Expertly Amateur

I’ve been a mum for 2 weeks now. As others have said before me, prior to meeting your bubs, you try to imagine both the emotion you’ll feel for your little one, and also the way that it will change your life. Both imaginations failed dismally to what I’ve felt and experienced in the past two weeks. I mean, the girl is scrumptious.


The sleep deprivation is not.

And neither has been that feeling of complete incompetence I’ve felt over the past 17 days. Like when my husband and I attempted to change our screaming bubs in and out of 5 outfits last night because we couldn’t judge the size of said garments compared to baby’s dimensions yet. Our daughter looked at us with this face that said – “Seriously, come on guys. It can’t be that difficult.”

Can’t it? I mean, how difficult is it to dress/feed/cuddle such a lovely one?

Heaps, apparently.

In the last 17 days I have found myself exposed to my own (and my imagined daughter’s) criticism in a way that is supremely uncomfortable. I’m an amateur.  Seriously. I don’t know squat. And that, my friends, is the thing that I’m afraid of MOST in the whole world. Forget spiders, heights, *collectable spoons and cancer. I can face them. But looking like an idiot? Please God, NO.

I’ve built my career and relationships on the fact that I know stuff. And that I can contribute. Not only have I learned big words in the past to sound impressive in conversations, but I have also actively avoided activities because I have trouble being vulnerable enough to learn things and not be an expert immediately (just ask how I went learning how to play tennis).

But now I’m faced with the task of needing to learn how to be a mum -and fast- so that my child can live and thrive. Not fun. The fact that she’s learning too hasn’t provided comfort yet because I am still the adult, right? In this situation, I’m the one who is supposed to be in control, and yet I’ve found myself being intimidated by a person who is only days old because I want to do so right by them, but I’m not sure if I can.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that I can do some stuff, and some stuff I’m actually not terrible at. Here’s the rub though- I’m an amateur in Everything. EVERYTHING! Who am I kidding?! My dear God looks at my ridiculous attempts to impress him, and he says thanks love, but you don’t need to. I just love you. It’s ok.

There is so much beauty and space to breathe when I finally come with humility and realise that my state of amateurism can actually be one step closer to experiencing his grace for me. I’m so grateful that it’s ok to not to be an expert in life yet. My weakness and willingness to be taught can be a statement to his glory.

What a gift for me to be reminded of In Easter week.

Oh Dear Jesus, thanks for saving me from myself…

And please keep reminding me of this.

Kirst x

*Collectable spoons still terrify me.

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
2 Cor‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬


good grief!

Today’s the 4th anniversary of my mum passing away. She was really great. I’ve written about her before but seriously, how gorgeous is she? I want that outfit.

8-26-2010_027 copy

It’s funny when you wake up on a day like this. How do you celebrate or commemorate or acknowledge the day ‘properly’? How do you do ‘good’ grief?

May 13th of this year also marked 14 years since my dad died.

Lance was an amazing man. Like, seriously, amazing. He was a civil engineer and an inventor and a story teller and a snappy dresser and a port – both liquid & footy –  lover. Dad suffered with bi-polar depression for many years before unfortunately taking his life. My sister called me late in the day this may and we were having a lovely chat before she asked me if I had toasted Dad. I was like “What?”…then realised after a moment what the date was. I was silent for a while because I had forgotten the anniversary of Dad’s death….what a horrible daughter I was! My sister instantly assured me that it was totally fine, that he knew/knows that I love him….but the guilt manifested really quickly and I burst into tears after hanging up the phone.img006

Not only did I feel really sad because I had neglected to mark the day in my mind, the thing is, those of you who have been through a particular tragedy or losing someone – the anniversary is the day you can be sad. It’s your chance. You can be somber and not have to apologise for grieving on that day, especially as the years go on. You still have permission to mope for a while; it’s your space. By not ‘cashing in’ on the anniversary, had I negated the right to be sad in the future? Was I officially ‘over it’ and had to move on?

Of course this is being melodramatic. Of course I can be sad if need to be. Grief is not a finite period that you have to ‘get over’ and then become a ‘healed’ person. Sometimes you may feel guilty about not being sad, but sometimes you may also have to give yourself permission to be not-sad. That’s ok too. But I still struggle with these questions sometimes.

I heard grief described recently like a verse from “The Bear Hunt” nursery rhyme – you can’t go around it – you have to go through it.  It doesn’t matter what you feel like you ‘should do’, grief is grief; you gotta let it happen how it falls. The thing I’m learning about grief is that you can allow yourself to feel sad when you feel sad, and feel joy when somethings great, and laugh when something’s funny, and then cry again when something’s sad – it’s a wonderful, messy, great, awful time…and somehow, life continues.

Every death, every loss, every person that we miss is different, and it would be a deep crime if we prescribed “how to grieve steps” to every varied situation. Moreover, how you ‘do grief’ doesn’t necessarily translate to how other people view you or view your grief – and that’s ok. But I think one of the most important things you can do, and you should do, is give yourself permission to keep living, and permission to sometimes forget them in some moments – because you know what – it probably means that in that moment something else important is or was happening for you.

Someone’s legacy is not tied up in the fact that you must feel something on a certain day, or behave in a certain way. We often raise to an unrealistic level the importance of ourselves feeling a certain way at particular times.

What I can offer, what I think is life giving, is the permission and the encouragement to celebrate and share the seemingly both banal and ridiculous moments of your memories – these build up pictures of our loved ones for those other loved ones around us.

Like the fact that one of my favourite memories growing up were Friday nights in town. My sister and mum would pick up my dad from his work, we would have dinner in the food court underneath John Martins, and then we would go late night shopping. It was so fun. Even if we didn’t buy anything. I would then lie in the back seat of the car with my Dad and look up at the buildings and try to guess which streets we were driving down…Halifax street? Flinders? East Terrace? Which one would it be?!

Or the fact that my mum took my sister and myself to the library every week. Without fail. Mum would borrow something like 20 novels at a pop, then devour them if she liked what she read, or skip to the end if she was bored. I spent hours of happy memories doing the same, borrowing piles of books and spending hours reading at home in the hammock, or sharing a book with mum over lunch. It’s totally why I love to read now.

These are really ordinary moments…but it’s these memories which allow us to celebrate the great diversity of moments that someone’s life is made up of.  My husband unfortunately didn’t get to meet my dad, but he has gotten to know him through the stories we tell, from the one where Dad reheated cake icing in the microwave, thinking it mashed potato, or the one where he helped suspend a cooper mini from a suspension bridge….by sharing these stories, not only do times of grief gain perspective, but we create legacies of stories for our loved ones who are no longer with us.

So cheers, Joanie. We celebrate you and the way you would never eat at a restaurant without an entertainment book voucher. We celebrate your cheeky sense of humour and your love of Paris. We love you!

You did WHAT????! Or, the Art of Reacting Well.

Tell me something. Have you ever been in a conversation with a friend when you have news to share and upon picking the right moment, you announce I’m getting married/moving to San Diego/having a baby/grieving the loss of a loved one/learning french, and they give you one of the following reactions:

a) Indifference: That’s Cool.
b) Selfishness: I wish I was getting married
c) Searching for Points: I TOTALLY KNEW!
d) Lack of Support: You totally can’t learn french.

Ok these may be lame examples, but isn’t it the most disappointing feeling when you’re so excited to share moments with your mates and family, and they don’t seem to join you in that celebration or sorrow, whatever that may be? I was fortunate to go on some extended travel a couple of years back and when I was telling people of my trip, the most common response was “I’m so jealous!” I mean, that’s showing some enthusiasm somewhat, but it’s not that fun when it’s the only thing you hear. It makes you not want to share news sometimes.

However, I have a dear friend, who shall remain nameless, but she is my complete, one-stop go-to person with news. She knows how to react WELL. When I was getting married, she screamed. When I finally finished some study, she started crying in a shopping centre. When a loved one was very ill, she sent cards. and cookies. and flowers. and more cards. She reacts WELL. Even if she knew the news, she reacted well.

I’m 31 and apparently it’s the time to have babies now, so announcements come left, right and centre. Another dear friend recently showed me how to react well by sharing with me that when/if my time comes, she’s gonna be happy. She also said that she may struggle with it, being through a journey of her own in this area, but she said that she still wanted to share the joy. What a gift.

These ladies gets points. What does not get points, are people who claim news for your friends (“I totally brought those guys together”). Or people that tell you that they already guessed – I’ve witnessed (and, admittedly, been part of ) many a conversation where people are confronted with revealing news because they’ve been watched like hawks over their meal choices/facebook posts/stretchy pants/outdoor clothing purchases. That’s no fun.

People who also don’t get points are friends who don’t get excited, or even acknowledge that excitement is present, despite the fact that their friends are bursting with glee. Or if they tell you a “your coffee may have been great but I had an even better coffee than you this morning/when I was in Germany/when I was making my artisan pickles” story.  You don’t get points that way friends, you just end up looking like a jerk. And you’re not being a good mate.

If you did know she was engaged/he had started a new job/that they had a bad haircut, or you feel concerned about their choice, or worried about their future, save that conversation for your husband. or best mate. or hair dresser. If you do have genuine concerns, such as if your best mate announces that he is moving to Peru with a woman he met on the internet three weeks ago, there may be time for some sage advice and perhaps encouragement in an opposite direction, but SAVE THAT FOR LATER.

First impressions matter. Be generous. Your friend’s news is not about you.


It’s not about lying or deceiving someone how you really feel about their news – neither is it about gossiping about how you really feel to others – it’s more about the gift of attention & recognition of the moment.

If the news hurts you in someway because of what you’ve got going on at the moment, consider:
a) is RIGHT NOW the best time to tell them this? or
b) is THIS PERSON the best person to tell this to?

If you don’t know what they’re talking about, ask. Don’t dismiss.

If you don’t know what to say, say “I’m really excited for you/I’m sorry for your loss”. Fullstop.

If you’ve already seen it on facebook, say “I’m happy/sad for you”. Fullstop.

If you don’t care about what they’re talking about, say “I’m so happy/sad for you”. Fullstop.

It’s one of the biggest gifts you can give someone, and one of the significant strengths of friendship. Win friends and influence people, people: React Well.

Police Never Die, or What Boney M Taught Me About Christmas

So here’s a Christmas story for you.

Growing up, every year we would pick up our highly anticipated real Christmas tree from our local church and put it on the roof of our mini, then my dad would carefully arrange the tree in an old oil can with piece of bricks to stabilise it.

We would then put on 2 Lp albums on at the insistence of my sister and I; Boney M’s Christmas Album, and a Tijuana Christmas (Both still excellent choices).

Then as we decorated the tree, we would sing along. My personal favourite was Police Never Die. You are not familiar?

Let me refresh your memory:

“Police never die, police never die, police never die, mucho do wando police to die, I want to wish you a merry Christmas..I want to wish you a merry Christmas…I want to wish you a merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart…”

It took me YEARS to realise that I was very mistaken in the lyrical content.

I still prefer my version.

When one of my cousins was still young, with the clever idea of making her own presents at Christmas, she stole her father’s mouse pad from the computer in June and hid it for six months, then gave it to him on Christmas Day. I still remember his reaction; “Oh, there it is!”, and then thanked his daughter, even though he had replaced the item months before after it went missing….

The point of these stories? The things that we love, the traditions that we hold to, may be slightly less than perfect. They may even be a little ridiculous. The Christmas hats from your crackers may look stupid on your head. You may have to drive all the way across town to travel to a family gathering. You may have to brave the busy shops more than once to get that last minute present. You also receive a present that you don’t like.

Does it matter? No.

One of the things that I learned in my studies of camps is that Rituals, when they are understood, are POWERFUL. They are the ways by which we understand our culture, our family, even our faith. We understand much more through participation than we ever do by observation. I’ll say that again.

We understand much more through participation than we ever do by observation.

This is not to say that traditions can actually cause pain. This happens when they are prioritised over what they are supposed to represent; at Christmas, this can often occur when shopping for gift giving overwhelms a genuine spirit of generosity. Or a forced-fake smile at family gatherings required even when there is difficulty in the relationships. Or when the festivities remind you of people that are no longer with us. Or when we crowd the calendar with so much stuff that we don’t even get any time to enjoy the ‘fun’.

The thing is though, these practices are the ones that form the strongest memories. I am grateful to my parents who, when we were young, tried to convince us that Santa came early to our house because we opened our presents on Christmas eve. I am thankful to my mum who gave us Christmas decorations each year so that one day we would have our own collection. I admire my Dad for showing excitement when he was given another pair of socks and a jar of chocolate coated peanuts. I am thankful to my aunties for making cucumber and tomato salads every year because they remind me of my Nanna at Christmas. and I am really really thankful for a God who decided to participate in my life by sending his son to be born for me.

Love is born
With a dark and troubled face
When hope is dead
And in the most unlikely place
Love is born:
Love is always born.




Michael Leunig, the very talented cartoonist of the above once said;

“the search for the sublime may sometimes have a ridiculous beginning”.

I love that. even when our attempts at the sublime, the sacred, the wonderful, the memorable, are ridiculous, are awkward, or even are a disaster, they must be attempted.

Your family needs it. You need it. And at the risk of sounding ridiculous myself, I think our country and world needs it.

So that’s why I will always push for a real tree (even though the needles clog up the vacuum cleaner) because it marks the real beginning of the season in my household. It’s why I will enlarge my collection of Christmas music every year to listen to. It’s why I will spend time searching for that perfect gift. It’s also why I want to make an effort with my family during this time because I want to know them as actual people, not just some randoms that I’m related to.

Maybe even if it’s ridiculous, try to really celebrate this year. Redeem the traditions in your life and your family. Attempt the sublime.

You can even sing a chorus of Police Never Die if it gets you in the mood….

its been a year…

This is Joan

She loved to travel

She was a lefty

She was an incredible teacher

She liked to abbreviate, almost to the point of being compltly illgbl

She sang the lullaby “oranges and lemons” to my sister and I when we were going to sleep

She loved going out with friends for dinner, especially when she could use an entertainment card to receive 25% off

If it was a crime novel, she read it.

If it was a British show (about anything), she watched it

She cut out articles on travel, investing, and recipes out of newspapers and magazines

She loved her friends. and her family.

It is very difficult at times to understand that this person is gone. The person who was sick and bedridden? I can get that she’s gone. But it’s much harder to believe that the woman who made chocolate slab cakes and worked so hard for her family is gone.

The reality, however, is that they’re the same person.

The same person who struggled with cancer, who faced the sudden death of her husband, was the same woman who was gracious and generous with everyone who visited her in hospital, even when she was exhausted.

The same woman who loved going out to enjoy food was the same woman who, last year, closed her eyes whenever she tasted food or had coffee (or the occasional glass of wine) because it was one of the last things she could still enjoy during that time.

The truth is, I miss all of her. And it really sucks that she’s not here, that dad’s not here either, and as my sister and I approach years of (hopefully) families and kids, the thing that really hurts the most is that those kids won’t know who their grandparents were.

But there’s also a but.

This is not the massive-encompassing “BUT” that claims that everything is amazing and fantastic and grief- free. It’s a small one.


My sister, gorgeous photographer that she is, started taking photos to document times that we as a family spent together during those last months. That’s weird, right? Why document mum in that state? Without hair, with swollen face and limbs, in all that pain? Why force yourself to remember her like that?

Why? It was still mum.
Her eyes were the same. Her smile was the same. Her loving us the best way she knew how was the same. Despite the fear that she had of what was happening to her, despite her often denial of the reality we were all being faced with, it was still her.

When I look at those photos now, I am reminded of her pain, absolutely, but also of the power of grace during those times. I’m reminded of this bible verse that says

“God uses the foolish things in this world to shame the wise”.

The foolish thing is to think that mum was powerful during that time. She wasn’t in a lot of ways. In most ways, actually. She couldn’t walk, sit up, feed herself, or even hold a book to read it.


She spent time talking to her friends

She gave her time to a researcher who came to interview her, because she knew how much I appreciated when people gave me their time in my studies.

She gave a young nurse who was getting married some platters she didn’t need

She paid for a friend to have their house cleaned before they went overseas, just so she could spend some quality time with her own husband and daughter

She took the trip to meadows in an uncomfortable taxi so she could see her sister get married

Her sisters and sons in law learned much about her teaching life, and the incredible influence she was to many people at her school

Her time in hospital, especially the last few days, gave us the opportunity to talk, and laugh, and pray, and eat, and drink together.

Even in that state of ‘weakness’, she was powerful.

Even in that state of ‘foolishness’, god’s glory was powerful and prominent. And present.

And something I can’t ignore. That’s what I’m thankful for. And there’s the but in the day(s) where I mostly want to be sad.

Missing & loving you Mumsie, today and everyday. Hope you’re enjoying that plane ride….

Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life…”


“let this be written…”

So you’ve heard that we live in postmodernity? Wrong. I’m here to tell you today that we live in a world of over-articulation.*

It’s true. Well, perhaps I do and the rest of you live in that postmodernity land.

The access to social media and the opportunity to blog and the fact that I’m a little too excited about following photography blogs means that a large slice of my day/thought processes/is centred on the idea and calling that you need to express about your life. To articulate it beautifully. Share frustrations. Share hopes. Share funny commentary, share beautiful trees that happen to be in your own front yard:

This is so much pressure! What if I’m just adding noise to an already noisy cacophony**?

And while there is so much wonderfulness about the opportunity for me, for us to share what’s going on with our lives, it carries a certain expectation that your life is worth writing about. Or taking photos of.

Of course it is, but I’m still brought to a halt when I think about the shortcomings of what I invest my time in. Of who I am. Of the words that I share with those around me from day to day. Of the cause that I want to be part of. I feel frustrated and somewhat disappointed that the life I’m living is only a shadow of the faith that I want, the example that I want to demonstrate, the encouragement I want to be a source of.

But I was just reading psalm 102 and a few versus struck me:

But you, LORD, sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favour to her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
her very dust moves them to pity.
15 The nations will fear the name of the LORD,
all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
16 For the LORD will rebuild Zion
and appear in his glory.
17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.

 18 Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD:

19 “The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
21 So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the LORD.

Regardless of my own insecurity and worry that even after 10 years of uni I still haven’t worked out what I want to do with my life, something gets to me about how your life can map something out for a future generation, for those who aren’t yet born so they can know Jesus. The fact that God is powerful and is the saviour of those who are afflicted. That he is a God of justice and freedom….

Holy Heck. How I want my life to be one that can be written for a future generation, even if it is just my own…

This psalm was written by one who wasn’t in a good place. He was in the midst of trouble, fainting, and pleading before his God. Check this:

Hear my prayer, LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

3 For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
5 In my distress I groan aloud
and am reduced to skin and bones.
6 I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
7 I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.

In the haze of torment and despair, he knew of God’s faithfulness and the wonderful complicated and compelling joy it is to follow in his footsteps and allow your life to proclaim his.

I think quite often I get so caught up with questioning if my life means enough (or at least, something that’s worth writing about), that I don’t actually remember to get on with it.

When the psalmist’s life was a mess and he didn’t have anything to blog about his own achievements, he spoke of God’s instead…

Perhaps this then is something worth articulating today.

“Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD……”

 What is your life writing for a future generation?


*  I am acutely aware of my own hypocrisy articulating frustration about over-articulation through a blog entry. I hope you will forgive me and put it down to playful irony…

**(Jarring, discordant sound; dissonance = good word)

how to avoid giving your child a ridiculous name.

I am not a mother. I am, however, a godmother, friend, sister, and possibly will be in the parent category someday. In light of this, I hold grave concerns for many children who are born from those in our generation who think it is ok to name their child a ridiculous name.

It is NOT ok.

Thus to avoid possible disasters of name mishaps in the future, I have devised a simple flow chart for expectant or new parents who are in the process of naming their children. Distribute to all those that you believe are in danger.

So you’ve had a baby? Congratulations! About to name your child La-a? Pear? Voltron? Symphony? Beautiphul?


Take 5 minutes with this quick and easy flow chart. You may just save your child years of pain and torment.

(click on the chart to a see a larger version if it appears fuzzy)


Hard work is not the opposite of grace, it is the result of experiencing grace.

D. A. Carson explains:

“People do not drift toward Holiness.

Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.

We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.

(For the Love of God, Volume 2)

Lent Learnings

i have only ever given up something for lent once in my life, and

it was chocolate. it was years ago. i remember it being quasi-difficult, but i also remember the double incentives present in the lack of chocolate that was infiltrating my diet during those four weeks.

now in 2011, after several easters that seemed to spring up on me without much reflection, and let’s face it, not much outcome because of it, it appears that this year calls me for another attempt at denying something through lent.

Fasting is the denial of something (usually of bodily requirements), creating within you spiritual thirst. It seems that we deny something of ourselves in order to allow space for God to move in us. Many of my friends have declared several very worthy denials this year: facebook, chocolate, bad day time television, or even television at all.

I’ve had some trouble deciding where to go. yet i think i’ve come to it.
The following statement is one that i will be engaging in in the next 40 days:


things that matter that immediately come to mind: meals. sleep. conversations.

instead of believing that I’m actually marty-mcflying it and manipulating time by watching television and eating my tea at the same time, or facebooking while I’m “trying” to sleep, or playing solitaire while having a conversation with a friend, or reading an important article on the drive to work, or eating lunch at work at my desk, I’m going to endeavour to do one thing at a time, just as they are. If I run out of time and happen to find myself trying to get dressed while blow drying my hair and brushing my teeth while applying mascara, i think i’ll allow myself some latitude because these things don’t matter as much as

conversations with my husband over our dinner
restful sleep and recuperation for the next day
conversations with my dear friends near and far.

I realise that this denial is a little bit abstract and may not sit comfortably in the ‘what are you giving up for lent’ category, but I’m looking forward to seeing how me (attempting to) give up the urge to increase quantity in my time may actually increase the quality of said time.

I’m looking forward to lunch sans my desk because I’m going to take my journal and do some writing, and spend time doing it. I might take my bible. I might even get some actual decent time with God. Who knows. it might blow my mind.

let’s see how we go.

looking forward to easter though….

there are a few things, not many, which make almost everything better. ie most things need water. (except melting chocolate). most things need air (except a vaccuum). and despite these exceptions, most things are better because of air or water. i would like to add a third concept to the list.

most things are better with pockets.

what is better than having somewhere to put your hand, your wallet, your spare key, or your fake water-pistol flower (if you happen to be a clown)?

moreover, things that are pocket sized are also cool (think: pocket watch, pocket book, pocket calculator).

things that have pockets already built in are clearly the coolest, see: kangaroo.

the proof is so completely overwhelming.

that settles it, then. you should pocket a pocket today. or, at least, give me something that has a pocket.

it will make your life a better place to be.

Life is better with pockets….