air travel
It is hour I don’t even know what anymore on this flight that is too long, on a trip that seemed to never come. We are flying to Melbourne today. German countryside fades into specks in the foggy oval window, my last glimpses of Europe and the dreams I buried in hard earth.

How many cities have I watched disappear into that fog in my lifetime? I can buckle my seatbelt with my eyes closed.

/

When I was a little girl, we only listened to Christian music. I used to think in tiny boxes, a pile of black ones on one side and a pile of white ones on the other side. But airplanes were one of the few times I got a taste of the music that was out there. On a British Airways flight from Sri Lanka to London, I first heard those words, Got a picture of you beside me, got your lipstick marks still on your coffee cup. This was back in the day when each channel on an airplane radio station had a set one-hour or so play list and it played on a loop. It was a total delight to an uncool one like me, I would wait and wait for the song I wanted to hear and delight in the fact that I could hear it multiple times before the flight was over.

Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn’t mean it. I just want you back for good. 

It was over a decade later when I found out it was Take That who sang those words, but wherever I am even today if I hear Gary Barlow’s mellow voice singing, I guess now it’s time for me to give up, I am 13 again, a geeky country Filipina girl with long frizzy hair sitting on an airplane, wondering where she belonged because when your life is in boxes but you aren’t a square, you get left out of your own story.

I scratched out the words in my journal. It was the best song I had ever heard.

//

It is 2001. Train releases Drops of Jupiter, and I listen to the radio now. I’ve wanted it that way, known the meaning of being lonely, and said bye, bye, bye to friends in Manila, Philippines and friends in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It’s another flight, United, I think, and I listen to Drops of Jupiter again and again and again.

Now that she’s back from her soul vacation, tracing her way through the constellation…

I am sailing tens of thousands of kilometers in the air, and I can pretend that this is my story, somewhere there is a nonexistent person – preferably he is tall and resembles George Clooney (grace please, I was 17) – and he’s waiting for me to land while I look for myself out there. Because I used to think an adventure was needed for change to come, it needed to be big, bold and radical for it to be real.

///

Those were the years when flying meant leisurely hours to watch movies, sleep, crochet and read books. Or to just stare out the window and think about nothing. But this is 2015. Not this flight, not with Little Bear clutching at my clothes as he tries to fall asleep. We cried our tears and said goodbye to Husband’s family, the boys run through security, and delightedly climb into their seats next to the oval windows. Big Boy gets his seat belt on without my help, he’s only interested to see if Cars is on the Emirates media program. It is. Little Bear sits in my lap and plays with my face, with his seat belt, with anything he can touch.

Wheels are off the ground, and I grab the headphones to find music. I’ve hardly listened to any music in the past five years. Beyonce has songs other than Crazy in Love? What? A song called Roar? Who is Katy Perry? I’m mid-30 and have two kids, is that a good excuse?

So this flight I go to the CD of the year, 1989 by Taylor Swift. I listened to it for most of the six hour flight to Dubai and again on the 13-hour flight to Melbourne. Apparently my old habits haven’t died.

Because here I am, wife, mother, woman, moving yet again. The world is a bed of clouds under this piece of machine, and I am taking flight. Higher, higher.

I used to think in boxes of black and white and stories that were big and bold, but now I am small, a speck of molecules and dust zooming through the clouds, living, loving, learning and it is time to meet the next change. There is no morality prize, no medal for pretend heroism, only the reward that comes from slow, painful growth. 

So here we go, a landscape I have forgotten, a life I do not have, a place waiting for us, a story waiting to be written. And I can hear the song in my head, I can feel the wanting for something more, searching for the song I’ve not heard before. The wide expanse of wild Australian earth stretches out its red-carpet welcome to Melbourne, and underneath are the everlasting arms carrying me home.

And it’s a new soundtrack. I could dance to this beat. Forevermore. 

This post is part of Sarah Bessey’s synchroblog for her #OutofSortsBook. I’ve been a huge fan of Sarah’s writing on faith, life and motherhood for the past years. I haven’t read this book, but I’m sure it is full of her beautiful insights and prose. Go check out the synchroblog for other blog posts about I used to think ______ but now I think ______.

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It was November last year, I think Husband was away on a business trip, and it was the dark, cold and rainy end to a Swedish autumn. The clouds sometimes did not lift for days, the black faded around 8am and then 8:30 and then 9 by the time Christmas rolled around. Light disappeared in the afternoon at 4pm then 3:30 then 3. And before you know it, your day is spent in this little sandwich of light. Sometimes there is sunshine, the yellow ball inching its way to the top of trees before dropping back down again, but most days it is a weird grey lightness under a blanket of clouds. Even after one winter, getting out and about in the darkness was still intimidating.

One afternoon I piled my boys into the car and drove to my friends for an afternoon play date and dinner. I don’t remember the details, likely all of us were crying at some point or another, one child requiring a time out, the other a cuddle, Please share admonitions flowing freely, scowls about dinner and anything else you can imagine. But the chaos of a few hours with lots of kids is worth it for the soul-strength of being with a friend. I will probably say this as long as I live, there is nothing more necessary for the years with small kids than a friend who has small kids as well.

When it was time to go home, it was easily after 6pm, in other words the hours marching toward the worst time of the day for a one-and-three-and-a-half-year-olds. It was pitch black outside and raining, Husband was not at home and wouldn’t be there for another few days. I could feel the anxiety starting to clutch at my chest when I thought about getting home.

Getting the kids out of the car, where are my car keys? I can’t see to walk to the door, will the boys get wet and sick? What if I drop the keys between the stairs and can’t get in the house at all, what will I do then? I can’t give them both attention right away when I get home, how will I put them both to bed on my own? I have to drive in the dark and the rain.

A spiral of thoughts leading toward one destination, I cannot do this.

I walked across the large grassy field toward the parking lot to put the boys in the car for the drive home, and I started driving. The last song we listened to started back up again, Grace Abounds from Hillsong’s album, Cornerstone, and these were the words that came blasting through the speakers.

Your grace abounds to me. Your grace abounds to me. Jesus, in you I find all that I need. 

I could feel the prick of hot tears in my eyes, as strength started to rise up in my soul, and I find the faith to declare, to believe, that yes, grace abounds to me. I started singing the words as loud as I could, allowing the truth to wash out the self-doubt and the fear.

In this moment when I feel overwhelmed and weak, when I look at the minutes ahead of me and can imagine all the ways in which I cannot do it, God holds out an invitation to me to believe. Grace abounds to you, there is no lack, grace carries you, strengthens you, gives you everything you need, you have everything you need in Jesus.

That was last year. November 2015 in some ways is polar opposite. I’m in the southern hemisphere where the sun shines brightly almost every day, and we run around barefoot outside because it has been so warm. But my life feels even more overwhelming than last year. Our kids are more defiant, we’ve moved country and continent, we are in the process of setting up a life in a place that is mostly unfamiliar. Every day I have reason to be discouraged and overwhelmed, every day we have enough things facing us that make us feel like we cannot do this.

This is the lie of our time, the subtext under every product, self-help book or piece of advertising. Your life lacks something. You are lacking. In every difficult you and I face, these are the words that come back to us, it is the script out of which we live our lives. Lack. Not enough. 

I’ve been thinking about that moment in my car last year, and tonight as I type these words out before I turn in for the night, I am offering it to myself. Grace abounds to me, my life has no lack. 

I won’t pretend to know what faces you today, but I know life holds its share of pain, difficulty, confusion and discouragement. Can I offer you these simple words?

His grace abounds to you. His grace abounds to you. 

In this moment of weakness, he comes with his grace, and his grace is sufficient for you, he will make his power perfect in your weakness. He is everything you need. 

I’m linking up with Jennifer and Holley today. 

This post is day 31. New to the series? Start here. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

falling forward design logo

Here we are at the end of October. A friend of mine told me I forgot to blog yesterday, and I didn’t even realize it. My sister, Husband and I were watching the season finale of Masterchef Australia, which is officially the best TV show in the whole entire world. Apparently I completely forgot to write for day 30, or maybe I’m running out of things to say about transition? I don’t think so, but life in yet another new country, one where we have to work on a visa, and look for a place to live and a car to drive, is proving to be a handful and a mind-full.

I’m going to keep this conclusion short and sweet. Thank you so much for reading along this month. October for the past few years has been all about blogging daily, and it’s been a space for me to work out my process. I always appreciate anyone who listens along and adds their own thoughts, and you’ve done that for me.

I have a feeling I’ll be writing about transition for many more days to come in the next months, so I’m sure you will see more Falling Forward posts in the future.

In the mean time, I want to leave you with two 31 Days series that have blessed my heart immensely.

Leslie of Scraping Raisins has been writing 31 Days of Re-entry, it is the perfect companion series to the one I’ve been writing on transition. Reading Leslie’s words has been like reading my own mind as I’ve gone through re-entry in the past (and now).

Shelly Miller has been writing 31 Letters from London, it’s her unfiltered thoughts about living as a foreigner in London and the ways God has met her there. Day after day I read her words, and it was like God’s words to me. This series has been the perfect devotional companion for me during my own transition.

Hopefully I’ll be able to keep writing in the weeks to come. My plan is to blog on Monday and Friday every week, so that’s when you can expect posts in your mailbox if you are a subscriber, and if you aren’t, check in here on those days.

Have a lovely weekend, my friends. Wherever you are and whatever you are facing, may you experience the deep peace of knowing you are in the presence of Jesus.

This post is day 29. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

falling forward design logo

I wrote these words in my last week in Germany as I wrestled with our In Between-ness. The circumstances are different today, a week after we moved to Australia, but the sentiments are still the same.

I pause in the morning, and I write down what I know is true, I write down what I see.

We get to stay with Mama, she cooks for us, cleans for us and does our laundry. Thank you, God.

I get to spend more time with Husband’s friends whom I love, I get to have a community and family in Frankfurt, thank you God.

The sun has been shining, and it is so beautiful. Thank you, God.

Husband gets time with our boys that he’s never had before. They love it and adore him. Thank you, God.

They are speaking German more and more, and so am I, with increasing confidence and skill. Thank you, God.

We fly today to Australia, this day is finally here. Thank you, God. 

Open wider, oh eyes. Can you see his goodness here in the In Between? Can you feel the tender touch of grace that is always there even when pain says, it is only I here.

I can feel my spirit lighten.

Gratitude is my guide through the In Between, it is the gentle teacher that leads me truthfully in a pathway of peace. Worry, fear and doubt try to steal my attention and my joy, but thanksgiving is my bed of rest and beauty.

transition

This post is day 28. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. If you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

falling forward design logo

play time

I was lamenting to my mother about some of the painful and difficult behavior we witnessed daily with our boys. Both Husband and I regularly felt drained and at a loss about what to do. My mother, who is a therapist, suggested play therapy for both of them, and just to clarify, she did not mean that we should take them to a therapist. She meant that we could apply basic play therapy techniques at home.

Once again, it is necessary for me to say here that I am not a qualified counselor or anything close to that, so these are the thoughts of a mom sharing with you what is and what is not working with my kids.

Husband and I structured our mornings so that after breakfast, teeth brushing and clothes-changing, we took one child each and spent an hour of focused play time with him. We set aside 8:30-9:30am for this. Most of the time, it is one-on-one, focused play time, but three times a week, I try to have more of a play therapy type approach to our time.

We stay in a confined space like the living room or a bedroom or outside, and there are a few toys that I have set up. Then I let my sons play with whatever they wanted, not intervening at all, just letting them direct their own play time. I only observed and made comments like, You put the axe in the fireman’s hand, the hook is pulling the police car, etc.

There are no quick fixes for any parenting issue, and certainly there is absolutely no quick fix for the slow, deep work of character development in our children, but the hour I spent with my sons individually produced incredible fruit in our relationship. Play time reveals something much deeper to me about my children, and it gives them a safe place to work out their own emotions.

It slows down the morning chaos. We found that the time between wake up and post-breakfast was often the most drama-and-tension-filled for the four of us, and it helped to separate our kids, it helped slow Husband and myself down. Play time with a child is slow, pure work. There isn’t an agenda, it is simply time spent with my child to give him my full, undivided attention as he does the work of a child: play, play, play.

They were immediately aware that they were getting quality one-on-one time with us, and they relished this. They felt seen, known and loved. In a time when we are focused on many, many other things (that we have to focus on), they are easily overlooked, but this hour was about them, their interests, their needs, their wants, they thrived in this place. 

There was no reason to tell them no in this hour. They were only playing, and so far I haven’t seen a way for them to defy or disobey us in this time. They loved being able to do whatever they want, I loved being able to say yes as much as I could. It helped me let go of control and let my boys just be.

They opened up and talked while they played about things they didn’t normally talk about. One morning while he was playing with the fire truck, Big Boy started talking about how he missed Stockholm, the yellow house and the rocks in our driveway. He climbed in my lap, I miss my toys, Mommy, the ones that are on the ship to Australia, he seemed genuinely sad about this but also happy to be able to share his feelings. It gave me valuable insight into his heart in this time, it deeply bothers him not to have his toys.  It explains frustrating moments of defiance related to sharing toys with other kids and his brother, and while it never justifies it, I need this insight into his heart. It helps me parent him better, it helps me pray, it helps me empathize.

It helped me to pay closer attention to the non-play times because let’s face it, what is going on in my kids’ heart isn’t necessarily number one on my priority list when I am trying to get things done. A few weeks after we left Sweden, Big Boy was playing and told me he was packing and to tell him when it’s Saturday because he would have to load the container then. Oh, I said, playing along, and where is the container going?

To Stockholm, he said, without missing a beat.

A tiny role play, but it said something about his heart. I want to go back to Stockholm, that’s what he was trying to tell me. Another evening, after a day of pretending to be a bird making a nest, he and I were going to his bedroom to make a nest for him to sleep in for the night. He was changing his clothes when he said, I miss my nest in Stockholm, so I pulled him into my arms, and we talked about his Thomas the Tank Engine duvet cover, his white bed, and all the things about his nest in Stockholm that he missed. We talked about Jesus, how he left his nest in heaven to live on earth, and how he must have felt sad, too. We talked about sadness, why it is good to feel sad. And we talked about how thankful we are that we have a nest in Germany.

Husband and I had the luxury of time because neither of us were working, but if you find that you don’t have the ability to divide up your kids because of time or because you have more kids, find creative ways to get alone time with your children. Swap kids with another parent in your community, take one of our kids out in the evening when your spouse is home, use one child’s naptime to have focused play time with another child, put a movie on for a few of your kids and take one outside to play, and if you have other creative ideas about how to spend one-on-one time with your kids, please do share it in the comments section.

I’m linking up with The Grove, part of the Velvet Ashes community today. 

transition

 Velvet Ashes: encouragement for women serving overseas