“Smile, make friends and eat a healthy lunch,” was the advice from a friend when I expressed that I was a bit nervous about today. It’s been 10 years since I graduated from UCSB so I do feel a little out of practice with this whole student thing.
But here I am ready for my first day with my healthy lunch packed, smile on my face and ready to make friends. Please pray for this week of learning and adjustment. Graduate school can’t be too difficult, right?
In my experience even the best days have lowlights and the worst days can have highlights. Usually things aren’t all great or all terrible, it’s a little bit of everything, sometimes happening simultaneously. This week has been hard, it’s probably a mix of culture shock, high expectations, unexpected pressures and poor timing, among other things. I’ve yelled at my husband, cried tears of anger and frustration and spent more time wallowing than I’d like to admit. Moving is hard and moving around the world has even more, sometimes hidden stresses. It’s often ugly but it’s real and it’s what I’m living right now.Yesterday was Australia Day (even this has it’s own set of controversy over the celebrations but that’s for another time). We chose to have friends over and partake in the festivities happening right outside our door. We were excited to see people out and about along the water, hear the music, enjoy the carnival events and taste the food truck treats. Later in the evening, the plan was to all gather in our home to watch the fireworks display from our balcony. But then we heard that a plane had crashed into the swan river, killing those on board. (News Article and Videos if you’re interested in details.) Of course, the fireworks were then cancelled so we just gathered and hung out for awhile before everyone headed home. This morning we are still able to watch the cleanup from our balcony, which is the picture above. In all honesty, there is a part of me that was disappointed that we missed out on the fireworks but that is a tiny loss in comparison to the families who lost loved ones. Another tragedy and one more bad thing for this challenging week.
But I need to remember that this week has not been all bad. I’ve been to the beach, finished our first Australia newsletter update (coming to your mailboxes soon!), spent time with friends, we had our entire team around a table together for the first time, my husband still loves me (even when I’m not kind to him), I found a fun way to celebrate our anniversary in February and even bought tickets to an interesting show this week as a part of the Fringe Festival (Djuki Mala). This week I’ve accomplished things, spent quality time with people and planned some things to look forward too. It definitely wasn’t all bad and it definitely wasn’t too ugly despite some really terrible moments. I’m thankful for the measured good that allows me to keep learning and growing, reminding me to be appreciative for the things that are wonderfully and overwhelmingly good in my life.
Long drawn out goodbyes are one of the most difficult parts of this stage in the process. We’ve been saying goodbye since November and it doesn’t get any easier. I still don’t know the best way to say goodbye. (Anyone have any tips? I’d be happy to listen.) Although, I do think it’s helpful to have a time when you choose to give an extra hug to someone, maybe say a word of prayer and at least remember that maybe this could be the last time you see each other for a relatively long period of time.
We had the opportunity for two wonderful goodbye parties this weekend. Warm, cozy houses filled with lots of friends, good food, and visiting is always sweet. And, of course, everyone always gathers in the kitchen. I’m so thankful for these homes where Ryan and I have had so many great memories over the years. Lord willing, there will be more memories made in these homes when we’re back for further visits.
The past two Sundays, we also had the opportunity to share our vision, say our thanks and goodbyes as well as be prayed over at the church where Ryan and I attended for our first two years of marriage. It is very sweet to be surrounded by our church family who loves us well and we know will be praying for us as we set out to Australia.
During this process I have to remind myself that saying goodbye is challenging because we have many wonderful friends and supportive, loving families. It’s these great relationships that are providing the foundation in support for us and our ministry. These have been such good goodbyes.
Do you have your Christmas shopping done? Ryan and I were done early because we were originally planning on being in Australia for Christmas. But we’re thankful for the time we get to share with family and friends over the next couple of weeks.
Even though I’m typically an early shopper, there is often one or two people who make it a challenge to find just the right gift. I know everyone has at least one hard to shop for person on their list. And most everyone can do with a little nourishment. I blogged about this when it first came out Nüresh- A New Way to Feed Your Mind, Soul and Spirit but I figured a little holiday reminder would be good because this would be a great gift for someone who is hard to shop for.From the description on the website: NÜRESH gives you thousands of hours of the most inspirational and informative premium spoken word content in one innovative and easy-to-use Web interface. Listen, learn and still have time to live your life.
And since it’s price had dropped recently, if you buy a subscription now, it’s only $9.99 per month for life. So if you have a $30 shopping budget for that hard to shop for person in your life, you can give the gift of three months of listening and then if they choose to keep the subscription, it’s still affordable for them.Ryan and I recently signed up and are excited to check out some of the speakers. And the database of resources will just keep growing so we are looking forward to having access to the content as it increases too. Give the gift of Nüresh this holiday season because it can nourish your mind, soul and spirit all year long!
December 7th will always be a day that will live in infamy. But this doesn’t mean that it can’t be redeemed on a more personal level. Today is also the day Ryan proposed to me 3 years ago. And now 3 years later we have our tickets and are headed to Perth together. If you want to look back and see, Perth was always the intended plan (Here’s the Plan) even if we were holding it rather loosely and praying, a lot.I’m so thankful for this man, our families and all our other friends and supporters who have been with us along the way. Life is a crazy journey. I’m also abundantly thankful for the faithfulness of Jesus who gives us much needed grace and mercy to keep moving forward. Ryan and I will celebrate 3 years of marriage this February in Perth. And to think it all started with an online date, a kangaroo and a ring.
Since we don’t have the snow to remind us that Christmas is coming, we have to rely on decorated shopping malls, cheerily lit homes after dark and our own Christmas traditions to help us get in the spirit of things. Some of these things are on pause for us because we’re in transition but I can still do my best to celebrate what I can and savor the traditions I can still enjoy. Here are 14 ways that I try to remind myself of the good things about the holidays and enjoy the anticipation of Christmas.
I blogged last week about The Season of Advent. Having Advent reading, an Advent wreath and pausing at least once a day to read scripture and pray through the season reminds me of what is important during the holidays.
Christmas music! Once Thanksgiving has been celebrated, I am all for Christmas music. Christmas music in the car, Christmas music at home, Christmas music in almost every store I walk into. I love a good mix of secular favorites and Christian songs. Each are festive in their own way. It all makes me happy.
Baking and making delicious goodies. I will do a little baking this week but I look forward to making cinnamon rolls for my family to enjoy one morning and I’m sure there will be cookies made at some point too. My tastebuds love Christmas. And the smell of baking treats definitely helps get me in the Christmas mood.
Decorations! I really enjoy decorating for Christmas but this year in our home all we have is our Advent wreath because we are moving. However, I look forward to being in my parent’s home and enjoying the beautiful tree lit for the week leading up to Christmas. Next year we’re decorating right after Thanksgiving and we’ll leave it up until January 6th, 3 Kings Day also known as Epiphany. I love stretching out the holiday season and enjoying the decorations as long as reasonable to my own standards.
Christmas movie marathons. I will watch Elf multiple times this season. We’ve already watched Elf, The Grinch, Home Alone and A Christmas Story. Tonight we will watch It’s a Wonderful Life. There are so many good ones! It’s fun to snuggle up in a warm house when it’s cool/cold outside and enjoy a good movie. I’m also looking forward to watching the TV classics like Charlie Brown, Rudolf and Frosty the Snowman.
Walking or driving through beautiful Christmas light streets. Almost every town has a street known for the amazing Christmas decorations. It’s always fun to gather a few friends, dress warmly, carry something warm to drink and enjoy the shining lights and creativity of our neighbors.
Opening Christmas letters and cards. In my circles, I have a lot of friends who keep in touch all year around but it’s typical to just hear major updates from people at the end of the year. I love opening cards, seeing how the families have grown and hearing about the past year. I enjoy celebrating the joys of life with people and being able to pray through the hard things too. A mailbox filled with Christmas cheer is a wonderful thing.
Early Christmas shopping. There is nothing better than having your Christmas shopping done early. Even if things don’t get wrapped right away, I love not having to think of last minute gifts. This is definitely the planner in me but it allows me to better enjoy the holidays not having yet another unfinished list.
Christmas wrapping. Seeing a growing pile of pretty wrapped presents is always cheery and festive. A little Christmas music or a Christmas movie and wrapping with a cup of hot chocolate is a wonderful way to spend an evening.
Eggnog. So before this year, I never would have said that eggnog was a necessary part of the holiday but then my sister-in-law introduced me to Royal Crest Dairy eggnog and now I’m hooked. Although Royal Crest isn’t available everywhere, eggnog will definitely be a staple in our refrigerator this season.
The Nutcracker Ballet. I can’t always go and see The Nutcracker but when I can, I always enjoy it. During the holidays growing up it was always a treat to dress up and attend The Nutcracker as a family. It’s such a festive, entertaining part of the holidays. And the music is beautiful too!
Stockings. There is something that is special about stockings to me. Leading up to Christmas, I love looking at them hanging across the mantle or on the wall if there is no fireplace. Even if we opened gifts on Christmas Eve, stockings were always Christmas morning. And my favorite tradition is always finding a tangerine in the toe. I look forward to making stockings something special for my own kids some day (this is NOT a pregnancy announcement).
Candle Light Service. There is something particularly beautiful and celebratory about a Christmas Eve candle light service. It’s a wonderful way to calm our hearts and refocus during a busy season.
Christmas reading. In the past couple of years I would download a Christmasy book to enjoy leading up to Christmas. Today, I sat with the pile of my childhood books that we will be shipping to Australia and read through all my favorite Christmas stories. From The Polar Express to Santa Mouse, these are Christmas classics for me. The Story of Holly & Ivy is precious and The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree always makes me cry. I fondly remember reading these books as a child and I still enjoy them now.
What are the traditions that help you remember, enjoy and anticipate Christmas?
I struggle with taking breaks. I struggle with relaxing. I struggle with taking time off when there is so much that still needs to be done. And if I do take a break and/or relax, I then struggle with feeling guilty. I know I’m not the only one with this mindset. But knowing that I am not alone is not enough to completely remove the anxiety. So mornings like this one are good for me, despite my very real struggle yesterday with whether or not I could “give up” the time to attend a breakfast with friends. I went, enjoyed the fellowship, enjoyed the food and left with a very thankful heart.Today reminded me three truths that I already know but still need to remember often as I continue to navigate how I spend my time.
1. God created us for fellowship. Being with people is important and it’s ministry. Our fellowship and conversations can build us up, encourage us and give us strength. We are stronger when we share each other’s joys and burdens.
2. Face to face relationships are important. As much as I am thankful for social media when I am far away, I need to take advantage of the time I do have with people now. This in person time is precious.
3. Rest encourages productivity. We can only do so much. We only have so much time. And we all know that burning the candle at both ends only lasts for so long. I need to be recharged and for me, that means time with people. These times of rest allow me to work better and push through when I need to.
It’s nice to slow down every once in awhile and remember simple truths. This morning that was done at a table surrounded by new and old friends sharing a meal and stories of God’s faithfulness. “God is Great. God is Good. & We Thank Him For This Food. Amen”