9 things I learned while moving house three times.

I moved house three times last year.

I would like to share my experiences of handling this tumultuous time and some beneficial lessons I learned.

Overall, it was a stressful experience, but the whole experience was tempered by the fact that I was helped by caring friends, and now it is all over! In total, I had over 15 people assist me practically with the moves. They were all family members, or friends from my past and present Christian churches. I am extremely thankful for their help, because without them I literally would not have been able to successfully move house! I am so thankful that I have a support network of people in my life who are willing to graciously help me in times of need. For the record, thank you.

Some things I have learned while moving house multiple times:

1) In between moves, keep packing tape and scissors in a place you will remember. If you have trouble remembering things like this, make a reminder in your phone!

2) If you keep cardboard boxes in a place with the outside air flowing through, they might get so dry you can’t use the tape on them next time.

3) There is a definite time to throw out a box.

4) Feed your friends, keep them hydrated and always thank them.

5) Be OK if a friend says they are not able to help you this time.

6) A little planning goes a long way.

7) A little communication goes a long way.

8) Remind yourself that if you can’t move today, all is not lost. And if things really go badly and I become homeless, I know that God is still real, he still died and rose again to save me, and he will still be with me.

9) Give yourself permission to feel overwhelmed, celebrate the small victories and relax when it is all done!

What are your tips for moving house?

The Necktie

I had a friend named Bob.

We were at the same church together in my university days and he led the group where we studied the Bible and gave each other moral support. Bob was a great listener and encourager. On several occasions, he told me of an insight that he had about me and my character. These insights showed how much he paid attention to me – and his care and concern for me as a fellow human being.

One day, Bob told me that he had imagined a picture of a sea of balls. They all had sad faces, except one. One had a broad, beaming smile – and that was me.

A couple years later, I found this image online.

smile2

I know that Bob has imagined this on his own – but it must be a true insight to something in this life, because I have seen a couple versions of this picture online since then. I had a friend Bob. I say this in past tense, because he moved to a different town. However, I bumped into him at an event this year, and the first thing he did was give me a great big hug.

I have a friend called Penny.

Penny is an encourager. She is also great at giving gifts, such as my SodaStream machine. One day she looked at my fridge and said, “I’m going to give you a SodaStream for your birthday and Christmas presents this year.” And she went on to tell me the benefits to my health and the environment. Like Bob, she is a caring friend.

This week, I attended a film screening that Penny had organised as part of her work. Before the day, she sent me a message, “I have a gift for you.”

The idea of receiving a gift excited me, because I have identified the giving and receiving of gifts as a way I show different kinds of love. And I looked forward to the night of the screening.
When I arrived at the registration table, Penny quickly greeted me then said, “Close your eyes, Jonathan!” I did so, and I felt something soft in my hand.

I opened my eyes, and it was a tie. Penny asked me to look closer and I could see that it was a tie with colourful VeggieTales characters on it. Penny knows that I am a big VeggieTales fan, and I said, “I’ve never owned a VeggieTales tie!”

veggietales tie

“That is a very special tie,” Penny said. I know her well enough to know that this meant there was a story behind this.

A few minutes later, I had a conversation with Penny’s cousin Bean, who told me the story.

Bean’s uncle passed away and some family members sorted out his things, including his neck ties. When they found this tie, someone said, “This tie is too cute and nice to give away. It would be best to pass it on to someone else.”

Penny visited the family house for dinner that week. She saw the tie and said, “VeggieTales! Jonathan would love that!” So, they planned to give it to me.

Another word on this tie. The character in the middle is called Lenny Carrot. He was a small character during the first few episodes of VeggieTales in the nineties, and he didn’t have a consistent voice actor. He was the brother of the more central character Laura Carrot. After a while, they stopped using the character. Laura has had two different brother characters since then, but none as endearing as squeaky-voiced Lenny. VeggieTales even gave a different vegetable the name Lenny in a short film about Leap Years, thereby condemning Lenny to the grave.

So you see, this tie is meaningful. To me, the message is: even if you are forgotten by most, you are not forgotten by all. The creator God still loves us and knows us, even when we feel nobody knows us, (like Lenny has been forgotten). As the old Spiritual goes, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows, but Jesus.”

I also noticed the similarity between this tie and the image that Bob got for me. And the juxtaposition of this makes me wonder, “Is it ok to be the one with the smile, and also the one with the more solemn face?” The answer is yes. I am learning that while happiness is a relief, it is fleeting. I am chasing after what is real.

You are not forgotten. Allow yourself to embrace the joy, and the melancholy.

Joseph: King of Dreams – Flashback Review

I remember going to the movies in Istanbul, Turkey and seeing The Prince of Egypt for the first time. A friend told me the week before that this was the best animation he had ever seen. It is safe to say that the animation in the Dreamworks adaptation of Moses’ story was brilliant and high quality, although I cannot say for certain that it was the best animation ever, up to that point in history. I suspect The Lion King just beats it, and perhaps Pocahontas too.

When the direct-to-DVD prequel about the story of Joseph was released, it would inevitably prompt comparisons between the two films. I remember watching it and thinking that the only good song in it was “You Know Better Than I.” On a more recent viewing, I agree that the songs in Joseph: King of Dreams are not as consistently high quality as in The Prince of Egypt, however now I realise there are two or three songs that stand out: “You Know Better Than I”, “More Than You Take” and “Bloom: Reprise” are the best songs in the film. The other songs seem to be not well-paced and are weakly sung, including “Bloom” which, in contrast to its reprise, is not well performed.

Of course, this film is an adaptation of the true story from the book of Genesis in the Bible. The adaptation of the story is quite close to the Biblical history, except that a few scenes are truncated or dramatized and there are a couple changes. For example, the film suggests that Potiphar knew that his wife was lying as he sent Joseph to jail. This is fictional but is very dramatic! Potiphar also shows up in a few scenes later in the movie during the times of plenty and famine in Egypt. I guess the filmmakers thought it best to have more recurring characters than Joseph and his wife during this section of the movie. It is also nice to see Potiphar get more time in the story, since he is s likeable and a good-hearted character in this adaptation.

On the mature themes from the Bible, Joseph: King of Dreams deals with the proposition from Potiphar’s wife in a G-rated way, though not shying away from this part of the story. (If the concept of adultery can be taught to elementary school kids in Sunday School when covering the ten commandments, it makes sense it can be included in a movie for children.) The film also touches on the fact that Rachel is not the mother of most of Joseph’s brothers, but does not explain that Jacob had two wives. I believe most viewers will think that Jacob’s first wife died and then Rachel was a second wife after the fact. This is a screenwriter’s sleight of hand, here done quite sneakily.

The animation is not as high a quality as that of the Prince of Egypt. This follows the Disney tradition of producing low-budget direct-to-video sequels, however the animation in Dreamworks’ Joseph: King of Dreams is somewhere in between the expensive lush visuals of The Prince of Egypt and the deplorable state of some Disney sequels.

The score seems inspired by some of the music’s tone colour in The Prince of Egypt, while otherwise being less memorable.

It is nice to hear some familiar voices in the cast such as Ben Affleck, Jodi Benson (The Little Mermaid, Toy Story 2) and Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame. It is a shame that the film was not given a release in theatres, since this had the potential to be the second in a series of well-produced serious animated films based on the Bible. I would rate this film 3 out of 5 stars – very enjoyable but not a classic.

Home – an essay

Growing up in two countries made the word “home” an unsettled concept for me. Was home Istanbul, where I went to school, made friends and enjoyed family holidays? Or was it Australia, where kids at school jested in the now familiar Aussie “put-down” humour, leading me to believe that Aussie kids were unkind?

That last idea was my thought in the year 2000 when I was twelve, and I was beginning my journey to enjoy living in Australia, which at that time was unfamiliar to me. I now like living here, especially as I become increasingly familiar with the streets of my local area of Melbourne, which I drive around in my little car.

But where is home? What place now gives me that sense of ultimate belonging, stability and family?

To be honest, I feel like my home is not in Turkey, Australia, or anywhere else on this planet. I feel in my heart that my home is in Heaven.

Heaven is where I will meet my dearest king Jesus face to face and hang out with him, lying on the grass together like I imagined as a teenager. I will have a new “forever body” and be free of the weight of my past and present mistakes, which so easily entangle. The mechanics of Heaven have many unknowns for me, but they are mostly irrelevant, because my heart yearns for the day when the tears and the pain happen no longer, and I am who I truly am.

I came up with the following concept of years ago. Imagine where I will be in one year from now: hopefully in the same job, with maybe some new friends, and showing a little more grey hair. Where will I be in 20 years from now? Hopefully I will have a couple of children, and all our needs met, doing things that satisfy my purpose in life.

But where will I be in 200 years from now? Unless medical treatments and technology advance at a super rate in my lifetime, I will be dead…

… But alive! More alive than I have ever been. Experiencing and giving true love with my creator and my Christian family.

That moment is real. Heaven will be my daily reality. Just as I am sitting here now, at this kitchen table, with my glass of water next to me, and the heater on, in 200 years from now (and 10,000, as John Newton reminds us in Amazing Grace), Heaven with Jesus will be the reality.

I hope some of you have read this far, and I would like to thank you for that. Another of my heart’s longings is for other people to also connect with Jesus Christ, what he has done for every person, and then gently grow to know his enormous, unconditional love, quiet companionship and loving, flawed but forgiven family. Have a think, even for a minute – or a month. Because if I will be dead in 200 years, so will you, and that day could be tomorrow. The Bible is a historical document and can be verified and trusted. I hope you can experience the wonders of Heaven with me.

Where is home for you?