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.

Church, Family

11 Weeks

M’s been changing over the last couple days, getting bigger/chubbier, interacting more with all of us (not just me), trying to suck her hands (I keep covering them up in mittens so she doesn’t scratch herself), and doing better with going outside. She’s getting used to the Ergo, thankfully, so that’s been our go-to carrier for her in church.

 

This week marks the beginning of Term 2 around here. E started ballet back up today and would have started school tomorrow but it’s Anzac Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) here in Australia, a day where we remember the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who lost their lives in various wars, so everything is closed. These last two weeks of holiday have been wonderful, not only because we haven’t had any schedule to worry about, but also because we haven’t gotten sick! And now we’ll start the sicknesses back up again as E brings home some more new Australian germs. Yippee. J also starts his music class next week, so we’ll see how that goes. Sometimes he’s hesitant to go to things without me, but other times he does fine on his own, so I’m hoping he’ll be so excited about various instruments that he won’t notice I’m not there. We’ve been trying to talk to him about it for the last few weeks, getting him psyched up for his very own class, and he doesn’t seem to not want to go, so I’m hoping that’s a sign he’ll be accepting of it and excited to go off on his own new adventure.

 

E has been obsessed with putting things on M’s head. The first picture is a wedding veil, because apparently M is ready to get married. And the second picture is of E’s (clean) underwear–such a stylish hat, and doesn’t M look amused?

 

I just love seeing their relationship grow. M is really starting to smile at Mo, and Mo loves to give her air kisses.

 

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Since having M, we haven’t really had many people over, much to the kids’ chagrin. they LOVE having guests, so when they found out the college/career group was coming over Sunday night for dinner/Bible study, they were THRILLED! For 1.5 hrs beforehand, they were getting their chairs/Bibles ready, excitedly running through the house, and looking out the door, waiting for them to come. They love it when we have people over!

 

 

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I wasn’t here for this picture–John was. They’re both really into weddings right now, as well as pregnancy (due to my most recent pregnancy). Here they are getting married to each other while they’re both pregnant (stuffies in their clothes). We have yet to explain to them that they’ll never be able to marry each other, and that J will never be able to have a baby. 😀 
Church, Crunchy Living, Family, Medical, New Baby, Uncategorized

A New Beginning

Hello all! You may be wondering why I’m starting a new blog with all the same information found on my other blog. I know blogs are public (unless you decide to make it private), but over time, I realized I wanted this blog in order to update family and friends in America about our lives here in Australia. Although I appreciate people knowing about what we’re doing here, I also wanted our lives to be semi-private…hence a new blog.

So, there you go. I’ll hopefully still be updating this blog weekly, or however often I have time to update it, and I’ll probably be letting my other blog lie dormant for awhile. Enjoy a glimpse into our lives an ocean away.

 

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