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?!

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.

xx

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.
Transplanting.
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.

xx

(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.)

adrift, little boat

Are you in a transition season?
I feel you, girlfriend.
Yet when I look back on the last six months, I can see the way that God was weaving and fitting the pieces of my life together, when at the time, I didn’t think they made sense. 
To me they were scraps of paper, half written paragraphs, and unfinished poems. I wondered why; why here, why now, this is not what I expected.
Each day I’d walk from my car to the office and ask God, ‘What do I need to learn in this season? What is it about this place of transition that I need, to be able to enter into the new?’

 Our family has walked so many transitions over the past year. 
Change, even when it’s been much anticipated and excitedly expected, can be difficult. It’s tricky finding your feet when the ground beneath you feels like it’s constantly shifting. Constantly feeling like you’re balancing precariously across an unfamiliar path can be exhausting. I have felt exhausted.

Often, it’s not until we look back on certain seasons that we begin to understand the way they fit. The way that God held them all together—going before us, writing our days together and seeing the end when we couldn’t. He knows the messes we’ll make before we make them, and still He’s willing to hold us, and help us. 

 A friend and I walked this week and she described transition seasons so beautifully. She said it’s like being adrift in the ocean, where the fog is too thick to see what comes next, or which direction to go. When sailors face this on their ships they cut the engines, they pull down the sails and they watch the sky. Because you can’t go full steam in any direction when you can’t see what’s ahead.
They watch the sky and wait. They wait, with their eyes fixed up

 It’s what I did. I watched and waited. I wondered what God was up to, and relinquished those things I couldn’t control. I voiced my hopes, and asked and trusted that He knew what he was doing. The fog was thick, but I knew that if I watched and waited long enough that the sky would clear and the path would be visible. Today, I feel like I’m sailing gently out of the murky waters. The fog is lifting and I’m beginning to see the path I need to take, and why I needed to drift right here into this moment. 

 Today I want to encourage you that whatever season you’re in, you can trust that God holds you. That He goes before you, and that if you pay close attention, you might just see what He’s up to. This poem from Song of Songs has brought comfort to me recently and I wanted to share:

The season has changed,
the bondage of your barren winter has ended,
and the season of hiding is over and gone.
The rains have soaked the earth
and left it bright with blossoming flowers.
The season for singing and pruning the vines has arrived. 
I hear the cooing of doves in our land, 
filling the air with songs to awaken you
and guide you forth.
Can you not discern this new day of destiny
breaking forth around you?
The early signs of my purposes and plans
are bursting forth. 
The budding vines of new life
are now blooming everywhere.
The fragrance of their flowers whisper,
“There is change in the air.”

If you feel like your little boat is adrift on unknown waters, just cut the engines. Don’t be too hasty to make decisions. Stop and still. Maybe put a hand out, let it float in the calm. Before long, the fog will lift and you’ll know where it is you need to go. For now, rest assured that indeed there’s a new day of destiny breaking forth around you. 

xx

Who says? How questioning is actually a good thing.

The other day, my friend Amanda’s Facebook blew up with a photo of her in her new ugg boots, and her implying that she’s tempted to wear them to the school run.
It blew up.

I used to be the kind of person who was okay with going along with the norm.
Oh, that’s how it’s done? Okay. Without a second thought.
We don’t wear that in public? Okay.
Whether it was school, or society or church. Is that how we do it? Okay. Then I’d follow, blindly.

I’m a little less blind these days, and a little less of a follower.

Who says? I think to myself now. Who made the rules?
Why do we do things that no longer serve us, simply because that’s the way they’ve always been done?

Grace Hopper, an American scientist said this;
“The most dangerous phrase in language is, ‘we’ve always done it this way.’”
I think the danger of it is that we stop thinking for ourselves and without realising it, we’ve adopted certain thoughts and ideas—before we know where they’ve come from, or whether they’re even good for us.
We stay immature in our thinking, and our doing.
I think the passage in Romans 12 speaks to this.

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. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

When we’ve begun to question the status quo, but the people around us are content, and wonder what’s wrong with us, and why we’re suddenly so adverse to the bandwagon we find ourselves passengers on… going against culture is uncomfortable and isolating.

Thinking your own thoughts is mostly not a group activity, unless you love offending people.

I remember the first time I used the word feminist in conversation with someone, and I could physically see the shudder of revulsion in the friend I was talking to. I couldn’t understand why—I’d just discovered how radical Jesus loved, and cared for and honoured women, in a time period they were constantly oppressed, rejected and forgotten. I realised that when the Bible talked about men and women both being created in the image of God, and both bringing gifts of equal importance and value to the table, that Jesus was and is and always will be for love and acceptance and equality between men and women. And that it was okay to fight for equal pay, and equal rights for women, and that I wasn’t crazy for thinking so.
She had not only a visible reaction, there followed a verbal one too.
One that downplayed the word feminist, that tempered the reality of today’s oppression for women, that very gently and firmly shut me down.
I was not only confused, but I was indignant and I was a little bit angry.
I understand the baggage that goes along with the word feminist. I get it.
But who says I can’t be a Christian and a feminist? Who says?
Who says that the patriarchy is okay—in society, in The Church, in business?

Since then, I’ve learned to lean in to my questions, and trust that my questioning is a good thing.

Questioning leads us to seek out and search for the answers to our big wonders.
And the answers we discover by ourselves—by diligently holding a sense of curiosity and wonder—are the only ones that seem to stick.
Those answers are the ones that line up with our convictions, that seem to shout a yes to our souls that no platform, podcast or person can give us.
They’re the ones that deepen our faith, confirm our convictions and bring a content knowing that we can answer why it is we do what we do, or think the way we think.
Questioning takes work. And a bravery to dig deeper and not be afraid of finding answers that make us uncomfortable, because they might just change the lens that we look at the world through.

Maybe we’re wrong, maybe we’re not, but we’re each on a journey of discovery and questioning is crucial.

So, who says you can’t wear uggs in public? Who freakin’ says?
I’ll be over here walking my daughter to school in them, shamelessly.

xx

PS my cute little EMU UGGS are the absolute best. I’ve had them for two years and they still look and feel brand new… even after all my school runs 😉 And this is in no way sponsored, but Emu are an 100% Australian made and owned small business, unlike another very well known UGG brand. If you’re in the market for ugg boots, you can’t go past them.

life stories | josh & leigh

I haven’t blogged much of my photography this year.
I’ve shot five weddings, some beautiful couples freshly engaged, newborns, and families.
This family.
I’ve been able to watch part of Josh and Leigh’s journey, as they’ve parented their beautiful Piper – diagnosed with 22q11.2, a syndrome that’s affected Piper’s hearing, eating and a whole host of other things that have meant a rough start to her tiny life, and a pretty brave one for her parents.

Their faith is astounding. That they would continue to face odds that don’t look like they’re in Piper’s favour, yet they never let go of their hope in God, in the possibility of healing, in believing for a miracle. There is something about a person who’s faced heartbreak head-on. Something substantial and deep and kind. Josh and Leigh are all of these.

And then there’s Piper. She’s a bright spark, signing ‘finished’ in Auslan to her parents about five minutes into our shoot. She’d smiled once, and we were done as far as she was concerned.
And Josh and Leigh bribed her to smile for more photos – as every parent of a toddler ever has.

Her facial expressions are priceless, she observes everything around her and misses nothing, and she is oblivious to how much joy she gives anyone who has the pleasure of watching her.
I was captivated by her little hands the whole time – signing, pointing, and wrapped around the necks of her favourite people in the world. These photos are some of my favourites, ever.

xx

heart and soul in the here and now

There was a job advertised that I wanted. 
It was perfect. 
And everything in me knew that if I applied for it, I would have a really great chance of it being mine. 
In the space of 30 seconds I’d dreamed of what it would feel like to call myself a ‘content editor’ or an editor at all really, and these thoughts contained all the elation and all the excitement and then all of it was sucked out again as reality fell hard and fast. 
The reality is that I’m still a semester and a half from getting my degree. 
I don’t have a spare 20-30 hours a week or a free finger to spin another plate. 

I study full time.
I walk my girls to school every morning, and I drive every afternoon to pick up my high-schooler. Those three little people take up time, and space and emotional energy as I love them into growing up. I have a coffee every afternoon when the hardest worker of us all arrives home, exhausted, and we tea together in the evening, on our bed with books and Bibles or Netflix or nothing but each other. 
All five of us sit around our kitchen island bench every evening without fail and we eat together a meal that I’ve either poured love and creativity into, or hurriedly thrown into the oven and apologetically plated after. 
I nest our house into a home. My people wear clean clothes, and take full lunchboxes to school daily. 
I’m also sold-out-invested-head-over-heels involved in my local church. I volunteer time and energy and effort and brain capacity into working and serving and creating alongside people I call family. 
See? I don’t have a spare 20-30 hours a week to land a job I would love to spend the rest of my life doing and when I realised that, for that moment, the reality crushed me and I resented my season.

But then, in a burst of glory I remembered past seasons I had wanted to hurry through. 
Ones that I think of now with strange nostalgia, and a deep need to slow the clock and number may days. Number them; not to worry about when they’ll end, but to slowly and intentionally appreciate each one. 

Because right now, summer is fading. The mornings are crisp and cool, and the sun seems dimmer in the day, and I know even the crunchy autumn leaves that adorn the trees in gold will fall and leave the branches bare soon. Seasons come and go and in every single one there is so much beauty to behold. The natural seasons remind me that the ones in my life are not endless. 

So I guess what I am reminding myself of is that whatever I’m doing, I’ll put my heart and soul into, in that moment. Until the season shifts.

xx

thoughts like little trees

I’m currently reading Dr Caroline Leaf’s Switch on Your Brain. 
Slowly.
It’s science, backing up scripture, backing science – and all about our thought life. 

If I’m honest (which I am, always) and vulnerable (which I try my best to be in this space, despite how difficult it can be!) I thought I had my thought-life under control as much as I could, but there was a part of me that resigned myself to the fact that I was always going to struggle with darkness in my mind.
Over the years I’ve struggled with crippling insecurity, shyness, and the tired (yet very effective) tirade of thoughts about myself that kinda sound a lot like ‘you’re not good enough’ ‘no one likes you’ ‘he only stays with you out of obligation’ ‘he wishes you were more like that other girl’ ‘you’re not exceptional, only average – if you’re lucky’ ‘don’t even bother trying, it won’t be good enough’  – not to mention all the ones that point out physical flaws. Blah.
Then, as well as those mean thoughts, I was using my imagination to hurt myself.
My husband would go to work and I would concoct stories in my mind that felt so real, about where he really was and who he was really with and I sowed all sorts of suspicion and resentment into our marriage. 
I knew I was being silly, but I couldn’t stop. It was ugly.
It’s crazy how much this toxic thinking affected my confidence in who I am, and who I’m called to be, not to mention how it affected my relationships!
I even questioned the authenticity of my relationship with God because surely I couldn’t be living life as a Christian, yet still be in a place where toxic thoughts reigned supreme in my mind so often.

Then, I started fighting. I knew what the Bible said about renewing my mind, and thinking only on things that are pure and lovely, and taking every thought captive and lining them up with God’s thoughts… but I’d never really been intentional in putting them into practice. 
But I knew I couldn’t go on the way I was, my thoughts were making me sick with worry and anxiety and anger and cynicism. 
I started by using car rides on the way to uni and back to pray and speak out the opposite of what I’d actually be thinking.
I started to cut those thoughts off when they came and say (often out loud!) NO I’m not going to think that.
I started doing all the things anyway, even when the thoughts would come and tell me that someone else could do it better. 
I used every ounce of strength I had to pull up my big girl panties and refuse to believe the lies that felt like they’d wormed deep into my brain and would never go away.

Of course, I still have moments where doubt comes. But I’ve learned not to let it stay.
And this book? Reminds me that although I’ve come so far, there’s hope for so much more.
“For now, rest in the assurance that what God has empowered you to do with your mind is more powerful and effective than any medication, any threat, any sickness, or any neurological challenge” – Dr Caroline Leaf
We can consciously, with our own free will, change and direct our own thinking and wire out toxic thoughts. 
With those thoughts, we allow them to permeate into our brains and actual little branches grow and make connections with other little branches. That you can see. IN YOUR BRAIN. What?!! 

I love the idea that there are tiny little trees in our brains, and I can grow them green and healthy, just by refusing to think toxic thoughts, and replacing those thoughts with good ones. 

So, here’s to not believing lies, to thinking good thoughts – I think they will shine out of your face like sunbeams (Roald Dahl, you legend). Lets refuse to live small lives in doubt and disillusionment. Here’s to switching on our brains.

x