Things of Good Report


In the last few months, though not nearly as often as I thought I would, I have been writing about some of the difficult things I faced after first becoming a mother. Those days of muddled thoughts, body-aching tiredness and never quite reaching the expectations set for me. I have never been as lonely as I was then, and now that I’m on the other side, I will always say that I think it is vitally important to talk about those things and to acknowledge the feelings and struggles that are unexpected, far from pretty and not what we think a proper, godly mama should have.

I do not usually like disclaimers. To me, they blur a message, sound apologetic and lower a writer’s credibility. However, a couple of things have been churning through my head since I started writing on this subject.

You’ve likely seen me roll my eyes over cheesy romances or rant about the flawless, picture-perfect lives found in some conservative literature. I will be the first to shudder at a photoshopped selfie paired with the perfect inspirational quote and wince if I see a smile plastered over tired, hurting eyes. There is something in all of us that yearns for authenticity, and as women who already struggle so much with comparison and identity, we have found relief in recent years as it has become more and more okay to talk about “real life.” In fact, it’s become the new trend: we are now more cool and more worthy of being looked-up to if we fill our instagram accounts with photos of our messy houses and dirty toddlers and talk about the hard things we went through last week. We are now gloriously authentic.

This is my fear: I think sometimes we are now far too comfortable with being real and vulnerable and we can veer to the other side into cynicism and negativity instead of focusing on what fills our lives with beauty.

I have seen this in myself and it’s a weight that I am constantly mulling over and trying to balance. How do I strive for authenticity and the breaking down of walls through vulnerability while maintaining a spirit of delight and joy? How do we gently reign in our “real lives” to have no fear in being honest about our messy hearts but no longer compelled to advertise them? Why have we over-reacted into feeling shame over sharing a moment of peace and calm without the disclaimer of the chaos behind the scenes?

(As a personal case, I thoroughly love housework and have felt guilt before over having a tidy, organised house nearly all of the time. I know it’s silly, but I have on occasion deliberately left a messy corner of toys or a sink full of dirty dishes for visitors to see, because what if they think I’m less of a good mother or hiding something if my house looks too good to be true?)

I say all this, because I have been convicted into a new focus regarding these things I have written and want to keep writing about. I long for authenticity, and if you are another young mama who has struggled with postpartum depression or finding fulfilment in motherhood, then I hope that my talking about it will give you some companionship and that you will know I am beside you and deeply care. But I do not want to react with frustration that nobody acknowledges these things by veering deeply into the opposite direction and defining motherhood (or any other area of life) with cynicism and darkness. Just because these things are real doesn’t mean that they must now be expected and normal, and if you are one of those new mothers whose real life actually is just as beautiful as one of those photo-perfect squares and you have found the transition into motherhood to be a seamless one, I want you to know that you belong too. If I have made you feel ashamed or less-than-normal for feeling nothing but joy over your role as a mother, I have discredited you, and I am sorry.

I want more than anything to live a legitimate life and I will never apologise for writing about it. But if darkness and hardship become the bulk of what is real in my life, then my heart is not fully grafted into the Father of Light, and I am not being defined by the loveliness found in Him. Pursuing life in Christ does not mean we will hide behind walls of perfection or pretend that life is flawless, but it will instead change our focus onto how we find victory over these things of darkness, and not on feeling comfortable or normal by dwelling in them. We will find no fear in the vulnerability of acknowledging struggles, but as daughters of One spectacularly perfect, we should also find no fear in the telling of beauty, without shame and with no apology.

 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.


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Dear New Mom: eternity in your heart

This post is a continuation of a series I’ve started on young motherhood, and the intricate things that are difficult for us to acknowledge or understand, because they’re not expected from us. Read Part One here: The Mama Diaries I: When You Can’t Quite Reach


I remember that night well. I was driving an hour home in the dark with the girls. Both had been wailing, protesting the restraint of their seat buckles and the sleepy unsettledness of a tiring, busy day. After a few minutes, there was gradual quietness as their cries slowly decreased in volume, and they nodded off to sleep. I remember my sigh of relief and the way my grip on the steering wheel loosened, followed by the long minutes of eerie silence and the blur of street lights and predictable exits and the subconscious counting of lane markings as I switched into a methodical driving mode and became lost inside my mind.

I can’t really explain the sudden rush of tears that knocked me forward, my shoulders heaving as frustration, sorrow and emptiness became water streaking down my face. I felt a haunting shallowness as I replayed my day in my head: the meals, the nappies, the feeding, the whining, the nap struggles, the playing, the cleaning up and those same things repeating themselves in a monotone, meaningless cycle at least five times all day long. I felt that tiny satisfaction of a quiet car and two sleeping babies, then beat my fist on the steering wheel because I hated that my life was reduced to feeling fulfilment from such an insignificant thing. I whispered out loud the question that runs through my head every single day, “God, is this really all that there is to my life?”

I’ve talked to enough other mamas to know that this is a recurring battle. We know that mothering our children well is an invaluable operation but we still feel that slight hesitation, and dare I say, embarrassment, when that stranger asks us what we do for a job. We hear the stories of our husbands saving lives, of our friends teaching, volunteering, evangelising and writing, of our sisters managing a shop or working night shifts at the hospital. We hear these stories and we shrivel up when someone asks us what we did all day. We know that we’ve kept these children fed, clothed, watered and mostly in their right minds, and boy, do we know all the work that goes into making sure that happens, but how to do you tell these things to someone without getting a yawn in return? I nearly wept that one beautiful day when I met my midwife for the first time during Ela’s pregnancy. We were casually chatting while she took my blood pressure, and she started asking me a few questions to get to know me better, one of which was, “So what do you do for work?” I automatically go into defence mode whenever that question is asked, and I replied that I’d never had a job away from home since having children and was just a stay-at-home mum. Immediately, she looked at me sternly and snapped her fingers in my face. “Darling, don’t you ever say that you are just a stay-at home mum. You do more than anyone will ever know! It’s full time, you never get a break, and it’s the most important job on earth.” I will forever remember that moment in that day: that incredible feeling of being acknowledged and cared for, the words of care that she poured over me.

Why do I feel restless? Why do I enjoy my children, but always have this subconscious feeling that I must only be in an interim, that this is only a phase in the circle of life, that I’m supposed to be doing something more meaningful than the current mundane? I make lists of what I’ll get done while my toddler’s happily playing. I work hard to get my baby to nap in her cot so that my arms are free for cooking, housework or writing. I rush through lunch because I can’t wait for my oldest daughter’s nap-time, and I pass that late afternoon hour with a cooking show because can’t I just do one thing in the day for my own enjoyment? I chase after more and look for better, always fidgety, unable to rest in the ordinary.

Keep eternity in my heart. I pray this often amid my wails of regret and repentance, making a mantra to weave through my heart, asking God to embed it there. It doesn’t take long to move past the initial excitement of new life into the rhythm of pregnancy and birth and to forget the wonder of conception and the act of collaborating with God to make this tiny human. As the months roll on, our children become our normal life and we lose ourselves in the ever-habitual cycle of them and their needs. We watch her grow, we introduce her as our daughter, and we forget to look beyond her flesh and blood to her never-dying soul. This child will live forever! When we forget that our children are eternal, they become an interruption, an inconvenience, a pause in the life we would’ve otherwise lived. They become a task, a job to be completed well, an achievement we strive for, hoping they will turn out in a way that makes us look good. I am foolish when I think that I can do some greater thing than invest all my love, talents, time and energy into two sacred souls who are everlasting things in this interim of earth. I am not “missing out on life” by staying at home with my children when I am investing beyond life itself.

Please do not hear me saying that being the typical “stay at home mum” is the only way to do motherhood. It’s not. In our conservative christian culture, I believe we’ve gone way too far in squelching our individualism and making parenting all about our children and not ourselves. We have our pre-made expectations of who a “good mom” is and we call her selfish when she wants a morning off to go shopping and drink coffee, and are aghast at her priorities when, God forbid, she runs a business from home, attends college classes, or works several shifts a week. People, stop! This is an entire post for another time, but God made us individuals with our own hobbies, talents, and desires and levels of coping long before He made us mothers. I do not deny that we are called to be keepers at home and I will always hold to this being the design that we are meant to fit into. However, those things that make up our very personhood must be nurtured and kept alive if we have any hopes of giving to our children without draining ourselves in the process. At the same time, we’ve also gone too far in accommodating and applauding the mom who is active in realms outside of her home, and tend to forget to cheer on the brave woman who has decided to make her children her only employment. Please don’t leave her in the dust or think she is somehow doing something less, boring or insignificant. You will never know the sacrifices she’s made, the hot tears she’s cried, and the indescribable range of unexpected things she faces every single day behind the portrait you’ve presumptuously painted of her and her life.

Dear mama at home, you are a shepherdess, protector, teacher, example, friend, carer, and provider. You have no clocked hours; yours is a never-ending shift of giving and nurturing, and few people are brave enough to go down the path you have chosen. You have nobly taken on the job of immeasurable worth for which you are never materially paid. You are enough. What you do is enough. You are seen.


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Toowoomba {a mini holiday}

What a fun week this one was! David let me know a couple months ago that he was required to attend a Rural Generalist Conference at the beginning of July, and wondered if his girls would enjoy coming along as well. With accomodation and meals provided for and the anticipation of exploring a new town and enjoying some restful time as a family, we were all for it! It came at a perfect time: David had just finished his medicine rotation at Nambour, and the long hours meant very little time to see each other and stay tuned to the other’s life. The baby was no longer a newborn, and I felt like I was coming out of that postnatal fog: well-adjusted to our new routine and more confident with the idea of venturing out further than home, the park and the grocery store with two little ones in tow. We’d also had a busy weekend helping out with and attending the wedding of some dear friends of ours, so couldn’t wait to be in our own little bubble for a while.

Toowoomba, as a tourist destination, has never been on my radar. It’s 31/2 hours away, quite far from the coast, and I’d always assumed it would be bogan, dry, and void of aesthetically pleasing landscape. I was wrong! We loved our drive through the flat, very-Australian farmland on our way there and the windmills and barns scattered along the horizon. We were surprised when the area began to turn rather hilly, and we wound around a mountain to get to our destination on top. Suddenly, we were there, in what felt like a little transplant from Europe: a place with wide streets, deciduous trees, iron lamp-posts, and ancient buildings.





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This town clock was just across the road from our hotel, and I loved hearing every hour chime by!

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First stop on our afternoon walk after checking in, since all good trips should start with fresh flowers for the hotel room!



One of the highlights for me was just enjoying the quiet of our little apartment, sitting on the floor with our stacks of books + wooden puzzles.

  {Day Two} Our farm tour was cancelled due to sickness, so we spent the day walking all over town, and relaxing in the beautiful Queen Park’s playground and botanical gardens. The gardens boasted nothing flamboyant at this stage, as all the flowers were only in seedling stage, but The Carnival of Flowers is happening there in September, and rumour has it that it’s well worth it to return then, when everything is in its Springtime glory.

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Foraging a collection for daddy.


Cottage-lined street next to the gardens. Toowoomba’s so full of whimsy!

{Day Three} Since David was to be at meetings every day we were there, I scouted around online beforehand, looking for fun ideas to fill our days. I came across Paddock to Potager, and as soon as I read about baby chicks, piglets and bottle-fed lambs, I knew it’d make Kezia’s day. It was only about 20 minutes away, and the farm tour was supposed to last for a couple hours, so it was the perfect day trip for us.


I was smitten as soon as we turned onto a bumpy, red-dirt road, braked to let a family of ducks cross in front of us, and passed these handwritten signs.


My country with it’s comfortable, familiar landscape: the land that I love.


The farm is owned by a young family, and the lady on site did an incredible job of showing us around, making everyone comfortable, and interacting with the young children. I loved the rustic originality of the property filled with their own creative touches, including my favourite, the old barn in the middle of the property that they’ve filled with tables, chairs, games and afternoon tea supplies.



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For practical reasons, we’ve never been able to live in the country since marrying and having children, so I love finding ways to bring little aspects of the natural world into our little urban life. One of my favourite things in this day was just watching my little girl in her element, confident and void of any fear whatsoever: chasing geese and unabashedly sidling up to saddleback pigs five times her size and patting them on the udders. I love how she throws herself fully into everything she does!



These little piglets were only two days old and were ridiculously adorable!

IMG_7436Our day was nicely polished off with a picnic lunch, with people scattered across the barn and in little circles on the grass. It was the most beautiful day to be outdoors and I was reminded all over again why I love Queensland and the majestically mild winters she prides herself in.


And, of course, no day at a farm is complete without a little electric fence drama! One of my earliest memories as a child is playing with my friends in the church yard, which neighboured a cow paddock. I think we were trying to pick some flowers through the fence and I grabbed hold of the wire to stabilise myself. I still vividly remember that horrid, dizzying feeling that rocked my whole body, and the way my friends rushed my bawling self to my parents, where I told my story with huge eyes and descriptive motions.

Most of the fencing at the farm we were at was quite harmless, except for one little live wire that ran along close to the ground to keep the little piglets from escaping. It all happened so quickly: Kezia squatted down on the ground to get a closer look at the animals, and just as her mama did those many years ago, she grabbed the wire when she lost her balance for a bit. There was an immediate squeal and a wild flapping of the arms as she ran to me with tears, frantically asking me to kiss it better. It was only a very mild shock and she quickly got over it without being too traumatised, but the funny thing is that I had the hardest time convincing her of what had happened. There was a row of children tightly pressed around her when it happened, and she kept repeating through her tears, “Mama! That little boy slapped my hand!” Eventually she understood, once I squatted down next to her and explained how it had all happened and how the fence helped to keep the piglets inside. To this day, a couple weeks later, she warily eyes anything remotely resembling that offending wire and says seriously, “Remember? Dat fence zipped me!”

{Day Four} David attended the last of his lectures the previous evening, which meant we were able to spend all morning together as a family. We made use of the continental breakfast and warm, bubbling spa before checking out of our place at 10:00. We weren’t quite finished exploring the area yet, so went down the road to the amazing attic at the Lifeline Bookshop, and lost ourselves there for well over an hour. We emerged with a large stack of cheap, quality childrens’ books, and any parent who is used to reading the same books over and over again will fully understand why this was just as momentous and exciting for us as it was for Kezia!

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We explored the beautiful Japanese gardens next to the University, and decided with renewed fervour that a return visit is certainly imperative once Spring makes an appearance.


We concluded our trip with lunch at a salad bar, and then packed our tired little girls into the car for the 4-hour trip to our evening church service and then home. We are rather happy that we have two children that are generally happy in their carseats, as long as the car is in motion. They slept nearly the entire way! That meant we got to enjoy a long, in-car date and alternated between enjoying the peaceful quiet, listening to a new audiobook, chatting about many things, exclaiming over the incredible scenery we drove through at Golden Hour’s peak, and contentedly thanking God for that perfect little spell of rest.


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a chocolate cherry cake + the man who won my heart.

“Who was that?” we asked as mama said a merry good-bye and put the phone back on the desk.

“You know that young man that’s been in contact with daddy about church? He called to ask if it’s alright to visit tomorrow.”

We listened attentively to her response, then peppered her with questions. What did he sound like? What was his background? How old was he? Did he have an accent? What did she think about him? We were, after all, the Five Kauffman Girls, void of little to no male acquaintances in our circles, and ever agog when a new one came into existence.

Our little chapel was packed the next morning: it was the day my two sisters were getting baptised. A number of visitors were present, and as I walked to my seat, I remember seeing the back of someone dark with black hair and assuming that he was “that new guy.”

We had a shorter-than-normal service, and then loaded congregants and food into vehicles to drive to the rock pools at Mothar Mountain for the baptism. I chatted with numerous people that afternoon- a circle of girls here, a romanian grandma there, a child over there. At one point, the aforementioned visiting man and I were in the same circle of chatting friends and found out a few things about the other. I found it pleasing to learn that he played the cello, a favourite instrument of mine. He, a passionate linguist, found it fascinating that I was rather jaggedly translating a conversation for one of our visitors.

His name was David, and he came back to our place for the evening, bearing with him a delicious looking cake with layers of sponge, pudding, cherries, dark chocolate, and cream. The man baked! I, one who loved to cook and savour any manner of food, was significantly impressed. We all enjoyed a slice and made our rounds of exclamations. His company was relished all evening, and at one point when he needed to run down to his car for something, daddy turned to us with that ever-familiar smirk that he uses when he’s thoroughly impressed but likes to cover up the fact with a teasing remark. “Well girls, he’d make a fiiiiiiine son-in-law one day!”

We got to know each other reasonably well over the next five months, though all married couples would tritely insert here a comment here about really not knowing each other at all.

The night was June 28, 2012. Bible study was over, and we were all sprawled over the couches, reading and snacking, putting books down to chat every few minutes. David was a regular visitor by this stage, and we loved having him around. He was so normal and so interesting, my little brothers adored him, and he felt like a big brother to my sisters. I was quite smitten by this stage, but the millenial question that will forever haunt the mind of a woman with a crush haunted me then: how can I tell if these feelings are reciprocated?

He had his own book, likely a concordance or dictionary. I remember glancing at him occasionally and thinking that something weighty must be on his mind: he kept turning pages but was staring off into the distance.

Meanwhile, the evening was fast derailing from the one he had envisioned. Did these girls always stay up so late? Was there ever going to be a chance to catch her alone? Rumour had it that I awoke early before everyone else, and there had been visions of sneaking out at sunrise to talk with me on the veranda. But as the clock ticked closer to midnight, he realised the unlikelihood of my alarm staying set for 5:00.  After a time, we suddenly remembered that we had a job rostered on for the morning, and all arose to cast books aside and scatter to our showers and respective rooms.

I was sharing my room with a sister that night, her’s being turned into the guest room. I retired there, and as I was waiting for the shower to be free, started folding a basket of laundry to pass the time. I thought David had already gone to bed, but then! The sound of footsteps. He walked past the open doorway and on to the bathroom, or so I thought, till he stopped and the sound of footsteps again gradually came nearer.

He knocked on the door frame, and I glanced up, already aware of who was there.

“I’ve been trying to catch you alone. Can I talk to you for just a minute?”

He was just slightly inside the door now, and I went to him.

“Can we just step out into the hallway to talk?”

He thought I was being ever-prudent one; the woman who, God forbid! should talk to a man in her bedroom. Little did he know that I was just trying to move out of the sight of a sister who was not yet asleep in my bed, huddled around the corner with huge eyes and a blanket to hide her mouth agape with incredulity. I was trying not to laugh because I knew he didn’t know she was there, but mostly I was trying to process what he was saying behind the ka-boom of my heart in my ears. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what he said or asked me. I remember words about Poland and how he knew I was going overseas. Words about praying and his dad encouraging him to talk to me anyways. Words about the kind of woman I was. All I remember was a fragment from his last sentence,

“….have however long you need to think about it, and if you then feel like you could love me and see yourself with me, you can be assured that I will be here waiting for you when you get home.”

The rest is blurred. There was more, I know.  A gleeful whisper of “David! I’ve been praying for this to happen!” Watching his eyes light up. Seeing his shaking hands. We talked for a few minutes, deciding to leave further dialogue for the morning after he talked to my daddy.

He had scarcely gone to his room, when I jumped back into mine, and there was Janae, a jack-in-the-box form that sprung from my bed, our eyes and mouths competing with each other for width. We became one tumbling pile of giggles and blankets on the bed. I hyperventilated into the sheets while she alternated between muffling her gasps and clutching my arm. “Carolyn, did that FOR REAL just happen?”

Two sisters emerged from other rooms. They had been showering and were completely oblivious to any prospect of romance in the near future, much less a proposition from the man himself on that very night. We shrieked their names in high-pitched whispers, and they joined the party, where we all laughed wildly as quietly as we could, cried a little, and then all crept down the hallway together to go wake up the remaining sister.

I was on a roll now, and couldn’t help it. I bounced into mama and daddy’s room too. They stared with wrinkled foreheads and bleary eyes at the clock and the red numbers of 1:00 projecting from it. They hugged me and chuckled over the story with the kind of chuckle that only perceptive parents have. The kind that said “Yay! But we knew this would happen sooner or later.”

That was June 28, 2012. It is now five years, a whole lot of happiness, and two pretty girls later. I am wooed every day by the one I get to call mine. He tackles the backed-up dishes, tickles the babies, and rubs my shoulders after a long evening of hosting. We’ve known immense joys and unwanted sorrows. We’ve changed together, grown together. We share a comfortable companionship now, my favourite thing about our marriage. And he still makes those cakes: layers moist and intricate; their delectableness impossible to replicate. And every time I have a bite, I remember that long-ago day with the fondest of feelings, and tell myself that there really is no wonder I was smitten by that visiting man.


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Dear New Mom: when you can’t quite reach.

There are a lot of blog posts out there that begin just like I’ve titled this one. “Dear new mom, there are things you need to know…” About sleepless nights, crazy hormones, raging appetites, how it’s okay to cry even when nothing’s wrong and how it’s okay to not know what you’re doing. The letters are quite possibly overdone, but I still tip my hat to those who aren’t afraid to drop yet another article with that title into cyberspace. There’s something about those words that catch our eye, and we young moms immediately gravitate towards them; craving to find experiences that match ours, to give substance to the things we struggle with, and to know that someone somewhere gets it and is giving us permission to own the huge things that we’re feeling.

Confession: I’ve struggled to enjoy the postpartum days + months. After the birth of our first daughter especially, I found myself swaddled in darkness for several months, scrambling to find a little bit of something familiar and safe. There is an unwritten standard about the feelings a new mother should or shouldn’t have, and there’s an unmerited, unspoken guilt when her new baby doesn’t always make her croon or when she is hanging out on the borders of postpartum blues, or God-forbid, the unlawful depression .

Here is where it gets confusing because we start throwing in all the disclaimers and buts. We think newborns are the sweetest, softest, best-smellingest things, and can hardly get enough of the rise and fall of her chest or the scent of her pure breath. Discouragement and emptiness are hard things for us as fresh mothers to acknowledge and understand, because they come hand-in-hand with an alive, fairly-bursting happiness that we’ve never felt before, and it doesn’t make sense why so many ranging, raging feelings coexist.

This is not a post that defines depression, lists five steps to restoring joy, or begs for a sympathetic pat on the back. I feel like I’m not defined by these shadows anymore, and I love feeling the sun on my back again, but I know my heart’s health is maintained through this telling: the acknowledging of need and failure, and how I sometimes strain on tiptoes to reach, and still can’t. This is a post about grace and one of the things its whispered to me.

Whether you know it or not, you’ve set an invisible bar for yourself: a certain level of performance, achievement, and knowledge that you have to obtain in order to prove that you’re a good mother.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m from a big, (mostly) happy family, and that I’m the eldest. Of ten children. I didn’t always love that fact, but now I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, and am so rich to have the gift of a close, fun, quirky family who loves fiercely. I’m a huge fan of children, and if someone were to ask me what a dream snapshot of my future looks like, I would probably paint in words the picture that immediately comes into focus when I think of my family: all of us around the table, plates scraped clean, leftover food growing cold, the siblings laughing and talking all over top of each other, mama listening with the occasional chuckle, daddy reclined in his chair at the head of the table, arms crossed over his head.  I’ve always loved babies, and there was nothing but sheer delight when we discovered we were going to have one of our own. Throughout the pregnancy, I heard dozens of comments like, “Oh, you’ll have it easy since you’ve been around kids all your life,” and “You’ve always been good with babies,” and “You already know how to do everything!” While I certainly didn’t feel underprepared, it took me several months into motherhood to realise that I had been silently setting a level of achievement for myself based on my experience and what everyone else was expecting from me. I felt like I was somehow messing up if I didn’t know how to do something or if I felt lost in my role, and was wearing myself out by trying to live up to my own expectations.

Leave your reputation and the standard you’ve set for yourself in God’s hands. Once I realised that my baby was a unique entity, that no previous experience or exposure could fully prepare me for this baby, I was able to look at motherhood itself with a much broader vision and began to own it instead of feeling insecure about my capability. While feeling at home with drippy poo or complicated onesie snaps certainly helps, there is nothing that can prepare you for the way that your child will or will not sleep or the things that will help your baby’s stomachache. And while you can think upon and replay in your mind the way your parents or a respected friend would respond in a discipline case, your child was created to drain you of all your own pat answers and make you holy: holiness is no cookie-cutter situation.

This is the first of a few posts, I think, this delving into the new-mama drama; sifting through it and trying to find answers and normality for the things we moms find uncomfortable to talk about. For me, this was the first tiny stepping-stone out of the darkness, the recognition of a standard already set for me and my subconscious striving to attain to it. I’d love to hear from you: can you relate to this or other aspects of postpartum discouragement that you’d love to see talked about more?


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Portrait of an Evening

Journal Excerpt, Family Holiday, June 4


“It is the third day of winter. The days are warm enough to blush the skin and the nights cool enough to warrant slippers and steaming mugs. Oh Queensland, your beauty! It is golden hour and the shadowy green lawns are strewn with yellow highlights as the sun ducks beneath the horizon. The eucalyptus trees are glimmering and the afternoon is a symphony of bird-song, colour and water rushing over river rocks. Around me, voices hum and chat. There is the loud chewing of pretzels and the slurping of chocolate milk. Here, two people sit with foreheads wrinkled in concentration over ColorKu, and there a little brother whoops over the discovery of another fish in the creek. My little girls are napping: one, hair and legs strewn over pillow and bed, those dear lips slightly parted in heavy, peaceful breathing, having finally succumbed to holding still enough to shut her eyes. The other is tucked up onto my chest. Her soft breath is warm and puts goosebumps on my skin chilled by twilight. Three little boys kick a ball down the hill, the birds are chirping good-nights and the cows in the neighbouring pasture mosey slowly along the fence towards home. The french-press has been brewed now and an array of hot teas are fanned across the table. Mama just brought me a blanket for my legs and the dying sun is level with my face. There is talk of a campfire and the inevitable s’mores, and we all know that a proper holiday requires all participating members to be doused in the scent of wood-smoke. I relish the gift of this moment, this grace of rest and renewal. The country is God’s place, I’m sure. I feel His presence especially much now, but I think I’m just finally quiet enough to be aware. I whisper a prayer now, a longing for refreshment and a new vision: “Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation!”IMG_6799



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Weekend: Noosa, Belmondo’s Organic Market + Boreen Point

So, number 27 on my bucket list, if I would have a number twenty-seven, would be “Photo-journal my way through the Sunshine Coast.” There are several fantasy occupations that have always rotated through my dreams: midwifery, photojournalism, and attending culinary school. I’m crossing my fingers that all three of these will one day become reality, and as for this photo thing, while I’m not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination, I love recording those tiny moments that make my eyes sparkle and saving them to later re-live the memories already faded.

We’re living on the Sunshine Coast for at least a year, while David does his year of internship at the local hospitals. Before our move, this felt like a dream (so close to family! Ten minutes from the beach! Endless things and places to see and eat and hike!) But, as happens to all places that slowly become ones’ home, it became simply that: home, not a tourist destination.

Now, as the months wind down and I am able to move out of the obligatory housebound days of all things newborn, I can’t wait to explore, see this slice of our world, and then leave, feeling like we made the absolute most out of our time here. Yesterday my sister and I rolled out a big sheet of brown paper to hang on a spare wall: a to-tackle list full of lookouts to look at and mountains to climb and waterfalls to see and coffee to drink. We’ll be checking them off one at a time, and a few of the haunts might show up here.

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Last Saturday, Heidi took me out for the day to celebrate the next day’s birthday. It wasn’t a bright day with a blue sky as we had formerly hoped, but when all four of us were buckled into the car (this, as it happens, is a rather large feat) and rain pattered on the windshield while the wipers worked vigilantly to clear it away, we decided there could be nothing more perfect than clouds and rain showers. It lasted just long enough to make our road trip cosy, then the sky cleared and we were able to stroll around town with the sun in our faces.

First on the agenda: digging for treasures in a couple op shops and feeding a screaming baby in the car before breaking at Padre Coffee Roastery:


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Places that serve coffee, freshly-roasted and ground on the premises and presented in bowls instead of lousy small mugs, always get an automatic five stars.





After coffee, we spent the rest of the morning just around the corner at Belmondo’s Organic Centre, a sweet little marketplace with a bulk food section, sourdough bakery, deli, fruit + veg shop, florist, roastery, and so many local products: gifts, pottery, cheeses, etc.


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Because of the afternoon’s choice of weather, we didn’t get to go on the walk through the National Park like we wanted to, so the photos below are from a few months ago when we went to the same place. Noosa is a favourite spot (extra special of course since it’s where we had our first date and where we spent the day of our engagement!) but it can be very crowded and touristy and a nightmare as far as parking is concerned. The Great Walk through Noosa’s National Park is only a short drive away from the main street, but so quiet, peaceful, and definitely worth checking out if you are in the area anyhow and tired of crowds!


We went as far as Hell’s Gates: there are gorgeous views of the cliffs and spectacular ocean views on both sides. Note: only the first little bit of the track is paved/wheelchair-accessible/pram-friendly: the rest is sandy or brushy, so only suitable to do on foot. 

IMG_4823Did I say spectacular views? The ocean behind him was pretty nice too! Also, how was she so liitttle?


The day had a spectacular finish. David met us in Noosa after work, armed with a quilted blanket and wicker picnic basket. Kezia went home with Heidi in his car, and the two of us + baby headed out for the evening to Boreen Point, a little section off of Lake Cootharaba.

photo5Boreen Point at sunset. The temptation to trespass onto this private jetty and have our picnic there was pretty strong. 

We arrived just as the sun was slipping behind the mountains. The air was still and fresh, hardly anybody was in sight, and the only sounds were tired birds and the mini waves licking the sand.

photo1Handsome date + fat baby



After we finished our little picnic and watched the last of the day’s light die ahead us, David took me just around the corner to the Boreen Point Pub, an old building that once resided in Gympie, was cut in half, and transported south to be restored and put to use again. I loved it: the building sat on a hill, with gnarly trees to the side and a vast lawn sloping down the front. All the tables were scattered along the open verandas and under the trees, and it was so fun to sit there with the typical big plates of pub food, listening to the locals chatting around us with their broad accents and friendly demeanours. The whole area had such an old-town, Aussie-outback feel and we loved it. Apparently they have fantastic Sunday lunches there also, with pigs on the spit and up to 300 people spilling across the premises. Live music plays and the adults eat pork and chat at the tables outside while all the kids play in the yard. What fun!

There was one thing I loved most of all that day.  Intimate dates made of fancy restaurants, deep talks, and the stereotypical romance are rarely in the picture right now with a dependent three-month-old who does not care for noise, crowds, late evenings, or God forbid, going an hour without milk. But you know, this is a good kind of different. Out there in the country, after we ordered our food, Ela had a meltdown, induced by a busy day and no proper naps. David took her from me, put her in the baby carrier, and walked back and forth across the lawn and up and down the street to settle her to sleep while I sat there at the table, my heart at rest and basking in romances far greater than goblets or fancy menus and polished crowds. I stared out into the dark where I could just make out the silhouetted form of my husband, bouncing, patting, swaying, walking. The man I love caring for and singing to our child while my heart surged with gratitude for this stage of our lives and for the father of these children. That was what I loved most that day.


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All in the Day of a Toddler: Jesus Talk

It started last week, when she found the hardcover edition of The Passion of the Christ, settled onto the couch and paged through it slowly, pure face etched with concern as she ran fingers down the images of wounds and blood. I noticed what she was looking at and contemplated the fact, usually reluctant for such graphic images to be in the hands of my not-yet-two-year-old. Then, she patted the pictured face gently and said quietly,

“There Jesus. It’s okay Jesus. I’ll kiss it better now.”

Since then, she’s been mesmerised by His death and what it means. We’ve gone through our stack of Bible storybooks time and time again, paging through them slowly. She listens with wide eyes as I simplify the words for her and paraphrase the passages for her understanding.

Yesterday morning, she awoke after several fitful, restless cries, and I went in to hug the bundle of fuzzy pajamas and tempestuous bed hair to myself.

“Mama, I’m scawed!”
“What are you scared about sweetie?”
“Jesus! He’s a bit sad! Does He feel betta now?”
“Did you have a dream about Jesus?”
“Yeah! Jesus cry a bit! But He’s betta now.”



















All throughout the day, she kept her favourite book tucked under her arm and followed me around, asking to talk some more about Jesus and inserting applicable comments about Him into every snack and toy and colouring page. We sat often, her begging for more details, and me, searching my mind and vocabulary for details she could understand: the nails, the cross, the grave, the three days, the stone that rolled away, the facts of living again and going to heaven.

“Jesus in heaven now! Isn’t that cute mama?” And then I faced an unexpected paradox when she cried and crumpled onto the floor because she couldn’t go to heaven as well right there and then.

I am overwhelmed often. Not so much by the normal messes or new attitudes or pre-nap grumpiness, but by the fact that I am responsible for not just a child, but her eternal soul. She stares at me, brown eyes wide with interest and wonder, mouth slightly ajar as her little mind absorbs like a sponge the words I speak to her. She makes innocent statements that deserve acknowledgement and asks questions that make me bite the inside of my cheek till an answer is rapidly secured. Yesterday, I didn’t always have an answer, just a feeling of love so fierce that it physically hurt as it welled up inside, and a sense of urgent care for this tender little heart I’m supposed to shepherd. Yesterday, I didn’t always have an answer, but could only bury my face in those downy curls and whisper desperately to Jesus that I didn’t know how to tell her about Him, but could He please let her love and know Him in wilder, deeper ways than I ever knew?


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Birthday Bucket List: Twenty-Six Things

There’s something about milestones and significant events, be it the start of a new year, a death that crowds the mind with new resolutions and perspectives, the change of a season, or in my case this year, the turning of a year older, this slow inching towards 30.

I’ve never been much of a goal-setter. But this year, I feel a pull in two directions. As mothers, we give. All day, every day. I do not fool myself into saying that we do so willingly or lovingly or cheerfully every single minute, but we don’t have a choice in the matter, and so most times, we love embracing what we’re supposed to do. Yet I, for one, know how easy it is to settle in predictable routines, to wallow in the mundane of Henry’s Bed the eleventh time, the rhythm of morning semolina and bottles, the cycle of doing so many little things yet hardly anything at all. That scrambling for security and identity, the reassurance that I am still my own person under these roles and duties.  My purpose this year is to stop believing the lie that forgoing and forgetting about self is somehow more holy, the epitome of selflessness, or the ultimate purpose of motherhood, but to realise that I was first created an individual, with dreams, passions, goals and hobbies woven into my makeup. Unless those very things are nurtured, catered to, and remembered fondly, my personhood dies slow, unnecessary deaths.

This to say, I can feel that I need to remember to do what I love doing; pursuing the creative things that make me blossom as an individual. 

At the same time, I feel like the same thing of being caught up in our routine as mothers has just as much potential to breed selfishness as selflessness. Though I easily forget to shift inwards, to tend to myself and what makes me who I am, I just as easily forget to keep an outward focus, to make my world bigger than my family.

Without further ado, Twenty-Six Before Twenty-Seven: 

  1. Blog again: Writing is my main creative outlet and I can scarcely even make plans for the day without making a list or jotting down ideas. When I don’t utilise the pen (er, keyboard) I can feel my soul shrivelling up, and I need this discipline in my life again. 
  2. Invite our neighbours down for a home-cooked meal. This sort of thing feels so daunting to me, so it’s something I want to take on just for the personal challenge. I have no idea how many times I’ve whispered Thank You to God for giving me a talkative husband, capable of sailing through the awkwardest of awkward times and making people feel welcome and loved. I try to not to hide behind him or make excuses for myself, but I love that he’s a safe, comfortable person to partner with in hospitality.
  3. Potty-train Kezia. I gave this a shot a while before baby number two was born, but I couldn’t get her excited about it and I refused to push her. In other news, a stomach bug also hit around that time, and let’s just say that I wasn’t brave enough to clean up any accidents besides pee. 
  4. Learn to make croissants. Almond ones in particular. My husband grew up on them, and he went weak in the knees over the ones I brought home from Van Wegen’s the other week. Now that I have a borrowed pastry cookbook in my possession, I’m itching to see if I can get the same response out of him when he bites into a warm, flaky, homemade croissant.
  5. Make Sunday a complete day of rest with no online access. I have no problem with the internet or social media in moderation, but also know how easy it is to tune out to my real world and those around me when I use it. Besides a day of worship, Sunday is also our primary family day and the time when we see other relatives and friends that are dear to us. Those interactions and friendships are far more important than cyber ones. 
  6. Attend a flower-arranging workshop. Floristry’s always intrigued me, but I’ve never gone beyond the tinkering about with greens and blooms at home. 
  7. Attend the local college to begin the preparation course for midwifery. I’ve loved babies all my life and have dreamed for years of both having my own and becoming a midwife besides. I’ve got a husband who cares and cheers, and is pushing me to study a little every month and work my way towards that goal as I can. (There is a huge amount of flexibility in the university, and I would be able to stretch schooling out over ten years if I’d want to…)
  8. Read a Dickens Classic
  9. Run 5 Ks. I can walk and climb hills like a maniac at nine months pregnant, but running? Ha! I currently pat myself on the back if I can make it through two minutes without feeling like a heaving, gulping, dizzy mess. C25K , I’m coming atcha!
  10. Learn French. ‘Cause David promised me a trip to New Caledonia if I let him teach me! 
  11. Make something out of wood. Baby play gym for starters?
  12. Start a new tradition. I love the predictable things that were part of my own childhood (popcorn and grape juice Sunday nights or homemade pizza on Saturdays…) and I would love to do something now to give my own girls those same memories.
  13. Make macarons.
  14. Practice the discipline of purposeful prayer. I talk to God often throughout the day: on the toilet, while washing dishes, and when putting my baby to sleep at night. However, to move past the sort of conversational level where I squeeze my eyes shut, take a deep breath and ask for some special grace, and into that intentional space of interceding and searching and worshipping is something that takes so much effort for me.
  15. Give something homemade to each of my lady/girl friends from church. 
  16. Go to Fraser Island. When I first met David, he was astonished to find out that my family had lived only a couple hours away from Fraser for over ten years and we had yet to visit. A lot of his favourite childhood memories were formed in this gorgeous place of turquoise lakes, white sands and wild dingos, and as soon as we can find a trustworthy 4-wheel-drive to borrow (no roads there, only sand!) and a spare weekend, we’re off!
  17. Cook a cuisine I’ve never heard of.
  18. Go 3 months without scales. This is a long thought-process that deserves its own post eventually, but years of weight + body image struggles have made me realise that I put way too much time in agonising over numbers, and that this would be a valuable step to take. Random fact: I was that miserable teenager who used to weigh 100 kilos . Yeah, for real.
  19. Do something out-of-the-ordinary once a week for David. ‘Cause dating shouldn’t stop after marriage, and a good relationship takes intention and creativity.  
  20. Send a handwritten card to someone once a fortnight. There is hardly anything that gives me the fuzzies more than receiving mail: knowing that someone didn’t just peck on a keyboard, but actually went to the effort of sitting down with pen and paper and driving to a post box to spread some love. It’s an old-fashioned art that I don’t want to lose. 
  21. Take a personal retreat when both girls are toddlers.  Rejuvenate, rest, refocus. 
  22. Host and organise a ladies’ tea. Shortbreads, floral teacups, and pinkies in the air. We all know we love our inner princess. 
  23. Memorise two passages with Kezia. This little girl astonishes me with the songs she already sings from memory, the exclamations she repeats, the questions she asks. It’s made me become so intentional about the things I say, listen to, and pass on to her, because she absorbs everything like a sponge, and I desperately want to channel Scripture and the beautiful things of Christ into her. 
  24. Try a new pattern. I love sewing, but get stuck in what’s comfortable for me or what I’ve always done, and I’d love to try something new and exquisite. 
  25. Attend an Apologetics conference. Ever feel at a stalemate in your faith, longing for a renewed passion and a clear answer for all the whys about Christianity? Yeah, me too. 
  26. Go camping as a family.

Twenty-six, I’m ready for you!


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Dear Kezia: I pray you’ll go deeper

Dear Kezia,

Welcome to our big world, little one! You are here with every ounce of darlingness imaginable, and only heaven knows the fierceness of the love you’ve evoked in us these past seven weeks of knowing you in person. You were wanted and prayed for and from the moment we knew that you were; that moment when two little pink lines were never such a big deal, when I was so surprised by joy that I could barely squeak out your daddy’s name – you had yourself all tangled up in the deepest parts of our hearts.

There were months of anticipation, waiting, and longing; forty weeks of you nestled under my heart and leaving no question about the fact that you were there and that you lived.  As you are today, you have been from day one: wildly, assertively certain of your existence.

I don’t know how to be your mom. Truth be told, I vouched for a boy, because I know the hard work and high maintenance of a beautiful relationship between a mother and daughter, and thinking about you scared me. It still scares me. But after your birth, while you squeaked on my chest, and time stood still while our tears, laughter, coos and exclamations serenaded those first minutes of your life, I’ll never be able to describe the giddy anticipation I felt when we realised we had forgotten to check out your gender after five minutes, or the overwhelming gratitude and sheer elation that welled up inside me as soon as we flipped you over and we knew. Our daughter. 

Little girl, I dream big for us. More than french-braiding your hair, baking cookies with you, reading you stories, singing with you, and walking together to the patisserie down the street. I dream of all that and a hundred things more, yes, of meaning the world to you, of being your best friend- but mostly, I dream of giving you glimpses of your Creator. There is nothing now that pulls me down onto my knees more than seeing your big brown eyes stare into mine with all the trust, dependency, and wonder in the world. I dream of you always needing me like that, but I will let you down countless times, so I pray you’ll go deeper. I am deeply flawed. I’ve pursued things that brought repentance but scarring, and I pray you’ll never believe those lies from Satan-the ones that tell you there are deeper pleasures in life than knowing and being known by God. I’ve been well acquainted with the grip of insecurity, teenage obesity, and depression and I pray you’ll never have a doubt in your mind that you are beautiful; that your worth is more precious than gold. I know rebellion and ugly relationships from the inside-out. I don’t know what we’ve got ahead of us, but I pray you’ll aim higher, and I do know this: I will fight for your heart. In a world where being a little girl is defined by ruffles, embarrassing amounts of tulle, tacky glitter, gold amd enough Frozen paraphernalia to make me nauseous, I pray you’ll know the difference. That you’ll know the true grandeur of womanhood, modesty, graceful beauty and charming femininity in ways I could never grasp. I’ve played it easy too often, sacrificing relationship & vulnerability for a safe heart, and I pray for you a wilder imagination and bigger risks.

Jesus. You hear His name a lot these days, whispered in the dark when it’s just you and me, your heavy breathing, wide-awake eyes, and the clock striking midnight. Mostly, I must admit, I pray to Him about please getting more sleep. But I tell Him too all about you, what I dream for you, how my fears blind me, who I hope you’ll become, how much your dad & I need grace on grace for being entrusted with you.

I want Him for you too. But I pray you’ll discover and know Him beautifully in ways I never even brushed the brink of.  I pray you’ll go deeper.

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