Home

I always thought that as you get older, your passion for things would wane. I thought that as a late teenager my passion for travel, for new things would never be stronger, so it always striked me as odd that the desire was never that strong. I was shocked to find that as I got older, my passion for new and different places actually grew. I wanted to explore, to see more, do more. This passion hasn’t led me very far across the globe yet but I find myself very drawn to the road and to airports. Something that leads you somewhere. Places that take you places.

Despite my urge for adventure, I flew into Brisbane last night after a trip away and felt a very distinct and yet surprising feeling.

Home.

Brisbane, feels like home. Home is most definitely a feeling, an emotion. I felt home as I walked through the terminal. I felt home as the rain fell on my face and I was picked up. I felt home as I slid into my bed and closed my eyes after a wonderful weekend. Despite my craving for something else, this felt like home.

I think sometimes we mistake familiarity for home and I think that is a mistake. It’s easy enough to do, familiarity often means safety and we often feel safe when we are at home. It’s easier to collect my baggage at the Brisbane airport because I’ve done it 30 times before. It’s easier to drive to my house because I know the streets, I know the way. It’s easier to fall asleep in your own bed because you do that every night. But I don’t think familiarity and home are the same.

Familiarity breeds contempt, laziness and the safety of it all can keep you bound up and driving around and around the same life you weren’t meant to live in. Home, however is where your heart lives. I felt home when I arrived last night because the people I loved most, are in Brisbane. Collecting my baggage quickly at the gate meant I could see my family quicker. Falling asleep in my own bed meant I would wake up to people I loved. A home is a place of love, encouragement and nurture and it should build  you up and prepare you to be propelled into whatever God has called you to. Whether that is here, or elsewhere.

Familiarity breeds an unhealthy attitude of safety – where you never try anything so you never fail.
Home creates an environment where its okay to fail – it allows you to try, knowing home is your safety net.

I know now that I probably won’t end up in this place in the end and that is scary for me. But it’s also really wonderful. I know wherever I end up and whenever I end up there, I’ll have been lovingly sent.

For me, for now, this place is home. This city, its my hearts resting place.

 

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Known

A little while ago I read this book about quitting. It wasn’t advocating quitting everything in life – but just a new and fresh perspective on the things it was okay to quit, the things we should have never started in the first place and the things we should persevere with. It talked about how we should be aiming to be the “best” at whatever it is we are doing. Back when you went to school, your parents used to scold you if you got an A in sport, but got C’s in everything else yet would praise you if you got B’s in everything. In school we are taught to celebrate being well rounded but in terms of success in the real world – you need to be stellar at one particular thing to succeed. At least to succeed in your career.

While I believe that’s probably the case for business or if you want to make money out of your talents – the above concept is something that has the power to destroy people like me and maybe people like you.

I know that I have a tendency to look at people with obvious skills and want their life. Their future seems to be all written out for them and all they have to do is pursue their dreams. Don’t get me wrong – I actually know it’s not that easy to be super talented in one specific area and I would write about that if I could, but I can’t. All I know is how it feels to be average at a lot of things and to feel a little bit stuck because of it. All I know is how it feels to want to pursue your dreams – if you only knew what they were. I often sit and think to myself ‘is there a job that could somehow encompass all the random things I am good at?’

I’m jealous of people with set, obvious, amazing skills. If I could take brilliant photos, of course I’d be a photographer. If I could create projects out of nothing, that’s what I would do. If I could melt hearts with my voice or construct beautiful lyrics – then I would definitely do that.

What I’d really like is a craft. Something that I can work on. Something that I can be known for. “Oh Steff, she’s that girl who is really great at <insert specific skill here>”. “I know, I’ll ask Steff to do this – she <insert specific skill here>’s like no other”.

While I actually think it’s really important to know your gifts and your strengths and to develop them – the above, is probably really unhealthy thinking. How terrible for me to envy and crave a specific skill like that. To desire to be the best at something for the sake of being the best. To be well known for something. SOMETHING.

I think therein, lies one of the biggest flaws of us humans. We want to be known for things. For skills. For measurable things. Heck, we just want to be known. We want followers and friends on social media. We want people to notice and miss us when we weren’t at an event. We want to be noticed. We want to be missed. We want to come up in conversation when people mention graphic design or baking or flute playing or rapping (I’m the last one). We want to be that guy. We want to be that girl. We want to be known for things.

I would much prefer, or at least I want to be someone who would much prefer – to be well known for who I am. ‘Steff – oh she’s that girl who gives of her time and finances extravagantly’. ‘Steff is so great with people, I know she cares so much for them’. ‘Steff has a heart for the Father’.

We spend so much time developing our outer skills and not our inner skills. One of my friends who is a primary school teacher was sharing how she just wants to teach her kids to be better people. ‘I don’t’ care if they are good at Math’s or good at English and I dont’ really care about their grades. I want them to do their homework because that teaches them responsibility. I want them to be kind. I want them to respect their elders’. She wants to teach them inner skills, not outer skills.

I won’t ever be a photographer or a singer or a builder/architect/dancer/artist/maths guru etc. But I can be better at loving people. I can be a better listener. I can be better at saying yes to the right things and better at saying no to the wrong things. I can learn how to be more patient. I can develop my thought life. I can attempt to live a selfless life.

Those are skills to be known for.

The Secret Garden.

I am not a gardener. Any house I’ve lived in where I was responsible for a garden, turned into a bit of a disaster. It became necessary to bring in a professional to clean up the overun lawns, weeds and various other things that turn crazy. The few times I have put on the cutest pair of gardening gloves (serious impulse buy!) and spent hours on my knees in the dirt pulling up everything cos I couldn’t tell what were weeds or actual plants – gave me great insight into my own life.

I’m not a good gardener.

If you’ve been around anywhere, surely you’ve heard people compare life to a garden. Sometimes, actually.. quite often, you need to get down in the dirt and do some weeding. Sometimes, you have a dry season and some plants start dying and you realise you need to water everyday. Like physically water everday. Sometimes you have natural rain and so the garden is extra nutrient. Do you see where I’m going here?

I’m a bad life gardener. I obviously planted a lot of “low maintenance” plants into my own life and as such, have convinced myself that my life needs very little maintenance. While that is sort of true – I’ve definitely neglected my life lately. I’ve taken on too many things, filled my life with this and that and now my life garden is kind of overun. I got lost in it and now I’m tripping over vines and the shrubbery is pretty out of control. You might not know this because my garden is only at the back of my house. No one really knows unless they step out on the back patio (or take a look at the inside of my car) and they notice what a mess it is. I’ve got a bit of a Secret Garden situation going on. Except my Secret Garden is definitely like the first part of the movie where it’s all messy.

Maybe, like me, you can’t tell what is a weed and what is a valuable plant. I have many things in my life that seem like positives – but they are actually really subtly unhealthy. They are killing off unnecessary things. Did you know that some weeds actually look pretty? They have flowers and everything and are so deceptive that you want to leave them there. DON’T. Ask a professional gardener and say ‘Is this actually a plant, or is it a weed disguising itself as a plant?’.

Sometimes lawn maintenance is long term. Like you can’t just hack away at a plant and hope you got all the bad stuff. I think when I weed, I just cut off what I can see. Nope – ever heard of roots? Same goes in your life garden. When you start on a weed, you have to keep going til you get all of it. Otherwise there is no point – you just broke your back and got dirt in your fingernails for no reason. The weed is still there and it will still come back and bite you.

Do you get what I’m saying? Did I overload you with metaphors? Maybe you can look past the random style of this blog post and comprehend the crazy thoughts inside my head.

I’m saying all this because maybe you need to do some gardening. I’m saying it because maybe you actually have never heard of the garden/life metaphor before and it’s all new and enlightening. I’m saying all this because humans are bad at maintenance and we only fix a problem when it’s really really broken.

Assess. Weed. Stick it out. Keep weeding. Plant new healthy plants. Water. Maintain.

SUCCESS!

Copeland.

I pride myself on coping. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do. When life gets tough, I’m pretty good at managing it. I’m self aware, so I can normally sense what is happening as it happens. I’m not stupid, so I can piece together why I feel the way I do and I can normally make sense of situations. I’m a talker and a big thinker, so I process til the cows come home and then I’m normally okay. I think it’s a good thing to posses the above skills. Life isn’t perfect and it will inevitably have day to day problems and so honing the above skills probably wouldn’t go astray. However I think there is definitely a risk to becoming a pro coper.

Are you at all like me? I thought perhaps I was the most unique person in the world, and for sure, I am a bit weird and there’s definitely parts of me which are unlike anyone else (for example, I’m not remotely afraid of robbers of thiefs when I live alone – what girl is like that?) but I’m coming to realise more and more that people can identify with things I thought I was alone in. Are you an over-thinker and an under-feeler? I cringe at how bad the english is in that statement but still.

Sometimes, when life calls for it, I take a moment to sit somewhere, preferably a nice mix between sunshine and shade and I allow myself to feel. Whatever the feeling is, good or bad, I allow myself to feel it. Sometimes I write.. thoughts or feelings I never knew or really understood somehow form on the pages. Sometimes I sit and listen to some worship, and God speaks to me about hidden things. Sometimes.. I just kick off my shoes and curl up on a park bench and wait. Feel and wait. Wait and feel.

The problem with shutting yourself off to feelings isn’t actually that you shut yourself off to pain, it’s that you shut yourself off to beauty. By avoiding the painful emotions, you inevitably shun joy.

Life is a curious mix of heart aches and heart warming moments. Learn to love and live through both of them. To me, the highs in life are when you feel God leaning down on you and blowing you a sweet little kiss that seems to say ‘See how wonderful life can be’. The lows in life are when you feel God leaning down and almost literally embracing you saying ‘See how wonderful you are to me’. Both are extremely critical moments in life.

Please please please, give yourself permission to feel. Coping is a ridiculous notion. Don’t become good at coping. What a stupid skill.

“I believe that suffering is part of the narrative, and that nothing really good gets built when everything’s easy. I believe that loss and emptiness and confusion often give way to new fullness and wisdom.” Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

Strength in Joy

Lately I’ve been so aware of the heartache of life. Situations that people find themselves in where there actually is a physical response to emotional pain. A literal heart ache. In talking, thinking and praying through these situations I keep coming back to the words ‘The Joy of the Lord is my strength’. The phrase comes from Nehemiah 8:10 in which we are instructed ‘Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’.

I think it’s one of those wonderful things we say to people who are grieving but I never want to be someone who just says things for the sake of saying things and so it warranted further thought.

I’ve never been more aware of the acute difference between Joy and Happiness. Happy is an emotion, joy is state of mind. Happy is temporary, Joy is eternal. There’s something so powerful about true joy and I think that’s why we tell people ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength’. It’s not some iffy wiffy statement that proclaims, if you are happy and you just try a little bit harder to find some ‘joy’ in this trial, there you will find your strength. Fooey! Anyone who tells someone that, hasn’t been through heart ache or is having you on.

Have you ever met someone with true joy? So often it seems like nothing gets them down, that somehow they turn every hardship into opportunity. These are people who have grasped pure joy. People with joy aren’t easily beaten, they aren’t easily bruised and when they are, they have the strength to rise and try again.

If true joy seems a little unattainable, or a little too tough at times the best news that I have is that it’s the joy OF the Lord that is your strength. Supernatural and complete joy only comes from God. Let his joy and delight be your joy and delight. It won’t fix your problems, but you will find strength in pain.

1 Chronicles 16:27
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.

Psalm 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

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