My Mid-Summer Day’s Winter

100_6161Australia has brought me to say things I never thought I’d say.

Winter in Australia has just enough of everything that it carries the best of every season.

  • It gets just cold enough in the nights to merit wearing cozy socks yoga pants to bed under heavy, warm blankets.
  • It gets just warm enough during the day to wear light layers and go for a comfortable walk to town.
  • There are days of perfect running weather – not so hot that you sweat like a horse, and not so cold that you wish you couldn’t feel your face.
  • There are days of perfect sit on the couch with a hot cuppa weather – cold enough for comfy-cozies, warm enough to enjoy wearing them. 100_6156
  • Winter sports are rugby and soccer (neither of which have any true need for snow).
  • If you get the hankering for a snow-man – you can drive a few hours, play for a bit, and leave the snow behind you.
  • Flowers are everywhere all the time – none of this mono-tone dreariness of snow-bound cities and plains. 100_6138

I went for a meander outside today. Walked down the street towards all the shops. I passed yard after yard full of grass and flowers and life. The sun was warm enough to coax me out of my jacket as I admired the loveliness all around me. I didn’t see even one sign of the stereotypical and symbolic death associated 100_6157winter. Everything around me breathed new life and fragrance.

Soaking in the silence of solitude and the beauty of small-town Australia, I decided something. It is high-time I gave up my life-long feud with the final life-cycle of the seasons. So here it goes: I like winter.

Dear America

I’ve been thinking of you while I’ve been away here in Australia. There are a few things I miss if I’m honest. I miss the fact that it’s in the 80’s right now, while I am sitting in sweaters and socks in a 58’F house. I miss my friends, my boyfriend, my immediate family, etc. I miss summer dance in the park in Chicago, and a few of the other comforts of “home” so to speak.

But let me tell you about what you’ve been missing out on. For one “Gold Class Cinemas”: a wondeful and beautiful new world where there are a maximum of 50 people in a theatre, the seats are plush recliners that lay you down in such a way that you can completely relax and yet not have to strain your neck to see the screen. O and you can order off a gourmet menu before the showing and they bring you your request on a tray during the movie…yeah, USA, we are missing out!

And what about Tim Tams?! (for you poor souls that just said, “Tim who?”, I’ll explain.) Tim Tams are the ultimate chocolate-lover’s dream cookie/biscuit/thing…Two approximately 3 inch-long chocolate crackers sandwiching a creamy chocolate filling, all overed in a layer of poured chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an Oreo fan myself, but Tim Tams have Oreo’s beat hands-down; no cheating, no name-calling, no questions asked.

Which brings me to number 3 – real ‘football’. No, not soccer (though they have that too), I mean rugby. I just watched the first game of the “State of Origin” series. The NRL has the NFL looking like a bunch of woossies (no offense, watch a game and maybe you’ll understand what I mean.) Maybe instead of the Super Bowl we should celebrate the final game of the Rugby World Cup (keep the funny commercials).

All that to say, I’m really enjoying my time here. =) I’m not saying Australia is better than you, but there may be a few things you could learn (and a few things that might come back with me in my suitcase).

Keep in touch!

Janelle

the beautiful things

It’s a beautiful thing to wake up after a solid 10-hour sleep, to step out into the kitchen and be greeted with a “Good morning” from your grandfather and enjoy a nice quite breakfast of Wheat-Bix and coffee before heading to a hot shower. It’s a beautiful thing when the winter weather is warm enough for a good walk into town while your grandfather tells you the names of the trees and the blooming flowers that line the streets and yards along the way. Yes, a beautiful thing it is.

It’s a beautiful thing to spend a meal listening to stories of God’s faithfulness to a man who learned the same by experience. Stories of life and near-death experiences. Stories of miracles and cars and fire and water and rain. Stories of love and hope and truth. It’s a beautiful thing to sit and listen to the clock ticking on the wall in the silence of prayer and reflection while your grandfather reads and then reflects outloud with a smile on his face “may you live to see your children’s children.”

It’s a beautiful thing to look at the room of a man in love. Every picture, every artifact, every nook and cranny has a story and a meaning. Her portrait is displayed front and center, the place of honor in his sanctuary – a tribute, a blessing, a comfort. 

It’s a beautiful thing. And there he sits. Can you see him? His pin-stripped bathrobe is cozied over his slacks and buttoned shirt. Concentration sits on his face, just below his wide-rimmed glasses. The cross-word puzzle is probably half-way done by now. He is quiet unless spoken to, a man of many thoughts, but fewer words. A man of prayer and wisdom and love. A man of God.

He doesn’t need to speak; it’s a beautiful thing just to be with him. To know a man who knows his LORD, is to know that LORD a little more. To be with a man who enjoy’s God’s presence, is to enjoy God’s presence with him. And that, my friend, is a beautiful thing.

Beautiful Scars

December 31, 1999 – I can’t say it was a day like any other day, because it was different.

the next day

I’m sure it was hot, though not unbearable, just as usual. I’m sure it was dry, though not parched, just as usual. And I was carefree and careless just as usual.

 

I was 7 years old, and the turn of the century is hard to forget. Late afternoon, the party hadn’t started yet, so I was outside with my sister playing with the dogs at our friends’ house. I bent over to pet the pretty Springer Spaniel on the head, a moment later I was screaming and hardly knew why. Nothing hurt, but I tasted blood. I ran to my Mum crying. My poor Mum hardly knew what to do with me, I’m sure. I remember sitting, inconsolable, on her lap in front of a mirror amazed at the bright red bite on my face. After cleaning me up a bit, Mum took me over to the dispensary next door. I got several stitches right below my right eye, where the dog’s teeth narrowly missed a few very vital nerves.

a few years later

The blood in my mouth was apparently from where the lower mandible of the canine had efficiently removed one of my baby teeth. We tried to find the tooth later, and couldn’t, but that didn’t matter. The tooth fairy must have found it anyway because she gave me extra change for that very special tooth.

Now think of this, a seven year old girl, barely even old enough to say she’s lived, now has a very prominent, red mark on her face. A mark that may fade in a few years, but will never go away. When a few years is a matter of a life time, how does she cope with this new, constant factor? My big brother stepped in and rescued what could have been a very ugly situation; he told me that he liked my scar. He told me that it was cute, a beauty mark. He said he loves how it turns red when I blush, and how unique it is. He said it was beautiful.

Fast forward a few years to high school. Situations, opportunities, stakes, and hormones are all on the rise, and heart break strikes hard. I feel betrayed, abandoned, misunderstood, helpless and lonely. I see mistakes and wonder how my heart will recover at all, let alone be lovely again. My brother steps in again tells me he is proud of who I am becoming. He says he sees the pain I’ve been through, how it is shaping me, and the mark that life has left on me. He said it was beautiful.

Beautiful Scars? And that got me to thinking. Scars tell stories – stories of suffering, stories of trial, stories of pain, stories of triumph, stories of survival. Every story leaves it’s impression, a bookmark in history. I am drawn to think about the most beautiful scars history has ever known.

Jesus Christ was crucified over two thousand years ago. When Jesus resurrected from the dead, His scars were raised with Him (John 20:24-29). Isn’t it interesting that Jesus God Himself did not choose to erase the memory of suffering? Instead Jesus’ scars stand as a physical testament to the greatest trial, greatest pain, and greatest triumph known to man! Jesus walked through death, and survived. Those priceless, timeless, beautiful scars speak forever the truth that Jesus shed His own blood to pay the just consequence of MY sins. Beautiful scars say that I am forgiven. I live today confident in the hope that I will one day see those heart breaking, earth shaking, breath taking scars.

Beautiful scars are the theme of my life. I can continue through the good times and the bad times, the easy times and the hard times, knowing that I am under the care of the God who specializes in making ugly things beautiful.