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It is the rickety tricylcle that takes me there. Motorbike fixed to a sidecar, we squeeze inoto the side car as these little-engines-that-could roar down pot-holed streets and dust billows around. Pink hibiscus flowers bloom on the sidewalk, bougainvillea climbs over walls, the buildling is small on a little hill of sorts near Riverside Subdivision, we are the only foreigners, brown faces with brown faces in a little town a few hours south of Manila, Philippines. The shape of the building is blurred in the cobwebs of my meory, wooden benches, hard floors. I recite Bible verses into a microphone.

It is a car that takes me there, an old station wagon borrowed from friends for the year. There’s a car seat for my almost 2-year-old sister, the middle seat belt is uncomfortable and doesn’t buckly easily. The building is part of a campus, there’s a chapel for services, padded, plush pews in green velvet, red carpeted floors, a building for Sunday school, administration, fellowship meals, an orchestra plays on Sunday mornings, accompanied by a white-robed choir. Lush green trees line the roads, leaves change colour and fall to the ground in October.  I wear dresses and shoes and bows in my hair.

It’s a jeepney that takes me there, this strange, loud truck of the Philippines, with two benches that face each other and people jammed next to each other, odors mingling, bags clutched tightly to our bodies, holding on to the rail as it lurches and brakes and lurches again. We moved to Manila, and the traffic means long stretches of time spent on Marcos Highway. The front is a light pink, wooden benches that are comfortable and in rows, awkward teenage glances around, I can barely look people in the eye, sermons are 45 minutes long, and it’s hard to pay attention. I could draw a line on my arm and the black under my fingernail is the grime that is piling on. Black comes out of my hair when I bathe.

It’s a friend’s car that takes me there, to a country place in a tiny town. It takes five minutes in the car, but we always drive and never walk. It’s a hodge podge of characters and ages, university students, retirees, warm Southerners who like sweet tea and potluck lunches, the kindest old, tall farmer with white hair, a gruff voice and the smile of Jesus. Another older gentleman who plays the saxophone and likes to rap and says my chocolate chip pecan pie is the best thing he’s ever tasted.

It’s my car that takes me there, Goldilocks the 1990 Toyota Corolla with friendly brown seats that kept me warm in the winter and hot in the summer, I sing loud one hand raised to the sky, the other on the steering wheel. We’re on a mission in this place in Burwood, fire burning in our heart and in our hands. We can change the world. I can change the world.

It’s an airplane that takes me there, to nine countries, where I take car and train and tube and taxi and marshrutka and feet at tram and bus to gigantic building with a thousand to tiny group of the hopeful in a university to an auditorium in a hospital to an Ethiopian village to a room with five in Kiev to Anglican pews.

I go week after week after week after week, not quite every Sunday of my life, but almost. I’ve thought every thought from cynical to hopeful, felt every feeling from joy to anger to sadness to love, I’ve sat there hard, I’ve sat there open. I’ve cried my tears in those pews and in those chairs. My shoulders have touched white and brown and black and cream and peach, it’s been a wafer on my tongue, bread torn off by hand, wine and grape juice.

And however new, however strange, however familiar, whatever the place or the person, I sit in the pew, in the chair, in the living room, on the floor, and I am coming home.

This post is part of Living Church: A 31-Days Journey. Click here to read all posts and head over to Write 31 Days for more great topics in October. I’m also linking up with #TellHisStory and Jennifer Dukes Lee

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Living Church, the two words that sat in my soul for the past 11 months when I thought about October 2014. I finished writing Confessions of  a New Mum, and as I went into November and then December and as 2013 became 2014, those two words stayed in my heart. Living Church. I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew that when October 1, 2014 rolled around, I would be searching myself, looking back, looking inside, looking forward and writing about it.

Well the start date is here, and I still don’t know what I will be writing. It will be part autobiography, an honest storyteller’s take on the subject, and another part hopeful prophecy, turning my eyes toward the future, calling forth beauty and truth. This is what I want my life to be like, and these are the eyes through which I want to see Living Church.

Living, I want a part of me that died a few years ago, I want it to come back to life, to be able to trust again that the pieces of the puzzle are safe in hands larger and stronger than mine.

Will you join me? Will you bring whatever has died in your life, will you bring your story, your honesty, and can we do this journey together? Wherever you’re coming from, your faith background and spiritual journey is welcome here. I pray that the next 31 days of traveling my life will empower you to do the same with yours.

Day 2          Around the World

Day 3          Early Dedication

Day 4          Sunday Dinner

Day 5          (no post for Sunday)

Day 6          Church in the Airport

Day 7          The Languages of God

Day 8          Jet Lag Challenge

Day 9          Holy Sunday Mornings + Blueberry Crumble

Day 10        Not Alone

Day 11         Journal Entry

Day 12        (no post for Sunday)

Day 20       The Church in Australia, part 1

rock

It’s been over a year since The Rock That Says ‘You Did It,’ and I’ve lost count of the number of times I hear myself saying, You can do it, Big Boy, you can do it, Little Bear. You can do it, come on, a bit more, you’ve got it. You can do this. 

You can do it. I guess you can say it’s become a family motto of sorts. We still have the rock on our bookcase, and yes, it is a reminder to me of that clear, sun-filled day, when my son leaned further than he thought he could, to grasp the big, black rock. The day when he Did It.

Yesterday morning I was pushing our double stroller up a small hill, and Big Boy could hear me struggling, and watch the wheels veering off the curb no doubt, and he said to me, You can do it, Mommy. You can do it. You’re strong, Mommy. 

I receive it because I feel anything but able.

This morning I went outside, and it felt close to freezing. I was in flip flops last week, I have no idea where my winter clothes are, to say that I was not ready is an understatement. I was taking the boys out to the park not because I wanted to but because the sun was shining, it’s almost October, and we’ve had a few days of grey and rain. In a few short weeks, sunshine will be almost completely gone. So when the sun shines in Sweden, you go outside. I was wearing a thin t-shirt, jeans, rain boots and my ski jacket. It wasn’t warm enough. I couldn’t find a set of gloves, the air burned my throat, my face ached. And I was so mad. 

glove

I was supposed to be ready for winter. I had a post all written in my head about how I was facing winter like a warrior, armed with my snow boots, exercise schedule and vitamin D pills, and how I was going to deal with it this year and win, something about how incredibly strong I am. But yet again, here I am: Not ready. The cold air blows still, chills my skin, quiets my boys. The weather is waiting for no one to get her act together, it’s going to come and chill me whatever I wear, whether or not I find the missing glove.

Strength is the last thing I felt like I had today. I could barely push the stroller straight, never mind surviving outside for more than 30 minutes in almost-freezing (to me) temperatures. That’s when I hear the voice from back of the stroller.

You can do it, Mommy. You can do it. You’re strong, Mommy. 

I’m pushing a little prophet, and he is calling me out to something better, something higher. He’s speaking truth, he’s telling me what I can’t hear. Today Big Boy is God’s whisper.

You can do it. I choose you.  For dealing with Swedish fall and winter and the freezing September rain, I choose you. You can do it. With a good attitude. You can find the beauty in it – look closely, open your eyes. For this task, today, of loving your children, of being patient with your circumstances, of rowing a pretend boat in the dining room for hours straight, of going outside for however long you can handle. For facing the pain in your heart, today, I choose you – I choose you to look hard at your life, to see my hand in it, to be thankful, to be honest, to ask for help.

You can do this. You’ve got this. You can do it. 

I don’t know what you’re dealing with today, but perhaps, just maybe, today is the day to hear God saying – through a rock, through a child, through these words, through anything – You can do it. 

thanks2

Every parent has their fears, and here is number one on my list: Overprivileged, entitled, bored sons. I was on the Tunnelbana (our subway) with 15-year-old boys who were bragging about champagne parties and photos of all sorts of strange things that are sent around class, and I sat behind them wondering, How does this happen? Why is this appealing to you? And I see their vacant, hollow eyes. They are bored. They have too much, and they are tired of their empty lives.

Our three-year-old is a great kid, and I am so proud of him, but I already see the seed of entitlement taking root in his little life. The meal table is where I see it the clearest. There are few things that irk me more than my children turning up their noses at food. They eat three meals a day, often a snack as well, meals with protein like eggs and meat, vegetables and carbohydrates, and I try to make food for them that is enjoyable, tasty and easy to eat.

But still we regularly have meal time showdowns over sauce touching food, the quantity of rice that needs to be eaten and why chickpeas need to be finished. I don’t want this one!!!!!!! I don’t like it!!!!!!!!

I deserve something better. I need something more. I demand something else. This is entitlement; there is nothing that screams overprivileged more than seeing my child refuse to eat his meals.

I can’t stand it. Not when today poor nutrition causes the death of 45% of children under the age of five every year. Not when sixty-six million children attend school hungry in the developing world. Not when one out of six children in developing countries is underweight (source).

I have no way to rid this entitlement from our home. Our Big Boy and our Little Bear are human beings with their own will, their own personality and their own desires – they will make their own choices. I cannot control them. But these are their little years, when they are wide open to hear, to receive, when their souls are pliable. I want to make the most of this time, and this is one small, easy way we are trying to keep entitlement at bay.

Our Thankfulness Garden.

thanks

In November for the past two years, we’ve had a Thankfulness Tree – a basic tree branch, and we write what we’re thankful for daily on little leaves that we hang on the tree branch. Big Boy loved it last November, but Thanksgiving passed, and we stopped doing it. I wanted to re-instate it, and the Thankfulness Garden was born. I used a container we had that fit my decorating tastes – a rusted, metal tin. We took it down to the beach, and the boys and I filled it with sand. At home, I cut out fruit shapes (or my attempt at fruit shapes) from coloured paper, stuck it on popsicle sticks, and during meal times, we write down what we’re thankful for and stick it in the sand. I usually start our meals with a prayer (start is a lose term here – the boys have usually started eating already by the time I sit down, water glasses are filled and I am ready to eat, but I’m not formal about prayer starting a meal, that it is done is more important to me than when it is done). Sometimes we fill our Thankfulness Garden at the start of the meal, sometimes in the middle, other times at the end, and often we don’t do it. I try to do it once a day. The boys love the activity, it takes some focus off the eating, which for our toddler helps him to eat.

My hope is that it nurtures an attitude of thankfulness in their hearts, but I give you no promises of what this can do. Yes, I see some lovely things coming from Big Boys mouth and heart because of it. Yes, it has amazed me some of the things he has been thankful for. No, it has not eliminated food battles. Yes, we still regularly have noses turned up at food that is given. But their hearts are a work in progress – my heart is a work in progress. This is one small thing we can do every day that will build into the future, and I long for this – for our home to be a place of thankfulness, where whatever our circumstances may be, our eyes might always be open to the hand of God, open to us in all its abundance, keeping the dogs of entitlement and boredom away.

That we may set our hearts on what we have, to set our minds on what is good and pure and beautiful, to rejoice in the glorious ordinary – our food, the sun, each other. That we may in all things, at all times say two small words: Thank you.

flower

Just a few weeks ago I was writing about sacred stops, the need for quietness of soul and the blessing of a restful summer, but in a matter of weeks, I found myself stressed, burdened, noise blaring in my ears.

Life happened. Husband went back to work, the mornings I had to myself were gone, I stayed up late, the kids woke up early. It seemed to come out of nowhere, the same old feelings of hopelessness and despair, but the truth is it grew in soil fertilised by worry, media, frenzied living. These things are my “noise.”

Noise looks different for everyone. Yours might be literal: Television, cars, music, too many people talking. For me it is often the noise that isn’t making a sound: Words on a screen, thought patterns in my mind, how I use my time.

Two nights ago I went to sleep desperate for a quiet mind, a still soul, and I prayed, God, wake me up at 4am tomorrow. It’s the only way I can get even a tiny amount of time to myself. I woke at 3:40am to the sound of my two sons talking to each other. Big Boy woke up to use the potty, and Little Bear woke up in the process. By the time I helped one with the toilet and put them both back to sleep, I looked at the time: 3:58am.

So there was my answer. I made my way downstairs, and into the arms of our IKEA love seat, the pages of my journal, and the words came out. I’m tired. I’m anxious. I’m stressed. 

It doesn’t matter what the words are. It matters that they come out. That we see ourselves for who we are. That we regard our condition. That we don’t lie to ourselves, to the people in our lives. I poured my heart out to God, I read the Bible, I swished coconut oil around in my mouth. These are the ways I tell myself, I love you, I care about you, you matter. The kids were still asleep at 6am, so I kept going. I made breakfast, unloaded the dishwasher, and then in an act of extreme faith, I took a shower. I washed my hair, changed my clothes and I even dried my hair. I’m not kidding when I say that it’s the first time since our second son was born that I washed and dried my hair on a weekday.

Finally around 7am, Little Bear woke up (formerly known as our Baby). I had three blissful hours of quiet, and it was a gift to my soul. It did not come in the package of three days in a hotel. I had to fight for it. But it was sweet. And necessary.

There’s a lot of noise in the world, friends. What’s yours? How is it making day-to-day life unbearable? Isn’t it time you made it stop? 

I’m trying to keep the computer off, less time on my phone, less time social media gazing, less time running from here to there. More time encouraging. More time creating. More time playing. More time here, where I am, soaking up my now.

I suspect it might involve more wake ups at 4am.