I’ve joined a new club over recent months. I’ve received membership to shopping centre lounge areas where, without overly stereotyping, older men often sit and wait for shopping family members. I’ve done my bit to bring down the average age of the cohort and I’m hoping my membership is temporary. With a coffee and novel or newspaper in hand, I have been thankful for restful moments like these. And I’ve heard a few good yarns from some long-term club members and some snores from others! 

Rest is one of a myriad of things that I am thankful for over recent months as I have recovered from spinal surgery. 

I am deeply appreciative of all the support and encouragement I have received from so many. It has been so life-giving. Thank you for your care, prayers, texts, cards and wonderful, practical expressions of kindness

I’m thankful for the extended break I am on and for the extra load my colleagues at Baptist Mission Australia have sacrificially carried over this holiday time. It has provided me the time for rest, family catch ups and the opportunity to get my feet wet and catch my breath on beautiful beaches along the NSW coast. We’re home now and I’m thankful to Megan who has needed to do all the driving and heavy lifting on our three-week trip. Megan has carried our family in so many ways over recent years and I’m humbled by her love and care.

Patience, humility, perspective and gratitude have been key words for me in the season I find myself in. I’m still experiencing ongoing pain, more than I had envisaged post surgery, and I’m not where I had hoped to be in my “perfect” recovery plan. Neurosurgeon and neurologist appointments are ahead as I look at next steps and long term pain management options. 

The journey of the past few years has challenged me to live with open hands, realising increasingly the things that I can’t control. So many of us seek to live tight fisted, yearning to control our lives and circumstances. I know this posture well. And yet this stance only lessens opportunities to see God at work in our frailty and the value of good people seeking to serve and care for us. 

I’m still not allowed to d rive, swim, play sport, move in certain directions, carry things over 2kg and the list goes on. This list is limiting but transitory and whenever I dwell too much on these circumstances, I am glad that the Spirit echoes the word “perspective … perspective … perspective” … in my my mind. Today I am inspired by people whose daily challenge list is so much greater that mine will ever be. And yet with resilience the are up and into life today with all they can give it! They choose life over self pity. 

It’s a humbling and humorous parenting experience when your kids are quick to say: “Dad you can’t do that!” … “Dad I will need to carry that!” … “Dad let me do that for you!”. 

My kids have been amazing in recent months and we have had some new adventures together, including them pushing me in a wheelchair. In the Christmas rush, Arli had me rolling at high speed in a department store and we ran into an expensive kitchen display in a shopping centre. The display wobbled. We held our breath. It didn’t fall. We laughed and etched a shared memory in our minds.

Over the past three weeks I have found myself on most days standing waste deep in white water af the beach. “Remember that’s as far as you can go,” says Dr Arli. It’s a change seeing your kids out in deeper water, while I seek to not get knocked over by five-year-olds on their boogie boards.

The ocean has always been a soul-filling, therapeutic place for me. In all seasons of life it has been a sacred space. Sand and salt water on my feet has been a renewing and healing tonic in some of the toughest times in my life. It has been so good to slowly walk along beautiful beaches from the top of NSW to the bottom over recent weeks. 

As I stood in the white water in recent days I was reminded of the absolute privilege that it is to live in the country I do. We take annual leave for granted. We take sick/personal leave for granted. And yet the reality is that many around the world never get leave, let alone paid income. The vast majority will never get their feet wet standing on a beautiful beach. 

As I sought to cherish the moment, a picture taken last year, by a New York Times photographer, came to mind. The photo captured a group of young Afghanis running into the ocean in Portugal. They had escaped Kabul. They had a future. They were experiencing freedom. 

And yet the reality is that they represent such a fortunate small number who are free of the horror of Taliban rule.

And here I am, on a beach on extended leave, recovering with family, having received the best of medical attention. I have money in my pocket to go and by morning tea. I have a home to head back to. I get a text from a Melbourne friend checking in on my health. I snap a photo of my kids laughing and chasing each other on the sand; a picture of wonderful innocence. 

As we step into the new year, we can be sure that life will throw us all some curve balls. How we respond to these unexpected moments and seasons has a significant impact on our lives. 

Life always throws curve balls. But what are my curve balls compared to so many across the globe, across the nation, across this city.

And in being thankful to God for all that I have in my life here and now, and the lessons I keep learning about myself and others in this stretching season, I feel something deep in my gut. It is the echoing and beckoning call, the gracious invitation to use whatever I have in my hands, heart and mind for the sake of those who daily live with injustice, inequity, barriers, bigotry, disadvantage and distress.

I know more than ever my physical frailty, but I am reminded of the the Scripture’s promise. In our human weakness we see God’s strength and power at work in our lives! 

And as fellow club member Bob reinforced from a shopping centre lounge chair a few days back: “If we stop each day, we have so much to be thankful for!”. 

And we can also dream. A 1km walk has me tired at this point, but I told the kids that by the end of the year I hoped I could run another half marathon. They looked at me with their “as if” faces, but in stretching seasons it’s also good to hold on to hopes and dreams. And to remember the God of hope who walks with us each day.

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