Friday, 23 November 2012

Be daring, be different, be impractical

Cecil Beaton said  “Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”

I love this quote.  I feel different nearly all of the time, the only place I feel the same, or normal, is when I am with my husband, children, sister,  Mum and bestie, and they certainly aren’t normal so I suppose that confirms I am not normal either.  I’m not so good at being daring or impractical ... yet, but I’m working on it.  I hope our children have inherited our ‘not normalness’, and they grow up to be imaginative and daring.  Who would want to be a creature of the commonplace?

Most of my life I have limited myself to only spending time with people that I deem different, impractical and fun, the ordinary and serious seemed so dull.  However as I grow up I am starting to think a) I may actually be very ordinary and fairly serious and b) maybe nobody is ordinary, and everybody is a little different, so I could in fact enjoy the company of a much broader cross section of the community.  Interesting, sounds good in theory but I am yet to see how it will be applied in real life.

 M. Scott Peck said “Share our similarities, celebrate our differences”, this idea intrigues me, just because people don’t agree with me, or even really appeal to me, doesn’t mean I have to instantly dislike them.  I am also starting to discover that I am not always right, I know gasp in shock!! I am starting to think that often there is no right thought, feeling, opinion or idea and all these things can change regularly.  I am trying to embrace and accept the beauty of the mystery of life, I don’t feel so compelled to convince people of my way of thinking, I don’t know very much at all, so I would be better off keep my mouth closed a little more often and my ears open.

As a society how do you think we cope with differences?  I think we generally feel uncomfortable with different.  People with different beliefs, thoughts and ideas challenge us to think and make us consider other options.  People who choose to live their lives differently, educate and raise their children differently, worship differently, love differently, dress differently; they can all be confronting, it makes us think we might be doing something wrong, we feel threatened.  Natural instinct is to dislike, discredit and disagree.  It is only our own insecurities that make us unable to handle and accept different.

It helps me to remember that the person who is different is generally not being different to antagonise me, annoy me or change me, often they are just being themselves.  They see the world a little differently, they have had different experiences and relationships and different things are important to them.  I am convinced the different is all part of the perfect plan, I just have to accept it.

So I am going to try so much harder to open my mind, not change my values, but not be so dismissive and derogatory of different, a very big challenge for me.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Is life a perpetual contradiction?

I have been involved in a number of conversations lately and I have realised how differently each of us sees the world.  Depending on our beliefs, teachings and experiences we all interpret our world and what is going on around us slightly differently.  I can often believe something very passionately and then I will have an experience that alters, deepens or erases that belief.  I can say one thing and then do the complete opposite, it is very confusing.

Last night I saw the end of a documentary about Paul the Apostle and it discussed how his writings in the New Testament have influenced society more than most of us would recognise.  He said some beautiful, empowering and inspiring things that revolutionized how people thought about and treated each other.  We have one of his quotes hanging in our kitchen “Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes in all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).  He also said “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28.

However, Paul is also quoted as saying some much less loving and inclusive things, like “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” (1 Timothy 2:11-12).
The documentary highlighted the contradictions in Paul’s writings and it made me think of all the contradictions in my own life.  For example I find thinking and talking about money offensive and dull however I love spending money; I hate paying taxes but I love that we have high quality public hospitals and public schools; I feel as if love and relationship is the most important thing and earthly possessions are meaningless but I am very attached to our home and where we live; I believe every human being has been perfectly created yet I think and say some very unkind things about these perfectly created human beings, myself included.   The list goes on. It is like I have this ideal in my head that I strive for but sometimes the reality for me is quite different, creating a world and life full of contradictions.

William Blake, English poet and painter who died in 1827 said “Do what you will, this world’s a fiction and is made up of contradiction.”  I tend to agree.  Look at Saint Paul he made three long missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire, planting churches, preaching the gospel, and giving strength and encouragement to early Christians. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul is credited as the author of 13 of them. Paul was martyred for his faith in Christ by the Romans, about 64 or 65 A.D. Paul towers as one of the all-time giants of Christianity yet still he was surrounded by many contradictions, so what hope do the rest of us have?

Do you think it is possible to live without contradictions?  Do your own contradictions bother you or do you just embrace them as part of your unique, curious and magnificent personality?

Monday, 22 October 2012

Adventure of the spirit or excuse to be lazy?

I can not decide if being a Stay at Home Mum (SAHM) is an exciting adventure of the spirit or just my way of hiding from reality and avoiding hard work.    Every day, each hour, even fleeting moments can contain exciting adventures of the spirit.  I love my children, husband and life so much I have tried to stay busy so I wouldn’t have to feel the complete emotion, I didn’t want to be completely and utterly overwhelmed by the love, and the subsequent exhaustion, frustration and constantly changing tempo of life as a mother and wife.  I wanted to have a small amount of control, my own identity, which I thought I maintained by having many other things going on in my life ... but I am slowly starting to let go, to let it all flood in, to be fully present, immerse myself in all its glory, and endless frustration, and it is wonderful and worrying all at the same time. 

I feel so grateful for all the blessings in my life, the amount of love, the wonderfully rich relationships I get to enjoy, I feel a great responsibility to recognise, acknowledge and celebrate these blessings, these individuals, these relationships.  This can sometimes feel like a cover for being lazy, an excuse to talk on the phone, to spend hours on end with friends and their children, an excuse to go shopping for birthday gifts, a reason to do craft and play games and a justification for sitting still and relaxing.  Sometimes it is exhausting just fighting these feelings of guilt, writing this I feel I am trying to justify my choice, to convince anybody that will listen that staying at home with our children is a worthwhile pursuit, and one that I am capable and deserving of.  I read books on it, attend courses about it, I am consumed with the desire to prove to myself and world it is alright to stay at home.  Embarrassingly I always try to work into the conversation that I have two University degrees, see I just did it here, again trying to justify myself.

I have a very detailed idea about what a SAHM should be, she should cook a lot of beautiful homemade food, it would be preferable if she could sew, she should have a thriving fruit orchard and vegetable patch and make cordials, jams and preserves, she must be very frugal and make do in any situation, she looks after the household finances, she should have at least four children and her house must be spotless at all times.  An extra cherry on top would be if she ran her own small business from home, preferably her own label of health foods, homemade beauty products or range of adorable designer kids clothes.

For some people this is their reality and I will be forever jealous, and if I was any of these things I don’t think I would struggle with the fact that I do stay at home. For me a SAHM does everything they tried to teach us in Home Economics, which I hated, and now I can’t do any of these things.  I can love my children, I can make my husband laugh, I am good at coordinating great parties, I love taking photos and recording wonderful moments we all share together, I love sitting still and listening to and sharing stories, if something gets a rip or a hole it gets tossed out and I throw out a lot of left-overs.  I yell sometimes and even occasionally throw a thing or two, and sometimes I shout out the back door just cause I have to.  None of these things fall into my idea of what a SAHM looks like but guess what I am still a SAHM.  From right now I am going to try and stop justifying my choice and I am going to enjoy this exciting adventure of the spirit, goodness knows where it might lead or how long it might last.

I will continue to pray that I can enjoy it, all of it, and not rob myself of joy by thinking about all the things I am not. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Living the dream is off to a slow start

Since I finished University and entered the workforce in 1999 my life has been about one deadline, event, project or function after another.  I have been involved in coordinating, promoting, attending and completing more community events and projects, big and small, than I care to remember.  Then once we decided to become parents back in 2005 there has been a lot of planning, organising, heartbreak and celebrating tied up in that process, which for us has been an eight year journey to get two beautiful children.

After many months I have finally made the decision to be a full-time Mum with no part-time jobs on the side.  I want to be fully present with my children and husband, I want us to have the time and energy to realise our dreams of living lightly, trying to produce our own food, not creating so much waste, setting faith and family as our priorities every day and not getting caught up in consumerism/materialism.  Sounds great but it is proving much more challenging than I thought.

I thought my life would look like the pictures out of an Australian Country Style magazine, but not yet.  Since making this decision my body feels like it is shutting down. I am having a whole range of strange symptoms including fatigue, conjunctivitis, blocked ears, head colds, body aches and I think my body is physically realigning to the fact that I have no deadline in my head, no to-do list, there is no plan for the first time in a long time.  I think I may have over-relied on my Catecholamine hormones (these regulate stress responses and includes adrenaline) and now my body has to start functioning without them.  I have no medical training but this theory sounds good to me.

To make it worse our home life has not become miraculously more organised since making this commitment.  There is still a massive amount of washing to be folded and packed away, the floors need vacuuming and mopping and I have not embarked on my juicing, bread making and homemade baking as I desire.  Life is pretty much the same as before I just have absolutely no money and feel more tired than ever before.  I’m not sure this was the plan.

Anyway, despite the immediate shortcomings of my plan I am determined to continue with the experiment, I hope I have made the right decision, and even if it takes 20 years to reap the rewards, if there are any rewards to reap, I hope I have the courage and conviction to try and live my life the way I feel I have been created to live it.  Wish me luck.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Does your life resemble art?

“This particular artwork is lacking in detail, the perspective is unusual and there does not seem to be a strong focus but it is light and draws in the eye, there is something captivating yet indescribable about the piece”. If my life was art I think this is what an art critic might say. 

Often everyday life sucks the air right out of my lungs, the weight of responsibility is heavy on my shoulders and I get exhausted thinking about what needs to be done, before I have even done anything.  I get so bogged down in and consumed by what I think I ought to be doing and this, along with the guilt of not doing most of it,  has consumed most of my life to date. 

Recently I have found it necessary to strip my life right back to the core, which for me is God, family, love and relationships.  I am struggling with the process.  I feel lazy and irresponsible dropping off all my commitments but I genuinely feel they were distracting me from what is truly important, the joy of living.  All I want to do is praise and worship my heavenly Father; nurture, recognise and enjoy Mother Earth and love my husband, children, family and friends with all my heart.  For me, these things require all my time and effort. 

Money, my little earthly brain says, oh but what about the money, how are you going to make money and I don’t know.   I feel so abundantly blessed in so many ways that I feel I am doing an injustice to bring money into my life equation.  Easy enough for me to say, I’ve always had enough money for anything I have ever needed.  Money has seemed to take care of itself in my life, so far anyway, so I will continue not to focus on or worry about that.  In making that statement I feel incredibly irresponsible and selfish but I just don’t feel I was created to focus on money, but see how it has hijacked my thinking right here, I’m going to move on.

So, as I sit here in my pyjamas at 8:20am, my children play noisily on the deck, my husband is driving his beat up old tractor around his paddock just because he can, the washing machine is going, the breakfast dishes are stacked in the sink, the sky is blue, the air is warm, the birds are singing and I am going to go and plant trees along our driveway.  I will try not to think about all the other things I should be doing, everything that needs to get done next week, what I will cook for dinner, what people would think if they came to visit right now, all the things I would love to have and I will try to block out the insecurities, the fears, the worry and just live in the moment.  I will appreciate and recognise all the blessings that surround me, right now.

If I can learn to do this with every minute than my life might resemble art, and wouldn’t that be magnificent.  I know my life has been created by an amazing artists on a spectacularly amazing canvas, so what am I waiting for?  What do you think, does your life look like art?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Love your neighbour as you love yourself

It has dawned on me I do love my neighbour as I love myself, the problem is I do not love myself very much at all, which means my poor neighbour bombs out too.

So many things have been happening in my life to make me examine love and how I love others.  I recently participated in an online linky thing where we all wrote letters to our 16 year old self and this made thoughts and feelings I had buried deep resurface and I cannot make them go away.

For so long, maybe as long as I can remember, I have felt I was too ugly to be loved, even too ugly to be liked.  This then led to feelings that I was useless, unkind, unworthy and to protect myself from rejection or failure I built tough barriers around me.  The barriers took the form of always searching for the negative in people, reducing my opinion of them so that if they rejected me it wouldn’t matter because I had already decided they were less than perfect anyway.  This applied to new people but I think to some extent I also used this strategy on my immediate family, everybody.  This of course then led to a deep loneliness.   This was all disguised behind a care-free, happy and life loving mask to try and win the approval of people I had already rejected.  How exhausting.

This negative assessment of each and every individual I ever come into contact with, and the assumption that given the chance they will reject me, combined with the negative self talk that has consumed my body, wrapped itself around my heart and festered in my soul, has resulted in a long life of thinking and speaking badly about myself and lot of other people.

I do not like recognising these things about myself, as I write it is hard to for me to breath but for me it is part of the process of stepping out of the dark and into the light.  God cannot dwell in the brown murkiness that is my soul; the light of Jesus cannot shine bright through me if I do not love myself.  If I am not courageous enough to recognise these feelings I may subconsciously burden my children in a way I would regret forever, I may not be able to love my husband in a way that creates a long and beautiful marriage and I may waste my entire life on things that do not matter.  I want to love my family, friends, community and world as Jesus intended, which requires me to love myself first.

I am inclined to believe I am not alone in having these negative feelings about myself.  I believe most of us love our neighbour as we love our self and this is why there are such high rates of suicide, depression, substance abuse, divorce, loneliness and violence.  Do you think our prisons would be overflowing, would our child safety employees be so overworked, would 45% of marriages end in divorce if we loved ourselves?  I don’t even think we would need to spend so much on education if we all felt truly loved.  We wouldn’t have to worry about so much insignificant nonsense and therefore we would all be better able to learn and reach our potential.

So where do we start?  Becoming aware of the problem is a good place to start.  Allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable this might give other people permission to explore these feelings too.  I have set myself the love dare not to talk negatively about anybody.  I think this alone will help me to love myself more.  It will help create a more nurturing and loving environment in my heart and my house.  I will continue to search for how I might love myself more and I would love to hear any suggestions and thoughts you might have.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A letter to Justine

Emily Freeman has invited people to write letter to their teenage self (, to celebrate the release of her new book.  This is my letter, it was fun writing it, you should have a go.

Dear sweet sweet Justine

I need you to know you are loved and you have been created on purpose and your future is filled with peace and joy and hope.  You don’t know it yet but Jesus is with you and one day, when the time is just right, you will understand the meaning of life.  You do not have to work this out for yourself right now, live and it will come.

Yes people are mean, those boys teasing you and the girls excluding you, you will barely remember their names by the time you finish university, they will have no impact on your life at all and you will not even see them again.  Don’t hate them.  I know everybody else is but I am not sure attending your Debutante Ball is such a great idea, if you do insist don’t have your hair done in ringlets.

As far as I can tell you are never going to appeal to the masses but throughout your life you will meet and be friends with beautiful people.  There are going to be times when you feel really lonely and you will constantly search for a better way to exist, but this will be exciting for you and stay true to your intuition, it pays off and you are rewarded with more love than you can dream of right now.

Try not to be so angry, I know you are afraid of being hurt, not fitting in, of being exposed, but relax, life truly isn’t that serious.  Love your Mum and sister more, don’t slam the door so much, even though it feels good sometimes.  Your little sister is awesome, I know you hate her because she is beautiful and life looks easy for her, but she needs you to love her more, she will be your best friend and confidant throughout life, she will be there when you go into labour with your first baby, she will be your sweet, kind and calm bridesmaid, you will talk to her on the phone every day ... yes everyday.

Don’t make that barrier between you and everybody else any thicker or higher, as hard as it is; try to enjoy those people around you. Laugh a little more freely, shake free of the responsibility you have placed on your own shoulders. You are young, you have long legs and beautiful hair, love it, enjoy it, savour it because youth is wonderful. 

 Nobody expects you to have all the answers, relax.  You are gifted in so many ways.  You don’t think you are beautiful, but you are interesting and wonderful people, that you like and respect very much, will want to spend time with you.  You look at yourself and see all the things you are not, or don’t have and some of these things will taunt you continuously, and will always make you feel a little insecure but embrace all that is great about you, and there is plenty.  You want to know what you will be when you grow up but I still have no clue, my only tips are take photos, write stories and learn to love.

Practise saying nice things to and about people, people you like and those you don’t.  It sounds stupid but this is something you will want to master later on in life and if you start now it will be much easier, and save you lots of grief.

The day you hold your baby niece for the first time, say your wedding vows, and cuddle your baby girls with all your might, and invite Jesus to live in your heart, these are the days that matter and they are coming, you are beautiful, you are loved and you are blessed and will be a blessing to many.  So hang in there kiddo, you are loved more than you will ever know.
Love from Justine

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Only the lonely

How many songs do you know about being lonely, the first two that pop straight into my head are “One is the loneliest, number one is the loneliest, Number one is the loneliest number that you'll ever do” ( and “Only the lonely Know the way I feel tonight Only the lonely Know this feelin aint right” (   Being lonely is one of the greatest things I fear about getting old but this is not why I want to discuss loneliness.

Tonight I lay on the bed reading my children stories before bedtime, they were draped on me, stroking my hair, asking me a bucket load of questions and I just looked at them in complete awe.  Here are these amazing inquisitive, super intuitive, loving beings that I am blessed to know and love.  I feel privileged that I am able to spend all of my days with them, and I feel honoured and humbled that they love me, not because of what I look like, what I can do, they just love me.  It got me thinking we could learn so much from their approach to life.  If we all start out like that does anybody know when do we get turned into cynical, task orientated, judgemental, hypocritical grownups? 

I know I will have the pleasure of having my children in my home for such a short time and I am absolutely committed and focused on loving them and enjoying them, as much as humanly possible, during this time.  I get fleeting feelings of impending loss and heartache when I think of them growing up, but I also get feelings of immense pride when they are able to turn and sing the Tim McGraw song Last Dollar,  “1-2-3 Like a bird I sing Cause you've given me the most beautiful set of wings I’m so glad you’re here today Cause tomorrow I might have to go and fly away” (

So what does all this have to do with being lonely?  I am thinking one of the most important things we can do to make our world a lovely place to live is to actively do things to make people feel less lonely.  A new person moves to town, invite them over; visit an elderly neighbour; say hello to people in the supermarket; post a birthday card to remember an old friends birthday.  They seem like little acts that could easily and justifiably be over looked in our busy days, but maybe, just maybe, making people feel loved and connected might be more important than getting to a meeting on time, mopping the floors, mowing the lawn, working late to meet a deadline.

The tricky thing is you don’t even have to be alone to feel lonely.  You could start with the people that live in your house, does anybody feel lonely, misunderstood, unheard?  I am reading “The 5 Love Languages of Children”, and I have also started reading “The 5 Love Languages” both by Gary Chapman and this has opened my eyes to the most important relationships in my life.  The concept of love languages examines how we receive love, and if we don’t talk the love language of our spouse or children they may never feel completely loved, and therefore will not be able to reach their full potential.  It is fascinating and I cannot recommend the books highly enough.  I have also been attending a 6 week workshops that includes learning how to be a better listener.  All these things are combining to paint a detailed picture of what is required to love properly, so those nearest and dearest to us don’t feel lonely.  Up until now I kind of assumed we all just knew how to love, but with knowledge and commitment, we can love so much better.

I feel a little like I am on my high horse and I should stop preaching, but I am so obsessed with love at the moment and the benefits that come from love that I just can’t stop thinking, talking and writing about it.  What do you think?

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Seasons of life

Spring has arrived and I welcome it with great excitement and enthusiasm, and this has me thinking about seasons, and how in our life we experience many seasons.  Right now a few seasons are coming to an end in my life, including the season of writing for Maranoa Town and Country Mail.  I am not sure what season will come next but I am hopeful it will be great.

Of course not all seasons are great; in nature or life.  Anne Bradstreet said “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome”.  Another comforting thought is “No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn”.

We live in a world where it is hard to accept each season.  Traditionally the food we ate and the activities we undertook would have been directly related to the seasons.  Now we can get many fruits and vegetables in the supermarkets all year round and in the process we have sacrificed taste for convenience, with most of us able to afford effective heating and cooling in our homes, the extremes of winter and summer are lessened to some degree. 

Rather than embracing each season we try to control certain elements and then tend to get frustrated when the weather interferes with our fun and plans, when it impacts on the way of life we desire.  We often spend a lot of time and energy trying to control many aspects of life too, uniformity is the key to our lives today, working hard, saving up money, taking out insurance, getting a good education all of which may give us increased security and a sense of safety but are we sacrificing spontaneity and creativity?  What is the cost of trying to make every day the same? I am confident there is magic in each season; we just have to be prepared to experience it.

Just like the seasons change so do we, it might be four seasons in one day or one season may last a really long time, it would be nice if we could celebrate and experience fully each season of our life rather than trying to be the same all the time.  For example when we are pregnant we should be allowed to act and be treated differently, if we are grieving and overcome with misery we should be allowed to display this emotion, if we are really happy and overjoyed we should be able to express this too. 

Whether it is our emotions, the weather or a stage of our life acknowledge it, look for the good in it and always remember ‘this too shall pass’.  We are so darn busy these days any change or deviation from the plan can be seen as an inconvenience, but it doesn’t have to be.  Just like the moon has its cycle, sometimes the sky is dark or there is a thin slither of a moon other times it is full and glorious and lights up the whole night, we are the same, and life experiences the same ebbs and flows, and no amount of planning or controlling will alter these cycles.
So live in the season, live in the spirit, don’t wish it away or try to control it, embrace it, it is part of the perfect plan and I do hope you will enjoy spring, as Sitting Bull said “Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!”

Friday, 31 August 2012

Challenged when you least expect it

After living for almost 35 years I am finding so many of my long held beliefs are being challenged, it is exciting and scary, it causes great internal turmoil and my head is hurting a lot, but I think there could truly be a better way to exist than what I have done up until now, but am I brave enough to explore it further?

Previously I quoted Steve Jobs as saying something along the lines of “Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice”.  Have you ever tried to think and live outside the commonly accepted stereotype or expectation people have of you?  I find it really difficult, I feel a bit like a failure, I feel weird and strange and it can be a bit lonely; it seems much easier to go with the flow, the only problem for me is it leaves me feeling empty and confused and lonely as well.

As I blogged a few month ago I was challenged by the concept that you don’t have to do to be, this idea continues to change my life every day.  Now I am being challenged by the idea that as a parent it is not necessarily my job to tell my children, or any other children, what they should or shouldn’t do, or try to manipulate or control them to say, do  and think what I want them to, not even my job to solve their problems for them.  Rather the idea is to provide an environment to help them make the most of their own skills and energy to secure cooperation and responsibility. The objective is to grow confident and responsible adults, that I will share a strong connection with.
Another idea is that when our own needs are met we feel affectionate, confident, empowered, engaged, inspired, excited, hopeful, grateful and exhilarated but when our needs are not met we feel annoyed, disconnected, sad, vulnerable, embarrassed, tense, confused and angry (M.B. Rosenberg).  To meet needs we need to listen to our own bodies and intuition, or truly listen when our spouse or children talk to us.  It takes time, you need to be really connected to yourself and those around you, and it cannot be manufactured or faked and as I am finding you need to be prepared to have your beliefs challenged and you need to be courageous. 

Unschooling is another idea that has caught my attention lately and this challenges a lot of my beliefs.  Unschooling believes that children can teach themselves through their curiosity and eagerness to explore the world. It focuses on real world learning experiences, and it allows the child to dictate his or her education by deciding what they do, or don’t, want to learn about.  This seems crazy to me, but the number of children who struggle through 13 years of formal education also causes me a great deal of concern.

If I looked at my world and saw love and peace and hope and joy I probably wouldn’t see any reason to challenge mainstream beliefs and ideas, but I don’t.  I see lots of sadness, violence, brokenness, abuse, depression, anxiety, worry and fear which is what gets me thinking there must be a better way.  
There is a lot going on in my head and heart at the moment, I am not saying any of the above ideas are the answer, as I approach my birthday so many things I thought I already knew are being challenged, and new ideas are being formed and investigated and I am certainly being extended outside my comfort zone.   Gail Sheehy said “If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living”, and one thing I am sure of is while I am here I want to really live, not just exist.  what do you think?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Living the good life?

What is your vision of the good life?  Have you thought about it, or are you just content plodding through one day at a time and seeing where life takes you?  Watching the Olympic Games I have realised there are a lot of people out there that have very clear and specific visions about winning a gold medal at the Olympics, something I have never even considered and would never have the determination, ability or commitment to achieve.  Whether you have formally developed a vision or if it is just a quiet whisper deep down inside, this vision for your life is what helps you set priorities each and every day.

Steve Jobs, in his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, said “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

I try not to think about dying too much, but I must admit the idea of being an old person in a nursing home motivates me to make the most of this life while I am still relatively young.  Just like Dennis Denuto said in The Castle “It’s the vibe of the thing” and my vision is based on a vibe.  My vibe is described brilliantly by these words, “The work of decency will be peace, and the effect of honesty will be quietness and trust.  You will live in a peaceful neighbourhood, in secure houses, and in quiet gardens.  Those who have well watered fields and gardens with farm animals grazing freely will enjoy a fortunate life”.

Very often my real life does not feel quiet or free or peaceful but  I will continue to reach for my dream, because as Robert Fritz said "If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise."

So what does your dream life look like?  Are you already living it?  Are you working towards a vision set by the expectations of others, doing things because you think it will make you popular, please other people, make you rich, change the world or simply based on all you have ever known?

Christopher Reeve famously said “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”  There is too much anxiety, depression and poor physical and mental health in our world, there is too much violence, injustice and debt, there is too much fear and worry and not enough love and trust.  We all need to dream, to have a vision for our life, and whether we feel like the vision is huge or very tiny; we owe it to ourselves, our family, our community and the entire world, to live that dream.  It will make the world a better place.  What do you think?

Friday, 3 August 2012

Can I wrap myself in happy?

I know what makes me happy so is it possible to spend a whole life wrapped up in happy?  I love spending time with and chatting to my beautiful sister and my wonderful friends, I love listening to my daughters as they make up poems and songs and I love watching them giggle and play, I love being with my husband especially when he smiles, I love walking in the paddock at Golden Hour when the setting sun makes everything shine bright orange and yellow.  I love watching movies with cheerful songs and bright and colourful images and happy endings, I love being with people and reading the bible, praising God and talking about Jesus.  The list of things I love is extensive, I love being happy.

The great thing is when I do these things often all the more mundane tasks become so much more enjoyable, maybe not enjoyable but bearable.  However, my happiness is quickly robbed when I step outside my bubble of people and things that make me happy, and my instinct is to quickly retreat back to happy.  Is this childish, maybe it means I can’t cope with the world, am I serving my life purpose by just wrapping myself in happy?  Does happy pay the bills and put food on the table?

Obviously there are things out of my control that will make me unhappy and that is life, I get that, but even during these times often there are things I can do that will make me happy.  Is there a rule that says as a serious adult I must consciously and actively go out and do things that make me unhappy?  Do I owe it to my family, my community, my family and friends to do things that make me unhappy? 

I’m not talking superficial, instant gratification happy, I’m talking about the happy that makes your body tingle with delight, you smile involuntarily, you have a peace and joy that settles on your soul, love and kindness exudes from your heart and your words are gentle and encouraging. 

Our children wake up so excited each day ready to experience all the wonderful things that lay ahead of them, how many of us wake up dreading all the tasks that must get done that day?    

The concept of just surrounding yourself with things and people that makes you happy sounds simple, but it isn’t, trust me, I’m trying and it is hard to find a definite line with happy on one side and unhappy on the other.  There are things that are really important to me and good for me but sometimes devoting time and energy towards these things can rob me of my happiness, so what to do?  There are things that I have never done before that might make me happy if I give them a try. There are people that I love that might not actually make me happy but it would make me unhappy to exclude them from my life.

It can be complex but I do know I am here on earth for a short time and I want every day to be mostly happy and enjoyable, so I am going to keep trying to wrap myself in happy and I guess I will just see how it all works out in the end.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Sorry ... we don't support religious organisations

Stand back, this isn’t going to be pretty.  There will be hand waving, a few heated words, maybe even a little bit of name calling, I might even accidentally spit a little as I get caught up in my tirade and I am not going to draw breath for the next minute or two, so watch out ...

We live in a world where discrimination is not acceptable.  That is totally cool, so tell me why is it that many businesses, organisations and funding bodies have a policy whereby they will not support religious organisations?

Let us for a minute have a look at the type of services religious organisations in Australia provide, looking at the ones we see every day in our own town.  Anglicare provides much needed support for our elderly people, they provide help at home, nursing and a range of services that enable people to live in their own homes longer, they coordinate foster and kinship care for vulnerable children, they offer disability, youth, mental health and family support services and so much more.  Imagine our community without this care and support for our elderly, vulnerable, lonely and young.  Who in their right mind would not want to support the work of this organisation?

Then we have St Vincent de Paul, an organisation committed to addressing poverty in our community.  Their website says “There is no magic solution to poverty.  It takes compassion, commitment and money” and that is what Vinnies offers.  Not only do they have their donation centres they are committed to social justice.  They literally “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, protect the rights of those who are helpless. Speak out and pronounce a sentence of justice, defend the cause of the wretched and the poor." (Proverbs 31:8-9).  Again, imagine society without people dedicated to the pursuit of social justice and overcoming poverty.

Thirdly we have Salvation Army.  Who is at the heart of every emergency and disaster in this country?  It is the Salvation Army.  Did you know that across Australia in a typical week the Salvation Army provides 100,000 meals for the hungry; 2000 beds for the homeless; 5000-8000 food vouchers; 1000 people with assistance to find employment; refuge to 500 victims of child abuse; assistance to 500 addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling; several thousand people with counselling; 3000 people with aged care services, 40 people in the court system with chaplaincy programs and family tracing services which locate 40 missing family members.  This is just one week.  Again, why would you not want to support this wonderful work?

I personally know of dozens of Christian organisations in Australia who help our brothers and sisters all over the world.  They save babies from pit toilets, rescue young girls from sex slavery, feed starving babies and mothers, provide life changing surgery to women who would otherwise remain shunned by society and offer clean drinking water to remote communities.  These religious organisations, who will not be funded or supported by numerous organisations and agencies, make the world a better place.  Often they are the only ones brave enough to address issues that other people shy from.  They are not without their problems, just like every other organisation they are not perfect but surely no one can argue the work they do isn’t worthwhile and worthy of financial support.  What do you think?

Friday, 27 July 2012

There are always two sides to every story

I make sense of the world through stories and relationships, I receive and share a lot of information, hopefully most of it is true and accurate but some of it slightly exaggerated, some of it repeated in confidence, some of it just said to fill the silence, get a laugh, gain approval or showcase inside knowledge.  Stories, words, tales, yarns, accusations, insinuations and anecdotes, all freely told, shared, passed on all day, all over the world.  What harm can it do?

I was listening to the wonderful Etta James the other day and the words from her song Two Sides made me stop, listen and think.  The lyrics were:

Things aren't always like they seem to be
So take this tip from experienced me
There are always two sides
To every story, yeah
But two wrongs, two wrongs can't make a right
Oh, and two mistakes will only bring you heartache
And you both will end up losing the fight

How often do I only hear one side of a story but accept it as the only true and correct version of events?

We hear a story or observe a situation and with our own limited knowledge, previous experience, misplaced trust and pre-conceived ideas and beliefs we form a judgement.  The problem being there is probably at least one other side to this story that we have not heard or considered and it may be the polar opposite of what we think is correct. 

Aesop (c. 620-564 BC) was a story teller and he is quoted as saying “Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either”.  Take for example if you are sitting on a plane and your flight has been delayed because one passenger cannot be located.  After a lengthy delay he boards, without knowing the circumstance would you be furious at him for inconveniencing you?  What if he was at the hospital with his terminally ill child, or what if he had passed a car accident on the way to the airport and stopped to help the injured or what if he had been drinking at the bar with mates and didn’t give a toss about everybody else on the plane waiting?  How would you respond without knowing all the facts?

 It is not possible to know all the details of every situation; we cannot research every bit of information to determine its absolute accuracy.  Some things we simply know to be the truth, which we can cling to and build on, most other things we will probably never know the whole truth.  Next time I am tempted to jump to a conclusion I will think twice about whether there might be another side to the story.  Before I share information I will consider whether it is accurate, relevant and necessary or is it actually rumour and gossip?  Just as Etta advises I will stop and consider there always two sides to every story.

Monday, 9 July 2012

It makes no sense to me

I am struggling to make sense of the world around me.  I know without a doubt that we have been created to live an abundantly joyful, purposeful, kind, exhilarating and magnificent existence.  I appreciate that at the same time there will always be some suffering and pain but I feel deep in my core we have been born with the ability to grow strong from our greatest hardships.

However, right now, I see pain and hurt, depression and bullying, alcoholism and drug abuse, homelessness, hopelessness, despair, war and injustice.  I see broken hearts, rejection, sadness and self doubt, I see struggle.  Right here in my own backyard I see huge profits being made by companies, but I also see good, honest local families unable to pay the bills. I see too many marriage break ups, destroying families forever.   I hear constant talk about the future our children will need to navigate, drinking, driving, promiscuity, drugs, technology and I am gripped with panic.

I can’t make sense of it.  I am not driven by a desire to make a lot of money and own a lot of things, I don’t want to have a fancy career and a long job title, I just want to be comfortable, free and happy and keep my family safe.  I want to feel light and joyful but the weight of the world feels heavy on my shoulders tonight.  Everything around me and ahead of me seems insignificant and small, except the relationship I have with my loved ones, but is this really enough?

Facebook, Twitter, iPhones, television, games, blogs, deadlines, followers does any of it mean anything at all?  Are we slowly killing ourselves by what we are eating?  Are we destroying our spirits by what we are watching and reading and doing with our time?  Constant political backstabbing and name calling, endless flow of celebrity gossip, so many advertisements showing us beautiful things we need to be happy.  Where is the inspiration, the vision, the hope, the future?  What is all this for, where is it leading us, what are we creating?  I want to shout ‘Stop it now, it is all so wrong, it is insignificant, it is unimportant’, but I can’t because what does right look and feel like?

Protect your heart for it is the wellspring of life, but I am struggling to fill my heart with good, the dirty, sticky finger prints of this world are leaving their smudgy marks all over my heart.

I have a clear vision of the life I desperately want to live, the life I believe I have been created to live, I just don’t know how to get there.  How many other people feel the same way?  Are we a whole society stuck on a treadmill when all we need to do is step off, but who will be the brave one to step off first? I am genuinely petrified if I step off I will just fall flat on my face, and everybody who stayed on the treadmill will laugh hysterically at me.  It is taking all my energy, all my joy and all my passion  to just try and fit in, make the most of it, try and function in this world that makes no sense to me.  I don’t know why I can’t make sense of it, it is frustrating, I am tired. 

This blog has no answers, it is not delicate, pretty, soft or poetic and it is not a cry for help, I know I live an extremely blessed life, which kind of makes it harder to make sense of the world. Nothing will change as a result of these words, except I am hoping I will find some peace and be able to fall asleep very soon.  Good night xo

Sunday, 8 July 2012

It's better when we're together

Jack Jones  sings “At least for most of the questions in my heart, Like why are we here? And where do we go? And how come it's so hard? It's not always easy and sometimes life can be deceiving.  I'll tell you one thing, it's always better when we're together”.  The Beatles sang “Help me if you can, I'm feeling down, And I do appreciate you being round. Help me, get my feet back on the ground, Won't you please, please help me.”  Ben Lee sings “Woke up this morning I suddenly realized We're all in this together I started smiling Cos you were smiling And were all in this together I'm made of atoms You're made of atoms And were all in this together”.  Finally, the Bible says “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken,” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Too many of us today suffer from social and emotional isolation but it is clear we thrive when we live and exist together.
A wise and inspiring friend said the other day; this is the first time in history, and only in the Western world, that women are expected to be great mums, wonderful wives, successful career women and talented home keepers all by themselves.  The same is being experienced by men, their roles in the workplace and the home means they have much less time for just hanging out with the blokes.  Technology has made it possible for us to move long distances away from our families and long time friends and many of us are isolated, trying to do everything by ourselves when we were never created to exist alone.

You can be surrounded by people all day everyday but still be lonely, social interactions need to be real and like everything in life, need to be prioritised, worked on and invested in continuously to be made strong and durable.  Social and emotional isolation break down both body and soul, relationships and face-to-face conversations strengthen our immune system and help us to live longer.  Plus it makes life so much more enjoyable. We are not designed to do everything in our own strength, it is exhausting, unsatisfying and limits us greatly.

Natural selection has determined that whales function best in pods, fish in schools, birds in flocks, lions in prides and cows in herds.  Does it not make sense that as human beings we too would work best in a tribe?  Many Anthropologists have found tribes were very satisfied by their way of life, it was very meaningful to them.  Studies show their population was not depressed, suicidal, seething with rage or questioning the purpose of life like we are. Tribal life has been a success since the birth of mankind.

I know we cannot return to hunting and gathering, tribal life was not perfect and I’m not that keen on everybody just wearing a loincloth and having to sleep in a hut.  However, I think there are lots of great benefits from tribal life that we could adopt to make life a lot better for all of us individually and for the future of our planet.  What do you think?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

You don't have to do to be ... please explain

I am reading about the idea that you don’t have to do to be in Emily P. Freeman’s book Grace for the Good Girl.  The book covers a lot of topics and I have not finished it yet but the idea that I don’t have to do to be is challenging my whole identity and I must say it is freaking me out a little bit.

From my earliest memories I have always felt it has been necessary to justify my existence.  I don’t think this is due to any one thing or experience, we just seem to live in a world that wants to know how many words we can spell, how many smiley faces we have on our rewards chart, how many friends we have, whether we have a boyfriend/girlfriend, how many degrees we have, how many friends we have on Facebook, how many committees we are on, how many times we are in the newspaper, how many children we have, how often our phone rings etc.

Being able to justify my existence is challenging for me  because I can’t really do anything well, I can’t run fast, I was never the smartest in my class, I  have never had loads of friends (always gone with quality over quantity), I don’t think I can dance or sing, I can’t really sew and I am not a great cook.  I could go on but I will end up getting depressed if I list everything I can’t do well.  So I got my approval by being busy, being involved in a lot of things all the time, giving people the impression I was a very capable, talented human being who has every right to be alive.

Now, it is being suggested that I don’t have to do to be.  If I don’t do who will I be?  My worth and identity does not come from what I do, I don’t have to spend any more time trying to prove that I deserve to be here, I don’t have to justify how I spend my time or what I prioritise as important. My head is literally aching, a lifetime of what I thought was important is being challenged and I am confused.

The other side of the coin is I should not judge other people based on what they do, I should not label them or assess them based on their qualifications, achievements, commitments, dress sense or usefulness (as determined by me).  Again, my whole life has been spent categorising people based on these, and many other, criteria.  Now, if I truly embrace the idea that you don’t have to do to be I have no idea how I will make sense of the world or the people in it.

Anyway, I must keep reading and hopefully this concept will start to make more sense.  I’m not usually a fan of the whole self-help genre but this idea really excites me, and scares me at the same time.  It sounds great in theory, I just don’t know how it will work in real-life. 

What do you think?  Does this idea that you don’t have to do to be mess with your mind a little bit?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Is time your friend or enemy?

As seen in the 100th edition of Maranoa Town and Country Mail
Time, ticking, constant, limited, time.   What do you consider a good use of time? Do you think you should fill each minute with activities, work, hobbies, commitments, chores and engagements?  It sure is easy enough to do.  All I hope for is to use my time to live a good and purposeful life, a life that will tell a nice story.  This seems more difficult than it appears; right now time seems to be robbing me of my good intentions and dreams.  Time is passing and my list of things to do grows ever longer.  Emily P. Freeman, one of my most favourite bloggers, wrote “Poke a hole in the bucket of time and let the minutes spill on to your lap and know you are loved”. Oh the serenity.

I am guilty of fighting with time, I try and get more out of it sometimes than is physically possible and I am the one left feeling exhausted, time keeps rhythmically ticking by.  William Faulkner, American writer and Nobel Prize laureate , who passed away in 1962 said  “Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”  I love this idea, it makes me think time could be my friend, it does not have to be the enemy, time could be beautiful, it could be enjoyed.

At the ‘Thrive Not Just Survive’ Workshop delivered by Christine Coop  in Roma last year she gave the analogy that time is like a flowing river and the only way to live a good, happy, healthy and meaningful life is to jump in the boat of life and flow with it, enjoy all the sights and adventures along the way, embrace it.  To try and paddle against it is exhausting, to try and stop it is impossible, to sit on the shore and just watch it go by is silly, to spend your whole life trying to paddle to a certain spot in the river is meaningless.  The idea of being at one with time brings peace to my soul, to be riding along with time, in a natural, organic way seems truly lovely when compared to how most of us chew up and spit out time constantly craving for more but wasting the time we already have. 

I think time is intended to be a gift.  Time gives us the opportunity to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us each day, time is what enables us to grow wise, to raise a family, to make friends to be gloriously and wonderfully alive.  Time does not rob us of our dreams and our hopes, time gives us the chance to realise them, if we know how to embrace the true majesty of it.

 Is time your enemy or your friend?