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!

a short getaway

What do Americans do on a cold 4th of July in Australia? Take a 24-hour, no phones or computers getaway! Pack up a car boot (trunk) to the maximum with sheets, towels and food (nearest grocery store 30-45 min away from our destination).

Then, take a nap, and drive 2 hours to a friend’s vacant house.

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I sent this picture to my mom and she put to words what I hadn't been able to: the difference between winter here and in Lincoln, Ne is that winter is green here. I've been too busy being girl-out-of-Florida cold to realize that. It pretty much doesn't freeze here, so that means trees and grass can still be seen in color.
I sent this picture to my mom and she put to words what I hadn’t been able to: the difference between winter here (now) and in Lincoln, Ne is that winter is green here. It pretty much doesn’t freeze here, so that means trees and grass can still be seen in color. (There are hills/mountains within a few hours that get snow and skiers, though, I’m told.)
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Our friends’ house, self-named the “Nut House” — a fun gathering place for their kids and grandkids when they’re not kind and allowing new friends like us to getaway there. We were hoping to spot kangaroos at the end of the street as they like to gather there, but…alas, not this time.
The challenge portion of the 24 hours came in 2 parts: getting a fire started in the fireplace (read: sole place of heat for the house) and making dinner after the chicken broth never made it into the car. As for the fire, Scott was the man in figuring that out (cheers from us). As for dinner, let's just say I got creative with making my white chicken chili. I decided to knock on doors to see about landing some broth. After patting myself on the back for my meet-the-neighbors/don't-have-to-drive-forver-to-store when a sweet grandma 2 doors down handed me a cube. I realized my self-kudos was to be short-lived as I ground it between my fingers into the chili and suddenly -- thankfully only 1/3 of it used -- realized it was dark brown and not at all smelling of chicken.  Not to bow to failure, I threw in a packet of instant chicken noodle soup I found in the pantry (fished out all the noodles I could and used the seasoning). White chicken chili...with a hint of beef and noodles, anyone?
The challenge portion of the 24 hours came in 2 parts: getting a fire started in the fireplace (read: sole place of heat for the house) and making dinner after the chicken broth never made it into the car. As for the fire, Scott was the man in figuring that out (cheers from us). As for dinner, let’s just say I got creative with making my white chicken chili. I decided to knock on doors to see about landing some broth. After patting myself on the back for my meet-the-neighbors/don’t-have-to-drive-forver-to-store when a sweet grandma 2 doors down handed me a cube, I realized my self-kudos was to be short-lived as I ground it between my fingers into the chili and suddenly — thankfully only 1/3 of it used — realized it was dark brown and not at all smelling of chicken. Not to bow to failure, I threw in a packet of instant chicken noodle soup I found in the pantry (fished out all the noodles I could and used the seasoning). White chicken chili…with a hint of beef and noodles, anyone? Turned out quite edible, especially slathered in sour cream, tortilla chips, coriander (cilantro) & fresh lime juice
Kids enjoyed their first trundle-bed slumber party. We were pleasantly surprised they fell asleep fast.
Kids enjoyed their first trundle-bed slumber party. We were pleasantly surprised they fell asleep fast.
You know you're in Australia when this is the hot-drink bar at someone's house. I'm forever spoiled.
You know you’re in Australia when this is the hot-drink bar at someone’s house. I’m forever spoiled.
A highlight for me was the fireside date Scott and I got after kids went to bed. Mesmerizing flames with a warmth and smell hard to find elsewhere.
A highlight for me was the fireside date Scott and I got after kids went to bed. Mesmerizing flames with a warmth and smell hard to find elsewhere.
We have a new Hungry Hippos fan. She'll even play by herself.
We have a new Hungry Hippos fan. She’ll even play by herself.
On the way home, we found a Greek restaurant and ordered our new favorite meal: slovlaki (shaved kabab meat, usually lamb), greek salad, chips (fries, not so Greek) and calamari rings (don't tell the kids--I'm pretty sure they just assumed they were onion rings).
On the way home, we found a Greek restaurant and ordered our new favorite meal: souvlaki (shaved kabab meat, usually lamb), greek salad, pitas, sauces, skewered fried goat cheese, chips (fries, not so Greek) and calamari rings (don’t tell the kids–I’m pretty sure they just assumed they were onion rings).
Tomato sauce (ketchup) usually provided by request and for an additional cost.
Tomato sauce (ketchup) usually provided by request and for an additional cost.
Thanks, Brian & Christine!
Thanks, Brian & Christine!

P.S. I’m heading in Wed at 11:15am (Tuesday 9:15pm EST) for a follow-up ultrasound to make sure I’m healing well from the miscarriage and that nothing’s left inside that might cause infection.

a very sad day for our family :: a balloon & notes for Micah :: God’s great care

“I miss our baby,” Lizzy sobbed at bedtime Thursday night.

“I know. I do, too,” I replied. My lips are cracked and my heart is so very sad. 10 weeks is such a short time, yet lifetime, to start loving someone.

Scott and I went in that morning for an ultrasound because I had severe cramping the day before and some spotting. After a call to our OB, Dr. John Adams (no joke!), and texting our beloved midwife in the U.S., Cathy, as well as doing some online research, it seemed not totally abnormal. I’d taught the intense 30-min Jazzercise class that morning, showered and then took my progesterone.

We learned that intense exercise can cause severe cramping (in addition, also that progesterone can cause irritation to the uterus lining and cause spotting). Seemed like the perfect storm. Dr. Adams was calm and not worried; neither was Cathy. That put me at ease. But Adams encouraged us to go in for ultrasound this morning.

We called and there was only 1 appointment in all 6 locations that was before next week. The one appt was 5 minutes away from preschool and seemingly saved just for us. A dear friend, Alyssa, offered to watch Joshua while Lizzy was at kinder so Scott could go with me.

Our appt was 9:30am and the tech, Suzanne, couldn’t have been more compassionate. At first, we couldn’t read the reality of what was going on. But, as she progressed with the scan, she wasn’t mentioning a heartbeat and the baby was measuring small.

Once we found the baby, he/she looked like a kidney bean, which surprised me a little because the baby should be bigger at 10 weeks. (We’d just watched the National Geographic week-by-week DVD we love about what’s going on with the baby and what’s growing, ultrasounds, etc. Looking at week 10, the DVD had showed that the baby was looking less like a dolphin–as Lizzy cutely pointed out–and more with arms, legs, and looked baby like.)

Another tech came in and measured, and then they slipped out to confer with the dr. (All done very tenderly, telling us what they were doing and quickly, so we didn’t have to wait and spin any longer than necessary).

Suzanne came back with the news. No heartbeat, which should be detected by now. And the baby only measured like it was 6 weeks. A miscarriage.

Oh, we are sad but not without hope. God is good and, although we have no idea why we won’t hold our baby this side of Heaven, we know we can trust Him and cling tightly to Him.

As I first journaled this, I sat looking at a bouquet of beautiful Easter lilies a friend brought Wednesday night when she and her kids came for dinner, before all the sadness. The Lord knew I’d need a visual reminder and planted “Because He Lives” in my heart and it’s come to mind all day long. I can’t remember the last time I thought of this hymn, which makes it all the sweeter.

Because He lives,
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives
all fear is gone
Because I know
Who holds the future
Life is worth the living
just because He lives.

Scott and I got until noon to cry and process together, and walk a nearby park while Alyssa picked up Lizzy and her 2 and our 2 got to play before we picked them up. Scott picked up the kids and brought them to the car and then I went in to hug and cry with Alyssa.

Grief comes in waves as we think of what is and what won’t be. Random thoughts. Christmas will be hard, as that would have been about when he/she would have been born. The kids don’t “have” to share a room now. I won’t have a little one snuggled on my chest. I’m at what is likely the end of the window to have another biological child. Sad. (All the while thinking about dear friends who haven’t held their own babies in their arms.)

Scott took the afternoon off of work. While the kids were down for naps he shooed me to get a neck and shoulder massage (woke up with yet another pulled muscle).

While at the shopping center, I bought green heart balloon for $12(!) and the sweet girl asked, “what’s the occasion?” I silently sobbed. “It’s just fresh.” She was taken back and said tenderly said, “I’m so sorry.”

We bought the balloon in hopes that, the next day, God would give us a name for this little one and we can celebrate his/her life by releasing a balloon with notes and drawing taped to it.

I thought, The pain will be for a long time, won’t it, Lord? 

And I now know that’s ok. This was a life-changing, family-altering new life. Our hearts will never be the same — because of the joy and grief.

I came home and Scott and I told tender-hearted Lizzy the news. Our little 4-year-old sobbed with a heart and understanding of a 85-year-old woman who loves deeply.

She has asked really good questions throughout the night and it’s almost as if I can see the wheels in her brain spinning and trying to comprehend just what happened to the baby. As we explain (attempt to, at least), fresh tears fall for Scott and I. At bedtime that night, she asked how the baby got to Heaven.

I said something like, “Jesus said, ‘baby, why don’t you come with Me?'”

She was very concerned. “Did He say it kindly?”

“Oh yes, sweet heart. Do you remember the story about how the children came to Jesus but His friends said no, He doesn’t have time for you? What did the Bible say next? ‘But they were…”

“Wrong,” she tearfully smiled.

“Jesus always had time for the kids. He loved them.”

“How did Jesus take the baby to Heaven?”

“I can just see Him carrying the baby in His arms, can’t you?” Fresh sobs from me as I picture Him tenderly doing that.


On Thursday Scott proposed Micah as a name for our baby. Micah means, “Who is like God?” I loved it. I immediately thought it reminded me of the book of John, chapter 6, when lots of people chose to stop following Jesus and He asked the disciples if they would go, too. Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Who is like God? To whom shall I go? You are the One who is good and is to be worshiped. I trust You even as my heart breaks.

Scott and I talked again Friday afternoon and agreed to name the baby Micah since it could be a girl or boy name, as well. Oh, someday we’ll know! We wrote notes and drew pictures, and walked to the park.

It was a beautiful sunset.

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This was a sweet moment. Scott is reading from the book of Mark about how Jesus called the children to come to Him and rebuked the disciples from inhibiting them in coming. Lizzy asked,
This was a sweet moment. Scott is reading from the book of Mark about how Jesus called the children to come to Him and rebuked the disciples from inhibiting them in coming. Lizzy asked, “Did Jesus read off of His phone?” What delight her perspective and questions are!

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I’m not sad we’ve told friends or family. We need a community of people who love us all the more now. God gave us life and we celebrate that life for the time we had the baby.

Thursday night we had dinner with beloved friends — a dinner set up earlier that week. God knew we’d need it. I think I’ve been surprised how loved we are here. With each day comes fresh grace from the Lord and tangible ways God is caring for us through others, all over the world.

I wake to texts and emails from the States. Then, while American friends sleep, Aussie friends display care through their tears, texts or stop by with freshly-made banana bread. (Only the Lord knew Lizzy asked to make banana bread today and I told her we didn’t have bananas and would have to wait to make it. And the friends remembered we’re still in our dairy-free month trial for Lizzy’s health. How detailed God is in His care!)

Oh, Jesus. You see us. I trust You. Thank You for loving us in these ways, small and big ways.

Our big prayer request is for my body to realize the baby’s gone (now that I’ve stopped taking the high-level doses of progesterone), that my body would progress in the natural miscarriage and that I would not fear in the unknown but, rather, wait well and with trust in God’s perfect timing and His care for me and our family.

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.