Monthly Archives: November 2009

Clothes

When Jack was only 2, he came out from his bedroom fully dressed in his favourite clothes. He had pulled on his elastic waisted red shorts and his powder blue stripy top all by himself. This was an achievement he was immensely proud of, announced to us by him running from his room into the lounge room, landing in a star jump and saying, “They’re all going to say, there goes Flacky!”

It was a hilarious moment. Totally unexpected, it caught us all by surprise. We laughed and cheered, encouraging him for being such a clever boy to get dressed all by himself. Reid, Sam, Emma and myself were there and it has gone down in our memorable family moments as one of our most treasured recollections. To this day I have no idea who ‘they’ were or why he thought “Flacky’ was what ‘they’ would call him but I know that day marked the day of a new season.

I think about this moment now, as we start back at what seems like the beginning with Sam. It feels at times as though we have regressed and I am mothering a young child. This is not her fault. Her body is fragile and weak, her pulse rate fast and the effort it takes to do simple things is incredibly draining. On the days that she makes it to the kitchen fully dressed for the day ahead I feel the same sense of pride that I felt for Jack all those years ago.

Yesterday the fire returned with the heat of summer. She woke with a temperature of 38.4 degrees. The day of testing has not passed though I desperately want it to be. The thyroid is trying to steal our hope of full recovery; trying to get us to curse our God. There are moments when I wonder if this will ever pass. I catch myself feeling overwhelmed. I want to hide in a cave. I want to feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I indulge a little, letting the pity creep over me, so many reasons for sadness.

Spending a year in hospital I’ve seen all kinds of clothes. Many people arrive for chemotherapy in tracksuits, many come without makeup, and others come dressed to the nines. So often what we wear reflects the way we feel. It’s hard for Sam now to feel good in anything, Most of her clothes are baggy and loose from the weight she has lost, its frustrating finding things to put on.

Being sick strips you of everything. It has taken her hair, it has scarred her chest and it has changed the tone of her skin. It takes a massive effort to be strong when you’ve encountered a battle but it is not impossible.

So I decide that in the day of battle I will press on to understand the goodness of God. Everyday we discover that He is faithful. All power is in Him, We find it again and again through His word, which is the book of life. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego it seems she’s been thrown in the fire. The heat is consuming her, the fevers and the temperature of the day but God is there in the midst of the fire. He watches over her life. He watches over His word to perform great and mighty deeds.

Zechariah 3:1
“Then the guiding angel showed me Joshua, the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord and Satan standing at Joshua’s right hand to be his adversary and to accuse him.”

As followers of Christ we are in a battle. The enemy constantly seeks to bring us down. We must recognise his schemes. He brings sickness, financial ruin; he tempts our children to rebel. He wants to wear us out by the incessant nature of the battles of life. Sometimes it is not a lack of hope, or a fear of failure, or an attitude of defeat, it’s the sheer exhaustion of getting up time and time again. Our defences are down and we are weak but thankfully His power is perfected in weakness.

Zechariah 3:2
“And the Lord said to Satan – ‘The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! Even the Lord who [now and habitually] chooses Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this [returned and captured] Joshua, a brand plucked from the fire?”

Like Joshua, Sam has already been delivered. She conquered death on September 11 in the fire that came that day. Yes, she has been plucked out and I remind Satan of this when I pray.

When we walk with God we must choose carefully what we will wear. We are representing Him. When He delivers His people He brings them new clothes.

Zechariah 3:3
“Take away his filthy garments from him. And he said to Joshua, ‘Behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you and I will clothe you with rich apparel. And I said ‘Let them put a clean turban upon his head and clothed him with rich garments.”

God has all our clothes laid out ready on the edge of our bed, just as a mother does for her child. He knows what’s ahead. He’s preparing us. We are never alone – not in fire, not in hardship, not in sickness, nor in despair. He stands by, He watches. He waits until we are fully His.

When the prodigal returned in Luke 15 the father said “Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet.”

So much of our victory is in the clothes that we wear. God gave Sam garments of gold raiment and a crown long before she entered the day of battle. These may not be literal clothes but the visual is powerful. They are the promise of her future.

It’s a choice to live in victory. The torments of the enemy, the symptoms of sickness compete for our attention. The natural circumstances opposed to the spiritual realm. In obedience we get up another day deciding that we will be strong in the Lord, draw our strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides]

We “put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore we put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand. We stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around our waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, we take up the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, we stay alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:10 – 18

Somehow that day when Jack arrived in the lounge room, Tom Cruise style, He wasn’t wearing the same red shorts and blue t-shirt he’d worn as a toddler. It wasn’t really about the clothes at all. It was about how they were being worn. He was Flacky now, confident and capable, ready for anything.

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Today

November farewells spring in a brilliant array of jacaranda. The blossoms are beginning to drop now. They are heavy from the heat and humidity. Moisture-saturated bonnets fall to the ground. A purple picnic blanket, carpets the lawn where the cicadas have set up their instruments for a day of song. They, like us have emerged from a year underground. Released from their captivity they sing.

“When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, they were like men that dreamed.” Psalm 126:1

The hum of bees at work collecting nectar harmonise with the cicadas. Like a bare footed child I negotiate my way through bees and bindii on my way to my swing. Do I dare climb on it and swing carefree into the clouds again?

The dizzy brightness of the summer sun is harsh on my eyes after a year indoors. I struggle to adjust. The looming promise of 100 days brings the hope of completion of treatment and the silent fear of what remains.

Hospital is like a prison in so many ways, a sentence to be served, a place of no escape. You are allowed to leave at any time but you do so at your peril. Before you leave, you sign the form acknowledging that you do so at your own risk.

Each time before we leave I cut off the bands that labelled her wrists and ankles, returning the gowns that stripped Sam of her identity. I tuck her patient number into my wallet in case something goes wrong and I need to ring. Her patient number provides quicker access to the files. Your number is more important than your name in the hospital system. The enemy would like us to believe it’s this way with God as well.

We are relieved that for the first time all year, we have two weeks without appointments at hospital but when little blisters appear on her hands I’m already considering a return trip. It’s hard to break free. It’s hard to return from the safety of slavery. It’s hard to believe you can have freedom now.

The ‘what ifs’ are haunting me. How can I know for sure that we have escaped the sentence of cancer? I cling in desperation to God’s word. I return each week to church. I make myself vulnerable, taking my pastor’s arm and with tears in my eyes I compel him to pray. Somehow the effort of believing has worn me out. I want to relax. I don’t want to fight anymore.

Why is it hard to stand in faith after a year of miracles? Why does my heart feel stony and hard? Why do I think it will all fall apart leaving me vulnerable? Why can’t I enter His rest? Reid and I discuss all these matters as we walk the headland not far from our home. We know so many people who have become bitter, or distant or uncaring through pain. I understand why but its not how I want to be. I want redemption life to flow out of me. I want to breathe hope yet I am also afraid.

I take all this to my Father in prayer. He smiles and whispers, ‘Return to the stronghold [of security and prosperity], you prisoner of hope; even today I declare that I will restore double your former prosperity to you.’ Zechariah 9:12

I am a prisoner. I am totally reliant on Him. It’s only when I try to do the journey alone that I feel restless and afraid. It is only then that the enemy’s illustrations ring true. On those days I am like the Israelites who the Lord brought out of Egypt. I am not satisfied with healing but bitter that there has been cancer at all. I can get stuck complaining. I look at all that I do not have. I feel robbed of a year of my life. Yet God allowed the slavery of the Israelites, He allowed Leukaemia, He knows what we are facing.

Hebrews 3:7-11 ‘The Holy Spirit says ‘Today if you hear His voice will you harden your hearts, as it happened in the rebellion of Israel and their provocation and their embitterment of Me in the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers tried My patience and tested My forbearance and found I stood the test and they saw My works for forty years. I was provoked [displeased and sorely grieved] with that generation and said, they always err and are led astray in their hearts and they have not perceived or recognised My ways. Accordingly I swore in My wrath, they will not enter My rest.’

God is faithful. Though we are tested we can put our trust in Him. He will deliver us. All of our burdens are not ours to carry. He wants us to give them to Him. We must understand His character, rely on Him completely and not be led astray. In our surrender His rest will come.

He promises ‘all things will work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes.’ He says He’ll be ‘the lamp to our feet.’ Today is all we have. Today is everything.

T.S. Eliot wrote there would be “Time for you and me, and time yet for a hundred indecisions and for a hundred visions and revisions before the taking of toast and tea.”

But there is no time, there is only today. Today we must decide how to live. Today and eternity are all we are promised. Today we make right our walk with God. Today we decide where we will spend eternity. Today is the day for saying sorry and receiving forgiveness. Today is all we have.

Switchfoot sing:
“This is your life and today is all you’ve got now
Yeah, and today is all you’ll ever have
Don’t close your eyes
This is your life, are you who you want to be
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose
Don’t close your eyes
This is your life are you who you want to be?”

My brother phoned on Thursday night to tell me that his baby Tahlia Rose was born. It’s a new day, a new season, and the greatest of joys. As I held Tahlia in my arms I was teary remembering Samantha’s birth more than 21 years ago. Tahlia is tiny and perfect, peaceful and trusting. In the care of her parents her future is bright. Her trust is completely in them.

In the 1950s both the Mater Hospital and RNSH gave every baby a jacaranda sapling. This is the reason the North Shore of Sydney has jacaranda trees everywhere. They mark the past; they promise the future; beautiful, strong and tall. Everyone I know has a jacaranda story. The tree that graced our backyard as children was where my brother and I loved to climb. From our vantage point we would taunt our big sister below us bathing in the banana bed in her bikini. We would watch our mum scoop leaves out of the circular Clark Rubber pool. We felt like we could see the whole world from there.

To follow the tradition of the 1950s I bought a jacaranda for Tahlia. I told her mum that it would no doubt be the backdrop for many photos, her birthday party a year from now, her school formal and eventually her wedding day. I wonder if she will climb it. I wonder if my brother will eventually find a branch strong enough for a swing. I am excited about my niece, delighted for the tradition of first born girls to be continued and eager to go shopping for treasures to bestow upon her. If I being human have this much love for my new niece, how great is God’s love for me. Surely He plans to redeem us.

From His vantage point He sees the picture that I can’t see. So I climb again onto my swing, finding the rhythm of His Spirit. I lean back pointing my toes to the sun. I gain my momentum and I join the cicada chorus.

‘When the Lord brought back the captives [who returned] to Zion, we were like those who dream [it seemed so unreal]. Then our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with singing. Then they said among the nations The Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad. Turn to freedom our captivity and restore our fortunes, O Lord. They who sow in tears shall reap in joy and singing. He who goes forth bearing seed and weeping, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him.’ Psalm 126

We may dream about tomorrow but we must live completely today.

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Like making paper

Sam making paper

I walked in to find her curled in a ball on her bed. Her heart racing, hands trembling. She was exhausted simply from having a shower.

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They warned us that the transplant was only a partial solution. That if it worked it would cure her of Leukaemia but they said that other things can go wrong and they gave us a book that listed all the possibilities. Secondary cancers, bone problems, liver problems, infertility, kidney problems, cataracts, avascular necrosis and the list went on.

I look at her tiny body and I feel so helpless. Even the drugs designed to stabilize her condition are messing with her thoughts, messing with her head and her emotions are torn pieces of paper thrown like confetti all over the floor.

“Take me out for a while, before you leave? Perhaps to the vintage store? Maybe there will be a typewriter that I can buy since my hands don’t let me write anymore.”

“What was I thinking going out,” I thought suddenly remembering that I was supposed to change the dose if the pulse rate hadn’t lowered through the week. I couldn’t remember exactly what to do. So I searched for the page where the doctor had written it down and I got buried in the paper work. I was awash in the panic and words of failure mocked my lack of responsibility.

I’d been so tired the day that we met with the professor from Endocrine. I’d been teaching all day because it was Kindy Orientation for 2010 and I wanted to be prepared for next year. I want to go back to work if she is well.

I had made the appointment for 4.30pm so that we could make our way across the city from north to east at the end of the day. The waiting room made me weary and when it was our turn I had hoped they would have answers, solutions, and a plan.

Instead the professor showed us our seats and he leaned on the wall standing while the registrar took notes at her desk. He stared at his shoes for a while as if maybe the words he was looking for were there on his toes.

Then he finally raised his head, “We are only doctors. We don’t know everything. We don’t understand why Sam’s thyroid has responded the way it has after the transplant. We’ve been discussing her case and we’ve contacted the transplant units overseas. There have been a few cases recorded when after a transplant, thyroiditis has developed but we have no studies, no facts to help us to determine the course of treatment.”

“Sometimes we just have to tell the patient, we don’t know what to do. We cannot cure you. The best we can do is to try to help manage it from here and hope that it just goes away. It is possible. A thyroid problem can just go away but a post transplant thyroid problem is not something we see, so we can’t make any promises. We are just doctors doing our best.”

Life is like paper
Fragile and torn
Damp, little circles sagging from
The drops of our tears

Life is like paper
Prescriptions, blood forms,
Charts and discharge summaries
It’s hard to keep track of them all

Life is like paper
Sometimes we feel like we are just waiting
Stacked and ready for the recycle bin
Or curled at the edges from the heat of the sun
We feel like maybe we missed our chance to shine
Instead we are musty and yellowed and aged.

Sam loves paper. When she was tiny we used to go out for lemonade and cappuccino. That was the 90s, so sometimes there was a doily on my saucer. Sam loved to decorate the borders with the tiny crayolas I had tucked in my bag.

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Her dainty little hands always loved to colour. They loved to cut out. We would make people all in a row. Friends holding hands. This is the indulgence of the first-born. When Emma came along her people were quirky characters, while Sam’s were all neat and precise in matching clothes. I can still hear their laughter. I can still hear their tears when they cut on the folds and all the little people fell disconnected to the floor.

Life is like paper
Pastel coloured
Bunting, streamers and serviettes
The gelato memory of childhood
When giggles turned to laughter
And nonsense words.

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She returned from an outing alone the other day. She had driven her car, she had been to the café, and of course she had been to the art shop. She had bought paper. We admired each sheet as she laid them out in her moleskin journal showing me how she was going to combine all her thoughts, her words, the images, the doilies, the buttons and thread. We love creating, collecting, gathering textures, enjoying the interplay of pictures and words.

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When they were children the kitchen had a cupboard we devoted to craft. Before I went to bed at night I would arrange a fresh activity on the little table with a bowl of dry cereal, to buy me some more time in bed. She would eventually wake me to show me her masterpiece and we’d stick it on the fridge.

As Emma got older she joined Sam at the table and Emma would draw for Sam’s approval not mine. I can hear them in my memory, down the hallway. “That’s great Emma, That’s a beautiful drawing” and then when I woke she would show me Emma’s work announcing how clever her sister was, with a smile that said “isn’t she cute but she can’t really draw can she?”

My memories are a pile, stacked high.

At the beginning of this year I felt the book of Sam’s life was ready to be bound, the chronicles of her childhood complete. She’d be turning 21 in March. She had met a boy who made her smile. She was about to be an adult and write a book of her own. I felt a sense of completion and I too was ready to move on, satisfied that Sam’s season of childhood was complete.

I feel like Finn in “How to Make an American Quilt.” I too have left the manuscript by the window on a beautiful day. The storm came unexpectedly and the pages went everywhere; all over the vineyards, over the fence, down the dirt road and into the paddling pool. As I’ve tried to gather Sam’s pages I’ve found myself wading through memories, reflecting on the treasures of her life.

Life is like paper
A journal full of memories
The heartache, the agony
Intermingled with joy.

In one of my memories I stumbled upon the time when we used to make paper. We recycled pages that no longer were needed, some that were coloured and the petals of roses. We tore them and blended them with water in the food processor. We made mulch. We gently placed the mulch in a wire A5 frame and we submerged them in a deep box of water. Then we would wait for them to dry a little and peel them out of the frame to dry some more.

Submerging the frame

The pages we made were not perfect. They were mottled, uneven, with frayed edges. To us they were beautiful. Sometimes we embossed them with little stencils, or we pressed them with an inky heart shaped stamp. We bound the pages with string turning them into gifts and we sent them in parcels of brown paper to Sydney. I am sure my sister has kept a few just for old times sake.

Life is like paper
Recycled, fragmented, detailed
With imperfection formed
In the depth of the water

Our lives are in the hands of our maker. He is taking all the torn pieces, he’s stirring things up, he’s submerging our lives. He will bring us out. He will peel us off the frame that determines our form. While we wait we will continue to trust Him.

We are being formed like a blank page, ready for Him to engrave or emboss His indelible mark. One day on our pages, a magnificent story will be written. I think He’s already writing the draft.

Psalm 139:15-17
My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery].
Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.
How precious and weighty also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

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Onions

onions

I was preparing dinner the other night, peeling and chopping onions as the butter began to sizzle in the pan. As I did this the house was kind of quiet so I said to the Lord, “What do you think I should talk about at the network meeting?” And I sensed in my heart that His response was “Clare, I don’t mind if you talk about onions.”

God is like that, He uses His Holy Spirit to communicate with us. This year He has become such a phenomenal friend to me. When I lean in, or when I take the time to be quiet, when I still my anxious thoughts, I hear Him. He is very close. He is incredibly real. He’s more real than we stop to notice sometimes.

Religion has done so much to complicate God and distance people from really knowing Him.

I laughed to myself and began to play with the idea, imagining that I might actually speak about onions. I thought “God is there even a scripture in the Bible that talks about onions?” and I discovered that ‘Yes, there is but all it tells us is that the Israelites wanted to return to Egypt where they grew food in abundance, amongst which were onions.’

I left the idea there, finished dinner, folded washing, all the things we do. Then in the middle of the night I woke up still thinking about onions and felt the voice of the spirit wooing me out of bed. I got up and made tea and I prayed. “Talk to them about being ‘rooted and grounded in my love.’

Ephesians 3:17

“May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted in love and founded securely on love.”

The Bible tells us that whom He foreknew, He also predestined.

1. Know that you are prepared

*Onion fact: onions are best stored hard and dry before planting. They should be nurtured inside before being replanted outside.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

God knew all my life that my daughter was going to get diagnosed with Leukaemia. All my life He has been preparing me.

Philippians 4:13

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].

So often when we are confronted with something that is really difficult we don’t go to faith, we don’t feel equipped, we don’t feel prepared. We just feel incredibly overwhelmed. I have felt overwhelmed time and again this year. The waves have been over my head. They have swallowed me up but somehow deep below the surface where there is hardly any sound I’ve heard His voice and I’ve gone after it anxious to find my breath.

When I wait on Him, He reminds me that I am prepared. In fact this year in January three weeks before we discovered Sam had Leukaemia, God was getting me ready. The truth is, He has been getting me ready for years but in January something shifted. I’d been in a rut for a while in my walk with God. I was going through the motions, doing all the things a leader does, connecting with people I led, running groups, teaching at Day of Change, doing what I could but I was dry in my intimacy with God.

2. Get planted.

*Onion fact: onions can survive in storage through long cold winters.

I needed to get planted again. I needed to let my roots go down deep.

Colossians 2:7

Have the roots [of your being] firmly and deeply planted [in Him, fixed and founded in Him], being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving.

I felt dry and desperate. I wasn’t particularly excited about another year of teaching Kindergarten. I felt pretty stuck really as I wrote in my journal

January 9, 2009 “Here I am, 6 am. The whole house sleeps. I’m on an endeavor to reconnect … I guess with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

My once constant companions. My walk with God has changed. It’s not His fault, it’s completely mine. I know that it’s me that allows the disappointment of dreams not fulfilled to place a shut door between us. Sometimes the door is iron, bolted tight, Sometimes its timber, or glass or even just a fly screen but I think the door is always there.

This book, this journal thing is an attempt to open that door again. Above all things I want God, to know Him, to be found in Him, that I may share in His sufferings, that I may attain Him. “

I wrote like that every day, 3 pages a day for the next 3 weeks. In my determination to rediscover my passion for God a new intimacy happened.

Deuteronomy 30:15

“But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your mind and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil.”

God doesn’t give up on us even when we think we should give up on ourselves. Life gets hard sometimes, we feel dry but he is preparing us for fruitfulness.

3. Un-clutter your life.

*Onion fact; Onions need well drained soil

In the three weeks before Sam was diagnosed (remember I didn’t know she was about to be diagnosed) I began to pay close attention to the company I kept.

I began to clean out all my cupboards. I literally spring cleaned my whole house. I bought a book called “Sorted” and I got all my drawers, my cupboards and even my classroom in order.

I began to redecorate my classroom since this is where I thought I would be spending my year I made my space a happy space. I made polka dot cushions with pom-poms, spent a fortune at Ikea, covered my day book in lovely paper. I’m a visual person so I made ‘what I see’ everyday as beautiful as possible.

I also took some time out to do some things I hadn’t done in years. I went and swam laps by myself in the pool at Lady Macquarie’s Chair. I went to my favourite home decorating shops in Willoughby and bought fabric and ribbon and things to start a project. I enjoyed ‘me time.’

4. Discover your value.

* Onion fact, the word onion comes from Latin UNIO meaning pearl.

Remember that you are made in God’s image, you are precious. Jesus is referred to as the pearl of great price.

Matthew 13:45-47

“Again the kingdom of heaven is like a man who is a dealer in search of fine and precious pearls,

Who, on finding a single pearl of great price, went and sold all he had and bought it.”

By the end of my three weeks of journaling, de-culling, prettifying, me-timing I was so excited to go back to school.

Days before we discovered that Sam had Leukaemia I began to really hear the voice of the Holy Spirit like I hadn’t heard for years. My blockages were cleared.   I began everyday to wake up and ask Him, what scripture today and then begin to meditate on it and write in my journal before anyone else got out of bed.

This one particular day He said

Matthew 11:27-29

“All things have been entrusted and delivered to Me by My Father; and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Son except the Father, and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son deliberately wills to make Him known.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]

Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.

It came as a surprise that Jesus whispered that on that day. I felt so rested, refreshed, prepared and ready for 2009. I even questioned the Holy Spirit about it. I said “are you mocking me?” I’m so rested. And His response was comical really, I guess. He said “it’s up to you, you can take it easy or you can labour to enter my rest.”

I look back and realize how important it was for me to grab hold of His rest. I had no idea what I was about to be up against less than a week from that moment. But God knew, he always knows.

5. The external reflects the internal.

*Onion fact: the number of leaves above the soil represents the number of rings in the bulb beneath.

Stephen Covey is famed for his writing about living from the inside out. In times of great despair what is inside will come out. Praise God I was ready.

When you take a few steps toward God He takes a massive step toward you. He’s a gentleman though. He waits for you. He doesn’t invade your world but He is leaning toward you, He is waiting.

Leviticus 26:9

“I will be leaning towards you with favour and regard for you, rendering you fruitful, multiplying you and establishing my covenant with you. And you shall eat the abundant old store of produce long kept and clear out the old to make room for the new. I will set my dwelling in and among you and My soul shall not despise, or reject or separate itself from you. I will walk in and with and among you and will be your God and you shall be my people. I am the Lord Your God who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt that you should no more be slaves, and I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect as free men.”

6. Stay hidden in Him

*Onion fact: Onions can be harvested at anytime but the longer they spend in the ground the richer and greater the onion.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say all year I have wished this journey could be over. I’ve felt isolated (even though people have been tending the soil around me all year) I’ve felt the darkness (though onions in fact need lots of sun to grow, it’s only the outer leaves that get to enjoy the sun) I’ve felt like I might die in this place of despair. If you read my blog you know the truth of my journey. If you don’t read it you can start now but all along I’ve known that God is restoring me (And Sam) and building us for His purposes.

7. Lose your desire for approval from others.

*Onion fact: The external leaves die when the onion is prime for harvesting.

“You can always tell when onions have stopped growing. The leaves will lose their color, weaken at the top of the bulb and flop over. Each year a few new gardeners watch the leaves die and wonder, “What’s wrong?” There’s nothing wrong; it’s Nature’s plan. The leaves’ job is done – they’ve put the last of their energy into the bulbs. “(The National Gardening Guide Association)

Its God’s plan that we die

He wants us dead to our own agendas, to what people think of us and all of that stuff we worry about.

He wants us to be found in Him, happy to be under the shadow of His wings. Happy to be hidden where no one knows. Imagine, you could be mistaken for long grass when in fact there’s an onion down there.

8. Be fruitful in your season, give, gather, heal, restore and multiply

*Onion fact: Onions contain B1, B6 and folic acid. B6 and folic acid are lacking in most women (most need to take it as a supplement) They also increase circulation, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clots. Onions reproduce clusters of onions.

What’s on your life? Who needs your story?

We need each other, we need to do life together.

I am so privileged to be part of an amazing community of believers at myC3church. Wherever you live in the world, I am sure there is one near you.

 

mixed onions

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Invitation

daisy

If you follow my blog, live in Sydney and happen to be free this coming Tuesday night from 7.30 to 9.30 pm

I am speaking at myc3church in The Art Lounge.

This is located on Wakehurst Parkway, Oxford Falls.

Please register your interest by email to laptop@premiumcork.com.au

I will be reflecting on what I have taken from my journey this year.

I hope to pin down the keys to what helps us sustain our intimacy with God through really challenging times.

We all face challenges and it is my dream to inspire you to keep pursuing your goals no matter what life throws at you.

Tea and coffee will be served.

Come and introduce yourself if I don’t know you already.

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Still standing

 

Sam was readmitted last Friday. It was sunny so she arrived in a lace and muslin dress with shoestring straps. We waited a few hours as usual for a bed and then finally we were shown to the ward. It was a dark corner of a four bed room. The heavy grey curtains blocked out any memory of the sunshine and the bitter despair in her room mates voices ushered in the storm. The fevers rose without warning bringing with them teams of nurses calling up doctors who came to examine and poke at her veins.

It’s hard to find a vein these days. Most of them are bruised from too many needles, too much blood being drawn out and too many fluids, too many antibiotics being pumped in. I feel the ache in her arms. I see it in her eyes. She’s fearful of the next prodding, the next canula to be inserted only to slide out again from her tiny veins. They try taping it in place but that too gives her rashes because she’s allergic to the latex. One day they suggested trying a vein in her legs since all the other access points in her arms and her hands are bruised and thick.

When they finally found entry they brought bottles that look like those that hold Tabasco sauce and they filled them with her blood. They told us time and again that if they can catch the bug that is causing the fever they will be able to more accurately predict the source of infection and inject the right kind of drug to cure it. The procedure is repeated every couple of days on the onset of a fever but after a week nothing has cultivated in the laboratory.

The weather changed last weekend, the friendly kiss of summer drowned in storms bringing winds of gale forced power. The wind blew against our house so hard that the latch on the French doors in our bedroom unhooked, throwing them open. The rain, flooded down, filling the gutters to overflowing and a waterfall cascaded on our front deck. I rolled over, feeling the chill and muttered in my sleep that perhaps it was time to clean out the gutters again.

A crash of thunder and flash of lightning lit up my room awakening me, reminding me that I shouldn’t be sleeping, there is much to fear and I find myself thinking of Sam at St Vincent’s alone. Sitting up in bed I realized that the doors were open and the rain had flooded the carpet. It’s too much to deal with. There is a storm without and a storm within and I am undone, unable to imagine how to continue to be strong.

Storms come, don’t they? Jesus told us they would.   “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

I feel like I’m falling, like my house is tumbling, that all my strength has gone. I’m angry and afraid. I can’t take anymore. It doesn’t really matter what type of house you build or where you choose to build it the storms are going to come.

On Monday the rain continued and the wind was busy turning umbrellas inside out.  Emma and I watched the people walk through the city from the refuge of my car. Somehow she thought it was amusing watching strong men wrestle with their brollys and she tried to capture them with the camera on my phone. Our journey had taken so long that she had missed her lecture completely and decided to come to hospital with me instead.

We warmed ourselves at Bunkers with sourdough toast and jam washing it down with the contentment of coffee fueling ourselves for the unknown battle within the ward.

Watching my girls embrace, I sigh. I’m so glad Emma missed her lecture, I need her today. I need to not be alone. The hours passed slowly and eventually Emma caught the bus to her tutorial. I stayed until Reid arrived late to walk me to my car in the darkness. He knows I’m afraid and the shadows of Darlinghurst haunt me like ghost tales at a teenage slumber party.

Returning on Tuesday I tried to pretend I am strong. In the late afternoon they wheel Sam to recovery for the bone marrow biopsy. I’m quietly praying that this will be the last one she ever needs to have and I’m trying to tell myself that I can do this, I can hold her hand and breathe her through the pain.

They returned her to the same bay that she was in on the day of the septic fever, September 11. I recognize the nurses but not their names. My mind takes flash backs to that formidable day. I’m trying to concentrate between pictures; trying to encourage Sam to be calm when the 2nd line for the day has tissued instead of finding a vein. She needs no encouragement. She is already brave. It’s me who feels vulnerable and stripped of courage in this room where I though I’d lost her for good.

Then the doctor comes to explain the procedure and I register that this bone marrow biopsy is going to be with general anaesthetic. This has never been done before. At RNSH it’s done with gas and at best with sedation. I’m off the hook and told I need to leave. So I ventured to the café for a pot of tea. As I pour it leaks all over the table and somehow it releases my tears as well.

“Faith leaks,” that’s what my pastor says. I hear his voice in my mind validating my tears and God comes to rub my back reminding me that I’ve been through a lot. That tears are okay. Faith does leak. It oozes out of the wounds in our heart leaving an empty trail down to our stomach, causing great pain. Fear attacks deep in our guts. It makes our belly button sting. Fear catches us off guard when we are unprepared. It finds us in the night seasons. It blows against our walls.

Fear reminds us that we are in adequate, unable to fight, unable to endure. Fear isolates us. It tells us there is no one who can possibly understand our journey, the intensity of it all. Fear speaks fact not truth. Truth reminds me that I’m just the house and though my walls have been rattled, though the waters seeped in, though there are places that need renovation my foundation is strong.

He reminds me that surviving this battle is more to do with Him than me. All I can do is to keep walking. All I can do is to be obedient, to keep getting up, to keep celebrating the small things. It is Him who is strong and my foundation is in Him.

In the middle of it all my friend Bridget sent me this message: God himself took charge of his people, took Jacob on as his personal concern. He found him out in the wilderness, in the dry place, in the empty, windswept wasteland. He threw his arms around him, lavished attention on him, not missing one detail. Guarding him as the apple of his eye. He is like an eagle hovering over it’s nest, protecting it’s young. Then in the right and perfect time it spreads in wings, lifts it’s young and teaches them to fly. God alone led him. God lifted him onto the hilltop, so he could feast on the crops in the field. He fed him honey from the rock and oil from granite crags, curds of cattle and the milk of sheep. He fed him with the choice cut of lambs and goat, fine bashan rams, high quality wheat and the finest wine.

God finds us if we let Him. He doesn’t leave out any detail. He leads you to discount tops on sale racks, He reminds a friend to send you a verse and someone who you hardly know but you have always admired texts you to say ‘stick to the game plan and do not budge.’ He provides someone to walk the same road in a different hospital and though far away it feels tremendously close. He even inspires someone to bring rice pudding. You don’t even need to ask sometimes, He just knows what to send you because he loves you and he knows you. He reminds you that you are not alone.

So I am learning to walk day by day with my Father. He slips His hand into mine, He knows when to be silent, He knows when to speak. The gnarly hand of fear loosens its grip on my heart.

By Thursday night after another whole day of waiting for specialists, waiting for answers, waiting for test results the registrar apologizes again that we won’t be able to see the professor for another week. They discharge Sam without answers, telling us how to manage the fevers at home, reminding us to phone the haemotology team or come to emergency if we need to. In a fragile state we make our way back to the cottage that is our home. It is still standing and so are we.

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