A taboo topic in Marriage

What do you do when you are attracted to someone who is not your spouse? I am not talking about an affair or actively pursuing a relationship with someone outside of your marriage. I’m talking about attraction; a nagging attraction. Take a big breath friend because if it’s you, I’m sure your heart rate just increased a little. If it’s not you maybe you know someone who is in that situation or you might need to bank these thoughts for later. I am no marriage counsellor or relationship expert; I am simply your non-judgemental friend having an honest chat about the realities of life and cheering you on in your marriage.

As we sit here together, I imagine someone letting their thoughts unfolding, “I’m attracted to someone else”. My first reply would be to reassure you that attraction is everywhere and is going to happen; relax you are normal. Secondly, you are not the worst person in the world and you are probably recognising characteristics in that person that are admirable or maybe they are super-hot 😉 My advice would be not to overthink it. Let me say that again, don’t overthink it and obsess over it or two things can happen: 1. You’ll carry a weight of guilt and shame that will keep you stagnant or 2. You’ll end up moving that attraction into feeling and we don’t want that. Shake it off; that attraction doesn’t own you or define who you are as a husband or wife. Woohoo!

I can hear someone whisper a secret they have hidden inside, “But Jess, I have a crush on the person now.” Ok you’re really struggling so let’s talk about it. There is someone you are attracted to and you feel horrible about it. You feel a connection with them, but know it’s not quit right and are lost about what to do.

And I’ll look back and regret how I ignored when they said “run as fast as you can”
– Taylor Swift, Dear John lyrics

 Without knowing any details, here are my four suggestions for you to ponder…

  1. Don’t be naïve

Be aware of how you feel, don’t just blinding keep on going hoping that things will sort themselves out. When it comes to matters of the heart and attraction to people outside of your marriage, don’t ever think “that could never happen to me”. Be aware of your actions and thought life, no one ever thinks these things will happen to them.

  1. Uncover it – find a safe person

Find someone you trust (NOT the person you are crushin’ on) and let them know what you’re thinking and feeling. I mean be truly honest with them about everything. Get them to check-in with you frequently so they can keep you accountable. We aren’t good at reaching out for help with our relationships and unfortunately people often ask for help when it’s too late. Don’t be that person, it’s not too late. Those secrets you are keeping will only get worse and more addictive if you keep them hidden.

  1. Dig deeper into why

Maybe you are really empty and are looking for connection elsewhere. Maybe you feel invisible as a man or women and this person makes you feel known. Knowing why your feelings have developed can help you realise where the problem is coming from and that ‘this person’ is not going to fix it for you anyway. Maybe you need to go and talk to a professional counsellor to figure out what’s going on in your heart.

  1. Invest into your own relationship

Oh yes, we all know the saying about the grass being greener on the other side – so go do something about it. Take active steps to get your focus back onto your own relationship. Instead of messaging or thinking about that other person, focus that energy back onto your spouse. Go on dates, write love notes, make little treats for them, plan fun adventures, create space to re-connect together. It can be hard to cultivate connection at times, but you can do it. I believe in you.

If you’ve been trapped in your own struggle, I hope these suggestions are helpful for you. I hope you really listen and take them on, because although a crush might feel exciting (from all I’ve seen in adult years) it’s only going to end in pain if you don’t stop it here. The second and fourth ones are super important, so jump on them today if you can. You can do it, rip off that band aid, it’s time to get some freedom into your life. It might be hard, but you can do hard things.

Love Jess xxoo

PS – Massive shout-out to my husband who encouraged me to put these thoughts into words. Babe, I love you forever. I would choose you every time. Let’s remember to high five on Valentine’s Day this year 🙂

More marriage topics:

To the Christian Couple trying to fall pregnant

Behind Closed Doors: Stories of Domestic Violence in Christian marriages

For the Struggling Creative

Any time I post a blog I will undoubtedly get someone misinterpreting what I am saying, because well, that’s what people do. We interpret what we think someone is saying and we put our own lens over it. It’s not bad, it just happens and is inevitable if you are going to share your creations with the world. I know all of this yet I’ll be honest, there is still always a moment right before or after I post a blog when I hesitate and wonder if maybe I should just stop doing this thing. There are two questions I have around blogging – should I create anything at all and is it worth being vulnerable to do it?I know that being creative takes courage. It takes courage to share what’s in your heart without being able to control the outcome or manage the misunderstandings that will inevitably occur. I look at artists, designers, songwriters, dancers, writers, chefs, musicians (anyone in the creative industries really) and I take my hat off to them and say thank you. Thank you for sharing yourself with the world. Some of you bring me so much joy as I experience what you have created and I’m grateful you pushed through your fears to share what you have with your fellow humans. I may not always like your expression or agree with every message, but I acknowledge your courage and say well done.

“There is no creativity without vulnerability”
– Brene Brown

If I am going to be misunderstood and perhaps ‘take a personal hit’ for something I have written, why on earth would I keep doing it? It’s because for every person who misinterprets what I’m saying, I get another who tells me “that’s just what I needed to hear today” or “Far out, I never knew that was happening in the world”. It’s for those people that I keep sharing my thoughts. There are many times when I think to myself… “Nah, don’t write any more Jess, honestly who really cares what you are thinking”. And then for some reason I just keep doing it anyway. As I said before, there is always a moment when I put myself out there and I question if it’s worth sharing. If no one likes this, is it still worth creating? For me, the answer is yes. I create for the fun of it. If I can, you can too. Create because you can. Dream it. Do it. Work at it. Create something uniquely you. You can do it. You should do it.What started out as a blog to update people on our travels has morphed into an avenue for me to share my thoughts. My short unedited writings are unlikely to make it into main-stream media, so I continually check in with my heart to see if it’s worth doing. Does it still provide me with a creative outlet? Yes. Do I enjoy putting words and thoughts together even if I struggle in the process? Yes. Although I only write about things I have already processed, many people don’t know that I’ve already moved on. How could they, unless I told them. So sometimes I get a message from someone asking me if I’m ok, or perhaps someone (*cough* my husband) looks at me sideways for a few days, wondering if I’m ok (love you Babe). It is the price I am willing to pay by sharing honestly with others.

What price are you willing to pay to be creative? If you are willing to be misunderstood, misinterpreted (which you will), then keep going for it. I would encourage you to create and share it with the world. The ‘world’ may end up being your five friends on TikTok or your Nan the next time you see her, but I would remind you that the people you impact need to see your creativity.  I have heard many amazing original songs that I wish everyone knew the lyrics to. I have viewed some breathtaking photos which will never be in a gallery and I have tasted some amazing meals by home chefs that will never feature on cooking shows. However, it is the exchange of other peoples ideas in those moments that enriches my own life; I am aware of the impact. One of my Pinterest boards is full of other people’s creativity that in turn inspires my own. I am so grateful for my fellow creatives and I need you to keep it up.

Those moments in time when others have shared their giftings with me have added delightful wonder to my life. I am a better person because of the things others create and my life is richer for all their hard work. But let’s be real, not everything everyone dreams up can be a masterpiece and some people excel because they have trained hard for many years. With all this in mind, even if your creative expression doesn’t get the recognition you think it should or you lack the resources/time/energy to develop your craft, it may still be worth it – simply for the joy of creating. Create simply for the joy of creating.

This leads me back to my original questions – should I create anything at all and is it worth being vulnerable to do it? Yes and yes. Let’s keep creating for the fun of it. Let’s keep being vulnerable and push past our fears by sharing our ideas with those around us. Please, please dear reader keep on creating and I will too. Let’s do it together.

Love Jess xxoo

PS – Those who know me well are aware of my love of the music group BTS, and will probably have a little smile as they read this. 😉 If you like dance you’ll appreciate this gem – the choreographer and dancers in this video just blow me away.

Some Perspective on Significance

My nation of Australia has been ravaged by devastating fires and many parts are now experiencing floods. I (like many people) have given money to help those affected, but I desperately wish I could do more. My contribution feels futile when I see the images on my phone. What is happening to my country breaks my heart and brings me to tears. I can’t do much, but I have done what I can with what I have, unfortunately at times like these it still doesn’t feel like enough.

Yesterday I had a moment in my kitchen, looking around my little house and thinking about my life. I felt so very insignificant in that moment. Not unhappy, just insignificant. I know that we all have those moments; when we want to be more, do more, help more, see more and yet… that may not be on the cards for us. At times like that I often picture an old lady working in the rice fields in a country like China and wonder if she feels the same. I wonder if she would be envious of my life? I’m sure many, many people would be and would give anything for my seemingly insignificant life.

As I wiped down my kitchen bench, I also thought about those who are more fortunate than me and what they must be exposed to in their lives. What experiences and opportunities they might have that I will never come close to? As I packed away the craft paper from the dining table, I felt inconsequential. Although I keep a tight lid on my own social media, I thought about people with millions of followers and imagined what it would be like if someone very famous requested to follow me. How would I react? Would I feel more valuable? Would I believe that I had something to offer that no one else did? What story would I tell myself about my self-worth now that a famous person had noticed me?

AND THEN….

And then I felt God whispered so clearly…

“I created everything and I am following you.
I am watching your stories and your day.
You are significant to me.”

Oh man that made me smile. I hope it made you smile too. It’s a delightful reminder for those of us who feel insignificant at times isn’t it? Even if history doesn’t remember us, there is always One who does and I am quite frankly, in awe.

Sometimes when I see tragedy around me, I feel small. Sometimes when I get a glimpse into a far more glamorous social circle, I feel small. Both at opposite ends of the scale, but similar feelings. Honestly, it’s not even about where I sit on the social or economic ladders that I’m struggling with here, it is clearly about worth and value. It’s about realising that if and when I encounter tragedies or trailblazers, I am still significant. That thing I did, the words I wrote, that call I made, He actually thinks they were wonderful. He is not as impressed by quantity or output as I am, it is who I am (the person of Jess) that so captivates His attention.

All of Matthew 6 is a great read, but I just wanted to put verse 26 here in front of your eyes as a reminder. When I heard God tell me that He’s following me, I instantly thought about this verse:

Matthew 6:26 (NLT) – Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

I also like this translation from The Message – Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

You are significant. Perhaps your name will never be recorded in earth’s history books and maybe you will live out your life in the same area you were born, but don’t believe the lie that there is anything wrong with that. God thinks you are significant. God thinks I’m significant. Sometimes, being reminded of that is all we need.

Love Jess

PS – If anyone super famous does want to follow me; I’ll just give you a heads-up now that I’ll probably take a screen capture and send it to all my top WhatsApp contacts.

My plumb line

Zechariah 4 v 9-10

“Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. 10 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (NLT)

Honestly, last week was not great. Tim went away to a Community Development conference and I have been running on empty for a few weeks now; a perfect storm for becoming unhinged. Mid-week I came across this scripture on Instagram:

 

This post on Instagram took me on a little journey as I read the whole chapter in context and became captivated by the phrase ‘plumb line’ at the end of verse 10. This term can also be found in Amos and a few other places depending which translation you use. Not being a builder, I immediately searched on Google and did some reading (I found this blog really insightful). If you can’t be bothered looking into it yourself, a plumb line is a tool used to ensure buildings are built straight – think of it as an ancient ‘spirit level’.

A few days later as I hid in my garage away from my kids, I thought about the plumb line. I realised that in this season my kids are using me as their plumb line for life. They look to me to see if things in their own little lives are on track. They look to me to know what is right, what is acceptable and what the boundaries are. They like to push me and there are times when the pushing causes me to feel unstable. They have also been known to frequently grab onto me and give me an almighty shake. My sister and I often encourage one-another to ‘hold’ in the moments when we feel unstable. I am often reminding myself to ‘HOLD’ my centre and not allow the conflicts and uncomfortable moments in life to push me around. However, I am not a perfect parent, so naturally there are times when I end up swinging out of alignment. During these moments, I often feel like a failure and am discouraged that I am not holding my emotions or reactions in check as much as I’d like.

So, back to the garage… as I sat (shamelessly hiding) behind the car trying to get a moment to myself, I sent up more “Help me Jesus” prayers and felt myself coming back to centre. I felt God reassuring me, reminded me that although I’m a plumb line for my kids, He is my plumb line and He is never shaken. If I keep holding onto Him through prayer, worship and reading His words, when I am faced with the bumps and swings of life, I will naturally come back into alignment. I don’t have to fear the shaking; sure, the shaking of life will continue to happen, but it’s not something to fear.

This timely, gentle reminder carries a lot of freedom for me. There are many times when I overthink my reactions, but knowing that swinging doesn’t equal failure means I can continue to endure life’s ‘pushes’ until my head and heart get back into alignment. Instead of looking at the plumb bob swinging out of control and making myself dizzy, I’ll just keep looking up, because that is where my strength comes from.

Let me close with these thoughts – I may be my kids’ plumb line at the moment, but God is mine. He is my plumb line. I want to encourage you if you feel like you are swinging out of control… don’t fear, be still, He is a firm foundation. Keep looking to him and not at the plumb bob; we’ve got this. Big breath, remember the plumb line.

Love Jess xxoo

PS – Yes, I went and bought myself a plumb bob/line from Bunnings while processing this all, because sometimes I like a physical reminder of what God is speaking to me about.

How to worship to a song you hate

Disclaimer: These thoughts are based off my experiences in many churches, conferences and meetings across different denominations, cultures and countries, so everyone relax. I’m not being critical, just having an honest chat.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get to a church event and they are singing my absolute favourite song and I’m right there heart, body and soul. Other times, not so much. Let me be honest, there are some songs that I really dislike. The ones that talk about being unworthy and how terrible we are just really frustrate me. I hate that we, a redeemed people, are still holding onto our old identity and actually singing about it together. Ugh, talk about creating identity confusion.

*Jess takes a deep calming breath*

Sometimes, my worship playlist looks very different at home to what I hear in a church meeting, because I like a certain style. Kind of like if you loved jazz, but went to a country music festival. Neither are better, I just like one over the other, so it’s easier for me to engage with what I like. You feeling me? If you’ve been in church for more than three months, I know you will get it.

How about you? I’m sure you have songs that you dislike too. Maybe you don’t understand the lyrics, find it too repetitive, have sung it a thousand time, find the lyrics aren’t actually biblically sound, you don’t think it suits your church’s own flavour or you hate the musical arrangement and so on. I started singing on worship teams in the kid’s rooms when I was 12-years-old, so I’ve had my fair share of songs I don’t love. I thought (for a bit of transparent fun) that I’d share four things that I choose to remember when I come across a song at a church event that I really dislike or don’t connect with. Here goes 🙂

  1. I realise that everyone has different taste.

Tim and I have had a few laughs over the years when we get to church only to find they have added a new song to the rotation that we had only just expressed our dislike for. It honestly makes me laugh. Although I may not like the song, someone else clearly does, so maybe I need to allow opportunity for others to connect to God and not make it about me. I have to remember that the Creative Team are not responsible for my connection to God, I am. So regardless of the song, style, etc. I need to push through my own preferences and connect.

  1. I try to find something.

Within any song there will be one line or some musical hook that I can connect to. For example, even if I dislike the style of a song, the lyrics might be incredibly powerful, so I’ll focus on that. Maybe there is an awesome bass line that I feel is prophetic, so I will lean into that moment. When I come across a line in a song that I really feel is not based on scripture or actually undercuts the finished work Christ, I’ll just skip over it and put my focus into the next line. For me, I have realised that just because not every part of a song is perfect, doesn’t mean I should write it off… kind of like us. Ouch! Not everything we do is perfect, but our imperfections don’t discount from the parts that shine. I still may never play a song I dislike at home, but if it’s played at church, it’s all good. This one is good for me to remember when I’m getting particularly hung up on a song. I have taught myself to become intentional about finding something I like, particularly if I’m meant to be leading others from the stage.

  1. I remember the writer’s intent and season

It’s good for me to remember that someone wrote this song with a heart to connect to God. They wrote it out of their own personal experiences, out of a desire to express their heart and love towards their God. I also realise that the song writer’s revelation or breakthrough can become mine even if (in this moment) it doesn’t seem relevant to me. There is power in recognising the heart behind a song, especially when the style isn’t my favourite or the theme is different from the season I’m in.

  1. I remember why and who I am trying to connect with

At the end of the day, I’m here to connect to God. I do not have to enjoy or even sing along to connect to Him. One time, I was so put off by the theology behind a song that I didn’t sing it and made up my own lyrics instead, because I still wanted to connect to Him. My heart is for him. Regardless of what the song is, my intent is to let Him know how much I love Him. Full stop. Maybe my outward expression looks different during a song I find difficult to connect with, but my heart-to-heart connection with God should never change and that’s what I focus on. That’s where I always end up.

Man, I know within my own social circle there are many others who find music a very personal way to connect with God and I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you do when you don’t connect with a song?

Speaking of songs, I’ll leave you with one of my favourite songs at the moment. I would not call this a typical worship song and my preference would be to not sing this in a congregation, but I’m so glad it was written and these guys recorded it. It’s a song from God to us and the bridge has me bawling every time.

Love Jess xoxo

Check out my other popular faith-based pieces:

When Faith and Hope Run out

To the Christian Couple trying to fall pregnant

Behind Close doors – Stories of Domestic Violent in Christian marriages

Into the pit and back again – A story about depression

A different plant

I was out in my backyard this week, spending some time in nature and being mindful of the beauty around me. I saw these two plants and they captured my attention. Some of you may have seen my post on Facebook:

Both of these plants are in the same season (winter), but they are at different stages of growth and development. One is blooming, so vibrant and fertile. The other is shedding its leaves to conserve water and energy, eventually building cells to protect the exposed areas until the season changes. Both are beautiful for their own reasons.

What these little plants reminded me of was that different plants flourish in different seasons. It’s winter in Australia right now, but when summer comes, these plants will look very different. Instead of the picture looking like above, the plant on the left will be blooming while the other will be protecting itself from the heat. Growth for each plant will accelerate at different times of the year, but regardless of which season I see flowers, neither is better than the other. These plants are just totally different and thrive in different seasons. In their very DNA they were designed to bloom at different times, because quite simply, they are different plants.

The lesson I take away from this is that people (*cough* Spiritual people) are great at talking about ‘knowing your season’, myself included, but we can get tripped up when we see others in the same season as us. We compare ourselves to others who are our same age or life-stage or working in a similar role. When we feel we are conserving or withering while someone else is thriving or blooming, it’s important for us to be mindful of how we view ourselves. Essentially, you are a different kind of plant to me and I to you. I would not expect my Crepe Myrtle to bloom in winter, what a ridiculous notion, but goodness I can catch myself expecting to see blooms in every season of life. It sounds like this:

The simple take away is yes, you are different plant and therefore you bloom at a different time to someone else and that is ok. Perhaps you beauty is in looking after yourself. If you try to force yourself to bloom in the wrong timing, you’ll be too exhausted for the growth that could be coming your way.

Having simple one-liner to hold onto, like “I am a different plant” and speaking it to yourself, is incredibly powerful. It is a useful tool to cut through the lies we sometimes tell ourselves.  This one is helpful for me, maybe it will be helpful for you too. So, my friends next time you look at a fellow stay-at-home parent, or the colleague who is excelling in the same work industry as you, stop that poisonous comparative thought in its tracks and say it with me “I am a different plant.”

Love Jess xxoo

PS – For those concerned or bursting to encourage me, I don’t feel as though I am in a hibernating winter or sweltering summer. In case you are wondering, that was last year 🙂 But I know there will be winters and summers all throughout my life, so it’s good for me to keep being reminded of these lessons regardless of where I am in that cycle and whoever else I see alongside me.

A confession: Playing small

I have a confession to make, I have been playing it small. Ever since my son has come along, I have been a slightly lesser version of myself. I have been holding back, uncertain of my capacity and locking away parts of myself and my giftings, less I should fail. I think many people (especially Mums) feel this way, especially when re-entering the workforce or trying something new. We can feel insecure, don’t see what we have to offer and feel conflicted about where our loyalties lie. For me, I have returned to work and joined the creative team at my local church, you know, just two big commitments at once, nothing major haha.

The last seven months have been interesting for me as I have observed myself react to situations and people that I previously would not have struggled with. I have been my own worst enemy, continually undermining myself: Don’t make suggestions, don’t disagree, keep your head down, keep your eyes down, don’t rock the boat, be easy going, stay in the background, keep out of people’s way, don’t be ambitious, don’t have dreams. Be small.

But, I am not small. It’s just taken me a little while (with a few bumps and false starts) to rediscover that fact. I have gifts, talents and skills that should not be hidden. I have something to offer. I was created to shine in my own particular way and I do no-one a service by making myself less to accommodate others. Others don’t shine brighter because I stop shining. It doesn’t work like that; we shine brighter together. I didn’t even realise I was turning down the dimmer switch, but apparently, I was. Good to know. Good to finally recognise. Good to stop.

So looking forward, what does this re-discovery of identity mean for me? Externally, not much. I know the season I am in and I know my capacity and current commitments. I’m aware of my energy levels and honestly, at the moment I like going with the flow and doing my part for another person’s vision. Internally, I feel I am waking up. I am allowing myself to dream a little about what is stirring in my heart. I am curious about the things that I struggle with and wonder what is hiding underneath. If I don’t re-check what my passions are and look for opportunities to develop and learn, I will keep being small. I could easily get stuck in this place, not moving forward. Nothing has to change in this moment, it’s my own heart that’s changing. Instead of unrest, I am at peace on the inside.

I share this with you dear reader, because I feel like someone else needs to hear these words. Have you turned down the ‘dimmer’ in a certain area of your life? Let me challenge you to see where you might be playing small? You were not created to be small; you have something to offer this world in your own special way. Your offering, will look different to mine and woohoo for that. If you too feel you have been stuck, come on sweetheart, let’s take a moment to dream together. It’s time to stop playing small, even if it’s only evident in our hearts.

Love Jess xxoo

Church Parent Rooms – Five reasons to keep going

What I’m going to share isn’t new information at all, but I think parents need to be encouraged anyway. Each new group of parents can benefit from learning from those before them, I know I certainly have. But first, some stories…

A story:

One day I went to church and spent the whole time in the nursing Mums room making awkward conversations with women I couldn’t remember the names of. Meanwhile my (childless) friends and husband got to sit in church like adults. My baby managed to do an explosive poo, getting it all over her clothes and we had to leave straight after the message finished, I should have just stayed at home and had a much better time.

 A story:

One Sunday I was in the parents room all by myself. For some reason none of the ‘usual crew’ were there. The vision and audio on the TV wasn’t working and I spent the whole time keeping my baby from pulling cords out of the wall and feeding him snacks. I was exhausted by the end of the service and just wanted to get out of there.

 A story:

One morning I was really eager to hear the message, but ended up spending the whole time in the parent’s room with my grumpy baby. The room was packed with other parents who were talking and letting their kids run wild. I tried to listen to the message, but I couldn’t hear a thing. I left church frustration and empty.

The question I hear a lot from (new) Christian parents is why do I even bother coming to church? I spend the whole time in the parents room with my kid/s, don’t get to worship, hear nothing of the sermon and go home without feeling connected. I have honestly been through seasons where I have thought the same thing, wondering why I put so much effort into something that felt like a waste of time. Or to be brutally honest, like ticking the ‘went to church’ box.

 

The answer to the question many flustered parents ask “Is going to church really worth it?” is – Yes. From my experience and those who have gone before me, here is five reasons why I would encourage you to keep going.

1. Community

You will make friends in that Parents room. If you are a new parent, connecting with others can be so valuable, but just remember that connection and relationship building takes time. Your little ones will grow up together and right now is a great place to cultivate friendship. Sometimes churches can have tight friendship circles, but in the parents room… we’re all in this together. You will meet people of all sorts of personalities and backgrounds that perhaps you would not normally get to meet. You won’t instantly connect with everyone and that’s ok, but you might feel less alone and who knows, maybe you’ll meet your next best friend.

2. Triage

Sometimes, the parents room at church becomes a sort of emotional triage. Parents (often Mums) share their frustrations, struggles and worries while others get around them to commiserate, encourage and provide a sympathetic ear. At times, I can be that person for them, giving encouragement and sharing my snacks, and other times; I need them to be that for me. Look, you may miss out on being prayed for by that Spirit-filled visiting speaker, but I’ll let you in on a little secret, when the audio cuts out in the parents room, sometimes that’s when God does his best work.

3. Growth

God has taught me a lot in my years in various parent’s rooms. I have learned a lot from other parents too and I feel my faith is richer for it.  My security comes more from what God thinks of me, than the preacher on Sunday. My faith expression is more than a once-a-week service. I’ve realised that being unnoticed suits me rather well and I prefer ministering and being ministered to in unexpected places where there is no where to hide and I’m at my most vulnerable. I’ve had to develop patience and learn to relax my ‘God plans’ a heck of a lot more, my Sunday church plans rarely work out like I think they should.

4. Go with the flow

Some churches have amazing resources and facilities and are able to cater to so many different needs, while others can’t. Don’t take it personally. Goodness me I’ve heard some parents say some interesting things while I have sat quietly in the corner pretending not to hear. When we are put out, we tend to take it personally and feel we are being deliberately overlooked when often it’s not the case. How many times did you think about parents with young kids before you had them (unless you worked in kids church that is). Many churches are doing the best they can. Speak up when changes need to be made, but don’t get yourself all twisted up in knots. Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow. You should be pretty good at it… you have kids 😉

5. Seasonal

Time with your littles in the parents room doesn’t last forever and it will get easier. Perhaps your church attendance will look different to how it did in the past (that’s fine by me), but stay connected because this too shall pass. What might be difficult for you could be a pathway to change for others.

 A story:

We had a terrible sleep that night up and down with the kids, but woke up and rallied to go to church. Our oldest threw a major tantrum refusing to put on her shoes while our middle child spent 20 minutes talking to a bug he found in the bathroom instead of brushing his teeth. To top it off my youngest son did a poo just before we got into the car to leave, so as usual we ended up being late to church. After dumping my older kids with the amazing kids workers (God bless kids workers)  I went into the parents room with my son. As I put down my bag and sat on the floor I realised I had forgotten to bring his snacks and we had a looooong way to go until we would be home again. One of the Dads saw my dilemma, generously sharing his grapes and laughing with me about how my carefully prepared snacks were probably sitting on the kitchen bench. Another five minutes went by and one of the single mums started openly sharing about how her older son was going through a really stubborn phase, refusing to do simple tasks and that it was really driving her up the wall. She had no idea what to do to reach him and I felt like I had found my people, I knew just what she meant. Before I knew it five of us were sharing tips and encouragement and I felt like less of a failure as a parent. If these amazing parents were going through the same things as me, I didn’t feel so alone. At the very end of the service, I felt encouraged and empowered. We even got to listen to the last five minutes of the sermon without anyone’s kid screaming. I left church feeling a little tired, but less isolated and down on myself than before I came.

So dear Parent with young kids, I see you. I understand, and goodness you are doing so very well. Keep at it, keep at least trying to connect with your faith community. Sometimes it is wonderful, sometimes it’s a challenge, but hey… we’re all in this together and often that helps.

Love Jess xxoo

Meet Greta

Hi everyone, I would like you to meet Greta. Some of my girlfriends have suggested this might be a bit of a laugh to share with you all. Here is our story…

Jess’ Story:

Last night Tim got home from work at about 5pm and I was starting my overnight shift at 7:30pm. I immediately went to have a shower and was looking forward to having some alone time to wash off the day.

As the water was running I saw a reasonable sized Daddy-long-legs spider in the corner of the shower, and realised that it was too late to remove her. So I had two options:

  1. Flush her down the drain (which I didn’t really want to do)
  2. Leave her be.

Now is that point I made the mistake of calling her Greta. I spent the rest of the shower slightly tense that either she would fall, drown and float down the drain, or crawl over my back while I was shaving my legs.

At one point, she did make an attempt to crawl up the wall and fell. Time seemed to slow as I watched her bungee down towards the wet floor! I embarrassingly let out a squeal as I was now slightly attached to Greta and didn’t want to see her life cut short.

I’m happy to report that we both survived the shower, but needless to say, I will probably look for her next time I hop in. As this whole saga was happening, I did think that a male would probably never have this problem. He would probably just squish the spider and go on with his life, whereas I named her and got invested as to whether or not she survived my shower.

And that is my story. I hope you enjoyed it and don’t think I’m a crazy person.

Tim’s story:

This morning I got in the shower.
Saw a Daddy-long-legs spider on the wall.
Knocked spider onto the floor, flushed it down the drain.
Had shower.
The end.

Love Jess xxoo

 

Four Questions for Christmas

Most nights when putting our kids to bed we ask them four questions. These four questions do two things, firstly, they allow us to get a window into our kids day and secondly, it gives us an opportunity to help our littles process the things they have experienced. So, as it’s the season for long lunches and evening glasses of wine, why don’t you take some time out as you reflect on the year that’s been and ask others or yourself these four questions:

What made you smile?
What made you sad?
What did you learn about?
What are you thankful for?

Tim and I have put our answers below.

What made you smile?

Jess: New and deeper connections with people. This current season with my family and friends has been a great one, particularly seeing my family complete with the birth of our son. I have loved building new friendships and getting to know others on a deeper level.

Tim: Work Opportunities. There were many days at work this year when I would pinch myself. How did I get here? Did I do that? How amazing is God?! 18 months ago I was seconded into my organisations Project Team and things just clicked for me. It’s been a rollercoaster of amazing opportunities and challenges met and I found myself energised by this environment and the amazing people in it. At my recent work Christmas party I was presented with an individual award that recognised my achievement to help our organisation be ‘Future Ready’ (one of our five strategic goals). Yet again, I had to pinch myself.

What made you sad?

Jess: Family illness. There have been some rather significant hospital stays and health investigations this year. Some health questions have had answers, while others are still ongoing.

Tim: A lack of Wholeness for our families. In many facets of life we don’t see the wholeness that God intended; mental, physical, spiritual, financial, social. But this is something we believe and work towards.

What did you learn about?

Jess: Parenting. This year was a huge learning curve when it came to parenting. I have never felt more stretched while navigating how to parent a rather strong-willed, physically aggressive little one. My three-year-old has pushed me to learn more about child-brain development, the impacts of food on behaviour, when to hold my ground and so much more. There have been many messages sent to my ‘squad’ in frustration, many prayers uttered and moments of being far too overstimulated. It has been difficult, but I have learned a lot and continue to learn a lot.

Tim: Human services and community development. For a number of years my heart would always sway towards working and serving within community settings. Through my work (Disability and Aged Care) and other community networks I have been exposed to philosophies, frameworks and practices in Human Services and Community Development. Australia is a blessed country in these regards with a government and social services that fight for justice and equity in our communities. Recently I was offered a new job in a Community Development role and needless to say, I am thrilled to continue to learn and serve my local community.

What are you thankful for?

Jess: The little things. A message from a friend. My morning coffee made by my husband. A good book. Discovering a new yummy recipe. Henry Ward Beecher says, “The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things” and I think he was definitely onto something.

Tim: Kai! There’s not much more to say here really. When he came into this world, I cried with joy. Everyday since then, I have been totally smitten with this little guy. #whatakai

Have a wonderful time this Christmas season. Happy reflections.

Love Tim and Jess xoxo