Church, Cultural Differences

Lost

One thing that’s struck me lately is just how lost people are around us. We live in a sin-cursed world, but I’ve been pretty sheltered all my life. Now that I’m living around non-Christians in a pretty secular culture, I’m struck by how many people have no rhyme or reason to their lives. The neighbors across the street have to sell their house because they’re getting a divorce. The man was married previously and had two boys from that marriage. His ex-wife just recently died, so the boys’ mom has been this man’s second wife, who he’s currently divorcing. They also have two daughters, so now those daughters will have to deal with a broken family, and the two sons no longer have their step-mom in their lives. It’s such a sad situation, but one that I’m finding is common. They don’t know what’s up or down, but yet they don’t want “religion.” I want to shout to them the good news that comes with Jesus, but they’re not ready to hear.

 

The two moms of ballet students with E are in the same boat. They live their lives, raise their kids, try to find ways that their children won’t become a statistic (drugs, pregnancy, molestation) but don’t know how they can avoid the seemingly inevitable future of something bad happening. Again, I want to tell them that there’s hope, and I have, but it seems to fall on deaf ears.

 

Although the darkness is all around us, it makes me so thankful to know that I have a Savior who loves me and still loves the lost. He hasn’t returned yet, which means there’s still hope for those who don’t know Him. Christianity isn’t some crazy cult like they may think–it’s a way to find true happiness, the happiness they were created for. How I wish more would believe!

Church, Family

Increase in Energy

It’s been quiet on this blog, partly because I’ve posted on the other blog a couple times, but partly because I don’t have much to say. There’s a lot going on in our lives here, but that means I don’t have as many thoughts left over at the end of the day to write about in a blog post.

 

One thing I have appreciated lately is an increase in energy. I think it’s because M is finally sleeping well–more often than not, she’ll sleep from 7pm-7am, waking up at 11pm to eat, and then sleep the rest of the night. It’s glorious to wake up at 7am and realize I got a full night’s sleep. But that also makes the nights where she wakes up to eat once or twice even more painful. I think I also have an increase in energy because of the 3-5 cups of coffee I drink a day. 😉 And I think my energy is increased from the healthier diet I’ve been eating.

 

I also think not having a newborn increases my energy. I love having a newborn. The squishy face, the cuddles, the smell. But this time around, I was ready to get out of the newborn stage. Now that M’s almost 6 months (I’ll do a 6 month blog post on my other blog), I’m LOVING this age! She’s still semi-immobile, but interacts and smiles all the time, and she can handle the energy of her siblings, so they’re enjoying her more too. I also think I’m just getting out of the cloud of such a hard time in our family. The autumn and winter here was cool, the sickness stayed around, and with lack of sleep and just busyness at church, it was all pretty overwhelming and difficult. I’m thankful that as August starts and the spring is in sight, things are looking up. We’ve had a week here and there where no one has been sick, which is a blessing. It gives me hope that we may actually someday be relatively healthy as a family again.

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Poor Mo had a stomach bug this past week. We’re still getting sick, one person at a time 😦

 

We’re also hitting a very new phase of our church. John’s been here 1.5 years, which means we’e starting to begin some changes that have been needed for quite some time. When the church called John, they wanted to change things. They wanted to be an outward-facing church, but also a church who had a strong community amongst their members. Recently we’ve been revamping the Bible studies in order to create a greater Gospel-focused community among the members, and John’s been preaching more on discipleship. We’re also making plans to do more outreach in the community, including a VBS next year and our Christmas in July dinner that we just had last week.

 

Not only are we temporarily changing our morning ladies’ Bible study content, but we’re adding an evening ladies’ Bible study for those working women who wanted to be a part of a Bible study. We also just started something called The Titus Project, a women’s discipleship program that will bring older women and younger women in the church together over prayer and Bible reading. We’ve planned term events for the women (there are 4 school terms, and our goal is to have an event once a term) and are hoping to get a church retreat going for 2018. So many plans, so little time! It’s an exciting time for the women’s committee, but that also means it’s been busier for me, as I’m one of the members of the committee, helped spearhead The Titus Project, and will be leading the evening Bible studies. I’m excited for this opportunity but I’m also slightly worried about getting all the planning and studying done that needs to happen in order for the Bible studies to be productive and engaging. Thankfully I have a small group of willing ladies who want to help lead, which has been a blessing.

 

John’s been busy as well. With faithful Gospel-centered preaching comes more counseling opportunities. And with an emphasis on one-anothering comes more chances to have people over, both during the work day and for dinner. Our college and career group is still thriving, and John’s planning a new series every other Sunday night that focuses on building up leaders in the church. It will teach them how to be Gospel-centered while they teach, while they evangelize, and while they just live their lives. He’s really excited for the study, but it’s also more work to plan and prepare.

 

We’re also going to be able to stop for a night next week and celebrate our 7th anniversary. 7 years. We’ve gone through a lot in 7 years, but I’ve enjoyed these years immensely. They’ve been challenging–no one ever said a Southern boy and a Midwest girl would have an easy, argument-free marriage 🙂 –but they’ve been fun, too. I’m thankful John’s in a church that he (and we) loves, doing a job he’s called to, to a people who are (mostly) thankful for his hard work. I’m also thankful to God for giving us each other. 4 kids in 7 years–that doesn’t sound that bad. But man. It’s been a hard road. Thankfully God has brought us through to this moment, and we’re confident He’ll keep His promise to us and continue to walk us through the rest of our years on earth, together.

 

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Little did we know on our honeymoon here (in Sydney) that we’d be living 1.5 hrs. from this famous landmark 7 years later!
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My, how we’ve changed in 7 years! Same landmark, same people (I think…although wow, I look different), definitely different life circumstances.

 

 

Family

A Mom’s Failures

Vacuuming the dining room floor is a thrice-daily activity over here. Mo is a prize winning food-thrower, as much as we try to break her of the habit. She’s now starting to push her food in-between her body and the booster seat, just so she can get it off her tray but not get in trouble by throwing it on the floor. It’s just lovely for me, a mom who’s not a big fan of food messes.

 

Two nights ago, during my routine vacuum cleaning after dinner, I found myself going over the day. I was sad that the kids watched a movie. I thought about the times I cleaned the dishes while they played instead of getting down and playing with them. Mo is also in the stage of wanting me to read all the time, so if it were up to her, I would sit with her in my lap for hours every day, reading the same 5 books over and over. The guilt of not doing that two days ago came up. And then I thought of the times I got angry or frustrated with their disobedience. I mentally shook my head at how the day wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.

 

Then I realized, when IS it as good as I want it to be? When do I look back over the day and think, “Wow, I was never angry, my kids and I played the whole day, Mo got all the attention she wanted, and M was held and played with during all of this. And to top it off, my house is clean!” That hasn’t happened. Ever. Every day has failures, shortcomings, sins. I never feel like I did that day well, or that my kids will look back on their childhood and remember a mom who always had a smile on her face, or constantly imparted biblical wisdom, had Scripture always on her lips, and was super crafty. Such is life as a sinner. Instead, my kids see a mom who is fallen but asks them for forgiveness (sometimes) when I get angry. They see a mom who sometimes stops her chores and builds forts with them. Mo will remember a mom who has spent hours (never as much as she hopes) reading books to her. And M won’t remember anything from this stage in life, so that’s reassuring. She won’t remember when her brother accidentally hit her head with his own and she screamed bloody murder.

 

My kids will know my sinful nature, but they’ll also know my sinless Savior. I don’t speak of Him enough, but I do speak of Him, and when I do, they hear their mom saying she doesn’t have it all together, that she’s sorry she can’t be all they need, but that Christ gave them all they need when He died for them. Even if I were the best mom ever, if I didn’t share that message with them, it makes me the worst. So, it’s good to know that Christ covers up my failures with them and they do have a perfect Parent to look to.

 

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They’ll remember park trips and picnic lunches on Daddy’s days off
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They’ll remember baking chocolate cupcakes with Mama and getting to lick the bowl
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They’ll remember when Mama would stop and try to get a smile out of them
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They’ll remember cuddles with Mama on her chair
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They’ll remember movie nights with Daddy’s homemade stovetop popcorn
Church, Cultural Differences, Family

Witnessing to our Neighbors

I realized something this week. I went to Christian schools from K-12th grade, then 2 Christian universities, then seminary, and I’m just now, at 34 years of age, able to say I have non-Christian friends. 34 years. I’ve had more than 20 years of training around and by Christians, but only half a year of actually being friends with non-Christians. Now, I’m not saying I was never acquaintances with them before. I worked in secular jobs for years, so my co-workers were mostly non-Christian. And I was an au pair in Holland for a non-Christian family, so I got to live with and intimately know non-Christians for a year. But this is the first time that I’ve actually been able to say I hang around some non-Christians and can have conversations with them about life, our kids, and other things. I’m ashamed to say that, but it’s true. I have been so blessed to be able to be trained in the Word, but I haven’t done a good job in using that training to witness to those around me. I have squandered many years of my life because I’ve been scared to get out of my Christian bubble. It’s become a part of who I am, so much so that leaving it was almost impossible.

 

Then I had kids. And moved to a foreign country. Both these things have made it almost impossible to NOT leave my Christian bubble. If my kids are to have friends, I have to go looking elsewhere for them (although we do have kids at church their age, which is a blessing). So, E’s ballet class and J’s music class have been good outlets for them. Although J’s music class is now on hiatus (we were sick too often to make it worth it), E’s ballet class has served and continues to serve as a wonderful outlet to meeting new people. She’s been in class with the same three girls for 1.5 years now, and just this past week, I was able to have two of those girls and their moms over for a playdate. It was so much fun! The ladies and I already normally chat on Mondays during ballet, but this past Tues., we were able to have two hours together. We covered so many topics, including my church, but it was just so laid back and refreshing. One of the ladies is a Buddhist (I’ve had a good conversation with her before about Buddhism and Christianity) and the other one is nothing, but her daughter goes to E’s school, so she’s been exposed to Christianity. Not only did E enjoy playing with the two girls (she’s really good friends with one of them because of preschool), but I had fun talking to their moms.

 

I remember a non-Christian girl in my neighborhood growing up–I don’t know where she lived, but I remember her coming to our door a couple times. She wasn’t a Christian and would swear, so I was told not to hang out with her anymore. I also remember trying to think of ways I could tell her about Jesus, but because I didn’t hang out with her much, I couldn’t share with her. I had a desire to tell others about Jesus, but I never got to meet many non-Christians, and the ones I did meet were more threatening because they were so different than I was. I started to get too scared to say anything to people, and that fear eventually killed my evangelistic heart. The Christian bubble wasn’t necessarily to keep me safe at that point–it was just a way I could hide from what God was urging me to do. E, on the other hand, has such an evangelistic heart–she and I both prayed before the girls came over that we could tell them and their moms about Jesus, and that God would make them believe in Him. She is always excited to tell people about heaven and Jesus and has no fear that they may seem threatened or put off. Oh, to have the faith of a child! She humbles me and makes me more bold with others, partly because I sometimes have to explain some of her statements she makes to them. 🙂

 

God has given us so many opportunities since being here of sharing the Word, and He’s growing us in wisdom about when to share and when to stay silent. He’s taking us all out of our Christian bubbles (and Christian society–living here is SO DIFFERENT than living in Texas) and putting us into the world so that we can do what we were meant to do as Christians–share the good news that is within us. It’s what we’re commanded to do…it just took me 34 years to really do it. We pray that our kids learn it right from the start.

Crunchy Living, Family

Whole30 Update

I’ve been on Whole30 for 12 days. According to the Whole30 timeline, this is when people quit–the newness has worn off and all around you are things you can’t eat. And that’s what I’ve experienced in the last couple days. Today the kids got some gummies from the store. I picked out a couple for each child and had SUCH a desire to just pop one in my mouth. A couple even fell out in the bag, and instead of eating them, I put them back into the jar. The biggest adjustment for me last time I did Whole30 and this time has been coffee. I normally have milk and sugar in my coffee. Since going off milk with M, I was using coconut milk, but I was still definitely putting some type of sweetener in my coffee. To go black, or with just coconut milk, makes me sad. Coffee is no longer something I truly enjoy drinking in the morning–it’s more something I drink now so I can stay awake. However, if I have time to sit and enjoy a cup, I found that eating a date or two with it will make it taste good again–it’s like eating a cookie with black coffee, something that I would do periodically pre-Whole30.

 

The thing that makes this change worth it is that it’s helping M. If I were doing Whole30 just because I wanted to change my diet, I would have quit a week into it. It’s so difficult at this stage in my life. I have 4 young kids, one who is 4 months old, so spending hours making a lot of meals just isn’t something I have time for. However, I am making time because it’s helping M. It really is. From the first day when she started eating better, until now when she still has a great appetite and is gaining weight again and eating at normal intervals, I can truly see the benefits of what I’m eating. It’s just hard making every single dinner the way that I used to before getting pregnant. Since pregnancy, I’ve done easier meals. We’ve always eaten homemade, but I wasn’t as creative because I didn’t have the energy or the time. Now though, we’re having homemade cauliflower rice again, and zucchini noodles, and all kinds of healthy foods. Our veggie drawer is constantly stocked, as well as our fruit bowl. Although it can get expensive, we’re saving money on all the coffee and fast food that is NOT being bought outside the house, so it pretty much evens itself out.

 

It’s also been interesting for me to see the power of self-control. When I was growing up, we didn’t really have a lot of snacks in the house. My mom would make chocolate chip cookies, but because they were always there, they weren’t tempting for me. I was drawn to the store-bought sugar treats like Oreos, any Little Debbie treat, or sugar cereal. We almost NEVER had those in the house so when we did, I would eat a lot of them. Since living on my own, those things haven’t been a part of my weekly purchase, but if they were in the house or I treated us to them ever so often, I would again eat a lot. Since Whole30 though, there has been sugary treats in our pantry that I have not eaten. Case in point–the gummies from today. Or the Hershey candy bar that John bought at Aldi’s American themed week. Or the chocolate-covered biscuits that have been there for the last few weeks. They’re still there, either to give to our guests, or for our kids or John to snack on, but I haven’t touched them. It’s encouraging to see my self-control grow in that area, especially if I see the benefit it has on M. Without dairy, or sugar, or grains, or whatever was affecting her tummy, she is happier, less gassy, and sleeps (slightly) better. She’s still congested, but even that isn’t as bad. And she still wakes up a couple times at night, but it’s not as much from gas as it used to be.

 

One thing I’m looking forward to in Whole30 is the “tiger blood” that’s supposed to come before or after Day 21. That’s when the healthy eating and good fueling of your body is supposed to kick up your energy and make you thankful you stuck it out for 3 weeks. I can’t WAIT for that energy because I need it! I’ve been dragging for the last week and a half, and I’m sure the kids are excited to have an energy-filled Mama!

 

I’ve seen just how much food affects me, but especially those times that I’m having a rough day and want to treat myself to a coffee. As you can tell, coffee is a big part of my life. It’s a big part of society here as well. People stop what they’re doing at 10.30 and 3.30 for a “cuppa,” which I really enjoy. Wherever you go on outings, you stop and have a cuppa with your family either before, during, or after your event. When we went to the Children’s Museum this past week, I was so sad I couldn’t have a latte from the nearby cafe. When I drop E off at preschool, I mourn the loss of my periodic latte from the attached cafe. When we drive around doing errands, we can’t stop and get a coffee. Or when the kids are getting on my last nerve, John, as a surprise, can’t go out and get me a conciliatory coffee. Yeah, I drink a lot of coffee. And yes, we’re saving a lot of money not going out and buying it. But I miss it so much. It’s just a part of my day here, and I miss that comfort, that vacation in a cup. I know I’ll get through and will have to continue to get through past the 30 days because of how it’s helping M, but I’m grieving my coffee.

 

So, all this to say, I’m surviving but grieving. And I’ll probably continue to be in this mode for awhile. 😀

New Baby

A Difficult Baby

One thing this baby has taught me is that 4th children aren’t necessarily going to be go-with-the-flow babies. How dare M have a will of her own, right? Doesn’t she know she has three older siblings who demand Mama’s time? She can’t take her own chunk of my time as well! These were my thoughts before she was born and then…..M came into our lives and turned my expectation on its head. She has been a difficult baby from the get-go. Although it took two months for her to get sick, she has constantly struggled with problems in her system–from an intense diaper rash/almost thrush, to not a good sleeper, and now a 3-month-long sickness and major food allergies.

 

It got to the point last week where she wouldn’t even feed for more than a couple minutes without pulling away. I knew if she kept at this, I would lose my supply and she would lose a lot of weight. And seeing as she won’t take a bottle, formula isn’t an option. I was left with the only option I could think of: Whole30.

 

I did Whole30 last year, a month before I got pregnant, and really loved it after I got over the initial 2 week withdrawal symptoms. However, the first 2 weeks weren’t fun. And 4 months postpartum, I haven’t wanted to deal with changing my diet drastically. I was worried about supply issues (I still am), and it’s so much work! For this sleep-deprived and busy Mama, I just didn’t want to deal with it. But alas, babies go by their own schedules and wants, and I knew I needed to try Whole30 in order to see what she was allergic to.

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My arms are full, so it’s sometimes hard to juggle a child who needs a little extra attention. But she’s worth it!

 

If you aren’t familiar with Whole30, it’s a whole food diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, and meat. Basically, I cut out all grains, all dairy, all sugar, all alcohol, but NOT all caffeine. Yay for black coffee! So I’m eating about every 2-3 hours a day to get me over this food craving hump, as well as to eat enough calories to keep my milk supply up. And, let’s face it–when I’m used to eating carbs and sugar and then WHAM cut them out, I’m going through some withdrawal. I find I’m getting angrier easier and I’m more tired. However, I know from experience it will get better and I need to push through these next couple weeks.

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I mean, a chocolate fountain? How do I resist that?!

 

It doesn’t help that we’ve had various events over at our house this week that have involved delicious food and desserts, all of which I need to glance over and try to ignore. Ugh. But what makes this all worth it is the fact that on the very first day of doing Whole30, M completely changed. She’s not as gassy, she doesn’t pull away when she’s eating anymore, she’s definitely eating a lot more than she has recently, and her mucous sounds less severe. I also think she’s struggling with reflux, which is where she’s getting some of her cough, wheezing, and congestion. But hopefully my diet will lessen the mucous and her other symptoms will go away as she gets older and grows out of the reflux. In the meantime, I’m eating super clean, which, I mean, isn’t a bad thing. It’s just sad that it’s happening 4 months postpartum, but it needed to happen at some stage and if it’s helping M have a happier, sleep-filled, tummy-trouble-free life, than I am all for it.

 

I’m hoping to see a lot more of these smiles now that her tummy hurts less!

Church

Changing a Church

If you’ve been involved in church for any time in your life, you know that change is not always well-received. Pretty much across the board, if you want to change things, small or big, there will always be people who don’t want it. I’ve been reminded of that yet again just recently.

 

In almost every church I’ve been a part of, there has been a monthly list printed out of members’ birthdays and anniversaries. I’ve always appreciated the list because it’s helped me keep track of various members’ important days–who doesn’t need their memories jogged every month for people’s birthdays? As a forgetful person, I’ve always liked this list and wanted to start one here at this church. I honestly thought it would appreciated and welcomed. Apparently I was wrong. Although most people willingly gave me their important dates, there were some who wouldn’t. They flat out refused. I have to say, I was a little taken aback. I wasn’t putting years on the birthdays, so people wouldn’t know how old they were–so why wouldn’t they allow their birthdays or anniversaries to be listed every month for the congregation? One reason given was because they didn’t want a fuss to be made over them on their birthday. Or that they didn’t want their birthday to be written down electronically in case it got in the wrong hands.

 

What did this teach me? It doesn’t matter how big or how small the change…there will always be some people who do not want to change. No matter what. Can you imagine what will happen when we say we want to add kneeling benches into the sanctuary? 😉 just kidding.

Church, Family

Church Update (and some pictures, of course)

Just last week, John Facebook live’d (can that even be used as a verb?) his first sermon. For me, a mom with sick kids who has to stay home many Sundays, it was a welcomed addition to my life because I can now watch him instead of another church while I’m at home. Plus, it gives me a way to stay connected to the church, even if I can’t be there in person. Check out and ‘like’ the Horsley Christian Church Facebook page and you’ll be able to watch last week’s sermon, as well as see notifications for any future Facebook live events he may do.

 

The church is really going well out here and John and I are thankful for it every day. Just last week we kind of kicked our hospitality into high gear again after taking about 6 months off after M was born. It’s still difficult with her, as she wakes up multiple times at night, and with the other kids’ sicknesses, John and I are pretty tired, but we love to have people from the church over, and feel like the invitations we’ve been making over the last half a year can finally be realized as we set up actual dates for families to come over.

 

Our weeks here are pretty busy. I mentioned previously how we have events and school going on for the kids, but I failed to mention various church events. Mondays are John’s day off and we hold that day pretty sacred, except for E’s ballet class. It’s definitely a down day for us–this morning John let me sleep in because of M’s late nights, and he was able to relax most of the day to recoup from a very busy week last week. Tuesday nights we either have a couples counseling session with a couple from church (which is what will happen this week), or he has a Session meeting. The thing with their Session meetings is that they’re normally really long, so they meet at 5, eat a meal, and then start their meeting. This month (and 5 other months a year), it’s at our house so we’ll have the other 3 elders over for dinner. Wednesday nights are Bible study nights, so if it’s not being held at our house (next week it will be over here, along with a BBQ dinner for everyone), John will be leaving at around 7 to go lead Bible study. This week starts a new series for him, a series on Ephesians. The format will be new as well–he’ll teach for a 1/2 hour on the passage and then split people up into smaller groups where a designated person will lead that group into an application portion of the passage. Thursdays are sometimes open nights, although this week is the Session dinner/meeting, and Fridays are free, although this Friday John and I are going up to Sydney to see Vivid. Look up Vivid online–it’s an awesome lights display in Sydney that I can’t wait to see! Saturday night, we’re having a family over from church and Sunday, along with a full day of church/lunch, we’re also hosting a women’s dessert night at our place. I’m really excited for this event because the women’s committee at our church is just getting off the ground, so we’d like to get input from the women of our church for what events and ministries they’d like to see us do.

 

Basically, we’re busy. Our nights are filled with church events or hosting dinners, the kids are constantly on cloud 9 with the people who come over, and our fridge is always filled with food and pantry stocked with delicious snacks to serve to others.

 

If our lives were always this busy, I think we’d burn out pretty fast. I love having people over but I definitely need days where we just stay at home and enjoy dinner with just our family. We’ll have busy weeks and then we’ll have some down weeks. This week is a busy week but next week may have less events. The school holidays are coming up in July, which means we get a break from routine and a chance to breath and gear up for another school term full of events. Plus, I’ve been drinking about 3 cups of coffee a day, so my mornings are uber productive when I’m on my caffeine high.

 

In amongst the hosting, our kids continue to have fun around the house. From dress up to fort building to playing with their sister (and movie-watching thrown in there as well), we manage to stay busy.

I bought an Anna hairpiece and Elsa hairpiece for the girls today so they did some posing–and J wanted in on the action so he put on the Anna one for a little bit.

 

Fort-building and playing with packing peanuts. Funny story with the packing peanuts–they were the ones that disintegrate with water so Mo kept putting them in her mouth and they’d get all sticky. Needless to say, she didn’t get to play with those again.

 

Despite being sick, this little baby is getting so smiley and happy all day! She’s started sucking her thumb so that may be why she’s happier. But she’s becoming quite a happy baby and content to even sit in her swing for minutes at a time.

Church, Cultural Differences

Some Big Differences

I just updated my other blog with some pictures and events from this past month, including M’s 4 month birthday summary. These last 4 months have flown by! It helps that we’ve had a lot of guests and church events to keep us busy, in-between the sickness and school and …. I don’t even know what else. But at night, when all the kids are in bed and John’s working, I’m left to check off things on my to-do list. I also get to think about the big difference between America and Australia, now that we’ve been here almost a year and a half.

 

This homeschool conference I attended last weekend helped put things in perspective for me. Homeschooling in the States is pretty common. Chances are almost everyone reading this blog know at least one family who is homeschooling. All of my sisters-in-law have done it or are doing it, and many of my friends are taking the plunge. I always said I would never wade in those waters, but as E gets closer to attending Kinder (as it’s called here), we’re weighing our options and our best one so far is homeschooling (gasp and groan). It’s been around for so long in the States that it’s not a shock to hear of families choosing that option for their children. Here, however, it is still very rare. Although it’s apparently going through a boom at the moment (someone at the conference said there are 15,000 registered homeschoolers in ALL of Australia, and that isn’t counting the ones who aren’t registered), it still is nothing compared to the amount in the States. When asked by those around us what we are planning to do with our kids, they look shocked and very skeptical when I say we’re considering homeschooling. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say that their worries could be more because we’re foreigners, and homeschooling may not help integrate us into life here as much as sending our kids to school would, but I think there is an element of shock for the actual act of homeschooling itself. We would be the first family in our church to homeschool their kids, and the homeschool community in the Illawarra region, although present, is definitely not large. There are no co-ops available so I would be responsible for every subject. There are homeschool get-togethers at parks for the kids to socialize with each other and for mothers to have a community, but that’s pretty much it. It’s slim pickings for homeschoolers in Australia. Plus, the laws in some states (including New South Wales, where we are, are insane! We have to register with the government and then they send a representative out to look over the curriculum, make sure it meets their extensive requirements, and to evaluate the learning environment. If you pass, you can either get a 6 month, 1 year, or 2 year license to homeschool and then you will need to be reevaluated when that license expires. Oh, the joys of a nanny state.)

 

Looking at America and Australia is like a Tale of Two Countries. They were both founded at about the same time and by the same country, Britain (I’m obviously simplifying history here, as I know America had more than one founding country, as well as Australia). However, the people founding them couldn’t have been more different. America started (in some colonies) as a way for people to gain religious freedom. They were educated, competent, hard workers, and eager to create a new life and community in a new world. Australia started as a convict nation. Britain sent their castoffs here as a punishment, to be guarded by people who were cruel and hated by many. The church in America served as a way to bring people together and created opportunities for the new arrivals to integrate into the culture. The church in Australia was a part of the oppressive force of the leadership, meant to keep the convicts down.

 

This plays out so much in how these two countries are different, even today. We live near Wollongong, a city with a university, so we have many uni students who attend our church. One big complaint of theirs is that many of their uni profs don’t speak English. They are continually frustrated by the fact that the people meant to teach them can’t even speak to them clearly in their language. That’s not as big of a problem in the States. I’m not saying it’s not there, but there are far more English-speaking professors in America. I think this stems from the fact that Americans want to better themselves with education (thus, more Americans become college professors, whereas in Australia, not many go on to become professors). How many people do you know who have not only a college degree, but a graduate degree as well? It’s pretty common for friends to go on for further education after they’ve graduated from college, especially if you’re going into law, medicine, or business (which is a large majority of people). That is definitely not the case here. We haven’t met many people at all with graduate degrees. It’s not a popular route to take. Most people around us are “tradies,” or blue collar workers, and proud to be so. It stems from the wariness Australians have of white collar workers or highly educated people. Those were the people who ruled over them in their convict days, and, I’m serious, this isn’t made up or a generalization, it’s a “tall poppy syndrome.” They are wary of those who think too highly of themselves. Australians don’t like fame, don’t like to gloat over their education, don’t like to be the best at everything. It’s the exact opposite in America, and I think it stems from how the two countries were founded.

 

This difference is shown in many ways here, but one way is in religion. First of all, Australia is a secular nation. Even though many people in our town go to church, I almost never hear any mention of Christianity when I’m out and about. I mentioned it in a previous blog post that it’s just not done. Religion has been something you keep to yourself. I did, however, just read a new study that came out that stated Australians are more open to religion than previously thought. However, one way they would be turned off to a religion is if a famous person became a spokesperson for that religion. That is SO different than in America. Look at all of the famous preachers in the States! And all the celebrities who claim to be a part of one religion or another! What do you do if you want your church to be well-known? Get someone famous to be the mouthpiece for it! Yeah, that’s not the case in Australia.

 

There are so many other big differences, but these are a few that have caught my attention lately. I don’t have a preference for either culture, although, since I have a graduate degree, I wish it counted for more out here because of all my blood, sweat, and tears that went into that MATS, but that’s just a pride thing. And I’m good at pride. It’s kind of a staple sin for Americans. That’s the advantage to living in another culture–I can see more clearly my pet sins, sins that I can “get away with” in America but sins that come to the surface and glare at me here in Australia. I know it goes both ways and I’ll develop new pet sins here, I’m sure, but as it stands, I’ve enjoyed stepping out of my culture and into a new one, one that shows me more ways that I am a fallen creature, desperately in need of Christ’s forgiveness.

Church, Family, Medical, New Baby, Sickness

Autumn is Ending, Winter is Arriving

I’ve sat down to write a post so many times over the last few weeks, but I just couldn’t bring myself to open this page up. It could be too many things to write about, and when I feel overwhelmed, I tend to shut down. Or it could be that there’s always something else to be doing. Either way, a post is long overdue, so I thought I should bite the bullet (is that phrase still pertinent in Australia where bullets aren’t as prevalent?) and type a post up.

 

The biggest thing that has happened since last writing has been Mom and Dad T’s visit. They were here for 2 weeks and we had a busy but fun time with them. The kids still miss them and ask about them. We love when family visit us because we get to spend such concentrated time with them, but that makes it all the more difficult when they leave to go home–the hole of their absence is felt strongly, especially by the kids.

 

I can’t even list the things we did and saw with Mom and Dad, but I really think they have a good idea of where we live, the sights and sounds of the Illawarra region, as well as a taste of Sydney. The weather was absolutely perfect, such a change from when my parents were here. It was high 60’s, low 70’s every day, and almost every day had bright, sunny skies. We went to the beach a few times, went up the Escarpment to the cute towns, went over to the local hills for some scenic overviews, and, like I mentioned, Sydney. The Sydney trip was the most fun, exhausting trip John and I have taken yet. As much as we love traveling (and we’ve done a lot of it), this was the first trip we did with 4 kids, one being a 3-month-old, and it was something we probably won’t be doing for a long time. Although the kids did really well, just the sheer number of them and their young ages made for a tiring time for John and me. We were thankful for extra helping hands, and we were sad that Dad and Mom experienced many Sydney sights with a crying baby or cranky toddler, but it also gave them a taste of life for us here–never a dull moment, and never a quiet minute. I think they probably enjoyed the silence of their home when they opened the door in Dallas. 🙂

 

Since they left a couple weeks ago, we’ve been getting back into the swing of things and starting up our new normal. Now that M is almost 4 months, we’re starting to get a feel for what life is like with 4 kids and let me tell you, it’s harder than I thought it would be. For all three of our other kids, the transition wasn’t horrible. I did ok with adding a new child. This one though–wow. Threw me for a loop! She has been our hardest transition, but I think it also has to do with the fact that we’ve all been sick, nonstop, for about 6 months. Granted, that comes with the territory (4 kids, 5 and under, 1 in preschool), but it’s also been difficult to deal with a sick newborn/infant for the past month and a half. She STILL has a cough/congestion that’s been going on for forever, but today I just told John she seems to be coughing less. At first I thought her lingering cough was just because she’s a baby and sicknesses will affect her differently, but I think it’s also because this specific coughing bug itself is one that lasts for more than a month, even in adults. John had a cough that lasted more than a month, E had that same cough, and then they gave it to me, and apparently M. So I just finished up my coughing last week, and I’m hopeful she’s on the end of it, but I’m sure she’ll catch something else from her ever-sick siblings. Oh, the childhood years.

 

Other than that, we’re also getting into the swing of things at church. It. Is. Difficult. We have a creche at our church but only for the sermon, so all 4 kids are in with me until the Bible reading. At this stage with a baby who will NOT sleep or sit in her car seat without crying, I’m consistently having to carry her in the Ergo which doesn’t allow for a lot of freedom to take care of my other 3, especially Mo. Thankfully we have a very kind church family who are willing to step in when asked. Mo has spent many services sitting with our friends the Hodges because she’s comfortable with them and it frees me up to deal with my other three. We also always sit by their Australian grandma, Agnes, who watches E and J when I have to get up and deal with M. It’s a lovely way to help me out and include the church family in the raising of covenant children–at least that’s what I tell myself when I feel guilty for having other people watch my kids.

 

John and I are getting more and more involved in the life of the church and community as the months go on, especially now that I’m not pregnant and now that our kids are getting more involved in various groups in the area. E is in a ballet class nearby and I’ve been able to reach out to a couple of the women who have daughters in her class. One of the girls also goes to E’s preschool, so please pray that both E and I will have a witness and boldness to tell both the girls and their moms about our church (although E doesn’t lack boldness–she regularly tells us of those she’s talked to Jesus about, which is great!). We’ll helpfully be having a Christmas in July dinner at our church that will allow for us to invite people to a church event without the pressure of a church service, but I still need the boldness to invite them.

 

I’ve also been really convicted lately of how I lack boldness with those around me. I’m amazed at how Christianity isn’t a part of the conversation here. The weird thing is that Anglicanism is a pretty big thing, as well as Hillsong, so it’s not like there aren’t Christians in the area. The Anglican church where E attends preschool has a service attendance of more than 600 people, and they’re mostly all local, so I know that there are Christians around me. However, I almost never hear anything about Christ or Christianity when talking to people. That’s impacted into how I interact with people, I find. J is in a music class on Tues. mornings and this past Tues. they got to play the xylophone. One activity they were asked to do with their parent was try to play a familiar song, so I plunked out ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ I found myself feeling ashamed that I was playing it with the other kids/adults in the room. How sad is that! The amazing thing is that the teacher started singing at the end and said, “That’s Jesus Loves Me. I know that song.” So it’s not like she discouraged it. But it’s just something in me that recoils at any mention of Christianity. I can’t blame the Australian society though because in the end it comes down to not wanting to be ridiculed or have people think less of me. That makes no sense to me and I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true–I don’t want to turn people off. I worry if I say something wrong or say it the wrong way, they’ll hate me and the door will be shut. I realize it’s all about the Spirit and His awakening of the person’s heart, but my sinful heart puts it all on me, thus making me too nervous and closing my mouth.

 

Anyway, that’s a summary of our life here in the last month. Please pray that doors will be opened to present the Gospel to those who have been placed in our lives, and that we’ll have the boldness to invite them to church. Pray also that we’ll be given a respite from sickness, or at least that M will get healthy soon, poor baby.