A good day for good memories

It was so kind of the Lord that our canvas photo just arrived today, much earlier than the Dec. 20th I was promised. (Yay for Black Friday but it looks like the 85% off deal is the same today if you’re looking for something!)

So during the kids’ room time, I had a little pounding therapy and put up pictures.

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My story is now

Looking back, I think I held my breath a lot.

We got off the plane with our 18? bags and my internal Angie started to turn blue.

My heart signed an invisible contract.

I’d figure things out. I’d get us settled. I’d navigate roads and grocery store aisles and a new-of-sorts language.

And then I’d breathe. And our story would begin.

I started driving. I figured out how to interpret the dairy section and the seemingly 8 different types of cream. And I started differentiating between a trolley and a cart and entree and a main and to ring and to call and learned that women here get clucky.

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But the buts inhibited full breaths from coming.

But Joshua’s speech. When he starts talking more…

But Lizzy’s perpetual illnesses. When we figure out what’s wrong…

But

But

But

Well, Joshua’s speech is miles (kilometers) better and growing steadily. Lizzy’s never been more well. They love kinder (preschool). Scott’s thriving at his role. I love my recruiting job. My heart has made good, deepening girlfriend connections.

More recently than I want to admit, I processed with a friend (read: free counseling) and heard myself say how I felt like our story was finally starting.

And like a wave of sound that rips through a crowd, felt in every chest, God spoke to my heart.

Your story doesn’t start now when things are well and you feel more in control. Your story has been going on for years. Your life is your story. And I’m behind each act of every scene. 

Life is now.

I have to laugh that God’s given me a daughter with an oft-daily passion to decorate for/celebrate something or someone almost daily.

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So I am renewed to live fully in the now. It’s where God’s put me. Adventures behind and adventures to come. Days when everything seems to be blooming. Days when I’ve chosen tasks over people and I’m exposed in my lack of loving well.

Days when we just have a picnic on the bathroom rug.

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Joshua and Mrs. Lynn, his new speech therapist.

On the off chance I’m not alone in this holding-your-breath-until-_____ happens, can I encourage me/you to breathe today?

Our story is amidst the good, the hard, victories, failures and the not-yets. And my story (and yours) has such great hope because of Jesus. My story is too big for it to be about just me. And that is very good news to be part of The Big Story.

That’s what I was made for.

 

School starts Down Under!

Sunday launched us Bentleys into a new normal.

 

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Scott and I sat together during church for only the 2nd time in 18 months. I have a newfound appreciation of what I’ve taken for granted so often before having kids.

Our church, like most Aussie churches, doesn’t offer any options for children under 3, so Scott and I have been taking turns in a back room with him for all these months.

But Sunday–oh blessed Sunday!–Sunday school resumed for the new school year (it’s late summer here and school’s now starting) and Joshua’s 3 so can finally go to class with the big kids and Mrs. Taylor!

But the really big day was today.

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A beautiful morning to walk the 14 minutes to the preschool. Lizzy has 15 hours a week (two 6-hour days and one 3-hour day). Joshua has 7 hours a week (two 3.5-hour days). Tuesdays is the one day when both kids overlap being in school in the mornings and I’m still in unbelief of this sweet season of life we’re in. Lizzy’s gained such confidence in the last year since being in 3-year-old kinder and is so much healthier than last year. And Joshua, wait, isn’t this the little guy who screamed and screamed because all his words were stuck for so long? Thank you, Lord, for speech therapy and your grace. And now he’s so excited to be big and join Lizzy in this new world of school. 

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Lizzy’s day starts at 8:30am and Joshua starts at 8:45am (their class rooms are right next to each other). We got Lizzy checked in and then went to check in Joshua.
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Every child got to pick out their hook for their backpack and for their towel in the bathroom. Not a surprise that Joshua’s picture for the year is a train.
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We’re so excited that Joshua gets to enjoy kinder with our sweet next door neighbor!

Two beginnings and an ending, all in 1 week

As I sat in my car after the event and started recounting the evening to Scott, my voice began to sputter into the phone. As we continued to talk, my voice continued to crackle.

And then I realized, for the first time, that God allowed me to speak the 20ish minutes at the mic with voice that hadn’t broken up.

Until now, after it was all over. Holy cow. Thank you, friends who prayed.

To look at my bloodshot-and-extra-wrinkled-and-tired eyes, you’d think I had a newborn at home, not that I have pink eye in both eyes and had been (up until the night before the event) averaging 4-5 hours of sleep a night with coughing attacks.

Did I mention that pink eye=no makeup? Can I be honest and confess how that has made me feel naked this week (yes, going on a week) but a bit more on a night like this speaking. More opportunities to have identity in Christ, right?

A new friend and kindred spirit, Cathie, invited me to speak at her church’s Christmas craft evening. God used Cathie as she spoke at a conference I attended a few months ago to stir my heart and mind to the idea of making space to actually listen to God more often.

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After 2 hours of mingling, eating and serious crafting (even non-crafty me got into making this beautiful Christmas tree out of twigs and wire), I got the mic at 9pm. And God gave me the voice!

Most of the women were believers already but, in that sized group (150+) there were likely non-Christians, too. I loved the opportunity to point us all to Jesus at the beginning of the Christmas season. (With no Thanksgiving here to usher in the Christmas season, it seems to start earlier here.)

I spoke on how abiding in Christ (John 15) could make the difference in how we experience this Christmastime. I had so much more to share that God had been teaching me than the 15-20 minutes allotted, but my American-accent/speaking-quickly self got in as many words as I could. Haha!

Pray with me especially for the women who heard about a personal relationship with Jesus last night who have yet to make a choice to respond? May their hearts be good soil for that life-changing message of grace!

So, the Christmas season started…and Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) ended. I felt like a kid on the last day of a great school year. So very sad! What a rich year of studying the life of Moses and the first 5 books of the Bible.

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LOVED my small group and leader, Jayni.

I’m not sure if I’m more grateful for my own time studying the Word with these women or the fact that my kids both got to study the same lessons (!) as I did, contextualized for their age. I’m so grateful for Mrs. Pat (left) and Mrs. Ai Lin (right). What love and grace and truth you’ve invested in my children!

One more new start–Joshua will begin kinder (pre-school) in February when school starts here.  This week he went to the free-play time for them to get a chance to meet teachers and get comfortable with the idea. I love how Aussies do school here with such a focus on play. Makes me want to be a kid all over again.

I’m struck how much he’s not a little toddler anymore! Who is this big boy ready for school?

Two more cute pictures, speaking of play. (Left) Lizzy’s beloved baby, Joy, gets a non safety-first ride to show-and-tell at BSF on the last day. (Right) I came out of the shower to see this picnic already underway in my room. Everyone was lined up and feasting on things ranging from yogurt to grapes to…Legos.

 

Birthday with penguins :: Micah’s plant blossoms

Almost a year ago, we bought a Groupon deal for a 1-night stay at a cabin at a KOA-type place on Phillip Island, home of the little penguins.

We couldn’t use the deal on Friday or Saturday nights, so we cashed it in for my falls-on-a-Sunday birthday this year.

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Translation: temp is in Celsius (beautiful during day) and “caravan”=RVs
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Bundle up the kids as the sun sets and the cool Antarctic breeze blows over the water. We dressed in winter coats, beanies (stocking caps) and mittens, covered in blankets, and were glad we did. 
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The penguins start coming out of the water at dusk, so you sit and wait for awhile before you start spotting them. Tiny–from a distance–and in big groups, like swarms of bees that quickly waddle up into the sand, then quickly waddle back into the water, as if they can’t make up their mind about what they’ll do. The hilarious things is, they do this every night from what we hear. (This image and the next one are thanks to the Penguin Parade website as photography after dusk is prohibited.)
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These are little penguins! I had no idea there were fully-grown penguins that were anything less than the big ones we’ve seen at zoos. How creative is our God to make these creatures! The best part was after they’d come on land, they start making their way up the hill, waddling underneath the boardwalks — and then next to us — we walked on to get back to our cars. They were right there next to us. Oh, I wish I could have taken a picture of the kids on one side of the fence and these tuxedoed birds on the other. Joshua was a giant in comparison, as they came up to his knee or thigh.

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The next day we enjoyed the sun again (I tell you–Melbourne weather!) and went to the corner of the island, to The Nobbies. What a rock! Off in the distance is a strip of land and, with binoculars, we could see seals sun bathing. 

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Where’s Waldo? If you look closely, you’ll see a little penguin in the upper/left/middle section, living amongst the sea gulls. (I’m still a bit traumatised at how sea gulls have now swooped on me twice since living here, most recently that evening as we waited for the penguins, we munched on nuts and…well, bye bye nut. With Joshua on my lap. He was already crying and afraid of them. He turned his head and missed the should-be-used-for-military-secret-ops-with-that-precise-tactic grab otherwise we might have had to leave right then.) 
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We came home to the surprise (for me, at least, but Scott knew) gift of a dinner all ready, flowers, a cake and a card from our dear friends, the Ungs. It was an amazing gift in and of itself, but I felt like it was also a sweet ending to a great-but-whiny mini vacation. I’ve been sick with some yucky respiratory junk for almost 2 weeks that I can’t kick and cough more than I sleep, the kids were whiney and not as grateful as I’d have liked, I was whiney and not as grateful as I’d have liked. I wanted strangers to burst into spontaneous rounds of happy birthday and hand me American chocolate birthday cake. And for American friends to pop out from amongst the penguins and hug me. There’s still a deep ache, even after 14 months of living here, to be known well here. The ache undoubtedly has been felt more, recently, after having the Michaels here and then celebrating another birthday. For my story to be a lightweight backdrop to a conversation, not for my story to be what we talk about, because it’s not yet known to a friend. But, it takes time. And I’m still learning what that looks like and how to be patient. At 41 I didn’t know I’d still be learning so much about resting in Jesus about friendships, too. But, spring and the hope of new is here, at least Down Under. Our Gardenia bush, our “Micah plant” has started to blossom. Oh, the fragrance. Life.

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I asked if I could take a picture of Lizzy with the bush. This is what she did. My heart caught in my throat a bit at her spontaneous hug.

 

 

 

Happy Aussie Father’s Day, Scott!

Sunday was Father’s Day here and Scott’s playfully proposed that we should celebrate both Father’s Days (U.S. and Australia) from now on, wherever we live.

I mean, how can I say no to this face?

How I love this wonderful man who--many times--gives me a very needed belly laugh. (This one came an evening he shaved off...in stages...his goat tee. And posed, each time, asking what I thought.
How I love this wonderful man and father of my kids who–many times–gives me a very needed belly laugh. (This one came an evening he shaved off…in stages…his goatee. And posed, each time, asking what I thought. I pretty much said no to 1970s-Scott.)
Can I say after only one
Can I say after only one “find” that we’re a geocaching family? If you don’t know what geocaching is, but you like hide-and-go-seek with a little tiny dollar-store trinket treasure spurring on your steps and GPS compass, this is for you. It’s a great way to be outside as a family and explore your city. (Yes, it may be the 1st week of spring but it’s still BRRRR cold here.)
The little black box was hidden in a tree but we found it! We took a little treasure, left a little treasure and wrote our names in the logbook.
The little black box was hidden in a tree but we found it! We took a little treasure, left a little treasure and wrote our names in the logbook.
The first geo-caching adventure was so fun that we found one on the way to dinner and, although we never found the treasure, we found this great park. Loved these wobbly stairs that are a balance challenge...even to me. I tell you, this country has the best parks!
The first geocaching adventure was so fun that we found one on the way to dinner and, although we never found the treasure, we found this great park. Loved these wobbly stairs that are a balance challenge…even to me. I tell you, this country has the best parks!
Nothing says
Nothing says “we love you, Daddy!” like a BBQ sandwich, French fries and a root beer at an American restaurant called Big Boy BBQ. Cue food coma.
After the kids and I made this collage and Lizzy was writing on the mat, I realized with a gulp that God has so kindly included a memory of Micah in the way His divinely had my picture of the kids on the bike have the memorial plant off to the side in the frame. How thankful I am that you're the dad to our kids, Scotty! I love you!
After the kids and I made this collage and Lizzy was writing on the mat, I realized with a gulp that God has so kindly included a memory of Micah in the way His divinely had my picture of the kids on the bike have the memorial plant off to the side in the frame. How thankful I am that you’re the dad to our kids, Scotty! I love you!