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.
It was last week ago when I saw the news. I follow a popular food blogger on Instagram, she has over 150,000 followers, and she was telling us that Instagram is switching to an algorithm-based feed as opposed to a chronological-order one.
And I could feel a sinking, twisting feeling in my stomach.
My guess is you fall into three groups of people. You use Instagram and are annoyed by the supposed-changes to make the platform more like Facebook. You use Instagram (or don’t) and don’t care. You have no idea what I’m talking about.
If you’re in team three, I promise these words are not about technology, and I promise I am not offering tips about how to beat the algorithm, and I also promise to limit the use of the word algorithm starting now.
This is about social media and the sinking feeling in my stomach.
Because this is what went through my head in the seconds after reading the food bloggers post: Who will see my work now? I was just getting started. She has tens of thousands of followers, and she’s concerned she will lose visibility, influence and business? I have no hope.
I quit social media last August. I had just heard about Periscope, and it hit me: There will be a new social media platform every few months. There is absolutely no way I can keep up with this, but more importantly, I don’t even want to. I was not wired to try to draw attention to who I am and what I do through platforms. Why did I start writing? I wanted to tell stories.
It was true for the little girl I was in a small Filipino town when the stories were imaginary and scratched out by shaky cursive on lined paper. It was true when I reported and wrote for my university newspaper about favourite professors, changes to curriculum and the sexual habits of Christian young adults. If anything, blogging has been one of the weirdest writing phases because the storytelling has been less about other people and more about myself, but it is still storytelling. Writing and reading stories has always been my first love, and I realized in August that using social media to generate attention for my stories was soul-draining and creativity-killing work for me.
Then we moved to Australia, and there was no time to write or to do anything other than keep my sons from killing each other, making sure there were chicken nuggets and fish sticks in the freezer, and taking a shower once a month. But after a while, I missed Instagram. I missed taking photos. I missed sharing quick thoughts. What changed? I stopped looking at Instagram as a means to gaining greater influence, and I started seeing it as a new expression of creativity. I have very little time these days to write and photograph, but the ideas in my head have not stopped. When I have no outlet for my ideas or my creativity, I become cranky at best, angry and frustrated at worst. Instagram provided me with a space to share thoughts immediately when I didn’t have time to develop it into an essay. It let the thought fly away, my head was clearer, my afternoons were happier.
But still there it was when I saw her post last week. The twisting. The sinking.
The thoughts came back to me in the days that followed, Who will see my work now? What chance do I have? No matter how much I focused on creating, I was still motivated by who saw my posts and how it impacted my blog stats. Maybe you’re on Instagram and you have thought it as well? Maybe you have no idea what Instagram is, but you’ve been making baby steps toward something you want, a new project, a degree, a promotion at work, a relationship, but something came up unexpectedly and you feel left behind and confused, like someone switched the plan, and you don’t know what to do next.
I don’t have answers, but I’m sharing here what I am telling myself.
Platforms come and go but people last forever. If you aren’t into social media, just substitute your thing for platforms (degrees come and go but people last forever, houses come and go but people last forever, etc.). I come back to this truth because it is my boundary line. People are eternal, and the investment I make in a person’s life is always an eternal investment. I may do that through a warm meal or a blog post, but the destination is ultimately the same, I want the life I’m interacting with to experience the love of God and the beauty of truth. How we make our investments is up to us and based on our unique wiring, but these deposits are worthy of our time, attention and love.
If something sparks fear, it needs to go. Fear, insecurity, comparison, none of these things are healthy fuel for a life of creativity, purpose and meaning. Our car runs on unleaded fuel, and it will die if I fill it with diesel (I think, I’m out of my depth here with a car analogy). We were not created to be motivated by fear. Your life was made by love, it is redeemed by perfect love, it is given purpose because of love, and you were made to run on love, and perfect love casts out all fear. For me this may mean quitting Instagram again, I’m not sure. For now it means ignoring all calls to turn on notifications and liking posts I don’t like for the sake of having it show up in my newsfeed.
Trust and work. Who will see my work now? I can trust that whomever needs to see my work will see it. The end. There is enough attention to go around. There is enough space in the world for me, there is enough space in the world for you. There is space for us to share our lives with each other.
It is the system of this world to make everyone, absolutely everyone, feel like their life is lacking. Scarcity drives our purchases, our values, our politics and our economies.
Radical trust is the only way to fight against the scarcity written into the fabric of our societies and our thinking. The radical trust that our lives are in hands that are bigger, stronger and good. The radical trust that my life and your life has a purpose and no person, platform or algorithm can get in the way of that.
So whatever you think about Instagram, here’s to a life free from fear and lack. We have everything we need. Because we have everything we need, we can create, we can live, we can love. We can do our work. Find the people who need your investment. Invest yourself. Let go of fear and go all in with people. Loving people is worth it. Trust that you have enough. Do the work you’ve been given to do. One day Instagram will be gone, the only thing twittering will be the birds, and we will teleport ourselves into each others’ living rooms, but the investment we made in each others lives will remain forever. So here’s to each other and a life not dominated or controlled by social media.
Now it’s your turn: What do you need to let go of? Where can you invest your life? And if you want to share, how are you processing social media these days?
I’m linking up with Jennifer and the #TellHisStory crew.