Cafe Series 2: Longer tables, loving thy neighbour

Cafe series: I’m writing from a different cafe each week, as a form of discipline, and self-care, and time management (when I’m here, in a cafe, I can’t distract myself with the books on my bedside or the dirty laundry basket. I’m just here, with a laptop and my words.).

Cafe: Twig & Sparrow, Woodpecker Avenue, Willetton
Drink: Chai lattes for two; Eden has joined me rather than go to school with a cold

Our new nearer-to-the-city suburb has pockets of higher density living than we’re used to. Our old house sat on an almost-sprawling block with a leafy backyard and room for cartwheels in the front yard, too. Here we’ve a pocket of lawn out the front, and the back is entirely paved, save for a tiny garden bed from which two pomegranite trees grow. We are one of four houses squished on subdivided blocks, and though our fences separate us, we are close. Close enough to be familiar with neighbour voices that float from living rooms, and food smells that waft from barbeques.
We’ve said hello to our neighbours in passing, had a chat at the letterbox or as we’ve wheeled bins to the curb, waved from cars coming and going.

One family is shy. They have been in Australia for years but the English language barrier still brings insecurity. Their faces are open and friendly, their four year old daughter remembering my name easily because of her love of Emma Wiggle.
Another are emigrants from the UK, friendly and warm—they’ve lived in their home for 12 years, and know all of the gossip about what once was, the history of our houses and their former owners.
The third family, our next door neighbours are gregarious, generous. “Come for Indian tea!” they said, “We’re inviting the neighbours!”
And then there we sat on a Sunday evening. With a merchant sailor, a doctor, mothers and husbands and us; sipping tea with crushed fennel and cardamom, and eating vegetables disguised deliciously and fried until golden.
And it was golden.
Listening to the stories of others.
Embracing their language, their food.

I looked around at my literal neighbours, our diversity, our obvious differences and the not so obvious ones – the journeys we’ve each walked, the experiences we’ve had. From colourful Mumbai to the cobbled streets of Manchester. To us, who have been born and bred here in our tiny city.
And it made me realise the beauty of the table, of invitation, of swinging wide our front doors and allowing others to enter our stories.
There is such a wild beauty in diversity, and it’s not until we sit down together, and look into each other’s eyes, listening to the stories of each human experience that we can truly acknowledge it.

There’s so much ‘other’ online. There’s so much ‘them’ and ‘us’. There are fences springing up all over the place, between communities who’d once smile and wave through all their comings and goings, but now look the other way, or worse. Fences are heightened, walls are built, doors are closed and blinds are drawn. As if differences in opinions, in backgrounds, in skin colours, in language, in religion, somehow all makes us too different to share a table; to bring our food, and our stories. To apprehensively taste something we haven’t ever tried before and discover new flavours dancing across our tongues, and a new generosity flowing from them.
“Your English is great!”
“You should come to our place soon!”
“This is delicious, what do you call it?”
“No, I promise we don’t hear you yelling at all!” Laughs.

Fences are barriers between us, but we can yell over them, across them – open them, walk around them. Tear them down.
With generous open lives, that make the effort to cross boundaries, move past discomfort, listen—no really, listen.
Because our children are watching, and embracing, and learning to tear down fences, too.
“Mum, my friend wears a scarf on her head and it’s called a hijab. It looks really pretty on her.”


Cafe Series 1: It smells like Eucalyptus

Cafe series: I’m writing from a different cafe each week, as a form of discipline, and self-care, and time management (when I’m here, in a cafe, I can’t distract myself with the books on my bedside or the dirty laundry basket. I’m just here, with a laptop and my words.).

Cafe: Bespoke by Barista HQ, Albany Highway, Victoria Park
Drink: Prana Chai latte (and a sneaky spinach and feta quiche which was incredible!)

It was the first thing I noticed, the smell.
It was the peak of summer, and the air was still and hot in the evening, I guess we were now too far from the ocean for the early sea breeze that I’d been used to. But the stillness of the air carried a different scent – eucalyptus. A green and woody aroma, with the unmistakable mint of gum trees.
It surprised me, like so many things did when we moved.
I wasn’t expecting a fresh, foresty smell so close to the city.
I wasn’t expecting it to feel like home so soon, either.
On one of our first weekends, I discovered our local IGA had fresh donuts delivered every Sunday.
As we sat at our kitchen table, trying salted caramel and passionfruit donuts, licking the filling from our fingers and the cinnamon sugar from our top lip, I asked the kids, “Does it feel strange here, weird living in a new neighbourhood?”
Where everything is unfamiliar. Where we’re not sure which turn to take, or where to get our groceries from, or who does the best fish and chips.
Where the light falls differently through the windows.
Where we’re discovering where the floor creaks, and which light switch to use.

They replied, “No? It feels just the same.”
Of course, it didn’t feel just the same. Everything was different.
Except us. We were still the same.
It was the same us, dancing in the kitchen at breakfast, and sitting at our familiar dining table.
The same mum using puns, and the same teens, eyerolling.
The same dad, and the same familiar sound of the coffee machine at the same time in the morning.
So they shrugged their shoulders and I knew that whatever adventures lay ahead, we’d do it together, because our together doesn’t change.

There’s so much fun and adventure (and terror and dread!) in change. I know people who absolutely hate change, and others who can’t sit still and the thought of doing the same thing daily for them is terrifying and restricting.
But there is beauty in stability.
I’m a girl who thrives on routine.
I like it when I can map my days, my weeks.
Same doesn’t have to mean boring.
Doing the same thing over and over can release us from carrying heavy mental loads, because the muscle memory does the work for us.
Which means we have more space (mentally, and in the laundry!) to do the fun stuff.

There’s comfort in sameness.
Comfort in the friend who’s always there – she’s changed over the years yes, and so have we, but our friendship hasn’t. It’s stable, trustworthy, reliable – through the storms and waves of life and different seasons, it’s steadfast.
But regardless of what comfort we find in things unchanging, we’ll inevitably face times of unsteadyness. When life doesn’t look the way it did, or the way we expected.
And in the midst of all that is changing across the landscape of our lives, we’re beseeched by scripture to still ourselves and drop anchor.
To hold tight amidst the varying seasons, jobs, family, and the shifting of what our world looks like – we’re to hold fast to the One who doesn’t change.
To trust that the unchanging nature of God will carry us, unwavering, even as we ourselves waver and wobble.

It’s then I can look to Him and say wholly, honestly, “It feels just the same.”
Because whatever shifts and moves and whirls around me, I know that He doesn’t.
He stays the same.

So, it doesn’t smell like the ocean here, but the eucalypt is fresh and the river bekons, and although the light falls differently, there’s still light. And hope.


embracing slow, again

Once upon a time, my friend and I wrote a blog series in the lead up to Lent, a significant time period in the Christian calendar from Ash Wednesday up until Easter. We wanted to slow down, to stop with the hustle, to sink our hands into work that felt wholesome and quiet, and unhurried instead being pulled along by the the noisy tug of the rushing world around us. For about 7 weeks, we each wrote one post.
Later, we compiled all of these essays into a printed book, and called it Embracing Slow.
(Side note: I still have a little stash of our second print run, that I’ve just packed into moving boxes – if you’d like one, let me know. They’re $20, including postage.)

During those days I was fairly busy (well, I thought I was) – I was at uni, finishing off my undergrad full time, looking after my family, leading a women’s ministry…

But lately my ’embracing slow’ message has seemed somewhat peremptory.
Now that I’m in the middle of packing up my house, starting a new job, continuing to work at my previous job, as well as managing the emotions and easing the transition into a very new space for my kiddos, and trying to have conversations with my husband before my eyes get too heavy of a night… well. I want to apologise.
I’m sorry if you felt inadequate.
I’m sorry if, while I was baking home made sourdough, and telling you to embrace slow, you were working two jobs, or caring for an unwell family member, or homeschooling multiple children.
I’m sorry if it sounded hubristic, if you felt lacking—if it made you feel like there was just one more thing you couldn’t do.
Because I’m there right now.
While it’s the holiday season in Australia, and schools don’t return until February, and many of us are enjoying slow mornings and bare feet and salty beach hair, I’m not (okay I’m still enjoying salty beach hair most afternoons, I’ll admit).
I’m working a crazy amount of hours, as well as packing up a house and wiping dust from forgotten corners, and brainstorming the simplest meals to make the family. I’m not complaining, and I am so grateful for my work, my income, and for finally packing to make a move we’ve been planning for a year!
I’m simply saying that I know now how irrational it can sound, this sprouting of the ’embracing slow’ message, to someone who is living a life without the luxury of time off work, or a slow summer holiday period to enjoy.

But the thing is, the embracing slow message has grown and flourished deep, and even in this busy season I’m reaping a harvest of deliberately unrushed and gentle rhythms, that I’ve been sowing for years.
So if you’re feeling like you’re drowning in busy, I’m literally there with you girlfriend, and here’s a few things I’ve learned to do in the process:

  • Stop the scroll. Don’t pick up your phone as soon as you wake up. Charge it in a different room over night if you have to. Wake up slowly. Even if it’s to a 5:30am alarm, you can still wake up slow. Stretch each limb. Let your eyes adjust. Notice the light. Make a mental list of the things you’re grateful for. Take deep breaths. And without spending twenty minutes scrolling, you’ve now got time to sip a cup of tea or your morning coffee by the window, or on the front porch, or read a chapter of a novel, or the Bible. Embrace mornings.
  • Let go of perfection. I’ve learned this out of utter necessity. There just has NOT been time to do everything. Some things I’ve had to let go of. Like the ironing basket – I’ll get to it when I get to it. No need to stress myself out about it. I’ll go to the beach instead thank you, please.
  • Meet in the kitchen. Our island bench is our communal space – it’s where we prep meals, eat breakfast, do homework, sip coffee, play card games (Monopoly Bid is our favourite, at the moment). I’ve made a conscious effort to stop here. At the end of a long day at work, it would be easy to hurry along the evening routine, but instead I’ll sit at the island bench. Often all three kids amble in, pull up stools, or lean against a cupboard, and tell me all of the inconsequential moments in their day. I could rush them, but then I’d miss this sacred, slow connectedness that comes from a stopping and eye contact. It might only be 10 minutes, but its one of the best ways I intentionally embrace slow.
  • Prioritise real rest… whatever brings rest for you. For me, lately, it’s quality time with old friends, wine, or coffee, and food, and good conversation. I’m scheduling it in, prioritising it, writing it in my calendar and smiling as it approaches. Life is busy, but we can’t wait for it to stop so that we can do the things that fill our soul. Make the space and time to do those things regardless of the busy.
  • Cook big meals. This is my secret superpower. Who cares if you have to eat the same meal twice? It means you’ve just saved a WHOLE night in the kitchen. (Also teaching your kids to cook is a win… Eden made us chicken and bacon fettuccini carbonara all by herself tonight and it was a fist pump moment).

One day, maybe you won’t be so busy.
But even in the midst of this crazy busy life, I believe firmly that there are always ways we can embrace slow and breathe deep, and snatch moments of deliberate calm in the midst of our day. I’m holding on to this today anyway.

Yours, knee-deep in moving boxes.


My act of defiance: hoping again

I was awake before the birds this morning.
Awake to hear my husband’s alarm ring out, awake to see the darkness fade into bright sky through that one crooked slat in the blinds. Awake to notice I’d opened my eyes to a Christmas carol, it’s tune softly humming in my mind, my favourite: O Holy Night.
This line A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices over and over.

Hope, I think to myself, head still heavy on the pillow, feet straying to a warm patch over by his feet, what is hope?
My mind immediately answers in the words of Dickinson, because my brain is always a jumble of quotes and poetry, Hope is this thing with feathers, that perches in the soul.
I don’t know Emily, I ponder, rolling over, I think hope is heavier than feathers.

There were moments this year that I’ve tasted hopelessness.
Where hope has seemed less like the thrill from my favourite carol, and more like a far away idea, evasive and selective. Where are you? I’d whisper to the dark, Is there hope to be found here?
And through valleys of hopelessness, I found that hope was something I could not escape.
I cannot hide from it.
I cannot give it up.
I cannot let it go.
Somehow, hope is my act of defiance.
That I dare hold on to hope, in the face of so much that feels hopeless.
That I defiantly keep believing that tomorrow will bring the answers. And if not tomorrow, then the day after that.

I’ve found time and again, that hope is the life raft in a rough sea.
Hope doesn’t still the storm, or placate the waves, but it gives us something to hold on to. Something that causes us to say, with a defiant upward tilt of our chin, Well I think the answer might still come. Maybe tomorrow.
And after a thousand tomorrows, after disappointment threatens to drown us, still we cling to that raft, and we stay afloat, buoyant in the churning and unpredictable waves.
The defiance in us dares to believe that tomorrow is a new day, and there it is, the fresh hope again that in this new day the answer will come, the miracle will arrive, the storm will cease.
We cling on for dear life to the life raft, and we feel our fingers slipping and we’re tired, and it takes everything for us to say the words out loud;
This is hard.
I feel alone.
I need help.

And I’ve found that even if my aching fingers slip, loosen, let go, instead of drowning, I find myself pulled in, and up.
It was a phone call, with a smiling voice on the other end.
It was a gift, a book wrapped in paper, unexpected.
It was an aunty’s empathetic ear over a morning cup of tea.
It was a city jaunt in the comforting company of old friends.
And then I realise that I don’t have to hold so tight after all, there are other hands holding us, that had already laid hold of us, as we laid a hold of all the hope we could muster.

And it anchors our souls, this knowing we are held, not adrift in a sea of chaos*

And right now, more than ever, our world is weary.
We’ve lost jobs, businesses, loved ones, friendships, communities, certainty.
Here’s a hand though – grab hold if you need to. Reach out, call for help, hold on.
Tomorrow is a new day.


* Elisabeth Eliot

Six months of Instagram: how we became friends again

It’s been six months now since Instagram and I became friends again.
It was ‘the great Instagram break-up’: you can read about it here, and my thoughts after a little while away from the grid here.

Our relationship has always been complicated—love/hate, I suppose they’d say. Really I didn’t love it’s hold on me. I didn’t love feeling like it’s slave, drawn to my phone in all of those unconscious, mindless ways. I didn’t love not being present for others.
I hated not being present to myself.

And I did not love the way I felt after I scrolled. Feeling small.
It know that my shrinking wasn’t the fault of the highlight reels, of the shiny families I’d see, of the exotic holidays, successful businesses, and beautiful influencers. I can’t blame any of them for my shrinking. The smallness I felt came from inside of me; they weren’t hemming me in (my favourite verses, 2 Corinthians 6:11 in The Message). But the comparison was making me small and I couldn’t hear myself amongst all the noise.
So I deleted my entire account. Thousands of followers, a beautiful community that had been built – gone.
I needed to quiet the noise, I needed to stop seeking created things and find space to hear my Creator.

At first it felt the way it does after you leave a concert: after the assault on ears and eyes, the hot mass of bodies, the sudden cold night air prickles your skin and the ringing, pulsing in your ears is disconcerting. Too quiet.
It was just me. An ocean of me.
Then I was echoing Nemo’s dad, “A fish can really breathe out here.” Smile.

In the early days I reached for my phone more times than I could count. But when I did there wasn’t another world to get drawn into anymore. No more interesting lives, or profoundly shared quips and ruminations. There were no more exquisitely dressed children, or expensively decorated living rooms, or stories to drown myself in.
Now, there was just me.
Me and the people in front of me daily, and weekly.
Then, I knew what it felt to be a slave to my phone.
Now, I know what it feels like to breathe free—to stare out of train windows, to study my daughter’s freckles, to chew on Words that bring life; He has a thousand ways to set you free, you are truly the poetry of God—his very handiwork, They will fight you but they will fail.
I know what it feels like to fold bread dough and to watch it rise, smell it bake and hear the crackles of the crust as it cools on the bench. I know what it is to look at each other over a giant slice, leaving butter at the corners of our grins.

I know how to witness beauty and really see it, instead of the rectangular version through the lense of a camera.
Then, after 10 months, I re-entered the ‘gram. Tentatively, intentionally.
And now, I’ve been there six months.
The world is much bigger than my grid of squares; 94 photos cannot possibly sum up the richness, the suffering, the beauty, the laughter, the tears, or the growth of six months of life. I know what it is to seek that beauty. To forget the world of squares, to be here in this one wild and precious life, to seek after what is True and Eternal.
But, it’s nice to try to capture and share some of that sometimes too. To share the beauty, and reveal our truths, and find those who say, ‘What, you too? I thought I was the only one’ (Thanks CS Lewis). To see and feel connected to other worlds, and lives and stories. To wear our hearts on our sleeves, in the hope it helps someone to no longer hide. To give our book recommendations, record the quirky things our kids say, to breathe deep at the ocean while saying, ‘look at this! Is it not magnificent?!’ while trying to pan the glory in front of us.

It’s okay to be there, but be right where you are too.
It’s okay to scroll and smile and watch, but clink glasses on a Friday with your besties while your phone sits at the bottom of your bag.

We can learn how swing our legs deliciously through linen sheets, taking note of our bodies, reclaiming our thoughts as we wake slowly to our day. We can learn how to leave our phones in other rooms, forget their existence.
We can discover what it feels like to read after the house has long gone to sleep, immersed in story until our eyes hurt, just one more chapter until we flick off the lamp, letting the story continue in our dreams.
We can experience the frustration of learning new things, like knitting, and the elation of completion.
We can sit on the porch without a to-do list, and crunch celery sticks slathered in peanut butter, listening to recounts of the world of our kids, remembering what it was like to be allowed to sit next to your best friend in class, get your pen license, run in a race.

We can be here and there. We can both/and. Successfully.

So Instagram and I are friends again, and I’m going back to who I was, who I am.
Just Em. Inside and outside the squares, but mostly just not worrying too much about inside the squares, just inside me. A whole ocean of me.


dear you–I see you doing hard things

Dear You,

I know. You’re sitting right in the middle.
That place where the hoped-for, longed-for, prayed-for things, haven’t happened just yet.
You’ve been waiting a really long time.
You’ve marched around the mountain, around Jericho, around in the wilderness for what feels like forty years, and there’s still no end in sight—the walls of the impenetrable city stand high and firm, the mountain is solid and immovable, the wilderness is vast and there’s no end in sight.
I see you trudging through, putting one foot in front of the other.
Some days your legs are weary and your feet drag a little, and you wonder why you’re not singing along with the rest of them, who seem to be making their way up mountains, who’ve found oasis in their own places of wilderness. Some days you feel like the end is near.
The Word speaks, and you remember that God is on your side, surely He has seen you, and not forgotten you. Surely He’s not tarrying with the promises. After all, you’ve prayed in faith, and you’ve peppered Him with all of the right scriptures, and you’ve torn down every stronghold in the name of Jesus. You used the three-step formula to victory the pastor preached on Sunday, and don’t forget that miracle offering.

Deep down though, you know that God is wild and untamed. You know the formulas don’t work, because there is none that fit the Divine who shaped the cosmos, who commands the ocean to hug the beach, who steers the moon to tug the tides.
So you sit in the middle in wonder, and wonder when? When will I be whole? When will the missing be found? When will the broken be mended? When will the lack be filled with abundance?
And then the Word says choose life.
Choose life in the messy middle, choose life as your feet drag one foot in front of the other through the dust of just-holding-on faith, of not-yet-answered prayers and the dust of doubt.
I see you stumble and rise, stumble and rise.
Still He’s with you. In all of the stumbling and all of the rising, he walks ahead, behind, alongside. Choose life.
Choose to see the abundance instead of the lack—a meal stretched for two days, the gift of fresh bread, additional work hours.
Choose to see the fullness, through the gaps—deep, delightful friendships, the warm faces of small humans risen from piles of blankets, winter sunshine on coastal walks.
Choose to see the healed and the whole, in the midst of the not-yet-fixed—look! Look how far you have come! Look how much wholeness has come from you doing the work alongside Him. Look how He is putting you back together, after all … all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe – people and things, animals and atoms – get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the Cross. (Colossians 1:20 MSG)

I see you. I see you choosing life, among the dreams that barely hold on.
I see you choose to see the good, believe the best, and refuse to let go of hope.
Even here, now, in the shadow of the mountain, in the messy middle, the in-between, the liminal, you can smile.
And that, my friend, is a gift.


dear you—don’t try harder

I’ve almost finished Aundi Kolber’s Try Softer and, it’s been both unravelling and solidifying.
You see, I’m the epitome of someone who does what she refers to as ‘white-knuckling’.
Gritting my teeth and bearing it. Trying harder. Pleasing more. Sacrificing and laying down. Being ‘good’. Reading Try Softer has made me realise how unkind I’ve been to myself all these years. Like a stern schoolmaster, I’ve frowned at her, quietly tsk tsked and shaken my head. Expected too much. Pushed down and aside the hard stuff and quickly moved on, instead of gently and curiously letting it out, laying it down.

I sit here now feeling tender, with a mouth full of stitches. I had my second (and final) oral surgery of the year, to fix my receding bottom gum. The first was a graft of skin from the roof of my mouth, stitched to the bottom of my gum. It turned healthy and pink, and then came the surgery to lift that healthy gum over the exposed roots of my teeth.
I white-knuckled the first surgery months ago.
Quietly freaking out, but silent, refusing to ask for help. I should have asked for help.

Maybe you’ve been like that too? Smiling on the outside while ignoring, and white-knuckling through the deeper stuff. It’s been a hard year. And my enneagram-four-self wants to talk about it. Ask you if you’re okay. Tell you to be gentle and kind with yourself, too.

Each day I’ve been journaling and realising that my internal dialogue has been getting kinder. And it’s changing the way that I talk to myself daily, and it’s helping me to hear the Holy Spirit’s quiet whispers, which are, as it happens, just as gentle and kind.

And I’ve been drawn here to this blank page to write to myself. And to you.
Dear you.

Dear, n. regarded with deep affection.
similar: beloved, loved, darling, adored, cherished.

Because I think we could all learn to be kinder to ourselves.
So maybe I’ll write us a letter once a week. Maybe it will be once a month (I’m being kind to myself, released from expectations or pressures that no-one but me will judge me for failing at. See? Kinder already) or maybe it will be twice ever. Or maybe it’ll be tiny letters in the form of an Instagram caption. Whichever way it comes, I’m going to be writing to myself, and maybe you can read and breathe and slow for a second and say, Dear you.

Dear you,

I’m proud of the way you’ve faced the hard stuff.
Today you failed to parallel park, and then tried again and nailed it.
For the lovers of God may suffer adversity and stumble seven times, but they will continue to rise over and over again (Proverbs 24:16).
Rising doesn’t seem to get any easier does it? Each knock back, set back, step back, wobble and stumble feels like you’ll be off-balance for ever. The room spins, your hands grasp for something, anything to hold on to, just to feel steadier for a moment, just to recover your breath, just to wonder what the hell just happened?
Some of those moments feel like you’ll never recover from them.
The feeling of loss is palpable this year, across the globe.
From the loss of small freedoms, like sipping a coffee at your favourite cafes, to the loss of the people you loved. You’ve lost friends, lost control, lost your keys, your phone, your hope.
And in that spin, as you try to steady your feet, and find ground that isn’t shifting beneath you, you’ve been stilled by the strength of God. You’ve let Him do the reaching out, the holding on. You have stopped trying to make Him work the way you want, like a magic genie, like a buddah’s belly. You just let Him work in the spinning and still the dizziness.
And then you realise it’s a dance, and if you keep your eyes on Him, the room might still be spinning but there’s wind in your hair and strength holding you above the shifting ground and freedom in letting go instead of holding on, white-knuckled and exhausted.

Dear you. Even when the tears pool in your ears, and the kind dental assistant wipes them way, He’s steading you, and you will rise, over and over again.

Love, me.

My answer to ‘go big or go home’.

I’ve been running again. I’ve always hesitated to call myself a runner, because I know so many more legitimate runners—the ones who run 100km marathons… or even 40km marathons, or even half marathons! My few runs a week, in my mind, didn’t count.
Recently though, I shared this photo of myself on Facebook, after a run (yeah, this one looks 100% better than my passport photo, thank you Instagram filters!) and a friend replied telling me she’s been running almost daily for months and feels amazing.

A run every day?! How far do you run? I ask her.
Oh, it varies, mostly three kilometres, she replies. Occasionally I’ll do six.
Okay… how long do you run for?
Only about 20 minutes each time.

What had formed such a strong idea in my mind that a real run must be at least 5km? That unless I sweat it out for 45 minutes, it doesn’t count.
Why didn’t I ever feel as accomplished just going for a 3km run, a quick 20 mins?
Why did I have such a go big or go home attitude?
What’s wrong with staying small, and consistent?

Since I freed myself from the idea that I needed to do a big 30-40 minute run for it to count (count for what, and to whom I have no idea!), I’ve run more often than I ever have. Because I don’t have to psych myself up, or scrounge up extra time. It’s just 20 minutes, I tell myself. It’s only a 3.5km circuit. Or, it’s just to the boat ramp and then back again.

And I’ve been consistent now for weeks. I snatch a moment here or an early morning there. I tie my sneakers and jog at my own pace, for whatever distance I decide—I have no desire to run a marathon, I just want to run off my thoughts, plod out some prayers, get some fresh air and return with a good dose of happy endorphins. And I do. And the kilometres mount up and before I know it I’ve run 10k in less than a week.

So maybe staying small, is a win, because small and regular is better than big and… never.
Because if I’m honest, the idea that something needs to be big, and impacting and perfect actually immobilises me from trying, from beginning, from just doing.
And if staying small is what it takes to give me the courage to try, without the pressure of perfection, or an unreachable and unattainable result, then I’ll stay small and stay home.

Staying small means I pick up my journal in the morning without the pressure of scratching pages and pages; just write a sentence or two.
It means I can sit down to read my Bible, and know that reading a couple of verses actually does count, because I’m practising a daily slow that stills the hustle.
Staying small means that, though I may not have a whole day to spend with an individual kiddo, I can sit at the kitchen bench and give them an undivided 20 minutes, often.
It means that simply reworking some leftovers for dinner the next night is small, and easy, but it helps me to consistently provide homemade meals and avoid takeaway.

So, I’m happy to stay small, and come back home, if it means I keep showing up in all the ways that matter.


what can happen in 10 months (when you don’t have Instagram)

When I was pregnant with my firstborn, my husband got up in the middle of the night and kicked his big toe. I can’t remember what he kicked it on, maybe it was the corner of the bed or a random object laying in the dark on the carpet. But I do remember being awoken by his shout, and then he probably kicked the thing intentionally, just to teach it a lesson.
The midnight attack of said random-object-or-bed-corner resulted in his toenail falling off a week later.
I joked often after our son was born, that I managed to grow an entire human in the time it took for my husband to grow one big toenail back. It was probably a year before he had a fully functioning toenail (side note: what is the function of toenails I wonder?).

Ten months ago I deleted my Instagram, without any real intention of going back.
I posted this about why, and then this about what I was learning, early on.
It was always about being less distracted, more grounded, and finding ways to embrace a slower pace—without the comparison to a bazillion other lives tearing my eyes away from my own.

The biggest thing I found was that I didn’t need Instagram to be distracted.
Maybe it’s human nature, or just Em-nature, but it seems that I am rather good at finding ways to zone out, check out, and procrastinate, even without my phone in my hand.
There’s Netflix and the bathroom cupboard that needs to be sorted, and five friends who want to have coffee, and books (not a bad thing but can be used as a distraction) and wandering through Kmart looking at things I don’t need.
Surprisingly I found it hadn’t been Instagram that was preventing me from doing anything meaningful, it was myself.
It was me, finding distraction from sitting down to a blank page, and it was me, finding other things to do instead of opening my Bible, and it was me, not taking captive runaway thoughts and letting them go like the string on a balloon.

Sorry Instagram, it wasn’t your fault.

However the biggest habit I broke, by deleting my Instagram, was the first-thing-in-the-morning scroll. This was massive.
I believe the way that we start our day, each day, is important. Crucial, even. And starting my day bleary-eyed and waking up to all the competing noise of social media was like junk food for my soul—easy, fast, but in no way healthy.
I broke the habit. I no longer had anything to scroll, so I’d wake up just like the pre-smartphone days. Hey God. I’m awake. Thanks for another morning.
My eyes adjust to the grey light creeping through the slits in the blinds, I stretch and curl my toes, move to a cool patch on the sheets, listen to the birds and notice changing seasons, changing light, changing me.
Sometimes I play with words or phrases in my mind, string poetry and prose.
Sometimes I reach for my Bible, or my journal. And when my kids rise early and reach for me, I’m right there, present. With them, warm bodied and aware of the absolute gift in front of me and not annoyed that they’re interrupting my covetous craving for that person’s holiday/bedroom/life scroll.

The same is true for night time. We plug our phones right next to our beds, and let the blue light dance in our eyes and we scroll trance-like, instead of seeing the gifts in front of us. Instead of listening to our bodies tell us they’re tired, instead of winding down with a book or with conversations. I’ve broken that habit too. Because the way we end our days is just as crucial.

But, after 10 months, I’m back on the ‘gram.
I missed the connection and the creativity.
But this time there’s intention around what I’m producing, and how I’m scrolling and interacting. Because life is so much bigger than that grid of squares, and I want to live it and feel it: elbow deep in kneading sourdough, snaking on carrot sticks and leaning over homework, saying yes when one of the kids says ‘can we go for a run/play Monopoly/watch a movie together’ and making eye contact with the other person in the room.
I’m back on the ‘gram, but for fleeting moments, and with intention.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.

Romans 12:1-2 The Message

Come say hi.


transitions and transplants

At the time of writing, it is 34 days, 9 hours and 50 minutes until the clock ticks over into a new year.
A new decade.
Twenty years ago, I was 15 and we were entering into a new millennium. I remember feeling the weight of it; there was a sense that I was living in an important time in history.
It was an important time in my own story. At the end of Year 10, I changed schools and ultimately changed the course of my life—the path I followed lead me to find Jesus, and lifelong friends, and myself and the church community where I met the man I would marry, only a few years after graduating.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I not made the decision to move schools, to seek a
fresh start.

This year I’m beginning to feel that weightiness again. The brink of a new decade feels heavy, important.
I sense the rapid passing of time, and there’s an urgency and intention that meets me in that space.
Maybe it’s because I’m no longer 15 but 35.
It could also be that this year has been just as transitional and profound as the year I started a new school.
This year has been uncomfortable and thrilling, frustrating and tiring and elating.
For the first time in 13 years, I shifted from the zone of work-from-home mum, to having an outside the home job—no small thing. Then, Daniel started a new job, after being in his job for almost twenty years—all this after he had worked hard for years to get a Diploma, and a Builders license and we’d almost given up hope.
This year has been so full of changes, and transitions and newness and adjustment.

We’ve unravelled and unlearned. We’ve been undone and been re-done and laughed till we cried.
We’ve worked as a team and high-fived each other every step of the way, but, it’s been hard.

A couple of weeks ago I stopped dead in my lounge room—I felt as if I had been slapped in the face.
There’s a transplanting that is taking place. My fiddle leaf had outgrown it’s pot. It was root bound. I had to find a new pot so that its roots could stretch out, so that it could begin to flourish again.
You see, I’d given it everything that it needed to thrive. It had water, good soil, the spot near the front window with the bright morning light. Regardless of all of the perfect elements, it had outgrown the space it was in, and if I didn’t transplant it to another pot, it wouldn’t survive.
It was in that moment in my lounge room I realised that sometimes we outgrow spaces, and that we can’t keep shrinking to keep ourselves there. We can’t stay small.
We can’t stay in doubt or in fear or in that place of concern for what others might think.
Sure, there’s a bit of trauma with a transplant, my poor fiddle definitely had a little shock.
When I slipped it out of the pot it had been in for too many years, its roots were densely curled around themselves, and so very squished.
The new pot got a load of fresh soil, and I had to forcefully pull apart some of the roots as a reminder—you don’t need to stay small, I know this hurts a bit now, but it’s going to be so much better in this bigger place. (I know you talk to your indoor plants too.)
Now it’s thriving again, unfurling new leaves in bright green, and not drooping sadly anymore.

The transplant is hard. Removing ourselves from spaces that limit us, lid us, and restrict our growth can be a shock.
But we need to remember that there is so much more ahead, in larger vessels where we can flourish.

One of my favourite life-verses talks about living in wide open spaces.
I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection.
Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!
(2 Cor 6:11-13 MSG)

The best thing about these wide open spaces waiting for us, is that He’s gone before us there too.

Things I’m asking myself on the brink of this new year:

What has kept me small?
What do I have to do to move into a bigger wide-open space?
What do I need to let go of?
What needs to be pruned out?

I’m making time over the next month to get honest, to reflect on what has been, and to prepare my heart for what is to come.


(As an aside, my friend Amanda has an amazing resource for those of us who want to intentionally move into a new year with vision and purpose. It’s a workbook called Seeking Clarity, you can find it in her shop.)