our first Christmas in the southern hemisphere

Coming from Orlando, a hot Christmas wasn’t the shocker it could have been. But it was still different. Quieter.

A few things played into that. One was a daily Advent time our family enjoyed. Because it was simple and Lizzy especially loved it, we slipped into the morning ritual and stayed there. My heart is thankful for the built-in turn-my-face-to-Jesus time.

Another reason it was quiet was that we weren’t rushing to finish Christmas shopping and packing in order to catch a flight to the Midwest.

And…it seemed that most everyone around (including neighbors and their cars) evaporate, and with it, the daily noise.

A few photos (most for family back home) of what life has looked like recently.

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Making Nana's famous sugar cookies...with ingredients we could find here. Turned out more brittle, but eat them in one bit and -- shazam! -- no crumble issue!
Making Nana’s famous sugar cookies…with ingredients we could find here. Turned out more brittle, but eat them in one bite and — shazam! — no crumble issue!
The nearby shopping center where a shoe store seems to pop up overnight in the middle of an aisle.
The nearby shopping center where a shoe store seems to pop up overnight in the middle of an aisle.
Not an infrequent site here, but ironic to see at the shopping center during a season that much of the world celebrates Jesus -- the only God who can save. Oh, how I long for Aussies to know Him!
Not an infrequent sight here, but ironic to see at the shopping center during a season that much of the world celebrates Jesus — the only God who can save. Oh, how I long for Aussies to know Him!
While Christmas shopping one day, the kids and I found a great coffee shop with a reserved area (no joke!) for families and free "babycinos."
While Christmas shopping one day, the kids and I found a great coffee shop with a reserved area (no joke!) for families and free “babycinos” (a small milk drink with chocolate sprinkles and marshmallow, if you’re lucky).
Speaking of shopping centers, American mommies out there are gonna be jealous. No, the kids aren't making their one and only phone call from jail. It's the family toilet (restroom). Unreal. There are nursing stalls wtih curtains, a tiny toilet for little people and this play area you can basically corral your kid(s) in while you tend your other kid(s).  If I never come home, you'll know why. I'll be in the curtained room sipping my latte.
Speaking of shopping centers, American mommies out there are gonna be jealous. No, the kids aren’t making their one and only phone call from jail. It’s the family toilet (restroom). Unreal. There are nursing stalls with curtains, a tiny toilet for little people and this play area you can basically corral your kid(s) in while you tend your other kid(s). If I never come home, you’ll know why. I’ll be in the curtained room sipping my latte.
We enjoyed a great Christmas morning as the Bentley 4, opening gifts and skyping with both sets of grandparents.
We enjoyed a great Christmas morning as the Bentley 4, opening gifts and skyping with both sets of grandparents and Uncle Chad.
Safety first.
Safety first.
We were adopted into Allan & Mandy family (Cru's national director in Australia) for Christmas Day lunch and afternoon. Thank you, Gibsons!
We were adopted by Allan & Mandy (Cru’s national director in Australia) for Christmas Day lunch and afternoon. Thank you, Gibsons!
Because Christmas falls during the heat of summer down here, Christmas lunch is usually cold salads, seafood or something on the BBQ (grill). Allans made a delicious spread!
Because Christmas falls during the heat of summer down here, Christmas lunch is usually cold salads, seafood or something on the BBQ (grill). Gibsons made a delicious spread!
We brought dessert, a pavlova. I think I did a cultural faux paus in using spray whipped cream instead of cream-you-whip but our hosts were very gracious. Probably didn't hurt that it still turned out yummy!
We brought an Aussie dessert, a pavlova. I think I did a cultural faux paus in using spray whipped cream instead of cream-you-whip but our hosts were very gracious. Probably didn’t hurt that it still turned out yummy!

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I used some Christmas gift money to buy running shoes. Yes, Jess Cole, I'm running. And I'm as surprised as anyone else. The whole country seems to shut down and take holiday (vacation) from December 23-January 5 and since that included Jazzercise, I knew I needed to do something for the 2+ weeks. So, Scott and I decided that since he was off from the office during that time (the office also closed) that he'd bike for 30 minutes each morning and I'd run for 30 minutes, swapping being at home with kids. We've really loved it as it's been a great way to start the day. But, as much as I've loved it, I've missed the all-body workout Jazzercise is with the strength training as well. Looking forward to going back tomorrow to teach my 2nd class!
I used some Christmas gift money to buy running shoes. Yes, Jess Cole, I’m running. And I’m as surprised as anyone else. The whole country seems to shut down and take holiday (vacation) from December 23-January 5 and since that included Jazzercise, I knew I needed to do something for the 2+ weeks. So, Scott and I decided that since he was off from the office during that time (the office also closed) that he’d bike for 30 minutes each morning and I’d run for 30 minutes, swapping being at home with kids. We’ve really loved it as it’s been a great way to start the day. But, as much as I’ve loved it, I’ve missed the all-body workout Jazzercise is with the strength training as well. Looking forward to going back tomorrow to teach my 2nd class!
View from my run.
View from my run.
Beauty drawn by God through the paintbrush of a snail.
Beauty drawn by God through the paintbrush of a snail. A common sight.
We brainstormed a list of things we wanted to do as a family over the Christmas break to make it special. Enjoying a BBQ and biking in a local park was one day.
We brainstormed a list of things we wanted to do as a family over the Christmas break to make it special. Enjoying a BBQ and biking in a local park was one day.
I will miss these great BBQs (grills) that are at nearby
These great built-in-propane BBQs (grills) are at every park we’ve been to.
Drove 30 minutes to cash in on a Groupon I'd bought for a kids' jump place only to remember I live in Australia -- the country that shuts down for 2 weeks.
Drove 30 minutes to cash in on a Groupon I’d bought for a kids’ jump place only to remember I live in Australia — the country that shuts down for 2 weeks.
The kids got their first board game from their cousins and it's been fun watching Lizzy learn how to play (and how to not be a sore loser). Scott remembers it as "Cooties" (obviously no longer politically correct nor market-savvy) so it's now called "Beetle." Any one else remember playing?
The kids got their first board game from their cousins and it’s been fun watching Lizzy learn how to play (and how to not be a sore loser). Scott remembers it as “Cooties” (obviously no longer politically correct nor market-savvy) so it’s now called “Beetle.” Any one else remember playing?
Cheered for the Huskers (and then Iowa this past Saturday).
Cheered for the Huskers (and then Iowa this past Saturday).
Tomorrow marks the end to the holiday and back to work on Tuesday. I've been thankful for the slower pace and some significant things I feel like the Lord impressed on my heart during a few hours last week Scott gave me to get away alone.
Tomorrow (Monday) marks the end to the holiday, Joshua’s 2nd birthday, and then back to work on Tuesday. I’ve been thankful for the slower pace and some significant things I feel like the Lord impressed on my heart during a few hours last week Scott gave me to get away alone.

And, to be honest, it’s been a spiritually dry time lately.

This international move has, honestly, exposed my heart. I’m seeing how, under stress and without some of the structure of life and community in Orlando, I can run to all sorts of things that don’t bring life, but bring comfort…at least for the moment. Or two. Emotional eating rears its head again as if saying, “Eat this, drink this and feeling lonesome will be abated.” Yet I know that it’s a temporary fix and that seeking Jesus and asking Him to comfort me in those moments when I miss America and the friends and family and my known life…that’s where to run.

I’m also exposed in how I use my time. When I should go to bed, I’m on Facebook, grasping at feeling connected in two worlds. When I should get up — I want to want to get up and spend quiet moments reading the Bible and hearing truth and the voice of Jesus, but the sheets stay pulled stubbornly over my head. And when I should be all-present with my kids, I’m allowing myself to be under the pile of a to-do list that never ends. (Wait, I thought that was just my problem in America. I guess the problem followed me here. Oh, is it me?)

Sigh. The stillness of this Christmas season has been a gift in many ways and hard in others.

Afresh I see my need for Immanuel. The God who “moved into the neighborhood” as the Message says. The God who came and lived and loved perfectly because we couldn’t. God made flesh who came to bring abundant life to a woman in Melbourne who longs to live out the freedom He came to give her. I’d welcome your prayers.

Time to go to choose sleep so that, by God’s grace, I may choose time with Him in a few short hours.

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8 thoughts on “our first Christmas in the southern hemisphere

  1. Sondra Michaels January 5, 2015 / 1:16 am

    I loved seeing all of your pictures, and your Advent time sounds precious. I am missing getting to know your kids! You know that running at a snail’s pace is something I can relate to. I am focusing on, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Focusing on the “should lists” leads to self-effort and death. I want to focus on walking by His Spirit, which leads to life! I am praying that for you, dear friend.

    • angiebentley January 5, 2015 / 9:11 pm

      “Running at a snail’s pace” has rung in my head ever since I read what you wrote. You’ve given words to part of the dissonance of this season of life. And you’re so right about those “should lists”…thank you. By the way, I thought of you and missed you afresh when Scott took me to an outdoor production of “As You Like It” (Christmas gift) and it made me remember the fun of Shakespeare on the Green with you, Sarah & Ben.

  2. BSue Goodwin January 5, 2015 / 1:18 am

    What wonderful pictures you’ve sent along with word pictures of your world. It’s amazing that you’re 30 years younger then me — living in another part of the world with a precious young family and you describe your feelings, longings, blessings – the state of your heart and its as though you’ve crawled inside of me and seen what I think and feel and found my deepest longing for God and my struggles in ‘getting there’. I live in the US but feel as though I live on another planet – alone and miss Orlando and all that the ‘safe – comfortable’ home environment with friends I so miss provides. I know without a doubt God is Alive and working in and all around me, despite my inner struggles to keep the focus on Him and not me. All that being said, Thank You. Thank you for being so candid, for all of us who share in your world – even in the smallest of ways are connected to you and yours by His loving heart for you. Thank you for letting us know you’re real – and need Him as we do. Knowing helps us to pray and give thanks for you and yours and to hone in on those special needs that you’ve been willing to vulnerably tell us. I’m praying – won’t stop – and want you to know that You Are Loved and Adored. Make breathing your exercise focus today – purposefully breathing Him in and exhaling all those emotions that bring the cloud. Allow Him to fill you up – look for Him everywhere you go – like the snail trails you shared with us – such beauty in what could be considered so simple. And if you know this song, sing it to the kids, remembering you will Always be His Kid – a Kid of the King…Jesus loves me this I know – for the Bible tells me so – little ones to Him belong – they are weak, but He IS strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me – the Bible tells me so. ❤️💙💜💚💕

    • angiebentley January 5, 2015 / 9:14 pm

      Oh BSue! I miss you! I’m flashing back to a sweet dinner I enjoyed with you at Chili’s. When, oh when, can we do that again? Thanks for the gentle beckoning to focus on breathing–spiritual breathing. And I liked your word picture of “emotions that bring the cloud.” Yes, those clouds are familiar sights. Thank you, friend.

  3. melbabentley1 January 5, 2015 / 3:14 pm

    Oh Angie, you could have spoken for so many!! That is the beauty of His tender, loving availability to all of us 24/7!!!! Such a refreshing message to help those of us who live in the Midwest at this time!!!! : ) : ) Angie, I just LOVE your blog and the WONDERFUL pictures you share!!!! : ) : ) You know you are on my daily prayer list!!!! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH & I AM SOOOO GRATEFUL YOU ARE MY DAUGHTER-IN/OF LOVE!!!! : ) : ) Love, Melba : ) : )

  4. sherry cumpstone January 6, 2015 / 12:51 am

    Wow can you write…some day perhaps a book? Loved the pix with commentary. Thanks Angie!

  5. Jim Naramore January 15, 2015 / 3:13 pm

    Great description of Christmas Down Under! Wonderful photos and comments–felt like I could imagine what it’s like there. The summary about those personal moments–resonated with my soul. Will keep praying for your work and presence there–a bright light. Jim (and Karen) Naramore; Gillette, Wyoming

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