Monday, December 13, 2010

And the Word for the year is.....

"You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country..." Deuteronomy 1:6-7

If you've read my previous post, you will know that I am in the process of choosing a word for 2011- a word to aspire to, to inform my decisions and challenge me out of my comfort zone.
Honestly, I found it terribly hard to pick just one word for the year. So many of the words listed on yesterday's post struck a chord with me, and I've been particularly conflicted by the seemingly opposite concepts of making space- for God, for meaningful relationships, for renewal and reflection, and advancing; an action word- 'don't just be- get up off your butt and do!'  After much thought though, I've ended up deciding on the word ADVANCE as my word for 2011.

For far too long, I've been hindered by the scary  mountain of "I should lose weight", which appears impassable. ('Shoulds' nearly always do!).  In some ways I've been living in the future- in some fantasy land called "One Day When I've Got It All Together", and neglecting to uncover my true potential now.  But even God reached the point where he'd had enough of this small thinking! Look at what he said to the Israelites in Deuteronomy:

           The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the LORD swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.” (Deut. 1:6-8)

A modern paraphrase could read "Dudes! Stop sitting around in your tents at the base of this mountain. If the mountain's too hard, just get up off your scared butts and advance by another way! Ignore the mountain- go via the foothills and around the coast, and as you overcome the smaller obstacles, you will find that the big old scary mountain has been left behind too. Go in and take possession of everything I've promised you!"

So that's my charge for 2011- 'Get up off your scared butt and advance!'
What are some ways I can advance and leave my mountain behind in 2011?
I can:
  • keep getting rid of stuff! Clutter = overwhelmed = immobilized, still stuck in the tent at the bottom of the mountain!
  • if we have to move house in 2011, choose somewhere smaller, simpler, and make it home
  • stop making financial excuses and take a dance class. I love to dance, what am I waiting for??
  • stop buying stuff to make my life happier, but rather make the effort to truly appreciate what I have, and relish time with the awesome people who populate my life.
  • slowly reduce my debt (by saying no to the consumer lifestyle that always calls us to upgrade, upsize, etc.) Re-learn to utilize the things I already own.
  • keep reading God's word- the Bible. He's good, and he's promised me a lot of good things. But I tend to forget!
  • jettison the processed foods in my daily diet and live off natural, healthy foods.
  • maintain a healthy work/life/study/ministry balance. Continue to be selective in what I say yes to!
How about you? In what ways can you advance in 2011? Hit me up in the comments- I'd love to hear from you!

Where are you going?

It has long been a belief of mine that "words create". I've been mindful of the words I speak over other peoples' lives, and for the most part managed to use my words to build up and not tear down my children. I understand the negative power words can have if  spoken thoughtlessly. But today I stumbled across this post from Kim Klassen which presented the idea of embracing a 'word for the year', which embodies your hopes and aspirations for the coming year. It's about harnessing a word's positive power, and using it to challenge you to a better way of living throughout the year. Ali Edwards' blog, is also a great resource on the concept.

I loved the idea, but at the same time felt a bit boggled by the multitude of possibilities, until I found this wonderful list which kick-started the process. I copied the the list into a 4-column word document, and culled the 374 words down to just 33, highlighting the ones that really resonated with me. Here's my short-list.

Selah (holy pause)

Out of this list, there's one that really stood out at me, but I'm going to think on it for a bit (something to do with the fact that it's now 1 a.m.!). I'll be back tomorrow with the announcement. Until then, what's your word for 2011? What do you want to grow into, find more of, or experience for the first time in the coming year? I'd love to hear your thoughts and aspirations in the comments.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Diary of a Revolution

To be honest, today I'm battling terrible writer's block- possibly something to do with the fact that I'm sitting in a messy study and ignoring numerous household tasks that I should have done by now.
But I'm glad to say I have had some quick wins today! I did indeed tackle the ensuite, and threw out a whole garbage bag full of half used toiletries and rubbish. A whole garbage bag!!! I'm happy to report that the ensuite is now a nice peaceful uncluttered place... perhaps I should be blogging in there! :)

It's tempting to not blog on the days when you're struggling to have a good perspective. But in reality all of us have high days and low days, especially when we're at the beginning of a mountainous task, trying to make our little inroads. But even as I write, I'm reminding myself of the title of this blog- A Million Small Steps, and that it is persistence in the small steps, even when we feel we are getting nowhere, that will eventually get us to the top of our mountain.

Some quotes on persistence: to cheer myself on!

The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places.  ~Author Unknown

Don't be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs.  Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger.  If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.  ~Dale Carnegie

The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground.  ~Author Unknown

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.  ~Newt Gingrich  I like that one! Thanks Newt!

There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.  ~Author Unknown

The race is not to the swift
   or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
   or wealth to the brilliant
   or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.  Ecclesiastes 9:11

I'm pressing on!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Your mountain is waiting... (P74, Day 2)

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!"
— Dr. Seuss (Oh, the Places You'll Go!)

Your mountain is waiting. What does this phrase mean to you? Does it speak of  amazing new vistas to see? A grand adventure waiting to be taken? Or does it remind you of that arduous chore you've been putting off, or the scary task that seems just too hard to get through. Well what's ahead is a bit of both: it's time to let go of some stuff!

Lately, I've been reading a lot about culling, simplifying and living a simpler life with less, and I've decided that it's for me. But I have a problem: a mountain, if you will. The task ahead seems more than a little daunting, with time, emotional ties and bad hoarding habits all compounding the job. And so I've done a little reading of Peter Walsh's book "It's All Too Much", to gain some much needed strategy and moral support!

The premise of Peter's teaching is that the 'stuff' is not really the problem- it's our relationship with the stuff. If we deal with our stuff- if we organize it,categorize it, but still hang onto it, we have not really fixed our problem. To be really free of the hoarding habit, we need to reach a point where we can let go of all the things which we are not using now. Wow, for me that means a lot of stuff! Of course, there are a few things we might want to take exception with, such as photographs and maybe a few small mementos of our children's early years, but in general we need to grow up and let go. Wow, I'm already getting queasy at the thought of getting rid of that designer kitchen faucet I paid $73 for on Ebay 5 years ago. I'll get to use it someday, I just know I will!

See what I mean? This project is going to be far from easy! But I'll save sorting that particular cupboard for a few weeks away, when I'm hopefully toughened up a bit!
Nevertheless, cull I must, and as Dr Seuss said, "Today is your day". At one room per week (plus outside, minus my girls' rooms), I'll be done in 11 weeks- right on target for my birthday. Hey, after all that culling, perhaps I'll ask for different kinds of presents this year!

So for this week, I think I'll begin by culling my ensuite. It shouldn't be too hard to start there, right? I'll let you know how I go, but stick with me; I'll blog about other things too. After all, there's much more to living a simple life than just culling and being thankful!
Gotta go: my mountain is waiting!

Things I'm thankful for:
Being able to write my thoughts and have them read across the world without having to go through a publisher! That I'm part of a fantastic church that loves and supports its people! That I'm free, not bound by the bad insecurities that used to plague me. That I have an awesome husband who loves me so much that he's even taking me to a dancing class tonight (woot!). I really am blessed! Thank you God!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thankful, Day 1

What am I thankful for today?
The feeling of walking barefoot on my cool slate floor on this warm day. A day off, to spend in a flowy dress, writing and reflecting . A cup of tea and a laptop. The clean water I have to drink, shower and cook with. My home, that shelters me from the sun's rays. Thank you, Lord, I am truly blessed!

The futility of 'things'. (Project 74: Day 1)

In 74 days, I'll be turning 35, and for almost 35 years I think I've been doing it wrong. You see, I've grown up in a culture that teaches "Bigger is Better", there's always "more" to be had, and "more" will make you happier. And I and my family have bought into this message- bigtime! The five of us now occupy a home that might house five families in other parts of the world. We have 4 bedrooms, 2 studies, 2 lounge rooms, 2 bathrooms, a dining room, a kitchen and a laundry. We have gadgets and screens, clothes and cars. Heck, I even have a KitchenAid mixer! (Thanks, Hon!)
And yes, I would say we're happy.
But content? Not so much.

I now see that we have been believing the world's lies. They're strong lies, and have permeated our culture like a fog, so thick that most of us have been tricked  into chasing apparitions- things that we think will take us to our destination, but only end up leaving us disoriented, disappointed, and overwhelmed with how complex our lives have become. Things will not make us happier. Or at least, not lastingly!

When I got my mixer that I'd salivated over for more than a year, I was thrilled- for a whole 72 hours. Now when I use it, I still get enjoyment out of it and appreciate its superior abilities. But it proved to me that the feeling that we think we'll have when we get that long-coveted possession is only transitory. And to spend our lives chasing after that feeling is absolute foolishness! King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2 actually GOT everything his heart desired, and he found it was all empty, meaningless. Why are we trying to re-write history and get a different result?

So what is the answer to all of this? How do we stop the quest for 'things'? The Apostle Paul got there: listen to this quote, from the Message Bible.
        I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you're again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. 
Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. - Philippians 4:10-13

There are lots of physical things that we can do to jump off the world's "more is better" bandwagon and simplify our lives, but I believe a vital starting point is found in this passage. It's peppered throughout the text, but becomes plain in the last line: "Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it  through anything in the One who makes me who I am." Things do not make us who we are. Successes and accomplishments make us look good in the eyes of other people, but when we're alone with ourselves, they don't mean anything to us. At least not for long. Like Solomon said, it's all meaningless. 

So we don't need to amass goods to make us feel happier. We all know that that doesn't work. 
Instead, we can find happiness and contentment in turning our hearts towards the One who makes us who we are: God, the author, the creator, the One who plans good things for our lives.
Being thankful for what we have helps us to appreciate the blessings God has already given to us, instills a great feeling of contentment, and reduces our need to chase after more.

Over the next 74 days, I am going to take steps towards living a simpler, more focused and content life. There will be lots of reflecting, assessing, and plenty of culling going on, but woven firmly through it all will be the constant reminder that it is God, not 'stuff', who gives me meaning and purpose. I hope you'll journey with me.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ode to my husband

Well next Saturday, it'll be our 17th wedding anniversary, so in honour of 17 wonderful years married to the most incredible man on the planet, I've decided to write a blog post entitled

"Ode to my Husband"....
Well when I think of the word ode, the natural thing that comes to mind is odour. That takes me back to 17.5 years ago when we were still dating, and you farted on my head. I guess it was a test of loyalty- one which I think I've passed with flying colours.

Speaking of colours, I'm reminded of your three woolen jumpers ( #navy, #russet, and #bottlegreen- the top trending colours of 1993) that I hung out to dry on the clothesline at our little flat, and irreversibly stretched the blazes out of them.

Ah, that flat... so many memories there. I remember the little cupboard in the entrance, that housed your tubs of protein shake- such a foreign item for this new wife!

I remember the ant trails, the two minute noodles, the 'early months of marriage' disagreements that we didn't know how to handle, and the first of several catastrophes involving the washing machine hose and the bedroom carpet!

With our first baby on the way, we moved to a bigger place, and then an even bigger one soon after that, when our second child rushed in (as she does!).

I recall the long days and nights of waiting for you when you were working interstate, and the joy of being held in your strong arms again whenever you returned home to me. (I still love that!)

I still have the postcards you wrote to me back then, signed "Love from your godly man", although I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I can't find them right this minute! Yes, I've raised three messies: three "chips off the old block", and together we've managed to destroy whatever order we once had in the photo storage department.

But through all the messes, the stretched jumpers and the two-minute noodles, you have loved me. Sometimes there has been plenty of natural love, and it's been easy and fun to hang with me. Other times I've been immature (or who knows, maybe just acting my age- you were a cradle-snatcher after all!), and you've shown me tough love, reminding me of how God wants me to live. I cannot count the number of cuppies and lattes you've made me, even when you were tired out from work. And just the other day I mowed the lawn, and fully appreciated how physically tired you can get doing 'man's work'.

Honey, you're da bomb! Thank you for all the years that we've spent together. All the good times when we've had so many laughs and cuddles, and all the bad times, when you've stayed committed no matter what. You're the best husband a girl could want.
Happy 17th anniversary, boo.  I love you.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love, and a few other things...

A few weeks ago, I began reading Leo Babauta's Zen Habits blog. Although at first I was a little put off by the zen name, as I read a few of Leo's posts I found that a lot of what he said resonated with what I was already thinking and feeling. I was constantly accosted by tweets, emails, phonecalls, bills, colleagues, teenage children, advertising, etc, and was feeling overwhelmed and immobilised by all of the demands and distractions. All of this made me feel unable to produce- to write blog posts for instance, or to come up with creative solutions for work problems. It's incredible when I think about it, but it may even have contributed to my poor eating and exercise habits. (Overwhelmed leads to Immobilised leads to Apathetic leads to Pathetic! :)

Now I've begun to make a few changes in my world. First to go was some clutter. There's plenty more where that came from, but it's a beginning! I culled half of the books from my bookshelf, gave away a  bunch of clothes to charity, and threw away a few things. Heck, I even de-cluttered the appearance of this blog! Then I started unsubscribing from emails. It's surprising how many you unwittingly subscribe to- I believe I've now unsubscribed from more than 20 email lists, and I'm already noticing the difference. My inbox is down to about 4 unfiled emails, and my work one contains about 8 current ones. My head's feeling clearer already!

This week I've taken a further step- I've clarified the really important things in my life, and have given myself permission to really focus on those things and to say no to the things that don't fit in the description. I've identified my "main things" are God, my family, health improvement and marriage ministry. By health improvement, I mean the work God has called me into- both the work I currently do: improving health & clinical outcomes through the general medical practice where I work, and also my studies in health promotion. I know God has called me to this, but I've been double minded and unfocused, leading to sporadic results.

As far as marriage ministry goes, there has also been some trimming there! My husband and I facilitate a marriage course, but for a while I've also been imagining having a marriage retreat which runs annually in several states of Australia. I started up a separate Twitter account that focused on marriage, which of course added to the amount of chatter I had to keep up with! But today I've surrendered that too. It's a dream from God, so He'll raise it up in His time. I've written the dream down and sent it to the appropriate leaders. Now I release it to wait for His timing, and in the mean-time I am free to be more fruitful in the other areas that really matter.

So what's with my post title, I hear you wonder... Well aside from the rather disappointing Julia Roberts movie I watched the other night, I've decided it's a good beginning to a simpler life. I'm not going to focus on losing weight anymore, but I am going to eat healthily and get some exercise every day. I'm not going to focus on serving God in clever ways, but I am going to live prayerfully each day. I'm not going to continue making plans and strategies so I can achieve more, instead I want to live a simpler life, where there's space to stop and love the people in my world- not just feeling love towards them, but giving them the gift of time, attention, really SEEING them.
Eat. Pray. Love. And Focus only on what really matters.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Million Small Steps: An Explanation

I've just created a page which explains what this blog is all about. You can reach it from the tabs at the top of the page- its title is "A Million Steps? Huh?"

And now it's time for bed... sweet dreams everyone!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Recipe on Downunder Kitchen: J's Chicken Curry

Well, I've already mentioned on here that I'm a bit of a cooking buff.
Aside from the pot burning incident, a few occasions when I've served my family some nasty glop for dinner, and the first year of my married life, when I fed my hard-working husband 2-minute noodles for dinner every night, I've mostly shaped up to be a fairly decent cook.

Although I juggle a lot of plates, I occasionally find time to blog about a favourite hand-me-down recipe on my cooking blog, Downunder Kitchen.
Today's recipe is an old family favourite: J's Chicken Curry. Before it was J's (that's me!), it was Ruth's (my mum). And before it was Ruth's I don't know whose it was, but it doesn't matter anymore, because it's OUR family tradition now! It's a simple recipe, so I hope you'll hop on to Downunder Kitchen and take a look.
Ooo-roo! (means "see ya later!")

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dwelling within limits

The past 12 months in one paragraph...
Teenagers, School, Marriage Ministry, Cooking, Kitchenaid Mixer, Graduate Studies In Health Promotion, Hubby Turns 40, I Win A Weight Loss Challenge At My Gym, New Smartphones, Job Promotion, Being Faithful In The Little Things, Coffees, New Friendships, Footy, Stepping Up, Going Deeper, Refining The Dream, Enjoying Life.

And I ask you, isn't that enough??
An inbuilt facet of my personality always drives me to strive for more. I have to say no to myself more times than I care to count, and if I wanted to be a dill, I would try out 20 different careers and serve on 6 different teams at church, just for a season in each! I love to try things out, obviously.
But more than anything, this season has been about learning to dwell within limits- I can't be everything, but I can be something.
So although I have fancies about opening a boutique patisserie or designing gorgeous weddings, I understand that I am here for a purpose bigger than my own desires, and I press on slowly towards the dream God has placed in my heart.

And "what is that dream?", I hear you ask. Well it's not yet clearly defined, but it's something to do with improving health in under-resourced communities. In January I started a graduate diploma in health promotion, and for my first major assignment I looked at tuberculosis prevention in East Timor (Timor L'este). East Timor is a little country next to Indonesia which became an independent nation in 2002 after many decades of neglect and unrest. The East Timorese now face a huge challenge in establishing a solid economy, health system and more, and the rebuilding work will likely go on for many decades. I don't know where I'm going to end up, but this is the kind of work I want to do: helping establish systems to improve health in needy communities.

For now though, I have a long road of studying ahead, with many opportunities to choose to press on, rather than taking the easy road. I'm doing one subject at a time, so at this rate I'll complete my course in 3 more years- when my youngest daughter Betty is starting her final year of high school. And so every day I must choose to keep on the path- studying and following God, enjoying other hobbies such as cooking and occasional event planning, but staying true to the course that God has put me on.
Wish me luck!