keep them forever: why I need to hold my photos

My grandmother's cupboard had a particular smell. Actually, her whole house did, but in the cupboard that nostalgic nanna-smell was strongest. This cupboard was one of the most exciting things about our visits. When I was little it contained brand new toys and Christmas presents that she'd "forgotten" about that would be given to us when we discovered them. When I was 15 I found her wedding dress and I thought it was so special being allowed to try it on. On one of my last real visits it was the boxes of photographs stashed in that cupboard that held me captive for hours. 

Black and white, or sepia-toned with rounded corners they documented the childhoods of my grandparents and my mum and her siblings. Holy Communions and 70's bikini's and various weddings and cousins and old fashioned cars and furniture. 

What about my kids? And grandchildren? Will they love my funny-smelling cupboard? What will they find in there? At this stage, not a lot of photos. And although their generation is the most micro-documented in history, will their childhoods be lost on old iPhones and computers, or will we rely on Instagram to scroll through and show them the highlight reel of their childhood? We have camera roll after camera roll full of photos, and computers full to the brim of all our digital images but what about pictures we can hold?
Ones we can sit and share with little people peeking over our shoulders and asking to see, and holding them close to their faces. Our kids love to look at photos, especially of themselves when they were babies or toddlers, or of their birthday cakes and blowing out candles. And though I'm documenting them well, I'm not keeping them well enough. 

So much of what we share online is our highlight reel. The crisp, perfect images carefully selected to compliment our Instagram feed (I'm guilty! Completely!) but what we fail to remember is that life is so much bigger, and more beautiful and more real than those perfect images. It's big and messy and beautiful and sometimes the shots that tell the best stories about us are the ones that are blurred or have the mountain of washing or the dirty socks strewn on the floor in the background. The real, day to day stuff that life is made of that my kids will want to remember, and show their own children one day. 

So I've made a promise to myself. To create tangible, holdable photos, and photobooks and albums. Not to let special moments [assemblies, merit certificates, tooth fairy visits, Easter hat parades, daddy cuddles] get lost in my camera roll.
To print photos that we can sit down with friends and share, over coffee, with eye contact. 
Ones that show the real, unstyled us that we'll want to remember in years to come.
Documenting well, keeping forever.

* Above photo book printed through Snapfish - the perfect Father's Day present for my dad, a book documenting our school holiday visit to Bridgetown

xx

 

when you feel like there's more

More and more I realise how fleeting time goes.
It both excites and petrifies me. 
Our baby is six and the endless sleepless nights and toddler wrangling feels like a lifetime ago. Was that even me, the mama with the tiny boy and the even littler girl and the bump who was soon to become this wild and sweet completion of our family? Was that me, who spent long days nursing and making playdoh and having Disney's Cars on replay?
It was me. It was the life I dreamed of, it is the life I dreamed of. So why then, does it not feel enough? Why do I feel like I'm standing on the precipice and I can't see any further?!

See, I don't think I dreamed far enough. Subconsciously the dreaming stopped after the children were born. I don't know what I saw for myself afterwards.
The mind-movie I rolled through in my head ended abruptly at motherhood.

So when the pregnancies finished and the days of nursing and mornings spent at the park were done and dusted, and my baby went happily off to school full-time this year I have never felt so rattled. I'm living the dream but there's so much more space around that dream to dream some more. To see bigger, and further. To dream for my family, and my kids.

Dreaming is seeing and what we see we can reach. I saw motherhood. I saw the kind of mother I would be, the kind of family I would have and I'm so grateful to God that it's here and I have it, and you know what? I've even kinda rocked at this motherhood thing. 
But there's so much more and a whole life to discover it.

Dear Me. It's not over. That's not all there is. 
As petrifiying as that may feel, and as narrow and rocky these paths are, on the journey to discovering all that God has for you - its the exhilarating adventure that you're called to. 

Go get 'em.

xo

 

journal | giant slaying

 

Something was said to me a couple of months ago that stuck.
"If you slay the giants in your life, your daughters won't have to."

It put a fight on the inside of me I haven't had before. Because as a mother, I want better for my kids than what I have. I want them to start from the top of my shoulders, not from the ground up. And if I can get taller, then they'll reach further.

So my girls, for you I'll fight. 

I'll slay timidity and insecurity because I don't want you to be held back by it - I want you to have a deep sense of knowing that you were planned and are purposed and a security in who you are and the limitless possibility God has placed on the inside of you.

I'll slay approval addiction because I never want you to hand over the role of your approval to anyone else. You'll walk without the need of approval or applause and you'll be free from the fear of what others might think.

I'll slay the need to find self-worth in achievements or accomplishment - you are more valuable than a piece of paper that holds a degree, you are more important than any role you could have, and you are more precious than what you do with your time. Your worth was complete the moment life was breathed into your soul.

I'll slay comparison because I want you to know that someone else's beauty or talent doesn't dim your own. There is room for you.

I'll slay the labels and the expectation society places on us as women, so that you'll never have to feel their weight or question their truth.

I'll slay the thoughts that the mirror spits out when it says too fat, too small, too crooked, too short, too different so that you appreciate the uniqueness of your body and place less emphasis on the exterior than you give to your heart. 

I'll slay the self-loathing and together we'll love people of every race, colour, gender, orientation, and background so you see the words love thy neighbour as yourself in action, and without excuse. The way you'll love yourself will transfer to those around you - open-handed, full of grace.

Because those giants I'm slaying are liars. And as I slay them, they're shrinking and you'll stand tall over them all and laugh with wild abandon. And I'll say of you, "She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future."*

xx

*Proverbs 31:25

where are we going?

I get annoyed sometimes because I can't see the end.
If only I could see clearly the way life will pan out for us, I could focus on what really matters.
If only I could see the finished jigsaw instead of what now looks like an unfinished, abstract mess, then I wouldn't feel so unsettled and unsure. 
If only I could see clearly what God has put inside me to use, and to develop, and to sow then I wouldn't bury everything and hide away.

I'm Thomas. The doubting disciple.
The beautiful, comforting words of Jesus tells them* not to let their hearts be troubled, to trust Him. Everyone else seems okay with this. Except Thomas. I imagine these beautiful, comforting words lingered in his mind for a little bit. They sounded nice but then the pause. Logic and reality hit him like a train. Wait a second, what are you even talking about?! You can tell me not to be troubled all you like but I AM troubled! "No, we don't know, Lord" Thomas says, "We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?" I know how Thomas feels. 
"WHERE ARE WE GOING?!" I scream it in my mind. 
I demand it, frown, try to move away from the discomfort. NO WE DON'T KNOW, JESUS. 
I DON'T KNOW!

I don't know! I don't know where I'm going, I don't know specifically, what I need to be doing. I have no map, no timeline, no checklist. What if I'm going the wrong way? What if I make a choice and it's the wrong one?

But I think that's the point. The point of the faith that we're supposed to have for God to smile upon us. The faith that says, "I can't see the way, but I know Who the Way is."
And it's always the Who that is the most important.
And He is the one who promises peace regardless.
Regardless of how much we feel we're stepping out into nothingness - He'll catch us.
Regardless of how much we feel we're flailing on a path alone - we're not. 
We're left with the gift ofpeace of mind and heart. "And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid."**

"I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught" ***

As frustrating as it is that I can't see the end, I can see Him. I can know Him. And instead of being berated for doubting He simply promises peace, even when I can't see the way, and when the path before me is dim. 

xx

* John 14
** John 14:27
*** Message Paraphrase

eats | apple crumble

The coldest days here are always July. 
Yesterday we spent the morning at a playground and the cold was biting my toes and nudging at my bones, despite wearing billions of layers. 
The cold put a stop to my idea of an afternoon run, and instead all I wanted was to curl up with something deliciously warm in my hands to ward off the ice. 
Apple crumble is traditionally made with a lot of sugar, but now that my palate has changed and I don't eat as much of the refined stuff anymore, I really love this version. It's warm and sweet, yet nourishing enough that I even ate it for breakfast this morning with a big dollop of greek yoghurt!
Perfect for a frosty morning, or an evening cosied up under a blanket. I made it in my Thermomix but it would be easy enough to make by stewing the apples on the stove, and crushing the nuts in a clean tea towel with a rolling pin. Enjoy!

Sugar-free easy Apple Crumble
Serves approx 5
 

Ingredients
Filling:
8 granny smith apples, peeled and cut into eighths
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon water

Crumble topping:
1 cup oats
2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter
1/2 cup almonds or other nuts of choice
2 tablespoons rice malt or maple syrup
2/3 cup shredded coconut

Stew the apples with the cinnamon and water either on the stovetop on low, stirring occasionally or in the Thermomix at 100 degrees/reverse/sp 1 for about 13 minutes.
Place stewed apple evenly on the bottom of a small oven-proof dish. Pre-heat your oven to 160*C.

Blend all crumble ingredients in a blender or Thermomix for 6 seconds on a medium speed, being careful to only combine the ingredients and chop the nuts slightly - you want the crumble to still be crumbly, not completely blended together.

Layer the crumble over the top of the apple and sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg on the top before placing it into the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the top becomes golden and crisp. Serve with pouring cream, or yoghurt if you're like me and you want some for breakfast!

xx

life stories | isaac & missie

Their business is coffee.
He grinds and tamps and extracts the perfect honey-coloured liquid. The milk is frothed until it's thick and silky and he pours back and fourth until the delicate art forms on the top. It truly is the best coffee I've ever had. And I'm lucky enough to drink it every Sunday. 
Their espresso bar is set up just beyond the doors of our church. 
Music plays as a background to the grinding and the tapping and the chatting. 
It's not just the coffee with these two though. 
It's the jovial joking from behind the coffee machine, and the warm greetings.
It's not just the knowing what type of coffee you're ordering (flat white, double shot, no sugar thanks) but the knowing who you are, how your family is.
They love people with their coffee, and their genuine grins. And they love each other.
It's obvious. It's not a showy over-the-top loving that needs to be announced in a Facebook post. It's the earthy and real everyday loving and serving that I see. The working-alongside, giving-my-best type love. 
And we watched her little belly grow bit by bit, week by week as she wrote our name on pretty paper coffee cups. We saw the anticipation and the delight growing as she did. 

And then he arrived and now they're three. 
And lucky me took my camera and spent a little hour chatting and capturing his three-week-old perfection, and the newness of life and the evolution of family. I reminisced with her my own squishy-newborn sleep-deprived days and the wonder and the worry of it all. 
But can you see the God-peace in the photos? Because it was there. This tangible peace and awe of the miracle of family and the blessing of a baby. 

xo

where have you been?

where i've been.jpg

I've been reading 17th Century literature by James Joyce and Laurence Sterne and Nathaniel Hawthorne. 
I've been writing essays and sitting exams.
I've been cooking nourishing foods and still trying to save on our weekly budget by not buying takeaway. 
I've been organising taxes and paperwork and payslips for my husband's business; printing business cards and making plans and dreaming big. 
I've been watching Netflix and rediscovering crochet and enjoying knitted throws keeping me cosy on cold winter nights. 
I've been planning women's gatherings, and hanging with creative tribes, and taking photos of newborns and speaking at mama's groups about the crazy ride that is toddlerhood.
We've taught the kiddos the card game 'Spoons' and spent every evening for over a week competitively playing and laughing.
We've holidayed down south, drank daily coffees or the occasional chai tea, opened our home, loved on our family and splashed in muddy puddles. 
I've sat and had tea with my kiddo's great grandmother and listened to her stories of Scotland and her generation. We've written our family tree and she's helped to trace us back to the early 1800's. 
I've run towards sunsets, with the wind in my face. I've scribbled pages in journals, laid in the sunshine, tended my herb garden and held print magazines with my name in them. 
I've pushed comfort zones, retreated back into them.
I've been steady and faithful and then mental.
I've read and prayed and retreated and the world kept turning and whirring and churning. 

And today I found a spot in the winter sunshine to write. To come back here. 

But it's not all about here, you know? There are so many other places we can be.

Where have you been?

xx
 

humble

I'm learning.

To put my phone down. And when I fail, to just put it down again. 
To study even when it's the last thing I feel like doing. 
That it only takes 5 minutes to wash the dishes and have a clean sink.
To let go of worry - it changes nothing, and adds no money to the bank.
That legacy is important. That nothing lasts for ever. That life is valuable. 
That when I change my shutter speed, cool things can happen. 
To use my slow cooker to roast a chicken, and then use it again to make broth.
That 5:30am is the most valuable time of my day - the still, the quiet.
That when I fail to get up at 5:30am it's okay.
To prioritise the important things, and hold the rest (blogging, social media) lightly.

Stay humble. 

xx

the voice of wisdom

It's that time of year again. 
Semester has started, and I am feeling the stretch.
The uncomfortable, brink-of-overwhelm stretch.
Every year I add a little bit more to my load, and every year I second-guess the decision that I'd made the year before.
I begin to doubt whether I can carry the load, doubt whether I've chosen the right thing, doubt my ability, doubt my intelligence - basically doubt anything there is floating around my mind that can possibly be doubted!

The difference is that this year I've recognised the pattern.
Oh hey doubt. You were here last year. You're not going to last long. 

I know that the beginning of semester is overwhelming. And now I also know how to knuckle down and do what needs to be done. That in 14 weeks it'll be done and dusted and I can reward myself with as many Greys Anatomy episodes as I want, ha! 

For now though, the book of Proverbs has plenty of wise words:
Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life. 
If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. 
If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.*


So what's this wisdom that will multiply my days?
Good routine, less procrastination (read: social media), time spent planning, organisation. 
When I am dedicated to doing what needs to be done, I rest easy at night knowing I've used my days wisely and they have essentially been multiplied. Those days when you feel like you've achieved a week's worth of work? I guarantee you, wisdom was involved. 
Psalm 90:12 says we need to number our days, to gain a heart of wisdom - not to be frightened that our days are numbered, but to really truly make every day count. 

"Wisdom will tell you when to pursue and conquer and when to simply stand your ground. It will clarify what is worth fighting for and what is not worth the fight. Wisdom is never rushed or forced into a corner. It is knowledge applied at the right time, in the right way with the right motive" - Claude Carrello 

So that thing you feel like you can't do? Ask for and apply wisdom. See it from a different angle. Hold on for just a little bit longer. The doubt will fade and wisdom will come. 

xx

* Proverbs 9:11-12

 

get me out

Daniel is up for work early. Like, it's-still-dark early.
Sometimes I hear the coffee beans grinding and it brings me out of my dreaming state, sometimes I hear nothing until the faint sound of the garage door, and his ute reversing out. 
The best mornings are when my alarm wakes me and he's already gone and I'd slept through it all. 
Today though, I was already awake. Felt like I'd never slept, although I'm sure I had dozed restlessly throughout the night, half-asleep and anxious.
When sleep still wouldn't come I quietly pulled the blinds so I could curl up and watch the black sky lighten; it's cloudy. It will rain today. Trying not to worry about how tired I'd feel later. 
Trying not to worry about everything. 

I'm not a worrier, usually. But it's those times I'm not quite awake enough to fight them, that they come. The anxieties and the embarrassments, the reminders of failures and the overwhelming urge to sink and keep sinking. I'm not good enough. I'll never be good enough.
I squeeze my face shut, and it's hot and red and my heart hurts. Failure.

Then as the sky turns from black to grey, clarity comes slowly. I felt vulnerable, I didn't bring perfection to a situation, and the same old narrative starts again. The one entitled, "You aren't good enough." The pattern becomes clearer and then it's easier to change my thoughts. I force them to be kind, which feels almost impossible. But I remind myself what's true. 
You are IN the arena. You showed up, despite your fear. You're being brave with your life.

"And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can't have both." (Thanks Brene


I layed in bed and just let myself feel the discomfort. Maybe there was another cringe or two of vulnerability but then this:
"[loyal, faithful, committed] walks in step with God; his path blazed by God who delights in very detail. If he stumbles, he's not down for long; God has a grip on his hand."*

God delights in every detail. Full knowing we'll fail, that we won't be perfect (if I was I'd have no need of Him) that we'll feel disappointed in ourselves. But in the war between daring and comfort, daring has to win - stepping out is the only way in to a life that is vibrant and wholehearted - faith not fear is what pleases Him.
And as the sun made the sky pink I told myself, "yes disappointment is painful and embarrassment is almost worse... but neither have to last long." 

And instead of screaming, 'get me out!'; the arena is too hard, too tough, too painful... I'll stay standing. Because today is brand new, and so is the grace that I so desperately need.

xx

Psalm 37:23-24

saturday | coloured cookies

baking kids-6.jpg

Today I have the sniffles. 
Yesterday afternoon I knew I was fighting something, so I whizzed up a smoothie full of carrots, ginger, tumeric, an orange and some supergreens. By the evening my nose was running and I was counting the hours till bedtime - I toddled myself off to bed not long after the kiddos lights were out.
Today I'm feeling worn out. Apple cider vinegar and James Joyce have been my companions and I even managed a nap.
Thankfully the smalls have been content to just be home after a big week, and happy to stay in pjs most of the day - until this afternoon when boredom struck.
Please can we make something? Please can we bake something?
So make and bake we did. Or they did, while I drank a tea and supervised vaguely.

The dough (found here) was quick to whip up, and we chose tiny shapes mostly because they'd bake faster and also because they'll last longer - a few in each lunchbox is the perfect little treat.
The girls found these food colouring pens in the baking box and begged me to let them colour their tiny cookies - why not?! Such a great idea, and it kept them occupied for so long. I think it'll make their recess a little bit fun this week! 

Now the tiny cookies are in the freezer, the kitchen is clean and I'm about to hop into my pjs again. Happy Saturday!

xx

I've started a board on Pinterest here specifically for school lunches - I'm looking for yummy, low sugar/fructose snacks and treats. My pinning to making ratio is surprisingly high.
 

 

a new rhythm

I've been a stay at home mum for 10 years.
February 2006 I was preparing to finish up my office administration role, with four weeks of pregnancy to go. Those days were filled with what feels similar again now - a sense of excitement and expectancy, anticipation. But if I looked closer then like I do now, I know there was underlying fear - I wondered if I was cut out to be a mother. Whether I could give birth, or breastfeed or nurture the tiny human that was growing inside me. I had a million expectations, yet I had no way of truly knowing what it would look like or feel like or be like. 

10 years later it ends. My days have completely changed.
I feel a sense of loss and sadness for time I can't re-live, but there is peace in knowing that I've sown what I could in the time that I had.
And motherhood is far from over, it's just taken on a different shape - they can feed and dress themselves, but feeding their minds and spirits, and clothing their hearts is a precious role that still belongs to me.

And last week it was scorchingly hot, and I'd missed them, and I kept them home.
We fell in salty sea, and ate ice-cream and came home to hibernate indoors. 
And the next day I needed them to be at school but I both love, and hate the space and the quiet when they're gone. 
I've lost some measure to my days, and too many seem too quiet. 
But the truth is that I've been so used to rushing, that I have to re-learn how to slow down. 
I have to learn a new routine in these unfamiliar days and it's not dependant on snack-times or play times - and the only interruption to my productivity is myself.
I have no way of being able to tell what this season will look like, or feel like, or be like, and I still doubt my ability to walk through it with purpose and intention - but that is my word for the year. Intention.

To be intentional with my time; my saying yes and my saying no.
Intentional about what I invest my heart into, and what relationships will warrant my attention. 
Intentional about what I read, intentional in self-care, intentional in eating and exercise, study and service. 

So, here's to finding a new rhythm, hearing a new song, discovering a new way.

xx

focus & energy

Focus.

Today I heard something that was a little bit profound. 
I mulled it over in my mind all day.
It made me realise again the importance of what's going on on the inside. 
It was this:

Where focus goes, energy flows.

What am I letting capture my focus? Because I'll be leaking energy there. 
Is it negative? Is it helpful? Is it productive? Or is it keeping me tied up and stuck?

I've been thinking about what I want to accomplish creatively this year.
I've already been given such amazing opportunities, but if I continue to focus on what everyone else is doing and try to draw inspiration from the wrong places, I'll waste the energy I need to pursue what is set aside for me to accomplish - and also lose the authenticity of what I am writing/saying/photographing. 

The more I thought about this today, the truer I felt it. Focus = energy. 
Even if it's subconscious. 
What I am focusing on sets my mood. My mood affects everyone in my household.
If I just shift my focus, my mood shifts too - negatively or positively.
"Make a conscious effort to fill your mind with good, pure, wholesome, and lovely thoughts."*

Did you know that thoughts release chemicals in the brain? Chemicals released in your brain have an effect on your body. Making a conscious effort to fill my mind with that which is good will actually have a positive effect on my body also - my energy won't be leaking out of the wrong places...
And, maybe like Dr Seuss says, those good thoughts will shine out of my face like sunbeams.

xx

* Philippians 4:8

 

back to school - I made it

I have been nesting. Wild, scrubbing-the-bathroom-to-within-an-inch-of-it's-life type nesting. 
Only I'm not pregnant. With a baby.
But upon careful consideration, I think what I am pregnant with is expectation. And the knowledge that a new season is about to be birthed in my life.
I knew this day would come but I never anticipated just how bitterly sweet it would feel.
My baby girl embarks on her primary school journey tomorrow, and every day she will march to school with her siblings, widen her knowledge of the world around her, and deepen her mark upon it. 
And with every march in her light-up Frozen shoes (for which her mama did forgo her desired and much more stylish pair, to the delight of that little and very determined pair of feet) I am simultaneously proud, anxious and exhilarated.

I made it, mamas.
To that little dancing light at the end of what sometimes was a very dark tunnel.
I made it through sleepless nights, milk-soaked bras and puddles of wee in embarrassing places when they toilet trained. I lugged around giant nappy bags, and squeezed wide load prams through small spaces. I learned the knack of car-seat buckling, toddler wrangling and veggie coercing. I've sat through more episodes of Play School, Thomas the Tank, and Peppa Pig than I care to imagine. I knew the isolation and the loneliness of those new-mama days, and loved the park dates and play dates and playgroups and mothers groups as I began to find my tribe.
I loved the afternoon naps, and the baby learning-words, toddling babes and watching the wonder of the world through their eyes.
Oh I loved the exhaustingly hard slog of it all, and I'll miss it more as time goes on and the sweet memories outweigh the bitter. 
And walking into this new season I leave no regrets. 
I mothered the way I knew how, I tried my absolute best, I showed up every day and loved those tiny babies into the adorable kiddos they are now.
And I'll keep loving them... and walk away from the school gate doing a happy dance tomorrow.
She's ready, I'm ready.
Lets do this new thing.

xx  

 

whooooo are you?

bridgetown 2016 jan-8.jpg

We went to watch The Lion King at the theatre this week. 
And then we watched the movie last night.
Remember the part after Nala returns and Simba is all confused about who he is?
Rafiki confronts him with "The question is: whooooooo are you?", and Simba doesn't know.
After a little reminding though, Simba of course runs back to Pride Rock and asserts himself as king.

Last week I signed my very first paid writing contract. 
I'll be a regular paid contributor for a website who approached me and asked me to write for them. A freelance writer and photographer.

I've been a writer for a long time. On the inside. 
The last six months has had me voicing these titles. Starting with bravely printing some business cards. Writer/Photographer they boldly declare.
And all this voicing has had me running closer to the actual being
I have started to see who I am, and success has no choice but to follow.

Who are you? 
When you start to understand who you are, it's much easier to see where you need to go.

xx

Also, click over to Kin Women to see my first post of twenty sixteen... I'm a writer there too, you know.

seen beauty, unseen thoughts

bridgetown 2016 jan-2.jpg

This trip was supposed to be made on Christmas day. With a husband to drive and without giant road detours due to the bushfire ravaged south west (the people who lost their homes this week were in my thoughts and prayers and nightmares).
Things don't always work out the way you expected them to, so this week it was instead of Christmas: the longer, more winding way felt like a fresh new adventure.
The three little people who accompanied me were perfect conversationalists, water-passers, windmill-counters and song-choosers.

And it meant mornings here, greeting the sunshine with a walk up to the top of the hill.
I slurped the last peach from the tree, the sweetest I've ever tasted. 
The glow of the morning sunshine on her not-long-opened eyes was irresistible as we drank it in, chattering. 
And the perfect breakfast porridge, all-day attentiveness and nightly tuck-ins from their Granny and Grandpop made the long drive worth every one of the few hundred kilometres we travelled to be with them.

As I drove through ever-changing landscapes, the still small Voice speaks to me about the unseen. 
There is so much worry about what is seen: what is perceived by others, what is visible in our social media streams, and how well we conduct ourselves.
But so much more important is our inner, unseen lives. Our thoughts, and attitudes and intents.
When we do those things simply because they are good and right, even though no one will see, no one will know.
The leaving your device at home on purpose so you can be present with your people.
The extra care and patience you take when you do your daughters hair because you know it's just how she likes it.
The prayers you stop to make when you're busy, because someone needs them, and not just paying lip-service.

The unseen is always woven behind what is seen.
A unseen heart softened, and unseen cares cast down before an unseen God.
It's a comfort, that this unseen is always woven through the beauty that I so often seek in my every day.
Starting the year with unseen intentions and staying true to them, will create visible beauty - even if it's only visible to you. 

xx

 

Day 1

The days pressed in between Christmas and New Year are my favourite. 
When our Christmas tree comes down, the extra light I'd forgotten about from the window it stood in front of floods in and lights the lounge room, bright and clear and new.
New like the year ahead. 
Rich with promise and possibility.
Full of the hope of resolutions realised.
The expectancy of change for the better. Hope for the future.

This week though, I flicked through my 2015 diary.
It's battered and worn out, coffee-stained and scribbled over.
The perfect reflection of the year: full to the brim but very weathered and a little bit beaten.

And I couldn't add the weight of resolutions onto a heart that, if I'm honest, actually feels a bit fragile. Instead, I've been thinking about the values I hold true and important, and the priorities I'll make as a framework for a life lived purposefully this year.
Don't get me wrong, I honestly believe reflection and goal-setting is of the utmost importance to being able to live in a way that draws us into the most full and abundant way of life. 
But this year instead of giving myself a set of guidelines and rules that every year I struggle to reach, I'm being gentler. I've asked myself what's the most important. And everything else will stem from that. My minutes, hours, days and weeks will stem from what is most important.

And sometimes, asking myself what isn't important helps to distinguish the pearls I need to value and hold precious.

And if I just remember the things I know in my heart to be priorities, and live out of that every day, then I know twenty sixteen will be more full, and less weary. That there will be an overflow, an abundance, a river.
If I learn to walk humbly in the today, without worrying about tomorrow, I know that the unspoken dreams and giant hopes will begin to flourish and fruit.
In my minds eye I see a tiny seedling awakening through rich soil, and hands protectively cupped around it. Protected, valued, prioritised. 

I'm thankful that years end, and new ones begin.
Thankful for brand new days, new weeks, new months.
For seasons that come and seasons that go.
For tiny goals, and a whole lot of seedling dreams full of hope.
Twenty sixteen, lets do this. Day, by day.

xx


 

great expectations - and the picture that lies

I read this quote last week, as I scrolled through Pinterest, and it stuck:

"What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it's supposed to be" 

This Christmas didn't look how it was supposed to.
Christmas Eve found us (the husband and I) hi-fiving each other for our well-organised-low-stress night, when we turned in at 10:30. We'd been organised and wrapped ahead of time, and got stockings filled and the twinkling tree laden beneath with gifts, and I even baked the last of the gingerbread while I replayed The Holiday. 
The house smelled of pine and gingerbread. A Christmas Eve couldn't actually get more perfect.
Contented sigh, and early bedtime. 
Half an hour later we were joined by a fidgeting five year old.
Three hours of said five year old fidgeting and complaining of a sore tummy or being thirsty or being hot, or cold and I wasn't feeling so festive anymore. 
And then her 2am vomiting began.
Which took us through till 6am.
I was mostly feeling sad and sorry for her, and sad and sorry for myself, anticipating my phone call to my parents to tell them we wouldn't be making the two hour drive for Christmas dinner, or to stay the night - which meant we'd be missing out on food and family and too much fun that could bear thinking about.

I could have stopped there and wallowed in my misery.
Except I didn't.
I let my heart explode with pride when Joel tiptoed to our bedroom door excitedly, and saw his face drop with concern, "Aww Amie, are you sick on Christmas Day" They still shared sad little Merry Christmases and he ran to get her stocking to help cheer her up.
I let myself see the good.
It's okay, I told myself, It's a day with no rushing. 
We can hang out as a family.
Amie can sleep.
They have presents to open, that will keep the big two occupied.
It's a beautiful fresh, cool day, I can open the windows and air the house.
We can eat the gingerbread house.
McDonalds will be open.
These four are the ones I want to spend my Christmas day with anyway.


When I let go of my great expectations of what Christmas day should look like, I found laying there, glittering, the gold. 
Big siblings doing whatever they could to make their sister's morning less miserable.
A bleary-eyed husband offering not only the coffee, with freshly ground beans and frothy warm milk, but solidarity: we're in this together, the parenting trenches, brought closer in the discomfort of tiredness.
For two back-to-back movies on Netflix after presents were exchanged, as we chilled together.
Grace for my snappiness when my nap was interrupted.
For the afternoon sleep that did eventuate after said interruptions.
The gold of Amie's health, for the colour that came back into her cheeks by lunchtime, for the toast she kept down, and the dinner she was able to eat, and the day that was saved by her being able to unwrap and enjoy her Christmas.

And really? The gold is knowing how rich we really are. 
How I have not one complaint about my very different Christmas.
That I know there are others having very different Christmasses too. 
My amazing pastors flew to Cambodia on Christmas Day.
My beautiful friend braved her first solo Christmas with her kids since her husband walked out.
Another gorgeous family I know held off their own exchanging of gifts and left the house early to go and serve breakfast to strangers in their community.
Another brave mama held down the fort as her husband worked his shift over Christmas Day.

The secret is knowing where to find the glittering stuff, hidden in gratitude amidst all those unmet expectations. The picture screws us up because we believe that life needs to match it, and to be perfect to have any value.
Lets not let that picture in our heads tell us lies. 
Life isn't perfect. Often things don't work out the way that we plan them.
But there is good to be found in it all. And actually, my Christmas was one of the best yet.

xx



  

the lets-try-everything life

My girls have been dancing for three years now.
I have done three years of drop offs to their classes, three years of finding the most affordable dance wear (second hand, always the winner), three years of ballet buns.
Three years of reading and re-reading rehearsal schedules for concerts, and hunting down a particular shade of lipstick, and paying for photos and tickets and other extras. 
Of inviting family and friends to concerts, and having two tired little girls afterwards.
There have been moments where the dressing in tights, then leotard, then wrap skirt, then ballet shoes, then wrap cardigan have been tedious - plus the remembering of drink bottles and tap shoes, and the dash out the door to make class in time is often a frazzled one. 

But then, seeing them dance on stage at the end of the year, glowing and proud makes those moments worthwhile. 
They've learned the discipline of sticking at something, even when they don't feel like it. 
The independence (I've just started letting Eden jump out of the car and run into class by herself - she feels liberated!) and then there's the fitness, the fun, the friendships.

Extra curricular activities are often more effort for us as parents, and sometimes just the expense is enough to have us balk at the idea, and wonder if it's worth the money or the time.
And at the end of another year of dance (and partway through a cricket season for the big brother) I can tell you most certainly has been for us.

Not because I want to create prima ballerinas, or compete with the dance mums (I will never compete with the dance mums, my buns are sub standard!) but because it's teaching them life lessons that I am still learning myself. Life lessons about dedication and appreciation, and the ability to encourage and applaud others who are in the spotlight even when they aren't.
Because it introduces them to the arts, and a creative and daring lets-try-everything life.

And next year, they want to try gymnastics instead and I'm okay with that. 
It's a daring, creative, lets-try-everything life.

xx

 

eats | gingerbread & family traditions

It's a tradition, gingerbread. It belongs at Christmas and always involves copious amounts of icing and way too many lollies. Sometimes it's one big gingerbread house, other times it's gingerbread men and for the last two years I've made us a tiny house each.
This is the favourite so far, we get to decorate just how we like.

But the actual decorating of our gingerbread is done together. We spread out bowls of lollies and spoons and icing and I watch as they load them up, carefully making chimneys from marshmallows and patterns from Smarties. 

Early in my childhood I recognised the importance of family traditions. 
The security that comes from the constants, the expected. Gingerbread at Christmas, dinner at 6, camping at Easter, mulberry picking in summer, drives to the markets on Sundays.
Through the rhythm of seasons and those regular things we do together we cement our values as a family, reinforce the importance of spending time together face-to-face and fill up on life that will one day provide priceless memories for all of us.

xx

Easy Quick Gingerbread Recipe with Thermomix option

125g butter
90g brown sugar
1 egg
125g plain flour, sifted
185g self raising flour, sifted
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons honey

1. Cream butter and sugar in a small mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Combine flour, bicarbonate of soda and ginger and fold through mixture. Add honey and mix well. 
2. Sprinkle extra flour onto a surface and knead mixture until soft but not sticky. Chill for 30 minutes. Divide into four portions and roll each portion out to 3mm thickness.
3. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters or paper templates. Place on a baking tray and cook at 180C for 10-15 minutes.

Thermomix: measure all ingredients into bowl. Mix speed 6 for about 15 seconds to combine. Mix on interval speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Tip out your dough and form a ball on some plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Enjoy! xx

Edited to add: The templates I've always used for these little houses are from a Donna Hay Christmas magazine and can be found here. I used the 'small house' template.