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Embracing Slow

Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up.

Expect God to get here soon.

Psalm 31: 24

It is 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I am still in my pajama’s. Today I declared ground zero for my family and called everyone in sick. It doesn’t happen often but I know when the signs are flaring and my littles needed a free-flowing home day.

I picked up my recent knitting work in progress and found a way through the frustration of winding down. I have just come off the back of speaking five times in four days and my mind was whirling.

I often struggle with the need to please others. Thinking that my meeting a need will be a quick fix to the ache lying beneath. Questioning my life’s meaning, purpose and fulfilment. The lie that whispers in our ear telling us if we do more, be more and have more then we will win the race.

Maybe we are afraid of the mundane because society continually promotes success as “escaping our every day”. Instagram taunts if we have a perfect holiday, body, car, boat or experience then happiness is guaranteed.

What if the everyday ordinary was where the treasure lies?

What if the possibility of happiness and peace is unearthed in the mundane?

When I read Psalm 31 telling me to be brave, be strong and to not give up, I immediately lean towards the hope in my future. However, I am realising that bravery is required most often to say no to that which is distracting and yes to our best practice in the mundane.

Prayer

Encouragement

Friendship

Showing Up

Listening

Patience

The list goes on and on.

How we uncover our character in the mundane is the truest walk of freedom in each and every one of our lives. When we spend our days trying to escape our every day, we will always lean toward striving, hustling and edge towards a place of exhaustion.

Over these next 40 days, Em Hazeldean and I will be unpacking our wrestle with embracing slow. Today begins the season of Lent and it is a call towards the simple and present.

Psalm 31: 3-5

You’re my cave to hide in,
    my cliff to climb.
Be my safe leader,
    be my true mountain guide.
Free me from hidden traps;
    I want to hide in you.
I’ve put my life in your hands.
    You won’t drop me,
    you’ll never let me down.

My desire is when I slow and face my present, remembering the beauty that I find in His presence. A cave of communion, the direction from One who has walked before and my rescuer who is present when no one else is.

Over this journey of devotion, I am limiting my time with technology and leaning my ear towards his soft whisper asking me to walk in His steps and ways.

Dear Lord,

I pray for every person whose eyes flick across these words and I ask you to bring a blessing of hope and life. May our hearts slow to your beat and our ears incline to your voice. Where there is stress, pardon. Where this is hurt, healing. Where there is sadness, comfort. Where there is exhaustion, peace. Help us to find our hope and strength in you. Remembering that everything we face in the mundane is but a whisper in light of eternity.

Embracing Slow

Amen.

 

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Escaping pain and finding the Wounded Healer

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I have spent my whole life trying to escape the fear of pain. No matter the strategy of my season pain has visited like waves in the surf; constant and rhythmic. The fear of pain is often more painful than pain itself and circumstances across the last year have forced me to surrender to its power.

We were sitting at the dinner table, my husband and Mum casually chatting and my daughter fell off the table. She cried, she was okay and we comforted but then my Mum remarked: “Amanda, used to hold her breath when she was little until she passed out, whenever she was in pain.” Then quite casually my husband laughed “Yes, she still does it now.”

Breathe,
Ache,
Absorb,
Reflect.

It was a casual family goad, but I found a release that I had been searching my whole life for. As a youth, in the midst of pain, I would fight. Still holding my breath, but I would push and shout, scream and demand attention. As a Mum, I have learnt to hold back, retreat, disappear and minimise.

I am learning that neither response is helpful or healthy. Holding my breath to try and escape the pain, has left me with a heart that is large but cavernous. I think our hearts were designed to be soft and beating. Retreating, ignoring and running away however creates walls, distance and bitterness.

I realised to shut down pain was to shut down joy and to live a satisfying life I wanted to feel again without holding my breath.

Richard Rohr says it perfectly;

“Pain that is not transformed is transferred.”

Despite my breath holding, my pain always transfers. Despite my hand holding, the pain it catches up with me again. Pain awaits resolution, it aches for release. And often without understanding, I struggle to let go of that which aches and I go over and over my prevention strategy.

Then I land at Good Friday.
Good what?

I sit at the foot of the painful cross and I reflect upon my Wounded Healer. He speaks to my pain, where no one else has been able to, with a megaphone of grace that unsettles my need for comfort.

He shouts; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”.
He wrestles; “Not my will be done, but yours”.
He transforms; “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”.
He rests; “I thirst”.
He releases; “It is finished”.
He surrenders; “Father into my hands, I commit my spirit”.

Pain acknowledged.
Pain recognised.
Pain transformed.

Henri Nouwen tugs at my heart as he chides

“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” Henri J.M. Nouwen.

Pain acknowledged.
Pain recognised.
Pain transformed.

“I imagine Jesus going to the blind, beggars, leapers, sick, demon-possessed, and little children: and I bet he fit right in. Maybe no one could tell it was Jesus from afar, because they expected someone cleaner. I wonder if Jesus bent down on one knee to the girl with the cleft lip, touched her face, and called her beautiful. I wonder if he prayed for her right on the spot, hugged her, pulled back her hair and told her to smile. I wish I could’ve seen her light up, throw off all insecurity, and do something worthy with her life. That’s what Jesus is about. I want to be about that too.” J.S Park

As I walk across the contemplation of this weekend, my heart tender from the pain of anger, disappointment, regret, remorse and disillusionment. I surrender to the utter depravity of the desert and walk tenderly into my tomorrow.

Amanda Marie

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her hands

her hands

I was driving early this morning to another surgeons appointment and the weirdest thing happened, I heard myself on the radio in my car. Every day Kinwomen has little segments on radio that are recorded months in advance. As soon as I heard my voice I wanted to turn the radio off, but something in me compelled me to listen.

Imagine me driving worrying about said appointment and then me from the past comes on the radio, speaking specifically to me in the future.

Gosh.

My life is a little crazy and weird often.

Anyway, My past self was telling my future self to hope. To take the difficulty in my today and to trust, hoping in the possibility of the future.

In that bizarre little moment, with me talking to myself in the car by myself, I had this little revelation.

Every single one of us is fighting a battle that many of us don’t see. Most women have their hands wrung out in worry, praying for breakthrough in some form.

I started to think through the lives of my nearest and dearest friends, fellow Mums, girlfriends I’ve known for decades, family and life companions and each and every one of them has difficulty that requires breakthrough today.

I remembered the recent moment when I was sitting in a hot, stuffy room in Nepal and I watched the hands of a group of Mums telling us their stories about the community bank that they had formed. I watched their hands, and saw line after line, story after story, of prayers that had been prayed, fires that had been stoked, floors that had been swept and produce that had been formed in those hands.

I thought of the hands of my Mum and the times that she had wrung those hands together, worried about my future.

I prayed for friends whose hands are clasped today wanting so desperately to be holding a test with a pink line formed across its possibility.

I thought fondly of friends who were holding “for sale” signs in their hands, praying desperately for the real estate agent to place the sold sticker on their inheritance.

I prayed for friends hands clasped in hospital waiting for results.

I smiled at the thought of my dear friend holding her precious son in her arms as she prepared to take him home from the hospital today.

When we look at a pair of hands, we can see so much story and history. A ring that is worn with pride or one that is worn down by difficulty and stress. A tan that shows a white band where the ring has been removed after years of care. Spots and wrinkles that tell the tale of hard work and difficulty. Nails that are broken and peeling. Stains from dinner cooked for families, who forget to say thanks.

Every pair of hands tells the tales of everyday use and wear. Hands that hold, hands that type, hands that clean and hands that despair.

Today as I listened to myself (hilairous) I became overwhelmed by you and your story. I prayed for women, after women in my world and the breakthrough that is needed for the difficulty she was holding in her hands.

I reflected on the difficulty of novice motherhood and the changing seasons of the early years of marriage, with often one income and lots of sleepless nights.

I was compelled to pray for your breakthrough.

A breakthrough that was profound and clear.

That today would be a day of great grace and freedom.

That prayers that had been prayed for years upon years would be answered.

That hands would be lifted in praise today, that freedom would be declared over you and your house.

Today.

That release would come to her hands.

Amanda

 

 

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her feet

her feet

It was at the end of a long day, all I wanted was my own bed and a hot shower. Our host encouraged us towards another house visit, to sit and listen to stories of loss, gain and strength in the midst of the greatest challenge and my eyes rolled.

I am ashamed to say the line of enough had been drawn and I knew the trip back down the mountain would be as harsh as its traverse up. I just wanted to be safe. I just wanted comfort and I was at the very end of my rope.

It has been funny this week when people have asked me about Nepal, “How was it?”, “Was it amazing?”, “Was it life changing?” and I have not had any words all week.

Zero. Nothing. Nudda.

Nepal was uncomfortable. Little electricity, long, windy, dangerous four-wheel drive trips. I had to borrow the money for the air ticket from my sister and I saved each and every dollar possible in the lead up so I could buy something small for my babes. Whilst I was standing trying time after time to get through to my husband on the phone from Kathmandu, in broken reception he told me that we needed to sell our little seaside shack. My trip was steeped in challenge.

My leg was still raw with infection, from two surgeries in a few months, the dust, the broken buildings and limited internet. Nepal was deeply uncomfortably and challenging. My little man had surgery two days after I arrived home and hasn’t slept much since. We have had home opens, real estate valuing and emptied two thirds of our belongings into storage. Two weeks back on the ground and I am still recovering. I just want to sleep away my days and forget what I saw.

Back to the beginning…

I walked down the side of a mud brick house, walking carefully through a path that winded precariously around the edge of a cliff and I sat down, crossed my arms and wanted the day to be over.

Out of the cutest little hut, came two well dressed children, with two neighbourhood children running close behind. “The visitors had arrived, the visitors had arrived.” As I sat on their rickety bench, I realised they had waited the whole day for us to come visit. The little pre- teenager, had straightened her hair with perfection and they were wearing their Sunday best.

I sat and listened about the business the Mumma had launched and peace flooded my weary soul. I sat and listened, but mostly watched. I immersed myself in their world and was spellbound. Here we were together, up the top of a mountain, I felt like I was so far away from everything that bought me comfort and I was rocked to my very core.

If she can be thankful and generous in the midst of her challenge, so can I.

If she can wake to work hard for another day, so could I.

If she can serve her family with deep, sacrificial love, then so could I.

Her story compelled me, that in the midst of pain, suffering and discomfort, we have a choice to announce peace.

How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,

And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52: 7)

I looked to the ground as I was full of shame from my lack of fortitude in the midst of courage and I saw her feet. Bruised, dusty and servant-ed. Her feet told more of the story than any part of her words could. She had an old pair of sandals, they were faded pink. Her littles sitting now beside her had simple jogging shoes, that looked well worn but quite new. However Mumma Bear, her sandals were broken and she had fixed them with a piece of string.

This simple hack broke me on the inside. I was so unsure whether my eyes and heart would ever recover.

Her thongs told me a story of sacrificial love. When I started to walk in her shoes, my heart exploded with compassion.

Today we all step into the final chapter of Lent and the Easter story, a journey of sacrifice, fortitude and community. As I woke this morning ready to retrace the steps of Jesus in his final hours, the image that rocked my soul was the image of her mountain feet.

Dusty,

Damaged,

A piece of string holding her shoe together.

As I walk the stations of the cross today, I will be remembering my mountain friend and the life of sacrifice. As a mum it is hard to imagine my life like that of Jesus, carrying a cross towards a brutal death. What I can step into though, is the life of another Mum. Her waking early to prepare the house for the day. Getting my children ready when they scream and tantrum. Walking into dusty places as I try to clean the mess of my home that seems to break my will repeatedly. We each carry a daily cross, that looks so different, but the depth of the courage required to pick it up still has the same cost.

I will remember her feet.

I will remember the dusty place.

I will remember her life of sacrifice.

Because this is the way of the cross.

I will remember, I will not forget

Amanda

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who is my hero?

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One week ago today I stepped into a dusty place, a heady atmosphere and oh so vulnerable. As I drove from the airport that was swelling with faces as we arrived, I had so many questions in my heart about suffering.

Fresh from a season where I had seen grief first hand, I wasn’t sure whether my heart could possibly be broken again.

Can a heart that is already in pieces possibly break anymore?

My mind was replaying the recent loss of friends so close and I was unsure whether my weary heart could be revived again.

With dust filling our lungs, still falling as an after effect of the earthquakes, with a people who are so kind, (yet asking similar questions as my own) together we walked a little tentatively as we said Namaste, with heads bowed.

When you look in someone’s eyes, no matter the make up, the clothes they wear, the windows of our souls are exposed and together we exchanged questions without words.

Yesterday we drove for hours around rocky cliff faces, bumping and screaming as we saw the mountains demanded attention in the distance. I watched young children scamper up the dusty roads, dressed carefully in their school uniforms, hair plaited with refined perfection.

I watched
I breathed in
I exhaled
I felt deeply afraid

My fear was palpable and more than being afraid for my own life, I was afraid that I would come here and return home without any answers.

“No intellectual answer will solve suffering. Perhaps this is why God sent his own Son as one response to human pain, to experience it and absorb it into himself. The Incarnation did not ‘solve’ human suffering, but at least it was an active and personal response.” Philip Yancey

As we stepped out of our four wheel drive and walked up the muddy hill, an endless sea of little blue shadowed faces, showered us with bright pink flowers and welcomed us to their school.

We sat on their carpet, that had been sewn together over and over from little feet that tripped over its pile.

Stories of kids club meetings where they petitioned for climate change, they together went into villages and educated their elders about child brides, over and over they surprised me with their tenacity.

As I sat on the floor, my leg was aching and my heart was tiring and leaning back I saw a little sign on their wall and I got my answer.

You see every time we venture into unknown places, meeting people who place us on pedastools that are not warranted, we feel like we are the heroes.

There is something about our upbringing, our culture, our pride that gives us this unspoken status that we are the knights in shining mission armour.

As I sat there uncomfortable and dirty, I knew so deeply that these little warriors in front of me, the future doctors, the teachers, the presidents, as they walk up mountains for hours, with dust filling their lungs; they are the heroes.

So every time we reframe ourselves and our works to help another, I want to be reminded of that little classroom, full of personality and life, on the top of a mountain in Nepal.

I want to remember the mothers who are desperately trying to learn to read and write so they can keep up with their children.

I want to feel the discomfort when I listened to a mother tell me it takes her two hours to walk to get water for her household.

I want to help people know who are actually the heroes in our world.

They are not the movie stars, the presidents, the kings, the wellness warriors and social media gurus. The heroes of the world are those who get up again after being knocked down, the children who keep hoping after they have lost their parents, the mothers who sit in self help groups saving one dollar a month to change their families future, those who go for days without food, those who save strangers in the midst of disasters even when their own family is at risk.

Reframing who I look up to, who is my hero and I hope to remember that it will be the least of these.