A change is as good as a holiday

This is a Christmas-newsletter-type post for anyone who wants to know what’s really going on in our lives right now, and for anyone who (like my dear friend Wanderer) has noticed the random nature of my blog topics of late. I do apologise. Feel free to skip this and come back on Thursday if you prefer, when I’ll (hopefully) have something interesting to say.

Or keep reading…

When my dad died in December last year we inherited a decent sum of money from him. This isn’t something we’d fully been expecting, considering he’d been on a pension since 1985, but stranger things have happened. And no, inheriting a decent sum of money doesn’t really make up for losing my dad, who’d only just moved back to our state after a 20 year absence.

So we’ve got money, and for the first time in our married life we can make choices based on what we want/feel is right, not on our financial limitations. We’re putting down carpet in our house for the first time (yes, believe it, the place gets COLD in winter!), and we’re upgrading the kitchen (if you’ve been here you’d know why. It has issues). We were already in process of purchasing a parcel of land and a garage from our next door neighbours, although the original plan for that was to build a granny flat for Dad, who no longer needs it. Any of you who have ever had to deal with council requirements for things like this in Australia (I can’t comment on elsewhere…hopefully it’s EASIER!) will know how hard it is. And, because we can, and because it feels like the right thing to do, we’re packing up the kids and going on a 2-month family vacation to the US and Canada, where I’ll also get to attend the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference in Indianapolis, and pitch my work to people who may…MAY just be interested in publishing it.

Yay. All this and a holiday to boot. We are blessed, incredibly blessed. We know this. There’s no way we’d complain about anything right now. No. Way.

So, I don’t like to talk about the huge amount of furniture I have to move and the difficulty in throwing things out and wondering whether it’s wrong that I’m adding to landfill with children’s toys I’d meant to fix or find the missing pieces for and now I have to get them out of the house…NOW…because the carpet people are coming. And how we’ll live with all our furniture stuck in a kitchen for a day or two, when there are still children who need school lunches and meals to be cooked…and doing it all again when we rip out the kitchen window, and a few weeks later the kitchen benches and stove for a week, it’ll be too late to worry about landfill then…and I need to book the tickets to the US, but first I need to finalise the dates, and make sure there’s somewhere appropriate for us to stay in each place, and convince the kids that yes, they may all be sharing a queen-size bed for a week, three of them together, and that’s just okay. I don’t want to talk about it because, really, this is seriously first-world rich-people problems, and I’m so grateful to have carpet and so incredibly grateful to have a new kitchen and so UNBELIEVABLY grateful to have a family holiday overseas, let alone the chance to pursue my dream of becoming a published author, and my husband’s dream of stepping into business full-time, and…

It’s all so good. So SO good. So good that I don’t want to even mention how incredibly stressful it all is right now.

We. Will. Get. Through. It. It. Is. ALL. GOOD.

But please forgive me if I drop the ball a little bit sometimes, or if I get a bit random in my blog posts, or take a while to reply. A change is as good as a holiday…change of any sort–including holidays–rates on the stress scale.

I’ll talk to you soon. I promise. I just can’t promise to make a lot of sense!

 

 

 

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A Change isn’t as good as a holiday (unless it’s a big one).

Yesterday I took my Ginger Ninja out for some Mummy-and-Me time. We went to the newly-opened, freshly refurbished Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. It’s been closed for about three months, and before that huge sections of it were closed for refurbishing, redeveloping, rebirthing. We missed it. The museum is always a good place to go to with kids.

TMAG

(Yeah this dinosaur is made of balloons. The balloon artist there was REALLY impressive!)

We didn’t spend as much time there as I would have liked to, because in the exhibits where there were heaps to see and do there were also heaps of people seeing and doing, and the boy was hungry, and isn’t a big fan of Colonial art really. I’ll go back some other time and explore in more depth, at my own pace.

Afterwards we went down to Mures on the wharf and bought a basket each of calamari and chips, and he read his Lego catalogue while I read the brochures from the new look museum, and after a while we put our literature down and chatted, and I asked him what he thought of the new museum, aside from “Good” in a sing-song lilt.

Calamari and chips at Mures

It took a bit to access his thoughts. I tried very hard not to lead him into repeating my own, but at the same time help him to put words around his experiences. In the end he said to me “Actually I didn’t like it as much as the old one”.

I felt the same way.

All that change, all that wait, all that money, and what he and I really wanted was that wonderful, familiar experience of the animal room just the way it was, with the Tasmanian devils and the Tasmanian tiger, and the possums and the wombat and the buttons you press to turn the lights on, and the killer whale suspended from the ceiling. I can put into words better than he can, but I suspect it’s what he feels: we either wanted something unchanged, something that, to go to, is familiar and childhood and home and nostalgia and love, or something so radically different that we would be blown away by its excitement and newness and wouldn’t miss the old at all.

Now, I’m a grown up. I understand about heritage listed buildings and budgets and government funding. I do. And I understand about big dreams being cut short because of big lack. But I still wanted more. I still wanted different. I wanted either no change at all, or bigger change.

Funny, that. Either one would have done. But somewhere in the middle is nothing but disappointing.

Mures Lower Deck

And then we walked back to the car in the rain, and realised that museum or not, we have each other.

“That”: or Why Change is The Most Important Thing of All

People often say that change is hard, and it’s true. The things is though, change starts in your mind. The thing is, once you’ve walked something out in your mind it’s easy to do in your body. Once you start thinking something it naturally starts slipping out of your mouth. And the more you talk about a thing, particularly to other people, the more natural it sounds, and the easier it is to then go and do.

This works for both good and bad. I’ve seen people slip, through the babiest of baby steps, into life on the streets, hear stories of people slipping into drugs, into prostitution, into obesity, poor hygiene, poor nutrition, bad relationships, bad choices. It’s like you choose a path, and the only choice you get after that is how far down it you want to go. That’s a scary thought.

Now don’t get me wrong, staying on that path is never a given. I’m a born-again bible-bashing Jesus-loving proof that lives can change – but that kind of change takes a lot, sometimes nothing short of a miracle. Me, I was on a path once, and not a very nice one. Maybe we all have. Maybe we can all point to the time, the memory, and think “oh yeah. That”. That relationship. That decision. That job. That place. That. I tend not to think about it much, mostly because there’s no time to and no need to, and That is so far removed from my current reality that I don’t have to, for which I am deeply and eternally grateful. It’s come up a lot recently though, and the smack of it, of those memories, against the direction I’m walking stings.

I’m on a new path now, and those baby steps we all take every day, of choosing to buy a better microwave or deciding to throw out the odd socks in the laundry basket, those baby steps have become circular-legged sprinting strides for me, or so it feels. I don’t know, many people might look at them and say “oh hon, they’re just baby steps”. I’ve had a professional photo taken (see? All that stress about my hair going fluffy, and…four or five different products later, bingo!), started a Facebook “author page” (oh HECK, I’m calling myself a WHAT??), and am about to send my first novel off to an enormous writing competition (the ACFW Genesis competition, for anyone who’s wondering) and prepare myself to go meet agents and editors and sell-sell-sell myself to them in six months.

Megan Sayer: professional woman without fluffy hair.

Deep breath, Megan.

People do these things all the time.

Yesterday a man from the carpet shop came through my house to measure up for new carpets. Well, for carpets. We don’t have any. Today I’m going to buy paint for the walls, and fix the holes in the plaster that have been there for years. My husband is encouraging me to go to the computer shop in town and look at new laptops tomorrow.

People do these things all the time. Deep breath, Megan. It’s okay.

Once and for all, it’s time for me to let go of That. I’m not That person any more, and I haven’t been for a very long time. I don’t need to let That define me. I need to let it go once and for all, to cut it loose, before I find myself pulled out of new-carpet-author-photo-novel-writing land and plonked right again in the middle of That. Not physically, but in the limitations of my mind.

Because that’s exactly what happens. That’s why today That has to go. And if you see me crying in the carpet shop today then you’ll know why. Be nice, okay? Change is harder than it looks.

The language of transition

Childbirth

Childbirth is, believe it or not, actually quite hard. I know this. I’ve done it three times, each with varying levels of success. Well, quite a lot of success in that I now have three delightful children that I love dearly, but in terms of textbook births where the baby comes out in the right direction and at the right time without the intervention of countless medical professionals then I tend to think only of my last time. That one, comparatively speaking, was easy.

That one, in real terms, was also extremely painful.

Now the last time I gave birth was some four and a bit years ago, and the memories of how difficult it really was tend to fade in that kind of time, and no I’m NOT about to announce another pregnancy or anything crazy like that (ACK!!), but a friend brought it up recently, just how hard those things are.

My friend was talking about her own journey, and I think this was something that someone had pointed out to her, and then she pointed out to me, so it’s not new information. I didn’t realise at the time how pertinent it was though. She was talking about the language of change, and the difficulty we experience in facing big upheavals in our lives. She reminded me of childbirth, and how that transition phase – when the baby shifts down in your pelvis and you get ready to start actively pushing – is the time when your words tend to change. I remember it myself, “I can’t do this”, “it’s too hard”, “I want this to stop”, “I can’t do this”, and the classic line from a memorable TV show, “GET ME AN EPI !@#$% DURAL!”

Been there? Maybe not in childbirth, but in other areas. The renovation you decide to give up on because it’s too hard living in a house with no walls. The friend that’s…the child that’s…the experience that’s…

That’s where I was. I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t recognise it in my language, or in all those thoughts of “I don’t want to be here” and prayers of “God this is too hard”. It never occurred to me that I’m generally a positive person, that this was a different language, words that were not mine. It didn’t occur to me at all until suddenly POP! A revelation, a click, and I’m out the other side again. I’d been in transition.

I can’t say I was brave and fearless and stood my ground and bashed my way through to the other side. But I can say I closed my (metaphorical) eyes and held my (metaphorical) blankie and I didn’t run away. It was worth it.

Change IS hard. Hang in there. It’s worth it.

 

Who do you think you are?

Who do I think I am? Queen Elizabeth?

I know exactly who I am. I’m the woman who can still keep track of every hair appointment she’s had as an adult – can still count them on her fingers.

I’m the woman who’s never spent more than $100 on her hair at any one time.

I’m the woman who’s had her nails done exactly once in her life.

I’m the woman with the cracks in the floorboards. I’m the woman who’s bathroom floor is only waterproof because of gaffer tape.

I’m the woman with the half-painted bedroom. I’m the woman who’s never once bought a new lounge suite, dining table or fridge, and who’s clothing budget has been lucky to run to $50. A year.

I’m not complaining. I know who I am. And I’ve been blessed – very blessed – with lounge suites and fridges and tables and chairs and clothing, and hair that looks okay even without much effort put into it.

It’s just that now things are weird. Different.

Today I’m the woman who is arranging passports for her children, and buying backpacks spontaneously. Today I’m the woman assessing the pros and cons of expensive suitcases, and picking up framed family portraits to hang on our need-to-be-painted walls. Today I’m the woman planning a holiday to visit places I’ve only ever heard about in books.

Today I’m the woman I dreamed of being when I was just a tiny girl, but I’m bringing it all home to sit at my second-hand table in the kitchen with cracks in the floorboards.

I can’t look back right now, either to rejoice over the blessings or grieve over the losses. I just can’t look back. I don’t know if I’m ready to look forward either, so for now I will shut my eyes and trust.

Everything changes. Even the things we swear never will.

This, I believe, is a good thing.

This. I believe.

The home of the prophet

Here’s another pattern I’ve noticed: sometimes what’s happening in the physical world is an awfully good illustration of what’s happening internally.

It’s not just me, this time. I know this. The Bible has a few such noteworthy examples, and I’m so sorry I can’t provide the exact scriptural references for the dude in the Old Testament that God told to sleep with a prostitute and then cut her up (yes, I said Cut Her Up) into twelve pieces and send a piece of her to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Ouch. This is what they did before Facebook.

Or get this, from Ezekiel Chapter 4 in the Old Testament. Yes, this is the bible. No, it doesn’t get much weirder than this:

The Lord said: Ezekiel, son of man, find a brick and sketch a picture of Jerusalem on it. Then prepare to attack the brick as if it were a real city. Build a dirt mound and a ramp up to the top and surround the brick with enemy camps. On every side put large wooden poles as though you were going to break down the gate to the city. Set up an iron pan like a wall between you and the brick. All this will be a warning for the people of Israel. After that, lie down on your left side and stay there for three hundred ninety days as a sign of Israel’s punishment[a]—one day for each year of its suffering. Then turn over and lie on your right side forty more days. That will be a sign of Judah’s punishment—one day for each year of its suffering. The brick stands for Jerusalem, so attack it! Stare at it and shout angry warnings. I will tie you up, so you can’t leave until your attack has ended. Get a large bowl. Then mix together wheat, barley, beans, lentils, and millet, and make some bread. This is what you will eat for the three hundred ninety days you are lying down. 10 Eat only a small loaf of bread each day 11 and drink only two large cups of water. 12 Use dried human waste to start a fire, then bake the bread on the coals where everyone can watch you. 13 When I scatter the people of Israel among the nations, they will also have to eat food that is unclean, just as you must do.I said, “Lord God, please don’t make me do that! Never in my life have I eaten food that would make me unacceptable to you. I’ve never eaten anything that died a natural death or was killed by a wild animal or that you said was unclean.” The Lord replied, “Instead of human waste, I will let you bake your bread on a fire made from cow manure. 16 Ezekiel, the people of Jerusalem will starve. They will have so little food and water that they will be afraid and hopeless. 17 Everyone will be shocked at what is happening, and, because of their sins, they will die a slow death.” Contemporary English Version (CEV)

Sometimes we do stuff because we just feel it in our gut that it’s the right thing to do, and we don’t know why, but it is. Sometimes we step out, with little more to go on than “I just felt it was the right thing to do”, and sometimes it takes weeks, months, or even years, to fully understand the ramifications of our actions, or the good that came of them. And sometimes our guts are wrong. Sometimes we just put too much pizza in them, and the things they tell us are nothing more than “I don’t like anchovies”.

And sometimes – sometimes – the things that happen when we’re trusting our gut feel so wrong, feel like nothing-more-than-anchovies, but in reality they’re deep works that we can’t quite see the ends of just yet. And sometimes, when we’re leaning towards the pizza answer rather than the faith, sometimes then we see something, like God shows us something from the real world that shouts its confirmation at us, and suddenly we get it, like those people in the Bible got it when they saw old Ezekiel lying on his side in the dirt cooking muffins on poo.

Over the last few months my soul has been dug up and dug over and the deepest wiring exposed, and some rewiring going on. I can’t say it’s been pleasant, and sometimes it’s easy to think that it’s so hard because I’ve done something wrong. Then you see this:

My fence and my garden have done no wrong. My neighbour has done no evil thing, or hidden a body underneath her driveway. None of this, strictly speaking, needed to happen, but it is a Good Thing. It means our space is enlarging, and her bank account is being filled, and all it means is we’ve all got to keep our eyes on the goal, and the end result, not worry too much about the mess, and know that it’s worth it in the end.

Trust your gut. Step out in faith. Do something crazy. And know, when you’re in the middle of it all and it hurts like hell and there’s mud from one end of you to the other, that that funny little coincidence you’re shaking your head over just might be the confirmation of faith you need to see the journey through.

The pattern of journeys.

When we were younger and only very new Christians, my other half and I used to go to Youth With A Mission meetings with a whole bunch of our friends. We liked them. The music was great, and there were always different people telling interesting stories about interesting things. After a while though a lot of the stories started sounding the same. Patterns started forming.

Youth With A Mission are a…you guessed it…Missions organization. They take…you guessed it…youth…out on…oh yes…Missions trips to various places around the world. The first pattern I noticed was this: that the trip was going to cost the speaker so-and-so thousand dollars, and all the speaker had was $13.70, two McDonald’s vouchers and a sleeping bag, and he needed the money by last Tuesday midnight. The speaker and his family had all prayed and believed and trusted in God, and lo and behold, at 11.58pm there was a knock on the door and a complete stranger with so-and-so thousand, or a sudden car sale, or a spontaneous idea for a cupcake competition, or something. There was always the Something.

The next pattern I noticed was this: the speaker had always had a lifelong aversion to one particular place. Hated Canadians with a passion (allergic to ice hockey?), or had a crazy distrust of Russians, or Japanese fisherman, or something. And that, Canada, Russia, Japan…wherever…was always the place that God had called the speaker to go to.

There was a third pattern too. Now that the speaker had the money (miraculously) and had amazingly dealt with all his previous misgivings about said destination and was now in love with the place and its people, Something Happened when he was over there.

Something big and life-changing. Something that, because he was away from all the trappings of familiarity and routine and all the things he took for granted, God was suddenly able to deal with. So not only is there the financial miracle and the complete change-of-heart, but there’s this lovely heart-warming ending where he’s suddenly reconciled to his father, or understands for the first time some deep place inside him, or has made peace with a deep and awful trauma from years before.

Well there’s the patterns.

Well. And here I am. We’ve had our financial “miracle” already. And I really shouldn’t mention the fact that for many years I was very negative about America…particularly California (ouch. I’m sorry. I said I wouldn’t mention it!). So here we are, right on track for #3.

I know it’s going to happen. I knew two years ago, when I first felt…whatever you’d like to refer to it as…the call of God, perhaps…the nudge to go to the US. I knew it was going to come down to this. I’ve been trying to avoid it…or at least make sure I deal with it ahead of time. But here we are.

Does that suck, I hear you ask? Why, yes it does. Sucks like a Dyson with a dog-vacuuming attachment. My other friend who vacuums her dog (This is my friend Bernie and her husband Steve. She’s the one who vacuumed her dog until the dog ate the attachment. It has no particular relevance to this story, but…she knows why this pic is there. Cheers Bern! Love you babe xxx)

Yes, I’m laughing at myself. And I’m serious, all at the same time. I’m laughing at myself for being so serious. I’m sure it will happen. Although, knowing me, I’m stressing about nothing, and it’ll be more like a splinter removal than giving birth. I’ll still stress about it though. I’m weird like that. And I know that if I was ten years’ younger I’d be even-more-convinced of my rightness, and stressing enormously. I get the feeling from my extremely-wisest friend, too, that if I was ten years older I wouldn’t be worried about it at all. But I’m me. And…I wrote this last night, and when I got up this morning there was an email from the wonderful Wanderer’s blog (I love this woman’s writing), and SHE had a link to this, which kind of confirms both a) I’m right and b) it’s going to be okay. It really is.

So tell me what you think. Have you gone to the other side of the world and come back changed? Or have you gone to the other side of the world and come back UNchanged? What was it like for you?