Big Bands and Brisbane

Um… excuse me… but did you know Brisbane is beautiful? Seriously it is amazing… and that’s not just my frosted Melbourne heart talking. 23degrees in winter, beautiful buildings, incredible public spaces and it’s so clean. I love Melbourne, but Brisbane, it turns out is pretty great.

Dave, Isaac and I have just spent the long weekend up in Brisbane with the Salvo Big Band, Dave playing his Alto Sax (and a little bit of Clarinet) and me singing. We also had my Mum come up with us to help us take care of Isaac when both Dave and I were needed in the band… she was a total life saver. This trip not only crossed number 8 off Isaac’s list but it was also my first proper band tour. Previously I had travelled with the band to Sweden for the Salvation Army’s World Youth Convention in 2010 where the band performed but we also attended the convention. Since then we have missed a couple of trips due to our untimely trips into hospital, so in the lead up to this weekend I had been playing it very safe… determined not to end up missing out again.

The weekend was full on, with back to back gigs, but just like any camp or trip when you get to spend more time with people than you usually would it was also wonderful. There is something really nice about seeing people all day everyday, experiencing new places and events with them and getting to share your gifts and talents in combination with theirs and present them to people for the first time.

I find it really hard to write blogs like this without it quickly becoming my dreaded grade 5 journal piece… so in an attempt to avoid that I have summed it up into 5 little highlights… 5 might seem like a lot, but it was actually pretty hard to do.

1. Catch ups with family
I am lucky enough to be part of a big family… my mum is one of 6 kids and for as long as I can remember I have had at least one uncle/auntie living interstate or overseas. My Uncle Ken and Auntie Marg live in Brisbane, so it was the perfect opportunity to have a quick catch up between sets.

2. Singing in public 

Before our first performance on Saturday morning I hadn’t really given my role in the band a lot of thought. I had spent the week worrying about what I needed to take for myself and for Isaac. What the days would look like and what I needed to have ready for mum so that taking care of Isaac would be as easy as possible. I hadn’t thought about what I would be doing or where it would be happening from a personal performance perspective. I love to sing, really love to sing… and I love to sing with the Big Band, but I am often very quick to dismiss my contribution. I am not a trained singer as such, but have spent my life singing in church. Getting up in front of people I know and singing is usually more daunting that singing in front of those I don’t know… but when you put me out in the open… that’s another kettle of fish. Our first gig was in Queen Street Mall, right in the heart of Brisbane CBD. We performed after the Navy Band which made me a little more nervous than I would have liked, but I got up there and I sang, and more importantly I held my own. At the end of the weekend, after I had sung in the city, at a concert Fassifern, sung and lead worship at Carindale Salvation army and performed at both Westfield Garden City and Nudgee Secondary College, I was reminded that even just getting up to talk at many of these places is a huge deal for lots of people, for lots of reasons. Being able to sing, and sing well, is huge. I didn’t sing it all perfectly, and thankfully in jazz you can get away with some of that, but even just the fact that I had the courage to perform in such a public place is pretty amazing… and to my amazement, people seemed to enjoy it… I am pretty chuffed.

3. Isaac
 and his Nanna
Where do I start with this? A couple of months before we left my mum made a through away comment about coming to Brisbane with us to help with Isaac… Dave and I heard her and thought that actually that would be really helpful and rang her to find out if she was serious. Turns out she was… so up to QLD she came and my goodness me, was it great to have her there. One thing about having a baby that I haven’t quite adapted to yet is the fact that they need someone with them all the time… which means on a trip like this if Dave and I are both performing we need someone to look after him, or one of us doesn’t perform. Believe it or not, I can get very distracted by people, especially when I am in performance mode… which is not ideal when your husband is packing up his instruments and you are supposed to parenting. But having mum with us to fill the gaps, and more, was beyond amazing. Plus it was really nice to watch Isaac and her together… Isaac really loves his Nanna.

4. Nudgee College
NudgeeOn our final day of the trip the band spent some time at St Joseph’s Nudgee College. While we were we put on a concert and workshop for the grade 5 students. In the workshop the instrumental musicians from the band were dispersed through the schools grade 5 band to help them learn the new jazz techniques they were learning. It was so nice… actually I think pure joy is a better description to hear the difference in the band and watch the faces of the students as they achieved things they didn’t think they would be able to. Watching kids learn is one of my all time favourite things to do… wonder is an incredible gift.

5. Remembering why  

This weekend has also been a really good reminder as to why I am in the big band. The Salvo Big Band has a really unique opportunity to meet people in places that other salvo groups may not be able to go. To witness and bring the gift of music to people from all walks of life and to share in worship with corps and salvationists in places and in a style that is different from the everyday. The Band’s purpose is to shine light… and that’s what I think we have done this weekend… shone light, in both dark places and light places, but still light.


So that was my long weekend… now I need some sleep… well at least I can hope for sleep… I still have to parent 🙂

A Time to Weep and a Time to Laugh

Today is a pretty special day… well tonight really… tonight is a really special night, because tonight Dave and I dedicated Isaac back to Jesus.

For those unfamiliar with what a dedication is, it is similar to a child being baptised of christened in other churches. In the Salvos we have babies dedicated and it is actually a ceremony more about the parents than the child. Tonight Dave and I had the opportunity to publicly acknowledge the miracle that Isaac is and God’s provision and guidance through our journey so far. And we promised to do our best by Jesus and Isaac in how we raise him.

For me, tonight was also the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. When Josh died, we had some of the elements of the dedication included in his funeral. Which is tricky because lots of the parts that we weren’t able to include were promises for the future which was a constant reminder of what we weren’t going to be able to do for him. We know that he is with Jesus, but having lived through losing him, for much of Isaac’s first 7 weeks, and even every now and then, still, I fear that we won’t get to keep Isaac earth side either. Isaac is thriving and doing all the right things, but in the back of my mind there is still a chance we might not get to keep him despite the prophecy that he is our keeper. I know that I will probably have some anxiety around this for a long time to come, and I think some of it is just because I am a mum… and mums worry… but it is something that I need to keep under control… something that I need to learn to trust with… and I think that tonight is the starting point.

Tonight’s dedication, being able to celebrate his life and to hope and make promises about his future in some strange way feels like we made it. We made it past the point we made with Josh. Which I know we did ages ago in an earthly, he’s alive, sense… but it feels like the scary chapter of ‘will he or won’t he’ is finally finished and a new chapter of parenting and Isaac growing has begun. That now we are back on the normal path and doing what we should have always been able to do. It almost feels like a fresh start. I think this has been helped by the fact that we are slowly reducing the amount of appointments we have to attend and the oxygen seems to be the last hurdle to jump… and even that hurdle is different and feels achievable with time, but there is also a real peace to this new season…

During the dedication Bram used a passage from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 which says:

There is a time for everything,
 and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
 a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
 a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
 a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
 a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
 a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
 a time for war and a time for peace.

For us, Joshua was our time to weep and our time to mourn, and I truly believe that Isaac is our time to laugh and our time to dance… after all laughter is in his name.

So tonight was not only special… but a time to start over, to claim the promises we have been given and a time to rejoice and hope for what’s to come.

Pathways in the Wilderness… New Things for 2017…

So this is something new for this year, Thankful Thursday.  It may not be every week, but according to the list it will be at least once a month, and it is something I am looking forward to doing.

Learning to be satisfied and content with who I am, what I have and where I am at, is something that I have struggled with.  Sometimes this dissatisfaction has been helpful, as it has pushed me to change things, try things or even improve myself… but sometimes it’s just a misunderstanding of my life compared to the highlight reels that I look at daily on social media.

I have often thought about having a break from Facebook, Instagram and twitter, however, there are lots of things I really like about all of these platforms, but I have to constantly remind myself, that I am only looking at what people want me to see, the sections of their lives that they have chosen to include.  That I am not seeing everything, and often not the bad bits, but rather, if it isn’t a ‘highlight’ it’s still just the bits they haven chosen to share, often things they wish they could change or do differently in an attempt to get some motivation to change, or some accountability.

So, to combat this in my own life (but probably make things worse for someone else as I add more to the highlight reel, sorry, but see above)  I have decided this year to get better at practicing gratitude.  That means being thankful for the things I have, the people in my life, and that stage of life that I am in.  Sometime it will even mean looking for the good when life isn’t as rosy or easy as well as I would like, or think it should be.  Stopping to see the good things God is doing in my life even when I have to work a little harder to bring them into focus.

So this is the first one… a Thankful Thursday…  and to be honest right now I am just thankful to be feeling pretty good.  I am definitely not where I thought I would be when I was planning January 2017 last year, but where I am is ok.  For the last couple of weeks my Facebook memories and Timehop app have been flooding my phone with memories of our adventures to Europe and New Zealand and for the first time in a long time I am feeling ok about not having a holiday planned.  It’s been really nice to be able to reminisce without getting jealous of my summers past, and to actually just take a minute to appreciate how lucky we were to have had those experiences.  It’s also the first summer for a long time that I haven’t been bitterly jealous of my friends on school holidays.  Although it has probably helped that I have only just returned to work after 3months, I think that for the first time in a long time I am ok with my current lot in life.

This summer I have been able to look back on all of the things we have done and smile.  I am so thankful for the things we did, the places we saw, the people we met and the fun we had.  I am also really thankful to be having a ‘proper’ Australian summer for the first time in 3 years… where it is hot and the beach is wonderful and inviting.  I am thankful for the time I have had to get some little projects done, to clean out the house and to just rest and be restored.  I am thankful for the fresh start that 2017 has been, even if it has just been a mental one.  I am thankful that God promises new things… Over the past couple of months some Old Testament verses have really stuck out and popped up regularly, so I am thankful that I can claim them for my year ahead… here is what I am holding on to…

 “I am about to do something new.   See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

“The kindness of the Lord has not ended, his mercies are not spent” Lamentations 3:22

”This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I am really excited and thankful in advance for new things, pathways in the wilderness and rivers in wasteland… new mercies and kindness and the encouragement to be strong, bold and courageous, because I am not alone.

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Dear Joshua

Dear Joshua,

I don’t really know how to write this blog/letter… It’s been a month since we met you and had to leave you… and I still don’t know how we even start to say goodbye?

Well I guess we start by saying this isn’t the end… mummy and daddy will be with you again one day.  Time will go so fast for you, partying up in heaven, but we will need to wait a little longer.  Either way we will be together again one day.  I will be able to hold you again and kiss your nose.  Daddy will be able to tuck you in and tell you how good you are, and we will both be able to tell you how much we love you.

Even though we didn’t get to meet you in person we are so proud of you.  Of your cheeky and defiant nature that we saw at your scans.  Of your perfect little body with your beautiful face and perfectly long hands and feet just like your dads.  And of your appetite… Turkish Delight milkshakes and pink donuts won’t be the same now that you are gone.

You were so strong and courageous, you held on for so long, right up until daddy told you it was ok, that if you needed to go to heaven without us, you could go.  Thank you for being so brave and making that tough decision for us.  We aren’t surprised that you chose heaven, I have heard it’s pretty incredible, but I really wish you had have stayed.  Earth could have been pretty fun too.

Daddy and I are so sad that you aren’t going to be staying with us.  This isn’t what we wanted, but we are so glad that we got to meet you just for a moment.  I am heartbroken that I never got to hear you cry or laugh or watch you fall sleep, but I loved every moment I spent with you, holding you and soaking it all in.

Life is really hard now that we have known you and had to say goodbye.  Our house feels empty without you and I feel like I have lost part of my purpose.  For the 24weeks I carried you, my life was all about you, keeping you safe and growing you to be strong, but now you are gone. We are trusting that Jesus has saved both you and us from something even more devastating, but right now, not having you here really stinks.  Even though I only knew you for a short time, part of me feels like I have known you my whole life and losing you has left a pretty big hole in my heart.

My precious and perfect Joshua, be strong and courageous, don’t be afraid, don’t be discouraged.  Remember the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  We will try and be strong and courageous without you, we probably won’t be as convincing as you, but we will try.

Please know how much we love you and cherish you.  You are the best and most perfect thing your dad and I have ever created, or ever had the privilege of calling ours and we are so proud of you, every inch, every kick and every minute we had with you.

Thank you for making me a mummy,

I love you my sweet one.

Rest well,

Mummy

Grace to Grace

Over the last couple of weeks God has been reminding me how perfect His plan is. I have been reminded how detailed He is and how much more He has prepared for us. I have been reminded that Christ didn’t just die so that we could have a happy/normal life, attend church and repeat, but so that we could actually live, live with power, purpose and a whole heap of supernatural glory.  That I am called to carry His glory where ever I go, and that even my shadow can bring him more glory than I can really comprehend.

I have been reminded that regardless of all this, while I am still human, there is gap between Him and me that has been filled by Jesus… regardless of how big or small… and I have been reminded, that Jesus didn’t just love us, which He does… but that He knew there was more to come, something that we can not yet see, something worth keeping and saving us for… something we can all have because of His grace.

So this Easter I am not just thankful that Christ died for me, although I am thankful for that.  I am thankful because grace is more than just afterlife salvation, it is 100% salvation now, restoration to who we are in Him, strong, powerful children of God, living in the wonder of his Grace. That for God, we were worth the sacrifice of Christ… even though we might not feel worth. Let me leave you with the lyrics of a song Hillsong released this Easter that puts some of these thoughts of mine, much more eloquently.

IMG_1480If love endured that ancient cross
How precious is my Saviour’s blood
The beauty of heaven wrapped in my shame
The image of love upon death’s frame

If having my heart was worth the pain
What joy could You see beyond the grave
If love found my soul worth dying for

How wonderful, How glorious
My Saviour’s scars, Victorious
My chains are gone
My debt is paid
From death to life
And grace to grace

If heaven now owns that vacant tomb
How great is the hope that lives in You
The passion that tore through hell like a rose
The promise that rolled back death and its stone

If freedom is worth the life You raised
Where is my sin, where is my shame
If love paid it all to have my heart

How wonderful, How glorious
My Saviour’s scars, Victorious
My chains are gone
My debt is paid
From death to life
And grace to grace

When I see that cross I see freedom
When I see that grave I’ll see Jesus
And from death to life I will sing Your praise
In the wonder of Your grace

He Has Overcome

I’ve been trying to work out what has stopped me from blogging recently…  It’s well over due and other than regular life just being busy I am not really sure why I have been putting it off.

Part of me has just been enjoying life without writing it down, but at the same time I do love having it here to look back on… Part of me also wished I had written more about NZ when we got back and has been playing with the idea about still doing it… but I think maybe I need to just let it go and start again… maybe I can look at it again later…  Last year I actually came up with little schedule for how to keep on top of the blog, but I just never followed through… and here we are again… super behind and feeling a little bit lost about how to get it back, what the point of the whole thing is.

IMG_9583In fact it is usually about this time each year that this happens. I haven’t blogged for a bit and then Easter happens and people are using social media for spreading the good news and I feel like I want to join in, but then get caught up in all the things I haven’t blogged about and then just give up because it feels like a waste to just post about the fact that I bake hot cross buns and crossed them off the list and not about the significance of Easter.  But it is Easter and I feel like this is as good a place to start as any, because while bringing my blog back from the dead is nice and important perhaps to me… it’s not quite on par with the redemption of Easter and even though not many people may read this blog, those that do should know that Jesus loves them and died for them.

So because I can never quite do it justice, like a number of other times I have written about Easter I am going to let a song express my heart.  This song has had a way of sneaking back into my life over the past month or so and I love it more now then ever… This is why I sing, this is why I live… He has overcome.

IMG_9580The moon and stars they wept
The morning sun was dead
The Saviour of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon him

One final breath he gave
As heaven looked away
The son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
his perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
Has rendered you defeated

Forever he is glorified
Forever he is lifted high
Forever he is risen
He is alive, He is alive!

We sing hallelujah
We sing hallelujah
We sing hallelujah
The Lamb has overcome

The Curse of the Timbrel

I have discovered something truly terrifying… My timbrel hands have crossed over to Zumba… don’t know what I am talking about? Well hold on your hats…

This is a timbrel:

Well a timbrel with a CD in it… you may recognise these from the Salvation Army… or the time those two old ladies played the timbrel on Britain’s got talent and argued with Simon about the difference between timbrels and tambourines… which if you happened to watch that, you will now know that timbrels have two rows of small cymbals and Tambourines have one… but I digress (but if you would like to continue this tangent here is the link…).

The timbrel is used kind of like rhythmic gymnastics… it’s a little weird and sometimes uncomfortable to watch, but if you do it right it can look very impressive.  As a younger girl in the Salvation Army I was in the timbrel brigade… that is the timbrel performance group, where we played rhythms on the timbrel with timed choreography to mostly brass band music, but occasionally something that was a little more out there… like worship music.

Now, even though I haven’t really given it much credit so far… I loved playing the timbrel, and I still do, although now I only really play at Christmas time to the Mariah Carey version of Joy to the world… again I digress… When learning to play the timbrel one of the most important things… as any timbrel leader (or sergeant, depends how army you want to be) will tell you (myself included) is that when playing the timbrel your must tuck the thumbs of your non-timbrel hand in otherwise it looks sloppy.  I will admit I learnt this the hard way, by having my uncontrollable thumbs bandaid’ed in place by my leader (who was also my aunty).  But since then as soon as I pick up a timbrel my left thumb automatically tucks.

I thought that this automatic tucking was specific to the timbrel but this is where I made my terrifying discovery.  At Zumba we did a dance… routine… fitness extravaganza… strange semi-co-ordinated movements, which required us to put our hands in the air and then back down… if I was a stick figure… I would look something like this:

It was during this that I made my terrifying discovery, unlike everyone else who just puts their open hand in the air… mine tucked…

And I looked like an idiot… the worst bit is I can’t do it the other way… with just an open hand it feels wrong… and it wasn’t just my non-timbrel hand that tucked… but both… yes both…

I am not really sure what I am going to do about this, but it appears for the time being I am stuck with timbrel hands… even at Zumba… no bandaids required anymore.

P.S  I just discovered that if you feel like you have missed the boat and you too really want timbrel hands… well you are in luck, there are some instructional videos… so you can learn in the comfort of your own home…just click here… seriously check them out… you know you want to.

Thinking my Destiny

Words are really powerful, they have the ability to build up and to tear down so quickly sometimes its hard to stop and over the last year or so I have been reminded of just how powerful and devastating they can be, while I was working at another site, there was a lady in reception that had the following quote above her computer:

Watch your thoughts, they become your words.
Watch your words, they become your actions.
Watch your actions, they become your habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

It’s a pretty good reminder, something that I don’t think about anywhere near enough. It all starts with a little thought and if you’re not careful it can get out of control. Words don’t just happen, they come from thoughts, despite how bad you think the filter is… In fact if the filter is bad, words are probably an even better representation of your thoughts because they aren’t filtered… they just come out the way they were found in the brain, which for someone with a bad filter like me is a scary thought in itself.

This is something that I have been really challenged about recently, the impact of my thoughts on my life. My outlook, my reaction to things and the way that I deal with people. Often I am quite negative and sceptical on the inside, but on the outside I am peachy pie, until you ask the right questions. But even though I can push it to the back it still taints everything I do, it sets me up to have a bad attitude right from the beginning. It sets me up to be disappointed because that’s what I am expecting. The book that I am reading at the moment, ‘Soul Detox’ by Craig Groeschel, talks a lot about getting your mind right, stopping negative, bitter, jealous thoughts dead in their tracks and replacing them with things that are of God, which is straight from the bible…

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

I think I need to start making a conscious effort to control my thoughts, to protect my mind and to stop things that aren’t true, noble, right, pure, lovely or admirable from dwelling, before they become my words or my actions. Stopping them one thought at a time, before I let them turn into words that hurt others the way that the words of others have hurt me.

Make me uncomfortable

Sunday night at church we were asked the question what does Easter mean to you… for someone that calls themselves a Christian you would think that this was an easy enough question, but it’s actually been playing on my mind all week… what does Easter really mean to me? And I think unfortunately Easter for me has become a tradition rather than a revelation.

Easter is the best part of my whole life story, the part that means I am not eternally stuffed, but instead I have eternal life because of Jesus’ sacrifice, yet more often then not I forget about the true meaning of Easter and get more excited about the chocolate and depending when Easter falls, my birthday. I take the story and the event completely for granted.

It makes me quite sad that this is the case, but I think that I am not alone, and I think that the reality is because I live in a good country, where I want for very little and life is pretty good, I have become comfortable, comfortable with what I have, what I can do, and where my life is heading, my faith in God is a choice yes, but one that I find I can separate from my life if I want to, which is terrible.

The reality of the Easter story is uncomfortable, it says that I caused this, my sin killed him, but he did it because he still loves me. The Easter story also highlights my laziness in telling others about God, because if I let the Easter story in all it’s fullness invade my life, the reality of life and death, heaven and hell is more real then ever before and it hurts, so its easier just to take the chocolate and run.

The other question that has been going around and around is why isn’t Easter as big as Christmas? And in all honesty I think all of the above is part of the reason, the Christmas story is lovely, wholesome and heart-warming (on the outside at least, if you don’t think too closely about the reality of giving birth in a stable, or travelling pregnant on a donkey). But it is all wrapped up nicely with a beautiful baby, some kings, presents and a super duper star and then this is linked to a jolly fat man who brings us lots and lots of gifts. Easter doesn’t have that, sure there is a fluffy bunny, some baby birds and a ton of chocolate but it is tied together with a man, an innocent man dying brutally on a cross because we stuffed it… it’s not really your feel good story of the year, on the surface anyway.

The reality is though, it’s the most beautiful love story ever told, a man lays down his life so that I can live, so that you can live… so that we don’t have to pay the price for what we have done. But it’s a story that forces us out of the comfortable spot that we live in… it challenges us, but instead it should give us hope…

Anyway, I guess what I really wanted to get at is this Easter I am praying that God will make me uncomfortably with my apathy towards the story, with my reluctance to share and that I will be moved once again by the amazing sacrifice and gift that I have been given and that I will share it.

I want to look past the traditions, the hot cross buns and the eggs, but into my daily walk with and what the eternal consequences of it actually are… I hope you want this for your Easter too.