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.

 

 

 

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Getaway overnight, thanks to friends

Oh my. What refreshment blew into my soul during just an almost-24-hour getaway with Scott.

Our dear friends and marriage mentors, the Michaels, are here visiting. They’d offered to love our kids so we could get away on an overnight somewhere before they left. Soon after their offer, we got an out-of-left field-large gift from a friend and their note with it encouraged us to use it for a little R&R.

The timing and provision was clearly the Lord’s as neither friend knew of the other’s offer to us.

Scott and I have this running joke about where the other person should take us if we go into a coma and won’t be revived. I’ve been saying that it has to be somewhere beautiful with a great view.

I think I found my spot.

Pictures don’t do justice, but here’s where I’d lay in a coma.

Looking into the rainforest part of the Dandenong Ranges & National Park
Looking into the rainforest part of the Dandenong Ranges & National Park
Aptyly named
Aptyly named “Cottage in the Forest”

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A hamper (basket) of food for our breakfast and some eggs, juice and milk in fridge.
A hamper (basket) of food for our breakfast and some eggs, juice and milk in fridge.

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Amazing dinner last night with a let-the-chef-decide-what-to-bring-you courses. Beetroot is a staple in Aussie cuisine and this is a bit of pureed beetroot appetizer.
Amazing dinner last night with a let-the-chef-decide-what-to-bring-you courses. Beetroot is a staple in Aussie cuisine and this is a bit of pureed beetroot appetizer.
Duck pate. No idea how to do proper spelling or accent marks but can say we tried it. I've never had anything that had a first taste, and then it morphed to a second taste. Took a picture with our hands (we started that tradition on our honeymoon and we joked that our kids will be able to do a photo montage when we're 85 years old of how our hands got older over the years.
Duck pate. No idea how to do proper spelling or accent marks but can say we tried it. I’ve never had anything that had a first taste, and then it morphed to a second taste. Took a picture with our hands — we started that tradition on our honeymoon and we joked that our kids will be able to do a photo montage when we’re 85 years old of how our hands got older over the years.
After a few more delicious tastes of things, Bryce brought us this mango sorbet as a palate cleanser, but we missed that part. We thought it was dessert. Until he brought us this. Holy cow.
After a few more delicious tastes of things, Bryce brought us this mango sorbet as a palate cleanser, but we missed that part. We thought it was dessert. Until he brought us this. Holy cow.

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Thank you, Michaels, for loving our family!
Thank you, Robert & Sondra, for being family to us!

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Update from Saturday

I just wanted to give a quick update for those of you who prayed for me on Saturday (your Friday)!  The changes and upgrades to our systems were a success and our ministry’s data and computer systems are much more protected as a result.  It wasn’t without a few challenges, but God was definitely the One who helped me figure out solutions when problems came up.  Thanks, friends!

Lizzy ENT update

Thank you so much for those of you who prayed for Lizzy’s ear, nose and throat doctor appointment.  It went so much better than expected. Especially since they didn’t need to put a scope through her nose as I anticipated they might. He did seem to diagnose that her adenoids are the cause of the congestion in her nose.  The ears are also blocked, but the adenoids aren’t necessarily the primary culprit.

I was relieved when the doctor decided not to immediately look into a procedure. He wants to give it another 5-6 weeks to determine if a procedure is needed. In the mean time, we’re going to try and pursue other avenues to help our little girl.  Thanks so much for your continued prayers!

Scott

A very Good Friday

Growing up, Good Friday was such a confusion for me. It may have been explained to me but never sunk in, but I simply couldn’t understand how it could be called Good Friday when, in fact, it was the day Jesus died.

Somewhere along the way, by God’s grace, it did sink in. It could only be called good because His death paid for my sin! Oh, how that’s good, good news.

And today was a really good Good Friday because what Jesus did for me became all the richer in meaning. We rejoined the Grace family (friends we lived with when we first landed 6 months ago) and a few other friends for a Seder Passover dinner.

Screen shot 2015-04-03 at 10.12.45 PMAbout 7 years ago, Michael & Aimee had heard a man — now believer — who had been a Jewish rabbi. He went through each part of the Jewish Passover feast and — now being a follower of Jesus — added the rich hues and explanations and symbolisms that have always been a part of the tradition that pointed to the Christ who was to come.

After hearing the former rabbi, the Graces decided they wanted to have this Seder meal as a part of their Easter family tradition. They’ve invited different family and friends each year and we got the call this year.

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It was truly a highlight of our 6 months here so far for me. I’ve been aching for a few things the last few years. 1) establishing meaningful family traditions and 2) giving preparation time and thought to Christmas and Easter and the reality of the freedom and joy Jesus has purchased and offers.

It wasn’t but a few minutes in, gathered around the table with friends, taking turns reading what Aimee assembled to walk us through the meal, that I’d found an answer to my prayer. And I’m already planning how we could host this next year, if Scott agreed.

If the significance of Passover is one you’ve only heard of a bit, or not at all, or you’d like to know more about what our evening was like, I highly recommend this: Christ in the Passover. It’s a downloadable PDF for $4 you can chew on in a few quiet moments over your Easter weekend.

Maybe tonight was even more meaningful for me living here in Australia. I’ve been surprised by many things while here but I think this Easter season has surprised me most of all. It’s a very secular, not-considering-much-of-anything-spiritual culture, yet Easter weekend is a 4-day weekend. It starts with Good Friday and ends with Easter Monday.

What sad irony. A country that doesn’t know Jesus but creates a holiday weekend (4-days!) around it. And what strikes me hardest, even though it shouldn’t surprise/bother me? Today is Good Friday and it’s one of 3 days mandated that all non-essential stores are closed. Yes, I looked it up. Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day are all days that the government regulates that stores are closed.

But it means nothing. If you asked the average person here, I bet they’d shrug their shoulders and have no idea why; they’d never even really thought about it. Truly, it’s only because Aussies love holidays and leisure (not bad in and of themselves) that these days are off. Most Aussies head out of town even on Thursday (as has half our neighborhood, it seems) and make it a long weekend. (Another interesting thing I just recently learned–most Christians head out of town, as well. Easter Sunday service isn’t nearly the big deal here as in the U.S.)

Oh, Good Friday. Jesus, our Passover Lamb, offered up for me. For all of us.

Happy Easter Weekend, friends. Death hasn’t overcome! He overcame and He’s alive!