Australia – settling in and being a tourist.

So I have now been in Australia for two and a half weeks and I’m now an official Hillsong College Student.

So my first full week was spent doing lots of cleaning, shopping and full of crazy bus trips with ridiculous amounts of boxes and bags! There was a lot of time spent sitting in front of a fan contemplating how I was going to actually go to college in this crazy hot weather – all I can say is that I truly thank God for the creator of air conditioning and the beautiful air conditioning at Hillsong church and college. (As I type this up I have got up super early and am sitting at college even though I don’t have class for 3 hours – guessing by second week my energy levels may have failed a bit).

Finally finished my room – so I want to say a massive thank you again for everyone who gave me a gift, I feel truly blessed – and now have a space that feels like mine, like home, even though I’m half the world away! (See above pics)

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During the first week and a half all my beautiful housemates trickled in, filling the big empty house with love, laughter and luggage. We are an ‘older’ house, ages ranging from 22-34, and we are a true international house – two from the UK (Wales and England), New Zealand, USA/Russia, Hawaii, South Africa and Chile.

Have only known these lovely ladies for two weeks but they’ve already blessed my life more than they can realise – the last two weeks have been emotionally exhausting but these girls have helped me through, they’ve given me hugs, kind words and prayer support, they’ve kept e smiling and kept me going – so blessed to have them as my ‘Australian’ family –  love you all!

In the last two weeks I’ve also embraced being a tourist – I want to make the most of every opportunity to see Australia. On our first day trip to Sydney we didn’t really know what the plan was, on arrival we found a Starbucks and settled in (it was raining), then we walked for 40 minutes (in the wrong direction) visited some beautiful churches and some shops. Eventually after realising we were heading in the wrong direction we turned around and headed in search of food, and then the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney (thanks to my Auntie Linda’s advice). The gardens were absolutely beautiful, we literally took hundreds of photos, you wouldn’t believe you were in the centre of Sydney, I plan to spend some more time here. Then we found Sydney Opera House (a lot yellower in real life) – more photos were taken.

The 26th January is Australia Day – which means after three days of college we were off (this college thing is so hard lol). Our local family park, Bella Vista Farm, had a family fun day event, I got to see Sheep Shearing, Whip Cracking and Working Dogs. We then went into Sydney to see the Darling Harbour fireworks, I’m not going to lie I didn’t suddenly develop a love of fireworks, but from our spot on the bridge we were pretty much in the fireworks and it was beautiful.

Then 28th January was Chinese New Year – we set off into Sydney early and walked around the Chinese Garden of Friendship, it is so pretty, like a little oasis in the middle of the city. We then got to see some Chinese lion dancing – which was really interesting. Then we walked through China Town (which was full of Australian tourist shops) and headed to a massive indoor market place (also full of Australian tourist shops). After a lunch stop we walked around Circular Quay and viewed all the Lunar lanterns (which are massive animal figures, representing each of the Lunar Zodiac signs). Then we took our first boat trip back to Darling Harbour – then I realised I had had way to much sun so headed home – it was a great day.

Ok – so I’m having a problem linking photos to my laptop with the lack of wifi so these will have to do for now – plan to post more on Facebook so check out there.

Sorry if this blog posts seems really random but I’ve been writing it in shifts every time i visit the college. My next blog post will cover enrolment and first week of college. Feel free to message me any questions – love and miss you all!

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Australia – the prep, travel and first days.

I started writing this in the middle of the night as jet lag had attacked big time. I went a full 48 hours with about 48 minutes sleep. I’m finishing this post today and its been over a week since I left home, which is just crazy!

This post will contain some of my preparation and last few days in the UK, flight info and some of my first few days in Australia.

 

So I did quite a few things to get me ready for my time in Australia, including:

– sharing my shower with a little spider for the last four months – in preparation for the big spiders.

– switched to using Aussie brand shampoo and conditioner.

– prepared myself for having a roommate by sharing my living space for the last month with Walter the inflatable  kangaroo. This also prepared me for living with kangaroos.

– didn’t plan this one but I spent the last week in isolation from my family as some of them had the sickness bug, so we practiced chatting through iMessage and FaceTime.

In all honesty though I didn’t know how to prepare myself because I couldn’t imagine totally where I was going and what to expect.

 

My last few days home were amazing, I honestly felt so loved and so blessed. You guys truly gave me an amazing send off. I enjoyed my celebrations at the church, thank you everyone who contributed, thank you to my family, my friends, my church people – I love you all so much.

So things had been running pretty smoothly, then I weighed my suitcase – oh no I was going to have to leave my notebooks behind – the situation got so desperate that I literally had the kitchen weighing scales out and weighing items and grouping them into different piles, measuring things against things to see which I wanted more. Lets just say I didn’t get much sleep my last night in my lovely bed (which when lying on my current bed I regret greatly) however by the morning I was packed.

The morning of my flight went pretty smooth, I woke up checked my weights one last time and then zipped and locked my suitcases for the last time. Woke my parents up for the last time, then walked my dog for the last time. Then I went to get dressed – uh oh – thats when I realised that yes I had laid out the perfect flying outfit, but no I hadn’t remembered to keep out any underwear, cue manic rummaging through the airing cupboard and then I hate to say it rummaging through my bin for discarded underwear that wasn’t fit for Australia. However thankfully that was the only prep crisis.

Have to thank my wonderful parents for driving me off to the airport, and calming me as I stressed about the weight of my luggage – I couldn’t of got much closer, my suitcase was 29.7 kg (30kg allowance) and my hand luggage was 6.8 kg (7kg allowance), however that didn’t include the extra bag I added after I checked my bags – a girl needs her notebooks.

The flight: 34 hours of travel, 2 planes, 4 bag searches, 4 different airports, about 5 hours sleep, 2 sick bags, 6 anti-sickness tablets, 1 hole in the floor toilet situation that just wasn’t going to happen, 1 massive sign of release when I discovered Australian toilets were very much normal. It was sooooo long.

Arrival: after a four hour wait in the airport, the college shuttle picked us up and we were on the way. As I dragged my one suitcase to the bus, I glanced around at the American/Canadian’s and envied there crazy luggage allowance – one girls seriously had 5 suitcases – and then started to question what I had obviously forgotten to pack in my one suitcase.  First thing I noticed was the heat, next thing I was asleep. I woke up as I pulled into the church carpark – wow is it massive. And Hot! As we wheeled our suitcases across the car park and then down two flights of steps my envy for the American/Canadian luggage allowance faded away as I watched them try to pull 3-5 suitcases each, as said suitcases rolled away across the car park.

Enter welcome lounge – free WIFI and EXTREME uno (they take there uno very seriously in Australia apparently). Here I checked in at home, signed up for accommodation and got some shopping, then was driven back to my new house.

So my new house is beautiful NOW – however when I moved in it was a little, well a lot dirty. Also due to some miscommunication I was the only one living p1020081there for the first night – thankfully I was so tired otherwise this would of started panic attack number one – on the very massive plus side as the first house mate to arrive I had first pick for bedroom, which meant HELLO SINGLE ROOM! Then my bed was delivered flat pack – 95 minutes later I have a bed – must say that was probably one of my proudest moments.
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So my first night went surprisingly well considering I was in a new country, with no housemates, no phone and no internet, no contacts, no map, no sense of direction and no idea where the church was.

Early next morning I set off on my trek to Hillsong College, with vague directions and lots of help from kind Australians, after about 30 minutes I made it to the land of Hillsong and the free WIFI. This day is now a bit of a blur, thankfully I met a housemate, opened a bank account, got a bus card (yes I can now take the bus) I went on a shopping trip and bought some random things – I remembered hangers thankfully and a towel. So I’m at college with all my bags, not overly confident with my bus card yet so my only option is to walk home. What I haven’t mentioned is that the temperature today was 42 degrees, and Hillsong is called HILLsong because its in the Hills District – in all honesty I don’t know how I made it home, it was long, I ran out of water, the bags were heavy, it was 42 degrees – I literally made it through the front door, and didn’t care how bug infested the floor was, I lay down on the carpet in a hot mess.

The next few days was spent cleaning, shopping and attempting to function normal in this crazy heat. We had lots of fun filling a taxi with flat pack furniture, pushing trolleys all over shopping centres (you can actually take trolleys out of shops and into other shops it’s rather strange) and then trying to build furniture with no tools and in the heat! Thankfully house to slowly starting to look and feel more homely!

As I write this I currently have 3 housemates, but by Friday there will be 7 of us at number 39 – can’t quite imagine it yet!

Church – experienced church for the first time on Sunday, it was really good! Robert Fergusson spoke – so it felt more like home as he is originally a Brit! Loads more info on church to come!

Bugs – so I have only seen one spider and that was no where near my house. However I have seen loads and loads and loads of cockroaches. I think we co-inhabit with a minimum of 6 at one time – however strangely they don’t bother me!

 

Our funniest moment in the house so far – me and Danni (my first housemate) were eating in the living room after a mega cleaning/furniture building sesh. We heard  a bang, bus as we were getting used to the strange noises we both just ignored it, then there was another one, and then another – time to investigate. As we entered the kitchen we established that the noise was coming from outside the kitchen window and also discovered our kitchen window to be wide open (thank goodness for fly screen) as we neared the window to close it there was another bang – we jumped back, quite freaked out now. I decided to be brave and creeped up to the window – which was when as another bang happened that I discovered the true super frightening source of our disruptance ….. earlier in the day we had cleaned out our freezer and there was loads of ice cube trays, so we had put them in the sink upside down before we ate, they had slowly been melting and subsequently dropping into the metal sink = our super frightening noise! We felt rather silly however as that has been our only freaked out moment we think we are doing pretty good.

So that’s it for my first post from Australia – we plan to visit Sydney tomorrow and do a bit of sightseeing so I will post about that soon! Thank you again for all the kind gifts of money, my bedroom is coming together and so I will post some pics of that soon!

With Love from sunny Australia xxx

 

Let it Go – Simply be Thanksgiving.

This weekend I have been busy packing, organising and decluttering ready for my big move to Australia. Letting things go. Many of us have been doing this as we enter the new year, attempting to simplifying our lives, letting go of the excess, letting go of the past and moving forward. Which reminded me that I hadn’t posted my message from Simply Be Thanksgiving last November. So here it is:

Different types of luggage. Losing the excess luggage.

A massive part of making the move to Australia has been organising something that I thought would be relatively simple – my luggage. Shopping to find the right suitcase, not too big, not to small, not to heavy, practical and pretty, different enough so I can recognise it on the conveyor belt full of fast moving suitcases, strong enough to handle a two day journey.

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I was packed!

Then came the luggage allowance, 30 kg, sounds like a lot but I’ve got to fit my whole life for two years into that suitcase, and I haven’t even had christmas yet.

So I’ve entered a season of decluttering, a season of sorting, a season of letting go. Simplifying my whole life to fit into 30kg. I’ve learned a lot reading decluttering blogs, about the freedom that comes from letting go, living a simple life. Marie Kondo has a book called the life changing magic of tidying up – I haven’t read it but the message behind it seems simple, if the item doesn’t bring you joy, let it go. Another favourite is – if it doesn’t suit the life you want to be living now, thank it for the part its played and let it go. These place a lot of importance on possessions, but it can also be transferred to our feelings, thoughts and memories – if they don’t bring us joy why are we carrying them, if there not helping us be the women we want to be, thank them for the part they played in forming us but then let them go.

So my message is all about bags that we may be carrying, and how we can lighten our load a little.

First bag – a child’s backpack. This bag contains all those comments and phrases that someone told you during your childhood and teen years. The teacher that supported and believed in you, the jokes and songs shared with friends, the parents who encouraged and constantly believed in you. It also contains all those lies you believed, those hurts you’ve clung onto that pop up every now and again bring the pain back to the surface. Those jokes someone made about you, or maybe even those jokes you said about someone else and regretted but didn’t apologise. The memories of being laughed at, left out at playtime or picked last for the team.

But we don’t need to carry this backpack – These comments, both positive and negative, shaped us into the adults we are now. The kind words encouraged us to grow and the negative words strengthened us, even if we didn’t feel like it at the time. God never meant for you to hold on to it all – he held your hand through it, even if you didn’t know he was there, he guided you, he strengthened you, encouraged you to grow and learn – but now he wants you to keep going forward, let it go and keep walking. So its time to thank God for the experiences, thank him for holding our hand throughout them, and let go of bag number one.

Bag number two – the old, much loved, well used bag. That bag thats falling apart, has a few holes, the handles nearly falling off, but you love it, it served you well, so you keep holding on, not really using it, just moving it around every now and again to get to the bag you want to use. This bag is full of memories – that job you loved that used to define you, that day out you had with family you wish you could relive, that conversation with a friend you could have over and over. Memories of last conversations with people you’ve lost, missed conversations, family dinners and family arguments. Memories of losses, illnesses, hurts and pains. Memories of laughter, family, friends and love.

This bag was a part of good and bad memories, memories that helped form who you are now. Important memories, memories we don’t necessary want to forget, but we can’t carry them around with us every day, we can’t keep living in them, its time to pack them into a photo album, store them on a shelf, throw out that shabby, worn out handbag and free up our arm to concentrate on living today, free to make new memories. Holding on to it, is holding you back.

The past helped form who you are, but it doesn’t need to be who you are going to be tomorrow, it isn’t who you are, its just where you’ve been, thank God for the memories, for the opportunity to grow, but its time to set them down, free up your hands, and continue down a new route.

Make-up bag – overflowing with concealer, foundation and mascara. Contains all the tools we need to hide who we are. This bag represents a confused sense of identity and a low self esteem. A lot of us hide who we are, we apply layers of concealer so people don’t know how much we’re hurting, we wear a foundation of lies we believe, lies that say we’re ugly, unloved, unusable, and we carry a constant supply of waterproof mascara, to hide those tears we cry when we’re alone, tears of unworthiness and shame.

God gives us a new meaning of identity – we don’t have to search for our identity in lies, magazines, our past, our feelings. In Christ we are a new creation, so its time to throw out the make up bag and make ourselves up with some of these truths – you have authority, purpose, you belong, you are loved, called, empowered, you are valuable, forgiven, wonderfully made, you are free, you are beautiful, strong, victorious, blessed, you are chosen, you are enough, known, redeemed … the list goes on and on.

Next comes a sparkly purse, also know as out party bag. This bag represents our search for pleasure, our time spent seeking pleasure in the wrong things, such as alcohol, drugs, books, romantic movies, TV, shopping etc. Time spent seeking the good life, not the God life. Yes it may seem fun at the time but eventually it only leads to hurt and pain.

The worlds version of pleasure and joy is all temporary and short lasting, meaning we have to keep searching for more and more to top us up. But we don’t need to keep searching, if we spend time with our father, get to know him, we will experience true joy, and learn to celebrate and live in it. Joy from the father isn’t a joy that depends on our mood, its deeper than that.

John Pipers definition of joy is – ‘Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.’                            

And psalm 16:11 says – you will show me the path of life, in your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

So we need to stop searching in the wrong places, throw off our party bag and spend time in his presence and in his word, letting that reveal to us the beauty, love and joy we can find in the world as we live everyday, not dependant on mood, totally dependant on God, who’s stable and unchanging.

The Laptop bag, our work bag. This bag doesn’t symbolise the stress and worries we carry from work, although we do carry a lot of them. This bag symbolises us trying to plan our own lives, mark our own way, make our own path.

If we ask God he will show us the way, the best way, his way, he will guide us everyday. The hard part is accepting that Gods way might not be your way. We need to spend time simply being in his presence, seeking his voice, his way. We need to put down our work bag, quiet ourselves and seek his way, then ask him to show us how to walk it out everyday.

Our sixth bag is a gym bag. This bag contains our running shoes, symbolising our lack of patience, focus, stillness and quiet. It represents our busyness, running running everywhere but never getting anywhere, doing lots of things but never getting anything finished. Our children, friends or family test our patience and we snap at them, because they get in the way and we’re so busy being busy. We spend all our time focused on doing, doing, doing, not being. There’s no peace, no quiet, we find ourselves shouting all the time.

We need to take off the running shoes, drop the running bag and put on our slippers. In other words stop – Psalm 46:10 says ‘Be Still and know that I am God’. We need to take some time to quiet our lives to hear his voice.

Mother Teresa said – ‘We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.’

We need to stop running, stop completely, and spend time in his presence – to be still, to re-focus, re-prioritise, re-centre, and practice patience – this prepares us to live and love, and breathe.

Travellers Backpack. This bag is full of things we think we need for the journey. It’s full of time we spent getting ready, things we’ve gathered that we don’t really need, the extras. Things we saved just in case, skills we think we need to acquire before we are ready to do this, items we think we need to of collected before we go.

God will equip us with everything we need for the journey, we don’t need to stress about being ready before we go, we need to go and he’ll work with us in the journey. Leave the packing and preparing to him.

Looks like i’m free – but theres one last bag:

A concealed money belt. This represents that hidden sin we are living with- the lies, the unforgiveness, the jealousy. A little lie that grew out of control. A wish that you had something someone else had, which turned into feelings of hate for that person, simply because of jealousy.

Christ died to forgive us of our sin so we don’t have to carry them around with us, his blood purifies us of our sin, cleanses us, but we do have to deal with it. We need to confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and then change our behaviour. And thanks to Christ we don’t have to keep going over them, his blood wiped our slate clean, there completely forgot – so bye bye to that hidden bag!

Holding onto all this luggage, makes every day life more challenging. As we walk with our arms and backs laden down with worries, memories, thoughts and baggage, it slows us down and it holds us back. It also takes the use of our arms away, our hands – how can we live and walk effectively when we can’t use our hands properly. God has massive plans for your two hands – he wants your hands to be free to work and live today, to use to share his love, share his good news and to help build his kingdom.

But I know that as hard as it is to carry and manoeuvre through life with all these bags, theres safety and comfort to be found hiding behind our luggage. All our bags make us look busy and important, they make us feel like our life matters. But all these bags are burdens, they weigh us down and stop us from being able to fully live the journey. They distract us and delay us and stop us from being able to fully go, to go with all we’ve got.

When I was booking my flights all the plane tickets that were reasonably priced had a small catch, they didn’t include checked luggage. I class myself as someone who tries to live simply with minimal possessions, but I think living for two years with only hand luggage is pushing it.

However, the ticket to the life God has planned for us only allows for hand luggage – no checked luggage allowed. Luke 9:3, when Jesus sent his disciples out he told them ‘take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt’. God promises to supply our every need, he equips us and prepares us, he doesn’t want us to worry about packing for the journey, he wants us to leave our luggage, our baggage, at the foot of the cross, he wants us to trust him completely and GO.

So now we’ve dealt with our excess luggage our hands are free ready to go, ready to spend time in his presence, to find and fulfil our unique purpose, to stand confident in who we are and whose we are. And go out and shine Gods light in our community.

So girlies, although I did say God doesn’t want us to check any luggage, we are girls after all and we like to accessorise, so lets pack our hand luggage.

Most of us will carry handbags as an everyday extension of ourselves (which when typing this autocorrected to handguns, which I am absolutely not recommending we carry). We carry lip gloss, lipstick, make up, a mirror, numerous scraps of papers, tissues, books, scarves and gloves, keys, a diary, a kids toy – most of our handbags are kinda heavy, and kinda messy, some are even out of control.

So lets repack our hand luggage with some tools we should be packing –

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First step, a handbag – pick the right handbag, unique to you, not the one your friends got, she’s not going to carry your bag, you are, it needs to fit your purpose.

Lipstick – your words have so much power, words you say to someone can stick with them for years even if they don’t show there hurt at the time – this lipstick is a reminder to go out and be the light, to speak words that bring life to people, to speak positive words into peoples lives, a reminder to love, to go out and tell the good news of Jesus and tell people the good truths about themselves. You are the light of the world, so stick on your favourite lips, be brave and go shine!

Mirror – we don’t need to carry any negative comments or thoughts, we don’t need to compare ourselves to others – this mirror is not to look in and remember all those negative things you’ve been told – but to remind you that God gives you an identity in him – you are all beautiful women, daughters of a king, specially formed and created in his image, unique and gorgeous.

Tissues – these tissues have two purposes. First as a reminder that God is holding your hand through the hard times, and carrying you through the impossible times. He’s always with you, he knows all, cares about every little thing and loves overwhelmingly. He’s always holding some tissues. The second purpose is to comfort and support those people we are travelling with, sometimes we need to hold the tissues, bridge the gap.

Nail Kit – no matter how much time you spend cutting and shaping your nails, unexpectedly you get one caught in something and it breaks, so out comes the nail file – this nail file represents our lives with sin. The bible says in 1 John ‘If we claim to be without sin, we lie and the truth is not in us’. If your struggling with hidden sin welcome to being human, we all struggle, we are all imperfect, you are not alone. Take a deep breath, be still, listen, and ask God for wisdom to sort yourself out. Ask God what’s driving you to keep getting caught in these snags, allow him to address those dark places, work with him and watch your life be transformed one step at a time.

Wallet with a photo – a reminder to live a life full of love, a way to carry those memories but not to be consumed by the past, a prompt to pray for our family and friends, and to be thankful for everything, always.

Emergency number (church contact card) – we all need people in our lives that support us, but are able to hold us to account, people we know that love us and have our backs, and will tell us the truth. Something I am so thankful for is my church family, I know that if I was ever in need or stuck, someone in the church would come to my rescue and support me, and if I ever stepped wrong they’d help balance me back.

Diary with blank pages – blank spaces for God to utilise, if we fill our lives with work, plans, appointments, clubs etc we leave no time for God to alter our course – leave some blank pages and hand them over to God, give him your spare time and just see what he can do with it.

Slippers – yes you probably don’t need these in your handbag but they serve as a reminder to stop, and spend some time in his presence. Rest, refuel, reconnect, realign, reinvigorate – ready to go.

Pretty hair bow – first a reminder to take pleasure in the little things, but then also a reminder that when things seem to be out of control, like our hair, Gods given us everything we need to pull it back and tie it together, and yes he appreciates that we get a little joy from using a pretty little hair bow.

The Word of God – whether its on your phone or an actual bible. We need to live our life based on his word, his word is our weapon, its a source of strength and a way to focus. We need to be living life asking ourselves WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? – and the only way to know that is by looking in his word.

Don’t overstuff your handbag, even hand luggage has a weight limit – leave space to allow God to do some repacking, some rearranging, he may alter your course, but remember he always has the best plans. His plans for your life are bigger than your wildest dreams, but he will never let you go alone, he walks every day with you.

So now some questions we need to ask ourselves –

What do we have in our handbag? Do we need a good clear out? And what tools do we need to add?

And more importantly are there any bags your struggling to carry that you need to let go of today? Your in a safe place, surrounded by people who love you, set those bags down, free up your hands to love, live – get ready, be brave, board the plane and fly!