Christmas magic

I really love Christmas.

I love everything about it; the bustle, the gift-giving, the sparkly decorations, the excitement of Christmas morning, sharing the day with family and friends. I love the spiritual reflection it brings when we think about God’s ultimate gift of love to us, and the fact that, for a moment, the world thinks about peace on earth.

One of the things I really love about Christmas is that I get swept up in the magic right along with my children. Yes, we are one of those families that “do” Santa – mostly because I think if you can’t believe in magic at Christmas time, then life is a little bit more depressing that it has to be. (NB – I know many families that don’t do Santa for perfectly valid reasons – no criticism from me 🙂 )

And even though I’m a (mostly) responsible adult, who works in the political ream – you can’t get much less enchanting than that! – I just have this feeling that something magical really is just around the corner at Christmas time. I was reading the Polar Express to the kids the other evening, and I choked up at the end – as I always do – when it gets to the part about “those who truly believe”. I want to truly believe! I kind of do!

I just feel like anything is possible at Christmas. So I will continue to indulge the kids’ – and my own – sense of the magical at Christmas. I’ll leave the milk and cookies out, and sparkly reindeer food, and a special note thanking Santa and wishing him all the best for the next leg of his journey. I’m happy for them to have their heritage of fairyland – as Anne of Green Gables put it – as long as they can. (It actually wasn’t that long with Bookworm, who is very scientifically-minded. He announced at age 4 that Santa couldn’t possibly be real, because magic wasn’t real. Sigh.)

And anyway…who knows? It’s Christmas…magic is in the air…and anything is possible. Even peace on earth.

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Cookies, cupcakes and companionship

We had a lovely Saturday today.

The last few weeks have been manic – I had my last exam for my Masters degree, and no sooner than I had surfaced from my postgraduate quagmire, Souljourneyboy was swallowed by the tidal wave that is end-of-year reports for teachers everywhere. (It’s always the middle of terms 2 and 4 that I begin to wonder if I’ve stumbled into that Reese Witherspoon movie ‘Just Like Heaven’, where two people are living in the same house but only catching glimpses of one another because they’re existing on different existential planes). So I guess it was no surprise that the kids have been pretty unsettled, and bickering more than usual.

So today we decided we would just be parents. We asked the kids to each choose an activity to do with the parent of their choice, and they loved the idea.

Bookworm chose a bushwalk with Souljourneyboy out the back of our house:

 

Picasso chose baking chocolate shortbread cookies with Souljourneyboy:

And Little Miss chose baking cupcakes with me:

 

The result was lots of fun and much better behaviour!

I love that weekends give us a chance to reconnect with each other after the chaos of the week (or weeks!) gone by. There truly is a spiritual element to rest and relaxation.

I hope you all get the chance to reconnect with people you love this weekend. It’s one of my favourite parts of my soul journey 🙂

 

In between

25 things about me

I posted a list like this a while ago on my Facebook account, but thought I’d share again. It’s just a list of 25 random things about me…it may or may not be interesting!

1. I love to eat Cadbury milk chocolate and drink full cream milk. Clearly Michelle Bridges does not allow this! But I will look forward to it as a treat once my 12-week stint is done.

2. I am absolutely passionate about books. My favourite store is the book store. You can read about my favourite books here.

3. I love shopping. I don’t really like this about myself, because I am anti-consumerist and don’t believe in unregulated capitalism or materialism, and I am very budget-conscious, but I honestly love to shop.

4. I think I misunderstood God for many years.

5. I often dream about spiders. I frequently wake poor Souljourneyboy up by yelling about spiders in the room.

6. I am mixed race. Half Sri Lankan and half Anglo-Australian.  Sometimes wish I identified more with my Sri Lankan background, and less with my Anglo side.

7. My second toe is longer than my big toe.

8. I love beauty. I love beautiful things: a bunch of flowers, a moonlit night, the ocean, pretty jewellery, the perfect colour green, a throw rug, a photograph or painting, a wonderfully-decorated room, a song, a garden, candles…it doesn’t have to be luxurious or expensive, just beautiful.

9. I am a morning person. I like to get up early and get things done…this is sometimes a source of frustration in my marriage because Souljourneyboy is so very much NOT a morning person 🙂

10. I am constantly surprised by the passion I feel for my children. I never thought maternal love would be so physical, so all-consuming.

11. I have been best friends with Soul Sister for 30 years.

12. I have the most eclectic taste in movies/TV shows of anyone I know. I like drama, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, horror (despite my dislike of blood in real life), murder mystery, thriller, romance, even some westerns. My list of faves is here.

13. Souljourneyboy was the first boy to ever call my house to talk to me…it was on my 15th birthday (I was a late starter).

14. Like Miss Congeniality, I really do want world peace.

15. I have two dreams – I want to be a published author, and I also want to work for the UN. Sometimes I wonder why I want to do both these things so much, when they aren’t really related, but there you go. I just do.

16. I sometimes used to get my Mum to tell me I had to stay home when I was a teenager so I didn’t have to go out with my friends…I liked being at home! Still do, actually.

17. I like writing essays. So this combined with number 16 means I think I am probably a nerd.

18. I love cooking. I love making and sharing delicious food with good friends.

19. Like Jed Bartlett, I am a “lifetime holder of minority opinions”. It always seems that if everyone in the room thinks one way, I’ll almost always think something else. Sometimes this bugs me.

20. If I had to label myself, I think I would be a …Critical Theorist Post-Modern Feminist Christian. Crazy, much?

21. I like to design houses sometimes in my spare time. I am trying to design my perfect house, should I ever win lottery or something, but I haven’t perfected it yet.

22. I frequently have mood swings. Souljourneyboy thinks Sting’s song, “Four Seasons in One Day” was written specifically for me.

23. I frequently lose things.

24. I honestly believe a lot of the problems teenage girls have would be solved if they’d just read the “Anne of Green Gables” series when they were in primary school.

25. When I am reading I completely tune out. Completely. I honestly don’t hear a word anyone is saying. It often drives my family mad.

My life through magazines

As I purchased a Women’s Health magazine while out shopping the other day, I started thinking about the kinds of magazines I’ve purchased over the years, and what this says about the stages of my soul journey generally. Here’s a rundown of my life, as evidenced through my magazine purchases:

Dolly/Girlfriend

Yes, it’s shameful, but come on, I was a teenager. I’m sure other Gen-Xers out there spent as much time as I did plastering posters of Christian Slater all over my walls and drooling over Luke Perry. And I was always a sucker for one of those ridiculous surveys, like “What Kind of Girl are You?” etc etc.

Cosmopolitan

Naturally, this magazine was reserved for my young adult years! It was quite educational, I must say, particularly when I was first married 🙂 

Wedding magazines of all descriptions

The flowers, the cake, the dress, the corsages, the reception… there’s a magazine for every bridal decision to be made. And we spend a fortune on them!!!!

Home Beautiful/Home Design

Shortly after we were married, Souljourneyboy and I built our first house. And I think if we counted up all the money we spent on magazines we could have actually built an extension on the house itself.

Parenting/Real Life

Then along came the babies. It was suddenly very important to read all about how to wrap a newborn and whether bottle feeding a baby really will eventuate in them not achieving their full potential when they sit their HSC. OK, I’m being facetious –  actually I did read a lot of good articles during this time of my life, and more than anything, it made me realise I wasn’t alone in navigating the sometimes horrifying minefield that is motherhood.

Super Food Ideas

When the kids grew out of being babies, I got really into cooking. Especially the recipes that promised a delicious meal cheaply! As we were on one salary, cost was of huge importance. I still love to cook – and now I could actually afford quality ingredients! – but alas, don’t have a great deal of time for it anymore.

Women’s Health

And finally, that brings me to the current time of my life. I never thought I’d be interested in a Women’s Health magazine, but find I am now seduced by promises of weight loss and more energy. I’m also thinking of signing up for Foreign Affairs, now I have finished my Masters degree. And I do love my World Vision freebie mag, that keeps me connected a world beyond my immediate horizon.

I’d love to hear what kinds of magazines you’ve read through your life!

 

New horizons up ahead

On Wednesday I finished my exam on International Security, hit the send button, and watched as four years’ worth of work came to a glorious end.

I started my Masters of International Relations four years ago, when Little Miss was about one, and I wasn’t working. I felt lost in nappies and motherhood, and I needed something for me. So, naturally, a Masters Degree was the logical solution 🙂 Then I started working just two days, then two became three, then four – and finally I was working full-time and I was still slogging away at the degree in my “spare” time. There were times when I nearly gave it away, and to be honest I don’t think anybody could have blamed me. But I like finishing what I start, and I stuck with it – in no small part due to Souljourneyboy’s unfailing support.

Despite the stress I have to say I have loved it, and I really am going to miss the intellectual stimulation. But I am so relieved it is done! And now I’m looking forward to some new challenges, which will be:

Enjoying the kids more

I’m so enjoying the fact there’s no niggle of guilt now that I should be listening to a lecture, or reading, or studying. I’m looking forward to being present when I’m with the kids, instead of secretly trying to nut out ethics around humanitarian intervention in my head when I’m supposedly playing lego.

Getting on top of my health

I’ve done it – officially signed up for the next round of Michelle Bridges! It starts on November 19 and I’m hoping to lose around 8kg, but most importantly get fitter and healthier. I’m sure it will kill me, but I am excited!

Spending more time on my spiritual journey

This week I went to the funeral of a dear friend’s father. He was a wonderful man, and his spiritual journey is so inspiring. He was one of those people who absolutely lived as he believed. He was authentic, humble, prayerful and loved Jesus a lot. He loved those around him and made life better for all who knew him. Hearing about his life made me realise how much I want my life to count for those things too.

Writing

I really want to get serious about my writing now – and more specifically, a children’s book I have been writing on and off for the past 10 years. It’s been through many incarnations and came very close to being published a few times – and I am determined to either get it published, or publish it myself.

So here’s to new plans and fresh beginnings!

Faith through a fog

Okay, so this blog is pretty personal today.

Last week we had the privilege of seeing my baby nephew christened. It was an Anglican High Mass, with lots of ritual and incense, and I liked the quietude and the solemnity of it (well, I think I would have enjoyed it more if we hadn’t been trying to keep 10 kids quiet for the whole 2-hour service). I was a little amused though when Picasso said to me, “Mummy, why is it foggy in here?” I think the priest had got a little over excited with the incense at that stage, and we were indeed all looking at each other through a fine, scented mist.

Later on I fell to thinking about his comment – and how true it is of where I am at in my spiritual journey at the moment.

I grew up in a fundamentalist black-and-white kind of church environment. It was a very particular, narrow world view that I was presented with – and expected to believe unquestioningly – and I spent a long time forcing down the questions and concerns I had with what I was being told was “true”. So many limits on knowledge and understanding; so many rules and regulations.

After I decided to embark on a more personal journey of discovery, I very nearly gave away my faith. I have this very clear memory of sitting on a beach in Sri Lanka and asking myself, “What do I believe?” I could only come up with one certainty. I believed in God. That was kind of it. The rebuilding of my faith began from there.

A lot of the people I grew up with in church have given their faith away completely, and I totally understand why. It’s why I relate to Guy Sebastian’s struggle you can read about here. When you grow up in such a narrow world, and you finally move beyond it, you realise how limited your previous understanding was. It’s easy to have defined views about gay people if you’ve never actually befriended someone who’s gay. It’s easy to accept being told that marriages only work if women are submissive to their husbands until you get beyond that little world and see there are so many different models for marriage and relationships, and that actually patriarchy is of the most destructive forces in any society.

There are so many things that make me frustrated with religion. The fact that Christianity is so often hijacked by a (mostly right-wing) political agenda. That a friend of mind is shunned when she walks down the street, just because of her sexuality. That religions of all kinds are used to justify the most appalling acts of violence and hatred, resulting in the destruction of so many cultures and peoples. The very reason we have our current nation-state system is because creating states for people was the only way to stop the religious wars that were destroying Europe in the 1600s. The fact that religion has so often been used to preserve social institutions that are inherently unjust – it is mind boggling to me that women are still, to this day, not allowed to speak in some churches. The fact that ministers and pastors and priests and rabbis and whoever else can speak with such certainly about knowing “the truth”. I just think that’s supremely arrogant. Of all the trillions and people who have lived and died, and the trillions yet to come, it’s a little absurd to think that one particular person, who has grown up in a particular culture and has a particular world view, has sole access to “the truth”. I think we are all so far from the truth that we get glimpses now and then, but generally, in my experience claims of “but this is the truth!” are mostly used to convince you of a belief that you might be validly questioning.

And so why, despite all this – am I a believer? Why do I still have faith? I read somewhere recently that just as we don’t do away with science altogether because science was responsible for the atomic bomb, we can’t distill religion down to the crumby bits. Faith has also produced the most wonderful acts of sacrifice and service known to man. Take Corrie Ten Boom, who went to a concentration camp because she could not bear the suffering of the Jewish people around her. Or Mother Theresa. Or countless others who live daily lives of love and sacrifice because they actually take the commandment to “love others as you love yourself” seriously. I hang in there because of all of this, and the fact that there just has to be more to life than what we experience day to day. So my journey along the spiritual road is foggy, and at times challenging. We do, after all, see “through a glass, darkly.” But it’s what makes life meaningful and beautiful.

I wish all of you well in your own spiritual journeys, and hope you can take comfort in peace and beauty during those times when it is hard to see the road ahead.