The May Booklist

May was autumn leaves glued to pavement by puddles. It was city commutes, train rides, vegetable soups and yarn up to my elbows.
It was contentment and faith and prayer in bucketloads. It was sunset runs by the beach, and stormy nights.
We’re both working hard, the husband and I. There’s a teamwork that flows out of what we do, as we move in and out of the house. He does some school runs and grocery shopping, I stay present and remind the kids about sports uniforms and netball training and homework.

It works.
And in the midst of it all these books:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This has been on my radar for years. It’s classic literature. In my Instagram post about reading this one I ponder the question of classic lit, and whether we like it because we think we should, or if it actually has merit. This one was a bit of both for me. It was a slow burn (pun totally intended). I didn’t really know the context of the story, and honestly it was not plot driven enough for me to really immerse into—but the nuance and the prophetic nature of this book were incredible. It’s set in an unidentified time (presumably the future, it was written in the 1960’s) where entire walls in people’s living rooms are televisions, and ears are constantly plugged with devices that tell stories. Basically humanity is living in an entertained stupor… sound vaguely familiar? Books are illegal, because books make people think, and firemen are employed to burn houses that have been discovered to have been hiding them. It’s a profound novel, with literary references scattered throughout. I’m glad I read it.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle
I have to admit I went into this one with a little bit of prejudice but I was internally apologising to Glennon for it after a couple of chapters. I love her writing style. She’s a lover and user of metaphors, just like me—I see metaphors in the simplest things, and the way she expresses them is beautiful. I loved the insight into her family, to the things she’s done well, to the undoing of belief systems and the questioning and doubting.
As a Christian some of it did make me feel uncomfortable. Not the gay thing, not the refering to using she and her as pronouns for God (which I actually love) but more the universality of the faith that Glennon now has. It’s a faith without a Saviour. It’s her Knowing the presence without knowing the Person. But that’s my own personal bias. There is so much I could say about this book. These are some quotes I scribbled down as I read:

“This way of life requires living in integrity. Ensuring that my inner self and outer self are integrated. Integrity means only having one self…

Diving into two selfs, the hidden self and the shown self, that is brokenness.

I do not adjust myself to please the world.

Judgement is just another cage we live in so we don’t have to feel, know and imagine. You are not here to waste your time to decide whether my life is true and beautiful enough for you, you are here to decide whether your life is true and beautiful enough for you.”

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott
Lamott is one of my favourite authors. She brings a realness and authenticity to talking and writing about faith that is hard to find within a church context. There are f-bombs. There is death, doubt, sex, alcohol and all of it comes back around to a God that loves us regardless, to a Saviour that died for us so that we didn’t have to pretend to be perfect. They are beautiful memoirs. And God as a cat at the door is one of the best descriptions of heard about God, probably ever. It’s irreverent and spiritual all at once. It’s raw and real and full of beauty and challenges our religiosity. I don’t hold all of Lamott’s views, or share all of her beliefs, but she brings something to the table that Christianity needs, and a voice that we should listen to, if only to keep our own faith fresh and alive.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
This was book club’s pick this month, and our discussions ranged from whether we think Cormoran Strike is attractive (the general consensus was yes, in a very rugged, largely muscular kind of way, and duh because a supermodel wanted to sleep with him) to whether Robin is smart (again, yes, but she comes across like a ditzy blonde and shouldn’t have to the extent she did) and whether we could see similarities in writing style to Harry Potter (definitely, especially in descriptions of the city itself, it reminded me of descriptions of Diagon Alley) and why we think Rowling used a male pseudonym (thus eliciting discussions about feminism). I really enjoyed this one. It was easy to read and fun.

What are you reading these days??

I’m intentionally diversifying my book choices and I’ve got a couple I’m looking forward to sharing already, in my June book list!

Happy Monday!

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

The January Booklist

Last year, setting a reading goal for myself was such a highlight.
And it really was for myself. Because reading is a form of self-care for me; switching off, curling up with a cup of tea and a novel, or sliding into a hot bath with a book, I know it’s something I love to do.
But who knows that the things we love to do are often the things that are shoved aside in favour of the things we should do, or must do, or need to do.
Setting myself a goal to read 40 books in the year kept reading on my radar.
Sometimes I would go a week or two without picking up a book, but because I knew I had a goal to reach, I always had a book on my bedside ready to go. Also, it helps that I work in a library and books are always on my radar…
But the goal made me read, and reading makes me feel like I am caring for my little self, and that has been a win.
So, this year I’ve kept the same goal, and the same thing in mind. Read. Read more. Read widely.
And then share what I read here, to keep me accountable. And also conversations about books are my favourite, so come chat!

You can also find me on Goodreads here.

So. Here are my reads for Jan:

Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Imagine. Here I am at the beginning of the year, ready to dive into a good novel. It’s evening. Husband is watching the cricket, I pull up my legs on our tan leather couch, freshly showered and wearing new pyjamas. I have a cup of tea next to me. The front door is open and letting in the summer breeze. Then I start to read. It’s slow going. Some of the writing is intelligent and insightful. I like the voice given to human stuff. But then over the next few days I keep reading, and I find it more and more difficult to pick up. It’s slow. The main character’s melancholy is depressing. The story doesn’t seem to go anywhere. The character is going places, physically, like travelling, but the plot? I don’t even know where it’s going it’s moving at a snails pace.
So all my ‘leaping into a good novel’ dreams are dashed, because this one for me was not a good novel.
Time I won’t ever get back and all that jazz. 1 star for the writing style. I don’t know how on earth this won a Pulitzer prize!

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Oh, you were hoping my January reads were going to get better? So was I!
What. did I just read.
I was drawn to this one because literary journalism is one of my favourite genres. This author followed each of these three women intimately for years, to capture their stories. I love that immersive style of reporting, Capote-style.
But this time, the result actually physically repulsed me.
It wasn’t the sex, truly. I mean, I can’t believe I’m even admitting this but I’ve watched Orange Is the New Black. I’m not a prude. I am not a G-rated only Christian girl who only watches Anne of Green Gables.
It actually wasn’t the explicitness of the book that I found so disturbing.
I kept reading, and waiting for redemption, and there was none to be found. What I wanted was for the three women to awaken to their identity, to take their power back, to have a happy ending for goodness sake!
But there was none.
And the idea presented that these kind of relationships are a normative expression of feminine desire and sexuality…
Just no.
I have to go wash my eyeballs. Another bummer.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Ahhh now this one was more like it. This was the one I read into the wee hours. The one I looked forward to coming home to. The one that took me on a journey. I love that the story is told through the eyes of a boy, as he grows up. I love the sense of foreboding that the house in the story gives, as if it’s a character itself—and it kind of is. This quote, that I quickly scribbled down, is an example of some of the profound insights into humanity, into our individual stories:
”There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you’d been standing on falls away behind you, and the future you mean to land on is not yet in place, and for a moment you’re suspended knowing nothing and no one, not even yourself.”
The book is less plot driven than I’d have liked it to be, and can be a bit slow in parts. But, after two novels that left me shaking my head, this was a welcome reprieve!

Cold Storage by David Koepp
Okay, this would not be a book I would naturally pick up. But, when Harper Collins sends your friend a bunch of copies for your book club, and she drops one to your house, and then reminds you to read it with the words, “It’s not what you think, give it a go I think you’ll like it!” then you pick up the book. And then you fly through it, even though it’s about a mutating fungus and a retired Pentagon bioterrorism operative, and science fiction but oh my goodness it’s thoroughly entertaining and actually I laughed out loud at a couple of places. It was lighthearted, and even though sometimes people exploded into green goo-like substance after being infected with weird fungus-from-space, I really liked this book. Honestly, I surprised myself!

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
I kept coming across this title in the libraries where I work, and it had me intrigued enough that one day I borrowed it myself. It follows a family fleeing from war in Syria and it does an incredible job of giving faces to the faceless refugee crisis that plagued our media outlets a couple of years ago. It gave them human faces and insight into their plights, and the risks they had to take to escape the war zone that had once been their places of residence. It sheds light on insufferable loss, on the repercussions of trauma, on hopelessness. Nuri and his wife Afra help to give voice to those who lost so much. It’s heartbreaking.

When Less Becomes More: Making Space for Slow, Simple and Good by Emily Ley
After reading Chasing Slow and Minimalist Home last month, I needed something to keep the ball rolling in my downsizing, minimising, decluttering life, and I came across this one.
To be honest, it was similar to Chasing Slow, but didn’t have the punch I expected. It was more focused on minimising our time on social media, and devices, than much about decluttering our homes or the minimalist movement that I’m experimenting with. There are definite faith overtones, and it reads like an extended blog. But I did enjoy listening to it as I decluttered my house some more.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising by Marie Kondo
Remember when this book went viral? I’m sure you’re familiar with her phrase about getting rid of something if it doesn’t spark joy. Well, did you know that she also empties her handbag every night because she thinks it will ‘feel full’ and then she also thanks it for it’s work that day. Needless to say, there are some ideas in this book that I won’t be implementing. But there are others that are more practical, and I think it’s helpful if you find it hard to part with material things, particularly if they’re somewhat sentimental. She doesn’t really address the practical things that we need to have in our homes, or give any ideas about how to store or organise those things. In that area I feel like Minimalist Home is much more practical. But I had to read (listen) to this book because it’s such a widely-read book in the arena of minimising.

So. I’m off to a roaring start, having seven notches in my 2020 reading belt.

On my bedside are The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, Roar by Cecelia Ahern, The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, and I’m currently listening to The Grown-up’s Guide to Teenage Humans by Josh Shipp.

What are you reading? Do you have a reading goal for 2020? It might not be as ridiculous as 40 books fo rate year – maybe it’s just one a month?

xx

Simplifying: Why I need less stuff

Right in my ear, as I hung out the freshly washed sheets in the summer sunshine, she said, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”
Marie Kondō that is, in the audio book of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
I’ve recently read Joshua Becker’s The Minimalist Home: A Room-By-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life and also Erin Loechner’s Chasing Slow.

They’ve all made me increasingly aware of the excess stuff that has made it’s way into my home over the years.
I have always been good at decluttering, and letting go of some of the stuff—you know, passing on toys and clothes the kids grow out of, and clearing the pantry of out of date packages… but it’s seemed that no matter how much decluttering I’ve done, the contents of our home hasn’t stopped swelling, and a significant amount of my time and energy has gone into tidying, reorganising, sorting, and moving a myriad of things into different spaces.
All of it to make me feel organised, clear-headed, and productive.
But what I’ve found is that even when those things are in a different space, and maybe not so visible, the stuff is still there, and still takes up space in my home and my life, and eventually the contents accumulate and spill out onto various surfaces, and then I spend more time, energy and money (plastic storage tubs anyone?) reorganising again.
The thing is, to our cultural standards, I’m sure that what I own isn’t excessive. In fact, as I’ve been more and more intentional about not accumulating more, I have been more conscious of what those around me fill their homes with—and more and more I want to excuse myself from the race. You know, the one you’re subconsciously running in—the race to have more, and new, and bigger and better.

I want out of the culture that says we must consume in excess.

Because my lifetime accumulation of stuff is suddenly overwhelming.

Today I cleared out three small bedside drawers, and filled a shopping bag full of rubbish.
It was full of notebooks I’d used only a few pages of, cords for devices I no longer own, dried up gel pens and birthday cards from years gone by. All the things I was keeping ‘just in case’ had begun to encroach on my ability to live freely, lightly. And all of it felt like wasteful excess. Unnecessary multiples whose only purpose seemed to have been only to provide momentary thrill and sparkle of owning something new.

I have yet to see a house that lacked sufficient storage. The real problem is that we have far more than we need or want. – Marie Kondō

Every year we try to take the kids on a staycation in our city. We stay in a hotel overnight, wander streets for coffee and ice-cream and order room service. It took me a while to work out why our time together at these times was such quality. How did we connect with the kids so well? Why was it so easy to give each other attention? How did conversation flow so freely?
I have come to the conclusion that this occurs because there was is no distraction. It’s intentional. Because the hotel rooms are empty of stuff, so our focus changes—there’s no tidying to do, so we invent things to do together.

I’m not saying I want a home as bare as a hotel room, but I do want to intentionally curate a home where the focus is on the people in it, rather than the stuff we’re surrounded by. Because even stuff that is hidden well in drawers and cupboards and excellent storage spaces and curated organisational containers, it still encroaches on my ability to breathe deeply the freedom that is found in undistracted time with people.

So this year I’ve made a quiet promise to myself. To explore minimalism. To not add to my wardrobe, kitchen, bathroom cupboards, or kids rooms without deep thought and intention.
To shop for needs, not wants.
To stop keeping things ‘just in case’ and to hold on to the material things in my life lightly. To create a home that allows me the space to love my people, and to have the time to pursue the life I want (and really, to spend less time organising and tidying my writing space, and more time writing in it!).

xx

How to do Christmas memories well: a step by step guide for us all

Here’s my (non exhaustive) how-to list to simplify Christmas, and enjoy an evening with your people:

1. Choose a Christmas movie. Specifically, choose Elf because it is the very best one. Following that, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is also a winner.

2. Don’t stress about the dinner dishes. Don’t snap at the family for not helping with said dishes.

3. Dessert need not be extravagant—a simple rice pudding (coloured green because, Christmas) and vanilla ice cream is perfect (our movie night tradition). Or, vanilla ice-cream with Milo sprinkled on top, a la our childhoods, is also a cheap and easy option, and just as loved.

4. Don’t worry about washing your hair, just have the quickest shower you can so you can spend more time with aforementioned people.

5. Gaudy Christmas t-shirts, mugs and hats are optional, but recommended. Pjs non-negotiable.

6. Take the time to get your bean bag just the way you like it right away, so the rustling doesn’t disturb the movie-watching.

7. Get up when the kettle whistles—without being resentful. Yes, maybe you cooked the dinner and cleaned the kitchen and made the dessert so why should I have to make the tea as well?! Because you’re creating memories, and creating space, and sometimes that means you either a) roll up your sleeves and take a breath and get it done or b) ruin the moment with your resentment. I recommend option a. Serve your family well.

8. Settle in. Don’t forget to take stock. Notice the way your 13 year old son sits against your husband, the need for affection unhidden and unashamed. Take note of the fact that she’s brought out her comfort blanket that she’s had since she was a newborn, and refuses to give up even though she’s turning 12. Smile at the way the youngest eats her ice-cream, methodically, intentionally, letting her lips only remove the top layer on the spoon at a time.

9. Laugh out loud. Laugh in anticipation of the hilarity that you know is about to occur. Laugh at the one liners and the slap stick and then laugh at everyone else laughing. This can only occur if you’re as engaged in the movie as everyone else. Leave your phone in the bedroom.

10. Catch eyes with your loved one across the room, where he’s sitting with kids’ legs splayed over him and Christmas lights reflected in his eyes. Let that feeling swell until you feel like it’ll burst in your chest.

And that’s it. All you need is your people. Or your cat, it’ll work the same. The other night when my husband was on night shift, I watched You’ve Got Mail, with only the cat for company. I pretty much had the same swelling, heart-bursting gratitude.
All you need is to be present right there in that moment. All you need is to be grateful.

It’s easy to get caught up in it all: the consumerism, the having and the buying and the doing.
I have moments where I feel like I need to keep up with those Joneses, the ones with their styled living rooms and extravagant new decorations and Christmas trees. I scroll Facebook and it tells me I need the latest Nutribullet, and that dress she’s wearing from Sportsgirl.
I’m pulling out of the competition though, because when I’m comparing, no one wins anyway.
I know by now that the want for more is insatiable, and immeasurable.

This I can measure though, but it’s not measured in the same way as collected inanimate things.
This life I can measure with gratitude. This living room full of living, breathing, heart-swelling, life-giving folk who remind me that I don’t need the holidays or the new things or the clean floor (okay sometimes I really need the clean floor)—that all I really need is to find the place within me that says, Oh God, I am so grateful.

And that is enough.

xx

on getting half way and holding on to hope

I’ve been running again.
It’s the best stress relief after sitting at a desk for the majority of my day.
I only do five kilometres, which takes just under 30 minutes.
I plug in my earphones, make sure my sneakers are laced up tight, close the gate behind me, and start jogging. At first, my legs feel heavy. Instantly I wonder how on earth I’m going to be able to make it the whole five. In my head I’m already working out a shorter route, the one that’ll take me home quicker, the one that’s only maybe three and a half, not five.

My heavy legs pound the pavement and I turn up my podcast or audiobook—I always run with something like this, I need the distraction, the focus on something other than how awful it feels as my legs turn to jelly and my chest burns (I’m definitely no athlete).
Something happens after a little while though, and I find I’m not thinking about running anymore, I’m just running.
By about 800 meters I can see the ocean, and by 900 I’m running alongside it.
It looks different every day and I can divert my mind from my sharp breathing with cloud formations, and the silky blues of the ocean as I try to spot the fins of dolphins across the surface. My face and neck develops a thin layer of sweat, and as the air hits, cools the warmth of my face, which I know is pulsing beetroot red.

There’s a half way point that’s marked by metal bars on the footpath.
At that point I can either keep going, as the path takes me home the short way, knowing I’ve copped out of the whole five kilometres. Or I can turn around, and go back the 2.5 it took me to get there.
I’ve been turning around. Almost every time lately, I slow slightly, take it wide and loop around those metal bars without stopping. The direction of the wind changes, and forces my ponytail to the front of my shoulder. I adjust my hair and carry on, knowing now that I’ve gone too far to change my mind. There’s only one option now, and that’s running until I get all the way back home, holding nothing back.

Running is a head-game.
The minute I tell myself I can’t, I won’t.
If I don’t let myself consider the can’t option, then I can, and I do, make it home fast.
Imagine how good I’ll feel when I’m done. I’ll be one step closer to that fitness goal.
In fifteen minutes the pain will be over. Look at your capacity—once upon a time you couldn’t even make it to the next streetlight. Imagine when you can go for forty minutes.
Those thoughts keep me buoyant. One foot goes in front of the other and I don’t stop.

Life is a head-game too.
And hope-thoughts keep me buoyant, putting one foot in front of the other.
It’s so tempting to stop sometimes isn’t it? It’s tempting to take the short road—the easier one that doesn’t have as many benefits. Some days, it’s harder to block out the thoughts that come and tell you that you can’t. Some days you believe that you can’t, and that giving up is the only option.

Buoyancy. I believe we were designed to live light.

Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life… For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.*

And one of the ways I stay in that place of less worry, less anxiety, is by making sure I’m winning that head-game.
Just like when I run, I refuse to consider the idea that maybe I can’t.
Just like when I run, I focus on beauty instead of the pain I might be feeling.
And just like when I run, I don’t stop when I’m half way—I hold on to hope.

God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind.**

xx

* Matthew 11:28-30 TPT
** Isaiah 40 MSG

pen and ink: an old-fashioned revolution

I sent out an email last week.
My first, to a list of people who’ve chosen to read my words and connect with this online space of mine.
It’s got a little story, and a little something I haven’t shared here, and a little list of things I’m loving, and a little list of how-to ideas in embracing slow.
It felt sweet to write, because it was going to people who’d said yes to receiving my words… different to blogging and posting out into what often feels like a silent void (hello, anybody out there?).

I called the e-newsletter pen and ink, because for quite a while now, that’s where I’ve been showing up—in pen and ink.
In words on the page.
In early mornings.
In my Moleskine journal and my (new, Mother’s Day gift – that I bought for myself and gave to my family to give back to me, isn’t that how we should do it?) fountain pen.

I sit, and the ink flows out, and sometimes it’s neat and sometimes it’s messy and I’m not just talking about my handwriting.

So when I was putting together my email I just kept thinking, I wish I could write this in ink, on paper. I wish I could connect with people behind the screen. And a little seed of an idea started to grow.

The seed began when I read a chapter in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. She advises to just write, keep writing and don’t stop writing, and tells a story where she wrote letters and poems for people. She’d set up a spontaneous writing booth at a Summer Festival and had a waiting line all through the day. People would give her a subject line or ask her for a poem on a topic and she’d just write. “My rule was that I filled one side of a piece of standard-size paper, did not cross out, nor did I stop to reread it… I filled a page like I did in my notebook. It was another form of writing practice.” Natalie then says years later she got a letter from a man claiming that when he joined the Coast Guard he only took two things with him: photos of his family and what she’d written him three years before at a summer bazaar.

I want to write for people words that they’ll tuck up and carry with them for years later.
I want to write words that inspire and uplift, just the way I try to do here, only with paper and ink.

So, at the bottom of my email, I wrote this:

If you got this far, I’d love to reward you with a real letter on paper written in ink. A love letter from my heart to yours. The first three people to reply with their mailing address, will get one in the mail for real.

I thought maybe one person would respond.
I doubted, thinking letter-writing is probably too old-fashioned, a bit out dated, and a rather nerdy endeavour for the common population to care for (all three of these are perfect descriptions for me, by the way!).

Well I thought wrong.

The responses came rolling in. Actual, real-live people from across Australia were replying, responding. Saying yes I want real human connection away from the screen. Yes to pen and ink. Yes to words scrawled by a stranger, folded into an envelope and slid into iconic red boxes, whisked to their letterbox.

So I didn’t stop at three.
So each evening I’ve been writing letters and praying as I write. And the words are laced with hope and encouragement and grace, and I’m sending these hope-words and handwritten prayers to people I’ve never seen face to face.

I don’t know what they look like, I don’t know what season they’re in, I don’t know their struggles or triumphs or their quiet daily wins. But I’m sending prayers and I’m sending a whole lot of vulnerability, and a whole lot of cheerleading and high-fiving (and, a spearmint and chamomile teabag from me too).
In words, on paper.

One person responded to tell me she was going to buy some paper so that she could write a return letter, and while she’s at it, she’d write to other friends across the country – and that maybe I might just have begun a revolution.

A revolution of championing each other, with the written word.
How fun.

xx

scuffed around the edges—where the grace is

I stand in front of an old church.
The worn fibro is dirty, weather marked and scuffed, like my hightops. 
The weatherboard was painted fuchsia pink, who knows how long ago, and why?
The skinny cross perched beneath the roof’s ridge is a little bit crooked.

Aren’t we all though?
Aren’t we all a bit bruised, and a bit broken? We’re a little bit scuffed around the edges and we’ve tried to paint ourselves brightly, but it’s tiring isn’t it, all this pretending? It’s tiring, keeping our halos straight with all the doing.

I’ve been the Pharisee on the street corner, praying loud and alluding to a holiness that doesn’t exist. I’ve been the disciple that whispers to Jesus to hurry on because I’m hungry. I’ve been the rich man who can’t experience the presence of God because I don’t want to let go of my grasp on the world. I’ve been the woman at the well, and missed the point—seeing what’s in front of me without understanding the heart of Jesus.
I’ve seen in black and white, I’ve lived as judge and jury. I’ve done good and looked good without any real goodness. I’ve been a legalist, and I’ve been blinded by pride.
I’ve tried and failed a hundred ways to save myself.
And Jesus says He didn’t come to call the self-righteous, but the ones who fail to measure up.
And suddenly I’m glad not to measure up.
I’m glad to walk with a limp and wrestle with doubt and sit at the table with the scorned and the outcast.
Jesus reaches out without hesitation to touch our leprous skin, wash the dust from our tired feet.

And now, grace abounds and walks around the edges of our everyday experience.*

My edges are scuffed but that’s where the grace is.
I’m worn out by religion but the person of Jesus offers something more.
I’m tired of trying, but I don’t have to—I can’t save myself anyway, and grace abounds.

Grace abounds.
Grace abounds in the mess; when churches are burning and when muslims are hurting, when Christians are judging not loving, grace abounds.

I won’t hide my limp or pretend piety or try to straighten my wonky halo.
I’ll stand over here at the edges, scuffed and dirty—where the grace is—and make room for you, too.
We are not saints, we are not perfect and we are not very loving at all* but there’s grace here.
And this is the divine mystery: that it was for our broken hearts, our mess and our mistakes that He died.
He died loving us; seeing past our mess, seeing through our mistakes—despite and because of our shame.

He died so we could be free from the doing and the earning. Now we don’t have to paint ourselves in bright colours or try to cover our brokenness.
Nothing we can do can save ourselves.
Here, at the cross we can allow Him to touch our scaly skin and see our broken parts; accepting the gift He holds out, so that our hurts can become our hope.

It’s a Good Friday indeed.

xx

* Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
*
Richard Rohr

rambling: on living a quiet life

I love the word rambling.
To ramble to me is to walk without a particular destination in mind, just to walk for the pure enjoyment of walking. And when you’re walking for the pure enjoyment of it, you notice things you wouldn’t have before.
Then there are the rambling words. Snippets of sentences, poetry, stories, ideas—they ramble through my brain at a pretty constant pace. If I pay attention, I can pull them out, write them down.
Like this phrase that’s been repeating itself in there lately, live a quiet life, mind your own business, work with your hands… it’s from a scripture in the Bible* and it’s been speaking to me.

We escaped suburbia on the weekend for a sneaky getaway for a few days.
We stayed at our favourite caravan park, pitched our tent so that it nestled under the peppermint trees, and spent days being the only people on glorious beaches with white, squeaky sand and turquoise waves.
We climbed over rocks, swam in our underwear, and caught salmon from schools of them right behind the breakers. We had no phone reception and played board games at night, drank tea from enamel cups and slept on blow up mattresses. All of my favourite things.

Live a quiet life.
There’s so much pressure to shout. To advertise everything we’re doing, to hustle, to ‘make something’ of ourselves. We’re shouting about our accomplishments, about our travels. Shouting our opinions—loudly voicing exasperation at the state of the worlds politics/religions/inequality. And I’m not saying I’m not just as exasperated as the next person, and I am not saying that those of us who are being a voice for the voiceless and standing up against injustice are wrong, not in the slightest.
Those of us though, who sprout opinion in the form of venomous personal attacks from behind a screen are shouting, and need to stand down.
Those of us trying to hustle to be seen and heard amongst the noise of the crowd, take a deep breath and ask yourself why.
Live a quiet life.

Rise early, sit with hot cups of tea, read books, have long conversations on the phone as you mindlessly fold the laundry, pray for the friends whose names cross your mind as you’re driving or doing the dishes.
Sit patiently with your little people to help with homework, or listen to long-winded stories about the latest YouTube video or Fortnite game, give embarrassing hugs at school drop off, eat slices of apple with them in patches of sunshine on the front verandah.
Pop the top off a Corona and sit with your soulmate, clink the neck of your beers together and grin, remembering why you chose each other.
Live a quiet life.
There’s so much beauty to be had in this quiet life—deep breaths of it that fill your lungs with gratitude—none of it can be conveyed in an Instagram post or 140 characters of clever words.

There is more room for the sacred, here in the quiet life.
The rhythms of the every day become soul-filling when we’re not hustling and scrambling and trying so hard to snatch more more more, something else, something brighter, shinier.
In the quiet, we can hear so much better.
Notifications off. Minding our own business, working with our hands (to stop them from scrolling, perhaps).
Rambling, content in the here and now.
Living a quiet life, enjoying the view.

xx

*1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

live brave

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. – e.e. cummings

I’m sitting here, at my desk and the washing machine is whirring in the background.
The lights are on this morning because it’s overcast—a tiny taste of autumn that I know we won’t see much of until later in the month, it often stays hot all through March and into April here.
I’ve been scrolling through photos from last night’s intimate book launch.
Amanda and I gathered our respective circles, and we celebrated with pancakes and champagne. (You can get a copy of our little book here.)

And today I woke up in awe of humanity.
Some of our friends toasted to our braveness and vulnerability last night.
And it does take courage to produce, create and deliver something into the world—but when I was speaking to that circle last night I wanted to applaud them all for being brave too.
It takes courage to do a whole lot of things.

I was thinking about one of our friends who’s considering going back to University to study teaching—he’s done his fair share of brave, and this is another big leap.
I was thinking about a precious woman and her marriage that she’s been fighting for for years, making the brave decision to lay down the fight.
I was thinking about the courageous ones who are working on their own manuscripts, facing their own past to bring healing into the world with their words.
I was thinking about the ones who wake up in darkness, and struggle to shift it throughout their day, but they soldier on, bravely, for their families.
Then there’s the woman who’s embarked on her own business, invested every penny and worked around the clock—it doesn’t look like it’s taken much, but she’s given it everything she has and I salute her too.
I was thinking about the ones who have bravely laid down their own dreams, sacrificed or delayed their plans, for someone else in this season.
There is so much brave in the world.
There are so many who have walked night seasons, who know struggle and pain and continue to get up and embrace the fresh mercies of a new day.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day that some faith traditions acknowledge as the beginning of the ancient Lent season. A period of repentance, and fasting, and recognising our deep and always-failing humanity, and waiting expectantly for Hope to arrive.
Alicia Britt Chole, in my favourite Lenten devotional 40 Days of Decrease, says in Day 1:
I invite you to consider Lent as less of a project and more of a sojourn. A sojourn is a “temporary stay at a place.” And a “stay” is about presence, not productivity.

Regardless of whether you acknowledge Lent or not, I think ‘Embracing Slow’ is always a good idea.
Presence over productivity.

Going against the grain is never comfortable, but comfortable doesn’t require bravery.
Are you purposing to slow over this season?

xx