Learning new things. Knitting and life.

It was socks that did it.
Thick, wooly socks, on knitting needles, that I knew needed to be on my feet. I fell down an Instagram rabbit hole, admiring and envying anyone who’d cast on a pair of socks, any socks. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I dare you to type in the hashtag #knitsocks into your Instagram. Are your toes feeling cold? I thought so.
So then I rediscovered Ravelry (remember when I used to crochet all the time, and I even made little crochet apple warmers) and looking at all of the knitty, wooly goodness, I desperately wanted to be able to knit.

I mean. I know how to knit. As in, a knit stitch.
But I’d learned when I was 9, and mum would cast on the stitches and knit a few rows to get me going first, so I could see what I was doing. And she’d be next to me on the couch watching telly, and if I dropped a stitch or didn’t know what to do next, she’d be right there. Thanks mum.
But knitting a scarf when you’re 9 with your mum hovering over you is much different to knitting socks, flying solo.

A couple of knitty friends were very encouraging, and so I borrowed some needles, and used some yarn I’d had laying around and knitted the wonkiest, holiest little dishcloth. It’s actually terrible, you can check it out my Insta-story highlights.
But I was determined. I tried again, and the dishcloth was better.
I watched a million YouTube videos on how to cast on, how to increase and decrease, and how to undo rows and try again, and how to cast off. I was actually getting it. Understanding what each stitch looked like.
Then I made a beanie. Then I made another one because I realised I’d done the ribbing inside out, and still had enough yarn.
Each day when I get home from work I pull that soft, thick beanie over my head and I grin.
Because I made something. Because I learned something hard.
Because I can do hard things.

It reminded me of what we’re capable of doing if only we want it enough.
10 minutes ago I submitted my last assignment of my very first semester of my post grad in library studies. It was probably the hardest semester of my life. I learned new things.
I continued, even when I wanted to give up.
I finished the assessments.
I finished the beanie.
I did hard things, and I didn’t give up.

And I’m telling you this because this is the story you need to tell yourself too.
Too often I listen to the voice that says I’m not good enough, or I know nothing, or I’m not worthy.
But I am. You are. You’re worthy. You’re enough. You can do hard things.
What is it that you really want? What’s stopping you from going after it?

My top tips for finishing a knitty thing, which I think also works for finishing anything important:

1. Cover it with prayer. Sometimes this is just, oh God oh God when the stitches unravel, or when you drop one, or when you don’t know how to fix it.
Other times it’s long prayers in the car, breathing gratitude and laying it all down; the day, the future, the knitting—when you don’t know how to fix the big things.

2. Find friends. Five minute friends who help with frogging your knitting. Friends who live on the other side of the country and hold space for you. Friends who don’t see you as competition, who sit and listen and encourage and champion—your knitting, and your dreams.

3. Talk to yourself kindly.
Be kind. The way we speak changes the way we feel. Honestly this works.
Instead of saying, “I’m going to go and study and do this assignment and I can’t do it and it’s so hard” I’ve been speaking differently.
I’m going to go smash out a giant chunk of this assignment like a freaking boss.
Girl, you’re so smart, you’re acing this. You can do hard things AND give your kids long cuddly tuck-ins at bedtime.
Oh hey there knitter, look at you go, knitting like a pro. Dropped stitches beware, I am the boss of you.
It honestly changes the way we feel. About ourselves, and about the hard things we face.

We can learn hard things.
We can finish hard things.
We are the boss of the hard things.

xx

The April Booklist

This rather late booklist is brought to you by a freezing autumn morning, wrapped in a scarf, cosied up on the train on my way to the city.
Last month was just the beginning of the ways in which Covid-19 would affect us here in Perth. Libraries closed, I lost all of my work (being a casual) and the kids started online learning. This month our restrictions have started lifting, following other places across the globe. I’m looking forward to finally eating and reading and having a coffee at a cafe sometime soon, some are re-opening cautiously this week.

This month I was lucky enough to score a short term contract with our State Library.
So, this month, I’ve become a daily commuter to the city, and I’ve eaten bagels with crunchy autumn leaves at my feet, surrounded by architecture.
This month, I was prescribed reading glasses—I’m uni for all the time I’ve had to spend in front of a computer screen. But also, the glasses make reading books a bit easier, fancy that. Still not sure about the look of them, but at 35, I’ve found myself a little bit past caring too much about how I look.

Anyway, train rides are short, so here’s my list of April reads and some short reviews:

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Sometimes I feel a bit rebellious, and refuse to read popular fiction. If I see it too much across our library shelves, if there are too many reserves placed on our copies, I turn my nose up a little. And the hype surrounding Me Before You (I didn’t read the book, gasp, I watched the movie, and didn’t love it) turned me off Jojo Moyes. But for some reason or another, maybe it was the cover or the title, this one made it’s way onto my Kindle. I’d never even read the blurb. YOU GUYS IT’S ABOUT A TRAVELLING LIBRARY IN THE 1930’S. Yes I’m shouting! Why hadn’t I read this sooner?! I loved it. I loved the concept, I loved that it was based on a real band of women who took books to families in rural areas on horseback—horseback librarians! Yes! I love the camaraderie, and the little library, and the system devised to record who had which book, and the era… Apologies to Jojo Moyes for my hasty judgements. Your books are popular for a reason!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
This is one that has been on my radar for years. I love love love books set in New York. Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the early 1900’s comes alive in this novel. It’s sweet and observant and harsh and confronting. I loved seeing Francie grow up. I loved the book’s insight. I love that classics such as this one capture life in that time period yes, but also capture the universal truths of love and family and parenting and getting by and living.
It’s a beautiful book. Slow at times, painfully detailed at others, but poetic and descriptive and profound. I’m so glad I finally read it!

The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healy
I reserve books from the library a lot. When I come across one on Instagram, or someone recommends a title, I quickly jump on my phone and go to the library catalogue, and place a reserve. Then, a notification: the book you’ve reserved is ready for collection.
This one was the first of mine to collect from our library’s click-and-collect service during lockdown. I picked it up and looked at it quizzically, and for the life of me couldn’t remember why I’d reserved it. Oh well, I shrugged, you’re coming home with me. (Oh, you don’t talk to your books?) I read this after I’d finished a huge assignment and needed a breather. It reminds me of afternoon sunlight, a bed with extra blankets strewn across it, sourdough toast and almond milk coffees. I read it in two days. I loved the concept of a story set amidst the moving museum artefacts to safety from London in the Second World War. It’s gothic and almost creepy (kind of fails on the gothic front, if I’m honest). I wasn’t a fan of the love story, I feel like the women’s friendship would have been stronger and their story more powerful had they not moved to being lovers. But Lockwood Manor itself was the star. Who doesn’t want to imagine a large gothic manor full of museum taxidermy?!

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
This was the joint Man Booker prize winner last year. It’s 12 different stories, really. Each told by a different woman, somewhat interwoven from the previous. It’s contemporary, yet follows some of the woman back into their memories of the past. These women are British, and (mostly) black. And I felt like I was better for having read it. Which is why I love reading so much. Because our ability to empathise with others can only happen when we connect with their stories. And these stories are powerful, and we can identify with facets of each of the women. Evaristo doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff, she’s relentless, and the book sings from front to back, we are here, this is us, our collective experience and our individual stories, our mess and our hurt and our triumph, this is all of us.
Some of it is painful to read. Some of it is political. All of it is a feminist fist punch—some of it was too overtly political, and feminist-fist-punchy for my liking, I would have rather had the stories speak for themselves. That being said though… the last lines of this novel sum up its entirety:
this is about being
together

Quite a motley bunch, my April reads, but I was delighted to have gotten through that many. I didn’t realise how much I’d read last month until I looked back.
This month has been a bit of a dry reading month. I’m glaring at YOU, dumb assignments.

Have you been able to read lately? I ebb and flow, but I’m starting to flow again after the crazy Corona stuff kept me distracted and not super productive.

xx

Keep moving forward

My face is still red, hot from my run.
I’m buzzing with endorphins—the ones that come naturally from moving my body, from pushing through despite the stitch, and from my feet pounding (shuffling, maybe) the paths that wind around our seaside peninsula. Then there’s the happy knowing that I achieved a small goal, a determination to reach 5km again in my running. So my face is red hot, but I’m smiling and kissing my kids like a loon when I get home sweating.
I find myself singing aloud while I’m making my breakfast, and the smell of the sourdough baking has made me euphoric.
It’s a good morning.

It’s good because I chose it that way.
It’s good because it’s a contrast to others that haven’t been. The ones where I couldn’t wake up, where the covers were a weight and I cursed the sun for rising too soon.
It’s good because I know that wherever I am, and whatever is swirling around me, God promises to keep leading us forward.
It was this morning’s Psalm.
Psalm 28, and the very last verse.
“Keep protecting and cherishing your chosen ones; in you they will never fall. Like a shepherd going before us, keep leading us forward, forever carrying us in your arms.”

Keep leading us forward.
I think God is concerned with our stuckness. That if he can’t lead us forward, if we’re stuck, He’ll just carry us.
My prayer lately is that I am not stuck.
It’s easy to to fall into the trap of replay, of going over and over something in your mind, of being stuck in the refreshing of the same hurts or emotions or thought patterns.
Oh God don’t let me be stuck here.
He promises to lead us forward.
I think one of the keys to moving forward is to acknowledge where we’ve been stuck, what it is we’ve been stuck in—give it a name, give ourselves permission to feel it and then we can be lead forward.
Isaiah 48:18 says this:
Stop dwelling on the past.
Don’t even remember these former things.
I am doing something brand new, something unheard of.
Even now it sprouts and grows and matures.
Don’t you perceive it?

In Philippians 3:13 Paul writes about the importance of letting go:
“I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead.

It’s easy these days to dwell. Isolation has forced is to slow down, and we can’t avoid ourselves. Even in our social connecting across platforms like Zoom or House Party or FaceTime, we’re faced with an image of ourselves right there in front of us too.

But this time of quieting our souls and really living with ourselves can be just what we need to acknowledge what it is we might need to let go of.
And it might be painful.
I may have run 5 kilometers, but during the last two I had a sharp stitch in my ribs. I wanted to give up and walk but I didn’t. I stuck my chest out, I breathed more deeply through the pain, I grimaced and tried to stretch out my ribs, my lungs but the pain continued.
So I kept my eyes ahead. I pressed forward, fastening my heart to the finish line.
Because even through the pain He promises to carry us. Forward.

Keep moving. xx

More than enough

Read: Psalm 23, The Passion Translation

We’re all sitting here at the end of Easter Sunday somewhat stunned.
That was weird wasn’t it?
Whatever our traditions at Easter would usually entail, today wasn’t it.
And we tried hard to keep some semblance of normality, despite that we wouldn’t be gathering for lunch with our people, or doing egg hunts with cousins, or gathering to worship in our church buildings. We hid chocolate eggs and put on our new pyjamas and smiled and said happy Easter, and curled up to watch sermons online.

But if you’re anything like me, you refreshed Instagram 643,768 times, switched to Facebook twice that many, and scrolled, not really seeing anything, not really engaging, but hiding there in a social media stupor.
I couldn’t put my phone down today.

I already knew this weekend would look different—months ago, we knew that Daniel would be working, so we planned our Easter celebrations for Good Friday, and we egg-hunted and ate hot cross buns and gorged on too much chocolate already—but no one predicted just how different today would look.

This Easter we’re choosing to celebrate the joy of answered prayers—that we’re not where we were this time last year.
We’re celebrating the new spaces we’ve walked into, and the redemption of old hopes and dormant dreams. There is so much good, and I choose often to keep my eyes on that.

But even though I had hot cross buns rising ready for the oven, and even though I was busy shaping sourdough early, and even though I got to see some of my favourite neighbour-bestie-family faces while I pinched rosemary from their front garden… it was an uncomfortable Easter. It was the first in our entire marriage that we hadn’t spent together as a family. It was knowing I couldn’t visit my parents, because of travel restrictions. It was not being able to gather, either in worship or in friendship.
I was distracted, and unfocused and scattered.
I tried reading, picking up and put down my current novel. I picked up and put down my phone a bazillion times, wandered aimlessly starting things and then walked away forgetting what I was doing, and starting something else.

And all day I kept going back to the day’s Psalm.
I hadn’t realised that after the tumultuous prophecy of the cross in Psalm 22, that it was this one we’d be lead to; one of the most famous and well-known Psalms.
The Lord is my shepherd.
My Passion Translation Bible tells me that the translated word here for ‘shepherd’ is ra’ah which is also the Hebrew word for best friend.
The Lord is my best friend,
I always have more than enough.

I needed this Psalm today.
I needed it like I needed a quiet walk to gather my thoughts.
I needed it like I needed a tight squeeze from a close friend.
I needed it like I needed a hot cross bun straight from the oven, lathered in butter.


He knows what we need.
He knew today would be lonely the Lord is my best friend (vs 1), I’ll never be lonely, for you are near (vs 4).
He knew my mind couldn’t settle, He offers a resting place for me (vs 2).
He knew what the world would look like today, why would I fear the future? Your goodness and love pursue me (vs 6).

So on this strange Easter Sunday I’m grateful.
I’m grateful for the Word that became flesh, so that I could find the aliveness of God.
I’m grateful for the expression of Him across the earth, for creativity and beauty, and friendship and grace.
And for a God who does not remain silent, and for a cross that has the last word.

xx


It’s crazy but I’m convinced

Read: Psalm 22, The Passion Translation

Yesterday I stood at the coffee machine. I ground the beans for our double shots, let the machine groan as it poured them into our favourite cups as I thought absentmindedly about the Psalm I’d read and write through; I wonder how God is going to speak to me today.
It struck me suddenly and with full force. I know God. And He is waiting to speak.
I realised that this daily communion with God is no small thing, yet its a thing that is so accessible to us, so readily available. I imagined Him, leaning forward, his elbows resting on His knees, waiting for me to pick up my Bible—the inspired Word—and meet Him.

And then there’s the coincidence of today’s Psalm, Psalm 22. I hadn’t planned in advance to read particular Psalms on particular days. But of course, God knew… another divine ‘coincidence’ that makes me laugh and gives me goosebumps all at once.
This chapter’s opening refrain are the words Jesus echoed on the cross, “God, my God! Why would you abandon me now?” The cross that we celebrate this weekend.
The cross that hasn’t changed, even though the world has changed too much, too fast.

The next verse, “Why do you remain distant, refusing to answer my tearful cries in the day and my desperate cries for your help in the night?
I can’t stop sobbing.
Where are you my God?”

The entire Psalm prophecies Jesus’ death on the cross, and the victory after. The last line holds more words echoed by Jesus, his very last, as He hung there, waiting to die: It is finished.

This is why the Word became flesh, why Jesus became this living expression of the Word.
He was the Word of God, but with legs to walk towards humanity, with arms to reach out to draw us in.
When we feel like God is far from us, we can reach for our Bibles and find that He hasn’t gone anywhere.
Because we know what it is to sob and ask, ‘God, why aren’t you listening? God, where are you?’ when our lives are messy, and our prayers don’t ‘work’ and we could die of loneliness and old wounds don’t heal.
But the Word became flesh and reached out although we’re the poor and the broken, we’re invited to eat until we’re satisfied. (Psalm 22:26)
The Word became flesh and drew us to the Father, and He ascended but left us His Spirit— and it all sounds crazy but I’m convinced.
I’m convinced because He shows up in burning bush moments of white linen sheets hanging on the line, and a moon hanging large in a dark morning sky.
I’m convinced because when I pray coincidences happen, and when I seek Him in the ancient text He invades my modern life.

And in this waiting space, this thin space where all of us hold our breath, I know that joy comes in the morning, and that He was here all along.

xx

Sun-dried sheets, and the foot of the cross

Read: Psalm 21 The Passion Translation

I hadn’t ever used fabric softener until about a year ago. I discovered it was the reason behind a friend’s clothes, that always smelled so good. And I love smells.
I light double wick candles that crackle and send the warm aroma of patchouli and sandalwood into the room. I drip peppermint and bergamot essential oil into diffusers.
I spray little concoctions of witch hazel and lavender over our pillows before bed.
The smell of fresh baked sourdough makes me giddy, and the scent of a new book, or the Eucalyptus on a dewy morning. Scent makes the world come alive.

So, I splurged on that 900ml bottle of sweet-smelling fabric softener, and each time I carry a basket of wet laundry to the washing line I breathe in deep at it’s goodness.

Sometimes when I walk outside and the breeze is blowing the drying laundry, I catch it’s scent for a moment and it makes me smile.

Today I washed our sheets.
I walked through the tunnel made by them hanging in the morning sunshine, and breathed in deeply, enveloped in the white linen, smiling like a madwoman who hasn’t left the house much lately. And you know, God has burning bushes anywhere we’re curious enough to look at a more closely, and today that bush was my white sheets drying in the sunshine.

And maybe it was because it’s Good Friday, and the thoughts of the day were lingering in my mind, but the words to that old hymn came to mind as I moved my way through the sheets, and pegged down their corners; what can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus… oh, precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow…
And I stopped, smelling the vanilla and coconut, reminded that even my best efforts of goodness will never be good enough, but Jesus will always be, and the white of the sheets was stark.

And today of course I’m reading Psalm 21 and while it is maybe about an earthly king, I look past that and see the King that went willingly to the cross.
I see the One who laid down the royal crown of gold (Psalm 21:3) and let his glory garments be stripped from Him, baring it all for all of us, and all of our imperfections.

And this, from Sacred Rhythms by Christine Sine, on suffering; “… God uses it to bring us to a recognition of our own brokenness. We can’t find true health and wholeness unless we suffer pain and admit we need the healing and redemption Christ offers…”

So tonight, after a day of sunshine, and a wash in the ocean, I’m climbing into white sun-dried sheets that smell like vanilla, and I’m letting the suffering of this Friday sink in. I’m letting the weight of an upside down world feel heavy without trying to move on too quickly. I’m remembering that it’s okay to cry out, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ and sit here in darkness and loneliness for a moment.
Because if the Psalms are teaching me anything these days, it’s that it’s okay to sit with emotion, and to not rush to quickly from it’s grasp.
We can sit at the foot of the cross, and cry for the people we miss, for the lack, for the missing, for the broken and for the unanswered in our lives. We can let the melancholy settle in our bones, as people of the Cross.
And as those people, in the shroud of darkness of Good Friday, we can still carry embers of hope.
Hope that the partial will be complete.
Hope that the lack will be fulfilled.
Hope that the broken will be redeemed.
Hope that Sunday will come.

xx

A song of trust

Read: Psalm 20 The Passion Translation

We’ve had this album and this album on repeat for weeks. We’re all singing it under our breath, or out loud.

The shower is my singing place.
Our house is small, and we share a tiny bathroom with the five of us, and I’m sure my family laughs as they hear my voice rising from it’s echos. My imperfections and my tunes off-key and my made-up lyrics.
Sometimes that nightly shower is the first time since the morning quiet that I’ve been able to stop. The place where, finally, I don’t have an audience of children, and I don’t have to hold it together. The mask falls with that hot water, and that which I’ve held in can be released.
It’s a private place to cry.
When the tears turn to praises and the turmoil turns to trust, and it all happens in the shower, as the praise rises with the steam and the tears rise with them because I know He hears and bottles each one.
And there is a synchronicity that comes in the midst of doing both.
Because He promises supernatural help, and as we sing in the midst of the battle, that deliverance comes.
My natural isn’t enough. In fact my natural often makes a mess of things, but as this Psalm promises, by His mighty hand miracles will manifest through his saving strength.

Do we really know His saving strength?
What do you do when it falls apart?
Do we sing a song of trust? A trust that God will give you every desire of your heart and carry out your every plan as you go to battle.
It’s right there in this Psalm. It’s a promise.
Whatever battle we’re facing, He’ll bring victory.
And sometimes the weapon we need to pick up is our song.
Singing, for me, is a vulnerability. It’s one thing to hide my voice in a sea of them, but when it’s my voice alone standing up, reaching out without even an echo—that feels risky.
But in those battle seasons I’m learning to voice my prayers, my sorries, my thoughts, even if they’re met at first with silence.
Even if the shower is the only place I have to cry.
Even when the lyrics don’t rise to my lips in victory, I know that as I sing, as I speak, as I share, as I fill the silence, that the victory comes.
As King David sang this Psalm, His song of trust, I’ll sing too:

May we find connection in our isolation.
May He remember us as He paints the moon, and let us see Him in the dancing sunshine through our kitchen windows.
May he quieten us in our frazzled and worried doing, and busy trying.
May we know the God who fights for us, and feel the courage of that knowing settle in our bones, so we don’t rush frantic to fix what only He can.
May we see the manifestation of miracles, however small, in our every day.

xx