Cafe Series 1: It smells like Eucalyptus

Cafe series: I’m writing from a different cafe each week, as a form of discipline, and self-care, and time management (when I’m here, in a cafe, I can’t distract myself with the books on my bedside or the dirty laundry basket. I’m just here, with a laptop and my words.).

Cafe: Bespoke by Barista HQ, Albany Highway, Victoria Park
Drink: Prana Chai latte (and a sneaky spinach and feta quiche which was incredible!)

It was the first thing I noticed, the smell.
It was the peak of summer, and the air was still and hot in the evening, I guess we were now too far from the ocean for the early sea breeze that I’d been used to. But the stillness of the air carried a different scent – eucalyptus. A green and woody aroma, with the unmistakable mint of gum trees.
It surprised me, like so many things did when we moved.
I wasn’t expecting a fresh, foresty smell so close to the city.
I wasn’t expecting it to feel like home so soon, either.
On one of our first weekends, I discovered our local IGA had fresh donuts delivered every Sunday.
As we sat at our kitchen table, trying salted caramel and passionfruit donuts, licking the filling from our fingers and the cinnamon sugar from our top lip, I asked the kids, “Does it feel strange here, weird living in a new neighbourhood?”
Where everything is unfamiliar. Where we’re not sure which turn to take, or where to get our groceries from, or who does the best fish and chips.
Where the light falls differently through the windows.
Where we’re discovering where the floor creaks, and which light switch to use.

They replied, “No? It feels just the same.”
Of course, it didn’t feel just the same. Everything was different.
Except us. We were still the same.
It was the same us, dancing in the kitchen at breakfast, and sitting at our familiar dining table.
The same mum using puns, and the same teens, eyerolling.
The same dad, and the same familiar sound of the coffee machine at the same time in the morning.
So they shrugged their shoulders and I knew that whatever adventures lay ahead, we’d do it together, because our together doesn’t change.

There’s so much fun and adventure (and terror and dread!) in change. I know people who absolutely hate change, and others who can’t sit still and the thought of doing the same thing daily for them is terrifying and restricting.
But there is beauty in stability.
I’m a girl who thrives on routine.
I like it when I can map my days, my weeks.
Same doesn’t have to mean boring.
Doing the same thing over and over can release us from carrying heavy mental loads, because the muscle memory does the work for us.
Which means we have more space (mentally, and in the laundry!) to do the fun stuff.

There’s comfort in sameness.
Comfort in the friend who’s always there – she’s changed over the years yes, and so have we, but our friendship hasn’t. It’s stable, trustworthy, reliable – through the storms and waves of life and different seasons, it’s steadfast.
But regardless of what comfort we find in things unchanging, we’ll inevitably face times of unsteadyness. When life doesn’t look the way it did, or the way we expected.
And in the midst of all that is changing across the landscape of our lives, we’re beseeched by scripture to still ourselves and drop anchor.
To hold tight amidst the varying seasons, jobs, family, and the shifting of what our world looks like – we’re to hold fast to the One who doesn’t change.
To trust that the unchanging nature of God will carry us, unwavering, even as we ourselves waver and wobble.

It’s then I can look to Him and say wholly, honestly, “It feels just the same.”
Because whatever shifts and moves and whirls around me, I know that He doesn’t.
He stays the same.

So, it doesn’t smell like the ocean here, but the eucalypt is fresh and the river bekons, and although the light falls differently, there’s still light. And hope.


dear you—take heart

I bought a t-shirt, and I’ve been living in it.
Take heart, I whisper to myself when I hear news reports.
Take heart, I murmer again when our rental application is declined.
Take heart, I sob when I hear back after a job interview and I’m not the chosen candidate.
Take heart, I breathe into her hair as my arms wrap around my daughter.
Take heart, I belt out in song in the car, when the sun is shining on a new day.

I know it’s not easy. I know you’re probably facing tough things too.
But taking heart is an active verb, a holding on with both hands.

I’ve (still) been reading through the Psalms. It’s my go-to when I don’t understand, when I don’t have the answers, when my prayers don’t seem to be heard.
Today I read Psalm 73.
Yes! I thought, Yes! The prosperous don’t seem to have any troubles. (v 5) There they are just enjoying life. They don’t have to worry about where they’re going to live, or what will happen if they don’t get a permanent job, or how they’ll pay the mechanic. Yes! Their hearts overflow with follies (v7) because they don’t seem to have anything important to worry about.
The Psalmists just seem to get how I feel. Yes I’m envious. Yes. It feels like I keep my heart clean all in vain! It feels like I keep believing and hoping all for nothing, every morning I’m rebuked—I’m told no to the house, the job. I’m stricken! Yes! (v14)

And always, in the Psalms, I’m given permission to feel.
To feel the envy. To feel stricken. To feel weary.
But then I’m reminded again and again to take heart. It’s not about the here and now.

“But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God” (v 17)

His counsel and wisdom are ours. He holds our hands, continually with us.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

So I take heart again. Two-handed.
I write lists of what I’m grateful for in the here and now.
I entrust the future to Him.
I do what I can, and breathe prayers as I let it go today and watch the daisies dance on my doorstep.
I bring the little I can, I say yes, I offer my portion, I laugh a little and it loosens the knots in my stomach.
I look around at this, here; look what He’s given me!
I lather on things that smell good; lotions and oils, and I mascara my eyelashes and brush my teeth twice a day, and string up some twinkling lights. I stay up too late reading, I bake bread, and sweep the floor, and hang the laundry. I take fresh sourdough to work and the smell of it fills the workroom; by morning tea it’s almost all gone, and I’ve shared what’s in my hand while I shelf books and make jokes and smile inside that I’m here.

I let go of what I can’t control, and then I take heart and take it hard and fast and refuse to let go.

Because whatever you’re holding tight for will come, and we can simultaneously take heart and let go and dance.
Because if it’s not this messy middle today, it’ll be a different one tomorrow.
Because today is filled with the answered prayers of yesterday so take heart, He’ll overcome again, and again.

And again I’m grateful and the gratitude is what keeps us from sinking.


Stories in the sky: how He speaks

Read: Psalm 19, The Passion Translation

It’s dark, because summer has slipped away. Even the birds are quiet still. Daniel is up first with his alarm, but I don’t hear him until I’m jolted from a dream by my body clock, and hear the clink of his spoon and bowl in the kitchen. Already I know that he’s dressed, and eating porridge. The next sound I’ll hear is the coffee machine growl to life.

I squint at the time. 5:44. I can’t keep my eyes open yet so I close them and roll over to a cool part of my pillow. He grinds and pours one shot, then the second, and I know he’s using our favourite mugs. He’ll put a lid on his to take with him when he leaves. I think vaguely that I hope the coffee machine doesn’t wake the kids, but there’s no noise from the bedrooms.

I pull myself up to sitting, and flick on the bedside lamp. I lean over to pull open the blinds too, even though it’s too dark to see anything outside. My Bible is open on my knees when he brings in the coffee to set on the bedside table, but I’m scrolling Facebook now.
A goodbye kiss, the click of the front door, his car starting and the garage door lifting.
I’m reading a New York Times article about Wuhan on my phone, Psalm 19 is waiting.

Then a text from Daniel, “Go look at the moon.” I hesitate, the bed is warm and maybe I can see it from the window? “It’s at the end of the street” comes another text.
I tiptoe past the cat flayed in the kitchen doorway and out onto dewy lawn.
There’s the moon, setting at the end of the street, and ginormous. Beautiful.
There’s me in my undies in the darkness, staring at the lightening sky and luminescent moon.

Then, back to the still-warm spot in my sheets, and the still-open Bible I begin to read my next Psalm. Nineteen.
God’s Story in the Skies
God’s splendor is a tale that is told;
his testament is written in the stars.

Space itself speaks his story every day
through the marvels of the heavens.
His truth is on tour in the starry vault of the sky,
showing his skill in creation’s craftsmanship.
Each day gushes out its message to the next,
night with night whispering its knowledge to all.

Suddenly I’m overwhelmed by the knowledge of this God who sees me.
He’d painted that giant moon there just for me, because He knew I’d stand there in awe, and minutes later I’d read about Him speaking through the skies.
He spoke through the moon, through the cold dew on the grass, through the streaks of pink in the cloud, straight to my heart; a reminder of his sheer magnitude, yet this personal painting of the skies, just for me.

I felt it in my chest, this inexplicable knowledge that God orchestrates my days, my hours and minutes. That nothing is a surprise to Him, nothing is missed by Him—and that He’s there, painting the skies just waiting for me to tiptoe out, lift my eyes and read His story.

“The rarest treasures of life are found in his truth.”

I’m so grateful for this rare treasure today.