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)
  Twelve months on and I’m in exactly the same place I was last year – a Surfers Paradise beachfront apartment. I’m even with the same four friends. We are again front and centre for the New Year fireworks. But although I’m physically in the same place, a year on I’m very much in a different place to where I was last year. 2015 was a tough year. But 2016 has been a year of restoration. It was also year of new friendships, adventures and learning. Here’s to the year that was: 1. A newfound love of dancing I was the girl who sat on the outskirts of the room as soon as the dancing began. But this year, I decided I didn’t care what I looked like I was going to enjoy dancing. And like that, I now do. The Melanie of 2015 would not have danced the night away in a Cuban Government run bar in rural Vinales with two sweaty, hands-y Cuban men with gorgeous blue eyes that melted my heart. 2. A nostalgia for my long locks but the excitement of short hair Oh how lovely it was…10% of the time. 3. A love of running Two years ago I couldn’t run 2km, but this year I ran 14km (on a swollen bruised ankle because I wasn’t giving up!). I push myself to get to a weekly community running group and once there I’m pushed to keep running. The burn of my legs is soon forgotten on reflection and achievement of the distance they’ve carried me. 4. A Growth Group who point each other to Jesus We become a conglomerate of the people we hang out with and I’m thankful for my gospel-focussed community. Over delicious food and vino, we’ve talked pride, elections, sex, and supported each other through illness, homesickness, death, farewells and welcome together. Thank you for pointing me to the grace and hope found in Christ. 5. A new church I arrived at Creek Road with a pretty rocky foundation and trust in ‘church’. But this year, through transparent and empowering pastors and persistent prayer, by grace the brokenness and hurt is healed. I look forward to church. 6. New friends New friendships formed over mutual love of TV shows + good food + wine (Did I hear you say ‘Tapas and Tequila Tuesday?’) 7. A patience with professional work I had 4 managers in 2016. I also had 9 team members in my immediate 3-4 person team. Change is constant and with patience and persistence I’ve learnt to push myself forward, learning from all those around me – whoever it is. Work life is a jungle gym and it’s the adventure and the challenge climbing it that brings contentment. 8. Appreciation for solo time (but still a craving for people) A perfect Friday night is either drinking and laughing with friends at a great bar in town or enjoying a glass of vino on the couch watching Netflix. I enjoy both equally and I have no qualms choosing one over the other. I’ve come to enjoy the small moments of solitude. 9. My family history In May I visited Bundaberg and toured my great, great grandparents house. I later started reading my family history book going back to the 18th Century. Through trials and successes, generations have gone forward putting Christ at the centre of their lives. However, it also served as a reminder for how quickly a generation can slip from the faith and serve their own interests. 10. Friendship with sisters For the first time in five years, Jen was in the same city as me. Weekend BBQs, Monday night netball, shopping adventures. As for Laura, we enjoyed another negative temperature snuggle session in Jindy and wrestling matches that now end with me begging for mercy. 11. The rejuvenation of weekend adventures Until October, it has been 1.5 years since I’d had more than 3 days away (a week off for the rite of passage: wisdom teeth doesn’t count). Here’s to weekends at Cabarita Beach, Straddie, Rainbow Beach, Kangaroo Valley, Bundaberg, Lady Musgrave Island, Perisher, Springbrook NP, Lamington NP, Tamborine NP, Glasshouse Mountains, Gold Coast. 12. BNE visitors Shout out to Lanes + Sutherlands, Lisa, Rachel + Lydia, USYD gang, Kelsey, Laura, Anna, Ashleigh for visiting. 13. Home? I drove home from 2 weeks in Sydney this week. It had been 6 months since I’d visited and I longed for it. But visiting and then driving back, I’ve realised Sydney doesn’t feel like home anymore. But I’m not sure Brisbane is yet either? 14. World travels  “Why Cuba?” they asked. “Be safe,” they said. “Why not?” I said. “How much,” I didn’t ask. It was an expensive holiday, but it’s a huge reward to plan, save, book and then escape to a far away land. And Cuba, well it’s just a fascinating place. As for Mexico, take me back. Tomorrow. 15. Dyson There’s a point in life when you realise you’re getting old. That moment for me has come. In addition to my growing family of kitchen appliances, washing machine and a comfortable (brand) new couch, I really want a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Preferably one of those stand up cordless ones. 16. “So I guess we’ll be in touch” Thanks to 2016 I have learnt some good ways and some bad ways to end a first date. And “So I guess we’ll be in touch” is not favourable. And with that, and the Tweed Heads fireworks in the background #daylightsavings, I say thank you and good bye 2016!     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)
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)
Christmas is a season that stresses people out. I know why but I still don’t get it. Christmas is such a happy time. Seasonal decorations. Seasonal music. Seasonal food. Australia doesn’t get the whole seasons thing so Christmas is the ultimate time of year – the one season we all love to hate. I particularly love Christmas. I flourish on the very things that stress other people, particularly the mother that I live with. The family dinners, the barbeques with friends, the cooking, the shopping, the gifts, the wrapping, the cleaning, the decorations, the constant sweeping under the Christmas tree to pick up the dropped pine needles. What’s not to love? People, generosity, food, the Christmas smell? This morning I went to Aldi and Woolworths with my mother for “a few last minute things” we apparently couldn’t get two days ago when we were also at the supermarket. Usually I would volunteer to drive, but at the last minute I couldn’t be bothered walking upstairs to get my wallet. I relinquished the control and experienced the other way to do Christmas. I love my mum but we look at situations very differently. For all its generalisations, the Type A/Type B personality is an appropriate example. I’m the former; mum’s the latter. While circling the carpark she decided in less than 30 seconds, parking in a side street more than a 500metre walk from the shops entrance was her game plan. I tried to share my car parking tips. Her response, **brake!** “Do you want to drive?!” Alas, we found a park within 5 minutes (actually we found one in two minutes but some dick literally stole it. Think reverse park undertake. Yeah, not cool. I said some words and leant over from the passenger seat to slam the horn to which my mother said, “Melanie, language please.”) I know my approach is a little different to others and probably sounds like a nightmare to most. I’d like to experience a less rigid, less haste way to do Christmas but all I see is stress or Christmas Eve Eve 24-hour shopping. In the words of a dear friend, I know “We’re not all Melanie Pennington,” but seriously what other game plans are out there?   Here’s Christmas the Melanie Pennington Type A way: Plan and do it early. Don’t procrastinate. Christmas shopping in the week of Christmas is not planning. Deciding what to get someone at the shops is not planning. Going to the shops is not planning. (Online shopping is where it’s at. They deliver it to your house/workplace for cheap-cheap-cheap or even free!!). Don’t guess what your loved ones would like. Yes, you could ask them (or in my case get them to give you a list, see below), but better yet – listen to them. If they’re forward they’ll tell you, but I prefer to jot down their gripes from about September onwards. “I never have any tops to wear.” “My favourite perfume is about to run out.” “You have so many nice necklaces.” “Wow, check out this super speedy top of the range computer-y thing.” Boom, Christmas present decided. Write a list – for everything! A Christmas wish list (from September onwards, if I think of something I need, it goes on the list), the Christmas gift list for everyone else, the menu, the decorations. A list means you won’t forget anything. Budget for it. Work out how much gifts will cost you and then spread it out across the year. In my annual budget I allocated $10 per week or about $50 a month to Christmas and Birthday gifts. I don’t have a credit card choosing to live in the present not the future. “Oh budget, smudget,” I hear you say. Here’s why: when your employer tells you they’ve screwed up your contract and you won’t get paid throughout December until Christmas Eve, you can say “okay” and not completely freak out. (Note: I didn’t. I told them a lot less friendly words before confirming because of my organisation I wouldn’t need to scour dumpsters for food for the month.) Tackle a carpark like it’s a game. To win is to find a park – a close one and quickly. To lose is to drive in circles aimlessly. Game plan: Pray. Drive towards where the people on foot are entering the carpark. Follow. Pounce. Job done. Thank God. Move like you’re on a mission. At the supermarket, if the list has more items than you can hold without probably dropping the strawberries, grab a trolley. If you think you probably can hold it all do it. Baskets are for sissys. People will avoid a trolley on a mission or poor girl holding the last minute shampoo grab with her chin. If you move around with speed and purpose, other people will move. The old lady with a trolley is primed to be overtaken mid-aisle. Supermarket aisles are wide enough for 3 trolleys. You will fit between the two idiots old friends, catching up beside the tomato relish. At Westfield, plot out your route. Take short cuts through the multi-entrance stores, use the escalators inside department stores or the stairs halfway between the main centre ones. If you walk fast, you avoid those semi-familiar peopel from high school or your mother’s friend who wants an update on your entire family. Ie. They’ll inconvenience you to make you stop. (Note: downside, you’ll also walk straight past your best friend unless they are bold enough to yell your name out.) Set a time limit. Shopping isn’t meant to take all day. The aim is to be inside the shops not circling in the carpark. Tackling the shops prior to a social outing gives you a deadline. We all work better with a deadline. With a time limit your better placed to move yo’ butt faster, not fret over which brand of sliced almonds are cheaper (unit pricing FTW!) and to choose the quick aisle. There’s a lot riding on it. Fail at sticking to the time limit and you’ll be late to your next activity. Keep a well-stocked gift drawer. Throughout the year, keep your eyes out for bargains. My favourite markdowns are usually at Kikki K, Sussan, Typo, Lovisa, Witchery, David Jones food section. My reward cards tell me so. The extra item here and there don’t break the budget (in fact they’re budgeted for each month in ‘miscellaneous’) and when you find yourself heading off to a party with another Secret Santa and you’ve already re-gifted that weird mug from your colleague/aunt, grab something from the drawer. The friend you’ve failed to catch up with since last Christmas hands you an unexpected gift, grab the pre-wrapped gift from your handbag. No stress. Disaster averted. (Goes without saying, a gift drawer is paired with a wrapping box with ribbon, doilies and cards for every occasion.)   And so here I am sitting in my room on Christmas Eve with all my gifts purchased and wrapped, food items purchased and the time to prepare them scheduled. My leftover paper, doilies and ribbons are with my sister as she wraps her boyfriend’s parents’ gift. My gifts for my sister and brother-in-law living 4000km away under their tree (thanks to Express Post. I may have left it one day too long for Australia Post to guarantee its delivery and an extra day for my sister to likely need to pick it up from the post office because she wasn’t home). There are homemade Christmas bunting flags fluttering in the wind outside and a Santa snowman is at home on the inside our front door. I wish I could say I have Christmas carols playing, but I’d be lying. I like to think I’ve mastered Christmas. I like to think I’ve won at Christmas season. But there’s my Type A talking. Wondering if there’s a downside, check out ‘10 reasons you should be glad you’re Type B’. (In short, be happy because I’ve got nothing but heart attacks and heart ache coming my way).   I’m completely aware this article reads very self-absorbed. If you saw me writing it, you would see the little smirk on my face – the kind of smirk my friend Kimjeng would like. With all the above out in the open, I completely appreciate my mother does things differently, yet also gets the job done – just less efficiently! 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)
We’d been talking about it for a while, but it wasn’t until Sunday midday that I realised.  I’d just poured a glass of water and I looked up to the white board to see my dad’s sketch. “He’s gone?” “He’s really gone?!” “I didn’t even get to say goodbye!” Cue legitimate tears. They took me by surprise; the drought had broken. I can’t even remember the last time. It was possibly my sister’s wedding in 2012 – but even then I fail to accept they were real. But as the rain poured down outside, warm tears rolled down my cheeks. Dad and Laura were speechless. Sammy, or to some, Chester, was a pain in the butt of a dog, but dearly loved. In his youth, he bounced – like my sister’s Tiger toy.  For the first few years, Laura couldn’t go outside without someone else present. Sammy could jump higher than Laura stood tall. In his middle years, he barked – thunder, male voices, birds. He was always on guard. In his old age, he cried. He ran and groaned at the birds who stole his food. He looked confused at Bella’s disgust as he stole another of her beds. He cried at night to let us know he needed to relieve himself. I’ve never been a huge animal person, but there’s something special about your childhood dog. The excitement of choosing, then naming him. The joy of walking to school, knowing full well he set the pace and you trailed behind. The frantic times we ran down the street, around the corner and up the road after he escaped – driving the car and opening the door got him every time. There was even the time he bit the weird neighbour’s sheep at the end of the street – I got flashes of him being the evil dog in Babe. But Sammy, SamSam, Puppy – right to the end. You were our little bitzer. Goodbye.   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)