Les Miserables: all about grace

Souljourneyboy and I went to see Les Miserables today – a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.

There’s so much I could say (and warning: spoilers ahead); Hugh Jackman was absolutely incredible, Anne Hathaway amazing, and I didn’t mind Russ’s Javert too much, even though I felt like you could tell he was thinking about the singing in some of the scenes, as it is obviously not as effortless for him as it is for the others. Les Miserables is my favourite modern opera/musical, and despite some of the changes in the score (yes, I probably could sing the whole thing through from beginning to end) I felt it transposed brilliantly to the silver screen. These was such a sense of intimacy and immediacy about it that the emotion really did blow me away.

As a Lefy at heart, I love that Les Mis always makes me feel like I want to join a revolution. I love that it has such a strong narrative of social conscious and political activism at its core; whenever I hear “Do you hear the people sing?” I’m like – sign me up!

But most of all, I love that Les Miserables is about grace. It’s about grace triumphing over legalism, love winning over revenge. This was brought home so strongly to me in the scene when Jean Valjean, wearing the uniform of the law, gives Javert back his life in a unwarranted, amazingly powerful act of mercy. Valjean, grace personified, fulfilling the true meaning of law and justice by giving the gift of freedom to his enemy, knowing that the consequences will probably mean his own death.

If that’s not the Christian story right there, then I don’t know what is. I wish Christians (myself included) did that story of grace and love more justice.

For, as the closing song says,

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Love and grace. Nothing else matters. I am just so appreciative that Les Miserables tells that story in such a powerful and beautiful way.

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Farewell 2012

So 2012 is coming to a close.

We will spend tonight farewelling the past year with new and old friends – although I think I’ll skip bringing in the New Year. There’s no way I can stay up till midnight anymore!

When I look back on it, 2012 was a bit of a mixed bag. There were lots of wonderful things – first and foremost, visiting Italy with my best friend, Soul Sister (you can read about our adventures here) finishing my degree, feeling like I did better with the working-mother-guilt complex, bidding farewell to preschool days and starting this blog πŸ™‚

But there were a few hard things too. My grandmother passed away, as did my uncle, a dear friend’s father and my own father’s best friend. So much death and sadness in a small space of time.

And so now 2013 beckons. I’m really looking forward to Little Miss starting school – she’ll love it, and what a wonderful thing to have ALL THREE CHILDREN IN THE ONE PLACE. I think you maybe have to be a working parent to really appreciate the unique wonder that is the single pick-up and drop-off point.

I’m looking forward to writing and reading more, and to maybe rearrange things at work so I can have a better balance between work and home. I want to get fitter and healthier, and spend less money on stuff we don’t really need. I want to spend more time with Souljourneyboy (rather than feeling like we’re just co-parenting room mates) and spend more one-on-one time with the kids. I want to be a better person and engage more in spiritual reflection. In some ways, I don’t have the grand plans that I had in previous years, but that’s OK. I hope 2013 will bring fulfillment and refreshment in a quieter, more subtle way.

So here’s to experiences old and new, and a happy, blessed and fulfilling 2013 for all of you.

 

Suffer the children

I feel as though I can’t let the Sandy Hook massacre pass me by without writing something on it.

I, like the rest of the world, watched in horror and disbelief as the tragedy unfolded. I, like so many other mothers, hugged my children extra tight and held back tears as I thought about how precarious and precious life is.

I’ve read many editorials over the past few days and I don’t know that I have anything much to add. I am angry and disbelieving at the power of the NRA and the lack of gun control laws in America. I am deeply disturbed by lack of funding available for those who are mentally ill – not just in America, but in Australia too. All of this has been said, and much more eloquently than I could ever hope to say it.

But I’d like to now spare a thought for the other children, who didn’t make news headlines.

For the 21,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases. For the 4 million newborns who die in the first month of their lives. For the 2 million children under 15 who are living with HIV. For the 300,000 child soldiers who are are forced or coerced into armed forces. For the 40 per cent of these soldiers who are girls, and often kept as sex slaves for their male counterparts. For the 2 million children who are trafficked annually for child labor and sexual exploitation.

This Christmas, I will think on those little children slain atΒ  Sandy Hook Elementary School and grieve for the parents who are suffering an indescribable loss. I will also think about all those children across the world who are in equally indescribable circumstances. When I think about all of these things, it makes complete and perfect sense that the Christ-child came to bring love, peace and hope to a broken world.

I hope this Christmas gives all of you the chance to enjoy love, peace and happiness. Because the rest of it – the presents, the food, the Santa sacks – are nice, but they don’t really matter at all.

Blessings to you all.

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 πŸ™‚ )

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.

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 πŸ™‚

 

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.Β  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 πŸ™‚

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.

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 πŸ™‚ 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!