married at first sight & back to school photos

One of my favourite times on the Facebook calendar is back to school week. My newsfeed is flooded with naaawwww-worthy photos of ‘firsts’. First days of school (massive backpacks on little legs and hiding under seemingly enormous sun hats; school dresses triple hemmed and ‘shorts’ that reach down to mid-calf), first days in a new year level or a new school. Last first days for those at the other end of their schooling. Some show the side by side photos of the changes made across the years – tracking the inevitable growth and accompanying differences. Moving from teary hugs and farewells at the classroom door to the increasing independence that sees a child walking or riding off on their own or with friends.

I love it! It marks a new season, acknowledges the passing of another year, signifies for the family yet another shift in life stage and rhythm and celebrates the success and potential of movement through education and other life markers. And it’s pretty stinkin’ adorable, too.

Running parallel with that this year, was the start of another season of Chanel 9’s super successful ‘reality’ show, Married at First Sight. “Successful” in terms of its ratings, not in regards to its success in bringing couples together who actually stay together. It’s a psychological and relational train wreck that produces fascinating television viewing and boosts the social profile of those who participate (surely that’s part of their purpose for being there, right?). But it also highlights underlying cultural and personal expectations that the narrative of a ‘normal’ or ‘fulfilling’ life is centred around finding your soul mate and living in marital bliss.

In the lead up to the show’s airing, one participant, Sarah, recorded a sound byte that played on repeat,

“I’m 38 years old and I have nothing to show for my life.”

As she looks at her life and she applies the known methods for measuring it, she finds herself with nothing to show for it. This comment (and the fears and feelings that framed it) represent her justification for applying for the show. She’s 38, she’s not married and has no children – time is a’wasting! It’s time to employ emergency measures!

At a cursory glance, this comment is dismissible as untrue. Without knowing anything much about her we could readily identify things she might have to ‘show’ for herself. Lives invested in, experiences she gathered, career and other successes she’s enjoyed. But I think we need to listen to what she’s saying. To lean in a little more and seek to understand more fully what her comment is echoing of a message society sends (in both subtle and more overt ways) of how a life should be measured and celebrated. And particularly how that translates for a Single and/or childless person.

For those who are married, each anniversary is an opportunity to reflect with gratitude and celebrate the achievement. High five, us! We made it through another year! Social media gives opportunity to publicly affirm one’s spouse and for the couple’s community to congratulate and encourage them.

For parents, milestone days – the birth of children, firsts of all kinds, ‘before & after’ pictures denoting achievements, changes and growth, performances and of course, birthdays, engagements and weddings – all bring opportunity to gather friends and family (in real life or online spaces) to again, celebrate, and encourage. To reflect on the journey till now; to dream and plan together for the future.

To use Sarah’s language, these are many of the things you have to “show” for the years you have lived, the transitions you’ve navigated and the impact you’ve made on the earth. These are the things publicly celebrated. They are acceptable, anticipated and even requested opportunities to share with others the rewards of the labours of time, money, energy, expertise and sacrifices of all kinds that bring about these moments.

So, if you are not married and don’t have children – how does your life’s journey get marked and acknowledged? In what moments are the community of a Single person called to gather to celebrate, publicly affirm and encourage, to invest advice and energy, to reflect growth and change, to honour success and draw others in?

Commonly, Singles report that attempts to share moments of celebration, difference or success are often perceived as self-absorbed or self-promoting (“why are you making such a big deal about your birthday?!“) or met with jealousy (“I wish I were Single so I could travel more!“).

The success stories told usually include friends, colleagues or family stepping in to facilitate those celebrations and affirmations. My friend Nancy is a champion at this! She enthusiastically and creatively celebrates the birthdays, new jobs, buying a home, graduations, return from holidays and moving days of her Single friends to ensure they’re well marked. And to draw his or her community into expressions of encouragement and celebration.

Think about the people in your world (specifically but not exclusively Singles and/or childless). How can we act to ensure they know what they ‘have to show’ for the life they’re living? What moments of reflection, celebration, affirmation and gathering can we be part of facilitating?


celebrating for singles

I was recently out for birthday milkshakes with a little friend who had just turned 11. We share a love of all things birthday and were talking about that as we wandered the shops. Her main case for the joy of birthdays was that “Christmas and Easter are great but they’re about everybody, your birthday is just about you.” Good call. 

I have 4 reasons I love birthdays. 

  1. I get to be loved on by my friends and enjoy the affirmation and affection of others. 
  2. I get to express my gratitude for the people who share my life. 
  3. There is a chance to reflect on the year that has passed and acknowledge growth, change, successes experienced and challenges faced. 
  4. It’s all fun and cake! There are special meals, outings, singing, and all the joy that comes with celebrating. 

Every person gets that experience once a year. Birthdays are the best!

If you get married, you add two more celebrations to the calendar. Your spouse’s birthday and your wedding anniversary. Two extra opportunities to celebrate the above four things in your home. 

And then, if you have a child you add three more annual celebrations. The child’s birthday, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Three extra opportunities to celebrate the changes in your home and life, to affirm your love and appreciation for one another, to give cause for a weekend away or a special dinner out; to eat cake and share joy. (And of course, extra birthdays with every additional bundle of joy.)

So, how do we reflect on that for the Single person? 

At the very least, it probably could cause us to consider afresh the significance of a Single person’s birthday for them to both give and receive the affection, gratitude and celebration of another year of life together. 

Perhaps it might also cause us to consider including Singles in celebrations where their place in other’s lives can be affirmed?

Think about the Singles in your world. What do you think this means for them? Maybe it’s worth some consideration or a conversation.  

I WILL celebrate Mother’s Day

This Sunday would have been my 14th Mother’s Day. An early term miscarriage saw the hope of that ignited and then grieved (& grieved again, differently, surprisingly; sporadically over the years). 

I still find it hard to believe that I’m not a mother. As I move deeper into my forties I am forced more often to face the biological realities but for the most part I’ve just lived with an expectation that (husband &) children would be part of my world. 

And then comes Mother’s Day. 

In many ways it’s a day that represents the hopes and dreams that are deep in my heart and the grief that those are unrealised. There’s a wistfulness; a longing that is undeniably present. Envy and jealousy rear their heads. I wish for the hand drawn cards, the dodgy school stall gifts, the crumbs in the bed from a delivered breakfast. And even more than that, just the day to pause and whisper in my heart “I am a mother” and celebrate all that it would mean for me to be that. 

The reality of Mother’s Day is that it’s a hard day for many. Those grieving the loss of their own mothers – to death or broken relationship, struggling with infertility, facing difficult family dynamics, processing illness (etc) often approach Mother’s Day with fear, anxiety or an overwhelming desire to hide away and avoid. 

But here’s the decision I’ve made and make again this weekend. I WILL celebrate Mother’s Day. 

Of course, I will celebrate my Mother (who I am abundantly grateful for) but I will also celebrate my friends who are mothers. Because I love them and I love that they have produced mini-thems and I want to champion them in this infinitely important role. I will help lead our church in honouring our mums and encourage them with the full resource of the church to keep Mum-ing well. This Sunday, we will cheer for all the women in our church who “mother” us – with their love and care, their modelling of Christian womanhood, their role in the lives of women and girls (& guys alike) needing the investment and wisdom they offer. 

I know some will disagree with me but I don’t think we ought to care for our non-mothers or those grieving in our midst by not celebrating those who are mothers. I believe the idea that we might not acknowledge mothers in deference to those who are wounded and hurting isn’t what family (in its broadest sense) is meant to look like. 

Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn. Rom 12:15

Do we not celebrate someone who graduated from university because not everyone has? Do we not high five someone who ran a marathon because not everyone has? Do we not congratulate someone on their 90th birthday because not everyone lives to celebrate theirs? No. That would be crazy. Families are full of people with a diverse range of experiences – both positive and negative – and one of the things that makes us family is our ability to journey the breadth of those experiences with one another. Where we carry one another in our grief and difficulty and we multiply joy by celebrating one another’s successes and wins.

Our tendency toward comparison and the associated emotional processing means that a day like Mother’s Day can make us feel more of the grief and heart-sickness of longing and loss – but our reality is actually unchanged from this Sunday to the next. In reality I am just as likely to feel the pang of jealousy watching a mum with her child at a cafe this afternoon as I am to feel it while the mothers stand to be acknowledged on Mother’s Day at church. 

I don’t mean to diminish the significance of the day – I just dearly hope to bring some perspective that might free us to more genuinely celebrate others as we ought. 

So, let’s celebrate our mums this weekend because they are worth celebrating. Let’s be sensitive to those who will struggle with this day (hot tip – don’t assume anything – ask lots of questions to help you best connect with someone for whom Mother’s Day may – or may not – be difficult. Let them direct you.) Let’s see this day as one of many in the life and journey of our family – where everyone gets a turn to be celebrated and those who need the extra love and support find that amongst us too. 

The True Cost of Jealousy #3

One of the greatest costs of jealousy – to ourselves, to those around us, to any environment we find ourselves in – is that it keeps us from fully celebrating other people. This cannot be overstated in terms of its impact on the culture of our relationships and interactions; how it influences the tone of our families, our workplaces and our faith communities.

Rom 12:15 says “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

I think we often find the mourning easier to do – we can empathise and sympathise and connect with others in their place of grief and loss. But something of the jealousy response in us prevents us from fully celebrating other people and their experiences of success or joy. Continue reading


When it comes to relationships, to loving other people, you can’t give what you don’t have.

If you’re finding people hard to love and you’re finding relationships are difficult to manage … maybe part of that is that you don’t fully get what love is all about. Maybe it’s because you don’t have a lot of experienceobserving or receiving real love in action? Maybe we don’t fully ‘get’ GOD’S love? The more you understand of God’s love towards you and others, the more that fills you up and overwhelms you, the more that will overflow from you.

You can’t give what you don’t have.

In Luke 15 we see an incredible snapshot of what God’s love looks like. Jesus tells three stories. Firstly the one about the lost sheep – you know, where the shepherd who has 100 sheep notices one missing and leaves the 99 to go searching for it … and then He tells the story of the woman who loses one coin of the ten she had and virtually turns her house upside down to find it … and then there’s the story of the prodigal son or the patient father – who waits patiently and hopefully for his wayward child to return.

All three of those stories end the same way … they end with a celebration!!! Each of them calls their friends and neighbours and says “Rejoice with me!! Something that was important to me was lost and now it’s not!”

Jesus uses that context to tell us that Heaven throws a party when one of us who was lost is found. ALL of Heaven throws a party when one person who is far from God turns back towards Him. Just for one! God loved the world (and the one) SO much, that He sent His only Son to pay the price required to restore us to Himself (John 3:16) – translation – God loved you enough to sacrifice His own Son so that He could have relationship with you! YOU matter to God. And, from the stories Jesus told we can see that in God’s economy PEOPLE MATTER – every one matters … every single one gets a party! Everyone who has wandered off is noticed and missed, everyone who is lost gets searched for, everyone who returns is welcomed and embraced … every ONE matters to God.

And that means YOU and it means ME and it means everyone that we meet – incidentally as we go about life or those that we DO life more closely with … everyone matters to God! If we are able to view people through that lens it will change how WE love, it will change how we do relationships. How we understand God’s love for us and for others changes how we love and connect with other people.

As far as it depends on you … do you LOVE deeply, selflessly, passionately, committedly? Does the way you love look like God’s love? Does the way you love other people reflect how much they matter to Him?

#1 As Far as it Depends on You (read now)
#2 Grow in God’s Love
#3 Grow in Understanding (read now)
#4 Grow in Forgiveness (read now)
#5 Grow in Humility (read now)
#6 Grow in Persistence (read now)

“12 thoughts of Christmas” #7: Party Time!

Yesterday was my sister-in-law’s birthday so family and friends had gathered at her house to celebrate with her. A friend made a stack of macarons and stuck some candles in a few of them. We sang, we hip hip’ed and then she blew out the candles. Then her 1 year old daughter wanted a turn, so they were re-lit and she blew them out. Then her 3 year old wanted in on the action, so they were re-lit and she blew them out. Of course, the cousins had to have a turn … as did all the other children that were gathered. By the end of lighting, blowing out and re-lighting there was hardly anything left of the candles and we were finally able to get into the macarons!!

You’ve all no doubt been there before. You’ve scraped the wax (& a little bit of spit) off a cake after some enthusiastic blows! You’ve had the party hats and balloons, wacked the piñata, played pass the parcel, eaten a few footy franks and the odd slice of fairy bread. We do birthday parties! From the quiet family gathering to the themed extravaganza; the BIG numbers that need extra acknowledgement to the years that slip by relatively unheralded (or mentioned out loud); the McDonald’s hosted to the ‘hostess-with-the-mostess’ home party … all sorts, sizes and locations. Birthdays get celebrated well in most households and families.

So, given that Christmas is essentially Jesus’ birthday party, what part does that play in your Christmas gatherings and traditions? Does He get a mention Christmas day or does He get lost under the tinsel and mountains of discarded gift wrap? How do you acknowledge Him on the actual day?

I’ve heard of families that have a birthday cake for Jesus as part of their Christmas lunch. Others read the Christmas story together before they open their gifts. One family reveals baby Jesus and adds Him to the nativity scene. Some will honour Him in their prayers of thanks when the family gathers around the meal. I recently heard a child excitedly noting that Jesus’ birthday is one of the only birthdays you ever get to celebrate where you GET presents as well as GIVE them – that’s how generous and kind Jesus is!

What about you? What do you do? How do you include Jesus in His special day? Share some ideas below.

“12 thoughts of Christmas” #5: Looking Outward

The central message of Christmas is one of sacrificial giving. The God of the Universe gave His only Son, Jesus – born in a manger, killed on a cross, raised to life – so that we might experience the ultimate gift of Salvation. While all sorts of other things will compete to crowd out that truth … the reality of this incredible gift needs to draw us to a different heart posture and a different response.

The Christmas season provides us all manner of opportunities for self-indulgence or to facilitate the self-indulgence of others, it takes a fair degree of intentionality and a whole lot of clear communication to write a different story for ourselves and our families.

Here are some ideas for ways to foster an outward focus during the Christmas season.

  • Give gifts that support other causes. Many organisations have developed creative ways to give to need locally and around the world through unique gifts such as a goat, a toilet, a well or a mosquito net given on behalf of friends and family. You can talk about them at home in the planning stage and then you have further opportunity to speak to it when the gift is exchanged.
  • Serve together as a family. Shop together to buy food or gifts for families in need. Deliver hampers or food through your church or a welfare organisation. Donate time to wrap gifts in a shopping centre. Serve at a community meal.
  • Open your home. Invite someone in who doesn’t have family to spend Christmas with. Include a family for a meal that might otherwise struggle to afford a more ‘special’ celebration. Do an ‘open invitation’ for a Christmas Eve or Christmas night drop in time so people have a safe and hospitable opportunity to connect with others over the celebration period.
  • Perform random (anonymous) acts of kindness. Pay for the person behind you in the drive through at McDonald’s. Offer to return someone’s trolley to the bay. Leave $20 toward a person’s petrol while you’re inside paying for your own. Leave a cake or some Christmas goodies on the doorstep of a neighbour. Handwrite Christmas messages and post them or leave them under someone’s windscreen wipers.
  • Include the WHOLE family in your planning and giving. As a family, discuss the ways you can be generous together – how will we serve, who will we bless? Wrap presents together so everyone knows what you’re giving to family and friends. Handmade is always a special touch – include children in baking/icing/decorating or in making cards, wrapping paper or tags.

What ideas have you seen/heard of? What have you tried yourself? What have you been the recipient of and how did it bless you? How can we make sure the greatest gift of all to us incites a gratitude that inspires giving?

“12 thoughts of Christmas” #1: Preparation

I LOVE Christmas! I do! It brings together all of my favourite things (Jesus, worship, family, friends, food, presents and celebrating) in the one internationally sanctioned season!! I love it!

Your attitude to the Christmas season may be slightly less enthusiastic than mine – in fact, it may be diametrically opposed – because we all have different experiences to draw on and expectations that we foster.

Here’s the first of “12 thoughts of Christmas” as we look to doing the Christmas season WELL!


Of course, you’re all in various stages of preparation for different aspects of the Christmas season. For some, your ‘to-do’ list is nearly all crossed off. For others, you are perfecting the art of denial and hoping that if you ignore it long enough it will all do itself!! 🙂

Many churches and faith traditions celebrate this season of “advent”. The process of counting down, of looking ahead and of preparation. Some of you may even have an advent calendar in your home. The best ones have a chocolate or a treat that you get to enjoy as you mark off each day on the countdown to December 25th.

Over 2000 years ago the world was in a season of preparation that had been thousands of years in the making! If you read the first few chapters of the book of Mark in the Bible you see the process unfolding. The prophecies of Jesus’ impending arrival were finally coming to pass. Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel and becomes pregnant by the Spirit of God … her season of preparation was well and truly come! Joseph responds to God’s call to be Jesus’ earthly father and weds Mary. Jesus the Messiah was to be born!

In the Christmas Carol “Joy to the World” we see the line “let every heart prepare Him room”. That’s the kind of preparations we need to be including on our ‘to-do’ list. It’s easy to be so absorbed by the busyness of the season and the various tasks that need to be done that we lose sight of what this time really represents. The Saviour of the world has come! God has come to earth in flesh – “Emmanuel” (God is with us).

How do you include this kind of preparation in your family life at this time? What stories do you tell, what activities do you do, or what reminders do you have around your house? Let me encourage you to consider this – and share your ideas below for others to use as well!