What happened to Autum?

Well, look at this… I am on a roll! Four blogs in three weeks… outrageous… apparently this was all just lurking just under the surface… and I guess I have that pesky goal of writing 15 blogs this year so I needed to start writing!

This year feels like it has gone both incredibly fast and incredibly slowly all at the same time… and that the saying of “the days are long, but the years are short” has never been more true than in 2020. I think that compounding this is my ever-present sense of anticipation… that we still need to get the year going. I guess that I hadn’t really hit my stride before everything stopped… but it in all reality it probably won’t start again in 2020… not the way I want it to anyway… I can’t go back to the long days of summer and get stuck into some project as the weather turns and just work my way through winter… it’s already here… I am writing this in August… and it’s cold… but there is less to do than ever… but we will get into that a bit later. So while I feel like we should still be talking about summer BBQs and daylight savings, that’s actually long gone… and it’s time for another list update. A list update for the season that happened without me even noticing!

March

Things started to change in march for Melbourne… well probably for everywhere… but at home here in Melbourne we entered stage 3 restrictions for the first time to try and slow the spread of COVID 19… and we did a pretty good job for a while (let’s leave what happened in July for later). And because I have been fearful of all that COVID might mean for those around me and my little family, I welcomed the March lockdown wholeheartedly. I loved the idea of everyone just stopping so we could fix the problem and then get on with things. Whenever I have the option… that’s how I like to deal with my problems… to stop everything… fix it and move on. Of course, that’s not usually how life works… but it seemed that this time it might. I loved the idea of having Dave working from home too, that our little family would be gifted this season of uninterrupted togetherness. I had the internet to connect me to family and friends, but all I needed day to day was with me 100% of the time and it was wonderful. It truly was. In fact, that first period of lockdown might have actually contained some of my most treasured memories and moments.

But of course, the lockdown didn’t start until the middle of March… which meant we did manage to cross off a big community item before the rules all changed. We started March with the Monash Children’s Hospital Walk, which was our second ‘fun run’ for the year (no. 6, completed: 06/03). In January Dave and I had participated in the relief run a virtual event to raise money for the bushfire relief effort which meant our 10km around Jells Park was our second event for the year. Isaac even got to wear a cape and wore his medal with pride for the rest of the day.

In March I finished off my summer project of my yearly scrapbooks… I hadn’t worked on these since Joshua passed away, so there was a lot to do, but now they are up to date to the end of 2019 (no. 61, completed: 15/03)… which I am pretty happy about. I have a love-hate relationship with these scrapbooks… I love to look through them and reminisce, but collecting and remember and putting them together is a slog if I don’t stay on top of it.

Because I suffer from FOMO as much as the average bear, I got sucked into the iso-baking phenomenon pretty early on in lockdown… Dave and I did a big clean out of our pantry and worked out what meals we had already and what items we needed so that we could avoid going to the shops. During our clean out I discovered we had a lot of eggs that were on their way to the bin if we didn’t use them up… so we iso-baked meringues (no. 18, completed: 22/03) and Banana Bread (no. 89, completed: 24/03)… and a LOT of other things, but they were the two that also doubled as March list items.

My last list item in March is a pretty boring one… I counted off my third month of no games on my phone (no. 49, completed: 31/03)… it wasn’t as hard as it had been previously… and certainly helped keep my useless phone time down… but it’s not very exciting to write about… So there you go… 5 things off the list in March.

April

Once we had adapted to lockdown life… we hit our listing stride in April. Isaac crossed another two things off his list and I crossed 6 off mine… not a bad effort considering we didn’t really leave the house!

Dave and I choose to keep Isaac home from childcare so that those who needed to use it could and we weren’t adding to ours or their risk… but that meant I needed to step up my activity skills. I like order and structure and not much mess… well that’s not entirely true… I don’t mind making mess as long as I don’t have to clean it up… so messy play is usually reserved for childcare… where Isaac can make lots of mess without me panicking or having to pack up. But lockdown meant we had to make some changes but it also meant we were able to cross off no. 80 Paint a picture (completed: 28/04) and no. 51 Make some cookies with Isaac (completed: 25/04)… we made some ANZAC biscuits for ANZAC day… they were delish! We also were a bit more deliberate about physical activity… Isaac mastered jumping and scooting (no. 13, completed: 26/04 and no. 8, completed: 27/04 respectively) and Dave and I signed up for an exercise challenge with my brother and his family making us move every day… this eventually led to a Les Mills on-demand subscription… which in turn meant I could do exercise classes from the comfort of my lounge room (no. 87, completed: 04/04).

For my birthday we took some family photos in the backyard (no. 27, completed: 09/04) in which I wore a bright pink jumper that I had purchased in March but hadn’t been brave enough to wear (no. 78, completed: 09/04). I actually love it and it has brought some bright and happy vibes a few times during lockdown since.

We also got to watch a brand new Disney movie… not at the movies like I had planned, but again from the safety and comfort of our lounge room Dave and I watched Onward… and it was lovely in all the right Disney ways (no. 94 completed: 26/4).

May

May was a big month for us… Isaac crossed 3 things off his list and I crossed 5 things off mine. Which again considering we were only allowed to leave the house at the end of the month… it’s a pretty great effort.

The biggest list item for May was no. 2. Find a better work-life balance (completed 08/05). At the beginning of the year when I wrote the list I wasn’t sure what this would look like, but as 2020 would have it this item was done for me… At the end of April, I was told that my role at one of my jobs was being made redundant, the company was undergoing a merge with another company and my role was the first of many that would be a double up once the merge was finalised so… being on the taken over side of the company… my job was no longer needed. To be totally honest even though I knew this was a possibility until I was actually told, I hadn’t believed it. I loved the work that I was doing and I honestly thought I was bringing a lot to the table, and that maybe somehow I would be one of the lucky ones to hold on… but it was not to be… so on the 8th of May I had my last day there and went back to only being employed in one job, rather than the two I had been managing since returning to work after Isaac was born. I went from working 4+ days a week to a regular 2days… in theory… once schools went back… which gave me three weekdays with Isaac that I could be flexible with if I needed or wanted more work. And once I got over the disappointment of my role being made redundant I was quite excited about have some extra space in my life to be a mum… after all… they are only little once. Of course, this was all good provided that schools went back to onsite learning and Isaac went back to childcare… so for a few weeks between the end of May and the beginning of July I was pretty excited about the new balance I had found. Now that we are back in lockdown and there isn’t a huge amount of need for replacement teachers during online learning I have more at home life than I was planning, but I am looking at this as a positive too… although I will confess round 2 is much harder without the breaks that my two days of work provided in lockdown 1.

It turns out though that the extra time was good for listing… we drew pictures and completed puzzles (Isaac’s list no. 12, completed 10/05 and no. 17, completed 29/05). We toasted marshmallows in the fire pit in our front yard (no. 91, completed 16/05) which was a bit magical and way more fun than I had anticipated. I met my 3rd baby of the year (no. 20, completed 26/05) and I finished my 9th book (no. 7, completed 25/05) and that was before I managed to resurrect my original bookclub. This year’s books were a mixture of Reese Witherspoon’s Bookclub books from Hello Sunshine and some self-chosen books… here is the list so far:

  1. Conviction – Denise Mina (Reese’s Bookclub)
  2. Kings Cage – Victoria Aveyard
  3. Searching for Sunday – Rachel Held Evans
  4. Such a fun age – Kiley Reid (Reese’s Bookclub)
  5. The scent keeper – Erica Bauermeister (Reese’s Bookclub)
  6. The Jetsetters – Amanda Eyre Ward (Reese’s Bookclub)
  7. Dark Emu – Bruce Pascoe
  8. Autobiography of Jean Luc Picard
  9. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

Since then I have also finished:

10. Jack Charles: Born Again Blakfella – Jack Charles
11. Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
12. The Guest List – Lucy Foley (Reese’s Bookclub)
13. Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney (The original bookclub that’s back… it needs a name)
14. A Year of Biblical Womanhood – Rachel Held Evans
15. Educated – Tara Westover (The original bookclub… yep definitely needs a name)

Not a bad effort especially given it’s only August. Although I have found reading to be a great distraction from social media and news… and a good way to fall asleep…

This month Isaac also learnt how to take a photo on the iPhone.. and he is pretty cuffed with himself (no. 22, completed 16/05) and thanks to a very thoughtful Mothers Day gift I am now the proud owner of some reusable non-paper towels (no. 5, completed 10/5). This has shown me just how much paper towel I actually use… and that these non-paper ones are just as good. Although I might need a second batch…

So while I am not sure when Autumn happened… Apparently, it was choccas. Because on top of everything listed above there were also some fun celebrations too… Easter, including Isaac’s first easter egg hunt which was much more fun than even I could have anticipated, Mother’s Day complete with homemade gifts and cupcakes delivered to Mooma and both Nannas and my return to my first craft love… cross-stitch. And even though it has all felt like a bit of a false start, I will continue to look back on this season as one of my all-time favourites, despite its challenges.

The Blessing

At the beginning of March, my best mate sent me a text with a link to a song and the sentence “the bridge is yours, my friend”. That night I wept in my kitchen to the sound of ‘The Blessing’ for the first time. Dave and I had just started talking about what it would look like to try again and expand our family and the words of the bridge “May His favour be upon you, And a thousand generations, And your family and your children, And their children, and their children” felt like a promise that one day there would be children plural… that Isaac would get a buddy and our children would have children and so on and so forth… something I had not allowed myself to think about because the fear of the alternative was just too much. This song, taken straight from scripture in Numbers 6:24-27 is an ancient blessing given to Moses by God to be given to Israel, God’s people. It is a song that has been used by Christians for a long time to bless each other, sung and said over congregations as Christians are sent out into the world. At the very beginning of March, this ancient blessing was once again given new life in the form of a song offered by Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes.

Fast forward to August and our family plans are back on hold, we like many places around the globe are in lockdown, trying to avoid others as the world works out how to manage COVID and this simple song has become an anthem of 2020. This morning I watched the New Zealand version of The Blessing and once again I was in tears. It is just one of many many versions of this song that has been produced over the last few months as a collective blessing from God via churches across the globe to all. Every time I watch one of these recordings I am struck by 4 things…

1. It’s Specific

Even though all the recordings are of the same song each one is incredibly unique. Different voices, different spaces, different languages, different circumstances. The expression of the song, the imagery that is used… footage of the beautiful land they are praying over, snapshots into people homes and lives as they record themselves with whatever they have. It becomes a very personal prayer over specific places and people. Each authentically worshipping in a style that best represents those they want to bless. It feels incredibly personal to see these worshipers vulnerably offering their sacrifice of praise as an offering to their homeland, to their families to their friends and then to the world. As I watched the Australian Blessing I was struck by how much I loved the country I call home… this beautiful land and its people and how much I desperately wanted this blessing for my home. For its beaches, for its red dirt, for its bush and for its people… this global blessing was for us… right here.

2. Unity

It’s hard not to notice the unity of these videos, bringing 100s of individual voices together to sing, recorded separately and then blended and offered together. People of all walks of life positioned side by side, presenting as one. Unified in purpose to bless. These people who represent the very wide breadth of the church working together, not fighting or arguing about theological differences, but standing together to declare God’s love for his people to a world in chaos. It is inclusive… old and young, rich and poor, traditional and contemporary, Catholic and Protestant, every denomination, every tribe and every tongue declaring a collective blessing overall they have been sent to.

3. Passion

It’s also hard to miss the passion and the affection being poured out in these recordings, people consumed by worshipping their God as they speak on his behalf. Again each in their own way, some charismatically, some more reserved, some with instruments and others with just their voice. There is even a small boy in the ‘children’s blessing’ who uses his computer to allow him to speak and participate in this collective worship. This blessing is heartfelt and offered with everything… nothing is held back. The recordings aren’t all polished and produced so that there are no blemishes, they are honest and raw.

4. The cry of my heart

But what gets me most every time is the stirring I feel in my heart, that this is what I want and this is what I want to offer. That this is my prayer too… that God would bless me, my family, my community, my land. That this unity created by individuals because of Christ is just what this broken world needs… that the blessing is for all and is there to be received if you would just be open to it. That there is no place that this blessing can’t reach because there is nowhere God will not go for his people… us… all of humanity. This is what I want you to know, this is what I want to teach Isaac… He is for you… in all the craziness that is 2020, He is for you regardless of your circumstances, regardless of your nationality, regardless of your creed… the King of Kings is for you and wants to bless you.

So if you haven’t already allowed yourself to receive this blessing… it’s available in almost every language at just the click of button… but just to get you started here are a few of my favourites:

And here is God’s blessing for you:

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

May His favour be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

Amen

Dear Rachel Held Evans

Dear Rachel,

I first heard your name in May last year when women I had grown up with or knew through my church networks mourned your death on their social media pages, but it wasn’t until a friend suggested I read one of your books that I really understood what the world had lost. Since reading that first book in December, I quickly purchased the rest on my kindle and have started making my way through the rest of your work. Last week I finished reading ‘A Year of Biblical Womanhood’ and once again I found myself wanting to tell you how important these books have been to me and wishing I had known more about you while there was still time to express my gratitude to you directly. I also now know why these other women in my life felt such a deep loss when you passed… I feel it too.

When I read and listen to your books it is almost as if you have taken the contents of my brain and turned it to a more eloquent version of my thoughts and supported it with research. There have been many deep sighs of recognition and moments of deep peace because despite how I might feel, or have been made to feel… I am not alone… that my questions will not lead to damnation and that it is ok to want more and less all at the same time.

Thank you for reminding me that God is sufficient and that wrestling with ideas, stories and concepts is part of being human and that to shut this part of my life off when it comes to spiritual things would be dangerous. Thank you for reminding me of the beauty of scripture and sacraments and the church universal. Thank you for warning me that my journey to satisfaction in the church as it is will be a long road… that perhaps will bring pain or require me to make choices that will not be easy. Thank you for teaching me of the beauty of an authentic relational church and what this can and perhaps should look like… Thank you for telling me that despite my questions, and my doubts, and perhaps even my unpopular opinions, that my relationship with Jesus is most important and regardless of what at times this looks like in the church, I can continue to love people in my life and my community like Jesus would, even when it looks different.

Thank you for being bold, and honest and unashamed.

To say I am sad that there will be no more wisdom from Rachel Held Evans earthside, would be an understatement. You have re-defined the way I see myself, reaffirmed who I know Jesus to be, and given me permission to continue asking questions, even the ones people don’t want me to. You have reignited my curiosity in the Word and for that, I can’t thank you enough. I believe what I, my little world and perhaps even, dare I say it the world at large need now, more than ever is Jesus, but not Jesus packaged by the church, the Jesus who worked one meal at a time, one small act of kindness at a time, one bold idea at a time.

Your fellow doubter, but forever faithful friend,

Emma

When you don’t know what to write… you do a list update

Ok so it’s been a LONG time since I wrote a blog… and to be honest, I have been avoiding it… because what do you write that is even remotely interesting during a global pandemic when you’ve only left the house a handful of time in the last couple of months… and when there have also been lots of other big things happening the world that you also don’t feel qualified to write about…. yeah I was stuck too… but yet here I am sitting and typing, because I think it is important to write something… I need to something to do and I want to use my brain to escape and focus on some little wins we have had this year despite everything else that has been going on…. so in lieu of some wisdom I have learnt, or opinions on things I am only really just learning about myself I have settled on a list update.

I feel like the new format that I tried last year was a winner… so that’s what I am going to stick with, a seasonal update for those list items that haven’t been gifted a blog of their own… which at the moment is all of them I think… anyway, despite the very unusual first half of the year, we have actually managed to cross quite a few things off the list… so lets start at the beginning… January

JANUARY

Far our January feels like a long time ago… a lifetime even, and given that we are in week 2 of Melbourne’s Stage 4 Lock-down I am increasingly glad that I went hard with the list early on. In January 7 things were crossed off my list and 3 things from Isaac’s which is a pretty great way to start…

Despite the poor air quality and the horrible bush fires that were burning, we did some old school summer things… we played games… cards against humanity (no. 32 completed: 04/01), we coloured in (no. 36, completed: 06/01), I did the first puzzle I have done in a long time (no. 34, completed: 19/01) and we swam… specifically I did some laps (no. 56, completed: 29/01) and Isaac in Pa’s pool (no. 10, completed: 13/01).

January also had a lot of family time, we met the newest member of our family, another nephew for Dave and I and a cousin for Isaac (no. 29, completed: 27/01) and we started our resolution of more family updates well with a FaceTime call to NZ (no. 76, completed: 22/01).

Isaac and Dave went on a bike ride while we were at the beach (no. 18, completed: 24/01) and they also tested out his new little BBQ for a summer outdoor feast (no. 24, completed: 13/01). I managed to close my ‘move ring’, a gimmicky little feature of my watch, every day in January giving me my ‘perfect month’ (no. 57, completed: 31/01)… if only it was that easy!

February

February was a bit of a slower month for the list… but not a bad effort. Isaac crossed one thing off his list and I crossed three things off mine.

Two of my items worked nicely with my big thing of reducing my footprint environmentally as I finally used my beeswax wraps (no. 77, completed: 12/02)… I am still getting the hang of these, but I really love the concept… I also really love that my beeswax wraps were made by students at school. And on the same day, I unboxed my shampoo and conditioner bars (no. 93, completed: 12/02) that I had brought in NZ at Christmas, but had been waiting to use as I wanted to finish the shampoo I had in the bottle at home first. The shampoo bars are a hit… they took a little bit of adjusting, but I really like them and they are a good morning reminder of not using plastic for everything!

My other February list item was a bit of an adventure, after booking in a brunch in Ballarat I decided I could also book in a parkrun if I was committed to getting up really early for my drive there. I did commit… and just before our world got a little smaller I was able to be a park run tourist (no. 30, completed: 01/02), visiting Wallaby Track Parkrun, which was beautiful and it turns out very new which made it all that more exciting and worth it.

Also in Feb, Isaac, Dave and I met Isaac’s grandad at the traffic light park in Bayswater (no. 4, completed: 09/02)… also know as Marie Wallace Park. It is excellent! Miniature roads and road hazards… some local traffic and once you have done with that an old steam train and a huge adventure park… I don’t think this will be our only visit to this park. Although before we return we might need to practice some road rules with the toy cars at home… and if we practice we might even be able to upgrade our ride during lockdown and bring the balance bike next time.

So there you have it… Summer… pre lockdown freedom that feels like a myth right now… or maybe a goal… I am not really sure… but it’s been nice to reminisce…