Can you advocate for me?

So you’ve had an illness for some weeks now. Maybe it’s a cough, maybe it’s a headache that just won’t go away no matter how many pills you pop, maybe it’s your kid who has had 17 ear infections in the past year. So you go to the doctor, perhaps again. You can’t get into the Doctor you normally see and so you’re scheduled with a very educated and very well meaning other stranger doctor who hears your story, checks your symptoms, maybe writes you a script, or if worse comes to worse, tells you to keep up the fluids and to ‘wait and see’. 

You still don’t feel better. 

You walk  away from the experience feeling disappointed and unsatisfied. 

Why is that? I mean the obvious answer is that it’s annoying because the doctor couldn’t or didn’t fix us. We go to doctors to get help, right? 


I’ve got nothing against the medical profession by the way – I’m grateful for those in our midst who were willing to sacrifice the years of study to know way more about the human body than I will ever  do – but again, so many times when I’ve sought help from health or other services I walk away feeling deflated. 

Maybe it’s because there’s something else going on under the surface. I think the disappoint may also lie in the fact that what we really long for is someone to be our advocate. Someone to take up our cause and say “I see you! I hear your problem. Let’s make this better for you.” We long for someone to follow through with that promise and not to stop until they’ve exhausted all options and it DOES feel better. 

The thing is, that’s not necessarily going to happen at your local gp’s office. I mean, who’s got time for that? 

I was reading this this morning though and it stopped me in my tracks.

“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’ “You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life.”

‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:55-58‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Be careful, oh my soul. Be alert, Kirsten. As weary as you may be, Be aware of who you’re looking to to save you…but take heart. 

Do I want someone to follow through on their promise?

Do I want someone who knew me then, knows me now and will know me in the future?

Do I want someone to hear me and advocate for my cause? 

Here he is. 

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A Grateful Practice

In the spirit of trying to become someone who follows through in life and moves from the theory into the application, over the next few weeks I’m declaring my gratitude to the skies for things. It is said that Joy and Gratitude are intimately connected. And I want to be joyful. But Gratitude needs to be practiced. And I want to get good at it. And I want to be joyful.

So. Day One>

I am Grateful for….

 >> being left handed. It made me feel special all my life and I didn’t really have to do anything to achieve it. Although I did have terrible hand writing until the age of 17.
>>being able to read (fast). It means that I have had the privilege of knowing so many amazing characters that have kept me company for many many years.
>> peaches. I love peaches. although i write this while eating a nectarine, which are also awesome.

Police Never Die, or What Boney M Taught Me About Christmas

So here’s a Christmas story for you.

Growing up, every year we would pick up our highly anticipated real Christmas tree from our local church and put it on the roof of our mini, then my dad would carefully arrange the tree in an old oil can with piece of bricks to stabilise it.

We would then put on 2 Lp albums on at the insistence of my sister and I; Boney M’s Christmas Album, and a Tijuana Christmas (Both still excellent choices).

Then as we decorated the tree, we would sing along. My personal favourite was Police Never Die. You are not familiar?

Let me refresh your memory:

“Police never die, police never die, police never die, mucho do wando police to die, I want to wish you a merry Christmas..I want to wish you a merry Christmas…I want to wish you a merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart…”

It took me YEARS to realise that I was very mistaken in the lyrical content.

I still prefer my version.

When one of my cousins was still young, with the clever idea of making her own presents at Christmas, she stole her father’s mouse pad from the computer in June and hid it for six months, then gave it to him on Christmas Day. I still remember his reaction; “Oh, there it is!”, and then thanked his daughter, even though he had replaced the item months before after it went missing….

The point of these stories? The things that we love, the traditions that we hold to, may be slightly less than perfect. They may even be a little ridiculous. The Christmas hats from your crackers may look stupid on your head. You may have to drive all the way across town to travel to a family gathering. You may have to brave the busy shops more than once to get that last minute present. You also receive a present that you don’t like.

Does it matter? No.

One of the things that I learned in my studies of camps is that Rituals, when they are understood, are POWERFUL. They are the ways by which we understand our culture, our family, even our faith. We understand much more through participation than we ever do by observation. I’ll say that again.

We understand much more through participation than we ever do by observation.

This is not to say that traditions can actually cause pain. This happens when they are prioritised over what they are supposed to represent; at Christmas, this can often occur when shopping for gift giving overwhelms a genuine spirit of generosity. Or a forced-fake smile at family gatherings required even when there is difficulty in the relationships. Or when the festivities remind you of people that are no longer with us. Or when we crowd the calendar with so much stuff that we don’t even get any time to enjoy the ‘fun’.

The thing is though, these practices are the ones that form the strongest memories. I am grateful to my parents who, when we were young, tried to convince us that Santa came early to our house because we opened our presents on Christmas eve. I am thankful to my mum who gave us Christmas decorations each year so that one day we would have our own collection. I admire my Dad for showing excitement when he was given another pair of socks and a jar of chocolate coated peanuts. I am thankful to my aunties for making cucumber and tomato salads every year because they remind me of my Nanna at Christmas. and I am really really thankful for a God who decided to participate in my life by sending his son to be born for me.

Love is born
With a dark and troubled face
When hope is dead
And in the most unlikely place
Love is born:
Love is always born.

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Michael Leunig, the very talented cartoonist of the above once said;

“the search for the sublime may sometimes have a ridiculous beginning”.

I love that. even when our attempts at the sublime, the sacred, the wonderful, the memorable, are ridiculous, are awkward, or even are a disaster, they must be attempted.

Your family needs it. You need it. And at the risk of sounding ridiculous myself, I think our country and world needs it.

So that’s why I will always push for a real tree (even though the needles clog up the vacuum cleaner) because it marks the real beginning of the season in my household. It’s why I will enlarge my collection of Christmas music every year to listen to. It’s why I will spend time searching for that perfect gift. It’s also why I want to make an effort with my family during this time because I want to know them as actual people, not just some randoms that I’m related to.

Maybe even if it’s ridiculous, try to really celebrate this year. Redeem the traditions in your life and your family. Attempt the sublime.

You can even sing a chorus of Police Never Die if it gets you in the mood….

its been a year…

This is Joan

She loved to travel

She was a lefty

She was an incredible teacher

She liked to abbreviate, almost to the point of being compltly illgbl

She sang the lullaby “oranges and lemons” to my sister and I when we were going to sleep

She loved going out with friends for dinner, especially when she could use an entertainment card to receive 25% off

If it was a crime novel, she read it.

If it was a British show (about anything), she watched it

She cut out articles on travel, investing, and recipes out of newspapers and magazines

She loved her friends. and her family.

It is very difficult at times to understand that this person is gone. The person who was sick and bedridden? I can get that she’s gone. But it’s much harder to believe that the woman who made chocolate slab cakes and worked so hard for her family is gone.

The reality, however, is that they’re the same person.

The same person who struggled with cancer, who faced the sudden death of her husband, was the same woman who was gracious and generous with everyone who visited her in hospital, even when she was exhausted.

The same woman who loved going out to enjoy food was the same woman who, last year, closed her eyes whenever she tasted food or had coffee (or the occasional glass of wine) because it was one of the last things she could still enjoy during that time.

The truth is, I miss all of her. And it really sucks that she’s not here, that dad’s not here either, and as my sister and I approach years of (hopefully) families and kids, the thing that really hurts the most is that those kids won’t know who their grandparents were.

But there’s also a but.

This is not the massive-encompassing “BUT” that claims that everything is amazing and fantastic and grief- free. It’s a small one.

BUT

My sister, gorgeous photographer that she is, started taking photos to document times that we as a family spent together during those last months. That’s weird, right? Why document mum in that state? Without hair, with swollen face and limbs, in all that pain? Why force yourself to remember her like that?

Why? It was still mum.
Her eyes were the same. Her smile was the same. Her loving us the best way she knew how was the same. Despite the fear that she had of what was happening to her, despite her often denial of the reality we were all being faced with, it was still her.

When I look at those photos now, I am reminded of her pain, absolutely, but also of the power of grace during those times. I’m reminded of this bible verse that says

“God uses the foolish things in this world to shame the wise”.

The foolish thing is to think that mum was powerful during that time. She wasn’t in a lot of ways. In most ways, actually. She couldn’t walk, sit up, feed herself, or even hold a book to read it.

BUT

She spent time talking to her friends

She gave her time to a researcher who came to interview her, because she knew how much I appreciated when people gave me their time in my studies.

She gave a young nurse who was getting married some platters she didn’t need

She paid for a friend to have their house cleaned before they went overseas, just so she could spend some quality time with her own husband and daughter

She took the trip to meadows in an uncomfortable taxi so she could see her sister get married

Her sisters and sons in law learned much about her teaching life, and the incredible influence she was to many people at her school

Her time in hospital, especially the last few days, gave us the opportunity to talk, and laugh, and pray, and eat, and drink together.

Even in that state of ‘weakness’, she was powerful.

Even in that state of ‘foolishness’, god’s glory was powerful and prominent. And present.

And something I can’t ignore. That’s what I’m thankful for. And there’s the but in the day(s) where I mostly want to be sad.

Missing & loving you Mumsie, today and everyday. Hope you’re enjoying that plane ride….

Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life…”

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“let this be written…”

So you’ve heard that we live in postmodernity? Wrong. I’m here to tell you today that we live in a world of over-articulation.*

It’s true. Well, perhaps I do and the rest of you live in that postmodernity land.

The access to social media and the opportunity to blog and the fact that I’m a little too excited about following photography blogs means that a large slice of my day/thought processes/is centred on the idea and calling that you need to express about your life. To articulate it beautifully. Share frustrations. Share hopes. Share funny commentary, share beautiful trees that happen to be in your own front yard:

This is so much pressure! What if I’m just adding noise to an already noisy cacophony**?

And while there is so much wonderfulness about the opportunity for me, for us to share what’s going on with our lives, it carries a certain expectation that your life is worth writing about. Or taking photos of.

Of course it is, but I’m still brought to a halt when I think about the shortcomings of what I invest my time in. Of who I am. Of the words that I share with those around me from day to day. Of the cause that I want to be part of. I feel frustrated and somewhat disappointed that the life I’m living is only a shadow of the faith that I want, the example that I want to demonstrate, the encouragement I want to be a source of.

But I was just reading psalm 102 and a few versus struck me:

But you, LORD, sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favour to her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
her very dust moves them to pity.
15 The nations will fear the name of the LORD,
all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
16 For the LORD will rebuild Zion
and appear in his glory.
17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.

 18 Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD:

19 “The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
21 So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the LORD.

Regardless of my own insecurity and worry that even after 10 years of uni I still haven’t worked out what I want to do with my life, something gets to me about how your life can map something out for a future generation, for those who aren’t yet born so they can know Jesus. The fact that God is powerful and is the saviour of those who are afflicted. That he is a God of justice and freedom….

Holy Heck. How I want my life to be one that can be written for a future generation, even if it is just my own…

This psalm was written by one who wasn’t in a good place. He was in the midst of trouble, fainting, and pleading before his God. Check this:

Hear my prayer, LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

3 For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
5 In my distress I groan aloud
and am reduced to skin and bones.
6 I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
7 I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.

In the haze of torment and despair, he knew of God’s faithfulness and the wonderful complicated and compelling joy it is to follow in his footsteps and allow your life to proclaim his.

I think quite often I get so caught up with questioning if my life means enough (or at least, something that’s worth writing about), that I don’t actually remember to get on with it.

When the psalmist’s life was a mess and he didn’t have anything to blog about his own achievements, he spoke of God’s instead…

Perhaps this then is something worth articulating today.

“Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD……”

 What is your life writing for a future generation?

-kirst

*  I am acutely aware of my own hypocrisy articulating frustration about over-articulation through a blog entry. I hope you will forgive me and put it down to playful irony…

**(Jarring, discordant sound; dissonance = good word)

how to avoid giving your child a ridiculous name.

I am not a mother. I am, however, a godmother, friend, sister, and possibly will be in the parent category someday. In light of this, I hold grave concerns for many children who are born from those in our generation who think it is ok to name their child a ridiculous name.

It is NOT ok.

Thus to avoid possible disasters of name mishaps in the future, I have devised a simple flow chart for expectant or new parents who are in the process of naming their children. Distribute to all those that you believe are in danger.

So you’ve had a baby? Congratulations! About to name your child La-a? Pear? Voltron? Symphony? Beautiphul?

 

Take 5 minutes with this quick and easy flow chart. You may just save your child years of pain and torment.

(click on the chart to a see a larger version if it appears fuzzy)

 


Hard work is not the opposite of grace, it is the result of experiencing grace.

D. A. Carson explains:

“People do not drift toward Holiness.

Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.

We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.

(For the Love of God, Volume 2)

Lent Learnings

i have only ever given up something for lent once in my life, and

it was chocolate. it was years ago. i remember it being quasi-difficult, but i also remember the double incentives present in the lack of chocolate that was infiltrating my diet during those four weeks.

now in 2011, after several easters that seemed to spring up on me without much reflection, and let’s face it, not much outcome because of it, it appears that this year calls me for another attempt at denying something through lent.

Fasting is the denial of something (usually of bodily requirements), creating within you spiritual thirst. It seems that we deny something of ourselves in order to allow space for God to move in us. Many of my friends have declared several very worthy denials this year: facebook, chocolate, bad day time television, or even television at all.

I’ve had some trouble deciding where to go. yet i think i’ve come to it.
The following statement is one that i will be engaging in in the next 40 days:

image

things that matter that immediately come to mind: meals. sleep. conversations.

instead of believing that I’m actually marty-mcflying it and manipulating time by watching television and eating my tea at the same time, or facebooking while I’m “trying” to sleep, or playing solitaire while having a conversation with a friend, or reading an important article on the drive to work, or eating lunch at work at my desk, I’m going to endeavour to do one thing at a time, just as they are. If I run out of time and happen to find myself trying to get dressed while blow drying my hair and brushing my teeth while applying mascara, i think i’ll allow myself some latitude because these things don’t matter as much as

conversations with my husband over our dinner
restful sleep and recuperation for the next day
conversations with my dear friends near and far.

I realise that this denial is a little bit abstract and may not sit comfortably in the ‘what are you giving up for lent’ category, but I’m looking forward to seeing how me (attempting to) give up the urge to increase quantity in my time may actually increase the quality of said time.

I’m looking forward to lunch sans my desk because I’m going to take my journal and do some writing, and spend time doing it. I might take my bible. I might even get some actual decent time with God. Who knows. it might blow my mind.

let’s see how we go.

looking forward to easter though….

Life is better with pockets….

there are a few things, not many, which make almost everything better. ie most things need water. (except melting chocolate). most things need air (except a vaccuum). and despite these exceptions, most things are better because of air or water. i would like to add a third concept to the list.

most things are better with pockets.

what is better than having somewhere to put your hand, your wallet, your spare key, or your fake water-pistol flower (if you happen to be a clown)?

moreover, things that are pocket sized are also cool (think: pocket watch, pocket book, pocket calculator).

things that have pockets already built in are clearly the coolest, see: kangaroo.

the proof is so completely overwhelming.

that settles it, then. you should pocket a pocket today. or, at least, give me something that has a pocket.

it will make your life a better place to be.