When Your Soul’s A Little Thirsty and the Water Tastes Like Crap

I’m pretty excited about this first post in the Inspiring Life for Moms series, based on My Father’s World Kindergarten curriculum units! Thought you don’t need to be using My Father’s World – or homeschooling at all for that matter – in order to get something out of these devotions, I wanted to do something to be deliberate to be learning right alongside my kids. These devotionals are my way of digging a little deeper, and hopefully sharing something that will bless you. Each week, we have a Scripture verse to focus on so that will be the prompt for these devotionals.

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“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let Him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” John 7:37 – NKJV

I have to be honest – the water flowing out of me this week has not seemed very living.

In fact, its a lot more like a bucket of water. It seems to get filled up at some point in the day but once its dried up, I’m left with a bunch of silt and junk at the bottom of my bucket.  I’ve been tired and tired of doing the things I know I should do.

Its been one of those weeks where I’ve been talking myself into doing the very basic things I need to be doing – dishes, meals, laundry, and all my energy is going into pumping myself up to love my kids the way I need to, spend time with my husband, offer hospitality, and on top of all that – I spent four days teaching and imparting at our ministry campus. I’ve gone into each “duty” feeling super empty and quite desperate, and feeling guilty for not “feeling it” and not doing the extras I normally would.

In fact, I felt so empty that even considering this whole idea of living water seemed like a drag.

I’m sure you’ve never had a day or a week or a month like that, right? 

You know, I think the problem I’m facing, spending lots of energy filling a bucket with average to crappy water and then feeling really unsatisfied at the end of the day – I don’t think its an unusual problem.

When Jesus shared that Scripture it was during a feast actually celebrating the way water flowed from the rock for the Israelites back in the day.

What a miracle, right? You’re super thirsty, some guy hits a rock and fresh, gorgeous water comes out. Definitely a miracle and something to celebrate for generations!

The second part of that story isn’t quite so glamorous… later on, the Israelites were complaining again and so Moses went to hit the rock again – but this time he didn’t do it out of obedience, he did it out of anger, frustration, desperation. He was functioningnot walking in faith.

I wonder if the ones Jesus shouted out to were in a similar place to Moses – and me. Here they are doing their celebration, going through the motions, doing all the right things. But did they have faith? Or had the actions themselves become more important that Jesus?

And what about me? I’m so aware of my responsibilities, but perhaps I’m guilty of trying to find righteousness in those responsibilities in and of themselves, and maybe that’s sucking more life out of me than giving it to me.

This living water thing – its more than a tradition or protocol – its more than doing something just because it worked in the past – its more than the daily grind.

Its about believing that the option of having something living out of our hearts – of never thirsting again – is possible and going straight to the source.

I have to be honest, even today that sounds too hard. It sounds way more simple than what I really need. And yet, I’ve experienced what its like to have that flowing from within me and something deep inside me knows that its possible. I’m fighting that desire to try to find comfort in doing what I should do or what’s worked before instead of going to the source.

And yet, in the middle of the struggle, I find comfort in this promise:

“I will always show you where to go.
    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
    firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.”
Isaiah 58:11 (The Message)

He not only has living water for me, but He wants to show me the way.

* * *

This is part of the My Father’s World Kindergarten series of devotionals for moms using this curriculum. The posts are my personal reflections on the Scripture that accompanies each unit.

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When Pornography Threatens a Nation

Last night, as my day was winding down an email popped up from my husband – PNG Tops Porn Searches on Google.

Working with Papua New Guinea since 2010, its something I’ve thought about regularly.

Let’s be honest… its something I’ve thought about much longer than that, since my generation was the first to be bombarded with chat rooms, internet stalking, sexting, online porn, and the like. I remember the days when one accidental click on email spam resulted in a screen flashing with boobs, boobs and more boobs. I have tremendous gratitude for our advances in security measures and education for parents and kids alike; I can’t even remember the last time I saw a post about making anything on my body bigger or last longer and for that I am truly thankful!

But what about in developing nations where any sort of mass media is relatively new? At least I had some awareness of pornography from my pre-internet life. I knew that those photographs on magazines hidden strategically behind gas station counters and in the back room at the video store could have harm, that there were real lives behind those photos and videos, often our world’s most vulnerable and in need.

What about those whose first encounter with anything is not only highly accessible but highly permissive. We now know scientifically what a shock it can be to the brain.

I remember visiting Papua New Guinea for the first time in 1999. Fifteen years ago. As a young 18 year old, I marvelled at the fact that in these absolutely remote places, somehow Coca Cola had managed to arrive.

Ten years later when I finally made returned I saw places even more remote. In some locations, they didn’t even have the luxury of access to Coke! Many that I met had absolutely nothing but the clothes on their back – if that. No pots or pans to be found, no plates or water cans. Maybe a machete or bush knife or two. Other than that? Nothing.

And yet… I saw mobile phones.

How in the world you find a mobile phone in a place where there’s no roads, little trade, not even so much as a cup to hold water boggles my mind, but each time that our teams return we see more and more phones… and more and more mobile reception.

Its an incredible gift. People who aren’t even acknowledged on most world maps have now been given access to some of the internet’s greatest offerings – education, access to Scripture, the ability to communicate and build relationship. What mobile phone technology has done for infrastructure, economics and even health care is astounding.

But it also comes with its vulnerabilities. And when I consider some of our dear friends in the most remote parts of PNG my heart is filled with sadness and concern. Though I love their beauty, generosity and sense of humour, I’m also aware that theirs is a culture notorious for shocking treatment of women.

I’ve often considered what would happen when you introduce men from a violent attitude toward women with access to online pornography – can the outcome ever be anything less than tragic?

And yet, when I read that report, my heart truly sank.

I had no idea the problem was already this great. Its like preparing for a bit of a hike and then finding you’re actually at the base of the Grand Canyon.

So I find myself staring at this giant, impossible-looking mountain a little bit discouraged. And yet, knowing its not impossible. Nothing is impossible. There have been countless stories of redemption – individuals, and yes, even entire nations finding redemption, hope and healing. So maybe we need to plan a little better, work a little harder, pray a little deeper, but there is Redemption to be found, hope to found, life to be found.

And so though my hope is deferred, my heart has not wavered from its resolve. Papua New Guinea – with all its beauty and generosity – I love you and your people and the day for life is at hand.

I’m About to Meet My Hero

Have you ever been so excited to meet one of your heroes? There are a few people who have impacted my life tremendously, even though we haven’t met and Jim Stier is one of them.

If I’m totally honest, I’d probably pass Jim right by if I saw him on the street. From all photographs and stories, and even his own words – he appears to be quite ordinary.

But it was one sentence that changed his life – and changed mine.

jim stier“Lord, I’ve ruined my life. I’m Yours if you still want me.” (Jim Stier)

I read his story like a famished bear. My eyes could barely keep up with my mind and heart as I soaked in all that he did – from his tragic beginnings, to his willingness to do something extraordinary, to the actually very very ordinary, often back breaking, heart breaking challenges he faced.

And today? Well, you see the fruit of his labour in almost every nation on earth. You’ll have to read the story to find out why.

I’ve thought about Jim’s story often as I do the very ordinary, often challenging things that come up in my day, all with a vision and a belief that the nations where I live and work – Australia and Papua New Guinea – are filled with people who have an incredible purpose and destiny the world is just waiting on!

So I’m just a little bit excited that these days Jim tells the stories of what he’s learned in a way that equips those with a heart to do something extraordinary too.

We’re hosting his Leadership Training School here in Townsville this July and I’m so looking forward to being strengthened for the task ahead and to meet one of the heroes of my faith!

A Word on Body Image

This is something I wrote just over two years ago, and I’m posting it now to lay a good foundation for some more things I want to say about this in the future. 

I shared this news on Facebook today:

body image is a lie

I lost 50 pounds. Its been an amazing journey. Its been relatively quick. It has been incredibly challenging.

It has been supported by an encouraging husband who has loved me as the pendulum of the scale has swung back and forth, and through a broad range of imperfections as I have bumped and curved and shrunk again under the influence of two pregnancies.

But here’s the thing: a scale… measurements… they don’t address the heart issues: How do I see myself?

50 pounds heavier, I could look in the mirror and like many things about myself, and the way I looked. I was simultaneously strategic in avoiding glass doors, mirrors at the end of hallways, and even in public bathrooms. Even though I “knew” I was beautiful, and told I was I beautiful, I felt guilty for not meeting a particular standard.

A standard that I thought I’d achieve after losing 50 pounds.

But today, before I took the (relatively embarrassing) pictures that I’m still hoping will win me a very fun competition, before hundreds of people started complimenting me on Facebook and telling me I was an inspiration, I looked in the mirror and I didn’t fully see who I am.

I still saw things that I don’t like. I still felt bigger than I look.

And that is scary. Because in as much as I see that, I also know that is totally untrue. And that makes me MAD. Because for the first time in my life, I see firsthand what a lie body image can be. How it can be so distorted to tell us we’re not good enough, for some girls, starving themselves or bingeing themselves to their death.

I lost 50 pounds because I absolutely needed to. I was overweight and starting to get achy. I could not move with ease. I grew physically tired in my body caring for my children. And they’re still young! I did not want to continue down that path, with the potential of avoidable health complications and not being a mum with the energy to raise my kids to the standard I hope and believe to.

I am THRILLED to fit in different clothes, to FEEL more comfortable and lighter, and more energetic, that my body is functioning better than it has in YEARS.

I’m so glad that the fear of succumbing to the lies of body image, losing weight for the wrong reasons, and the inability to exercise self-control for longer than 30 days has not held me back from actually taking the step to lose the weight. I’d encourage anyone with a belief to lose weight to do it. (And I would help you and cheer for you and encourage you the same way I was helped and cheered for and encouraged to meet this milestone!)

But please be careful. Because you are beautiful TODAY. And because tomorrow… or four months and fifty pounds from now… you will still see things you don’t love about the outside of you. The mirror will lie to you. And as much as you need to have the willpower to put nutritious food in your body, you also need to have the willpower to look yourself in the eyes and say, “I am beautifully crafted in the image of the Almighty God.”

Because you are. And so am I.

8 Things I Learned in 8 Years of Marriage

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Hoover and I celebrated our 8-year wedding anniversary this weekend! One blissful day to enjoy a slow breakfast, a long walk, and a chocolate lunch!

For memory’s sake we made our way out to the place Hoov asked whether I would date him. That start to our relationships is a story for another day, but the walk along the jetty that separates our Port and Marina is a story in and of itself.

We hadn’t been out there since that day (which was nearly 9 years ago!) and I had forgotten how challenging the terrain was, especially in super flimsy thongs. I really needed to lean into Hoov’s help and as I did, I had some good reminders about our marriage and some of the things I’ve learned.

8 things i learned

1. Have a common vision.

It sounds simple, but we started our walk knowing what we were going to do. We questioned it a few times when we realised how long it was taking but we knew that we had set out to do it, and we wanted to get there.

One of the things I love most about Hoover is that he was straight up with me when we were dating. He knew that he wanted to live his life to love God and serve others and he wanted a marriage that would be to strengthen one another to that cause. I’ve never questioned what our purpose and vision is in our marriage and family and it gives us a good rally point whenever we have conflict or questions.

2. Life gets rocky.

There were some easy parts of our walk and some challenging parts – the rocks were, well, rocky. I didn’t necessarily go into marriage thinking it would always be easy but I didn’t know what “hard” or “rocky” would look like. One of the best pieces of advice someone gave us was that we would have good days and bad days… and that we’d also have good years and bad years. We’d have seasons where we’d be rockstars at marriage and seasons where we really wish we could do things differently. In only 8 years I can definitely say we’ve had some of both and having a long term perspective and an understanding that things would get tough was super helpful.

3. Go with your strengths.

On our walk, I really had to lean into Hoov’s strengths – he’s much stronger than me and more agile, better balanced. I had the nickname “Grace” my freshman year of Uni just because of my crazy accidents. I’m not an athlete at all but Hoover is. I had to recognise that in this situation, he would have the best advice and strategy for us and I was happy to follow his lead and lean into his strength – strategically and physically.

This last year of marriage has been one of getting really comfortable with our strengths. We are VERY different and to be honest, some of my strengths are what I would consider the more traditionally masculine strengths. I can be very directive and have a vision and go for it. Hoover is thoughtful, contemplative, and gracious. When he makes a decision you know its a good one because he’s done ALL the research and then some. I’m learning to be comfortable with both of our strengths and not let gender stereotypes keep us from giving one another our best.

4. Lean into one another.

Many times I had to completely put all my weight on Hoover just to get across to the next spot without falling. If I had resisted him, I would’ve probably made both of us fall.

During this past year, there were times when things were hard and I really wanted to resist him in my heart. I know, that sounds terrible, but its true. I just thought things would be easier if he did his thing and I did mine – working side by side and sharing a home – but not really working together. I’m so glad that deep down in my heart, I was reminded to lean into the anointing that is marriage. It did not feel comfortable to do. I hated extending trust knowing I could be disappointed. But as I did that with a partner who was also leaning into that same anointing, we actually met in great strength and saw incredible growth and depth.

5. Hold hands, even when its hard.

As we went along there were a few rocks that weren’t stable. I almost slipped several times and I kept picturing a twisted ankle, skinned knee, or worse! So many times, holding Hoover’s hand was the very thing that kept me standing up right. Sometimes we were close together, sometimes it was awkward as we twisted over various rocks or grew wide apart with chasms beneath us. But we kept holding hands.

Hoov is a physical touch kinda guy and even if we’re disagreeing, its really important to him that we stay connected through physical touch – an arm around his shoulder, or on his knee, or holding hands makes all the difference to him. I find that hard, but its worth it knowing that it helps us keep connected.

6. Get good at communicating.

Nearly as much as I loved our talks on our walk, I really loved our silence too. There is a depth that comes after 8 years. I anticipate it will only grow that way, but I can really tell the difference from when we were first married. As we walked, even when we were quiet, we got into such a rhythm that Jared would just point or nod, ever so slightly and I knew which way we were to go.

Communication seems to make every marriage list – every team or relationship list really – and I don’t want to just do it – I want to get really good at it!

7. Celebrate.

We stopped several times along the way just to enjoy the view, the company, to affirm one another. These times were so precious! They made the journey that much more memorable.

We are not always the best at stopping to celebrate in every day life but that is something we’ve really been working on the past couple of years, especially now that we want our kids to celebrate and remember. Historically, Biblically, culturally, these are things that we are people hold so dear and we want to become really good at celebration.

8. Finish.

I said it before but we came really close to not finishing our little walk. There were so many beautiful spaces to stop and so many things that tempted us to turn around and go back – especially the time since it was taking me ages in those silly shoes! But we decided to finish.

The reality is, in our marriages, I’m sure we’ll all have a great many more challenges and celebrations ahead, but to stay committed to finish is really important. When we got married we both knew that there were no guarantees – we’d only stay married as long as both of us stayed committed to it. This weekend was an awesome time to remind each other that we are committed to finish what we started!

Here. {My Offering}

Clumsy. That’s how my offering feels today. Draped in lasagne stains and dripping milk and salty sweat and tired eyes.

I wish my offering looked pretty and whole and packaged nicely. I long to be sharp, put together, en pointe.

But I’m not.

There are little voices that interrupt perfection; tiny cries that dull my edge. Interruptions to the thoughts and prayers that constantly pour from my heart and mind. Words that go unspoken. Visions that remain unachieved.

Little smiles that beg to be returned. “Can you see me mommy? Watch this.”

She twirls one more time.

And I’m watching. I’m so, so glad to be watching. There’s no where else I’d rather be.

But I’m tripping and falling and… clumsy.

How can I be so far from who I know I could be and yet so happy with who I am?

These three have changed me… not just the gentle rolls lining my stomach, the sag in my chest, the lines around my eyes…

Their urgency trumps my important. Hungry tummies and bare bottoms beg my sacrifice until there’s nothing more to lay down.

My capacity feels stretched and thin. My focus dulled. My attention fleeting.

But I’m finally starting to get comfortable in this offering I have to give.

I’m farther than ever from perfection and closer than ever to grace.

Robes of righteousness clothe me.

We come as one – these little people and me. We’re loud and messy, sporadic and laughing, tired and tantrumming, loving, pursuing, inviting, teaching, learning… here.

We’re here.

Confident in our calling. Clumsy and committed and clothed in robes of righteousness and… here.

I’ve been a mum in missions now for five years. My journey and calling and commitment has been to stay involved in the day to day leadership of our campus while mothering our three children full time as well. While I find it a gift to walk in both capacities, I also find it tremendously sobering. There are ideals I rarely meet and I’m continually learning to be comfortable in the offering I have to give and to place my trust in the One who makes me righteous.

The Ship that Keeps on Giving

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I clearly remember the first time I stepped onboard the MV Pacific Link. I was on a Discipleship Training School course at YWAM Townsville, Australia and the Ship’s crew were taking her on a public relations and fundraising tour around Australia.

They came and chatted to us at dinner about the work they do in Fiji – using a medical ship to reach isolated places and provide health care to those in need. I had heard the vision before, loved it, and jumped at the chance to have a tour.

I rode my bike down to the wharf that weekend with a couple of my DTS mates to get a sneak peek onboard. We toured through with heaps of visitors, and I tried to imagine myself on this sort of adventure.

She was rustic at best and by the time we made it down to the cabins, and I saw the tiny, stacked bunks, clustered in narrow passageways and tiny lockers to hold weeks worth of clothes and personal belongings, all I could think was, “Wow – these are the really committed people who love people way more than I ever could.”

I was in awe of the sacrifice they were making and there was no way I imagined myself able to live like that.

Little did I know that seven years later, that same ship would be given to YWAM Townsville and I would find my passion and calling in helping to determine where the ship should go, how we’d pay for it, and who could actually sail the thing to help people in need.

I went from asking silly questions like where we would “park the boat” to learning a whole new set of jargon and legislation… along with the fact that I am one of the many who suffer from seasickness.

Its been a wild five years using this beautiful little ship to help the people of Papua New Guinea, culminating late last year in the miracle of a new ship which will now serve the Pacific. I am totally honest when I say I much prefer the more comfortable beds and a whole host of other things this new ship maintains (not the least of which is the greatly expanded capacity to deliver life-saving training and medical care).

When I stepped onboard this weekend it was yet again someone else’s vessel. We decided to give the Pacific Link away last week, just as it had been given to us years prior. The amount of joy and affection I felt as I walked the narrow passageways and steep stairways was so much deeper than the naive judgement of the ship I felt 12 years prior.

This time I reminisced about the places I paced with an upset baby during the night, the memories of designing a cabin for my small family to sleep, cooking and sharing meals in the galley and mess hall… and most sweetly, the places where I watched a child crying in pain from an infected leg, a tooth restored in someone’s mouth, and prayed for mamas while I cradled their babies.

I am overjoyed that this vessel now has plans to continue serving in the Pacific, helping to radically change the lives its commissioned to visit, but also the lives of those who choose to live onboard… just like she changed mine.