It’s slightly a week after we arrived in Melbourne, and the first thing that’s struck me about this first week is how different it’s been from what I thought it would be. Relocating is really a different kettle of fish altogether. Instead of going to interesting places, we spent our first few days trawling the supermarkets for cheap hand towels, laundry baskets, and shelving units for our empty closets. Nights ended late, with the lugging of heavy suitcases and boxes plus innumerable plastic bags containing our supermarket loot up to our empty apartment. For me, the hours before morning were focused on trying to get snatches of sleep in between helping Noah sleep. At meal times, instead of looking forward eagerly to tucking into the yummy food available regardless of cost, we would look around for something that would fit our health and budget agendas. For me, this was doubly frustrating, as I would look around at all the wonderful fresh produce knowing that there would be no time or energy to cook, and decide to settle for take-out or eating out which is way more expensive and less satisfying.
At the risk of sounding completely disconnected from the beautiful reality that is living in the ‘most liveable city in the world’, my first week here has been like having a new baby all over again. Galvin and I have been exhausted, irritated with each other, and frustrated at ‘missing out on life’ (especially here, where in a single week, we’ve passed up café hopping, a free movie under the stars, free pizza and gelato on the front lawn of the state library, the white night’ light-up event in the city – the list goes on). I can’t help comparing this initial period to how I felt about my maternity leave. I thought it would be a wonderful four months of being a loving wife and mama at home, as well as a domestic goddess pottering around in the kitchen, but instead I learnt the limits of my own patience even with a helpless baby, and discovered to my horror that I had turned into naggy-wife-with-baby-spit-on-her-tee-shirt-in-pajamas-all-day. This time round, I had lovely images of Galvs and I strolling in the park hand in hand with Noah in the pram, before returning to a home filled with the wonderful aroma of dinner baking in the oven. Right now it’s more like going to the nearest ‘coffee shop’ and buying a $9.50 take-out meal of bah kut teh to be shared between the two of us, walking past the lovely Queen Victoria market on the way home (without going in), and then taking on diaper duty while Noah has a painful tear-filled poop fest.
I was also looking forward to a time of spiritual refreshing, but all the rushing around has made God seem even more distant. In the weeks before we came I knew our family was ‘running on empty’ – going from appointment to appointment with friends, rushing to pack and tie up loose ends, staying up late and eating unhealthily, failing to make time to connect with ourselves and with God. I hoped that coming here would be a foundational time for our family to re-prioritise, connect on a deeper level, and bring Noah up in the knowledge and presence of God. I was excited because we had heard of a number of churches that were very much focused on missions and outreach, and I was ready to be challenged out of the ‘holy huddle’ comfort zone we’d somehow settled into at home. Our first visit to church last week was lacklustre for me though, as I spent most of the time in the midst of chaos minding Noah in the nursery room.
It’s obvious that this period of adjustment won’t last, and we will enjoy the rest of our ten months here, but to be honest, this past week, that hasn’t seemed certain. At times, I’ve wondered if we made the wrong decision to come here – considering all the additional financial strain, having Galvin give up working to care for Noah, and leaving our families back home.
Amidst the busyness, I found it in me to grasp at some quiet pockets of time in the early morning, and yesterday evening, in the park, when Galvin went for a run. At a loss as to how to come back to God and centre down, I turned to a compilation of bible verses a colleague had given me as a farewell gift. I simply read the verses out loud to myself, and to Noah, cuddled fast asleep against my chest. Reading each verse once, then twice, I felt the noisy workshop of my mind and heart begin to still and turn to quiet. I felt the ever-present love of our Father God come to rest upon us. Without overthinking it, I let my tongue roll over those familiar yet strangely new words from the book of life, and let the reassuring sounds of the verses I had known since childhood and through my youth wash over me:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35, 38-39
“As the Father loved me, I also have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” – John 15:9-11
Indeed, that our joy may remain full in the days ahead!