Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lamenting with you

While holding space for my own longing and grief this last week I’ve found myself also deeply aware of others lamenting in this season…
For the family of Duante Wright…
For the black community continually assaulted by racism and injustice in this country… 
For all those awaiting accountability for Derek Chauvin and the murder of George Floyd.. 
For the family of Adam Toledo…
For asian Americans and the injustice they’re enduring in this country…
For those fleeing their countries to the US borders hoping for a better life…
For friends who lost a baby last week… 
For friends remembering a sister lost to cancer…
For friends who lost a mother to cancer… 
For a friend whose daughter is right now dying of cancer… 
For couples struggling with infertility… 
For women who never got to fulfill their desires for a husband or children… 
For those waiting with longing to adopt… 
For birth mothers who make adoption plans for their beloved babies… 
For friends whose family members died by suicide… 
For friends whose marriages ended in divorce…
For beloved children whose families changed through divorce… 
For families separated by COVID…
Honestly the list goes on and on. Suffering is everywhere, the great equalizer. So many holding secret grief in their hearts; sadness, lament, unmet desires in their hearts. So I’m embracing our connectedness by holding space for all those suffering right now and am deeply grateful for a God who lovingly chooses solidarity with humanity’s anguish and pain.

The dark side of new life

A friend was telling me the other day that soon after an agave flowers, the plant dies. I noticed this one on a walk yesterday, and I was in awe of all the energy this plant must be giving to create the next generation. It reminded me of My Octopus Teacher, a Netflix doco following the life of an octopus through to her last days when she lays a nest full of eggs and gives into death (a tear-jerker for sure!). It got me wondering how many other animals and plants experience a self-sacrificing death in order to provide the beautiful gift of new life? 

It’s not lost one me that today is Good Friday, a day in the Christian church calendar where we remember the final moments of Jesus’s life and his crucifixion. A central example in the Christian faith of the way that death brings about new life, for after his death we will enter into Easter Sunday, when the church celebrates Jesus’ resurrection, and the new life which humanity and all of creation can and will experience as a result of his self-sacrificing death.

I can only imagine that Jesus’s death was an experience of profound suffering. Yet, just like we can’t have a next generation of agave plants, or octopuses without loss, we can’t have Christ’s resurrection without His death…and the waiting in the darkness and uncertainty of Easter Saturday in between. All that to say, willingly entering into suffering and death is ultimately a risk because we don’t know the final outcome. Does the plant know for sure that her seeds are going to produce healthy new seedlings? Does the octopus know for sure that her eggs are going to produce healthy, strong, baby octopuses? Did Jesus know for sure that his death was going to result in his resurrection and the redemption of the world he loved? With a story as familiar as this one is, it is easy to think that he surely knew the outcome, however considering the agony he felt in the Garden of Gethsemane sometimes I do find myself wondering what that “knowing” was like. Did he really know for sure or did he, to some extent, feel the risk? 

Whether you look at the agave, the octopus, or Christ, I sense that in the risk of surrendering to death there also exists a deep hope and expectation for new life. Death gives birth to new life. But lets be honest, we don’t always know what that new life will look like! Sure we can look at the agave plant and octopus and know that the new life to come will look similar to what came before, but more often than not in our own circumstances we have uncertainty as to what new life will look like as we enter into suffering and death. 

In my own life, being willing to surrender to the reality of infertility was a risk. Letting go of my dreams of being a mother, of having the family that I’d planned with my husband, and of imagining what our biological children would look like, was a deeply painful process. It was a death. There is no other way to describe it. There was no clear vision for what life on the other side would look like. It was an act of trust and hope in God alone, knowing that I had nothing within me to produce new life. And there was a lot of waiting!! Yet the new life which slowly grew, and continues to grow, is more beautiful than I could have ever expected. 

As you journey through this Good Friday, as you wait in the darkness of Easter Saturday, in what ways are you facing the reality of suffering and death in your life? It’s a risk to acknowledge these realities. It’s painful and vulnerable to face these realities. Maybe you’re not ready now, but when you are, consider the agave plant, the octopus, and most importantly Jesus who embraces death with you and for you so that you can experience new life. It is a risk, and the potential new life to come does not minimize the excruciating pain of suffering, but just know that you are not alone, and new life does await you on the other side. 

How my puppy taught me about Love

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[a shameless photo of my beloved Honey-bun]
Recently, late at night, I was sitting out in my courtyard watching a beautiful fire burning away in our fire pit, flames licking up through the rich eucalyptus wood, and warming my skin as I snuggled with my four month old Vizsla puppy, Honey. Without conscious thought, I leaned toward her and with all the tenderness that my heart was feeling, whispered into her ear: I love you Honey, I love you so much, you are so precious to me. 

As I sat there in that moment, my heart bursting with affection and delight toward this little pup lying against my chest, I had a moment of clarity where I realised that this is exactly how God feels toward me, and though I may not be aware of it, he is constantly leaning in and whispering into my ear: I love you Rose, I love you so much, you are so precious to me. More than that, I realised that God is simultaneously whispering His declaration of love into the ear of every single person that exists in this moment.

Reflecting on this I thought back over the first few weeks of Honey’s life as she entered into our home: when we introduced her to her crate she would howl for 20 minutes straight every time we put her in there (to the point that our neighbour complained), she wakes us up multiple times a night to go to the toilet, she has pooped in our lounge room not once, not twice, but three times, and because she is in her teething stage, Honey has tried to chew our hands, our clothes, our shoes, our furniture, our books and pretty much anything she can wrap her little mouth around. And despite all this my heart burns with love for this little creature. I see how affectionate she is, how timid she is, how much she desires to please us, how much she relies on us for her survival. Honey has won my heart completely, in fact if I am really honest, before we even picked her up from the breeder’s farm I already loved her, and there is not a bone in my body that regrets choosing her to be a part of my family.

So it is for God when He looks at us human beings, these creatures of His creation that He made out of the burning love in His heart. Even before he created us and brought us into existence He loved us with and overwhelming love and there is nothing that we can do to diminish His love for us or make Him turn away from us. Even when we reject Him, when we choose to live life without Him in mind, when we try to love Him but fail miserably, when we fall abysmally short of loving our fellow human beings… in our brokenness, in our shame, and in our messiness, God’s love for us never fails. He continues to lean in and whisper into YOUR ear: I love you, you are so precious to me. If you want proof of this love just look to Jesus Christ. His life and death are a testament to how much God loves and delights in you. You are everything to Him, and for as long as you live He will never stop leaning in and whispering his declaration of love over you. Will you listen and accept his love?

 

Bread. Wine. Love.

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A couple of months ago a beautiful friend from Australia surprised me by sending over a book for me to read. It was a book that her bookclub read, and she loved it so much that she wanted to share it with me. It sat on my shelf because I was swamped with writing papers for school, but once I met all my deadlines this December I was finally able to pick it up and pored over the beautiful stories of Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist.

The pages of this book are filled with Shauna’s memories and life experiences, all brought together by her love of food and passion to sharing beautiful meals with family and friends. With each chapter she weaves in a special dish that reminds her of that time in her life, a dish that leaves your mouth watering and your stomach grumbling with hunger because it just sounds so delicious. What makes this book so special is that at the end of the story Shauna shares the recipe with her readers, so we can experience the fabulous flavours of the food she has written about. Two nights ago I made her risotto. It was superb (if I do say so myself!)

Bread and Wine is beautiful, but at the end of each chapter I find myself wanting to crawl up into the foetal position and cry. Maybe it’s because of the time and situation of life in which I find myself right now, but her book leaves my heart heavy. Firstly, as she talks about the beautiful friendships she shares with people I feel an ache of loneliness and desire to sit around the big eight person dining room table that we used to own in Australia. I want to sit and share meals with all our closest family and friends whom we left behind when we moved to San Diego. While I have beautiful friendships here, I don’t have nearly as many, and whats more it takes hours and hours to develop those really deep and special relationships with people that can last the distance. Secondly, as Shauna talks about the pain of struggling to have a baby for years, of miscarriages, and then the hard and exhaustive pregnancy that she endured to bring her second son into the world, her stories open up deep longings and I am left desperately wanting to hold the baby we have desired to have for the past six years. The despair caused by infertility makes you do crazy things like go on diets to try and make your body more “fertile”, or have silly routines to get your menstrual cycle on the same pattern as the Luna calendar (apparently it helps), in addition to the thousands of dollars you’re spending on acupuncture, alternative medicine, and many different fertility treatments. These days I have learnt not to try to force our baby into existence by doing these things, but reading Niequist’s book opens old wounds.

Don’t get me wrong the book is beautiful, but Shauna writes with such openness and vulnerability that it leaves me terribly raw. It brings me face-to-face again with some of the pain that I have done so well to withdraw from… But I think being confronted with your pain is a good thing, and having it be brought out into the open to deal with is much healthier than pretending it doesn’t exist. When we learn to face our own hurts, discovering God’s presence in the midst of it all, we become much better prepared to meet others in their pain. I think this is one of the privileges of being human. It also reminds me of another book — The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. In a nutshell, Nouwen shows how we are living in a hurting world, and that wounded people who can work through their pain are equipped and ready to offer authentic empathy and compassion for other wounded and lonely people.

This is what I want to offer to those around me: a safe place to be vulnerable and hurt. I want to be a person who will not shy away from another’s pain, but is ready to offer hospitality to those who need to cry and talk and work through their own wounds. I pray that you can be one of these people too — that special friend who can enter into another’s pain and be with them in it. The world desperately needs more people like this, and when we can offer this then we are truly the best friends hurting people can have. The reality is that pain exists, it’s very real for all people at some stage or another, and the effects of it can run so deep, but if we cannot offer genuine love and life to those people who are in despair then what’s the point of life? Life is about more than success, having the best car, having this nicest house, or having a fabulous Instagram account. Life is about relationships. Relationships are the reason we were created, and developing strong relationships with God and people is our purpose here on earth. Relationships ask us to be there for each other in the good times, and more importantly the bad. Relationships require intentional vulnerability and hospitality towards others in their pain. But to do so requires us to face our own pain, and be ok with the wounds of our own lives.

So I am grateful that my dear friend introduced me to Shauna Niequist, and I am grateful that Shauna’s writing has opened me up to myself in a real way. Bread and Wine is a beautiful book, and one that I am going to cherish always… as well as one that I am going to enjoy splashing food and wine all over as I cook every recipe in the book!

Learning to rejoice in Small Beginnings

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“Don’t despise the small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…”  Zechariah 4:10

I stumbled upon this verse as I was reading the Bible during my time with God the other morning. I am slightly embarrassed to say that I’d never seen this before, but I was so warmed and encouraged by these compassionate words from God to His people.

I don’t know about you, but I find it very easy to get frustrated with where I am at. I can often feel like a failure, as though I should be further ahead in my efforts to bring glory to God. I get frustrated that I am not preaching week-in-week-out; I get frustrated that I am not writing blog posts on a more regular basis; most of all I get frustrated that I am still at school studying, rather than working in a church and impacting lives for Jesus.

But then I read these words of encouragement from God to His people; His words to me…

It makes me think about that first day that I walked into seminary to begin my theological study, and I realised that in that moment God rejoiced that the work had begun. I was taking the first, small step of being trained and tutored for the purpose of becoming a pastor.

It makes me think of the first time I got up to preach before my church community and how energised it made me feel. Yet another small beginning which God celebrated. I was totally untrained and green, but that was ok because God’s work of shaping me and refining my speaking ability had begun.

God declares here in Zechariah 4:10 that He rejoices in the small, slow beginnings. And we must remember that these small beginnings always lead to greater, faster momentum down the track.

As I reflect on this truth I recognise that small beginnings are in fact good. It is much, much better to start small and slow, than to go big and quick, only to then fizzle out because the Lord was not in the work.

Then I think of Jesus who came as a tiny baby. Before that, just an embryo in His mother’s womb. Small beginnings. It took thirty years before Jesus stepped into ministry. It was the small beginnings that trained him, and prepared him, and perfected him for the purpose of changing the world.

So next time I get frustrated with where I am at, wishing I was further along in life and making a bigger impact on the world around me I am going to pause to remember that God does not despise the small beginnings, but rejoices to see the work begin.

R, xo