Mirabilia: Inspiring Wonder

Mirabilia (mi-ra-bil-i-a)(pl.n) Things which inspire wonder; marvels; miracles

Mirabilia (mi-ra-bil-i-a)

(pl.n) Things which inspire wonder; marvels; miracles

I found a new word and I love it!

I thought “wonder” was the word I wanted. And it is a great word! Wonder: (noun) a feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar; a person or thing regarded as very good, remarkable, or effective; (verb) desire to know something, feel curious; feel doubt.

Wonder is wonderful, but the things that inspire wonder are even better.

Wonder, I think, can seem quite simple – especially as we often use it to express curiosity. I admit, that is what began this train of thought. I was wondering things about my kids… wondering how quickly my fat three month old would learn to do things like roll over and crawl and walk, to be specific.

The things I wonder for my living daughter and son are quite different to the things I wonder about my little stillborn Theodore. One type of wonder, I realised, is stagnant and repetitive, wondering similar things over and over. The other is living and dynamic, and brings a great deal of joy, especially as I see things I have wondered become answered.

wonder what Theodore would have looked like.

wonder when Alexander will learn to walk.

wonder if he would have been fun and silly or a more serious personality.

wonder if he will skip crawling, like Annabelle did.

wonder how big he is in heaven. Does he grow or stay the same?

wonder how tall Alexander is going to grow. Will he pass six foot?

wonder what he’d be like now, at four years old.

wonder how Alexander is going to change his section of the world.

wonder if I will ever truly grasp how Theodore changed my world.

That is one sort of wonder, one driven by unknowns and curiosity and questions. Then there is the other sort, the type of wonder that comes when you admire someone, when you feel amazed… the sort of wonder that steals your breath for a moment.

Alexander loves it when I blow gently on his forehead. His face lights up in a delighted smile and his whole body relaxes as he melts into my hands. It is so, so gorgeous. And this is kind of what wonder does. It makes you light up and melt all at once.

I feel wonder when I look at my two children because they amaze me! To compare my three month old to my two year old, it genuinely blows me away that children grow and change so much in such a short time. It honestly feels miraculous. How does a cute, fat, gummy ball of a baby turn into someone who can put on their own shoes, jump off the couch, do the actions to any Wiggles song, and recognise the distinctive sound of any chocolate packet (and not be fooled when you say things like, “that was the sultana packet”)? Like, HOW?! It is totally incredible!

I feel wonder when my daughter does something kind and generous without me asking or even expecting it. I admire her giving spirit. A few weeks ago in church, the children were given a chocolate during a “kid’s talk”. After being sent back to their seats, chocolate in hand, Annabelle made her way back up to the front of church to try to get another chocolate. She came back empty handed and I bobbed down to talk to her, expecting her to be disappointed that she could only have one. When she said, “no choco for mum” my heart totally melted. To realise that she went to try to get ME a chocolate was so incredibly endearing and humbling. I was expecting that she was trying to get more for herself, but she had been thinking of me. And that causes two types of wonder – admiration at her generous, thoughtful spirit, and wondering how I ended up with such a sweet girl!

Theodore, I remember the awe and amazement over his tiny, perfect body. The perfection was astounding. I remember the feelings surrounding his death and birth, the amazing support we had and the many ways we were cared for in a wonderful manner. There are so many memories of wonder and love surrounding that time.

But in all these objects of my wonder, there is a common theme. They are all my children. My beautiful, loved children. It sounds a bit cliche, but there is always truth behind any cliche. I think most parents find themselves caught up in moments of wonder and awe that are directly related to their children.

No, my children are not “miracles” in the supernatural, “we don’t understand how this could even happen naturally” sense. But they are miracles in so many way – children are miracles. And these objects of my wonder, these people causing so much joy and wonder in my life, well… I wonder how much less wonderful and marvellous and miraculous my life would be without them.

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Holders of Hope: A Guide

It’s such a beautiful idea, to hold hope for others while they cannot.

It isn’t my original idea, of course. Nor is it really a new idea to me, but the last couple of days it has been pressing on my mind, wanting to be wondered about.

Holders of Hope… holding hope for others. What does this look like?

Let’s get one thing straight first: It’s not romantic. It sounds like it could be romantic. It has that whole sacrificial vibe, the image of a long suffering person valiantly clasping hope to themselves for the sake of another. But yeah, naaaaah. It’s not romantic.

The fact is, we need hope. Without hope we won’t seek healing because we won’t actually believe it’s going to happen. And with no healing, we will never grow past the things that hurt us. We will be stuck at a point of time, a barrier effectivity stunting our growth and change. We stagnate, and worse, we start to shrivel up, dry up, die. Wow, that sounds pretty dramatic. So it should! Not having hope is a big deal!

So, what does “holding hope” look like?

Well. It’s messy. People don’t lose hope for no reason. The people who lose hope do so because they’ve been dealing with hard circumstances for a long time. This could be so many things: ongoing abuse, broken relationships, poverty, sickness, trauma, grief. They could be struggling with depression, literally not being able to see how anything could ever change. And you know what? When you’re in the midst of something that is sucking the life out of you, you don’t have the vantage point to be able to see change on the horizon. You’re stuck in a ditch and you truly believe you’ll always be there.

This is why it’s so important for people outside of the circumstances to be willing to come alongside people who find themselves unable to hope. They need someone with a different perspective on things, someone who can breathe life into them and speak hope over them.

But what does this mean for the people who are standing in the gap for these people who find themselves desperate? What does it mean to advocate for a person, to the person? How can we effectively have hope for them until they can have hope for themselves?

Firstly, don’t get in the ditch.

You don’t help someone out of a ditch by getting in there with them. You can’t maintain a healthy, true perspective if you allow yourself to get so consumed by their circumstances that you’re effectively “in the ditch” with them. It becomes too easy to get overwhelmed by their circumstances yourself if you aren’t careful.

Listen and actually hear them.

The struggle, the hopelessness, the ditch. It’s their reality. Don’t make light of it, don’t dismiss it. Hear them, respond, care. Above all, care. If they are to trust themselves with you, they must feel cared for and loved and valued. They must feel like they are worth your time and effort. Being listened to and heard is essential for fostering the restoration of hope.

Tell them what you see.

They are without hope and without view of a future where things are better, easier, happier, simpler, safer. Be wise in what and how you share, but make sure that you are helping them remember that where they are now isn’t permanent. Encourage them that this doesn’t have to last forever… things can change. Help them simply by being someone they can talk to. Help them by gently revealing any blind spots, any untruths, they might believe and bringing truth to them. Be a voice of hope for them. Speak life over them. If you hear gossip about them shut it down if you can.

Remember that the journey isn’t straightforward.

Three steps forward, two steps back. Walking in circles. Both things can be true for someone who finds that they have lost their hope. It’s normal that their journey isn’t straightforward. Don’t be shocked if positive steps and progress are followed by a stumble or fall where it seems they are worse than they were before. Fresh hope is easily bruised. Be patient.

Pray.

In all things, through all things, pray. Keep the person in your prayers and present their case to God.  Remember that, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). People need hope the same way a sick person needs medicine, the same way a body needs water and food. It’s not easy, but it is a privilege to walk with someone while they struggle, and to believe in them and encourage them until (and after) they can find hope again.

 

In Place and Intentional

I do not often do end/start of year reflections – at least not written ones. However, the change from 2017 to 2018 seems significant, and so I find myself feeling like this is a good exercise for me to do.

2017

A lot of change. A lot of growth. New things, new locations, new positions.

2017 saw me working as a Teacher’s Aide one day a week and Annabelle going to Family Day Care, which she loved. I was pregnant with Alexander for three quarters of the year and had a newborn for the last two months of it. We bought a shiny new blue car. We moved house – not just to another local place, but a 45 minutes drive into the deep south of Tasmania.

2017 bought closeness. Closer to friends and particularly closer to family. My parents live only a few minutes away and my brother and his family are just down the road. I have grown closer to friends, chatting often over messenger while feeding the baby, or late in the night when I should really be asleep but am enjoying the quietness found while children slumber. I had a baby, and there is nothing quite like the closeness of caring for your new child.

2017 felt like a year of “Positioning”. Moved house. Moved “careers” – not that I really tend to think of teaching as My Career. Last year saw a big shift from out of school-based teaching and into a completely new area of working as part of a pregnancy and parenting support service, where my role is largely writing based and concerning communications. It was interesting to find myself suddenly in a position which sees some of my major areas of interest drawn together. Finding my feet in my new role – an ongoing process – stretched me and challenged me in ways I found very difficult and unfamiliar.

2018

2018 feels special… I have not felt this sort of anticipation at the start of a new year for a long time. It feels full of promise. Personally, I feel that 2017 was a year of shift and positioning (physically, job-wise, focus-wise). 2018 feels like the year where things are going to HAPPEN.

In church on December 31st, part of the sermon stood out – a word, really: Intentionally. A friend later shared this photo:

Be here

Hmm, that seems a bit like confirmation. Be intentional.

The next day, another friend wrote under a picture of my children: “They grow up sooo fast… value your closeness & make it good to be ‘with’ them.” More confirmation of what I was feeling in my spirit, to be intentional this year.

For my birthday, I ordered a new Bible. My previous Bible I received when I was 16 years old. Half my life ago. It feels significant that this is the time I finally buy a new one.

So this year my intention is to be intentional.

I plan to be intentional in how I am with my children: enjoying, raising, disciplining, teaching, and so on. Parenting is no doubt the most challenging, most rewarding thing I have ever done, and being intentional (though it takes more energy) makes it even better.

I will be intentional in how I spend my time. Last year I wasted so much time. This year no doubt I will do some excellent time wasting again, but I plan to waste LESS time, and make intentional choices in how I spend my time. I want to get to the end of a day and feel like it has not just slipped through my fingers.

I intend to write more. I will be writing more for my work, but I also intend to write more for my own sake. I want to get back to writing creatively, I want to get back to journalling, I want to blog more. I want to try my hand at writing articles and maybe earning some money.

Most of all, really, I want to reach the end of 2018 and be able to look over the year and see that it was a year lived well and deliberately. A year where my family members and I grow and develop positively spiritually, emotionally, physically, and in every other way.

A year of living on purpose. I’m excited to see what happens!

Moving Forward

It’s easy to get stuck, eyes looking back at an event or circumstance. Like it has a grip on you, a hold over you. Thoughts of “what if” and “if only” and “why” keep your focus glued on the past. It’s easy to look back. It’s important to remember the past, honour it, process it, acknowledge it. It is also important not to get stuck there.

It’s hard to look sideways, to see where you are right now. Well, it’s easy in a way. It’s easy to see the hard bits, the tiring bits, the frustrations and difficulties. It’s harder to see the good things. The sticky hands that want to play with your hair can be annoying, but there is sweetness in it. Looking sideways, I have a husband who works, a toddler who plays and challenges and gives huge cheeky grins, and a baby who cuddles and smiles and puts much energy into growing like a bean. It’s tiring but it’s blessed. I need to remember to look intentionally so I see it.

It’s impossible to look sideways and then forget to also look up. Inevitably recognising what I have here, reminds me of the One who gives it and blesses it. Not only that, but I remember who is “up there” with the One who cares about them – and me – more than I can imagine. So constantly am I reminded of the babies up there, now I have a little boy down here, who occasionally gets called the name of his heaven-dwelling brother.

Backwards, sideways, upwards.

Forwards.

Acknowledging the past, letting myself heal. Appreciating the present, and the presence of my loved ones. Remembering the One who guards my life and the little ones with Him. Then, looking forward, with love, hope and faith, because if I can see God when I look backwards, sideways and upwards, I can trust that He’ll be there in the forward journey too.

 

Hope is…

 

hopeisthongsinseptember.png

When we moved house down to beautiful southern Tasmania, we had to do a lot of driving. That week there was rain every day. And you know what else? There were rainbows every day. Driving along the Huon River, there was rarely a drive where we did not see a rainbow.

Sometimes, in the midst of the storms and rain, it can be easy to focus on the mud. If we just look at our muddy feet or mud-splattered windscreen how easy it is to miss the glory above us. You can’t see a rainbow if you don’t look up.

I have been thinking on this: hopelessness, not death, is what should be feared.

If we love Jesus, believe in his promises, we grieve with hope. Hope that one day restoration will come. Take hope away, and what is left? “Lessness.” Just… LESS. Hope expands us, revives us, gives our spirits room to breathe. Vision for a better future, a healed, connected future… it gives us a reason to keep pushing through the pain.

Anyone can grasp this: do we not hope that broken legs will heal again? Without hope, waiting for broken bones to mend and the body to be restored would be horrible and depressing. The wait would seem unending, and anyway, how could we know that the leg won’t just stay the same?

Hope says, I believe my circumstances aren’t always going to be like this. Things will get better. One day I’m going to walk on this leg again. One day my heart will be healed.

We see in a rainbow a declaration of nature: the rain isn’t over but I’m grabbing hold of the sunshine that’s peeking through. The storm isn’t done yet, but I’m not going to wait to shine. It’s wet and miserable, but look at me, I am transforming this greyness into vivid beauty.

A rainbow reminds us that hope is most beautiful when the rain is pouring. If the rainbow waited until the rain was over to shine, it would never shine at all.

If we wait until life is good before we hope again, really, we have missed the whole point and purpose of hope.

Hope is planting seeds in spring.

Hope is pruning your fruit trees.

Hope is wearing thongs on your feet when Spring has barely begun.

Hope is buying a bigger car, because this one just won’t fit three kids.

Hope is getting that book you love, even if you don’t know how you’ll find time to read it.

Hope is declaring, “I will rejoice in my Heavenly Father, even though I don’t understand his ways.”

 

Breathe: A Short Story

BREATHE

The sea called her, the waves whispered her name.

“Come to us,” the water murmured, enchantment rich in its voice.

She stood there, poised, uncertain, ready to spring but held back by some unconscious pull.

It would be so simple to start walking forward and to keep going until she had no choice but to surrender. One step, one little step. She closed her eyes, concentrating on her feet, willing them to move. They remained stubbornly where they were, refusing her, disobeying her.

A wild, half-strangled sob escaped her. Is this what her grief had brought her to? Divided, torn, her heart burning within her yet also empty and hollow with loss. She longed to see him again, to hold his tiny, downy body in her hand, to again have the physical connection to her baby for which her body grieved.

He was only a breath away… An undrawn, suffocated breath away… A water-filled breath away… He was nearly in reach.

Sobs poured out of her now, choking her. She collapsed onto her knees, gasping and sobbing, clutching at the sand with desperate, shaking hands.

A voice, in her head, “I will never leave you, nor will I forsake you.”

“But you did,” she cried out, unheeding of any other people who might also be on the beach with her. “You did, you let him die!”

“I never left you. Even in your time of sorrow and disaster I was there with you.”

“But he died, he died! Don’t you understand? If you were there how could you let that happen? If you loved me at all, how could you do this?”

“Not even death can separate you from my love.”

“Not even death. You say that like death is nothing. How can you not care?”

“I died for you while you did not know me. I destroyed the power of the grave to steal forever. The sting of death has gone, and you can grieve with hope.”

At these words the woman’s sobs began to subside, though tears still ran down her cheeks, marking her face with the sorrow she carried within her. She thought of a bereavement card she and her husband had been given, in which someone had written, “We cry with you over the loss of your precious son. We pray continually that God will prove his faithfulness to you and that you will know what it means to grieve with hope in your heart.”

“With hope in my heart,” she whispered, remembering how that comment had struck her as a little insensitive, for at the time she was too deep in the well of grief to easily think of her son in heaven, too hurt to think of God without resentment.

“Look up,” said the quiet, clear voice.

She looked up and saw arching in the sky above her a vivid, glorious rainbow. As she gazed at it, peace began to trickle into her heart. She remembered, yes, even in the midst of the trauma of stillbirth, she had not been alone. She remembered the overwhelming sense that it had been a sacred, holy time. She remembered the joy that had overtaken her at the sight of her still, beautiful baby. She remembered being grateful that he was being spared suffering, pain and physical trauma. Grateful that he had gone from the safety of her womb to the wonder of heaven.

Faithful. That is what the rainbow was reminding her: God was faithful and he had not left her and he would not leave her. He would keep his promises.

Cruel, cruel trick of grief; Its relentless pull had made her forget the faithfulness of her father.

Contemplating the rainbow and all it symbolized for her, she let its beauty revive hope in her again. She let it remind her that she had something worth waiting for, even if it was going to be many decades.

Taking a deep, reviving breath, she turned and walked away from the murmuring, whispering water.

Sorry, Rewind Unavailable

When something unimaginable and out of control happens, how you think about living changes. Your focus zooms in so it becomes pinpointed on the current moment, because the current moment is all you can deal with. You realise that “right now” is the only part of your life that you have any real influence over.

The irony is that life is always like that. As much as many people would like to plan and know the future, we can only live and be active in the current, active, moment. The past and the future are both passive – the past because it is over (though perhaps it still actively influences you), and the future because it is still a concept, a promise. When nothing goes wrong, the illusion of control over the future is never challenged. People can have all the different types of insurances, all the promises of promotions and ongoing work, be confident in the “certainty” of their future plans, and it can all be a false security.

When something happens that changes your life – an accident, a death, job loss, sickness, market crash, whatever it may be – suddenly you realise how much you are at the mercy of circumstances.

Death is particularly merciless. Even with insurance payouts and financial aide, it is harsh and final.

When I am asleep and dreaming, I have a lot of agency. It is quite rare for people to be able to do this, but I can change the direction of my dreams. If they start getting scary or depressing or violent, I will mentally halt the dream, “rewind” it to the last moment when things were fine, and then let it continue on, taking a different tangent.

When a tragedy happens, there is no way to rewind and redo. I hear so often of people wishing they had said “I love you” more often, that they had apologised or forgiven instead of being bitter and stubborn. I think that it is easy to assume that “one day” things will be okay, or that having a strained relationship unrestored will not be too much of a drain on you. The problem is, when a tragedy happens, if you were wrong, there is no second chance. There is no pause and rewind. Life just keeps moving forward, relentless.

Sometimes I wonder if my daughter will live a long and fulfilling life, or will it be cut short? I hope she will outlive me and become grey and wrinkly, but I don’t know. You know what – if she were to die young, I do not want to know. I don’t want to live with the foreknowledge of something sad and terrible happening. I don’t want to grieve before there is a reason to do so. For those of you who have found yourselves in this position of knowing, my heart goes out to you, and your graciousness in your circumstances has amazed me.

If something horrible does happen one day, I want to be there, in that moment of shocking reality, steadfast in the knowledge that I made the most out of my “right now.” I want the joy that comes from knowing I treasured the good times and kept my perspective during the hard and tiring times. I want the peace that comes from knowing I apologised and forgave quickly after frustrations and arguments, and that I said “I love you” often and genuinely.

I don’t know the future, but I know the One who does. That’s been enough in the past, and it will be enough in the future, too.