New Years Resolutions: is change really possible?

New Years Resolutions. We all make them. We decide the new year is a time to transform ourselves: to get off the couch and run more, to eat less take away and more home-cooked meals, to read our bibles and pray more. We make plans to transform our lives: to climb mountains and sunbake on exotic beaches, to find that dream job that utilises our true potential, to peel our eyes away from screens and actually experience life. We dream of doing our bit to change the world: to grow vegetables and invest in a worm farm, to donate more to charities and less to multi-million dollar corporations, to campaign for justice and raise awareness for the less-fortunate.

Yet, seldom do we ever see these plans to fruition. The question is always asked: how long do you think you will hold fast to your Resolutions? The answer, I’ve found, is reflected in the person’s rolled eyes and awkward laughter. It seems that we desire change, yet don’t believe it possible. We aspire to greatness yet don’t consider it achievable. No matter whether our intensions are genuine, we ultimately fall back into old habits. If this is the case, then why do we bother making resolutions at all? I think it is because we want to believe that change IS possible, that greatness IS achievable, that old habits and addictions CAN be broken. On our own, however, we cannot achieve these things.

The answer is found in a man who walked this earth 2000 years ago, whose birth humanity celebrates every year at Christmas, but is overshadowed by mass consumerism and a hairy guy in a red onesie. A man who willingly gave His life on a Roman cross in order to bring us to salvation and reconcile us into relationship with God. A man called Jesus. It is only in and through Him that true, lasting change can occur, that we who were dead in our sin are brought to life. The problem with New Years Resolutions is that we seek to evoke change ourselves, rather than seeking inward and outward renewal through the Spirit. We plan and dream and strategize, yet forget to pray! We fail to acknowledge His sovereignty over our lives. We are motivated by our own desires and purposes rather than by the glory of our God who is sovereign over all.

My one resolution for this year is to wake up every day and intentionally acknowledge God’s sovereignty over my life; to open my eyes and surrender every day to God, to be used as a vessel for His glory. I need to be willing to set aside my own selfish desires so that His far greater purposes can be fulfilled in and through me. In doing so, I have to acknowledge that in my own strength I can do nothing, but by the work of the Spirit in my heart, mind and soul, true transformation will occur. I will make plans, set goals, dream and strategise; but, in the words of Psalms:

Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose

of the LORD that will stand. ~Proverbs 19:21

 

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2014: A Year of Thankfulness & Grace

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Reflecting on 2014, I can see that every day of this year has been filled with His grace. Even in the days of great pain and suffering I can truly say that God was present and faithful. I have learnt more this year than any previous just how precious a gift Christ dying on the cross to bring me to salvation was. If not for that act of love, I wouldn’t have a relationship with the living God; I would still be lost in the darkness of my sin. If not for His willing sacrifice I would not be indwelt by the Spirit, being renewed within and without. If not for His resurrection I would not have the hope of eternal glory that enables me to endure the hardest of times. He is worthy of all praise!

Over the past week I’ve been sharing some of the best days of this year in my favourite way – through photography – via Instagram and Facebook. It seems fitting to share them here too.

God bless, and Happy New Year, wherever you are!

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In January I saw the first of my close friends get married. Over the course of this year I’ve witnessed numerous friends transition from dating to engagement and have watched new relationships blossom. I’ve been so encouraged by how each of these couples seek to honour God in their relationships as they grow in love and serve Him together.
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In February my fatigue and depression where quite bad. To get me out of the house Dad drove me to our favourite spot. We just sat and watched the sun set and the waves roll into shore. I needed to be reminded that God, who created the heavens and the earth, also made me in His image and died to save me, and is sovereign over my life. I’ve witnessed many sunsets over the course of this year, but this was definitely a favourite.
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In February some of my family gathered to celebrate my Grandpa’s 85th birthday. I don’t get to see my cousins often so when I do it’s really special. It was a beautiful summer day and we spent most of it in the water, swimming and laughing and enjoying being young. It was by far one of the best days of my summer holidays.
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In April I finally got to meet this beautiful girl after months of correspondence, connecting over similar experiences of sickness, united by our Saviour. We spent two amazing days together, watching the sun set and rise from the most beautiful hill in Sydney, eating gluten/dairy/everything free food and talking non stop about Jesus for hours. I am so encouraged by this incredible sister and how she seeks to reflect His love and grace in all she does.
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In June I left my teen years behind and embraced adulthood. This photo was captured on my last day of being nineteen. Chronic illness characterised my adolescence, and I wanted to adventure to the mountains with my family to celebrate how much God has healed me. I’m not where I thought I would be at twenty, but I can see God at work in my life in incredible ways, for His glory.
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In June, in the midst of pre-exam anxiety I escaped up to my Grandpas for the weekend with Dad. We went to West Head, and watched an epic storm roll in over the ocean. Seeing this incredible rainbow form against a backdrop of violent seas reminded me to look beyond the seeming chaos of my own life to the greater purposes of God. He is at work in all things for His glory, and I am thankful that He holds my life in His hands.
IMG_3132.JPG In June, I spent a day with these beautiful women wandering the streets of Balmain, consuming tea and muesli, talking about Jesus and celebrating the 21st birthday of @athenagracee. These sisters all reflect His love and grace in the way that they live, and I am constantly encouraged by the passion they each have to see His name proclaimed. They are a blessing, and this day together was wonderful.
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In July I spent two weeks studying, camping, reflecting, praying and living in community with college first years. My identity was transformed as I realised I’d been defining myself by illness and my achievements, rather than Christ. My relationship with God changed as I discovered the pride that is at the root of my sin. My perception of others was renewed as I learned to live by the forgiveness of sin in Christ. This photo was captured one day after morning prayers on the beach.
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In August, I broke both my arms. In the midst of the pain and depression that inevitably followed, there were a few good days – including this one with Tessa. We adventured to this incredible place and just sat in awe of His creation, praying and dwelling on His sovereignty and faithfulness. What began as a painful day for us both was redeemed and made beautiful by His grace.
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In September, I went on a roadtrip to Canberra with a dear friend to see Floriade (a famous flower festival). She also has chronic pain/fatigue and has been a constant source of prayer, encouragement and support, consistently pointing me to our Father who grieves over our pain and who gives us the strength to endure through each day. Our roadtrip was laughter-filled and a highlight of my year. Pictured: sunset over Lake Burley Griffin.
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In October, I went away with Dad for the weekend. When not adventuring to beautiful places, I spent the time just being still, praying and reflecting on life. Sometimes, the best moments are the ones spent alone with God, in His creation, learning to find satisfaction in Him and not in the things of this world.
IMG_3129.JPG In November, I finished up a great first year at bible college. This little community has been amazing to be a part of – a place of acceptance, love and grace. For the friendships I have made, for the many moments of laughter, for how I have been personally challenged and for the ways I have grown in my relationship with God, I am beyond thankful. IMG_3133.JPG
In December, I escaped with my family to the beautiful Port Stephens. Sunset walks, spotting Dolphins, snorkelling, sandboarding and spontaneous drives to spectacular seascapes were how we spent our days. I can’t get over how stunning this little corner of the world is, and how blessed I am to have shared it with my beautiful family.

Conclusions: 2014 – what a year! A year of new experiences and adventures. A year of brokenness and great healing. A year of growth and transformation. A year of adolescence and adulthood. A year of friendships old and new. A year of light and love and laughter. An amazing year.

See y’all in 2015! x

Great Expectations

There is a scene in the indie rom-com (500) Days of Summer where the main character, Tom Hansen – played by Joseph Gordon Levitt – goes to a party his ex is throwing. The screen is split in half: on the left we see what Tom expects will happen (“Expectations”), whilst simultaneously on the right we see what actually happens (“Reality”). As has become clear from the previous hour of the movie, Tom’s expectations rarely meet reality. He is a dreamer, an optimist, a “glass half-full kind of guy”, a hopeless romantic at heart. I am the female version of Tom. I suspect we all are, really. Except for the bitter, pessimistic realists of the world. (No judgement if that is you – I envy your ability to see reality as it is; it must save you a lot of hurt.) I have great expectations, of others, of life, and most especially of myself. And yet, more often than not (if not always), reality doesn’t play out in the way that I expect it will.

(500) Days of Summer, (2009).

In my early teen years I had great expectations of what adult life would be like. I imagined being a “hip”, leather satchel carrying uni student, studying philosophy, history and literature in Hogwarts-esque buildings. I dreamed of backpacking through Europe and Asia, climbing mountains, eating exotic food, visiting historic sights and seeing Monet, Da Vinci and Van Gogh’s paintings with my own eyes. I envisioned moving out of home, living in the city or on the beach with friends. I anticipated independence, having the freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted. I had great plans for myself, for who I would be and what I would do.

Yet, at twenty, my life looks very different than that which I had aspired towards. I’m not at uni, but at bible college studying theology and ministry at diploma level. I still haven’t been overseas (not even to Tasmania!), I’m allergic to most exotic food and my body certainly wouldn’t allow me to do any mountain climbing anytime soon. I’m still living at home in the suburbs, with my family. I don’t feel particularly independent (I don’t even have my drivers license!) and my social activities depend greatly on whether my parents can drive me or on public transport. While I do have some freedom of choice, much of my daily life is dictated by others or by things beyond my control.

What I am realizing though, is that sometimes reality is far better than my expectations. My life may not be as exciting, creative, romantic or adventurous as I would like, but it is still pretty great. I love bible college; I could not be more grateful for the people I have studied and fellowshipped with this year, and for how I’ve grown in my relationship with God. I may not have been overseas, but I regularly adventure to beautiful areas of Sydney and beyond. My health is gradually improving and I may be able to climb mountains and eat exotic food someday. It is a great privilege to live with my family, whose love and support have sustained me through the hardest of times. I appreciate what I have more for having had to fight for it, and though I experience times of pain, depression and loneliness, the good far outweighs the bad.

So I’ve decided that, while it’s ok to dream, it is more fruitful to enjoy the present, to live in the moment and be thankful for what God has blessed me with now. I know that ultimately, my life is in His hands, and that the reality of His purposes are far beyond what I could ever expect. In faith, I surrender my plans to Him and trust that He will use me for His glory.

City Adventures

Yesterday, art was admired, dumplings were eaten, tea was drunk, conversation was had, buses were caught and feet were walked to blistering point along the beautiful streets of Sydney with a dear friend.

IMG_2619.JPGAbove: fact – tea and dumplings are best consumed underneath rusty birdcages.

IMG_2623.JPGAbove: ‘Self and Self – a Beginning‘, 2013 – He Yunchang.

IMG_2625.JPGAbove: ‘Spring and Autumn 1’, 2007 – Bai Yiluo.


All photos captured with iPhone5s.

Location – White Rabbit Gallery, Chippendale.

These Summer Days…

IMG_2403IMG_2287Summer has just begun in Australia – the season of sand, saltwater and sweet, sweet sunshine. The air is humid and gusts of hot air caress perspiring skin. We flock to the beaches and mark our territory with vibrant towels on the white sand amongst the seagulls.

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IMG_2407With great fervour we leave our woes behind and sprint into the whitewater without care for the cold. Tossed to and fro by the breakwater we laugh and scream with delight. The tide tugs at our limbs, threatening to steal us away from the safety of the red and yellow flags.

IMG_2428  IMG_2421Once tired of being tossed about like rag dolls in the surf, we set out on a journey of discovery. At low tide, rock pools inhabited by all manner of marine life – aquariums of fish and urchin and crab – display their wonder on the tidal platforms. We climb around the ragged cliffs, searching for hidden caves.

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Afternoon storms roll in off the mountains, bringing an end to our recreation. In muggy melancholy we depart the shore, but not without first consuming fish and chips – the finest of coastal cuisine. This concludes our trip to the beach – my preferred way to spend these summer days.


All photos captured with iPhone5s.

Location: North Beach, Wollongong / Werri Beach, Gerringong.