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.

The Bishop and the Robin

What do a French priest and a Narnian robin have in common?

In the epic story of Les Miserables, a priest shows mercy to the main character by sparing him punishment of his theft, and then generosity. The priest gives Jean Valjean an expensive item of silverware, which enables him to set up a stable  life for himself. How kind.

Without the priest in Les Miserables, our hero Jean Valjean would never become mayor of a town, where he grew in respect and influence.

Without the French bishop, our hero Valjean would never grow to love Marius like a son.Were it not for the gift of the valuable silverware, Valjean would never have met the fragile prostitute Fantine and wouldn’t have had the opportunity to help her in her dying days.

Without the devout man of God, Jean Valjean would never meet Cosette, his adopted daughter.

Without the robin in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, the four children would never have met Mr and Mrs Beaver. The robin leads the kids, silently, to the friendly ambassadors of Narnia.

Without the silent bright red bird’s courage to be seen in the wood (even some of the trees are on her side!), the kids would not have met Aslan, the mighty lion.

Without the brave bird, the Pevensies would not have come to their place as the king and queens (and high king) of Narnia and the Lone Islands.

Edmund would remain a bully, Tumnus trapped in stone, and Narnia a dangerous, scary place.

The robin appears on three pages of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Three pages out of two hundred.

The Bishop of Digne appears in only 1 song out of 30 in Les Mis.

Who are you a bishop for? It does not matter that you are only in one scene. You have made a difference.

For whom can you be a Narnian robin? A guide in the right direction. A bearer of truth and provider of help.

Don’t underestimate your encouraging word, your small kind gesture and the opportunity to do so.

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?