Friday, February 15, 2013

And so it is...

I did see this coming, but I'm surprised how sentimental I'm getting as I write this last post here. I mean, it's just a relocation, isn't it? But I've been here going on eight years now, and things grow on you. Even if they are severely limited things that don't have usable mobile apps or a way of simplifying web design for you.

I finally did what I've wavered over for at least five long years. (True story: every one of my years feels long. Either I really pack a lot of living into my days, or I'm not getting enough sleep.)

My blog has moved. I now have a domain and all. This is where you'll find me from now on.

 Thank you so much for reading, commenting, following and emailing.  I would be so honoured if you'd follow me over to my new site, update your bookmarks and readers, and leave me a comment just to say hi. Don't be a stranger.

There's still a lot of work to do on the new site but I'm on it. Think of it as the new home that still has loads of bare corners and a couple of rooms yet unpacked, and maybe a food processor sitting uncomfortably on the study floor surrounded by a box of old school certificates; but I've cleaned the moving dust off the comfy chairs, am putting the kettle on for tea, and am inviting you in now rather than later because real friendship is all about companionship, not perfection.

If you'd wanted perfection, you wouldn't have been reading my blog, now, would you?

Thank you again. See you over there.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

In between

In conversation with a close friend on the other side of the country yesterday, I was reminded that transition is rarely -- if ever -- enjoyable. "In between" is somewhere most of us don't want to be, given the choice. By definition, it's not even a place we're willing to acknowledge; it's just where we happen to be until we get there. Wherever "there" is from our current perspective.

Another close friend recently pointed out in an email that "in-between-ness is part of the identity of God's people". How I wish it weren't so; how I wish, as I did when I was a child, that I could simply close my eyes, think of where I wanted to be, and be there.

I'm still too raw to process my current season of transition, but this post from my archives will do for now.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Not seeing is believing

I wrote recently of an event where many young lives ended together, violently and unexpectedly.

This past Christmas Day, a family in my friend's community in Thailand lost its son, husband, father when the effects of a motorbike accident proved beyond recovery.

In May, the day after sustaining my fifth concussion in six years, I attended a movement workshop facilitated by a warm, bubbly woman who spoke gladly of her young sons (it seems there were a couple of us whose rough-and-tumble approach to contact improv brought preteen boys to mind. Hmm.) and her walk with our Creator. I learnt not long after that she had died suddenly: one moment she was back from school run, saying she didn't feel quite right; the next, this physically fit 48-year-old was gone.

I just learnt that my former undergraduate classmate recently suffered a third miscarriage just before Christmas.

I grieved when I heard about each of these. I grieve still. Loss is something that can never be completely reconciled in this life. I grieve for families standing in this instant void that requires a whole new way of living. I grieve for sons and daughters made aware that they must guard memories of the departed parent well if they want them to remain, because no more will ever be added. I grieve for spouses who found a good thing and had it taken away. I grieve for dreams of parenthood that seem too elusive to attain.

I grieve for our sense of safety, our belief in the order and fitness of things. This is the way I am; I don't need to take on others' pain. Simply by virtue of being who I am, I already feel it. I used to ask that my heart be made less tender so that I wouldn't hurt so much. Nothing changed; so I am learning instead to ask that my constantly broken heart be made a gift, and that its constant need for healing draw me closer to its beautiful Healer.

In this inevitable grief, I find myself at a point of decision.

Shall I believe that all is not in order and will never be? There is ample evidence to this effect in our clattering, limping world.

Shall I believe that beneath the cruel chaos lies a greater order that we cannot see because of our proximity? There is even greater evidence to that effect if we choose to ask the One who can see.

Faith, someone once wrote, is the conviction of things not seen.

How I ache for that conviction to be loudest as I navigate this seemingly senseless world.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

When something breaks...

... that something being news, big bad news about a young man shooting his own mother and then a bunch of schoolchildren and faculty before shooting himself...

... when it is plain that news isn't the only thing breaking, that there are shattered hearts lying everywhere in town and in affected families scattered abroad, parents who may never be able to look a festive decoration in the eye again, children who've learnt in the worst possible way that the world itself is broken and sometimes that which we've taught them to believe separates the good from the bad actually doesn't...

Image by Bjarne Henning Kvaale
... when so much is broken and still breaking, do we really need media crews flocking to the scene to interview victims?

Do we really need to see in such great detail how the boys and girls are feeling right after barely surviving said attack?

Do we really need a close-up of a teacher who's had the worst schoolday ever?

What does it fulfil in us when we see the grief-twisted faces of loss, rather than simply taking note that this atrocity happened and calling on the Compassionate One to mend all the brokenness?

Why do strangers the world over need so much information? Really, why? Do we need to agree how bad something is before we'll agree it's bad?

I deliberately did not link to any of the coverage. You probably know what happened, and where would my credibility be if I linked to the very object I'm decrying?

Friday, December 14, 2012


I spent weeks making a choice that truly required much less time and effort than I ended up giving it.

It renewed my awareness that I, and perhaps most other humans, do not like the concept of "Or" very much.

We prefer And.

We have a hard time making a final pronouncement because we know it will mean turning away from all other options.

In this case, it was a simple matter of when I would fly to which Southeast Asian city. That was all. But still I struggled, drafted plans, scribbled them out, started over, repeated until the dusty corner of my brain that once knew a few things about programming screamed that I should JUST BREAK THE INFINITE LOOP ALREADY.

The difficulty came from accepting that if I chose this flight, I would be in Singapore and not Australia on that day. If I chose that flight, I would be in Thailand but not Singapore or Australia. Then I saw the silliness of it all because if I wanted to concern myself with all the places I wasn't going to be at any given time, well, why stop at three? It would take me a while to think my way through a whole globe's worth of cities and countries and those little hidden corners one can only discover through getting lost.

Taken during my first week living in the granted wish

So the choices have been made, and I hope I will have learnt my lesson: a little deliberation is prudent, but often I just have to push myself off balance and see to which side of the wall I fall. Surely I know by now that whichever way I go, I will never be separated from all that's good in my life.

Maybe falling isn't the best analogy for someone as accident prone as me to use, but it seems appropriate to the context and picture.

Resolution of the moment: Think less. Fall more. But not literally, for a change.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A blessing as you go

So you're off tomorrow on this much anticipated, perhaps equally feared adventure.

I haven't had the chance to tell you that on the same day you're leaving, I'm leaving too.

I'm not going as far as you, nor for as long. But I feel many of the same things you do. (Except the dread of packing.) Unlike you, I'm going somewhere I've never even been. Somewhere not only a great geographical distance away but also possibly outside any cultural precedent. I don't know what awaits me there, other than a few friendly faces. That is a very underrated feature, I know, but still I wonder what else there will be.

For a change, I have decided to stop trying to plan for all the possibilities I can think of. I'll just go. I have everything I need. I'll be back before I know it, back in this comfortable -- too comfortable? -- sanctuary where my crunchingly dry soul has found nourishment.

Why, then, should I bother going? This is what the pragmatic -- and lazy -- side of me wants to know. If I'll be gone and back before the moon has really even begun to wane, isn't it all just a huge waste of human energy and fossil fuel?

Image from you

I don't have the whole answer yet, but this much I know: the point isn't in where I finally decided to go, or how long I'm staying.

It's about whether I'll take the trip at all, and who I'm going with.

No donkey, lynx or sister in stuffed toy photography this time.

Just me. And Him. And more space than I've let myself be used to in this past year of, yet again, trying to fit myself into a box that wasn't me-shaped at all.

I wanted to offer you a blessing for your journey and the time you will spend up North. Instead I find myself reflecting on the blessing that you already are, whether you know it or not. You bless not through your performance or your sacrifice, not by your voice or your words. You bless simply by being, by daring to reveal that being in all her broken-then-redeemed glory.

Thank you for so blessing me with the inestimable gift of an unhidden heart. I wish I could express in words all that I wish for you in these three months to come. Since I can't, I instead offer you my footsteps alongside. Stay safe. Stay loved. And stay in touch.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

As the light goes

Cottesloe, September 2012

Living where I do now, it's easy to watch the sun set over the horizon. I am thankful for that. I've caught some splendid views and each one leaves me thirsty for more beauty, perhaps in hopes that it will counter the ugliness I constantly meet at work. Often I find myself so spellbound that I remain long after dark, the memory of the fading light keeping me still and silent whereas I could very well be on the far side of stormy.

Over eight years ago I wrote some reflections on nightfall, on what happens as the light goes and when it's gone. A few days ago, in regard to a specific situation it seemed as though night had fallen with an audible thump. I found myself suddenly in a place I did not recognise and could not see.

I have found once again that there is nothing to fear. Fear is a choice I may opt for by default, but I can also choose to be aware that I am not alone in the dark. I know I am in constant company of the One to whom darkness is as day.

Life has felt unstable for as long as I can remember. I first came to read these ancient lines in 2006 and they have remained at the back of my mind ever since. They returned to front and centre yesterday. I had forgotten the second half of the verse; seeing it again was enough to remind me that the promise of daylight is nearly as uplifting as daybreak itself:

"God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns." (Psalm 46:5, NASB)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Over Cottesloe, September 2012

I hope I never lose the ability to be silenced by beauty.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sewing for Orphans in Vietnam

A few days ago I stumbled upon this project and thought I'd give it a shout out here in hopes that all three of my regular readers would see it and want to help.

Say what? There are more than three of you? Well, hello there. Pardon me, it's just so quiet in here usually that I don't know you're there. Say something, will ya?

More importantly, if you're able, would you please sew something for the orphans at Tam Ky?  Teresa and her two children have spent some time working at the orphanage so she's not only asking for donations to strangers; these children mean a lot to her but there are more of them than she can sew for on her own.

Image from Crinkle Dreams

Please read the project post to see the five specific items Teresa is asking for and some more guidelines. 

If you're in the Northern Hemisphere and would like to take advantage of cheaper postage, you can send your items to Teresa in the US but she needs to receive it by September 30.

Or you could send it to Teresa's friend Mrs Hanh in Vietnam, if you'd like a little more time. There's no deadline for that but I guess that doesn't mean you should try and send a bundle of sundresses to her in June 2016.

If you have any questions or want the addresses to send to, please email Teresa directly: teresacoates at mac dot com.

Happy sewing and thank you!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Practical crochet, Part I

I asked for timber floors.

More specifically:

Three to four months ago when I was about to begin searching for a home to rent, I made a list of attributes I would like said home to have. They ranged from "sensible" (safe neighbourhood) to "practical" (close to train station and/or bus routes) to "what are you doing asking for something so non-essential, especially in the price range where you're looking?" (timber floors).

I got what I wanted -- much more than I wanted -- and now, months later, still can't stop giving thanks for it. But the thing with wishes granted: you then have to look after them. Make sure they stay in good shape while under your care.

I had all this furniture, a combination of new and second hand but with the common denominator of potentially scratchy metal legs. That beautiful shiny floor needed protecting.

I did have an initial solution, but it was neither practical nor stylish.

And my toes were getting cold.

Enter my  not-yet-one-year-old crocheting abilities. Chair socks! I thought. The perfect plan: custom fitted, and more understated than mismatched adult human socks. A basic square, then a few more rows around the square, taper towards the top...

"Too much time, ah?" my sceptical (and also quite lovely -- they helped me move, unpack and assemble various articles) friends asked when they spotted the first sock in progress. "Wouldn't it be better if you just went and bought rubber feet from the hardware shop?"

And I did consider it, putting crochet hook and yarn aside while I went about finding more places for my various possessions.

But then the very same day I read my favourite crochet blog and lo, her latest post was all about how she'd gone about protecting her hardwood floors from chair scratches.

With chair socks.

So I plunged back in, and soon...

I was eager to test them out straight away, and was rather pleased with the result. Not because they look great; I don't think anyone would even notice them unless I pointed them out and got the person to bring their heads close to ground level for a good look.

I'd like my guests to return for subsequent visits, so I don't think I'll be doing that.

No, I think what I found most satisfying about this project was the small escape it provided from the lifestyle of assuming that everything must be bought ready made, that if you want something you go right out and plunk down money and get it right now.

There are times when I don't want to be instantly gratified.

And I also saved myself the cringe that inevitably comes when I open yet another non-recyclable package of mass produced something and generate more feed for the insatiable landfill.

(Yes, I do realise that I procured the yarn for this project by going to a shop and plunking down money for it, but it's still more sustainable than manufactured rubber feet because if my need for furniture socks ever winds down I can always unravel them and re-crochet them into something else. Rubber feet will always be rubber feet, until age takes over and they turn into rubber flakes. Also, the only packaging on the yarn was a recyclable cardboard band and, for what it's worth, this yarn is purportedly ecologically sound. Natural dyes, pesticide-free cotton or something. I take such claims with shovelfuls of salt.)

As if the square cross section did not provide me with challenge enough, I decided to also make a set of socks for my metal shelving unit. How to make right-angle corners?

Mitre them!

It worked, but the end result looks as though it stretched out into triangles unless you peer very, very closely. I repeat: I would like my guests to return, so don't say I made you do it. All in all, I'm pleased with the result.

I quite like how it feels to evade instant consumerism.
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