Soul-Trading

mark 8-36If you’re a parent, I would venture to say you spend a lot of time helping your children explore their interests, find their passions, make friends, and grow in their abilities. Outside a typical school day, you cart them to swim and music lessons, sports trainings and games, tutoring.

You make sure they don’t miss the party invite (what if they don’t get invited again or are left out on the playground at school?)! We only have Wednesday afternoons free and the school just opened up a term of Oztag… perfect! Sign us up! Wait… what’s Oztag?

My own daughter tried ballet, hip hop, gymnastics (at two different gyms) before we realised her passion was music and art. She now also plays netball for both her school and club.

How do we, as parents fit it all in? What’s the motivation for all this, (shall I daresay “over-scheduling”)? We tell ourselves we want what’s best for them. Some of us believe our kids are stars and in order to get ahead, they must perfect their trade. We must set them up for success. And… Kids are demanding at times. They tell us what they want to do and we jump through every hoop to make it happen. I mean, how guilty would we feel if right down our very own hallway slept the next Mozart and we didn’t pay for that extra term of piano lessons?

We live in crazy times! All this taxiing our children to and fro. Then, what’s left of us, these devoted, well-intentioned grown-ups?

Soul weary, budget busted, time strapped adults whose sleep patterns are poor and marriages are weak.

In the pursuit of fostering well-rounded, talented, happy children who have friends and self-confidence, we can lose our own souls. What happened to regular date nights? Adult friends who party with us while the children go to bed?

What are MY interests?

Didn’t I have hobbies once upon a time?

Where are friends who make me laugh, those who spur me on towards becoming my best self?

All of our choices come at a cost. This over-scheduling and saying “yes” to the aforementioned litany of options means saying “no” to other things. Unfortunately, those “other things” can be the very ones which sustain our souls. The fun. Spiritual growth. Marriage. Small group at church. Rest.

Let’s don’t mistake “good parenting” for soul-trading.

Kids need parents who love each other and they need to see us taking care of ourselves, embracing a hobby, setting boundaries, living within our means. The lessons WE teach through lives devoted to Jesus, the church, our marriages, and sabbath rest far outweigh any weekly half hour lesson you could pay for with someone else in charge.

“What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for” (Mark 8:36 MSG).

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How Did I Get Here?

highway hypnosisHave you ever driven somewhere and realised when you arrived that you had no recollection of the journey? Highway Hypnosis, “also known as ‘white line fever,’ is a mental state in which a person can drive a truck or other automobile great distances, responding to external events in the expected, safe and correct manner with no recollection of having consciously done so.”

In some ways, my life looks like highway hypnosis! I haven’t felt like I was asleep at the wheel. My eyes have been open, but I wonder, “Have I responded to some external events in the ‘expected, safe and correct manner with no recollection of having consciously done so?'”

We are all prone to “white line fever” and some of the tips used to avoid it for drivers are profoundly applicable to our everyday lives:

Get Enough Sleep

The word “rest” is mentioned in God’s word over 500 times. One of our 10 commandments is to ‘Honour the Sabbath.’ God made us with a daily need for sleep and yet our world tells us to do more, go faster, stretch the limits, run down our competition, outshine last year’s numbers. Resting can be perceived as weakness.

Consciously making decisions about the direction of our lives means resting with intentionality and not beginning each day exhausted and overwhelmed. Having a rested soul prohibits twists and turns from taking us into the gutter.

Start Early

The mind is more alert when we are fresh. We have the ability to respond to our surroundings with competency when we leave margin and operate with a long-term approach rather than urgency from running late or falling behind. There’s nothing worse than the panic we feel from racing around trying to meet expectations, knowing we didn’t slow down to absorb the details.

I used to have a quote on my office wall that said, “YOUR lack of planning does not constitute MY emergency.” How many times do we get a late start, find ourselves falling into bad habits, doing what’s convenient, most familiar or accessible, never even stopping to analyse whether it’s a good choice or the best avenue to our destination?

Open Your Windows

It’s hard to fall asleep at the wheel of a car with hair blowing across our faces. We can smell the outdoors and hear the sounds of traffic around us with the windows down. Tuning into our surroundings keeps us engaged in the authenticiy of life, negating autopilot. I battle anxiety and a technique I use when I feel the familiar knot in my stomach is walking outside, looking around and naming the tangible – that which I can see, feel, smell, and hear. My concrete surroundings take me out of my imagination where people play tricks on me, chauferring me down a dangerous road.

We must not shut out nature, our family, our hobbies. Coasting down the freeway of life, unconscious of our surroundings, means we miss out on cuddles with kids, secrets with spouses, laughter with friends. We can fly over seemingly insignificant moments in everyday life, but this triviality is what actually makes up a life.

I don’t want to live in an unconscious trance, drifting wherever the road takes me, unaware. I’m committed to sleeping well, creating margin, and breathing deeply the fresh air around me. Let’s do it together!

Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God” (1 Peter 1:18a MSG).

What is Sinking My Boat?

who sank

Everyone knows a teeny little mouse isn’t big enough to sink a whole rowboat! But what if that boat is first filled with a cow, a donkey, a “fat-as-butter” pig, and a knitting sheep? The little mouse, last to get in, who was lightest of all DID sink the boat in the case of this adorable children’s book, “Who Sank the Boat?”

I wonder what the “straw that broke the camel’s back” looked like? It could sound like a crying baby after weeks of sleepless nights. Or maybe a teenager’s back talk on the heels of a stressful day at work? Maybe it’s the online bill paying when month after month there doesn’t seem to be enough money to make ends meet?

We can’t always predict what will cause us to feel like we are going to crumble. But, I DO believe we can work out some disciplines and boundaries that will keep us afloat even in the worst of times.

We must carefully ensure that the most important, “only-I-can-do-this” priorities come first. Only I can be wife to Greg and Mum to Brett, Sydney and Sammy. This means I can’t give so much time to friends, church members, social media, and working out that I suddenly have nothing left for the ones counting on me most.

Only I can be co-pastor of our church. That comes with certain restraints on my weekends and where I invest in relationships whether I like it or not. If you work, you’re the same. You’re not tempted to go to lunch with friends when you can’t afford it if you work every Friday. You’re unavailable! The weight of our responsibilities only feels heavy when we are spread thin and are weak in every other area.

So often, we can over-commit to pressures of life out of guilt or tradition (think family holidays) or even just disorganization. We forget to check our diaries when we say we are available to help a friend and realize on the day we have double-booked ourselves. The boat starts to rock.

Sometimes we fill our lives with things that don’t really add value. Then, when we look up at a commitment we really DO want to follow through on – like having new friends around for dinner or volunteering at school or church, it’s suddenly the despised one because it pushes us over the edge.who sank2

We have to guard our time and our gifts. Not every great cause deserves our money. Not every invitation deserves a “yes!” Instead of merely checking the time slot in your calendar when making a commitment, why not prayerfully consider whether or not that invitation keeps you on track with your goals and the other roles ONLY YOU can fulfill? Otherwise, when push comes to shove and space is tight, the loved one to whom we are responsible may not fit. We look up and wonder how the water started seeping.

Maturity in accepting our responsibilities and creating healthy boundaries comes with practice. Prioritizing takes organization and forethought. I love the encouragement James gives and I’m putting it into practice today:

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James 1:2-4 (MSG)

 

Rub People the Right Way

shorts

One of the most annoying things about running long distances is the chaffing that can occur from clothes or other objects rubbing your skin over and over. I bought a very expensive sports bra last year that was cute and colourful; yet, after wearing it for my first 10km run, I realised the shoulder strap had one little spot where the overlap was rough and that tiny 2cm seam rubs uncomfortably the ENTIRE TIME. I have pushed this to the back of the drawer and only wear it on days when workout clothes make me feel productive even when I haven’t stepped foot out the door!

I bought some new bright orange and grey Nike running shorts recently when I was in America and couldn’t wait to wear them. I did a few shorter runs and they were fine. Then, one morning on a longer one, the seams between my legs suddenly felt two inches thick and I realized how course and bumpy they were as they rub, rubbed, rubbed my inner thighs all the way home. I had a scab mirroring minor road rash for over a week after that one!

So many times, something seems nice on the outside, even enticing (I mean who doesn’t love a hot pink and blue Lorna Jane bra?), but upon further investigation, it’s actually not suitable for where I’m traveling. If I’m pushing ahead, extending myself and actually going beyond normal expectations, something as silly as clothing takes on a whole new meaning. I’m no longer looking at it for its “cute-factor” or whether it’s the right size. Now, I’m looking deeper into its construction. Finding out if what seems right on the outside is actually good for me on the inside (of my armpits, legs, or foot). What might seem like a perfectly good pair of shoelaces, if laced up too tightly for several kilometers can cause a bruise on the top of your foot (that’s my most recent faux pax).

Our relationships work much the same way. Have you ever been around someone for a short time who was funny, interesting, and kind and then spent a little more time only to find out his humour is actually used negatively to insult or tear others down? She’s “interesting” because she knows all the latest gossip and is happy to share it. Or even her “kindness” comes with an agenda.

I want to be the type of person who, upon further investigation, actually looks and feels even better than the first impression. I want people to feel good after spending some time with me and I pray their experience of rubbing shoulders with me leaves them stronger and more like Christ, not down in the dumps, wanting to avoid me next time my number comes up.

I often say we become the people we hang around and the books we read. I encourage you to look at your friendships and ask yourself:

“If I keep running with this person, am I gonna be better for it or am I gonna have some scars and bruises?”

“Is my conversation life-giving and generous towards others, believing the best and seeing the positive?”

“Can I become more like Christ with each encounter I have, or am I being pushed away from God, my church, and other Christian friends?”

It’s the subtleties that make all the difference in time. Paying attention to our words and taking note of how someone affects us can determine our endurance level and strength. Take note when someone “rubs you the wrong way” because it may be your first clue to pick another partner to run with.

 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:28-30

My Christmas Letter

This year, my usual Christmas schedule was “off” since we moved to Australia! Here are some highlights from our year that you might have received in a Christmas letter if I had sent one:

disney

Disney World trip: It was amazing to go to Disney for a week before we moved! I still miss Mickey and dream about another trip to Florida with all three kids.  We left Sammy in TX so he wouldn’t slow us down this time.  It’s only fair to him that we go again ASAP! #wheredreamscometrue

beach

Moving to Australia: We love where God has called us! #newcastle

furniture arrival

Furniture arriving: Our furniture left TX on April 10. We moved into our rental house on June 1.  Our furniture arrived around July 20.  Camping out in our house was old news by the time our shipment arrived.  We were so happy to have our own beds and more than 6 suitcases worth of clothing for the five of us. #stuff

hillsong conf

Hillsong Conference: There’s nothing like worshiping God in an arena with 25,000 people from all over the world. #spectacular

bcc

Getting Brett into Belmont Christian College: God provided a way for Brett to attend the great private school at the end of our street.  This has helped us all in our transition. #education

rob and ang

 

Meeting Robyn and Angie: My two neighbourhood friends who make me feel at home everyday.  From early morning runs, to “happy hour,” baking, and special celebrations for birthdays and holidays, these two girls are already like family to me. #friendship

lift first

 

First Lift Service: Having our first service in our rented church building was indescribable.  We never thought we would be as far along as we are in building a team in 2012. #blessed

spelde

 

Our First Aussie Members: We were surprised the day this beautiful couple came to us (after meeting at Hillsong Conference) to say they felt called to join Lift Church.  They lead worship too! #answertoprayer

blackmores

 

Running Blackmore Half Marathon: I trained throughout winter to run this race so I could experience the beauty of Sydney in a different way.  I ran across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and ended at the Opera House. #lovetorun

anniversary

 

Celebrating 13 year anniversary:  I love this man more than words can say.  I am so proud of the Godly leader he has become and cannot believe the journey we are on with our three amazing kids. #truelove

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (Ephesians 3:20 MSG)

Christmas Changes Coming Our Way

Since this is our last Christmas living in the United States, I’ve been thinking about all of the differences we will experience celebrating in Australia.  Here are my top 10:

10. Santa will be even more unrealistic-a big man in a hot red suit and black boots when it’s summer?

9. Crazy amounts of lights will not be all over the houses in our neighborhood.  After all it’s daylight savings and it doesn’t get dark till 9pm.

8. We will say “Happy Christmas” instead of “Merry Christmas!”

7. Christmas carols will not make sense to our kids.  Frosty the snowman? Jack frost nipping at your nose? Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh… I could go on!

6. We will have an artificial tree.  Haven’t seen any Christmas tree farms down unda!

5. A white Christmas can only be in our dreams.

4. I’ll be eating pavlova and lamingtons instead of pumpkin or pecan pies.

3. The biggest decision of the day will be which beach to go to!

2. After Christmas sales will be called “Boxing Day” sales.

1. We won’t have our Celebration Church family.

Looking forward to all of the exciting changes in store!