Autumn in Melbourne has been a few months of beauty and hard. March was probably the hardest month I’ve had in years, and it’s taken a few weeks to recover, but I am always, always amazed at the richness found in the seasons of difficulty. It becomes fuel for the seasons to come. Here’s what I learned in Autumn 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.
I want to live in Melbourne. Maybe forever.
It’s too long a story to share here, but we had to deal with some administrative paperwork related to my husband’s Australian visa this autumn. Having to stare in the face the reality that living in Australia together is not guaranteed is the first time I realized there is nowhere in the world I would rather live than Melbourne. I guess you don’t know what you want until it feels like someone is going to take that away.
Take away social media, add in something else.
I went off social media for Lent, and it was not nearly as restful as my previous social media sabbaticals have been. Instead of surfing Facebook and Instagram, I watched Stephen Colbert’s Late Show monologues every day, I started watching The Crown and SeaChange (an Australian drama from the late 90s). What I learned: Media is easy to consume. Whatever that media may be.
Homemade hot cross buns are a thing of wonder.
Easter morning was insanely delicious. No need to elaborate.
Music makes miserable moments a bit better.
Hubby started making playlists, and he finds the best music, and one of my kids is calmed magically by tunes, the other one is obsessed with playing DJ. We have music on most mornings, evenings and afternoons now via Spotify, and it has been a delight. Music has been bringing tears to my eyes, levity to difficult moments and dance party fun. Some of my current favourites are Stay Alive, Fools Gold, and for something sassy, Hey, Soul Sister.
Don’t just say yes to a project.
I said yes to a writing project without thinking too much about whether or not I could write it. Saying “Yes” was easy, I was flattered, it involved a contract and pay, but when I got to writing, I felt out of my depth in a way that I did not expect. The deadlines were around some of the personally darkest weeks of the autumn season as well, I could not have anticipated that, but I wonder what would have happened if I had actually sat down, weighed the work and seen. Can I do this? Am I supposed to do this? I won’t be taking on another writing project without having a strong sense of “Yes” to those two questions.
Hot cross buns were on the menu for Easter Sunday brunch – I was ridiculously excited. It was going to be the start of a new family tradition and baking bread is quickly becoming one of my “things.” Then life started happening – there was a lot of cooking to do this past weekend, we had some fun family outings, there were rounds of Settlers of Catan games played late into the night, and you know, I’m now approaching the realm of Extremely Pregnant and am tired by 5pm.
So I started thinking.
Husband would not like the buns, Small One doesn’t know any better, and most disturbing of all: I don’t like hot cross buns.
Growing up our family had zero Easter traditions other than going to church, so it’s not like this was a family memory I was trying to pass on to my new family. No, no, I was just planning on spending a good chunk of time mixing flour, kneading dough and waiting for it to rise for buns no one was really going to love on a weekend when there were plenty of other fun things to do.
I skipped the hot cross buns. No one cared. We brunched on scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, mushrooms, goats cheese and apple juice with mint and strawberries and all were satisfied.
A few days later though and I am still thinking about my hot cross bun fixation
I read blogs and every now and then visited Pinterest and saw – what seemed like – hoards of families mounting their easter traditions, filling their children’s days with themed activities, and what follows next is the cramping feeling inside that I’m not doing enough.
We like to look for the Big Moments. You know what I’m talking about – the moments that require careful planning, anticipation, the ones we leave and pat ourselves on the back, I did a good job with that.
When I was a teenager, I looked to milestones like high school graduation or prom, as a university student, it was the first time I saw my byline printed in the newspaper, then came the thrill of my first paycheck, my first driver’s license, first car. Then I got married and had a child, and the moments seem to rush together now. Three Christmases, three Easters, birthdays, anniversaries. Moments.
And in some way or another all of these moments come with the similar feelings – It could have been _______, it should have been _______, I wish I had _______.
I didn’t even realize I was thinking about this until last week when a friend wrote this blog post, and it triggered a mammoth comment that now I’m “thinking” through here.
For our last Christmas meal together, I roasted a leg of lamb per our holiday tradition, but the weeks leading up to it, my plans seem to go awry and I could hardly manage anything else. Few table deocrations. No real sides except for mashed sweet potatoes. We had a small present for Small One, but I hadn’t bought Husband anything, not even a Christmas card. We did other things, yes, we marked Christmas in our hearts as we waited through Advent, and it was meaningful, but I do love those moments around the table of feasting together as a family without stress or overwhelm surrounding us. I love providing anchoring traditions for Husband and our children that are found in our love and the things that make us, well, “us.”
My point is I felt like a failure on the personal front. There are few things in life that I find more annoying than the guilt and shame associated with failure because even though I am still young – sort of young – I have lived enough to know that these two things induce life paralysis. Guilt and shame prevent us from moving forward but keep us firmly chained to our past.
So I knew heading into Lent that I was suspect to the same round of “I could have… I should have….”
Here’s what happened.
I read some verses and sat in bed weeping over them, designed several word pictures, Husband printed them, and then I was going to hunt for rocks in an effort to decorate our mantle, entry table and sideboard with rocks, a visual reminder of our cornerstone and that we are living stones built and held together in Jesus. I was going to give Small One rocks to play with while telling him some basic facets of the story of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection.
The art went in frames, and then it was finished.
There were no real Lenten activities for any of us. I managed to have an egg painting afternoon for Small One and some friends, but we spent most of the month just getting through our days, dealing with whining and tantrums, chopping vegetables, standing over the stove, playing with water (Small One, not me), taking the “Bus bus bus” because its fun, sitting on the floor and crying (me, not Small One although sometimes it was both of us), being easily annoyed (again, that’s me, not Small One), feeling way to tired to get up in the morning, praying for a dearly-loved grandmother, thinking about death again, maintaining a spreadsheet of our expenses for the month, listening to music, watching construction machinery digging up earth, taking magnesium pills at night, passing a glucose test, grocery shopping.
Living was my Lent.
And with every day that passed without anything “official” or “traditional” the voice of my past whispered, You are not doing enough, and the voice from the cross and the empty tomb raged back, Do not disrespect my grace with your traditions. You lose sight of my grace when all you see are your good works.
Lent Lesson 2013 learned.
Traditions can anchor us and anchor children in beliefs and ways that are important and relevant, so we do not discard them. But a tradition’s meaning comes from what we celebrate, not from the tradition.
What we do as sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands and parents around Christmas, Easter, birthdays and anniversaries are good and important, but we can’t lose sight of the daily living. Will we appreciate each other, spend time together, buy flowers, write meaningful words and express love on a day that is not a birthday or anniversary? Will we remind ourselves of the cross, the empty tomb and new life every day? Will we remind our children?
What does it matter if we do everything “perfectly” for one week and let the whole year slip away? Living requires a steady, even, well-paced faithfulness in all things; we need to move away from Big Moments and move toward Daily Faithfulness.