People Travel

People travel to wonder at the height of mountains,         

At the huge waves of the sea,

At the long courses of rivers,

At the circular motion of the stars,

And they pass themselves by without wondering.

St Augustine

I had a student desk in my childhood bedroom with a huge map of the world on its surface. I would spend hours looking at the many exotic and mysterious names of countries near and far wondering what life is like for people who live in such amazing places.

I imagined life would be so different for other people and enjoyed picturing myself visiting tropical islands in the Pacific or treking through deep jungles and sandy deserts in Africa.

The travel bug hits so many of us early in life and while I’ve enjoyed some adventures and explorations in other countries it was while actually living in another country that I came to see how much we all have in common as human beings. I spent time being a mum with other mothers, being a friend, being a co-worker with people from all over the world. I learnt so much about myself along the way as I observed, listened and absorbed the stories of others.

I wonder if the way we westerners tend to ‘do travel’ actually changes us, or do we merely stay in our protective bubble passing through other cultures and places relatively untouched. We rarely stay long enough to form connections, create meaning and be genuinely impacted by the beauty of listening to and learning from other people. Our style of travel is a whirlwind, whistlestop, leap out for the quick photo op and hastily jump back on board for the next highlight.

In effect I believe how we travel is, for the most part, is also how we tend to do life. And that’s what the quote is all about.

It takes an intentional pause, a mindful noticing, an honest and open questioning, a moment of vulnerability to form meaningful connection with others. Only then, do we discover something about ourselves, something of our shared multi-faceted humanity.

Enjoy your travels, local and overseas when the time allows. Take time in the busy jam packed itinerary to occasionally pause and listen for the questions that will come to expand your awareness of yourself and others.

We are all in this together.


    Transformed Thinking

    Love hopes and believes the best.

    What we listen to affects

    how we connect and relate

    to ourselves and others.

    We listen to lies about our self

    Formed from frail humanity.

    Freedom comes when we

    Forgive, turn, face the Son

    Leaving the past in the past!

    We listen to lies about others;

    Framed pictures of painful betrayals.

    Freedom comes when fears

    Are faced and we take heart

    Finding both hope and healing.

    For we finally understand,

    We all listen to the same lies

    And all will be healed

    By the same truth.

    “Father forgive them,

    They do not know what they do.”

    They live with lies, shaping a reality

    Giving brittle illusions of power,

    Control, protection, connection.

    We reject what we most fear.

    Therefore, we first reject ourselves.

    The pain of deep disconnection

    More than any can bear.

    We become a city divided,

    Defeated, destroyed.

    The gate is unhinged,

    Open and torn

    As we, with broken hearts,

    Hide in a corner dark and small

    Afraid to step forward

    To claim what is ours,

    Our birthright

    As sons and daughters of the King.

    We are never alone, not ever!

    What a comfort He brings

    The great “I am,”

    The Lover of my soul.

    It’s no longer I that live,

    but Christ that lives in me!

    He died to set me free!

    Di Priest ©C-Change 2007

    Freedom – Found

    My third and final response to the question of what is most important to me and why is; ‘freedom’.

    I’ve been pondering this response ever since I gave it rather spontaneously when asked the question at my interview recently.

    Freedom – why is freedom so important to me?

    Let me paint some pictures with words and give insight into what freedom means to me.

    Freedom to grow?

    Our childhood home was the last house in a row of similar small neat government-built dwellings. Our bitumen street ceased abruptly at a farmer’s barbed wire fence, where his healthy dairy herd, enjoyed lush green pastures sloping down to a small creek and swamp at the bottom of the valley.  The government contractors took time to build proper high wooden suburban fences. Instead, we were hemmed in by flimsy wire-mesh easily pushed over by wind and stray cows.

    Being young children, we were not permitted to wander too freely as mum wanted us to stay safe. My baby brother, who loved exploring, found himself surrounded by curious cows on one occasion, with mum and I trying to coax him to walk slowly back to the safety of our little wire fence, so he wouldn’t be trampled. In early autumn, our father would take us over the wire fence to collect mushrooms the size of dinner plates. He’d also take us down to the creek and pull us out of the swamp mud when we lost our gumboots in deeper parts.

    But as we inevitably grew with each passing season, we were given more ‘freedom’ to explore our territory, all by ourselves. We learnt how to climb to the very top of pine trees and feel them sway in the breeze. We’d wait until the cows were heading up to be milked and hightail it down to the creek, where we’d have all sorts of adventures in the murky depths of tall ferns, huge swamp gumtrees and tangled scrub. We’d find trails left by foraging animals, collect watercress, build small rock dams and bridges over the creek. We’d make up exciting adventures, where we were always the heroes, building cubbies out of rushes, ferns and sticks to hide from the immaginary wild creatures we fought off bravely with our ‘weapons.’

    I’m still growing into new freedoms, with appropriate ‘fences’ (boundaries) to keep me safe, and inviting others to explore life’s adventures with me.

    Freedom to choose?

    As a sixteen-year-old student, I found myself at the end of Year 10 with an enviable choice to make. I’d been offered my first full time job in my local town, at a car dealership, where I was to become a receptionist. I was also being encouraged at the time by my teachers to consider completing Year 11, or matriculation as it was called then, so I could apply for University. I had always wanted to become a teacher or librarian or a lawyer. It was the ‘horns of a dilemma’ as the lure of an immediate, reasonable and secure income was beckoning. Mr Atkins, my High School Principal, heard of my situation and invited me into his office where he proceeded to tell me what he had noticed about me over the four years of high school. I hadn’t been aware that he knew me at all, so was surprised at his interest, and intrigued by his challenge to me. He spoke of the courage it takes to reach your potential, to stretch yourself, to take risks and discover who we could be. He likened my season of life to being a tight budded rose not yet ready to bloom. He inspired me to not let go of my dreams and hopes of going to university. He said it was within my reach if I would be willing to shoot for it.

    I later shared the conversation with my parents, who despite the challenge of financing my dream of university, allowed me the freedom to make my first real grown-up choice.

    I blitzed Year 11-12 and was granted a government funded studentship which covered all my costs towards my teaching degree. A choice I’ve never regretted. Thankful for wise words from my Principal, the freedom to make my own choice and the opportunity afforded me by a government of the day investing in future careers for all.  

    Teaching has always been my happy place! It’s a joy to be free to create an effective vibrant learning community.

    Freedom to be me!

    My first memory of PNG was of being hit by a wall of heavy humid hot air as I stepped off the plane at the Hoskins airport. It was, for me as a Tasmanian, hard to breathe in at first. And yes, there was a mix of nervous excitement as I knew this was to be home for my husband and our boys for the foreseeable future.

    We were met by such a mix of smiling and welcoming faces, not one of whom we knew, other than through correspondence and phone calls. Everything was strange, exciting, overwhelming and for me, who loves communicating; frustrating. The local people’s smiling faces were conveying welcome but their enthusiastic chatter with many gestures and laughter made absolutely no sense at all.

    For the first time I was incredibly aware of how foreign I was. I couldn’t communicate and sensed my innate need to understand and be understood. It was a barrier I had never experienced and a freedom I had always taken for granted.

    In our first months the language barrier was my immediate challenge to overcome. I’d daily walk down with my boys to the marketplace to sit with the women selling their produce, listening to them talk in their language. I’d then spend hours with my language study books and tape-recorder practicing the phrases over and over.  I’d try the new phrases out each day, and was encouraged when I knew I was starting to make sense of what they were saying, and even respond over time. I loved the freedom that came with learning to speak their language, to show respect to their culture and build friendships, conversation by conversation.  Yes, I was finally at home!

    I have always valued the freedom to connect, communicate and understand. I love hearing stories. I love listening to people’s discoveries, challenges and joys. I love the freedom of celebrating difference. Life for me is all the richer for this precious freedom.

    Freedom has a context for me, a rich one of many stories. I found it hard to settle on only three.

    But I do want to hear your stories of freedom. What does freedom mean for you?

    Crazy good – Family

    Here is my second response to what’s most important in my life and why?

    I still remember my husband’s reaction as he carried our firstborn out of the maternity hospital on a sizzling Sydney summer day. He gently placed our precious cargo in his bassinet in the back of our blue 2 door T-18.  His face was beaming with pride, joy and delight. He could barely contain himself, constantly gazing at our precious son and saying in wonder, “He’s ours. He’s ours and no one can take him away.’

    My husband grew up in a children’s foster home and his words rang of the understanding from his childhood that some families for various difficult or traumatic reasons, had to give up their children to government social workers, who would deem them safer in the care of others. Phil’s parents had become foster carers and gradually added to their homegrown brood of six children, (of which my husband was the eldest and only boy), until eventually their household expanded to an average of sixteen children. Most of them became permanents, while others came for temporary stays, before returning to their families or other carers.

    My family of origin on the other hand, was a more traditional housing commission, mill worker variety of mum, dad and the pigeon pair, with me being the eldest.

    Our childhoods were so vastly different and created an interesting melting pot for us to become a family and raise our three boys.

    Our sons grew in the nourishing soil of being loved deeply by a devoted gentle, playful father who has always delighted in spending quality time with them at every opportunity, paying attention to their interests, sports and hobbies. And now with the uniquely characterful trio in their mid-thirties, we have the pleasure and privilege of calling them sons and dear friends.

    I learned to be a mother over time, mostly through the lense of hindsight as I dared to vulnerably own and learn from my mistakes. Unlike my husband who had been surrounded by babies, toddlers and troubled teens, I had never handled a baby, let alone a new born prior to having my own. I was more the sporty, outdoors type. Always on the move, blissfully self-absorbed is a fair description. I wasn’t and am still not one of those nurturing maternally inclined women who make comforting or celebratory cups of tea to go with their home baked goods, while gushing and gooing over tiny babies.

    I brought my own brand of parenting imprinted from my family of origin with its strengths and weaknesses. But, over time, and not altogether without inner resistance and struggle, I melded more and more with my husband and my offspring who have taught me to be less intense, live lighter, love and laugh more and accept imperfection in myself and those around me.

    This love has expanded in us and through us over time. I’ve learned there is always more love to go around. We have always chosen to love whomever our boys loved and with that in our hearts, our family has grown, blended, strengthened and been changed for the better with each inclusion in our lives. Some have come to stay and some have gone, but our love, affection and life lessons learned from them, has remained.  A wonderful part of that embracing and engaging has resulted in the birth of three delightful granddaughters. And yes, I have rather enjoyed the gushing and the gooing.

    For me, our family has been a safe place to grow up. I’m still growing up. It has been a messy, non-linear, jarring, jolting, joyous journey, of small tentative steps with stumbles, falls and stalls. With equal measure of tenderness and terror entwined in my psyche. ‘No-one comes out unscathed,’ a friend said recently.

    It has been and continues to be a place of unlearning in so many ways. Of re-shaping, re-forming, recovering and restoring. A place of amazing depth and delight in the deceptively ordinary, surprising moments of giving and receiving love.

    And I’d do it all again. It’s been that crazy good.

    Faith beyond Coincidence

    As I mentioned in my last blog, I will spend the next few weeks exploring the three most important things to me and why.

    First – my faith in God

    I remember a very intimate conversation with God that occurred while I was experiencing a challenging time in my life.

    ‘You have never doubted my existence. You doubt my interest.’ said God rather clearly and unexpectedly into my mind one quiet morning while I was enjoying my morning cuppa.

    I was caught unawares by the power of the truth that He spoke into my heart in that moment. I was gently, clearly and personally reminded of being fully known, loved and accepted. There was no judgement or condemnation in the words. Instead, I marvelled at the power of the truth in them.

    I have memories as a little child of mum dressing us up in our Sunday finery and walking with us to the end of our street to the solid brick building with the words, St Wilfred’s Sunday School carved in stone above the doors. Mum played the piano in the hall each Sunday morning for the crew of around 20 children from pre-schoolers through to early High School. We’d sit in rows, youngest at the front and the older High Schoolers at the back on the hard wooden pews. Each year we would graduate to the next seat back until there were no more seats behind. I guess after that it was off to big church or to other things that interested teenagers instead of the simple songs and bible stories of Sunday School.  

    Each week we’d listen to stories from the bible and receive stickers in our booklets for attendance and completing the worksheets each lesson.

    I enjoyed it very much. I was one of those good kids, quiet, no fuss, listened intently and loved colouring, filling in correct answers and singing. Loved singing.

    One week I recall being quite fascinated by the story of Gideon who asked God for a sign that He was going to help Gideon and his people beat the neighbours across the border who were marauding regularly through their farms and towns destroying crops, livestock and pillaging the homes of the Israelites. Gideon wasn’t exactly excited to be asked by God to fight the enemies. He wasn’t the bravest of men and in order to be convinced needed God to prove He was actually up for this rather dangerous venture. What fascinated me was that God did exactly what Gideon asked and went on to use Gideon and some rather strange tactics to destroy the enemies without a battle taking place at all.

    I pondered this marvellous story for the rest of that Sunday and as I went to bed that evening, I wanted to ask God to do something for me. I lay there wondering what I could ask God to do for me. I decided, as it was dark and all the birds had gone to sleep, to ask God to send a bird to call right outside my bedroom window.

    I lay there in the dark for a moment, thinking what a crazy thing to ask for; when yes, just outside my window a bird called rather loudly for what seemed like quite a few moments.

    I immediately leapt in fright out of bed and ran out into the loungeroom yelling, ‘God’s in my bedroom! God’s in my bedroom!’ to my startled parents.

    They calmed me down until I could finally explain what had happened. I remember learning a new word that night that changed my perspective for many years to come.

    ‘It was only a coincidence,’ they assured me, ‘only a coincidence.’  They calmly took me back to the room, checked under the bed and in the wardrobe, looked out the window and again reassured me, God was definitely not in my bedroom. Nothing to fear here.

    I wasn’t totally convinced and tucked the experience away until I had opportunity to attend a church camp some months later. I told my story to some young friends and they encouraged me to go to the Pastor and tell him. I did. And yes, he again reinforced my parent’s response. ‘It was only a coincidence. Only a coincidence.’

    I remember feeling great disappointment and a bit of confusion as something just didn’t feel right about what they were saying. But here was a man who was very knowledgeable about God, so who was I to argue with him or my parents. Remember, I was the good kid after all.

    I dismissed the experience and actually forgot it for a number of years.

    Lots of water under a lot of bridges later, back to God’s statement to me; ‘You have never doubted my existence.’

    I knew that to be true. As a young child, I believed implicitly in the existence of God and I smiled at the memory of the naïve young girl asking God for a bird to call in the late evening outside my bedroom window. I knew it was not a coincidence, but a very personal encounter with my heavenly Father who knows me, loves me and accepts me.

    The second part of the message went deep into my psyche drawing out a painful wrenching sob. He touched a deep raw wound I hadn’t acknowledged or fully understood in me. Somehow along life’s way I had internalised a tragic lie. I’m not worth it. I’m not enough. I don’t rate. I don’t matter to me, to others or to God.

    I, in that moment, cuppa poised in my hand, knew that a lie had crept in and robbed me of life for far too long. A light went on and I agreed with God. Yes, I do doubt your interest. I doubt. I doubt. He gently reminded me of just how valuable I am to Him. He sent his much beloved son to die for me on the cross so I can spend eternity with my heavenly Father. His Holy Spirit abides in me as a promise of an eternity to come. I am much loved and very interesting to God.

    Something very powerful changed in me after that gentle and intimate conversation. I marvelled again at the power of a very present all knowing, all powerful God who desires companionship with me. He took the lie, disposing of it appropriately no doubt and reminded me of the gospel seed he planted in my life at 19 years of age. It had become buried over time, not destroyed but hidden under layers of false messages, foolish thinking and poor choices. He berated me for nothing, but invited me to yet again, return to truth and live by faith, not by sight, trusting in Him, not looking elsewhere for value, meaning and purpose.  My journey from that moment has been daily choosing to believe, trust and allow the ancient truth to grow and bear fruit in my life. God is interested in me.

    Yes, what an amazing thing to consider. The God of this universe, creator, awesome in power, majesty and might calls me His own. Calls me his beloved. Calls me his bride. I am worth it because I am His and He is mine. His banner over me is love.

    My faith is a who. It’s in a God who knows me, loves me, accepts me and is deeply interested in me.

    I look forward to hearing your story of faith, discovered, lost, found again and held. You are worth it and you are not alone.


      Garlic and other things that eke out of you!

      At a recent job interview I was asked to share the three most important things in my life and why. The interviewer pre-empted the conversation by clarifying there were no wrong answers. It was a means of getting to know me and what matters to me.

      My responses came quickly to mind. The first two made sense immediately but the third was an interesting self-revelation.

      The why for each took more time to consider as life experiences, changing contexts and time have both shaped and deepened my understanding of what is important to me.

      Curiosity aroused. I genuinely want to hear how others answer this question. What is most important? Why?

      And take the next personal growth step: What would those who know me well, say is most important to me?

      That’s a ‘mirror’ question, a vulnerable moment of checking whether what I say, and how I live, are congruent.  Do I really live out of what I say is important to me, or does my everyday life, decisions and activities show something very different?

      It’s like when you are on a peak hour crowded train squished next to a person who has recently consumed a garlic infused meal. It’s eking out of them if you know what I mean.  What’s really important to us is obvious to everyone around us even though we may well be oblivious.

      “The things that matter stay with you, seep into your skin”
      ― Christina Baker Kline, Orphan Train

      Over the next few weeks of blogging, I’ll unpack what is important to me and why. I won’t mention them now, as I do not want to distract from the impact of the question on you.

      Your response is the one that matters and as the interviewer at my job interview said, there are no wrong answers.

      I look forward to hearing your responses, to hear if you have gone the next step and asked the ‘mirror’ question too.

      “I made a promise never to let myself be deceived again. I would live for the important things in life.”
      ― Ivy Oakes, The Story of How We Met