Easter Sunday

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 world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
And to remind me even more, I took my camera out on our beach walk this morning.
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When the desert blooms

Quick update!

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.

 

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Decisions in the desert

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.

 

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Back into the desert

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!

 

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Baby steps

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!6241731440_img_1958

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Loving our farmers’ market

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!

 

Something has changed

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.