Thursday 31 January 2013

Living with tweens

Those of you who know me well know that I live in a household that contains two tweens. What is a tween? It is a child between the age of 9-12. The term is a play on the fact that they are be-tween childhood and adolescence or the teenage years. The term seems to have been developed by the world of marketing as it was discovered that this age group is very susceptible to outside influence and advertising.

My tweens are at an interesting time in their development. They swing between wanting to be independent and given responsibilty to being childlike and innocent. At times they push the boundaries and at other times crave for more guidelines and structure. There are moments when they are carefree and playful and then everything can turn serious in the blink of an eye.

Dealing with this day in and day out throughout the holidays has made me wonder if we go through a tween stage in our faith life also. We don't magically progress from accepting everything our parents believe to having our own faith. There has to be a transition. There needs to be a time of uncertainty, a time when we might swing between the certainty of Sunday School and the certainty of our own experience. It is no wonder that this is the time when we lose most people from the faith traditions. Of course, this is not restricted by age and can happen at any stage throughout life.

I haven't worked out how to handle my two tweens. I am sure that I mess up at least once a day. I do think, however, that half the battle is recognizing that this is where they are at the moment. I wonder how easily we recognize where those around us are in their faith development. Would we even recognize the signs of a tween growing up? Those who push the boundaries and question authority can often be frowned upon in the faith traditions, but what if we were to see this as a normal part of growing up in faith. We need to learn to help people to explore and find their feet in a safe and accepting environment.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

God is a cruise ship!

This morning I helped to lead worship at our local aged care home, Mirrambeena. We had a lovely crowd of people squished into a very small room. We sang a few hymns together (the good oldies) and listened to the story of the calming of the storm. I shared with the group a current affairs story that my family have been following closely.

At present, my father-in-law and sister-in-law are about to finish a three week trip to Antarctica. This has been a trip that both of them have been looking forward to for a long time. Their trip was cut short this week, however, as their cruise ship was contacted as the nearest vessel to a French sailor who needed rescuing. The passengers were called together and informed of the situation, to which there was a resounding agreement that the life of this man was more important than their dreams of stepping foot on Antarctica.

And so, not far from Macquarie island, the ship changed course and headed back towards Tasmania to save the life of this man bobbing around in his life raft in extremely dangerous conditions. The news reports tell of how amazed the man was to have been rescued by this luxury liner. He was able to sleep that night in a pretty plush suite and have a delicious hot meal.

This story reminded me of the story of Jesus calming the storm. When we call to God for help, the answer is a resounding "Yes!". God wants to be there with us, in the thick of the storms of life. I don't know that God always calms the storm for us, but the presence of God may calm our fears and anxieties. And when God is with us, it is not only a "Yes" that we receive, it is a "Yes" with abundance. God's love is not only sufficient, but overwhelming. That is what grace is! 

I can relate to this French sailor. Imagine how humbled he would have felt when he found that these passengers had sacrificed their dream of stepping foot on Antarctica for him. Imagine his awe when he received much more than just his life, but a banquet and a 5 star suite. So, there we have it, another image of God. Our God is like the MV Orion rescuing us sinking sailors.

Friday 18 January 2013

It's not too late

For those of you who have been thinking about engaging with a Mandala a Month - it's not too late!! The special blog for this groups has been set up this week and we are only just getting started. So, all you need to do is send me an email at and I'll get you signed up. The more the merrier!!

If you have no idea what I am talking about have a look at the Mandala a Month link.

BEING on holidays

I am in the last few days of my annual leave. I have taken three weeks just to hang around at home, be with my kids and complete some projects in our new house. I have enjoyed the break. A change in routine is always good from me physically, emotionally and spiritually.

In the next week, as I start to meet people I haven't seen over the break, I am sure I will be asked what I did in my three weeks off. For a person who can at times be quite task oriented  this is a hard question. I could list off all the little DIY projects I've completed. I've painted the kids rooms, installed two Ikea wardrobes, put up some pictures, hanged some curtains, unpacked boxes and thrown out rubbish. I could list all the things I've done as a mum. I've done numerous loads of washing, cooked a few batches of pancakes, washed thousands of dishes, been a taxi driver and social secretary and fought a few battles. 

I could also list the things I haven't got done. I haven't read the books I thought I might read, I haven't gone for a walk each day, I haven't done any scrapbooking, I haven't created any mandalas and I still have a long list for the next three days. How do you judge the success of a holiday? Is it about how exotic the place you visited may have been? Is it about how relaxed you became? Well, I can't say that I went anywhere exotic (some people would say I already live in paradise) and I can't say that having the kids and their friends racing around has been especially relaxing. This has been a holiday of being. I am being a home renovator. I am being a mum. I am being a house keeper. 

My challenge is to stop my critical, overthinking mind from saying this is not enough. It is enough! There is no need to get the list of jobs finished. There is no need to read all those books. It is enough just to be. And on Monday when the busyness starts to build again, maybe I need to keep my holiday list going. It can be a reminder for me to sit occasionally and read a novel or get the paint brush out start on another room or not to moan as the kids social calendar seems to take over. How easy it is to get caught up with doing things and completing tasks that help us to feel valued and worthwhile. If this self worth was inbuilt, how much easier it would be to just be.

Sunday 6 January 2013

Epiphanies in the Night

Today the Christian church celebrates Epiphany - the time when the maji followed a star to visit the infant Jesus. There is a magic about Epiphany. For me this year, it is about focus, guidance and direction. Quite often, the guiding stars in my life are my dreams. Dreams have a a special language that tell us what is really going on in our life. I have always had very vivid and significant dreams. Some I remember in such detail that I could write a book about them.

How appropriate then, that last night I had a dream that reminded me of my focus and direction for the year ahead. It began with me receiving a written profile from a congregation in the Metropolitan area asking if I would come and be there minister. (My dream didn't follow the correct procedures of the Uniting Church!) This particular congregation was very diverse. It had people of all ages. It had at least two cultural groups worshipping in their own languages. It had mission outreach programmes, playgroups, kids' club, youth groups, young adult groups and much more. The range was exciting and the possibilities endless. 

In the dream, I decided to go to Perth and meet with these people to find out more. It was at this point that I got caught in a rollercoaster ride. It was like a blur. I was totally caught up in the frenzy of meeting new people, talking about the future and the whirlwind of activity that it came as a shock when I discovered that the decision had been made that I was going to move. 

It was like the world stood still, but I was so dizzy. I felt physically sick and had to retreat from the action to find my feet. Once I had regained my composure I returned to the large crowds and gave a passionate speech about God's calling on my life. I explained to the people that I was not meant to be torn in every direction, but to be loyal and focussed on the people of Augusta and Margaret River. Funnily enough, the people were not too disappointed or disgruntled. It was like it had all been a game, a ploy all along. All the bells and whistles were an attempt to distract me and pull me away. All they would do is move on to the next victim.

What a timely reminder to focus and not be distracted. Just to allay any concerns from my congregation members, I am not in any way thinking about moving on. It is easy, however, to become distracted from the task at hand. This dream has come at a time when I am reflecting on the year ahead. What will I focus upon? Where will I direct my energy? What will my priorities be? Maybe in my daily life I can take heed from my Epiphany in the Night and take the time to retreat and reflect first rather than get myself into a dizzy spin.

Friday 4 January 2013

A New Year

“It's New Year's Eve,
and hopes are high
Dance one year in,
kiss one goodbye
Another chance, another start
So many dreams to tease the heart”

These are some of the words from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘The Perfect Year’ from the musical ‘Sunset Boulevard’. There is a kind of magic about the way our calendars work. Every day the sun sets and we can begin afresh the next day as the sun rises. Each year we can kiss the previous year goodbye and make promises to ourselves about how things will change in the year to come. 

I only just saw the New Year come in this year. It turned midnight as my hubby and I had just got comfy in bed. With a quick, 'Happy New Year' we were off to sleep. It has been a few years since we have bothered to stay up, pop the champagne and sing 'Auld Lang Syne'. Part of this may be that we have children and it is not practical, but I think it is also because we have become used to the rhythmn of life. Yes, one year has gone and another has started.

But as I struggle to get used to writing 2013 on everything, I don't want to get too complacent about the blessing that each New Year can bring. A fresh start, a clean slate - this is an amazing gift of grace. No matter how 2012 has been for you, 2013 awaits full of potential, full of dreams to ‘tease our hearts’. 

The New Year is full of the unknown. It is a mystery to us all. None of us can tell what is ahead of us. We can make plans and promises to ourselves, but really it is about dealing with whatever life brings us each day. I am excited about the year ahead. I am looking forward to 'A Mandala a Month', to an overseas pilgrimage later in the year, to a year free of formal study, to living in my new house, to seeing my kids continue to grow and much, much more. 

I hope and pray that the dawn of 2013 will bring you much joy and hope for the year ahead. Happy New Year!!