What a pain!

For a number of years, physical pain has been a regular companion of mine. I wrote this a while ago, but as I sit here in the midst of pain yet again, it resonates deeply. And maybe, it will resonate with you or someone you know.

Pain is so much more than it’s definition…a ‘highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury’, or ‘mental suffering or distress’.

Pain is the first thing you are aware of when you wake up as you try and will yourself out of bed while working out which part of the body to treat first. It’s the grimace you try and hide when you feel a creak or twinge or pull on the simplest of movements. It’s the pills and potions you take hoping they will work, and yet sometimes avoid because even the side effects are too much to bear. It’s the countless doctors and treatments you pursue hoping that this one will have the answer, though they make no guarantees. It’s the tears that roll even after the tank is empty, and the tossing and turning at night trying to get comfortable, as futile as it may seem. It’s the financial cost and lost productivity.

Pain feels isolating and lonely because only you are in it. It is your reality. Though people walk the road with you, they don’t walk in your shoes. You try not to let it affect your life and relationships, but realise sometimes that is exactly what it does. It pushes people away when you want them to pull you close. It doesn’t just limit your capacity to do; it limits your capacity to be. And sometimes, to be honest, it longs for attention. To be heard and seen, even when no answers can be offered. It want’s to ask for help yet often has no voice. It is isolating, yet it longs for company; someone to sit and be, and tell you it is okay.

Pain has it’s own agenda. It’s limiting. It’s distracting. It brings shame in asking someone to do what you should be able to do yourself. It’s endless and often feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. And even when there is, it can still feel overwhelming. Like you are suffocating and drowning at the same time. Like you are struggling to breathe and don’t know which way is up. Pain can paint a gloomy picture on the brightest of days.

Pain is exhausting. Pain is unapologetic, relentless; it sucks you for all you are worth and sometimes even more. It is humbling, it is controlling. It sets your limits and often fees like it defines you. Pain sucks. But it is real.

And yet with it, come glimpses that sometimes only pain can see; as you let others be your hands and feet. As you let others respond in love…Your helpers, your comforters, your chauffers, your chefs, your cheerleaders. Pain will sometimes reveal the worst of you, and allow you to see the best of others.

For me, I take hope from a verse in the Bible that says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. Some days that helps more than others. But at some point or in some way, we will all experience pain. If that isn’t you right now, be grateful, and be patient, but be present. And if it is you, know that you are not alone.

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More of Maui

For our next day we booked a tour to Hana. The infamous road of around 56 miles has over 600 bends, 50 something single lane bridges, miles of unpaved rocky road, and plenty of heights with no guard rails. Needless to say it was not something I wanted to take on in a hire car on the wrong side of the road. It was an incredible drive that gave me a newfound appreciation for the beauty and diversity of Gods creation. We saw beautiful beaches, lush green rain forests, gushing waterfalls, rugged seascape, and arid stretches of extinct volcano where you could imagine the lava flowing.

My two highlights were seeing a black sand beach and the seven pools of Oheo, where a waterfall spills over into different size pools you can swim in before it finally descends into the ocean. We didn’t have time for a proper dip so I ambled in with shorts hitched up for a photo. My phone however took a dip, but remarkably survived the bottom of the pool with no problem what so ever. Despite plenty of signs for falling rocks, but the only thing to hit us was a full sized mango and it certainly gave us a fright. The tour bus drivers deserve medal for navigating the roads and remarkably managing to make the bus shrink in size when passing oncoming cattle trucks. While the tour was great we were not impressed with the company after being told the tour was booked out and our friend couldn’t come (there were 7 spare seats), and being guaranteed a hot buffet breakfast (there was an apple fritter and pre made coffee).

The following day we decided to duck out to TacoBell for a quick lunch, only to have our car make noises 100m out of the car park. The tyre was as flat as a pancake. After a long phone call trying to explain to roadside assistance that I didn’t have a callback number, we were told they would be there in an hour, so we plonked ourselves under a tree on the golf course next to the road. Another phone call, an extended wait and we were finally on our way back to Avis to change the car. They gave us another which had issues before we left the car park, so we got another car..3rd time lucky, and a very late lunch.

We loved our time in Maui, and were sad to say goodbye after just making our flight (thanks to more car rental issues). We arrived in Honolulu to a stream of rain, but it didn’t dampen our spirits. I remembered some friends getting a limo transfer a few years back, and when I looked into it, it was cheaper than a shuttle. So, much to my excitement, and the surprise of some of our travel party we were met with a sign and whisked to our amazing chariot.

Nothing much to report in Waikiki yet, except that we had a great Mother’s Day meeting up with friends for church on the beach, and a lovely dinner overlooking the beach. Over and out for now.

Aloha from Hawaii

In keeping with tradition, and keeping up with the Joneses, I will try and do a blog update every few days. We got on the plane without any ordeals, just a good laugh listening to the husband next to us instructing his wife that the country they are flying into was Hawaii. Nope, that would be the USA. My gamble on seat allocation paid off..I had put mum on the window and me on the aisle and hoped no one would pick the middle. Yay, some bonus space for us.

The plane trip was definitely not the quietest. It was like a scene from daddy day care with a constant stream of kids and parents up the aisle. We also had a free row behind us before megaphone man (he seriously yelled every word) moved in, complete with high volume computer and no headphones. As the flight progressed it became clear sleep would not be an option. It was like a symphony of kids that had practiced their performance, with one screaming solo starting as soon as the previous one ended. I would say I feel for the parents, but one in particular managed to sleep right through it even with her daughter crawling all over her.

We touched down in Honolulu to the sound of rain falling, and mum discovered her own private waterfall as her air conditioner sprung a leak. We made our way to the domestic terminal where I sat down and said “ahh it’s good to finally sit down”, and mum reminded me we just got off a 10 hr flight. I guess the lack of sleep got to me more than the sitting down. Our travelling buddies the Walls met us at Maui airport, and I managed to navigate the right (but very wrong) side of the road. The rest of the day included a swim in the pool, test run on the waterside, and a stroll up the beach to black rock for a beautiful sunset. We finally crashed after travelling backwards in time and being up for 38 hrs.

After a good night sleep I hit the gym (voted best view from a treadmill…by me) and the pool, before heading into town for a stroll through lahaina. It’s a quaint little coastal town with shops and eateries and surf right behind the main strip. A nana nap was definitely in order and then mum and I hit up a luau. It was great to hear and see and taste some of the local culture under a gorgeous sunset and rainbow, before rain came down on our outside performance. It was the coldest I have ever been in this part of the world.

Stay tuned for more adventures…

Lessons from a work in progress

Celebrating another year of life recently had me reflecting on what I have learnt and would say to a younger version of me if I had the chance. Here is what I came up with. Some are sayings I have found to be true, some are thoughts or observations, some lessons learnt the hard way, and some no doubt I borrowed from other people. All are still a struggle and do not come naturally, but hey, life is a work in progress.

1. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. There is always someone wiser than you, and who knows, you may just learn something.

2. Generally speaking, grief doesn’t like silence. Don’t do nothing because you are worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. Acknowledge it. Be present. Turn up.

3. Sticks and stones can break your bones and names can most definitely hurt you. In the present and in the future. You have no idea how much of an effect you words are having on someone.

4. You are more capable than you think. Push yourself, work hard, aim high and see what you can do.

5. Life is short. Really it is. Each year seems to pass by quicker than the last. Use your time well. There are no second chances or rewind buttons.

6. Work out what matters in life and then invest your time and energy and money in it.

7. Love and keep loving. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s hard. Love anyway. You won’t run out of love to give so don’t hold back.

8. Stepping out of your comfort zone does not mean you have arrived. It means you have grown and changed and overcome and now you are ready to do it again.

9. If you have the opportunity to travel, take it.

10. Don’t take your health for granted. Sickness and injury are not for old people. They are anytime, anywhere. Often when you least expect it.

11. Pain can be crippling, it can be consuming. And sometimes you just have to sit in it and wait.

12. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength…that you see your limitations and allow others to step in.

13. Stop and smell the roses, or the rain. Or anything. Just stop every now and then and breathe.

14. Spend time in nature. It helps put life in perspective.

15. People will let you down. And you will let them down. Even if you aren’t aware of it. Be quick to forgive.

16. Give people the benefit of the doubt. You never know what’s really going on for them.

17. Make time with God a priority. You will put it off. You will procrastinate. And when you finally make time you will wonder why you didn’t it sooner.

18.Things can only get better. Not true. Sometimes they can get worse. But God knows what you can bear. Even if it seems he has different ideas to you.

19. Happiness is circumstantial. Joy is not. Joy is not a feeling, it’s a choice.

20. Next time your feeling worried make a list of all the things you don’t have to worry about.

21. Bullying sucks. Bullying is never ok. Bullying is damaging. If your being bullied it doesn’t mean it’s your fault. If you are a bully, get some help and work out what’s going on in your life that makes you think it’s ok to treat someone else as you are.

23. Life is like a tapestry. When all you can see is the back…the mess, the knots, the confusion; remember God is looking at the front. He sees the whole picture.

What else would you add to the list?

30 things “I was trying” to do before 30

I was recently encouraging a few soon to be 30 friends to put together a 30 things to do before 30 list. I did one a few years back and had great fun trying to tick things off. An update on the list was requested, so for those who missed the list all together, or those who followed it and want to see if I made any progress, here goes…

1. Visit a new country DONE

2. go to the Cadbury factory in Tassie DONE

3. visit the Hunter Valley DONE

4. learn to drive a manual DONE

5. bowl a perfect game in wii bowling (or at least beat Brian!) I’ve given up trying

6. read at least 5 books off my shelf that I haven’t yet read DONE

7. teach someone to surf….I’ve got plenty of takers, but haven’t got there yet

8. learn the bass guitar DONE

9. finish 1/2 my Associate Degree in Theology DONE

10. do a mini triathlon…got one in mind for later in the year NOW DONE.MANAGED TO KNOCK 2 OF THESE OFF

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11. memorise the book of Ephesians…almost one chapter down, 5 to go I THINK I HAVE REGRESSED HERE

12. go to an NBA game…NOW DONE. SO STOKED TO HAVE TICKED THIS ONE OFF VIA A BIRTHDAY GIFT FROM A FRIEND LAST YEAR. IT WAS AWESOME, AND THEN GOT LUCKY ENOUGH TO SEE A PLAYOFFS WIN AS WELL

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13. face a fear DONE

14. volunteer for/at something….NOW DONE, HAD A GREAT TIME HELPING THE SALVOS AT CAROLS IN THE DOMAIN

15. go karaokeing (maybe doing this again will class as facing a fear!) DONE

16. surf at every beach on the Northern Beaches in 1 day DONE

17. take a winning photo..HMM MIGHT NEED TO DUST OFF THE CAMERA

18. swim with dolphins DONE not quite as I imagined, but I had my swim in the pool with Bella, and there was a dolphin out in the surf with me on the weekend

19. learn to cook 4 new meals DONE

20. transfer old videos to dvd THIS WAS OPTIMISTIC

21. save …. amount of $ DONE

22. be fitter at 30 than I was at 20….heck no…STILL WORKING ON THIS ONE

23. eat something I haven’t eaten before DONE

24. score a hatrick at indoor soccer DONE

25. watch NSW win a State of Origin series (or at least a game) DONE

26. ride a skidoo

27. run 5km without falling over…decided to stick to walking

28. share the gospel with someone NOW DONE. HAD AN AWESOME OPPORTUNITY IN BYRON BAY

29. meet Mr Right (hey, why not!) THAT CAN STAY ON THE LIST

30. inspire someone else to write their own 30 by 30! DONE

Only a few to go but definitely enjoyed making some great memories along the way. A 40 before 40 list seems 1. too far off, and 2. like too many things to try and think of and achieve. But here are a few bucket list items still floating around…

– Road trip across Canada

– Sail a voyage on the Logos Hope

– See where my grandad served in Darwin in WW2

– Ice-skate on a pond

– Complete a Sprint Triathlon

– See Shane and Shane perform live

– Explore my past in Ireland

Any other suggestions?!

Hawaiian Adventures

As always when flying to Hawaii it starts with one very long day. 38 hrs to be exact. Minus a few hrs sleep on the plane.

It started with an early morning walk, then off to work and on to the airport. The flight was nothing to write home
about and so was the service. Luckily I had a pre ordered meal but for those plebs like mum who didn’t, it took 3.5hrs before they got any food! Not happy Jan! After a quick kip and a few movies we arrived in Honolulu and after a rather long walk to the inter island terminal, and mum having to go through security repeatedly as she tried walking through with her phone in her pocket (good to know they are on to it in security) we boarded a little plane for a quick flight to the island of Kauai.

We picked up our car and I attempted to correctly maintain some spacial awareness on the wrong side of the road. The first thing that struck me were the chickens. Everywhere. On the road in the airport. Everywhere! We were staying at an awesome resort by the beach and had a restful afternoon of swims and massages and conversations by the fire pit.

And that was just day 1.

After some exercises overlooking our own beach and a swim in the pool all to myself we set off to explore the island. It’s a very cruisy little island and I enjoyed eating Huli Huli chicken and seeing some beautiful beaches, water falls and quaint little seaside towns. We also visited Tunnels Beach, made famous by Bethany Hamiltons shark attack. It was very sobering to watch the surfers and remember her story.

After some yummy gelato I watched the Portland Trail blazers win the first round of the playoffs and we watched some traditional Hawaiian muso’s and then reunited at the firepit with some new found friends from Colorado who tried to persuade us to go halves in a property they had seen for sale on the island.

Yesterday we flew back to Honolulu and wandered the shops before entering into the world of Spam Jam, a crazy festival that closes the Main Street to celebrate all things Spam.

Today we are having a quiet day and will head to The Cheesecake Factory for the ‘obligatory for all tourists’ dining experience.

Tomorrow I head out to the North Shore to work for a week while mum keeps chillin’ in Waikiki.

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Mistaken Identity

Today was the first day of the soccer season. Lines are marked, goals erected, and new uniforms unfolded. Anticipation coupled with the smell of fresh cut grass fills the air. Thousands of players take to the field and spectators to the sidelines. Excitement is a plenty. But for me, it’s a hard day. It’s been almost 2 years since I last laced up my boots and it still hurts. The sting of not knowing that game was my last still hits me. I miss it. Especially today. I miss the training, the camaraderie, the thrill of scoring a goal. I even miss the mud.

Having to walk away from something I love was a really hard task. As I sat under the stars pouring my heart out to God, tears ran freely down my face. The sounds of my anger and sadness were drowned only by the crash of the waves on the sandy shore.  I knew it was wise and in the best interest of my body, but it wasn’t until a few weeks after the decision that I realised exactly why it was so difficult for me to stop playing.

I had based my identity in what I do. And what I do (or did), is play sport. To walk away from soccer was not just to merely stop exercising, it was to lose part of myself. A big part! It had become such a large part of my life, that I had in some way linked my success in sport to my value as a person. Not only did I have to lay down my desire to play competitive sport, but also to lay down the pride and glory that went with it.

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Despite an underlying sense of peace that it was the right decision, the last few years have certainly had their ups and downs. Not just in the sports department, but in many areas of my life. The ups have led me to rejoice, and the downs to a greater reliance on God than ever before. In all of it, he has been my rock and my unfailing constant. And the more I have had to rely on him, the more he has allowed me to see myself through his eyes. To see afresh that he loves me so much. To see that he cares for me and will never leave me. To see the plans that he has for my life. Over and over again, the word ‘beloved’ has come to mind and in particular a verse from the Bible that says…

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders” Deuteronomy 33:12

Over the last few years I have felt the beauty of resting securely in him. Of resting in his love and in being his beloved. Over the last few years God has renewed my identity. Yes he asked me to lay it down along with soccer, but in doing so he replaced it with something so much richer. In laying down an identity founded in what I do, God graciously replaced it with my true identity. That which is founded in who I am, in Christ.

Having a ‘what I do’ identity constantly left me striving and chasing success. Having a ‘who I am’ identity constantly leads me to Christ. As I come before him I am aware that there is nothing I can do to make him love me more or to make him love me less. That is true freedom.

I don’t need to score goals to win his love. He loves me simply for who I am.  Embracing this has shown me I no longer need to try and win the approval of others through sport or any other accolade. Because to have an identity founded in Christ is to have a solid foundation. A foundation that is unshakable because it is not about what I do. Sure I want people to like me, and I still get hurt and let down by others and my own expectations. But like scoring goals, it does not need to define me. I am Christ’s beloved. That is my true identity.