly but it is proving true that my lack of computer time is meaning I am a jumbled up womble. Deep breaths.
While Mishal was asleep yesterday, I worked on creating cute little plastic cups lined with spotty pink paper, filled with pretty lollies for a quick, simple eye-candy party favour for Maddy's party, geared at being gluten-free. I enjoyed using my scrapbooking scallop punch, my pegs, balloons and creating something. I left them on my desk... while on the phone an hour later, Mish climbed up onto my desk and proceeded to feast on the chocolate fish poking up out of the tops of the little cups. Deep breaths.
I am thinly spread, in my head. In that lack, I still place in God's hands, my overwhelming desire to be learning from Him. Time-poor, His inspiration has to be rich, literally nuggets that land like scattered diamonds for me to scoop up on the run. Trying to be alert and watchful to that richness is sometimes difficult when I want to glaze over with survival mode, or when I want to faze out with grief processing, or when I just want to think. But I keep making myself look. I keep singing with the music that pours into my kitchen from Rhema, I keep scribbling down notes on the back of envelopes, till receipts. I have conversations with God while driving, out loud I might add, much to the intrigue of my children.
And its so funny, God is not confined to my limited mental capacity. It confounds me how He meets me wherever I am at. But today, children are calling for help finding clothes (they are camping upstairs in the spare room while their downstairs wing is off limits having a leak fixed), and my sweetie darling is heading off, possibly needing to take this laptop with him, so I am away. Love and miss you my bloggy friends. xx Scuse my typos, no time to re-read.


Of broccoli, words and fat pants

Grateful today:

88. For sight. After a fortnight of being unable to download from my camera, I miss the images acutely. I am profoundly thankful that my eyes can take in light and hue, and regularly get the opportunity to feast on texture and gleam. A few days off makes me hungry for this visual smorgasboard but so aware of what a gift it is. I do not take it for granted.

89. For how my husband's hands are always warm.

90. For cherry red nail polish.

91. For broccoli. We are re-naming our youngest daughter, Miss Brassica. She is addicted to the stuff and will easily eat everyone's portions in one sitting. She flicks her carrots to the floor, and the rice is for the birds, but she is monstrous in her greed when it comes to those little green trees.

92. For an outdoor table in the sun.

93. For a neighbour who brought flowers over, arranged in a tall spaghetti jar.

94. For having the leak downstairs fixed, finally. For a landlord who is following through.

95. For leaders that inspire.

96. For hot baths to melt tension knots from shoulders.

97. For little hands that served water and ice in champagne glasses to the table tonight.

98. For ten year old innocence that calls her new revitalising cleanser, her Retavaliser.

99. For middly girl wanting a piece of the cosmetic action, making me pour out the contents of an old deodorant roll-on bottle, and filling it with purple sunscreen to roll under her arms.

100. For keeping my 'fat pants' and not throwing them out. They have been pressed into service in my new expansion of emotional eating :)

101. For rest. I am choosing to appreciate the on-line diet and use it as a break for my brain.

102. For the ability to choose courage despite the internal voices that tempt mediocrity.

103. For reading out loud.

104. For reading in quiet.

105. For the way the sun set last night as I drove home over the bridge through the rainbow river of a sky.

106. For pictionary games with the girls. Hysterical laughing over ridiculous drawings, bendy rules and a timer that turned over and over.

107. For tomorrow. That it comes without question or rebuke, just steadily rolls into newness. What a miracle of creation the new day is.

108. And again, because I never tire of being grateful for it, for life.

109. And love.


All sorts, like the liquorice

I am finding that being away in the school holidays, borrowing hubby's work laptop (mine far away being fixed) and not having me-time for days on end is the enemy of blogging. Perhaps I have an unhealthy addiction but the blog and lens-eye of perspective, perhaps like a sanity drug, is sorely missed when I fall off the wagon. It's the getting back on I find hard, how to pick up the threads of images and words and go back to weaving them into a shape that makes sense to me.

My Mondays of Gratitude have been so important to my progress, in some weeks that is the only day I blog because I know the other days I would be tempted to give voice to the negative. I choose to forage for blessings on Mondays and this smoothes out the beginning of my week. I start with a tithe of thankfulness and it trickles down. When I fall asleep at night, sometimes instead of worrying whether I have fed the children enough vegetables and whether this will make them get cancer, or if the cat is so compacted with furballs that he might starve, or whether I will continue to eat chocolate like a pig and not being able to wriggle into my clothes; sometimes I remember just to let the blessings flow in. I lie there, eyes closed and sink into the rich layers of remembrance; life, breath, water, provision, light, softness, joy. I skim each breath past the hitch of worry and into the deeper well, entrusting God to take care of the rest.

I have found keeping my morning pages to be extremely helpful to siphon off the meaningless clutter of sensible thoughts that clog up the creative streams. I write 'must get rid of cats, buy vitamins, return overdue library books, vacuum lounge, make dinner' and before I know it, shopping lists have turned into doodles of trees and swirling words like peacock fish or vanilla lemon. It is very hard to be a creative and a respectable housemaker and parent let me tell you. Throw in the odd dose of pms and iron defiency and my children never know whether I am going to have steam puff out of my ears because I am cross they left chippie crumbs on the carpet, or whether I will be cheerfully vague, allowing them eat chocolate biscuits for breakfast or play outside in their pyjamas in the rain.

The last week we have been staying with family back in the town we moved from nearly one year ago. It is so lovely to be back in Auckland again but sad too. I miss so many aspects of our lives as they were then, however in the moments I get caught in that frame of mind, I hear these song lyrics from Moving Forward by Israel Houghton,

I'm not going back
I'm moving ahead
I'm here to declare
In You old things are made new

I am finding it takes courage and choice not to miss something so hard that it snaps your resolve to nothing. I employ a healthy serving of brain power to avoid sliding down the kitchen cabinets and raging on the tiled floor, storming my heart out because the things I knew and loved are so far from me. My expectations and identity were things I used to take for granted and now are facets of life that I hold up loosely, not mine own. My parent's separation has brought to the fore every insecurity I had tucked away, and the eternal child in me is frequently face to face with the wrench of the new situation.

This coming week I will be packing for my upcoming trip to Tonga, trying to get my head around leaving my three babies for nearly a week while I go off with a little group of girls from our church on a missions trip. And trying to unloop the link between missions trips and disaster, two decade old memories running like they were yesterday. Waving my parents goodbye, off to their mission trip to Mozambique and then the world ending as we were told after three days that they were never coming home.

Somehow I have tangled up going on a mission for God with the certain cost of forever changing your life and damaging those of your children. I have the two words, mission and abandonment, cemented into one concept - loss. Although in my instance, after three long months, I tipped even further when faced with processing the reality that after mourning my parents, they were actually alive and returning. This left me unpicking the new seams that grief had worked into my psyche. I was still actively doing this through my teens, realising that loving them did not mean I would lose them necessarily. But as a parent, new angles of this experience come up, and leaving my children and heading off into a rather earthquake and tsunami prone corner of the world for no other reason than to be obedient to an inner call, is quite scary.

So that will be next week, but for now, on this quiet Sunday, I will put the worry to one side and shake out the dream of being some use to the broken. And eat some more chocolate. And head back to evening church to lean in and learn more.

Hope your weekends have all been good and that the beginning of the new week (and term for some of us) is full of delight.

Photo credit - flickr (due to the sad fact that I have nowhere to download my camera to!)


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