Contentment, Newcastle, Pictures, Uncategorized

Stop and Smell the Roses

I’m amazed at how many people in my BEAUTIFUL city complain about it or say negative things.  No matter how many other beautiful places around the world there are, I refuse to look around at this:

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Newcastle Beach (20 mins from my house)!

And this:

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Lake Macquarie (5 mins from my house)!

And this:

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Lake Macquarie from Green Point Reserve (5 mins from my house)!

And this:

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Blackbutt Reserve (15 mins from my house)!

And think anything except, “GOD, I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU CALLED ME HERE!  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!”

Oh, how sweet the light of day,And how wonderful to live in the sunshine! Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour… (Ecclesiastes 11:7 MSG)

Australia, Contentment, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Santa, Beach, and Blessings

santa

If you follow my blog, you know about many of my “Australian struggles” like driving on the left, shopping in the grocery store, and learning the slang.  Christmas brings about a whole new set of issues for me albeit minor in the big scheme of things.  The most wonderful time of the year yet so many of my memories and traditions are an ocean away.

America, as you know, is in the Northern Hemisphere.  So, it’s cold.  I’m not used to swimming and drinking iced coffee at the beach in December.  Buying our kids things like flippers, boardies, and sunglasses isn’t usually on my shopping list.  There are no chestnuts roasting on an open fire.  No jack frost nipping, or chance of a white Christmas.  As a matter of fact, Santa in a red wool suit with big hot black boots seems even more ridiculous when you live on the beach.  We have no peppermint, pumpkin spice, or gingerbread lattes.  Our house has no fireplace to hang the stockings.

Last week, I tried to make my chocolate goodies that I always make for friends during the holidays.  I threw out two batches of messed up fudge and one still sits squishy inside my fridge.  No nestle 12 oz bag of chocolate chip morsels was available for purchase here.  My good friends who usually take a cute family photo of us weren’t available for hire.  I didn’t even make my annual card with a letter.  As a matter of fact, I think I got crossed off everyone’s list for mailing me a Christmas card as well.

So far, I have received ONE.

I haven’t bought my kids any fancy Christmas outfits.  No frilly dresses and tights for Sydney.  We haven’t taken any evening drives to go looking at Christmas lights.  If we see a house with a lot of lights, we actually do a double take and sometimes even turn around to get a better look since those are few and far between.  Anyway, it’s daylight savings so it’s not dark until after 8pm.

There’s nothing wrong with a little nostalgia and sentimentality for things that “once were” but we can’t stay there.  Life is moving too fast and we will miss out on what’s ahead if we linger too long.  I’m not prepared to lose something right in front of me all because I want my old kitchen and Christmas fudge back.

I LOVE going to the beach and pool everyday in December.  I have “flat white” coffees in little cafes while watching the ocean.  I get to try new foods and bake new things while having a good laugh.  Plus, I can only “go up” from here with my Christmas treats for neighbours!  We live a mere two hours from Greg’s family so will be able to drive there on Christmas day and spend a few days with them.  And, God has brought many wonderful neighbours around us; we are forming our own new traditions.

We can’t move forward in life if we are always looking behind us.  I look at the families with whom we are connecting already and I see the impact Lift Church will have in their lives and I can’t imagine not being here.  My kids are healthy and happy.  My marriage is good and God has provided everything we need.

In light of the terrible tragedy last week in Connecticut, my momentary struggles are shaken up into a stark reality where I can only thank God for this wonderful life I live.  Missing my Mercedes and shopping at The Domain is ridiculous compared to the unimaginable grief of someone tragically losing a child.

There is only ONE who can mend a broken heart. His name is Jesus. Psalm 34 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

My spirit is far from crushed this Christmas as I reflect on the goodness of God and all of my blessings.  For many, holidays are a reminder of a loved one lost, financial stress, and loneliness.  The best thing we can do is reach out to those in need and pour our lives into sharing the love of Christ with those whose hearts need mending during the holidays.  Let’s all focus on others and what’s good in our lives this Christmas season.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 (NLT)

Australia, church, Newcastle, Timing, Uncategorized

Preparing the Way

Just as God sent John the Baptist to “prepare the way” for Jesus on this earth, we are continually amazed at what God has and is preparing for us in Australia.  As we are stepping out to follow God’s voice for our future church plant, we have discovered some exciting things about the Hunter region where we are going.  With an approximate population of 645,000 people, this area extends from the North side of Sydney about 75 miles.  The city of Newcastle and Lift Church are going to be centrally located within this area.

When we picked the place we wanted to re-locate and plant our church, we asked God to close the doors if He didn’t want us there.  So far, there have been nothing but green lights.  We never had any super-spiritual reasons for choosing it.  We like where it is on the map in relation to Greg’s family and Sydney.  We like the population, weather, and proximity to the ocean.  That’s about it.  Well, we are continuing to be amazed by how much God is positioning us for an exciting time in the region.

While visiting Australia last month, everywhere we went, people were raving about the Newcastle economy and growth.  We found out 200,000 people are predicted to move to the Hunter region in the next decade.  Housing developments are thriving out West of Newcastle with projected growth in just one suburb already mapped out for the next seven years.  The mining industry is booming.  As a matter of fact, this was the front page of the newspaper the saturday before we left:  

The article says “the Hunter is defying an alarming industry trend to cement its position as the most productive region in Australia.”  While 53,000 people lost manufacturing jobs in 12 months across Australia, 4000 have gained a job in this sector in the greater Newcastle area during the same 12 months.

It is exciting to be in a city where there’s a buzz and energy about the future.  People love living there and are positive about the years to come.  The economy is thriving and there is an undercurrent of something great that you can “feel” in the city.

The growing economy is just one area God is touching in the region.  He is laying the groundwork and “going before us” to prepare the way for people to hear the Good News about Jesus Christ.  The Bible promises that the LORD himself goes before us and will be with us. It says he will never leave us nor forsake us (Deut. 31:8).    We are continually being reminded that this endeavor is not about us. God is moving in Australia.  Revival is coming.  We are just being allowed to be a part of it.  Rather than looking at what we are doing as a way to pat ourselves on the back for our great faith, or to promote ourselves as church leaders, I am daily being humbled at the fact that God would choose us to play a small part in what He is doing in the Hunter region.  We declare the promises of Isaiah 55 that we “will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.”

Australia, Uncategorized

Visiting the City

We are having a great time with our dear friends Tony and Jessica Perez as we tour around the city of Newcastle today.  We inquired about rental properties, have been driving around the different neighborhoods and also found out great news about job opportunities in the area.  The people are SO FRIENDLY and have been stopping to talk to us everywhere we had questions.

We have found out that the mining industry is booming here.  Rental vacancies are low (up to 80 people can be applying for one house at any given time so once we are ready to find a place, we will have to act quickly), and the job market is amazing.  The city is thriving and everyone we have talked to seems to love it here.

Check out some pictures we took at the beach:

Church planting, Pictures, Uncategorized

Where are my thoughts?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these pictures must represent a million thoughts for me as I spend hours everyday thinking about who might live here:

Who might fish, surf, and swim in these waters…

Who is working everyday in these buildings…

I dream about their lives and their kids.  I pray for open hearts towards the Lord and what He has for them.  I think about those who need hope and divine appointments and friendships that will come… I cannot wait to invite them to dinner and learn about them.  I already love love love Newcastle, New South Wales!