On this most special of weekends, I have been reading one of my favourite poets – George Herbert. And with doom, anxiety and worry permeating much of my news feed this week, I settled on this beautiful reminder of Who is actually in charge.
The last time I posted I said I was in a Schrodinger’s cat position – maybe I would end up with a job and maybe not. And now the box is opened and I find myself walking down a path that I did not envision at the beginning of this process
I don’t think I would have ended in this new stage of productivity and energy if I hadn’t been in a place of being able to listen and take the time to really think about the implications.
I am now three weeks into my role as Office Manager at an amazing organisation called The Parenting Place – Christian-based non-profit supporting NZ families in the ultimately rewarding but sometimes scary adventure of raising children into adults.
It’s funny how God overrides your idea of what you would like to do. I was determined that I would work close to home and here I am getting up at 5:30am every day to beat the traffic as I drive across the city.
I was adamant I didn’t want to work full-time and yet I am working Monday to Friday
I vowed I would never work in an open plan office and now I sit overseeing a totally open plan space.
And I am loving it!
The job is wide ranging and challenging and at the moment my head hurts trying to take in all of the areas of my role, but I am so happy. I come home exhausted but feeling that I have made a difference. My role supports the work our teams do as they influence families, schools, churches and communities. What a privilege.
Of course this comes at no small sacrifice. I am needing to re-shape the rhythms of my life at the moment. I would like to keep this blog going – and will aim for once a week, maybe twice once I am more organised!
I am having to consciously carve out the precious time with those I love, especially with my grandchildren; time that I have taken for granted for the past couple of years.
Spare time is now again precious and not to be squandered. Time for me has to be actively sought. Space for creativity needs to be scheduled or it won’t happen.
And all of this is OK. I feel that I have made this decision from a position of strength and most certainly not on a whim. I will also watch and listen carefully to relationships around me as ultimately they are still my priority, and adjust accordingly.
On a side note, ironically I have decided to re-connect on FB early as I think my desert time has served its purpose and I now need to use all avenues to stay connected. I definitely feel differently about Facebook after my time away and will use it slightly differently accordingly.
So as Lent draws towards Easter, I am not wandering aimlessly out of the desert and the wilderness picking up things exactly where I left them, but walking purposefully and somewhat joyfully into an unexpectedly new phase.
A week in of no Facebook and all is well. I have missed some of it, although not the sensationalist posts I have been reading since November. (I know they are still there, I just don’t get to read them). I definitely have a sense of being isolated in some way, in some good way.I know there are announcements I have missed, celebrations I don’t know about and even some sadnesses I could have been part of. On the whole though, this has been a good experience so far.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, I have been presented with an exciting possibility in this last week and having the extra thinking space has been great. While it had been a blessing to have not worked for this year, I must confess I was starting to struggle with a tiny bit of a ‘what should I be doing with my life’ feeling. I am not old enough to retire, and so I had been half-heartedly keeping an eye on the job notifications in my inbox. I applied for a couple but then one came along that really piqued my interest – an excellent Christian organisation that works to provide parents with resources and tools in raising their children was looking for a PA, so I applied for it and got an interview.
The interview went well – but I didn’t get the job. However they said they really liked me and that there was another position that they would love me to apply for. So I did. It was a little out of my comfort zone in terms of experience but I decided to lean in (as Sheryl Sandberg would encourage me to do).
The interview was on Monday – went for nearly two hours (which I’m taking as a good sign). They are advertising internally but have asked me if they can follow up my references.
So I’m in a bit of a Schrodinger’s cat situation. This time next week I might have an offer of a full-time position, or I might be carrying on as I started the year. I veer between feeling excited and terrified. Full-time, back to an office, being accountable for my time, no sleep-ins, or long breakfasts, less hanging out with my gorgeous grandkids. Not having Facebook to conveniently use to avoid really thinking abut how this might work has been fantastic and a little challenging. I have had to really really think about whether I want this or not. No avoidance technique available means I have been forced to confront my fears and aspirations.
I have prayed that I will only be offered the job if it is the very best thing to do, as I am nearly decided if I am offered it I will take it. I know God gives us choices in our life path, but I really want this one to be a Plan A route as it will mean a lot of changes.
I don’t really think it’s a coincidence that this has come up while I am spending time making room for God over the Lent period. I’m not sure I would have been in the right space to consider this properly if I was running around filling myself with noise. I now know I may be walking out of the desert carrying something I didn’t take in with me, or I may come out empty handed. Either way I will have gone through an important process. I feel surprisingly relaxed about the outcome either way and I think that means I am walking in the right direction.
Tuesday marked the beginning of the season of Lent. March 1 – first day of autumn for us here in NZ, which is a nice seasonal change for the start of a period of reflection. Last year I followed the practice of Lent for the first time, even though I have been a Christian for many many years. The ‘modern’ church in NZ has only very recently begun to re-assimilate some of these practices and our current church doesn’t follow the more traditional church calendar, but I found it a very worthwhile discipline.
In doing so, I found a great app called Into the Desert. Focusing on the writings of the ancient desert fathers and mothers, I found it both challenging and enriching. I was delighted to see that they have a 2017 version, so I am using this as my focus again this year.
I have also taken things one step further this year and have gone off Facebook for the Lent period. I though about cutting out all news feeds but to be honest there is too much of import going on in the world at the moment and I didn’t want to emerge in 6 weeks’ time to find myself in a totally foreign landscape!
I thought about Instagram as well but I have a different relationship with Instagram so have decided (for this year at least) that I will remain on that feed. Messenger is the way we communicate with our son and his girlfriend in the UK (and ironically how our worship team communicates) so that has to stay as well. Fortunately, I can go straight there without going through Facebook first. I had no idea that this would be a complicated process but I am finding there are many tendrils that spiral out from Facebook (even sharing these posts usually.) These might sound like compromises but I did think very carefully about the parameters of what I wanted to do and why.
I have read lots of blog posts and news article about how the pros and cons of, for want of a better word “fasting” social media for Lent. Turns out it’s something lots of people have very strong opinions on. For me, it just felt like the right thing to do, and does send me into a social media desert. I definitely feel as though I am disconnected in some way form what it is going on. It has made me very aware (as opposed to saying it but not really thinking about it) of how much of our life, or more so the communication of it now seems to be conducted on social media.
Sad confession – I’m a very regular Facebook user – it’s how I keep in touch with many people and I love seeing various posts, the news, the gossip, the silly quizzes, and to be honest the outrageously stupid things people post on a regular basis! So it will be a challenge, but only two days in, I have noticed a difference. Having to consciously stop my almost mindless habit of jumping onto Facebook while I am working on my computer or sitting somewhere with my phone has made me aware both of how many times I do that, and also reminds me why I am doing it. Instead of scrolling down with my brain on auto-pilot, I am forced to think and pray about various things, from personal to global.
It’s not so much about giving up, but more about making room. Room for myself to hear God speak. Room for my own thoughts without distractions. Room for silence that would normally fill it with ‘noise’ of Facebook. Room to be much more present.
Has been surprisingly easy so far, but it’s a long way to go to Easter Sunday!
As part of my aim this year of exploring creativity visually rather than through music, I have booked several photography workshops over the next couple of months. I know there’s lots of tutorials on the internet, but there is nothing like spending a whole day being guided by experts walking right beside you! Had the first one on Saturday, a total beginner course aimed at getting you off the automatic settings.
Learnt so much, had a lot of fun – here’s a few of my favourite shots from the day, taken around central Auckland. No editing at this stage!
After my last entry I thought I would this time write about something that makes me happy. I think it’s important to take time to think about what is good as well as what is troubling (and I am spending a lot of time thinking about what is troubling!). I am definitely learning to take joy in small things, and feel incredibly grateful for the country I live in.
I’m hoping to put together several posts about this small planned community with a big vision. We have been in our new home here for just over a year. Moving from an established suburb to a brand new area has been way easier than we expected. Hobsonville Point has very quickly become home.
One of the things I love most about living here is that I can now walk to a farmers’ market (which has always been something I have wanted to be able to do). I am becoming increasingly convinced that supporting our local community, producers and economy is incredibly important. The market’s not a big one, and is the process of transitioning to a new space which means a bit of patience is required during this period, but it’s one of the highlights of my weekends.
To be able to stroll down, pick up some free range eggs, freshly baked bread, honey and partake of the odd treat still feels like such a special thing to do. The coffee is always amazing, there’s usually a busker adding to the ambience, it’s nestled down at a wharf in one of the prettiest inner harbours in Auckland – what could be better!
I’m not one for writing about politics on my blog. Indeed until recently I barely made or responded to any political statements on FB. I wasn’t going to write this, especially as I could find someone who says it better and just re-blog, but it won’t let me go.
Here in NZ I vote for our centre-right major party, always have and probably always will. I am a Christian and am morally conservative on most issues.
Like almost everyone else I know I have followed the American election; for me initially with fascination, and then with increasing concern. I have found myself agreeing with many of my more left-leaning friends, both Christian and other. I have to my surprise waded in on FB on topics that I wouldn’t normally. I have read many articulate (and some not so articulate) outpourings from all parts of the political spectrum.
I really don’t know how I would have voted when forced to chose between two such flawed candidates (and I think that may be why so many people didn’t vote). I did take an on-line test to see if I was a Democrat or a Republican. I answered as conservatively as I could – turns out I would probably be a Democrat! Which goes to show that the concept of left and right in politics all depends on where the centre is defined.
I do not want this post to be about being anti Donald Trump. While I really (really) did not want to see him in the Oval Office, I do not doubt the legitimacy of his presidency. I’m not happy he is now in charge of the free world, and I am very concerned about the implications of the Executive Orders he is rushing out, but he has been elected and that is the reality both the USA and the rest of the world all need to work with. I have certainly been praying for him and his advisors – that they would lead with wisdom and integrity.
What this post is about is that somehow, by being drawn into this process, I have become aware that there are some things I care very deeply about and some things that I should care more deeply about. The act of thinking about American politics, and the implications of campaign promises, has made me look at everything I believe in both as a Christian and a citizen of this world. I have been challenged to look at my own hidden racism and prejudices, to try and work out which tenets I hold are based on a cultural view of Christianity, rather than what Jesus actually envisaged. I have been forced to articulate to myself some of the things I vaguely stood for. Turns I’m actually far more complex than I thought.
So can I be a conservative yet liberal, Christian? Both deeply pro-life but also understanding that pro-choice is important too? Aware of the dangers of radical Islamic terrorism but sympathetic to Syrian refugees? Is there such a hybrid? How do I work that out in my life, in my dealings with others, in my everyday choices?
Even the fact that I feel that I need to get these disorganised thoughts out is a very big change for me. I feel challenged and stretched. it’s quite painful and I don’t know where the stretching will take me. I am actually quite excited – I feel like I am finally growing up.
We are having a very odd summer here in New Zealand. Mid-January should be hot and sunny, weekends spent at the beach, warm BBQ nights, melting ice blocks hastily licked and sun-block ever at hand. Yet for most of us here summer so far has been windy, cold and vaguely dissatisfying.
It doesn’t feel like summer yet even though it is officially half way over. The deep deep vivid blue of our summer sky is pale and covered with fast moving clouds. The little glimpse I have of the inlet near to our house is a cold greeny-grey with white caps instead of calm sparkling blue.
Last night we had a storm that knocked out power for many people in Auckland, blew down trees and fences, and drenched the ground with heavy rain.Today the sun is out (intermittently) but it’s very windy, not very warm and grey clouds still threaten. This afternoon I have been sitting in my little office browsing the internet and generally wasting my day. Definitely this kind of weather makes me feel lethargic and vaguely grumpy.
In need of something to force myself to change gears, I picked up the camera and spent a few minutes taking photos of the beautiful bunch of hydrangeas I treated myself to earlier this week. They are so perfect and their colour is so intense that I decided a couple of the photos were worth putting up here. Taking some time trying to capture their beauty, and then looking at the results has has brightened this rather gloomy afternoon and lifted my spirits.
I might even get out of my chair again and go for a run in that wind outside!
My whole life creatively I have been involved in music. I’ve sung, played, written, arranged and taught. Music is as much a part of me as my eye colour (can’t say hair colour anymore though). My instrument is guitar and those that know me know I don’t mean strumming a few chords on an acoustic at parties. I own three electrics, two acoustics, two amps and a very nice pedal board. I am privileged to play on an amazing worship team at our church and am currently having fun in a local covers band.
And yet at the start of 2017 and in my early 50s, I am feeling challenged to step outside of the creativity I know and the medium I am fluent in to learn to speak a new language.
I’ve become increasingly interested in photography and our recent trip overseas really encouraged that. I was the person who was always running to catch up with everyone else because I had to get that one perfect shot – even on my iPhone. My wonderful husband, (who often senses things before I do) saw this, and bought me a very good camera as a belated birthday present halfway through the trip to feed this fledgling desire.
Since we have got back I have continued to fall in love with this new medium. I find myself thinking about shots and composition rather than guitar lines and chord progressions; scenes rather than set lists. It’s my camera I am picking up instead of my guitar, and camera, rather than guitar, tutorials I am glued to on YouTube.
I’m not used to being the novice, the person who doesn’t know what technical terms mean, who really doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing. I’ve taken a practical step and enrolled in a beginner course next month to help get to grips with this new world of ISO and f-stops. But it’s a steep and daunting learning curve!
I have no idea if I have any genuine skill or talent, and I have no idea where this might take me. I could spend this year studying something safe and sensible, or continuing to express myself in the safe medium of music; or I could take advantage of the fact that I have time to explore something new. I choose to do the latter (gulp). It’s definitely a step of faith which makes a naturally cautious pessimist like me very very nervous. (I think God likes steps of faith though…)
I don’t want to spend six months or a year procrastinating out of fear of the unknown. By writing this down here, I am at least admitting somewhat publicly that this is something I want to go after. I’m hoping that this time next year I will be looking back on this entry with a happy smile, and some great photos.
I have been a little envious of all those people who have managed to blog through the Christmas and New Year period. Finally today I feel like it’s time to sit down in front and write something and it’s January 11 already!
Maybe it’s something to do with our summer Christmas. We have spend most of the last few weeks down at Waihi Beach with our extended family. While there was a rather large amount of lazing round and doing nothing, the beach always seems to make it difficult to sit down and be disciplined!
We trialled some new traditions this year (well potential traditions) so our children didn’t have to juggle spending time with both us and the in-laws on Christmas Day which is getting more and more complicated each year, especially now there are grandchildren as well.
I’m very happy to report that we successfully celebrated Christmas down at the beach house with everyone on December 27. It took a lot of planning and logistics (how to fit in and feed 17 people and accomodate 5 dogs and a cat being the most pressing.
December 25 was a little odd. We decided that the four of us already at the beach would treat it as if it wasn’t Christmas yet so just had a delicious breakfast of French toast and then watched Christmas movies and read everyone else’s FB updates.
Boxing Day was when everyone started to arrive, kids, spouses, grandkids, uncles and a great grand-mother and happy chaos ensued. When everyone woke up the next morning, it definitely felt like Christmas Day. We started off with our traditional waffle breakfast which we have not been able to do with everyone for years and then spent the rest of the day opening presents until it was time to attack a Christmas feast of ham, turkey and smoked salmon. There was a mountain of presents under the tree! I have to say our family is very good at gifts. They don’t spend lots of money and don’t buy stuff that will be thrown away once Christmas is over but make or buy things that are perfect for the recipient. It was a lovely relaxing (if noisy) day and it was so nice for everyone to be able to just go to bed rather than driving home at the end of a long day. So much easier for the grandchildren as well as we just bundled them into bed as they got tired.
We even managed to get a family photo, dogs and all!
Most people stayed a few days, and one of our sons and his wife stayed to see the new year in (and we had friends arrive for that as well so the house was still quite full). We had fun letting off some fairly spectacular leftover fireworks.
And then they were all gone. Christian went up with his older siblings to spend time with them before he heads back to the UK later in January so there were just three of us. I did heave a small sigh of relief that I was no longer preparing food for the hoards.
Days for the rest of the break revolved around the weather (sun = swim, cloudy = walks and books); what to eat (very important) and scrolling through various media devices.
But now I am back and at that exciting stage of planning a fresh new year. I have a few things that I am blue-skying at the moment. I think that will be another post though!
I know that 2016 has been a troubling year in many ways but for me personally it has been a very special one. We have welcomed a new grandson and spent 9 weeks on a glorious overseas adventure. Who know what this year will bring?
So somewhat belatedly, but very sincerely, I pray that 2017 will be a great year for you all.