Its second semester already …

I can’t believe how quick time has gone but i’m actually now in my second semester of Hillsong College, no longer a newbie – how CRAZY!

After three weeks of conference mode I enjoyed two of the most relaxing weeks off ever, and i’ve now finished my first week of second semester intensive classes. In this post i’m going to tell you about how Hillsong Conference gave me a fresh outlook on life, how I found my happy place, and how I’m entering second semester with a completely new mindset.

Hillsong conference – so the two weeks before conference college students have to complete two weeks of conference intensives, basically getting everything ready for conference. I spent two weeks in the kids office and absolutely loved it! My main job was organising the kids groups, so making sure the groups didn’t go over numbers, were equal sizes, moving kids to be with friends if requested and keeping the leaders up to date with their groups numbers. I really enjoyed it, I know it doesn’t sound like the most exciting job, but it was great to see how much goes into conference before conference and to then see what I had been a part of come together at conference.

At conference I was on the Treasure Chest team, which meant that I was a buddy to a child/children with additional needs, supporting them and allowing them to access the full Kidsong program. The child I was connected with only came to the day program, which meant I only had the opportunity to hang out with him for three days, but those days changed my life – this little four year old, who had more fighting against him than a four year old should, had the most inspiring, enthusiastic, “I can conquer the world’ attitude to life i’ve ever encountered. This little kid believed he could do anything, and because he believed he could he did, and he dragged me along with him – one moment that highlights this is me sitting at the top of the biggest inflatable slide I can imagine, exhausted after chasing him up, him sitting on my lap excitedly screaming to slide down and me begging for a minute to compose myself wondering how I can get out of this, but because of him I did it (ignoring the fact that there was actually no other way down), I did it, and it was fun, totally scary and I sent someone else up with him the second time, but it was fun! These amazing kids make you realise how pathetic your excuses are, and that there’s actually nothing holding you back – you can do this – we can do this! That thing you’d love to try but your not quite brave enough, GO DO IT! Lets embrace this life, conquer this life, love this life!

After conference and after sleeping Saturday away, and then volunteering in church on Sunday,  I escaped to my new favourite place in Australia, my new happy place, Patonga! This little fishing village, two streets with the sea on one side and a creek on the other, one road over a mountain in and out, or a ferry – quiet, peaceful, stunningly beautiful! I was blessed to be invited to stay with the parents of the beautiful woman I serve with on a Sunday evening, and her parents welcomed me into their family with open arms, for five days I was at home in their home. I squeezed so much into those five days: I went to see the beach where they film home and away (for my sister), I went to a Country Women’s Association meeting and learned all about Hemp (the little old ladies shared some interesting stories), I went to some beautiful coffee shops, watched fishermen play darts, went to so many beaches, sat on the beach and watched the sun rise – but most importantly I spent time with God and had space to breathe, re-charge and dream!

Shirley welcomed me into her life, and blessed me more than she probably realises. Shirley has a coaching business, and for five days the conversations I had, the places she showed me, and the people she introduced me too, fuelled a dream God has given me and made me realise that that dream could actually become a reality, and because of that I have entered second semester with a new attitude, I have a purpose and I’m using this time more effectively as I work towards making that dream a reality (more details on that to come soon, but i’m so excited).

The second week of holidays was spent with my housemates and my college friends, I went to more beaches, more coffee shops, gardens, shops – It was a lovely week of just catching up with people and getting ready for second semester.

And I can’t believe that the first week of second semester is already over. This semester we have all new subjects and all new lecturers. This semesters subjects are: Christian Doctrine, Church History, Intro to Pastoral Leadership, New Testament Introduction, Personal Evangelism, Spirit-Filled Living, Teamwork and World Religions. I really feel like some of these subjects and the assignments are going to challenge me (in a good way) and strengthen me.

This week we’ve had Teamwork and Intro to Pastoral Leadership – both classes were really interesting and inspiring. The main thing I’ve taken away from this week of classes is how much of what we do, and what I’m being taught, could simply be said as ‘love people’ – in team work it was all about loving and encouraging your team/team members and Pastoral Leadership is in basic form ‘loving people’. I feel like sometimes we make things seems harder than they are and more complicated with formulas, steps and extra words – when really I feel we are simply called to Love God and Love people!

So I’m entering this semester with a new purpose and a lot of love. Although the decision has not in any way been made final yet (and I am still praying and open to staying), I really feel like this is going to be my last semester at Hillsong College – I love it here, the people, the classes and the opportunities we are given, are changing my life, I am changing and growing every day I feel – but God has given me a dream, and I enter this semester with renewed excitement, as I am given time to unpack and work towards my dream, and learn and grow into the person ready to fulfil this dream. Leaving my home in Neath has made me realise (and believe me I never thought I would say this, and still kind of don’t want to) that Neath and Wales are my home (although I am still holding on to the fact that I am english, although in college we’re taught to say Christian first). Definitely not where I wanted, or expected, to make home (a beach house in Patonga would be much more exciting) but for a reason I believe I am finally starting to see, God has placed me in Neath for a purpose……

Five months

I have been in Australia FIVE months today, I can’t believe it! I am sorry I haven’t been posting as regularly as I planned, honestly I don’t know where the time has gone. Last week all my assignments were completed for this semester, I have one more week of classes, then we have three weeks of conference season (two weeks of prep and then one week at Hillsong Conference) and then first semester is finished. And as today is a public holiday for the Queens Birthday, and I am recovering from a horrible cold (sympathy needed here), I am committing to posting something today.

So much has happened and I want to tell you all so much but putting how i’m feeling into words has proved challenging, I’ve started writing at least 6 posts over the last two months and none of them sounded right. I easily write an introduction, a quick update of where I’m at and then … I get stuck. So ….

[Sorry it happened again, cup of tea break – side note: did you know it gets really cold in Australia and it rains, I mean heavy downpours of rain (more sympathy needed here) 🙂 sorry now focus]

Here goes … so in all honesty over the last two months I have been questioning whether or not I was getting much out of college, whether I actually needed to stay for the second semester of first year, never mind second year – I know crazy right – I mean this is HILLSONG AUSTRALIA – I couldn’t have dreamed of being in a better place to put aside time to grow in my relationship with God, learn more about the bible, and unravel some of the calling he’s placed on my life – It truly is a fantastic church, college and community and i’m loving it and feel so blessed to get to spend a season here ….

But I didn’t feel as settled, as at home, as some of my classmates seemed to be feeling, and I couldn’t see as clearly what purpose God had for bringing me here, whereas I could easily see why others had been bought here. However I think I let the size of the church overwhelm me a little, I felt like a small fish in a big pond, no make that a tiny fish in the ocean – a tiny fish who was trying to fight the waves to move away from the shore and grow into a bigger fish, but I felt like every time I made progress a wave came and carried me back again.

But then I found my school of fish – my housemates, my connect group sisters and my core tutorial – they’ve helped me re-focus, they’ve helped me remind me what I CAN do and encouraged me to step out and be brave, they’ve hugged me, laughed with me and kept me afloat. They are some of the most amazing, beautiful, encouraging, strong, inspiring people I could wish to be on this journey with. So it may have taken me nearly half of my first year (and possibly half of my time here) to settle and get swimming in the right direction, but I honestly feel like I am on track now, and the swim is invigorating.

[OK end of fish metaphor – swam a little bit off course there]

So this is where it gets challenging, this post was supposed to cover everything that has happened to me in the last three months but its actually taken me all day (with multiple distractions) to write this much, and as I start this post by saying I’ve been in Australia five months TODAY, I can’t really put off posting it until tomorrow, but I want to tell you all everything, its just so hard, I wish I could FaceTime all of you and chat for an hour, hear all about whats happening with you ….

So a really super speedy account of the last five months – Hillsong church is massive and amazing, college and classes have been incredible, I love the Old Testament, I passed my public speaking class, have seen Sydney, experienced Vivid, climbed the giant stairway in the blue mountains (all 911 steps), stood in the ocean, seen a killer spider, met loads of amazing people from all over the world, started to dream God sized dreams, discovered so much more about myself …..

Theres just so much, obviously this post isn’t going to cover it. So I’m going to post more, I promise. I want to sit down with a cup of tea and share my heart with you regularly, theres just so much I want to share with you, so i’m adding it to my schedule (after my personal leadership development plan I LOVE my calendar app, and if its in there I have to do it, so you will be hearing from me). Feel free to post any questions on here or on Facebook, would love to include what you actually want to know in my blog posts. Love you and miss you all, speak soon xxx

 

College – classes, serving, chapel and colour.

So next week is the second week of intensives, which college counts as being half way through the semester, which just seems impossible because I feel like I’m only just getting started. This post is going to contain some of my highlights, some info on classes and where I’m serving.

Classes – The teaching here is really interesting and thought provoking, this semester I am doing Old Testament Introduction, Mission and Culture, Public Speaking and Personal Leadership. For each class we have 1 and a half to 2 hours of lectures, these are incredible, I’m on my third notebook. Then for each class we have a tutorial with our core group, this is where we get a chance to go a little deeper, ask any questions and just see what other people pulled from the lecture. My core tutorial is the ‘oldest’ group of students, which is really nice as we are all focused on our studies and together we have so much life experience – there a fantastic group of people, who have all trust blessed my time at college so far.

Chapel – As students we have First Year Chapel on a Monday, and all College Chapel on Tuesday and Wednesday. Chapel always has amazing worship from our students and messages from college staff and leaders. Every chapel we have a three minute slot called out of the boat, where a college student has to give a message in three minutes, no more no less, it gets pretty crazy!

Colour Conference – for those of you know don’t know Colour Conference in Bobbie Houston’s Women’s conference and its amazing. She holds the first two conferences in Sydney and then travels around the rest of the world, this weekend she’s in the US. For conference one I was on Pastoral Care for Kids, so my role was to meet with any parents with children with additional needs and also to be available if a situation requiring a little more care occurred. It was a lovely week, I got to meet loads of students from the City campus and also got to talk to some of the staff at the brand new Sydney ICC theatre. For conference two the first year girls are actually able to attend the conference as delegates, so we got to sit into all the sessions. This years speakers at Sydney were Lisa Harper and Sy Rogers, the three days were beautiful – the worship was incredible, the speakers were inspiring and doing it as a core tutorial really bonded us as women!

Serving and Practicum – I basically serve in the Kids ministry in all areas 🙂 On a Sunday I sit in the 8am service, which I love as it is smaller and more intimate. Then I serve in Treasure Chest in the 11:15. Treasure Chest is the children program for children with additional needs, such as autism. They have there own set of rooms on there own floor with there own entrance, all rooms were purpose built in the new Epicentre, and includes a Sensory room, Soft play room and worship room – its incredible for the children. Then I serve in the 5pm on Cubby House, the 1-3s. I also serve in Cubby house every other week for Sisterhood. My practicum (this is my chosen pathway and what I get assessed on) is on a Wednesday afternoon, and I serve in the kids offices, its great to see another side of how the kids ministry is run, and its massive. This week one of my jobs was sending out postcards to all the children that attended for the first time last Sunday.

Assignments – so I’ve been busy doing lots of assignments, thankfully I’m ahead of schedule. Have managed to use the rainy days to get a big chunk of my assignments done. I’m now left with some assignments that require more thought and prayer, such as writing a mission statement for my life, figuring out my life’s core values and setting goals for my future, with steps to achieve them whilst I’m here. Its really good because it forces you to stop and think about some of the things that you sometimes forget about in the busyness of life.

My biggest achievement at college so far happened last Tuesday where I had my first public speaking assessment, a five minute community presentation. It went really well and I had some lovely feedback.

So thats just a little bit about life at Hillsong College. One of my goals is more blogging – so I’m holding myself accountable to you all, feel free to prompt me and also to message me with any questions you have about my life in Australia. Love and miss you all 🙂

My Nanny Daisy

So just over two weeks ago I lost one of the greatest women I had the honour to know, my Nanny Daisy. Honestly I was heartbroken, I was lost. After never not having my nan close by she left a massive gap, a massive loss. For two weeks though I held my tears in, I felt separated by the oceans and so separated myself from the grief, from the reality. But then reality struck, I crumbled, I couldn’t breathe, I cried two weeks of tears in two hours, I felt desperate, I felt alone, I felt broken.

For 24 hours I kind of checked out to cope, I walked through my day but didn’t really pay attention to it, I chatted with people but didn’t take it in, I sat a lot. And then I slept …

I woke up and it was like I suddenly remembered God was there, I wasn’t alone, yes I was sad, but I had a choice to make. I could sit and wallow, or I could give my grief to God and choose to celebrate – to celebrate my nan’s life, to celebrate the life i’ve been given and to embrace every day. I had 28 wonderful years with my Nan, a true gift from God, so i’m choosing to thank God for those memories, to embrace them, to find the joy in them, but not get caught up in them, not let the grief take over my life because thats not what my nan would want and its not why God has bought me here.

So this post is just to share some of my memories, to share some of the joy and love my nanny daisy bought into my life, to celebrate, to laugh, to engage with the past but not get stuck there. Its kind of a public therapy session, maybe some of you would like to post your memories in the comments (on here or Facebook), and we can find joy together…

 

My nanny Daisy:

Daisy the artist – Nan was a very creative person (I like to think I get some of my creativity from her, definitely didn’t get it from my mum). She loved to write and draw. We often found drawings or doodles, and lines of poetry in her paperwork. When me and Jenny were little we spent countless days cutting and sticking from catalogues, writing stories and making paintings into books. She taught me to knit and she didn’t go far without her crochet bag, she could crochet a blanket without paying attention, and her artistic individuality came out in her sometimes quirky choice of coloured stripes. She also showed her creative side in her constant need to rearrange her furniture, quite often we would pop around and catch her with the sofa in the middle of the room, the table blocking the doorway and there she would be trying to push an armchair by herself (in her eighties).

Daisy the dog lover – My nan introduced me to my love of dogs. My first dog wasn’t actually my dog, she was my nan’s – Kirsty. When nan moved into her flat in Wimborne she wasn’t allowed dogs so Kirsty moved in with us, and I loved her! Then when we moved to Wales and had our dogs they became nan’s as well. Scampa used to run outside and wait for nan to play football with him, and she loved telling everyone how great he was at it, and Oscar always jumped up on to the sofa, knocking nan backwards and gave her kisses all over when she came for Sunday dinner, and he doesn’t do that to just anyone.

Daisy the gymnast – we all have memories of nan showing us that even at 80 years of age she could still put her legs behind her head and doing exercises whilst lying on the bed with our legs in the air. I’ll always remember how after nan’s heart attack she came home with a booklet of recommended exercises and a giant elastic exercise band – and no matter how many times we tried to tell nan that they were mostly exercises for people that could do those exercises prior to their heart attack, nan was convinced she needed to be able to do them all, and try she did.

Daisy the walker – nan loved a  good walk (and a good car ride). All my life I’ve been on walks with my nan, walks through the New Forest, Upton Country Park, Moors Valley, Scotland, Sandbanks, Mumbles, Cadoxton, the Gnoll and Aberavon to name a few. When nan couldn’t physically do the walk anymore we got a wheelchair and took turns pushing her, although nan was hesitant to use the wheelchair at first she soon sat back and enjoyed the ride as she got to go to all the places she loved, and even some new places. Last summer we went to Burry Port for the first time and after a lovely walk had fish and chips, one of nan’s favourites, then after another walk enjoyed watching nan eat an ice-cream, another of her favourites. Nan loved Aberavon, and would go at every possibility – she loved having a little walk and then a coffee, or an ice-cream. Another great memory from last summer was taking nan down to Aberavon, which turned out to be the hottest day we had so it was packed, after fish and chips we pushed nan down the ramp and then sat her in her wheelchair on the edge of the sand – what I love about that day is that she got to watch Scarlett have her first summer beach day, and she loved every minute, especially the ice-cream on the way back to the car.

Daisy the traveller – nanny Daisy loved to learn about and see the world. In her life she visited Hong Kong, Dubai, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Holland, France and Germany. Growing up we had lots of holidays with nan in the trailer tent and the caravan, including joining us on our caravan holiday to Scotland. I take peace knowing that although I am separated from my family at this time, nan was so proud and excited that I was going out and seeing the world – especially Australia. After travelling here in her late 70s she came home full of life and love for Australia, so when I told her of my dreams/plans to come to Hillsong College she said GO! and here I am – maybe I get some of my dreams to see the world from her as well. A holiday I will always treasure was in Summer 2014 when me, mum and nan spent a week in Dorset, visiting favourite places, (Poole, Sandbanks, Bournemouth, Wimborne and the New Forest) sharing memories, recreating memories and creating new ones.

Daisy the giver of gifts – nan was so generous, you only had to say you liked something and she’d offered it to you. A favourite on a Sunday was seeing what she would pull out of her handbag for dessert. When she was still getting about she would always pop to the corner shop and pick up a packet of cakes or biscuits, however when she got less mobile she would just bring something from her cupboard, a tin of rice pudding, a tin of custard, a tin of peaches, a tin of sweetcorn, then during the next week mum (who had bought the tin in the first place) would have to sneak it back into her cupboard.

Daisy the mum/nan – Nanny Daisy was all about family. If you sat down for a chat she would talk about family – who she’d heard from, news from a postcard or sharing a memory. Nanny Daisy was blessed with a large family, and we were all blessed by being a part of it. Her flat was full of the latest photos of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, she was so proud of all of us. She loved and cared for us all so much, she would have given us all the moon if she could. She was truly the best nan you could have wished for – she taught me so much, believed in me always and encouraged me constantly.

I am so blessed to have so many happy memories of days spent with nan that I will treasure and stories that I will share with generations to come. So I guess that ends my therapy session – feel free to join in the sharing of joy, the celebration of life and leave your messages in the comments below or on Facebook. Thank-you for taking the time to read, I hope it bought to mind some of your own memories of nanny Daisy. Love you all xxx

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!

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.

img_8275However I found it and I was ready …

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!