Sunday, 24 September 2017

A New Season Ahead

I’ve been back in Australia for over one year now. It’s been full of ups and downs.
In the first eight months of being back in my home town, I couldn’t see much purpose in being where I was except that God had called me to be there. So many days I struggled with loneliness and a lost sense of purpose. In my mind there’s nowhere to go but forwards and so as the days ticked on, I tried new things. I found a new job where I could be challenged and learn new skills, I found a new church that I love and I knew I was where God had placed me, in a season of waiting. I felt challenged to live in that waiting, as uncomfortable as it was. I struggled and wrestled and still do some days. It’s hard to live in a state of discomfort, both physically and mentally. I’ve done a lot of both this year as I’ve struggled with body aches and often constant discomfort, but the mental anguish is harder. It has been way harder than I thought it would be to return to the same town I grew up in. It has been hard to live as a single 30 year old female in a town full of married friends who are now busy wives and mothers. I have made myself as useful as possible, hanging out washing, bringing it in, bathing kids, feeding them, babysitting, playing in parks, having tea parties and generally hanging out. In the process I have loved all of it and tucked away lots of very special memories.

I have lived with one of my sisters since coming home who has been studying really, really hard to pass her emergency medicine trainee exams. As hard as it has been to watch her struggle through endless days of study (up to 11 hours a day on her days ‘off’), it has been an incredible privilege to support her and help her get through them as well as she can (and she passed them both!!!!!!). Basically it means that I kept the house clean and stocked with food! She has also been a pillar of support, understanding my passion for providing healthcare to those whose countries aren’t providing it for them and knowing how it feels to come home to an empty, dark house at the end of the day.

I have enjoyed so much about being back in Australia. I have been around for my newest nephew’s whole life! I have been so blessed to have most of my family close around me, available to hang out almost any time.

We’ve all been through waiting seasons. They aren’t fun, but one of the many books that I’ve read during this period challenged me to ask myself what I was learning. At the time I was actually stumped, but as time passed I realised I was learning all sorts of things; endurance, how to trust that God has my future, how to live and still praise Him in the discomfort, to look for places to serve now, to choose joy and always be thankful.

The sister that I’m living with will be moving from this town at the beginning of next year, leaving me without furniture (because I own nothing!), a house and my favourite housemate ever. As disappointing and sad as this felt when I heard the news from her, I was excited for her and had always felt like our time together was an unexpected blessing. I wondered quite a lot about what my next step would be, what would I do with my time and passion, where would I live if I stayed here considering I always felt it was temporary, but I also felt like I didn’t have to have the answer yet. I needed to wait. So I waited.

Then one day I got a message from a friend on the ship asking me if I’d like to return and fill a position that had a gap. After much consideration, prayer and people closest to me discussing it, I’ve decided to go! (insert emoji with ear to ear grin!!) I will be the Ward Nurse Maxillofacial Team Leader to finish off the Cameroon outreach from the end of January to June 2018 and I’m really excited! So excited that this week that I went and got three vaccinations!
Before this year finishes though, I’m heading to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK, to do my Diploma of Tropical Nursing. It is a 3 week crash course in all things tropical nursing so despite the fact that I’ve seen worms come out of the body in many places and all sorts of other creepy crawlies, it will increase my knowledge and I am excited to learn more.

I won’t return home until the week before Christmas so I must get organised before I go! Once I return there will be Christmas celebrations, New Years, a new niece entering the world and lots of packing and goodbyes.

As I sit here and think about the year that has passed and the new season ahead, all I can think is: I have a lot to be thankful for and excited about!!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Ten Months

I wish I could say after ten months being back in Australia that I had adjusted to life here. In some ways I have, I mean, I know what side of the footpath to walk on without being bumped into again. But deep down I know that life is passing and not getting any better.

The days somehow slip away faster in Australia than they did on the ship. I barely know where the past months have gone and what I have spent my time doing. I feel in some ways like time is in fast forward yet other days have stretched out much longer than I would have cared for. These days are usually the lonely ones when my sister is at work and I'm home, plodding around the house with no one to talk to but the plant on the window sill or the neighbour's cat if she is around. Of course there's always someone at the other end of the phone, but some days I just don't feel like talking and I'm too tired to go anywhere. 
Other weeks my time has been full. Full of work, full of study, full of looking after other people's children, full of keeping the house clean and stocked with food. In the busy days I'll sometimes feel full of purpose and others days like I'm just filling in time waiting for the next thing to happen. 
But what is next? What am I doing in this strange season of waiting? What can I find here to feel passionate about?
I would say that I'm surviving but not thriving. What would it take for me to thrive here, I ask myself every so often. I haven't come up with an answer yet. I might have grown out of this town. It doesn't seem to fit me anymore. I feel like I could slip away unnoticed, except for my family. They have been my roots through this whole replanting. As for me, I feel like I've been harshly pruned for a new season but no buds have grown yet. The losses from the ship; my community, a job I adored, single friends to take adventures with, new places to explore, is more grieved all these months later than the day I walked down the gangway for the last time.

The one thing I can do is hold onto the hope I know that I have in Him. He sees me, He knows me and He loves me and that will have to be enough.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Days That Seem Dark

“No matter how long we’ve walked with God, we will still have days that seem dark. In those times rely on who He is.” Beth Moore

I found this quote in my journal this week when I opened it to write some New Year goals and dreams for the year. I was struck with how appropriate those words are for me in this season. The darks days seem to stretch on and on, with definite glimpses of light and beauty but always a shadow of darkness.
It feels as though leaving Mercy Ships has stripped me of my purpose. I lived and breathed Africa and her people, meeting new friends and having adventures. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things to love about being back in Australia and around my family, but I’m a different person now and won’t ever fit back into the place I left. The place that I have left has changed too. My community has dispersed over the last six years and is no longer as it was.
To make matters worse for me, I am single in a world of married women who have become mums in the last few years. So not only do I not fit into this Aussie culture, I’m husbandless and childless. Talk about not fitting in. When I’m looking for projects to occupy my time outside of work, my mum friends are run off their feet. Am I the only one in the world with this dilemma?

I recently watched the documentary The Insanity of God created by Open Doors and had the opportunity to hear Nik and Ruth Ripken speak at a church in town. I highly recommend watching the documentary or reading the book (although I haven’t read it yet) because their story and the stories they tell of persecuted Christians across the world are absolutely amazing. One thing that Nik said the night that I heard him speak was, when the persecuted Christians were told by authorities to stop praising God and gathering together, they knew that if they obeyed the authorities, the enemy would win, so they decided to do the opposite. Despite the fact that we live such free lives in Australia, the principle can still be applied here. I felt encouraged to turn my defeated, negative feelings around and not let the enemy win, to choose joy and thankfulness in all circumstances. I’ve had to practice this a lot since coming home. I made a list of things I’m thankful for:

For praying family and friends
For the ability to grow plants and nurture them and see them flourish
For good coffee, all the time
For being able to walk around home in my pyjamas with bed-hair for as long as I want
For having a bedroom and bathroom to myself
For having a car to drive around in and not count kilometres travelled
For being able to eat whenever and whatever I want
For being able to cook fresh foods and add lots of spice to my meals
For having windows that open
For hearing the birds out my window
For warm weather
For electrical storms, hearing the thunder, seeing the lightening and smelling and feeling the rain
For yummy cheese
For a job that pays good money
For a good team of nurses to work with
For family close by
For friends that include me in their daily lives
For being able to light candles in my house
For a washing machine that I can use any time of the day or night and there is no one waiting after me to finish
For a clothes line in the sunshine
For FaceTime and across the world face to face conversations
For ship friends in Brisbane
For my little home, all the space and comfort of having a place to call my own and be at peace

I’m waiting, semi-patiently, for a few new opportunities to open up in the new year but in the meantime I have to keep going back to the reminder in that quote. I don’t know where God has me, where He is leading me, but I have to trust and rely on who He is, to choose joy and thankfulness and for now that is enough.

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isa 42:16

Three of my little lights


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