A day worth celebrating

With thousands of years of humanity behind us, it’s safe to say that every day of the year has been significant at some point in history. The 19th of May is no exception, having been the day on which:

- In 1535, Jacques Cartier set sail for his second of three voyages to North America. That’s almost 500 years ago! He went on to spend a very rough Canadian winter in modern-day Quebec

- In 1743, Jean-Pierre Christin developed the centigrade temperature scale, freeing us forever from that ridiculous things-freeze-at-32-degrees scale our old neighbours in the USA still use (well, the non-scientists anyway)

- John Franklin and his doomed fellows set out to find the coveted northwest passage in 1845…

- Parks Canada, the first national park service in the world, was established in 1911! (Definitely grateful for that)

- Malcolm X (1925) and Jodi Picoult (1966) were born – did you know you share a birthday with them, my love?

Interesting bits of trivia, but obviously none of these events are as significant to me as May 19, 1984. I like parks and temperatures in Celsius perhaps slightly more than the average guy, but Kathryn – you mean everything to me.

I’ve known and loved you for 10 years. That’s a lot of my life, and your love is the best thing I’ve had over all those years. Your love and the vows we made push me onward to pursue and work for the best life I can give you.

I’ll never stop thinking you’re beautiful; it’s easy, because you just are. I’m fiercely proud of you and would defend you from anything and anyone who would try to cut you down or diminish you. I admire and respect you, and I know that in the moments when my resolve crumbles and my hope fades, you’ve got my back, and the strength to pull me back onto my feet.

You’re a great mom and, God willing, we’ve got a long time left to enjoy together. It kills me sometimes to be away like I am right now, but I know I can trust you with our kids and that our reunion is never far away.

Thanks for everything babe: who you are, who you’ve helped me become, and who you are teaching our children to be. Happy Birthday, from the bottom of my heart, and many more to come.

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Yep, it’s about mom

This morning, as I sat in church, a series of memories passed through my mind, each of which made me grateful for what my mom has taught me over the years, both directly and by observation. I’m not a perfect son, and my mom’s not a perfect mom, but she has changed my life (and me) for the better so many times over the course of the years that I wanted to acknowledge her today, it being Mother’s Day and all…

I think the most important thing my mom has taught me about is communication. For those who know her, they are certainly aware of the fact that my mother is an avid communicator, or in other words – for those who aren’t great at interpreting subtleties – she talks a lot. Sorry mom, for the many, many times I’ve zoned out while you’re talking. I like to think it’s not my fault, that there’s some sort of built-in mom-frequency-ignoring mechanism built into all of us, but I have to accept responsibility for at least some fraction of the mom-ignoring I’ve done over the years. But well done for hammering home the lesson that open and honest communication is vital for a successful marriage. I believed you so much on this point that we made it part of our wedding vows, and I bet it’s the biggest contributor to the wonderful relationship Kathryn and I share now. We don’t let things slide, or fester, or pass them off as insignificant – we talk about and resolve our issues as they come up, and that is mostly thanks to your advice. I’m sorry you had to learn this in a harder way than I did, but I’m thankful for the lesson learned.

On another note, and I don’t need to go into details, but there was a time once – my heart rate increases and my adrenaline starts flowing when I even start to think about it, so many years later – when I got angry. I mean full-body-flushed, veins popping out of my neck and temples, murderous intent kind of angry. It’s probably hard even for my best friends to picture that, but it’s happened two or three times (two that I can remember). On this particular occasion you were standing between me and the subject of my wrath, and you stepped forward and blocked the way with your arm as I was about to pass you. Your arm wouldn’t have stopped me, but I looked at you, and you had fear in your eyes; whether for me or because of me I’m not sure, but you told me not to let it control me. I didn’t want to scare someone I loved. I didn’t like that look in your eyes. I stopped, breathed, considered the situation as well as I could have in that state, and subdued my anger. I had a shower, and while I was in there I vowed to myself that I would honour your request and not let anger control me, ever again. If anything has made me a better parent, it was probably that intervention and the outcome of it, so thanks mom.

There are so many things I appreciate about my childhood, looking back on it: the freedom we had to roam and discover nature (which likely played a big part in me becoming a geologist), the opportunities and encouragement to cook (even if my current palate has been heavily influenced by post-home experiences), and, perhaps most of all, the trust you had in me. I didn’t always make great decisions, but you were right to give me the freedom to decide, because I’m a strong-willed kid.  You kept my loyalty by giving me freedom and trust, and in the end I usually wanted to make the right choices, to honour your trust.

So Happy Mothers Day mom, too bad you won’t get this until after church.

Love you,

Tim

Sometimes you had to keep me in line

Sometimes you had to keep me in line (ca. 2006)

 

Further Thoughts on Evolution and Theology

I’ve been mulling over this topic for a long time, but not in the way I used to. The question of “creation versus evolution” is no longer a pivotal, no-compromise-allowed, authenticity-defining question for me, so I can tackle it much more peacefully. In fact, tackle isn’t the right verb at all, because it’s more like the topic and I stroll amicably through the park, sharing our differences and laughing about the fiery, perhaps misguided, passion we had in our younger days.

There was a time not so many years ago when, having recently read a few Creationist books, I nearly took the leap and said, “H E double hockey sticks, in spite of all the amazing things I learned and accepted after a great deal of scrutiny during my geology degree, I think I might just decide to become a YEC after all.” And that’s what it would had to have been: a leap of faith, and even more substantially, a leap of doubt in the many many discoveries (and interpretations) I had come to appreciate from highly respected, seemingly honest and sincere experts across many disciplines of science.

In the end, I decided I was most comfortable believing what I felt convinced about in the history of scientific inquiry along with the biblical revelation on the condition of mankind. I guess one could say I’m just believing what I want to believe, but surely everyone knows that deep down, that’s what we all do. We generally do what we think is best, and we believe… well, what we believe.

The beauty of the ancient earth framework is that it forms a fantastic context for describing so many phenomena we see in nature. The incredibly weathered, archaic appearance of the continental shields; the spreading of mid-ocean ridges at particular rates that can be calculated – in the hundreds of millions of years – and matched to reversals in polar magnetism; the fascinating and unique biogeography we find in isolated populations, even on the continental (e.g. Australia) scale; these all fit naturally and elegantly into an ancient earth framework, but result in awkward challenges for 6-day creationists. I can’t even be bothered starting on radiometric dating, because I usually find the YEC arguments against it unbearable to read.

In the face of evolutionists’ success at explaining so many facets of what we currently observe in nature, YEC’s fall back on the need to alter the very rules governing the universe as we know it, and this is precisely where they focus much of their effort these days: on historically (often radically) different rates of radioactive decay, tectonic plate movement, magnetic pole reversals, erosion and sedimentation, and even “microevolution”. This is what makes me uncomfortable, because so much of it feels forced, based on conjecture, although an entrenched YEC would definitely reprimand me for referring to the opening chapters of the Bible as conjecture.

At the end of the day I feel like the Bible is telling us a couple of big-picture messages: that we and everything in the universe were created by God, and as his subjects – who can only come willingly – we have certain privileges and obligations. It shows us a way to live that is higher than the rest of the selfishly struggling created order, and – after demonstrating repeatedly how awful we are at doing so ourselves through the course of history – provides us with an example and enabler in Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

I have no problem accepting that God’s mechanisms are different to how the ancient Israelites/authors perceived them. I think what He’s done is fantastic and that the people who have sought and served him as he’s asked us to have made the most positive, fantastic contributions to humanity throughout history. There have been a lot of misguided, terrible actions undertaken in the name of Christendom, but you’d have to be completely ignorant not to recognize that these were absolutely incompatible with the teachings of Jesus, and that many more atrocities have been committed outside of a religious context.

Accepting evolution and God means you can cast aside all statistical arguments against the former, along with a lot of unnecessary philosophy that stems from an awareness of those improbabilities. You can believe that God did it all intentionally; not just the big events, but that he set it all in motion, cradled the universe in his hands as it formed and developed. And not just the universe, but even you individually. That all of what may appear to be random chances through the course of ancient, primordial history was leading up to you, sitting and reading this blog post and marveling at the vast depth of God’s wisdom and love. In retrospect I hope it’ll be made clear to us what the order was behind all of what we can only now perceive as randomness. It’ll be another reason for us to bow down and give credit/worship to the mastermind behind it all.

So that’s where I stand these days. I enjoy science, I enjoy faith. If you like these kind of topics I suggest you check out the GeoChristian (http://geochristian.com/) and Naturalis Historia (http://thenaturalhistorian.com/) blogs, both of which I enjoy reading on a regular basis. To borrow from Kevin at the GeoChristian blog, I’ll close with a simple phrase:

Grace and peace.

A New Season

Today marks a new season in life. Eden started pre-kindy, also known as three year old kindy. It’s normally one day a week or two half days and is play based (at least where Eden’s going).

Getting so big!

Getting so big!

In Australia the School Year starts in February and the cut off if June 30 meaning when Eden starts normal Kindy she’s going to be one of the oldest in her class (and likely one of the tallest).

Showing off her new shoes.

Showing off her new shoes.

We decorated her Kindy bag together with iron-on badges she picked out.

We decorated her Kindy bag together with iron-on badges she picked out.

I got to make my first of  many lunches! I’m the novelty will likely diminish….

Pizza scrolls, carrots, cucumber, and a strawberry/yoghurt/coconut water pouch

Pizza scrolls, carrots, cucumber, and a strawberry/yoghurt/coconut water pouch

Her new lunch box from http://www.4myearth.com.au

Her new lunch box from http://www.4myearth.com.au

She started late today, 10:30, as they were staggering the start times on the first day. It was a LONG morning waiting but we finally made it there.

Checking out the bunny "Peppa" first thing

Checking out the bunny “Peppa” first thing

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Follow the leader

Making some new friends

Making some new friends

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Hanging up her Kindy bag

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Water/Ice/Salt play with her teacher

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Kate was very sad to leave her big sister

She only had a short day today, but she loved it! She will be starting a little earlier next week and then going from 9-3 after that. I’m excited about having some time with just Kate as well as giving Eden the opportunity to learn and grow in a different environment with some lovely teachers.

Telling me all about her time at Kindy

Telling me all about her time at Kindy

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First day celebration cake.

Yummy

Yummy

This time next year she will be starting Kindy which will be 5 days every 2 weeks (3 one week, 2 the next) and Kate will likely be starting pre-Kindy. It’s hard to believe these little munchkins are growing up.

2013: A Year in Review

With 2014 well under way – I’m not even accidentally writing “/13″ at the end of dates any more! – I thought it was high time we take care of our 2013 review. I’ve had so many ideas to write about lately, but I’m struggling to put in the time and effort to develop them into worthwhile reading.

Australia Day 2013, January 26

Australia Day 2013, January 26

Kathryn and I were recently talking about our upcoming trip to Canada.  It will be our first since we moved here over two years ago. Kate turns two 2 days before we fly out, and it will be her first time setting foot in Canada, or outside of Australia for that matter! One topic that came up in our conversation was how people will have changed since we were last home – you people, the ones reading this. How have you changed? This question naturally led to us wondering how we ourselves have changed in the last two years? It’s a tough question to answer, since most changes are so gradual, but I’m certain we’ve changed in a few ways. In fact, I think the nature of these changes may provide a good framework for our 2013 review.

Tim’s mum came for a visit in Feb/March

Rockingham Beach

Rockingham Beach

Professionally, I’ve learned a lot this year. I’ve also been making a better effort to see the value in what I do, and to embrace my circumstances rather than dream too much! 2013 was the second year for us living a part-time FIFO (fly in, fly out) lifestyle.  I worked a different roster this year, which involved spending 10 days away at a time, followed by 11 days in Perth, 4 of which were in the office.  It usually went this like: fly out on a Wednesday, work ten 12-hour days and fly back the following Friday; Saturday to Monday off; Tuesday to Friday in the office; Saturday to Tuesday off; fly out again on Wednesday.  I did 98 field days this year, mostly on this kind of roster. Last year I worked 8 day swings, so we did notice a difference having the extra 2 days away, especially since I spent more time in the office (long days for me). Kathryn found it pretty tough sometimes, without having me to provide relief at the end of the day.

Kate's First Birthday, March 3

Kate’s First Birthday, March 3

Physically I haven’t changed much – still basically the same height and weight as when I graduated from high school – but Kathryn’s had some exciting changes! She’s been attending weekly (sometimes twice) sessions of a workout class called BodyPump, and the results are pretty impressive.  Last night I went to lay my head on my pillow only to find that her arm was stretched out across it. *Thwack* “Who put that steel pipe there?!” I exclaimed, but it turned out to be her left bicep. A couple of weeks ago I tried to push her off the sofa in response to some snarky remark she made, but I couldn’t.  I honestly tried my hardest, but I was no match for her.  I wept silently that night in the dark, and resolved to improve my own level of fitness. Along those lines, I’ve been getting into some Wednesday lunch-time soccer games and playing a bit of squash with my colleagues, both of which have been great for my level of fitness, if not directly resulting in bulky biceps.

Bush walk in April

Bush walk in April

Enjoying the neighbourhood park

Enjoying the neighbourhood park

As parents we’ve changed a fair bit, along with the kids I suppose. I’m learning that you need to adapt your life to your children, and how far-reaching the consequences of that can be. For example, the relationships that your kids have with other children can have a significant influence on your own relationships. I mean, if your kids get along really well with someone else’s kids and they all play happily together, this naturally makes life – and your relationship with the other kids’ parents – more enjoyable. I’ve learned that the dynamics of children’s relationships are very confusing and unpredictable though. Kids behave differently in the company of different kids, as the social hierarchy changes with each combination.

As parents, we’ve had to deal more with drama between the girls: sharing difficulties mainly, but sometimes a bit of pestering and malicious behaviour. The whining and emotional volatility are the most tiring, but fortunately as adults we’ve got the capacity to see far beyond what our children can, so we generally outlast them in their little battles of attrition. Our skills of negotiation and reasoning at a 3-year-old’s level have definitely improved, so we can usually talk Eden down from a meltdown fairly quickly, often by handing some aspects(s) of the situation back into her control…  parenting is a challenging and interesting path, for sure.

Tim took my to Jamie's for my birthday dinner!

Tim took me to Jamie’s for my birthday dinner!

My Personal Trainer aka Bestie Emma

My Personal Trainer (aka Bestie) Emma

As a couple I feel like we’ve had a good year.  It’ll be 10 years since year since we met, with our 7th wedding anniversary coming up in May. I don’t want to say anything too personal or awkward, so I’ll move on, but I often think to myself, “What would I do without Kathryn?” I think having the kids has strengthened our relationship, by giving us a huge challenge to work on together, even if the dating scene has shrivelled up a bit! Don’t worry love, there is a season for everything, one day I will sweep you off your feet again!

Some lovely friends who have since moved back to the UK, June

Some lovely friends who have since moved back to the UK

Spiritually it’s been an interesting year. We’re still involved with a small Newfrontiers church that we both feel strongly committed to, but it’s been tough losing a bunch of members/friends in recent months due to relocations and other factors. I’ve been wrestling with a few aspects of Christian doctrine too, mostly on my own, but occasionally with friends. If you have any interest in discussing such riveting topics as the inerrancy of Scripture (and the requirement for it), understanding the first 11 or so chapters of Genesis, the nature of homosexuality and its cultural prevalence in Biblical times, etc. let me know :)

Eden turned 3 in July!

Eden turned 3 in July!

Cake Time!

Cake Time!

Musically I’ve had a great year. I splurged and got myself a Martin DCPA3 (details here), after many years of playing inexpensive, mostly second-hand guitars.  It’s a great guitar, sounds so rich and full, I really don’t do it justice. I’ve been writing songs, recording a little bit. Some of you would have seen Kate’s latest rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but if not you should check out the youtube video here.  Someday I hope to make music with the girls, so I’m excited to hear/see this potential! I feel like I have been growing musically and playing/listening to music continues to be one of my greatest sources of pleasure.

Train into the CBD with Roman

Riding the train into the CBD with Roman in August

Last but not least, we’d be crazy not to mention how the girls have changed, since their growth is so much more obvious and significant than ours. Eden is definitely a little girl now. I’m pretty in love with her and find myself continually amazed at the imaginative ideas she comes up with. I love watching her try to piece together a world view out of all the crazy things that come her way (from both reality and TV, the line between which is blurrier for little ones). Sometimes I feel an aching sorrow over the knowledge that her beautiful and innocent perception of the world will eventually, bit by bit, be replaced with the knowledge that life involves a lot of hard work, “unfairness”, and problems that daddy can’t fix. Kate is also growing like mad, most notably right now in the area of vocabulary. She’s a bit more feisty than Eden and quite inclined toward climbing, throwing, snatching and grinning mischievously with her lower jaw thrust out.  She doesn’t like vegetables or meat very much, but her cute belly seems to stay full in spite of that! 2013 has been very good.

A nice little Joey the girls befriended, September

A nice little Joey the girls befriended in September

Syngery Parklands, Kings Park, September

Syngery Parklands, Kings Park, September

Camping with some lovely friends, October

Camping with some lovely friends in October

Perth continues to offer us great opportunities for work and lifestyle, and by this time next year we expect to have acquired Permanent Residency and the benefits that accompany it. I hope you’ve enjoyed our update; feel free to pass it along to family and friends who may be wondering about us. Be sure to let them know that they can subscribe to the blog using the little ‘Follow’ button near the top right of the page. In conclusion, might I suggest that you make 2014 the year you visit Perth for the first time?!

Tim working hard in the Pilbara, October

Tim working hard in the Pilbara, October

Look how they've grown! December

Look how they’ve grown! December

Tim's birthday flight.

Tim’s birthday flight.

Enjoying Christmas Day 2013

Enjoying Christmas Day 2013

Happy Christmas 2013

Tim here.

It’s our third Christmas in Aus, and therefore it seems right to adopt the phrase “Happy Christmas!”

In 2011 we did nothing for Christmas. It was hot and weird and we’d just spent way too much money moving here and getting set up.

In 2012 we had a tiny, wiry tree that we made from some fake boughs and a tomato cage, and we celebrated with a few small gifts.  It was also hot and weird, but we played Christmas songs and made an effort.

This year we seem to have gone back to nearly-full-on Western Christmas, with a massive (fake) tree and piles of gifts; granted, most of them were from grandparents! Eden got it this year, the whole idea of Christmas being an exciting time that involves junk food and gifts, and possibly baby Jesus. Although today at breakfast she looked at me and said, “Daddy, you are God.”, so she hasn’t quite grasped the full story yet, but getting there. The hot Christmas (a relatively chilly 31 degrees or so) was nice, very pleasant, even a bit Christmassy!

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We spent most of the day with friends, enjoying food and drinks and their company… and their pool, of course.  Kathryn has already bombarded Facebook with pictures, but here’s one in case you missed those or don’t have access:

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It’s been a full day, so we’re heading to bed.  Keep an eye out for an upcoming post about 2013: A Year in Review. It’s been a good year, we’re thankful for all that we have, especially each other. It’s great to have a few days off to relax and play with loved ones, and I hope that’s what’s in store for all of you who are still enjoying Christmas day.  I hope you’re at least this happy in your hearts:

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Merry Christmas :)

Living in Wonder

Tim here.

Haven’t had much time or motivation to write lately, but I’m at a point where it feels right to get some thoughts out. I shouldn’t say I don’t have motivation, because many ideas are swirling in my mind, it’s just that when time becomes available I feel like it would be better spent cleaning, or taking care of financial matters, or even occasionally staring mindlessly at the TV. At the moment I’m stuck in a bus on the way to Koodaideri for the last time this year, and possibly the last time ever, since I change teams next year. What better time to write?

I’ve just turned 28, which is a more important new year to me than the big one coming up in a few weeks. I don’t have Facebook anymore, so prior to Kathryn posting pictures on hers I had about 3 people remember and wish me well. It’s funny, I’m not complaining in the least – I’m not one to get caught up in birthday hype – but I guess it goes to show how Facebook takes the effort away from remembering these things. I mean, whose birthdays do I know outside my own family? I’m not going out of my way to wish people happy birthday, even friends I really love and miss and want the very best for… Even if I did, most would probably assume Facebook told them and the specialness would be lost!

But that’s not my topic for today. Today I want to talk about a different social-media-induced effect on my life, which I’ve only slowly been recognizing in recent months. This one can mostly be attributed to YouTube I think, but the Internet and my own curiosity are complicit in the travesty which I’ve identified as Loss of Wonder.

I am a victim of loss of wonder. It’s been stolen from me, or maybe I’ve given it up to the most trivial of things, but either way it’s having a real impact on my life.

I’m the kind of person who loves (accidentally typed “lives” first – Freudian slip?) to learn. I get lost on wikipedia trails frequently, opening tab after tab as hyperlinked words catch my eye. I read textbooks for fun, although that habit’s been waning since the kids arrived. But I guess the point is, I’m driven by curiosity to explore and understand my surroundings, people’s behaviour and even myself.

And like anyone, I’m drawn to viral videos featuring child prodigies, eagles snatching babies, flash mobs, and inspirational individuals who overcome adversity or surprise us all with unforeseen talents. I’m still deeply moved by some of these videos, particularly the musical ones, but what I’ve come to realise recently is that I expect to see anything imaginable and to have an answer to virtually any question at any moment. Even worse than that, I often take in new wonders and bits of knowledge without even changing facial expressions.

“That fellow with no legs defeated all obstacles and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro? Hm, interesting.”

“This new creature has been discovered that exhibits a unique and amazing behaviour never observed before in nature? Cool” *blink*

And sadly, even ones like these:

“A good friend we’ve been praying for has an irreversible condition that’s improved or disappeared completely; his doctors have been doing extra diagnostics and puzzling, because this just does not happen. Nice”

Nice? Cool? These are how I would describe the old ladies at crèche or the temperature late in the evening, yet I can’t come up with better words or emotions to respond with! It’s weird! It makes me wonder: is loss of wonder age-related?

Have you ever been through this? Is it reversible? I think I’m genuinely happy in life, but emotionally monotone. Kathryn, being a wise and loving partner, recognized this and got me some time in a little Cessna for my birthday, which was cool (photo I took of Fremantle below). It was genuinely exciting, and I got to control the plane a fair bit. But that’s expensive, and I would prefer to get the free, everyday variety of wonder and excitement back.

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What gets you excited? What leaves you in a state of wonder? Talk to me friends, let’s press into life and appreciate all that it has to offer.