Unstoppable force.

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image via Nina Matthews/Creative Commons

 

So a few months ago I declared my One Little Word for 2014 – for life, really – was love.

Love.

A small word that is the everything of life.

As I wrote last week, 2014 so far hasn’t exactly turned out as planned, and I’m seizing the opportunity to reset and restart, from where I am right now.  And to help me on my way, I’m going to use a challenge The Nester hosts each year, and make it something to help me focus on the areas of my life I want embrace and be intentional about.

The areas of my life I want to love on.  So really,  pretty much everything – my Spirit, my people, my home, my work, my community, my heart, my body, and so much more I don’t even know yet.

But for now, I’ll focus on one area of life each month, and document the process along the way.  No, I won’t be blogging about it every day, but I’m taking up the 31 (or 30) Day challenge to focus on an area of life and do one thing each day to actively love.  Whatever that is,whatever that looks like, I don’t know yet.  I’ll blog a few times each week and will document daily on Facebook and Instagram,  I’d love for you to join me along the way, and I encourage you to share how you’re loving intentionally in your life.

This has by no means been something well-prepared and organised, it’s just something I thought of today as I was pondering a quote from ‘Love Does‘ by Bob Goff (do yourself a favour, RUN to get this book and read it, do not wait!!!), that Shannan over at Flower Patch Farmgirl blogged about last month.  Bob writes:

‘That’s the way the chemistry of God’s love and our creativity work together when combined. No reservoir can hold it, no disappointment can stop it, and no impediment can contain it. It can’t be waved off, put of, or shut down. It doesn’t take no for an answer. Instead it assumes yes is the answer even when it sounds an awful lot like a no to everyone else. – Love Does by Bob Goff – ‘

We are created to love, because God loves us.  And we are created to be artists (with our art being the life we live).  Bob encourages us to bring love and artistry together to create an unstoppable force, and that is how I want to live my life.

With love being the unstoppable force that drives everything I do.  

I’m starting with my home.  I realised today that our home is such a part of our family, it’s like having another member to care for.  Only our poor home has been neglected, used and abused over the years, and in return has hardly failed us or let us down.  I’ve been giving it some TLC over the last few years in the form of some minor renovations and facelifts, but my heart tugs to make it so much more for our family.  Not perfect, nor with expensive renovations, but in the spirit of IDHTBPTBB (click over, you won’t be sorry), doing what I can with what I have to lavish love and comfort and calm, to create a haven for us to feel embraced by.

It was simply my desk today, clearing a few months worth of clutter.  Half an hour later, and a nearly-cleared surface now invites me to use the space for whatever is required at a given point in time.  It invites me to create with love.

Join me? 

 

Hitting reset.

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Well.

That didn’t exactly turn out as expected.  ‘That’ being my life in general.

Since I last posted, my life has changed even more, to the point where it now looks very, very different to the life I was living not so long ago, and I have come to learn that plans are what you make when you live under the gross misconception that you can have some significant control over your life.

But I’m not complaining.

At all.

Despite the position I’m in right now –  recovering from major surgery and not having a job, dealing with a raft of life issues and having very little idea of what the future holds – I have never known more peace in my life.  Because do you know what happens when the really significant areas of your life undergo dramatic changes – good health, jobs, relationships, finances, future goals?

Everything becomes really, really clear.  As in crystal.

I don’t meant to say that all of a sudden you ‘get it’, and life makes complete sense, and you can sit back and just cruise along.  The ‘stuff’ of life doesn’t go away, the everyday stressors and dealings and challenges and things that just make you cry (like scanning things at the self-serve checkout at the supermarket….), they’re still there.  They’re not going anywhere.

But what becomes so very clear is the truth that we can only live with what we have at any given point in time.  Where we live, how much money we have, the status of our health, the people in our lives – with every tick of the clock, that is all we know.  Nothing more, nothing less.

What we think we can rely on, what we take for granted – it can be gone in a second, with a word, before we take the next breath.

What we do when that happens is what defines us.

And what shapes us.

I am learning to live and respond from a place rooted in love, rather than fear, every day.  There are days where I fail miserably – as in it seems that everything I touch explodes in a hot, fiery mess, including me.  But when I look for the place of love, the way is clearer and there is peace, even if only briefly.  So I keep looking, and keep loving.  Rinse and repeat.

My current troubles are nothing more than run-of-the mill life troubles and whilst they have significantly impacted my life, I am more than ok, and without wanting to sound pithy and trite, I am so incredibly blessed with what I have. And yes, there are blessings in the trials, because they’re forcing me to look for the joy in everything.  I’m living life as Paul writes in James –

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4, The Message)

So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.

Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

Patience.  Persistence.  Perseverance.

And above everything, prayer.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” (James 1: 5-8, The Message)

Ask boldly, and believe.  Don’t worry.

Easier said than done, I know.  But it can be as easy as I choose it to be, and I’m choosing to reset my old, familiar, comfortably predictable ways of worrying over what life throws at me, and stepping out into belief without the needing to know.

“Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.” (James 1: 12, The Message)

Life, life and more life.

This week I will celebrate the life of a friend who left life here on earth to start her eternal life with Jesus, and the legacy she has left with me is to love Jesus with my whole heart, and to grab life with both hands and love fiercely with every breath I take.  Seeing her family love boldly and hope and persevere through her short illness, to stand and defend her faith and their faith in God and His healing in the face of negative medical opinions showed me what it is to choose life.  To choose love.  To turn from fear and death and live in hope.   To live out loud the choice to meet the testing challenge and stick it out, and for my beautiful friend, who was so loyally in love with God, her reward is life, life and more life.  For eternity.

That’s the life I want to live.  So I’m choosing love and life, over fear and death.

Tell me, how do you face the trials of life when they arise?  How do you find love when you’re in the thick of it?  What would you do if you had the chance to ‘reset’?

 

 

 

Eat well, live well, love well

Woolf Inked

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here.

Hoooo boy.

This is one of the biggies for me.

And probably the hardest, most challenging-every-day part of my life.

I believe in heating whole, clean, as-close-to-its’-natural-state-as-possible food, for me and my family.  I’m intolerant to gluten and sugar, dairy and grains in general don’t agree with me, and forget anything artificial.  I have an auto-immune disease that can be crippling, the symptoms of which are very much affected by my food choices.

Basically, the cleaner I eat, the better I feel.

Period.

You would think that would make the choice really easy for me, wouldn’t you?  Eat well = feel great.  Eat rubbish = feel like death warmed up.

I wish it were that easy.

I am so very blessed to live in a wonderful part of the world where I have very ready access to beautiful, wholesome food.  We have a small farmer’s market once a week that provides seasonal produce, and great fruit and veg shop sand butchers  that provide a range of local/organic/fresh produce and meat.  There’s really no excuse for not eating whole and clean, all the time.

The biggest problem is what goes on in my head.

I struggle constantly with want vs need, and I give in to the wants way too often.  Sugar, anything baked, creamy cheeses, carby goodness, and my brain is satisfied – for all of about 30 seconds.  It doesn’t take very long for my stomach to start processing.

When I don’t eat well, I get tired, grumpy, foggy in the head and simply just don’t function well.  I certainly don’t love well, that’s for sure.

Reducing the amount of processed rubbish and replacing it with wholesome, home-cooked food is important to me, as it is one way in which I can love well.

Love my family by taking the time to think about what will nourish their bodies and meals they’ll enjoy, and to prepare them and share in them together.

Love my community by supporting local farmers and producers.

Love this planet God has blessed us with by choosing food that hasn’t been modified or tampered with, or required being shipped thousands of kilometres (that is not to say that I don’t buy out-of-season or non-local food, because I do, I try to keep that to a minimum).

Love the people I do life with by encouraging them to do the same, and walking alongside them in their own journeys to eating well.

Loving myself and my body, being grateful for this amazing creation I am thanks to God, by making choices that only enhance my health and well-being.

The choice to live like this isn’t hard.  Resisting the temptation to give in to temporary, fleeting satisfaction in lieu of being intentional about what I eat because it is good for me, not just because I want it, is the challenge.

My choices haven’t been great of late – I could blame the ongoing tooth infection and resulting pain I’m living with, losing my job this week, or any number of other life stressors, but here’s the thing:

There’s always going to be something.

There’s always going to be something that will make me want to turn to comfort food, to seek out instant gratification, to feel like it’s too hard to fight the resistance.

So I’m simply going to make a choice.  To eat well, and to love well.

It really is that easy.

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Time to hit the road

Augustine Inked

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here.

I feel completely unqualified to write about travel.  Simply because I haven’t travelled much in my adult life.

I have had the great fortune of travelling around a lot of Australia (and it’s a reaaallllyyy big place!!!), most of my holidays occurring when I was a kid and my mum and dad were still married.  So basically, before I was 16.

20+ years later, and my family and I have stayed closer to home.  We have had some wonderful trips across the country, but have been very limited by a lack of funds to be able to do this more often.

Well, that’s always been my thinking.  No money for holidays and travelling, either within Australia or anywhere requiring a passport.

I’m starting to realise what a lie that is.

Yes, you need money to travel.  But my perception of never having enough money has always been because I’ve never made it a priority.

I don’t need anything fancy for a holiday.  Give me a tent, a fire and some food, and I’m a happy girl.  Really, I’m that easily pleased.

But I still haven’t made that a priority, for a whole variety of reasons.  That right now seem really lame.

My eldest son is 16, and in the last few months it has struck me with stunning clarity just how little time we have left as a complete unit under one roof full-time, this little family of mine.  In a few years, he will be finished school and off to live out his adventures in the world.

All of a sudden, going places as a family seems reaaallllyyyy important.

I don’t care where, just as long as we’re together.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.

In the ongoing, beautiful process of putting our family back together, I want us to see new things together.  To have new experiences together.  To make memories together.

I don’t care where that is.  I just want us to do it together.

I am admitting my smallness in the enormity of the world.  To quote Tsh, I want to experience ‘the best way to understand our smallness is to leave our comfort zones and start exploring, one foot in front of the other‘.

There’s a whole world out there.  I’d better get started.

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Let’s take a ride

Since January 1, I’ve been writing about how I want to live life differently, how I plan for 2014 to be The Best Year Yet.

So far, it’s working.

I know it probably sounds a bit presumptuous to be saying this on the 3rd of February, but given that fact that my good intentions and yes, resolutions, have always gone out the window by now, I’d say that doing things differently is working out for me.

So to have the opportunity to review Notes From a Blue Bike at this time has been incredibly fortuitous, as this beautiful book – part memoir, part travelogue, part practical guide – has encouraged and affirmed so much of what I’ve been thinking about and implementing in my life.

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Notes From a Blue Bike is written by Tsh Oxenreider, founder and main voice of The Art of Simple.   She says ‘It doesn’t always feel like it, but we DO have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions.’ 

Yes, we do.  We have the freedom to make the choice to live slower, with intention, thinking about the choices we make and making decisions that mean we are living in harmony with our core values and beliefs, as opposed to continually striking a discord.

For the next week, I and other bloggers around the world will be writing about various aspects of life as Tsh focuses on in the book – food, education, travel, entertainment and work.  Come on over here to join in the fun, and as of Tuesday 4th of February (US time), you can grab a copy of the book here (I’ll update local Australian sources as I find them).

In the meantime, watch the trailer below.  You won’t be able to help but start asking yourself questions that might just change your life.

About the book

Life is chaotic.  But we can choose to live it differently.

It doesn’t always feel like it, but we do have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions.

The popular blogger and founder of the internationally recognized The Art of Simple (formerly known as Simple Mom) online community tells the story of her family’s ongoing quest to live more simply, fully, and intentionally.

Part memoir, part travelogue, part practical guide, Notes from a Blue Bike takes you from a hillside in Kosovo to a Turkish high-rise to the congested city of Austin to a small town in Oregon. It chronicles schooling quandaries and dinnertime dilemmas, as well as entrepreneurial adventures and family excursions via plane, train, automobile, and blue cruiser bike.

Entertaining and compelling—but never shrill or dogmatic—Notes from a Blue Bike invites you to climb on your own bike, pay attention to who you are and what your family needs, and make some important choices.

It’s a risky ride, but it’s worth it—living your life according to who you really are simply takes a little intention. It’s never too late.

About the author

Tsh Oxenreider is the founder of TheArtofSimple.net (previously Simple Mom), a community blog dedicated to the art and science of simple living. She’s the author of Organized Simplicity and One Bite at a Time, a regular contributor to (in)courage, an advocate for Compassion International, and a top-ranked podcaster. A graduate of the University of Texas, Tsh currently lives in Bend, Oregon, with her family. Learn more at TshOxenreider.com.

 

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Jesus, baths and an Irish drinking song

In my job, I work with people who have been injured at work, and helping them return to work, and a lot of that involves working with them to build a ‘toolkit’ to work through the process, the tools that they need to achieve their goals, and to deal with pain and frustration and disappointment.

And to celebrate the wins.

Sounds like every day life, really, doesn’t it?

We all have pain, and loss, and frustration and disappointment.  And we all have wins and joys and reasons to celebrate.

Identifying ‘tools’ to help us deal with whatever life throws at us makes the whole process so much easier, as they give us something to work with for encouragement, for inspiration, for comfort and hope.

Hope

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. -Desmond Tutu #quotes #hope #light

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The biggest, most powerful tool I have is hope in Jesus.  Even when I don’t feel like it, I know, without fail, that it is Him and Him alone who knows what I need, and who will never let me fall.

Splish-Splash

Free up space in your vanity by storing bath essentials right on the tub! More easy bath storage: http://www.bhg.com/bathroom/storage/storage-solutions/easy-bath-storage/?socsrc=bhgpin062313tub=10

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My next never-fail tool is a long, hot bath.  There is no other option than long, and hot, and it is always made better with a book. Through some times of my life, that’s the only time I get to read, and incidentally, the frequency of baths as opposed to showers increases during these times…….

Seriously, it is a cure-all for everything.  When my joints or back flare up, the heat is the best painkiller there is.  After a loooooong, mentally draining day, everything melts away in the water.  When I’m grasping onto the fraying ends of my rope with the kids, I can shut the door, and they can see the invisible Do Not Cross tape across the doorway.  And when everything is right in the world, it is made so much more wonderful with bubbles and candles.

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

if there was 1 wish i had for you, it would b that i could take your nightmares away for a night that we are together so that you could really be present. Please tell me if there is as i want to be WITH you not just a presence.

But I obviously can’t just jump in the bath whenever life gets real.  I can, however, take deep breaths.  Lots of them.  For as long as I need.  Taking deep, slow breaths reduces your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, reduces the stress hormones running around your body, and helps promote a sense of calm.  Which is really helpful when you’re struggling to engage the filter between the words in your head and your mouth. Or to not let the thoughts trying to overwhelm you succeed.

Catching the worm

Lemony Snicket – Morning Quote visit www.facebook.com/placesbali

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I’ve never been what I would call a morning person, but somehow, I’ve become one.  In our house, the morning belongs to me, and I guard it fiercely.  I have learnt over the last few years that the most effective way to set up a day that will go well is to get up early, usually while it’s still dark, and wait for the light.  There is something almost

All I need is the air that I breathe

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It doesn’t have to be a grand example of creation, but simply getting outside does wonders for my heart and soul, I know when it’s been too long because I start to feel antsy, and I need to feel the warmth of the sun or the crispness of the cool in the air, even just for 5 minutes.  Get me to the beach, and nothing in the world can worry me.

Crazy little thing called Love

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I wrote about my word for 2014 here.  Seriously, find a word and start living it out loud every day.

You’ve got the music in you

Quotes: Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest. Heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul.

Music has been vital to the very centre of my being since I first learnt the words to ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ by heart, recognising the power of knowing a song intimately and how it made me feel.  I grew up with my parent’s songs, both old and new, and developed my own loves along the way.  I have nearly always had a song that has brought me comfort, hope, resonance and connection through various seasons and trials and victories in my life, and I firmly believe that God has given us music as a gift, and that He speaks through the words that inspire the writers.

“Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” — Martin Luther

This year, I’ve intentionally chosen two songs that encourage me, uplift me, make me smile and make me just stop and turn to God, songs that I know will see me through whatever the year brings.  I’ve already shared with you the delight that is ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ by Paul Colman (scroll down for the video clip), a rollicking tune that speaks to acknowledging what was in time past, and looking ahead to what will be in the time to come.

My other song is one that makes me just stop, every single time.  ‘Oceans’ by Hillsong United leaves me wanting more, more of Jesus, more of the life He has promised that I can live to the full, more of Him and less of me.  Just listen.  I promise you’ll get it.

Nom nom nom

clean food

Good, whole, clean food.  Simple as that.  I learnt from my first Whole 30 last year just how much the food affects me.  How simple, from-the-earth, unprocessed food makes me feel amazing, and that pretty much everything else leaves me wondering when I tucked into the contents of the kitty litter tray and then licked it for good measure (at least, I imagine that’s what that would feel like).  Now this isn’t as simple as it sounds for me – the practice, yes, but my head?  Not so much – I still have a push/pull with feeling like I’m missing out, and being grateful that I have the option to make a choice about what I eat.  But good food remains a tool in my box – when my overall health and wellness isn’t so great, going back to basics works better than any thing else.

So that’s the core of my toolkit.  There are other bits and pieces I use along the way, but all of the above is what gets me through life, through all the ups and downs.

I’d love to know what’s in your toolkit.  What helps you just keep putting one step in front of the other?  What makes you thrive in your life?  What can you not live without?

The beginning of the beginning.

10 years ago today, I made a decision that changed the course of the life of our family forever.

I decided to leave my husband.

And the crazy thing is, if I hadn’t, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

It took the complete breakdown of our marriage for us to learn just what it means to love someone, to learn what marriage is really all about, and for us each to find out who we are as individuals.

If we hadn’t gone through the breaking, the threshing, the refining, we wouldn’t have been ready for the rebuilding.  We wouldn’t have been ready or available for new foundations to be laid, for the construction of our new relationship to be built out of hope and faith and love.

Now, just to clarify, I am not an advocate of divorce.  I believe in fighting for a marriage with every ounce of your being, even when it feels like you’re being turned inside out and dragged along the ground, if that’s what it takes to save what you vowed and declared you would commit to forever, that day it all began for you and your spouse.

I believe that as a society, we give up on marriage too easily – we give up when it gets too hard, when it doesn’t feel like we think it should, when we feel like we’re not getting what we deserve, when we feel like our needs aren’t being met, when we’re wounded and hurt and feeling like our spouse isn’t living up to our expectations.  And we collectively give each other permission to do the same.

It’s no wonder the divorce rate is as high as it is, because all of us feel like that in every relationship we have, not just the ones with our spouses – family, friends, work colleagues, but our spouses are the only ones we can legally dissolve a relationship with.

When we say ‘I do’, they’re not just two little words.  They are a seal on a contract that binds us together for life – not just for today, and tomorrow, and maybe in ten years time, but forever.

That’s why I left my husband.  For all the reasons above, and more.  There was no specific ‘incident’, or ‘problem’ as such, just a collection of wounds and hurts and bitterness accumulated over time, each of us constantly wishing the other would change, but not realising that it was ourselves that had to change.

The moment of truth came quietly – it was the day before our youngest child’s first birthday, and we got into a fight over the proposed birthday celebration.  As it always did, the argument turned to ‘you always, you never, I wish you would….’ etc, etc, etc – an argument I could have scripted, we had had it so many times.  But that time, something shifted, and in a moment of stunning clarity, the thought came – ‘I can’t change him’.

I was never going to be able to make him change into who I thought I wanted him to be.

But I couldn’t keep living the way we were, none of us could.

So a couple of weeks later, I left.

And it was the beginning of who we were always meant to be.

It took a long haul through court, a divorce, years of healing before we could speak to each other again, and more years of learning to communicate and trust, for us to rebuild our relationship as co-parents and eventually as friends.  We were laying the foundations of our new relationship, or more to the point, God was laying anew the foundations of the relationship He has always planned for us to have.

And now here we are.

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Living a real-life mosaic, building something beautiful out of the broken pieces of our lives.

10 years later, what feels like a lifetime wiser and with a whole lot of life lessons under our belts , we are both very different people to who we were when we really didn’t understand what marriage what supposed to be.

That it’s putting someone before yourself every. single. day.

That it’s knowing that the whole deal is messy and complicated and frustrating, and that there are going to be times we just don’t like being where we have to be.

That it’s working out what someone needs and doing what we can to give it to them.

That’s it’s simply doing things we don’t feel like doing.

That it’s beautiful, and wondrous, and amazing that two people can make the choice to keep turning up day after day and facing life together.

That in committing to for better or worse, there’s always someone to walk through the pain and difficulties of life with.

That it is always, always worth it.

We are building our relationship based on what we’ve learned through our experience, and what we want our marriage to be.  It looks very different now to what it did so many years ago, and I thank-God every day for that.

10 years ago, as a young mum with 3 little kids and my world falling down around me, I had no idea what the future held in store.    Thankfully, my God did, and because He is in the business of making all things new, we now get to live out the story written for us.

We’re living proof that there are always new beginnings, sometimes it just takes getting through the endings to see what they are.

And it is always, always worth it.

This is Australia

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In 1770, Captain James Cook discovered Australia, and 226 years ago today, on the 26th of January 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip commanded  the First Fleet as it sailed into Botany Bay (in Sydney, New South Wales).

It was the first European settlement on Australian soil, and and they came to a land that had been inhabited by the the Aboriginal people for thousands of years, a land that was vastly different from the mother England they had left to venture to a new world.

The Australia of today could not have been imagined by the British government as they planned a new penal colony in a land far, far away.  Whatever their vision may have been, I love my country, for the life I get to live here and for what it has grown into over 200+ years.

During the 31 Days writing challenge, Anne over at Modern Mrs Darcy wrote about one of my favourite Australia movies ever in her cult classics series, and some of the comments in response to the post got me thinking about the peculiarities and eccentricites of this country.  As Aussies, we often have to explain nuances of Australian culture and ‘Australian-isms’ to those who haven’t lived here for any length of time.

So for the last few months, I’ve been thinking about introducing a series about all things Australian – history, culture, facts and figures, and everything celebrating the unique lot that we are.  Australia Day seems the perfect time to start, so here we are!  We’ll kick off with some facts and figures about this Great Southland, and I’ll be asking you all for what you’d like to know more about.

This is Australia

– Australia is an island continent, the only country in the world that is its’ own continent, with a surface area of 7,692,024 sq. kms.

– Australia is a nation made up of 6 states – South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia – and 2 territories, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.  After originally being 6 independent British colonies, Australia became an independent nation on January 1, 1901.

– The capital of Australia is Canberra (ACT).

– As of today, the population of Australia is approximately 23,364,300, and the main language is English.

– Approximately 80% of the population live along the coastline of the country, within 100km of the coast.

– Australia is a constitutional monarchy, which means we have a head of state in Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented in Australia by the Governor-General.

– Our head of government is Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister.

– Our currency is the Australian dollar, and we use the metric system (which includes measurement, weight and temperature).

– We have a universal health care system, that provides free hospital care and subsidised primary care.

– The average life expectancy is 79.5 years for men, and 84 for women.

– As we are in the southern hemisphere, it’s warmer in the north and cooler in the south.  We are also one of the driest continents, with an average of less than 600mm rainfall annually (I live in South Australia, which is the driest state in the country, making it one of the driest places on earth.  Not that you’d know it where I live!!)

(Sources herehere, here and here)

Short and sweet for now, but it gives you a snapshot of the land where I live, this amazing, beautiful, breathtaking, quirky country with a history of triumph, heartbreak, progress and tragedy.

So tell me, what do you want to know about Australia?  History?  Stories?  Sport, art, culture?  Come and chat in the comments, and I’ll do my best to help!

I’ll leave you with an iconic song that sings the story of how we came to be.  Whether we born here from a long line of generations, or arrived on our shores seeking a new life, we are all part of this place called Australia.

Goals and intentions in 2014 – and why I’m not sharing them

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So for the last 10 years or so, I have set goals, made resolutions, done all the things we do with a bright, shiny New Year – and failed with pretty much 98% of them.  Because that’s something new, right?

Over the last couple of years, and particularly the last couple of months, I’ve been taking the time to really look at why that happens, and what stops me from achieving the goals I set for myself.

It’s really very simple – fear.

I wrote last week about what it is I’ve been afraid of, and how I’ve made a very intentional choice to no longer be bound by fear.

And you know what?

It’s working.

I kid you not – barely a week later, and the difference in my life is astounding.  From what goes on in my head to how I behave in my relationships, turning away from fear and choosing love instead is changing my life.

I have been learning and more and more over the last little while of my life that we operate from two places in our life – love and fear.  That’s it.  Everything we think, feel and do can be traced back to love or fear, and I feel like I’m stating the obvious when I elaborate to say that all the good, beautiful, joyful, positive things in our life originate from love, and all the negative, ugly, hurtful and horrible things in life come from fear (just for the record, the jury’s still out on pain – in my experience, pain can certainly come from love).

This concept is something I’ve been exploring through what I know of God and His plan for us as His creation – to live a life of love, as He first loved us, and that there is no fear in love, for perfect love drives out fear.  It’s something that has really challenged me over the last 6 months particularly, as I’m someone who very easily falls prey to fear and worry, and it takes a lot of effort for me to turn away from wanting to prepare for what I see as the inevitable, or the ‘it could happen’, and to choose to embrace love and find hope and joy.

So I was VERY excited to stumble across Dr Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist who studies and researches the mind-brain connection, and writes about how our thoughts control our actions.  Including the concept of there only being two primary emotions – love and fear – and how our toxic thoughts control our lives (which we have the ability to change!!!).  You can bet I’ll be tracking down and devouring everything I can get my hands on because people, this is the key to living life – what we think controls what we do, and if our thoughts are shrouded in fear, we cannot live from a place of love, because if we feel one, we cannot feel the other.

If we focus on fear, we can’t see love, but when we focus on love, fear doesn’t even get a look-in.  That, my friends, is what is changing my life.  I’m not saying it’s easy, and that all of a sudden my life is sunshine and roses, but embracing this way of living, and being intentional about it, is turning my brain from a default of ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can and I will’.

I still get cross with my kids.

I still get frustrated with myself when things don’t go to plan.

I still worry about the ‘what ifs’.

But the difference is that I recognise how I feel, and choose to think differently.  I apologise to the kids and give them a hug.  I give myself some grace and just keep going.  I remind myself that God knows everything I need, and has already prepared the way ahead of me.

So what does this all have to do with my goals and intentions?

I want them to work this time.  I mean I really, really, really want them to work.  So I need to do something different.

In the past, I have spent time planning and strategising and calendar-ing what it is I want to achieve.  And then I tell lots of people, in the hope of making myself accountable.  But inevitably, all my good intentions go by the wayside, for two reasons – I give up when it gets too hard/uncomfortable/boring/frustrating, and I don’t ask anyone to be an accountability partner.

This year, I’ve still been planning and strategising and writing things in my diary, but I’ve taken my time, and just let the process happen, rather than trying to force something that’s never going to happen.  I also came across the theory that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen, because research shows that

Since both actions and talk create symbols in your brain, talking satisfies the brain enough that it “neglects the pursuit of further symbols.

Basically, talking about it is enough to satisfy the brain that you’ve actually done it.  So this year, I’m keeping quiet.  I’ve asked a few close friends to hold me accountable to certain goals, but that’s it.  I will absolutely share and celebrate the goals I achieve along the way, and the process to get there, but because I’m being intentional about changing old habits in 2014, I’m trying something different.

How about you?  Are you a goal-setter?  Do you need accountability, or are you disciplined in being accountable to yourself?  Share or don’t share?  Please join in in the comments, so we can encourage each other through this journey.

 

A new year, and the start of a better me.

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Well hello there.  I feel like I’m really only introducing myself properly now with a photo, so hi there again.

I wrote last week about 2014 being the best year yet, and before that how my word for the year was love, with my intention to better love my whole self, body, mind and soul.  So this week I’m writing about what that will look like for me in a practical, everyday sense, in the hope of encouraging others in their own journeys.

I took this photo on Saturday, after a run in the morning and in the midst of planning and getting things done around the house (including an unplanned bathroom renovation – more on that to come!), as a ‘before’ shot to mark the beginning of this intentional health and wellness journey. 

I’ve been here before, but this is the time to take the wholistic approach – Spirit, mind, body and heart – and I’m already finding how much of a difference that makes. I’m not actually making any massive changes – I’ve already radically changed my diet over the last couple of years, and particularly the last couple of months, and I don’t plan on becoming a fitness queen , just committing to moving every day in some form. The biggest change for me is what goes on in my head – ‘I can’, instead of ‘I can’t’, and ‘I will’ instead of ‘I’ll do it later’, and accepting that a couple of minutes of pleasure from eating something that isn’t good for me just isn’t worth it. 

Over the last few months, I’ve worked out that by following a Paleo-based diet, I don’t have any headaches or aching in my joints.  Or feel bloated.  Or lethargic.  And I actually have energy!!!  I love that I’ve found a way of eating that creates optimum health for me.  I don’t like that it means missing out on the foods that I reeeaaallly love (bread, anything dairy, and yes, chocolate), and I’m focusing on not feeling like I’m missing out, rather that I have the incredible blessing of actually being able to choose to eat what is good for my body.

My daughter was recently identified as being intolerant to gluten, sugar and MSG, which means we’re currently changing her diet for her to feel better, too.  For a 12.5 year old girl who really enjoys good food, this is a challenge, but she’s being encouraged by the fact that I’m going through the same process, and my aim as her mum is to be the best role model I can be for her, so in a sense, she’s now my accountability.

I am just so grateful that in this current day and age, all I need to do is type a few words and hit ‘search’, and I can find any grain-gree, dairy-free, sugar-free, additive-free and anything-else-free recipe to add to our menu, making this process a whole lot easier.  Blogs such as The Paleo Mom, Nom Nom Paleo, The Clothes Make The GirlThe Nourished Life, The Healthy Chef and The Detoxinista have provided a wealth of information, encouragement and food options that are easy to incorporate into our family, along with my staple books Against All Grain, I Quit Sugar and The Metabolic Clock.  There is a huge amount of information online and in print, but as I’ve worked out by identifying my personality types, I work best with limited options, so I’m sticking to these sources of information.

Obviously, food and the choices I make regarding what I what eat are a huge part of my life, but it’s not the sole determinant of living in optimum health.  I find it relatively easy to change what I eat – getting moving, however, is a whole different challenge, one I’m still trying to work out.

I have been so unwell that I can’t walk, and had injuries that have prevented me from doing any exercise for lengthy periods of time.  So you would think that when I am well and not experiencing any limitations on my physical abilities, I would embrace any opportunity to move.

Um, no.

I’ve written before about how I give up when it gets too hard, how I prefer my couch and a good book over a walk or a run, and how I really don’t like that about myself.  In trying to change that, I’m focusing on what the barriers are I face every day to get myself moving, where is the resistance coming from?  And to be perfectly honest, I still really don’t know.  All I know is that to get moving, I have to make a conscious choice, and not go easy on myself.  I never, ever regret it, and as much as I may not like the activity at the time, I choose to do it because it is the best thing for my body, and it always feels great afterwards (maybe that’s the key – just focus on the afterwards!!!).  One thing I have discovered is that by having a running/walking buddy that I’m committed to meet up with makes it A LOT harder to skip or reschedule, and is working for me.

Food and exercise are only a couple of aspects of health and wellness for me, but they’re what I’m particularly focused on at the moment.  The changes are really pretty simple – don’t eat what isn’t good for me, and move every day.  Keeping in mind how good I feel when I stick to this, and my desire to be a great role model for my children,  makes it easier to resist temptation and get motivated.

I’d love to hear from you, and where you are in your health and wellness journey.  The beginning?  Middle?  Well-established?  At the I-don’t-have-a-clue stage?  Do you have any resources that you love and are staples in your life?  Please join in and share in the comments, the purpose of sharing my journey is to encourage anyone who comes across my path in life, and I love hearing other people’s stories.

2014 is already awesome!!!