Friday, August 24, 2012

That good things are chasing us down

I remember the school science experiments I used to do with magnets and iron filings. These tiny bits of metal dust follow a magnet around, making it look like some sort of hairy critter. If iron filings had thoughts, resistance would be futile. There is no way one of them could possibly break from the crowd and say, "I don't think I'll follow the magnet today. I'm happy right where I am." I thought about these iron filings today when I read about the great blessings God has in store for His people.

For most of my life, I've had entirely the wrong idea about blessings. I've had a "blink and you'll miss them" sort of mentality. I was like a girl chasing butterflies with a net. Or if you're a fiction reader, they're like those cheeky little flying keys in the first Harry Potter book. Remember how Harry and his two friends faced the seemingly impossible challenge of racing around in a room amid thousands of tiny flying keys, trying to snatch the one which would open the door to the next chamber?

When I was a Primary School student, the teacher used to hide a few objects around the classroom and reward the two or three people who found them. While I was searching high and low, a few other voices would cry out, "I found one." My heart would sink because I'd missed out. This sort of scenario followed me into adulthood. Just a few years ago at a conference, I shifted from the spot I'd been sitting all morning, thinking that if my daughter, Emma, came through from her scrapbooking activity I'd be easier to find in the aisle. No sooner had I moved than a lady announced that five beautiful CDs had been hidden beneath random seats around the auditorium. You guessed it; the lady who'd been sitting for five seconds where I'd been for four hours gave a shout of joy.

Roald Dahl wrote about a similar situation in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The golden tickets have all been found. Augustus, Veruca, Violet, Mike and Charlie are the lucky ones. You've missed out. That's how I unconsciously imagined blessings; glittery and scarce.

But Deuteronomy 28 tells me, "All these blessings will come and overtake you." Then it goes on to list every area in which we may expect to be blessed, including our offspring, our transport, our work, our provisions and our reputations. I think, Wow, that's a different way of looking at it. It requires a total change of mindset. I am traveling along the road, oblivious, and blessings are pursuing me. Instead of the desperately hopeful customer who goes into the deli, clutching my hot little coin, to buy a Wonka Bar, I am actually the golden ticket. Blessings are looking for me.

What a bizarre concept, but when I think about it, it's often turned out to be the case. When I've bothered to stop running for a while, blessings have perched on me like those birds in princess stories, taking me completely by surprise. Babies, houses, prizes, money, new friends. My first thought is, That hasn't happened very often, but then I have to admit that the occasions when it has happened coincide with the times I've paused to reflect and simply enjoy life. When I'm busy tearing around like those little winged keys, looking for blessings, little do I know I'm actually fleeing from them, making them harder to catch up with me.

Hmmm, interesting thought. I'm going to appreciate every good thing, large or small, treating it as one of those iron filings that can't help following me whenever it's anywhere near. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences with unexpected blessings.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

To revisit my past

Yesterday I took my two youngest children, Emma and Blake, to visit my old childhood stamping ground at West Lakes. We looked at the two houses my family lived in while at that suburb, one right on the lake front with a pontoon. That was the house of my teens. I also drove around to see a couple of schools I went to.

The whole place seemed more compact with less space between each destination than there used to be. I found I could still follow my nose to get to each place which I used to think had so much of my personality invested in it. I could tell the kids stories of escapades that happened in certain parks and reserves and different houses, but now new folk have long taken over and there is no trace of me left. It made me feel melancholy and I realised it must be a bit like death. The same thing surely happens when we leave this planet altogether. The places you think you're influencing fill the gaps you leave with other people.

The lake was beautiful. It's such a huge and wonderful feature, serene and lovely. We were still driving around when the sun started to set on it. If I lived there now, I'd enjoy sitting out the front to ponder, meditate, still my thoughts and reflect. I never used to do that much as a kid. I was either too busy reading books or had my head ticking with ideas and future plans to change the world. Maybe adult cares and
 responsibilities have changed me more than I thought.

The kids enjoyed themselves. There's a new playground at the little reserve where I tried learning to swim and Blake loved playing with the diggers on the sand. Emma, as I expected, was greatly impressed by the lake, palm trees, flash resort style buildings and big shopping centre. "Why did you ever leave? I would've been in tears to leave a place like this. We have nothing good in the Hills. If I lived here, I'd be out swimming every day." She couldn't believe it when I told her how elated I'd been to think of moving to the Adelaide Hills, where I thought everything looked like a storybook scene.

I can remember the first day of waking up to the sound of rural bird calls, nothing like I was used to at West Lakes. Yet, now I could understand the appeal of my old area, liking the fresh sea breeze I must have overlooked when I lived there. I told Emma, "It seems like a mini-holiday day out today, but when you live here every day trying to work and study like I used to, it's a different story."

We had a bit of a walk around the lake. There I was with Emma and Blake, not knowing whether I felt like a success or failure after all this time. I was supposed to be successful as an adult, wasn't I? I always wanted to be a writer but I was supposed to have enough money to afford more comforts than my family enjoys.

Interestingly, I am 42, the same age my dad would have been when we first moved to West Lakes (when I was 5). He was a success, when I look at my own life. He had the money to build houses and take holidays. I'm a crashing failure who's done nothing to compare. It helped me put all my stepping stones with the books I've written into perspective; getting published, winning this prize, hearing from that reader etc. They excite me but do they mean much? But then I remembered all that Dad used to go through to get all that. He had stressful work which annoyed him, while I enjoy what I do. Success and failure really are relative.

I came back up to the Hills tired and a bit sad but not in a really unpleasant way. The trip shows me not to take myself so seriously because nothing is permanent anyway. The best idea for anyone is to live each day to the fullest, appreciating what it brings. Perhaps the most ironic thing is that I seem to have come full circle. As a kid, we used to take day trips into the Hills to get away from it all and gain a fresh outlook. Yesterday I did the same thing with Emma and Blake but the opposite way around.

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