Robbie and I decided to take the week after Christmas off since we still had some leftover holiday time last year, and one of the items on our list for that week was to take Eleanor to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney. Through some friends, we were able to use a couple of guest passes, and we began our drive down around 7:15 that morning. When we arrived at the Zoo, I realised why people rave about it so much. Of course there are amazing animal exhibits to wander through, but they are all set against the beautiful Sydney skyline. The views were breathtaking. You start at the top of the hill, and you make your way through the exhibits, weaving down and around until you reach the water. Then you can take a ferry across or the sky lift back to the top.
Overall, it was such a great experience, and I definitely want to take Eleanor back one day. However, it was super hot, especially when Eleanor wanted us to hold her all day so she could see things. It was also over the summer school holidays and right after Christmas, so it was P-A-C-K-E-D! It was really hard navigating through exhibits, especially with a pram and a toddler. I think if I were to go back, I would go in August or September when the weather is beautiful and sunny but not hot. I would also avoid weekends or school holidays. All that being said, I am so grateful we were able to go and experience another beautiful part of this country.
Here are some photos from our day!
^The first animal Eleanor got excited about was a huge Komodo dragon. “Mummy look!!!”
^The giraffes were definitely my favourite animal to see.
^This is a small example of the beautiful views the whole way through!
^This guy, just balancing on a branch like it’s no big deal.
^My friend recommending bringing our own food for a picnic, and I am so glad we did. It eliminated a lot of stress from the crowds at all the food venues, and it was also a beautiful part of our day. They have great little spots to enjoy a picnic, and of course, we had the best view ever!
^There was a kiddie pool area near the seals, and Eleanor walked right in and sat down. I was SO glad I had extra clothes in our diaper bag. She loved it, though, and it was a welcome relief from the heat.
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…
Eleanor sleeping on the way to Sydney, and then laughing with Dad in the airport while we were waiting for our flight.
Eleanor sleeping on the flight, and then amazed by the fan in our room. This may be one of my favourite photos!
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!
Loren’s 80th Birthday party! Such a fun night!!!
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
Back at the end of July, Robbie and I made plans for a special trip to Sydney to visit the infamous Sydney Opera House. We’ve talked about going to the Opera House many times since we started dating and all the way up until now, but it’s never seemed to be the right time or we didn’t have the money for it or whatever the circumstance was. Going to the Opera House is no small thing!
At the end of July, through some different circumstances and opportunities, we were finally able to make it happen, and we decided it could be a bit of a celebratory birthday trip for me since my birthday was coming up. We looked into our options and found that The King and I was coming to Sydney at the beginning of September…and to top it off, it was coming to the Opera House! We were so excited, and we booked the tickets for the first available night.
We were also blessed to be able to stay overnight in Sydney through another incredible provision, and for about 6 weeks, I was anticipating this trip. Last weekend was the trip, and we had such an incredible time.
We drove to Sydney on Sunday mid-morning and arrived at our hotel in the early afternoon. We were in the Rocks District, which is right near the Sydney Habour Bridge. The Rocks District is beautiful and full of old buildings and charm. We walked around for some good coffee before heading back to get ready for the show. We got all dazzled up (Hello suit! Hello heals!), and we went to dinner at Pancakes on the Rocks. Pancakes on the Rocks is NOT fancy haha, but it is iconic in that area and Robbie had never been. I was so impressed with the speed of getting in and out given how crowded the place was.
We walked around the Rocks District through Circular Quay and over to the Opera House, and even though the forecast was calling for rain, the sky was good to us and we made it without getting wet! We arrived, and it was so surreal. I have lived in Australia for 5 years, and I’ve only stepped foot on the steps of the Opera House. I knew it was on my list to one day go, and I am so thrilled that I was finally getting the opportunity.
Our tickets were pretty far back (second to last row), but they were in the middle. I didn’t feel like we missed out at all – great visibility of the stage and incredible sound made for a wonderful show. I loved the singing, the acting, the colour, the design and the dancing. Robbie and I both agreed that the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” featurette in the second act was particularly enjoyable.
The walk home was another highlight for me, recapping the night and the opportunity to go to the Opera House (and again, it didn’t rain!). On Monday, we woke up and went to Starbucks, as you do. Starbucks isn’t generally my favourite, but it was near the train station and an easy, quick breakfast.
Then we headed back to the suburbs to get our car and head to IKEA. Can I just say, I LOVE IKEA! I love how everything is laid out and the whole experience of following the little areas through examples and ideas and colour and design. It’s so fun. Robbie may not love it quite as much as I do, but we did make impressive time – getting in and out in an hour and a half!
Overall, it was such an enjoyable weekend. I feel so blessed that Robbie and I enjoy a lot of the same activities, like seeing musicals :) It was also nice to have a bit of a break in the midst of this very busy season.
What’s an iconic place that you have always wanted to visit?