I realised as I was planning my next several posts that I actually missed a lot in December. So I thought I’d catch up with a little photo post with some fun things that happened throughout the busy, exciting month of December. Enjoy!
^The beautiful Sarah teaching Eleanor how to be a cool, skater girl! Eleanor really loves visiting Sarah at the warehouse, even when she breaks her lawn gnomes. (sorry Sez!)
^The aftermath of a grape popsicle at the pool. We loved going to Lambton Pool with the Beck family and cannot wait to go back again this summer!
^Eleanor’s climbing skills have seriously improved in the past month. She’s become quite the little monkey actually, and she scaled this ladder with no problem.
^A few weeks into December, we decided to do a cookie decorating day at Mums Morning Tea. For Ollie and Eleanor, it was mostly a “cookie eating” day, but Essie really got into decorating. She’s quite the little artist. There were icing and sparkles and beads everywhere, but it was all worth it in the end. Such fun seeing these little friends play together and enjoy a number of activities.
^Eleanor’s cookie at the beginning. 30 minutes later, it looked like a sugar cookie that was dyed purple with no sign of actual icing anymore. She scraped every little bit off.
^Playing around with my camera one night. I love blurry light photos, and Christmas is a favourite as well. So this picture just had to be thrown in the mix.
^Grammy sent Eleanor Olaf and Elsa Christmas ornaments, and she was always so excited to show people. She did fairly well with leaving ornaments on the tree. Mostly, she just pulled the bulbs off, would throw it and say “ball”. Right idea, kid. Right idea.
^Robbie has given Eleanor her love of bugs, and I am going to let them have fun with that while I steer clear. He put a “Christmas Bug” on her little stick, and she was pretty amused until it peed on her. Then she wasn’t such a fan. These bugs are so interesting. They’re only ever around for this short period of time each year, and they’re brightly coloured green and red, hence the name!
^Eleanor holding Daddy’s jalapeño loot. Don’t worry, she didn’t eat them or get any in her eyes.
^We went in town to the beach the day before Christmas Eve with the rest of the base for a BBQ. It was such a nice night, and Eleanor enjoyed showing off her sunnies.
^Eleanor got given this little picnic table from some friends, and for her, it’s more of a ladder, at least initially. I set up a little tea party with her new set from some other friends, and she promptly threw it all on the ground and climbed to the top. What did I tell you? Monkey! This table is now outside with her water table!
^My two favourites on Christmas morning, chowing down on some cinnamon rolls and coffee. It was a nice, slow start to the morning at home, and I loved every minute of it.
^This is Lucy, Eleanor’s new baby doll. We’ve tried a few names for her, but none seem to stick. She’s trying to say Lucy now, though, so that’s a start. Lucy goes most places with us, and Eleanor now sleeps with her every night. It’s pretty cute.
^Far out, I love these two so much. I am so grateful for them, and I loved this holiday season with them. I am so excited for a million more to come!
^And finally, this is Eleanor’s new water table from Aunty Deb and Uncle Givenski. She loves this thing so much, and I am glad she has a fun activity to do in our backyard now, even if she does get soaking wet every time she’s out there.
This was my first year hosting Thanksgiving, and I really enjoyed it. It was thoroughly exhausting but worth every bit of time and effort. It was actually a team effort with different ones bringing different items, and the collaborative effort of friends produced an amazing Thanksgiving meal. My friend Emily took on the turkey, and I was so grateful. I’m not sure if I was ready to host and do my first turkey all in one year. She did a great job with the turkey and also chicken. We had a feast of sides – green been casserole, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, salad, and rolls. There were probably a few other things I am forgetting, but my plate was full. It was all so delicious.
We set things up outside on our new farm table that our friends Fred and Jules so kindly gifted to us, and the weather was perfect. I was so grateful for the weather because it had been really hot earlier in the week. We filled our plates and got to eat. My friend sent this meme earlier that day, and it was almost true for Eleanor. She did eat ham, though, and she gave the mashed potatoes a try. Kids don’t know what they’re missing!
After many rounds of the main meal, we dug into allllll the pies. My friend Jess started serving them up, and when everyone was wanting a small sliver of each, she began calling it a “triple decker.” I’m pretty sure most people got a triple decker – pumpkin, cherry and pecan pies. So yum!
We all cleaned up, and the three girls took a bath together. It was so cute and energetic. Eleanor was very tired at that point, and after about 10 minutes of group bath time, she gave me a look of “please take me to bed!”
We finished with some chats and relaxing in our living room while the final two energetic girls (I’m looking at you Lil and Essie) wore themselves out. I am so thankful for all my friends here in Australia who can celebrate together a holiday that many of us are so familiar with. Out of the 11 adults, 8 are from the US, and it was so fun seeing each person’s own recipes and traditions brought together at one table. It makes it just a little easier being halfway around the world from all our own families.
I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving as well!
Yesterday I led worship for the first time in about 8 months! I hadn’t even officially said I was available to be on the roster yet, but I was just filling in. I knew there was a need, and I felt a prompting to at least pray about doing it. When I prayed, I felt strongly that it was right. Totally didn’t make sense to me. I have barely sang in that time. I am out of practice. I don’t know what songs are “in” right now. It just seemed overwhelming, yet I knew it was right and I had a peace. I felt like God was relaxed – just do the songs that draw me closer to Him and that will be what’s best for everyone.
All of that to say, I did the song “Fall Afresh”. This song is exactly where I am at…exactly what I need…exactly my prayer right now. I just rewrote it this morning in my journal, and I feel like I want to sit and have coffee with the person that wrote it. I want to ask them what their season was and how did the song come about.
Here are the lyrics. Maybe it will be encouraging for you today? (Video at the end)
Awaken my soul, come awake
To hunger, to seek, to thirst
Awaken first love, come awake
And do as You did at first
Spirit of the Living God come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul
Pour in me to overflow
Awaken my soul, come awake
To worship with all your strength
Spirit Come and fill this place
Let Your glory now invade
This past week, Robbie, Eleanor and I had the privilege of traveling up north to Townsville for an international YWAM gathering called YWAM Together. As far as I know, there haven’t been too many gatherings of this magnitude worldwide, so it felt particularly special to be a part of it.
I wasn’t planning to go originally. I have known about the event since earlier in the year, and when I saw the timing, it didn’t seem possible that I could go with a 2-month old. However, when it came down to it, we just prayed and asked God whether Eleanor and I should go with Robbie. As we prayed, we felt it was good for us to go as a family.
Preparing to travel for a week with a newborn is definitely a new experience. Fortunately we had taken a couple steps to helping that – one night in Sydney, then 4 nights in Sydney and now 7 nights in Townsville. I am glad we did those other trips first. We had the flying component to this trip, however, and I was admittedly nervous about it. Eleanor did wonderfully, though. It helps that she sleeps very well when being held and that’s what we had to do on the flight.
We got to Townsville on Sunday afternoon with 41 other YWAMers (read: 41 other YWAMers from our flight alone!). We got settled into our accommodation, which was near The Strand (the beach area of Townsville). The accommodation worked well for us – a little studio apartment with a kitchenette and bathroom. The only challenge was being a 25 minute walk from the conference. However, I decided it was my introduction back into exercise post-baby! We were walking 1.7km (just over a mile) each way, so 3.4km per day! That doesn’t count all the other walking we did!!!
The conference began Monday night. I was glad we got there on Sunday and we were able to settle in before going straight into it. All the night sessions were celebrations. We celebrated different cultures, what God was doing globally, Loren Cunningham for his 80th birthday (and the biggest birthday cake I’ve ever seen!), Papua New Guinea’s 40th year of independence and so much more. The night sessions were so full of life and exciting.
Then Tuesday morning, we began with the morning sessions, hearing from different ones in the mission. We started with worship, though, and that was really cool to worship with 1300 other YWAMers. I thought they did a particularly great job of choosing a wide range of songs to appeal to everyone. The afternoons were full of different expos and seminars. Robbie taught a couple and attended a whole lot more.
For me, being at a conference with a baby was a different experience. I was very much thinking in terms of her schedule – when did I need to feed her next, was she too hot, where’s a spot out of the way, etc. By the end of the week, I had found a great spot in my friends’ Anna and Kelly’s office where I could still hear what was happening but be a little separated to feed Eleanor. Because of that schedule, I feel there were a lot of sessions I missed out on or only got to hear bits and pieces of.
The week was so worth it, though. Going into it, I was really feeling the need for a fresh injection of vision as a missionary. I have found that the past couple months, while great, haven’t felt too “missions” minded in the way I am used to. I know that’s so normal because it shouldn’t feel the same – I am a mum in missions now. Things are different. I really felt I was to connect with some different mums while I was at the conference, and I was so glad I did. I pursued a few different ones, and I just asked them about their experience being in missions as a new mum. I learned so much from all those conversations, and I left with this sense of excitement for what is to come.
One point that stood out to me from one of those conversations was to remember that Robbie and I aren’t missionaries who happen to have a daughter, but rather, we are a family in missions! That’s one of YWAM’s foundational values, and I loved hearing that.
Overall, as tired as I felt coming home from such a big week of travel and all the walking and meeting new people, I feel so grateful to have gone and to have been a part of it. I am SO excited for the future as a mum in missions!!!
Here’s some photos from the past week…
Loren Cunningham (YWAM Founder) wanted everyone to commit to ending Bible Poverty for his 80th Birthday. In a nutshell, Bible Poverty is when someone doesn’t have the chance to have a Bible in their own language. There are teams working hard to change this – to make it available for the all and the every!
One of the “professional” photos (aka not an iPhone photo! haha) taken by the staff at YWAM Townsville of little Miss Eleanor sleeping away. I promise she doesn’t always sleep haha! #toomanyphotosofeleanorsleeping
I’ve been wanting to write this post for this past month now – to reflect on the journey of getting Permanent Residency. It’s a bit of a longer post for me, but I hope it’s encouraging with whatever season you’re in. If you’re a missionary and waiting for a visa or for anything really, be encouraged! :)
Robbie and I got married in 2012, and towards the end of that year, we had to apply for our first visa together. His visa was expiring, and although mine wasn’t, we decided to get onto the same visa with me as a dependent. We filled out all the paperwork, got the appropriate things notarised, sent of for police checks, etc., and we got the visa granted about a month later.
When we applied for that visa, though, we knew that the next visa was the big one – Permanent Residency. At that point, we’d had two of our long-term staff successfully receive their PR visa, so we weren’t too worried. However, Julianne recommended that we go ahead and start that process when we still have 10-12 months left on the Religious Workers visa, as a buffer.
2013 rolled around and about halfway through the year, we started thinking and planning a bit for how we were going to raise nearly $7000 for the visa and when we would put in the application. October came, and that left us with one year on our current visa. In November, we held a PR Fundraiser at our church, and we were so encouraged by the response from our local church and all our friends. We received over half of what we needed for the visa from that night alone.
In December, we began putting together the paperwork. Two others were applying around the same time as us, only their current visas were expiring, so they had to put in both parts. We put them all in, and we waited.
The other two (a single girl and a family of 6) heard back after about 2-3 months, so we were anticipating the same for us.
June rolled around, and it had been 6 months. Another staff had applied and gotten an answer all in that time, and we still hadn’t heard anything. According to the immigration website, they try to finish these visas in 6 months. Obviously they cannot guarantee that, but that is their “standard”. It had been 6 months, and we hadn’t heard anything.
So we started calling and waiting on hold for an hour at times to talk to someone. By the time we hit August, we were really confused. Throughout those 8 months, we had seen more finances come in for the visa, and although there were bigger issues nationally with this visa, we were still hopeful. The single girl had gotten hers granted back in March, even though there had been a couple denials as well. For some reason, it never crossed my mind to wonder if ours would get denied. I had never had a visa denied before, and in fact, I’d always had incredible favour with them. My first religious workers visa got granted in a week!
Julianne finally got through to someone in late August, but again, there was poor communication, no follow through, and still no answers. Every time she would talk to someone, we would get everyone to pray. We sent out communication to all our friends and family and told them to keep praying that hopefully we’d have an answer in the coming weeks. Still nothing.
Then one Monday Julianne was away and told us we could check her email to see if anything had arrived. That previous Friday, we’d had another communication come through indicating that we’d have an answer soon, and we had everyone praying. I logged into her email, and I saw the email. Well I saw the email and a split second later recognised in the subject line the word “refusal“.
We had an answer.
I didn’t cry or feel very emotional. I think I really felt nothing – more just acknowledged that hey, this is a set back and now we have less than a month to do this part over again on top of the more expensive second part. It was a very busy season with the Ship Tour happening, and I was thankful for the grace of God over me in that time. It was good to at least have an answer, even if it was the wrong one.
Robbie and I prayed after we got that email, and we didn’t get a sense of panic or fear or worry from God. We felt God lead us to the verse in Joshua 1:9, and we wrote it on a board in our house. This was what we were to believe. This is how we were to posture ourselves.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
We continued the journey, now 9 months into the applying stage but many more months into the whole “season”, and we reapplied for the first part and applied for the second part. Submitting both parts is very expensive and far more implicational.
We prayed and pressed submit.
I was hopeful for a quicker answer this time, but again, there was really no telling. Their standard was still 6 months, which wasn’t until the following April. So we continued to wait.
During those months of waiting, another of our staff who had previously been denied on the first part and resubmitted just as we had done, got her first part approved. It was so wonderfully encouraging. Then a couple months later, she got the whole thing. This increased our excitement and anticipation. This was such good news.
March came, and we got our first communication back. They were asking for more information, but what they were asking wasn’t crazy…it just needed a little work. We were encouraged and set about to answer their questions. We got people praying again. We had 28 days to submit everything.
After preparing everything with the Immigration Lawyer, we submitted our answers. We utilised all the time we had to make sure we were doing it right. Before submitting it, we all prayed and made sure it was the right answers – that what we were submitting was the best thing we could submit.
We submitted it, and we waited again.
In the meantime, we had to get a special temporary visa to travel to Robbie’s sister’s wedding. This would allow us to leave and return to the country while another visa was processing. I did that the Friday prior to the trip, but they never actually processed it.
The following Monday, Julianne called Robbie, and as they were talking, we all realised that we had been granted the first part of the visa.
Robbie was still on the phone, and for the first time throughout this entire season, my emotions overwhelmed me. I don’t think prior to that I was ever suppressing my emotions, but I feel God was really protecting me. Every time throughout the journey that I would even start to think “what if”, God would so quickly stop me and remind me of His promises. So although I am generally an emotional person, God really protected my heart.
This “approval”, as the visa said, it overwhelmed me, and I think it surprised me as well, which only added to that emotional moment. I found myself not just crying but borderline weeping. The first part – the part we had previously been refused and was generally harder to obtain – was done. It was approved.
After Robbie got off the phone, we prayed and thanked God and hugged. It was such a surreal moment.
A few hours later, we received the phone call from Jules that we had received it all. We were Permanent Residents. I did a little scream, and we all celebrated. We called friends, and we posted the picture below. It was incredible and wonderful and even though with the first call we had only received the first part, my emotions were much different with the second call. I was just ecstatic and ready to celebrate.
We travelled to the wedding that week, and for the first time we got to mark the different section of the paper for customs. Robbie was telling everyone – the ticket agent, the customs person, etc. It was so exciting, and yet it still felt so surreal.
Once we were back, our “official” Medicare cards came in the mail rather than our interim ones. We wrote out “Thank You” cards – the ones we said in the beginning we would write once we got it, thinking it would only be 6 months tops. We planned a party to celebrate with everyone, and we had that in our backyard.
It was so exciting, and yet it felt so surreal and weird to not have this “please pray for our PR visa” bag that we’d been carrying for over 16 months!
It’s a very strange feeling when the waiting is over. It’s strange when something you have been praying, hoping and believing for for so long is done. It’s all good. We don’t have to leave – ever.
When I think back to some of the other times I’ve waited for something, I see that it was always worth the wait. Each season was very different, and I was often praying or believing for something very different. The outcome, though, is worth waiting for because you learn so much in those seasons.
It’s similar to what I talked about in my Beautiful Process series, but this is a little more outside of our control. Often we want things so instantly, particularly in this microwave/digital generation. We don’t want to wait. The waiting is worth it, though. The journey is worth going through.
If someone asked me a couple years ago if I wanted to get my visa in 6 months, I think of course I would have said a resounding YES! However, looking back and observing the journey, I am thankful that our story wasn’t so cut and dry. It had challenge, and it took time. It is still so surreal, though, to know that I don’t ever have to apply for a visa in Australia again. It’s surreal to know that my baby will be a citizen in just a couple months. It’s surreal to know that Robbie and I could become citizens in a year or so.
So surreal but so wonderful! I am thankful :)
I was going to skip this post and just get to the next one that was on my list because let’s face it, I am behind again. Robbie and I head home tomorrow…tomorrow! How did that happen? I am so excited to get back to the States, see family, have a break. I am thrilled.
Before that, however, I want to reflect back on Base Retreat last month. It was the culmination of a very busy season, and I went into it thinking that I needed to just “get through it.” I was so tired going into Base Retreat this year. That being said, I was so thankful the way God quickly showed me that this wasn’t going to be tiring. It was going to be refreshing, and refreshing it was!
For the past three years, I have planned our annual Base Retreats, and I love doing it. We’ve gotten into a great system, and it’s a lot of fun. It is a lot of work, though. This year, with the ship, I knew I wouldn’t be able to be the main organiser, and I also knew I had a new staff on my team who is, well, brilliant! She’s so diligent, creative and reliable. I met with her before the ship got too busy and basically downloaded my entire brain on Base Retreat.
There was a moment on the Friday night of Base Retreat where we all gathered under the ::HUGE:: meeting tent, and there were announcements and all that jazz. I sat in my little camping chair, and I listened. It was amazing. I listened to the announcements, and I observed Lauren kicking butt! She did so great. I nearly cried. With that, God really showed me to take a deep breath and just soak it all in.
Another thing that was quite different this year was that we didn’t have one main speaker, but rather we had the privilege of hearing from a few people…Tom Hallas, David Stephenson, Sarah McCutcheon…basically a line-up of legends. It was so good!
I could probably write posts on each of the teachings or days or break it up somehow, but I am going to write the bullets, the nuggets, instead. So read on for all my little nuggets from Base Retreat this year! I’ve also included the base’s video, which my good friend Scott Berry put together. He did this huge campaign a few months back for all this top of the line camera gear so he could take his skills to the next level. You really see it in the video! (How beautiful is the picture of the cows?!?! Never thought I’d say that but it’s true!)
My Base Retreat Nuggets
- Sarah opened the Saturday morning session and said she felt like God was wanting to whisper to us. To hear a whisper, you have to lean in close – it’s intimate. That was such a great word to kick it all off. Intimacy with God!
“Nothing that you do out of a pure heart and an obedient faith will go to waste.” – Tom Hallas
- Tom Hallas on ‘Hope”
- “Faith and love are fed from the stream of hope.”
- “Faith comes from hearing. Faith comes from hope. How can you be sustained when you’ve lost hope? Hope is facing forward – it’s looking at the future and believing for better things.”
- “What is the seed bed of hope? GRATEFULNESS IS THE SEED BED OF HOPE”
- “Steps that lead to hopelessness – refusing to acknowledge God’s worthiness, not giving thanks, becoming vain…”
- “One of David’s worst moments was when his son rebelled. When you observe the challenges that some men of God went through in the Bible and then see what they wrote about after that, you don’t see bitterness. You see GRATEFULNESS.” – Tom Hallas
- David did a session on Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is a tool for understanding. Generally, when we are looking at something, we only stay at the lower level of Bloom’s. (See photo)
- Bloom’s Taxonomy
- Remembering – taking something at face value; defining; listing
- Understanding – being able to explain it another way; paraphrase; “put it in your own words” test
- Applying – putting it into practice; choosing
- Analyzing – dissecting; how do medical students understand the human body? by dissecting it. They understand all the parts/pieces. Being able to separate the pieces; creating distinctives
- Evaluating – taking a position; making a decision; forming an opinion
- Creating – taking an area of truth and reapplying it in a different context
“We will continue to struggle with the same thing until we change our view of God.” – Sarah McCutcheon
- “Obedience is about our love for God, not our approval.” – Sarah McCutcheon
- David Stephenson on Worldview and Holiness
- “Circumstance has nothing to do with whether or not something was a sin. Truth is truth.”
- “We get the freedom to choose, but we do not get the freedom of consequence.”
- “Dualism – posturing a Christian lifestyle but being totally different/sinning on the other hand.”
- “Fear of the Lord requires transparency with God and with others.”
- “Integrity – what we say we believe is what we do. Dualism – what we say we believe and what we do are two different things.”
Even as I look back at some of this, I feel my “nuggets”, which are really just recaps or highlights, can only scratch the surface. There’s something about being out in the middle of nowhere, among nature, not thinking about your phone or technology but just being present. It’s a road to depth and understanding, and even though I wouldn’t consider myself a “nature/camping girl” in the slightest, there is an appreciation I have for “getting away” and removing ourselves from the chaos and busyness of day-to-day life.
Base Retreat in 2009 was the first time I’d ever been truly camping, and I have to say, it’s one of my favourite things each year.