I may have only told you in recent weeks or perhaps you’ve known for a few months, but I’ve known I’d be ‘leaving’ for about 9 months.  My visa was approved waaayy faster than I ever anticipated and since then I’ve been making intentional decisions that enabled me to leave. I signed a short lease, I chose to stick out the time in a challenging work environment, I stopped seeking any significant relationships and I stopped buying stuff (okay, perhaps that last one happened a little later than it should have). I was leaving. But most of those were just decisions for convenience sake. Leaving has been about more than that and more than about just me. Yes, I am going off on an adventure. But life is about relationships and my leaving for a grandiose adventure means leaving people behind – for better or for worse. I am surrounded by people who love me, who challenge me, who inspire me and who laugh with me. And I (hopefully) reciprocate that for those around me. And so, 9 months ago I decided I was going to try and leave well. I had no idea what that would look like, but for more than 8 months now I’ve been trying. Pretty early on it got exhausting keeping this exciting (and terrifying) impending adventure to myself. Life is supposed to be shared. So leaving well meant telling people early, particularly those I see most often: my close friends, the girls at work, and then later my managers, my pastor and then later my church family.  I gave them months of notice. To me it felt like ages, but for others the 3 (and even up to 6) months’ notice was not enough. I hate to think my leaving impacts others, it suggests I have a self-inflated sense of self. Perhaps so, but I think back to when a friend left Brisbane 12 months ago and the sense of loneliness I had following. Change is hard and loss hurts. Knowing it’s coming and preparing for it can only ease that challenge. (Or perhaps not, they’re like “Mel, get going already!” Perhaps I should have gone for the bandaid approach. Rip it off, mic drop and leave. Alas. Sorry if that was you!) I think leaving well for me has been about closure. Reflecting on this Brisbane chapter of my life, my mid-20s and the learnings I had and then moving forward again. A couple of weeks ago I wandered along a Sunshine Coast beach just reflecting and being thankful for blessings + learnings from it. I’ve spent time scrolling through Instagram, reminscing on Queensland adventures I’ve had. I know I’m the strongest physically I’ve been (despite 12 months of on and off again injuries). I’m also thankful I waited until I was mentally strong and not running away as I would had been 9 months ago. It’s also been saying goodbye to and acknowledging the significance of the people who I’ve done even just a short part of these 3 years with. Although I love a party, I have filled the past 6 weeks individually catching up with people + small groups. I’ve had meals with old managers and laughed with dear friends. I stopped by my old running group (despite the fact I had to break up with them 3 months ago because a girl who can’t run ain’t much good). I thanked the gym trainers who have taught the classes I’ve attended. I met with work suppliers and gave notice to others. Leaving well was about pouring into the relationships that I made in this chapter. Perhaps a favourite component of leaving well has involved stopping by old haunts, favourite cafes and finally getting to the places still left on the list. From Moreton Bay bug dumplings, to gingerbread pancakes, sweet potato waffles, a whole lotta tacos and plenty of vino + my tequila vice, leaving made its mark…for which I’m thankful I’ve had a trainer to motivate me to counter all the excess (but not at all regreted) sugar + fat + booze. I wrote a mental bucket list of the things I wanted to do before I left. This largely involved physical challenges – climbing mountains, exploring Brisbane on my bike, and in Saturday’s case, riding up Brisbane’s Mount Coot-tha. Sadly I didn’t make it out to Girraween NP, but perhaps it’s a reason to come back. I’m most thankful for the time a few key people made to help me leave well. To pray with me and for me, to check in on how I was doing, to challenge me to think about what the Canada chapter of my life could look like…and to offer North American-based family members and friends to call in case of emergency, even if it’s a jail bail out. Sunday was my last week at church where I have spent 2 years trying to help people connect with our community. And I was also moved by some of the newer people at church, many of whom I hardly know well, stopping by and saying goodbye. I was sad that I would have likely overlooked them in my leaving well process. I hope in taking time to try and leave well, I have provided an opportunity for a sense of closure. I don’t know if I’ll return. Many of those I’ve mentioned above have begged me to return or reminded me how quickly I acclimated to Brisbane’s very temperate conditions. It’s true. I have loved Brisbane. It has been very good for me. I have loved the outdoor lifestyle and how I settled into an even more active lifestyle I never expected for myself. I mean, padded Lycra pants and a road bike? A gym membership? I hardly recognise myself. I have also loved living life in a 3 kilometre radius and complaining about driving longer than 20 minutes into the suburbs. After years of commuting >2 hours a day, jumping in an Uber home from a night out, or the quick 8 minute bike ride to work, or a slow 40min meander home were so welcome. I have loved my river views apartment with a non-sarcastic pretty price tag. I might return. I might not. I don’t know what the future holds, but I could control how I left and how I move forward. I hope I’ve done it well. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Life is full of seasons. You enjoy many of the same for a long while and then you hit your twenties and it starts to change. People get married. People buy houses. People have kids. Me? I chose to run move away. My friends? My Instagram feed is evidence enough: weddings + babies…or those delaying either/or = travel. I had a bit of a crew through my late-teens and early 20s. I was innocent, overconfident and opinionated. They were good to me (read:patient). But most were Christians and so they married young…and then bought houses. We had a place to hang out. Win! But two years ago, just before I was drawn in to the (sun)light, the first couple had an adorable baby. And in the two years I’ve been gone, the procreation has continued. Last week I spent a few days with 6 married couples and 4 babies under 2 (+ few extras). I abandoned plans to travel to Scandinavia ($15k on travel in 12 months is probably a bit too much) and instead took annual leave to spend time with 15 adults + 4 children + 1 teenager under 1 roof. And it wasn’t that chaotic. Although some things have changed. Because holidays (including those involving 2000km) = thinking time, and my friends love to feature in my little corner of the inter webs… here’s my not so comprehensive list of what happens when your friends have kids. New titles. Everyone becomes an Aunty or Uncle. You ignore your friends and greet their miniature humans first. Detailed bowel movement discussions. Birth stories. “Is that yours or mine?” is not referring to a mobile phone but baby monitor. You see the traits/personalities of your friends in minature form Movies are turned off half way. Surprisingly even babies can discern Jurassic Park isn’t as rosy the Peppa Pig farmyard. Noise travels. Noise matters. Driveways are filled with soccer mum mini SUVs instead of mum’s old, hand-me-down dinged early 2000s hatchbacks P plates parks are now pram park ups An afternoon where all 4 children were asleep at once was like all the planets aligning in a once-in-century occasion PDA is everpresent in kisses, hugs and sniffing nappies. You see patience in practice. Discipline in action. You get endless cuddles but freedom to hand them back when they poop, scream or fight you off. You’re watching who’s drinking to see who’s preggers on the sly. Baby line ups are mandatory. Along with ridiculous attempts to get all children looking remotely in the direction of the camera. Time schedules are fluid. Departures can be timed to either keep the baby awake, but also to ensure the baby sleeps. “How did you sleep?” will be answered as if this were the question: “how did <insert child’s name> sleep?” Did you say Wiggles? Yep, kid tunes reign. Of course they could most certainly comment on the child-less life too. I willingly woke early to exercise. I enjoy abs still joined at the centre. And my car was sans extensive miniature person paraphernalia. Moving away isn’t the easiest. I’ve missed pretty much all the baby showers, first birthdays, dedications etc – often by only a week. And being the single, childless one is often the topic of discussion (It took a grand total of 3.5 hours before I was asked about my dating life). The above is a list of largely funny takeouts from a relaxing week away. But really it’s a privilege to see my friends turn into parents. Life is best done together. I took joy recieving a face covered of saliva care of new raspberry blowing skills. And they enjoyed the extra set of hands. The village life. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Today would have been my Grandpa’s 90th birthday. As a kid I thought my grandpa would live forever, perhaps not forever, but his death seemed a long way off. He worked as a doctor until he was 80, travelled to Thailand twice during his final decade, drove across Sydney for committee meetings and chauffeuring his friends to doctor’s appointments, he dabbled in Facebook and ensured he always had a working printer so he could (first print, then) read his emails. He was invincible to me, as a child and then as an adult. As he neared the milestone, we started thinking about how we could celebrate such an occasion. Unfortunately we celebrated his life a few weeks ago at a thanksgiving service, without him. It’s a shame all those who came gathered in his absence, what a joy it would have been for him to have everyone in one place. It’s widely known I’m not a feelings person, but truth is I am. I am just absolutely terrible at expressing and processing them, so supressing them is just the easier option. This afternoon I listened to a recording my cousin made of one of his last conversations with Grandpa. I had had it for almost 6 weeks, but I wasn’t ready to hear his voice, his laugh. It was hard to listen to. I’m thankful I live in a suburb people regularly walk the streets with an absent mind. Listening to Grandpa speak about this life on the recording, and hearing others speak of his life at his thanksgiving service (and the recording we’ve been pulling together), I look up to him. I place him on a Philippians 2 pedestal, one of his favourite passages of scripture. In his 70-year medical career, 15 years in the Thai mission field, and then near 60 years as a Father and near 30 as a Grandfather, he exemplified humility and gentleness. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests by each of you to the interests of others.” As I child I remember his devotion to the Word, reading it in bed before he rose for the day. His affection for my Grandmother was evident in each reference to her as “Darling” (even when expressed in haste). He watched sporting games, sat through countless awards ceremonies and graduations. He was the calm spirit standing on the edge of the room, looking and befriending the outsider. He gave Christmas gifts to the one who was forgotten. I wonder if I got any part of his genes, knowing full well I got an overdose of initiative and tenacity from my paternal grandmother. Reflecting on his life make me reflect on my own, although I have not reached even a third of the length walked this earth for. But I also see the peril in placing Grandpa on such a pedestal. And I know he would loathe such a thing. In the recording he went so far as to share a story of how he wasn’t supposed to get into Sydney Uni’s medical school. The rules changed and and extra 150 students snuck in without meeting the minimum requirements. He also shared he would have failed his gynaecology exam, should not a fellow student had told him answer as they passed in the hallways prior to the exam. He admitted he wasn’t good enough. I also know from my own father their relationship wasn’t perfect. He was a flawed man, like us all, but he has now been made perfect in Christ. Grandpa is now with Jesus in the highest place. Although he lived nearly 90 years on this earth, what feels like eternity for a even me at 26, he is now truly living eternally. I’m thankful we have the recording, as hard as it was to hear his laugh knowing he’s no longer here. I’m sad I didn’t take time to ask more questions. How comforting it was hear him breakdown as he shared the love, peace and joy found in the Spirit. One of the last times I saw Grandpa I had flown to Sydney on a whim. I sat in his hospital room while he slept. Eventually it came time to leave. Although plagued with delusion in his final days, he broke free from it to pass on the ‘Lord’s travelling mercies’ before apologising: “I’m sorry I wasn’t better company”. Grandpa, you were wonderful company. Happy (earthly) birthday, but what a wonderful everlasting life I know you’re now enjoying. At his thanksgiving service last month, I said the following prayer on behalf of his 17 grandchildren. I stand by it. Heavenly father, We give you great thanks that you are good and your love endures forever. Thank you for giving life to your son and our grandfather Arthur and your grace and mercy shown to him at the cross. Thank you that as we remember the life he had here and give thanks, we know he is now home and at rest with you. We know the love of you as our Heavenly Father from the example he was to us. As young ones we knew love from endless supplies of ice cream and sausages in summer and a forgiving spirit when more water was outside the swimming pool than in. As adults we remember his wit, but also his wisdom shared and constant support for our endeavours. We remember and give thanks for his humility and faithfulness. A man of prayer and devotion – he was always quick to share his indebtedness to you and your blessings on his life with us. Thank you for your spirit at work in his heart. Many of us are now embarking on our own adventures of marriage. We thank you for the 50-plus years of love and sacrifice Grandpa showed our Grandma, particularly in her final years of illness. In times of struggle and pain, he loved her in everyway – with patience and gentleness. We praise you for the steadfast love and generosity he had and the model it was for us. As we now grieve the loss of his gentle and witty presence with us, we turn our eyes to Jesus, the one his life pointed to. Grandpa is now free from pain and spared from the brokenness of this world. Thank you for holding him in your care for nearly 90 years. But while we remember, love and give thanks for the faithful man he was, we acknowledge he was not perfect but made perfect in your son, Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. We have joy that he is now at home in your presence because he sought after you. We look forward to the day when the world would be made new and those who call upon your Son’s name will be saved. We long for Jesus to return to make all things new and to be reunited with our Grandfather but ultimately you, our heavenly father. To you be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.           Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Hey sister, go sister, soul sister, go sister. Usually used a greeting, we never go past the first line (or if Google serves me right, apparently we’ve skipped the first and moved straight to the second). We don’t know the rest, nor do we really care. Sisters have weird things that they do. This is just one of them. Growing up with two sisters, one of the first questions people ask is about clothes and hair. Yes – it’s like one giant wardrobe and yes – we play with each other’s hair. And i’mnot even kidding. It was devastating when Jen moved out. We lost one whole third of our clothes. Now i can’t spread my wings (read: thrifty clothes stealing fingers) and solely rely on trendy Miss Laura. As for hair, let’s not even begin to talk about the amount of products and tools we have. And bobby pins, well we have totally solved the mystery as to where are all the bobby pins. They’re with us! Cars, handbags, carpet, bathroom, lounge room. (Still wondering how we’ve managed it? Buy a 200 pack and they’ll be everywhere. EVERYWHERE really!) The world is wonderful. Anyway, tonight this babe checked out for an engagement party and it couldn’t help but want to share the pic I snapped before she left. Here’s a few mental notes I made. 1. Killed the hair. Awesome team effort there. (She pre-curled it before I worked my magic. Yes, thank you, thank you. I’m pretty happy with it too. I have The Small Things‘s Kate to thank for that.) 2. She totally trusted me to do her eye make up (Well at least start it). The previous time I was a bit heavy handed and we ended up closer to drag queen. This time the only complaint was that it was a little light on and a tad uneven. I’d say alright for a girl trained 100% by Pinterest. “Laura, I am not a professional. Deal.” 3. She’s ridiculously skinny now. (So much so she hollered me into the bathroom this morning to check out the scales). She’s worked her butt off the past few months and now lords it over me that she can eat endless hamburgers, hot chips, finger buns and McDonald’s hotcakes. She’s proof you can still eat crap and be skinny. Secret? Gym membership. 4. Well she just looked really pretty and I wanted to share it!   Disclaimer: Before you start coming in with ‘Wow you’re such a great sister,’ don’t. We also had a massive fight today that was totally my fault. I haven’t really got to the whole “faithful, generous, loving, intelligent and cheeky woman” I was talking about a few days ago down pat yet. She’s picked me up plenty of times slightly intoxicated  happier than usual from parties or late from the train station. Tonight she asked me to drop her off at the party. I was free, but the party was 30 minutes away. Let’s summarise and say I wasn’t all that gracious. The guilt when her friend turned up at 6pm was enough for me to thoroughly regret my response. Consider this my public apology. I’ll try for a personal one tomorrow too. And maybe even a smoothie apology.
My parents repeat it often. Be it when I leave the kitchen a mess after cooking up a storm. When I arrive home late and leave early again the next morning. When I’m “burning the candle at both ends” – again. When I duck to the shops to return an item and end up purchasing three more. When I mope around on a Sunday night questioning church politics or Anglican processes. When I buy yet another ream of fabric or another necklace to add to the collection. “I knew someone else like that.” It’s been five years since she left us to go to glory. Some days I feel the time has passed quickly and it was only last week she gave me a big tight hug for getting As on my report, telling us to just grab another towel after a long summer’s day in the pool or gifting one of her old necklaces. Other days I wish I could just sit with her again, listen to her wisdom and laugh as we teach her to use the latest camera/phone/computer the man at the shops told her she must have. I alternate between being thankful iProducts came out at the end of her life and being selfishly upset the old versions were never circulated because she just had to have the latest version. She was an adventurer and never settled for the status quo. She backpacked Europe with her sister in the early 50s, raised a family in central Thailand in the 60s and 70s and then travelled to China, UK, Cambodia and Thailand in her 70s. Always reading, always learning, she went back to uni to become a teacher at age 55. Opening her home to refugees, international students and migrant workers, returning to the mission field after the death of five missionaries and their seven children and always quick to give of her belongings, time and money – she was always generous. Waking and committing every day to the Lord, she learnt to trust his leading, be it to England for nursing school, Thailand for decades of mission, local church to local church and in the news of her decade long illness. Wine and a daily crossword, she argued, kept it at bay. But she always knew it was her heavenly Father – each minute of each day until the end. I used to screw up my nose because she served up brown rice – now I prefer it. She was always ahead of the trend. The memories may eventually fade but the lessons and character traits she instilled in and genetically gifted to her children and grandchildren live on. If I become even half the faithful, generous, loving, intelligent and cheeky woman she was, I’ll be thanking our Heavenly Father every day. Happy Birthday Grandma, we miss you dearly. Lois Margaret Pennington 29 January 1929 – 7 January 2010   Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. // 1 Corinthians 15:58 Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)