It was yet another beautiful autumn afternoon, Husband and my oldest son were playing chess on the deck, our youngest was napping, and I was watching our yard. It’s our first year here, and we are still getting a feel for our land and what to do with it. There is a shed to one side of the garden, and in front of it a rectangular piece of earth that used to be a sandpit. The family who lived here before us planted a mini tree of sorts in this spot; it is a lean little thing coming out of the ground, with woody branches and maybe 20 wide, purple leaves.
Last weekend I realised the tree is now yellow and orange, the leaves are the shape of hearts and the sun was shining on one, setting it on fire. They were glowing.
I pulled out my camera, crouched low, and worked with the settings. Soon enough I saw cracks and holes in several leaves, and then this happened.
You know that thing in your life – the thing that person did and it left a mark on you? The betrayal you experienced that was profound, personal and intimate? The disappointment you feel in the shadow of rejections and letdowns? The dreams you dreamed for decades that were never realised? The time you spent in a wilderness of confusion, darkness and depression?
These are the holes in our hearts. We run away from them. We find medications for it. We want to patch it up and move on as fast as we can because we think it will make the pain go away.
But look at the hole in the heart.
The light is coming through. The light unveils the broken leaf’s beauty. The light is taking over.
The sweaters came out of the boxes a few weeks ago, and I had to buy a new pair of fuzzy house shoes. Husband and my annual argument about heating is in full swing because cooler temperatures are here (I want the house to be around 23 degrees, and he’s fine with 18). Autumn in Australia has been my learning template for April, but I still feel upside down here in the southern hemisphere. We have some green shoots in our garden, and I wondered yesterday if it may be daffodils, forgetting completely that it is not spring. Here’s what I’ve been learning.
Not everything dies in an Australian autumn, it’s what I keep expecting, but instead there are new flowers on bushes and fresh growth in the hedges even as leaves fall from trees. In the past years in Europe, autumn has been a season of preparing for death, a celebration of endings as everything slowly died around me. Instead this autumn reminds me that God brings life, he gives life alway and sustains life.
April is Australia’s October. The warm light. The cool mornings and evenings and the warm days (ok, maybe the warm days aren’t an October in the northern hemisphere). It has been all kinds of glorious.
Autumn is not boot weather in Melbourne. I’ve tried wearing boots a few days now, and it is way too warm, which is a fantastic problem. I think I will have to wait for the dead of winter to pull out the boots again.
Listening to good music unlocks my emotions and helps me create. I’ve taken to listening to music on Spotify during creation times, when the boys and I are painting or when I’m writing, and the right kind of music unlocks something in my soul. It has been so good. Sara Groves’ album Floodplain is on repeat right now.
Somewhere in between Stockholm and Germany and Melbourne, I stopped cooking. Mostly it was because I was in other people’s homes, and also because I was happy to have someone else take up the kitchen work. But last February, I started cooking regularly again, and every time I chopped an onion or peeled a strip of carrot skin while also chastising a smaller member of my family for harassing another small member of my family, it comes to me: I feel more human with these instruments in my hand. And I am creating something every time I cook.
I’ve slid trays of frozen (from Aldi) chicken nuggets into the oven, browned skin-on chicken thighs, blitzed sauces in a blender and spooned batter into muffin tins. It has all felt so good and simple. I’m convinced that cooking is one of life’s ways of keeping me human, normal and grounded here on earth. I can spend an afternoon daydreaming about the months to come, I can read an article and have an opinion about American politics, I can get lost in the world of Kimmy Schmidt, but at some point my hands find the garlic, and as I slice, I come back down to earth. Here in my kitchen where I pull things together and make a meal that feeds us all. It’s not changing the world, but it’s changing the afternoon, and this is good.
There’s a meal I’ve come back to since moving to Melbourne. Maybe because I’m around my family again. When I was a child in a country town in the Philippines, Sunday evenings were for Maggi noodles. My mother usually added veggies into the pot of soup or browned meat of some kind or an egg. It was one of the few meals I cooked for years later in university because two-minute noodles. It is a food group, yes?
Aldi has these two minute noodles that proudly boast “No MSG” on the front, which is probably why it doesn’t taste right. The lack of a certain, what shall we say, enhancement to the flavour notwithstanding, Husband and I slurp this soup straight out of the bowl. I make it for a quick solo lunch, even the boys will eat it if there’s no liquid. They haven’t quite figured out how to eat soup yet.
This is as easy as it gets when it comes to a recipe. There are no real rules. Look in your fridge for the veggies or proteins you have. Cook it separately, add it into the noodles, and you’re done.
My favourite is fried onions and garlic in a pan, add in the mushrooms and keep sauteeing, then add asparagus or bok choy or kale or spinach and some soy sauce and oyster sauce, just a little bit to keep the flavour sharp. Cook the two minute noodles and serve into bowls, ladle a bit of the veggie mix into each bowl on top, slice a red chili and toss in a few sprigs of coriander. And if you want to take it to the next level? Top it off with a fried egg. I promise, it is basically comfort food in five minutes.
Two-minute noodles, for breakfast, lunch and dinner
There’s no need to overthink this. Make a topping, put it over two-minute noodles and eat. Or cook it into the noodles. Done and done-r. The recipe below is for a topping. This is the most basic version of a topping I like to make.
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
mushrooms, as many as you want
butter or olive oil
spring onion, sliced, separate white and green parts
chili flakes, sesame seeds and salt and pepper for garnish
1. Warm the fat in a medium-sized frying pan, and fry the garlic. Keep an eye on it, you want it to fry slowly so the flavours release gently without burning (garlic burns easily).
2. Add the white parts of the spring onion and seep sautéing.
3. Add the mushrooms to the pan and keep going until the it’s cooked to your liking.
4. Put your two-minute noodles in a bowl, top with the mushroom mixture, the green part of the spring onions, sesame seeds, chill flakes and an egg (or two).
This revelation has, of course, been a surprise, but in my life and in our marriage Caroline and I have had far worse. I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes.
– the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
His words reminded me of the simple truth: Our identity in Jesus cannot be taken, it cannot be shaken, it cannot be changed. God puts in us a new identity when we say yes to him, I belong to Christ, it is not a mere intellectual thing on God’s part to do this. Hear the tenderness in Jesus’ voice, See, I have engraved you in the palm of my hands. God bought this territory for the world in Jesus, on the cross, and for those who choose to live in this place, it is solid ground.
The world around us calls out to our identity daily. Your work isn’t what it needs to be. Your body doesn’t look the way it should. You are failing in this way. Buy this product and feel more secure. Act this way and you will feel better about yourself.Get a better job, spouse or bank account, then all will be well. When news that should devastate arrives at our doors, we are wished, Good luck. But you know better. It’s going to take a lot more than luck to overcome.
If anyone asks me why I follow Jesus, I will point them to this statement for in it is everything. The sin we hold in our hearts, the way it can destroy us and our relationships. The grace of God freely given to anyone who receives it. The transforming work of the Holy Sprit, who enables us to live exceedingly and abundantly beyond our sins, the mistakes of others and the broken systems of the world. The hope we have of heaven on earth in our relationship with Jesus and an eternal home that can never be taken away. And undergirding all of this is the supreme love poured out on the cross, the victory that was won over sin and death in the resurrection, and the ability for us to say, in Jesus: My past is finished, Jesus has won, I know who I am, I belong to him.
I don’t know what happened to you today. You heard news this week that shook you. You made a mistake this week that seemed unbelievable. There is something you have been hiding and you know it needs to come out. You feel a sense of despair about your life that you cannot explain. Someone is trying to destroy your relationships.
Wherever you are, whatever you have done, whatever anyone else has done to you, there is hope in Jesus. His way is the only one. His life is the only life. His truth is the only truth. His yoke is easy, his burden is light, and in him you will find rest for your soul. This thing is not who you are. This relationship does not define you. Whatever event or person or tragedy or triumph it may be, it is not who you are. Come to Jesus, let him change your identity. He can never be taken away, he can never be changed, he will stand forever.
Now it’s your turn: On what do you build your identity? How is that impacting your life?
I’m linking up with Jennifer this week and the gang at #TellHisStory.
Making my bed in the morning. I invested some money in new bedding for our master bedroom. To say that it changed my life may be an understatement. I make my bed every morning now because it’s pretty and easy, and I enjoy it. When the house starts to fall apart – hi Lego – it has been a relief to have one spot where I can rest my eyes and know, it’s beautiful, it’s peaceful, and it took minutes to get that way.
Primary schooling in Australia is not what I expected. I visited primary schools in March in preparation for our oldest’s first year of school in January 2017. This may be the most grown up thing I have ever done, other than not maintaining my kids’ vaccination records. I went into it without knowing much about Australian early childhood education, and I learned that almost no school does group teaching, the one where the teacher stands at the front and instructs the big group of kids sitting at their desk. The schools, both private and public, had kids grouped and they did group work and each group had focus time with the teacher. After a day of school visits and questions, I have more respect for teachers than I have ever had before.
Small changes for the win. Last month I wrote about the way small changes were transforming my days, and I’m still loving this challenge and learning from it as well. Small breaks give my brain much needed rest and my soul a quick recharge. I used to think I needed half a day or a whole day to myself, but I’m learning that a 30-minute walk alone or an hour in a coffee shop alone before church starts can give me the energy boost I need.
Too many small changes don’t work. Keep it simple. My list of small changes in March was exciting and long, and truthfully I have hardly done anything on the list. I floss now more than I have in the past year. Incidentally my boys started flossing as well. I’ve gone on lots of walks in the past two weeks, and that has been great. But our walls are empty and so many other things are left undone. Going into April, I know now to keep my list to two or three small changes, and that will be much more doable and a lot more fun.
A combination of toothpaste, butter, soap and warm water removes superglue from the palms of my cheeky toddler. I learned this one last night when Husband found our almost-three-year-old wandering in the hallway (when he should have been in bed) with something strange covering his palms. It was superglue. We can only be thankful that he didn’t glue his hand to a wall. It took about 45 minutes of Husband’s hard work (I bailed after about 15 minutes). It was definitely a Send Wine moment except my full wine glass was right there on the bathroom counter while we each scrubbed a hand.
If you missed it, I wrote a few more posts on the blog in March.