The Label

“Sub-fertile.”

Somehow the label was comforting. Freeing. Validating.

The first year of trying in vain to start a family had been the worst year of my life. Too many well-meaning people had handed me cliches that constructed the bars of the prison I found myself in. Isolated. Carrying a burden no one understood.

“You haven’t even been trying for long!”

“All in God’s time!”

“Stop thinking about it and relax, then it will happen.”

“Maybe God has a different plan for your life.”

So many easy answers were handed to me, neatly packaged with a colourful bow that wrapped swiftly around my mouth, silencing me.

I was thirty and desperate for a child.

I lived in a vast barrenness that year. I was lost in the desert of my emptiness. I plodded through endless desolate days, one flowing into the next, a meaningless stream of hours, weeks, months.

When you long for something so desperately it invades your every cell and seeps into every crack of your identity. You become possessed by this fixation; the more you try to ignore it, the bigger it looms, chasing and hounding, engulfing you entirely.

Every month the faint flicker of hope was promptly extinguished by rising pain.

I was in constant disguise, the pull of the shadows only occasionally ripping the falsehood away.

My only rest from the relentless warring that controlled my mind and raged inside my heart was the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Experiencing grace liberated me from myself. It was like climbing into a hot bath after a long gruelling run. An unburdening. A sigh of relief and contentment. For a brief time my turmoil was on pause and my life felt meaningful and hopeful again.  

To know I could quit my striving, to know I was good enough, to know all of life and faith was a total undiluted gift – it kept me that year.

But I am fickle and the grace moments are fleeting at best…

But my Father knows and my Father sees.

And He knew what I needed.

So here we were. A string of tests completed. Staring at a gigantic wall of smiling baby faces – success stories – sipping on complimentary herbal tea, facing an overwhelming set of lifestyle changes and a bucket-load of supplements and herbs. In the company of people who understood and took us seriously.

And cradling a label that was setting me free.

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Bible Study

There is always too much food. The brave ones reach for seconds. Bibles lie open on laps. Mugs with lipstick stains and remnants of lukewarm tea dot the table.
I’m so familiar in this setting, yet so uncomfortable.

I listen to the other beautiful ladies contribute: so flawlessly, so much knowledge, so much eloquence, so much wit. The extroverts work the room. They get the laughs, the acknowledgements, the knowing nods.

I strike a blank. I can’t say a word. My tongue is thick. I feel mute. And stupid. And tiny.

I sit in silence and wish they could see me. I wish I could reach into my mind and lay out on the table what even I can’t put words to. They would all look at me in surprise and realise that this mummy isn’t stupid after all.

STOP.

When did this sacred time around the Living Word become about me and my insecurities? When did I start listening to the lies of the enemy that convince me that by not being the centre of this gathering I am somehow not measuring up? When did I start competing with my sisters for the eloquence trophy? When did I start mistaking this community of believers as rivals? When did I start worrying more about what people will think about me than what God is trying to teach me? When did I start putting people on pedestals and stopped seeing the equal worth of everyone’s uniqueness? When did Bible study become about impressing fellow sinners?

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

So that no one can boast.

And so that no one can belittle – themselves or others.

The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Jesus died for us all. Introvert, extrovert, eloquent or not, knowledgeable or ignorant. Rich, poor. Mums with babies who sleep and those who don’t. Skinny or chubby. Articulate prayers or word stumblers. Bible scholars or the complete novice.

No pigeonhole you are shoved into can exclude you from grace.

No amount of stereotyping can exclude us from the fierce love of God that engulfs us all in equal flood.

Take Over

Anger rises like heartburn in my chest.

Unpleasant. Hot. Unstoppable.

I can hear it. Like an alarm going off in my head, ringing louder and louder until it reaches red fever pitch and I can’t control my reactions and emotions anymore. I don’t even want to.

I tally up all the things I expect from you. The way I deserve to be treated. I examine my circumstances and pridefully feel sorry for myself. Look at how hard I’m working! Look at how much I am sacrificing! Acknowledge me! Bow down to me!

And my woe-is-me status serves to justify my childish outburst. I blame my innocent son and direct anger at him when nothing but my immature short-comings are to blame.

Just like the crowd blamed an innocent Son.

We condemn the guiltless one who doesn’t defend himself and set the criminal free.

And You stand and take it. This ridicule. This pain. This suffering. All these false accusations.

You were the only righteous One! You were the only justified One!

You kept silent FOR ME.

You took the blows FOR ME..

No trace of anger in Your eyes. Only love.

You took it all because I couldn’t.

Because I can’t.

I rage and feel entitled, justified.

But the only righteousness in me is You.

Lord, take over.

Invisible

I wish I could make myself invisible.

Not all the time. Not even for long.

Just on those days when the unbridled, sin-riddled old Adam is escaping out of my mouth, mind and soul through destructive, negative, feel-sorry-for-me, angry words, thoughts and actions. Rolling eyes and slamming doors. Gritting teeth and profanity tumbling out. Resentment building up like plaque on unbrushed teeth.

It feels dirty, ugly.

Today I want to be invisible.

Today I feel entangled in myself like knotted hair that doesn’t want to brush out. Like the second drawer in the kitchen that’s full of mismatched utensils and devoid of order. I can’t make sense of it all. I can’t make sense of me. Just a whole lot of noise as I rummage around, not even sure what I’m looking for.

I want out. Out of my skin. Out of my head. Away from the person I don’t want to be but the person I can’t help being.

But I am bound.

Bound by my expectations of who God has made me. A wife. A mother. A daughter. A friend.

These incredible gifts. They seem too heavy. Too much responsibility. Too much giving of myself. Too demanding.

Connections I can’t sever. Knots I can’t untie.

I am ungrateful today.

So ungrateful.

I come to the end of myself as I throw scattered toys into the box, desperately murmuring for God to make me invisible.

Nothing happens.

I didn’t expect anything to.

But as the day wears on I hear myself say compassionate words. Understanding words. Kind words. 

My heart softens. Opens. Clears.

And then I see it.

It’s not me speaking at all.

God HAS made me invisible.

He has drowned me.

Autumn 

Maybe I bring it upon myself.

This feeling of aloneness in my own home.

I listen and listen and listen and retreat and retreat and retreat.

The leaves fall slowly, one by one. There is still so much green. It gives and gives of itself to the ground beneath; a carpet of rustling colour. Yet it still looks so alive and beautiful in the sun. Shades of green mingled with fiery red and bright yellow. But I know in a few short weeks the last leaf will fall. And it will be empty. Dormant. Stark. Cold. Unable to give anymore.

My leaves fall slowly as I engage. Asking, probing, listening, giving.

And as the sun starts to reflect off the green that is left, I feel isolated and disconnected. My child close to my chest. The rest of the household metres away. But far away. So far away from me.

There is beauty in this giving. Beauty in the shedding. Beauty in the hope of new life after this season.

And a quiet whisper tells me I am seen and known.

And reminds me gently that dying is a part of the New Life.

Constant

I had no reason to feel pensive.

This was only day three of our interstate holiday. We were on our way to visit good friends. I was glowing, in the second trimester of my long-awaited first pregnancy.

Yet the lifeless grey sky and the stark landscape had little to offer. The road was harsh, stretching out in front of us; a bitumen intruder slicing mercilessly through the countryside.

We drove in silence.

There is a sense of isolation in traveling through unknown territory. An aloneness when entering into a city you have never visited before. Anonymity. Disconnection.

Even when life is at its best, the memory of its fluidity and ambivalence is only too real and present. A tiny squall can disrupt the boat; the anchor of joy lies frighteningly shallow… Fickle.

When the gusts come, I try to claw my way back to a place of equilibrium. A place of peace and quiet. Of calm waters and unsurprising constancy. Of happy predictability. But it is in vain. The boat rocks and sways. I buckle. I despair. I howl. Circumstances, emotions, the most minuscule of throwaway comments can derail me and throw my life into temporary chaos.

I yearn to be steadfast. Rock solid. Unswerving. Not swaying. Constant in faith and joy in the face of life.

I am not. But He is.

His hands enfold all. They cup around my boat, my sea, my waves, my wind, my storm, my anchor, my shore. Everything He holds. Everything He sees.

He is steadfast. He is rock solid. Unswerving. Not swaying.

My Lord. My God.

My Father.

Darkness

There is a darkness that descends on me at 2am. Sometimes it comes at midnight. Sometimes it lingers until the morning.
It’s heavy. Ugly. Messy.

It pulls me into lightless places.

I can’t even glimpse a hint of the morning.

It’s stifling.

It snatches my patience, my compassion, my love… Exhaustion chases out all that is lovely and pure until I am left with a shrivelled unchecked hideousness. Anger and frustration come gushing out.

I’m ashamed at how quickly this heart usually so plump with deep affection for my child can so quickly dissipate into this.

Why doesn’t anyone talk about this part of motherhood? The part where you lose control? The part where your love which you believed to be unbreakable and overcoming all is revealed to be quite finite. Unable to stretch into all the far corners of exhaustion. Limited. Fraying. Not enough.

And I feel like my soul has been wrung out. Sitting in this darkness. Alone.

And I remember One whose soul was wrung out. One who hung, bleeding. One who was exposed to all the anger, frustration, hideousness, darkness that is home in my heart. And He forgave. And His love stretched – like those arms nailed to the cross – flung wide open. Stretching to all those places where there is mess: gruesome ugly human waste. Stretching so far without tearing or fraying.

Stretching and never ending.

Symphony

The songs all sound the same.

But that’s what you’d expect from a particular song-writer. Their signature sound. Their familiar flavour. Their unique blend of harmonies.

Yet the longer they play in the background the more the songs all blur into one.

I wake up to this soundtrack most mornings. My signature sound sets the tone for the day’s melody. The verses may change slightly but the repetitive chorus is all too familiar. I know what to expect. Some high notes here, a solo there. On occasion a rehearsed cymbal crash.

And so the days drone on. My life song playing in the background, day in, day out; blurring into one. And they all sound the same.

These days of my life. They all sound the same.

And then in the middle of a much repeated track, a melody so overplayed, I don’t even pay attention anymore… An unexpected harmony takes me by surprise.

And then I hear it: an orchestra erupts around me. Chords, tones, sounds, themes I’ve never heard before! A unique and beautiful composition that takes my breath away. A heavenly harmony that sweeps me up into awe.

What is this masterpiece that sounds so different from the overplayed background noise that is usually my life?

This masterpiece IS your life, says HE.

All the mundane melodies come together in a beautiful work, a unique piece, a collection of harmonies that tell the story of HIS glory. A work of HIS hands. An exquisite, rare and never to be repeated rendering of a special collection of days. 

My life. Your life.

HE is the composer.

HE is the symphony.

Ordinary

We don’t have a dishwasher.
It disappeared with the rest of the 4 bedroom house and low risk lifestyle we left behind when my husband and I could no longer ignore the journey God was calling us to embark on.

No, we’re not missionaries living saintly lives in dangerous places. 

We’re not translating the bible into a foreign language or evangelising unreached people groups.

We’re not planting a church or greatly impacting lives with the Gospel.

We’re not even depending on daily miracles to put food on the table.

We’re just ordinary people.

So ordinary.

As ordinary and mundane as a pile of dirty dishes.

Yet God is so present in this ordinary.

In the ebb and flow, the coming and going, the humdrum routine of everyday life, God’s presence is rich and decadent. The air is thick with it. Life is replete with it. His love, His grace, His power, His presence. It leaks out all over the freshly mopped floors. It seeps out from within the laundry basket. It swirls in the sink with my pile of dirty dishes. It wafts in on the breeze through the open door.

It beckons. It invites. It calls.