Monday, December 2, 2013

Of grace and freedom: A letter to my sons about sin

Dearest Cam and Scott

Wow. Last week was tough. Not without its wonders and victories – but also full of record-breaking incidences of Stuff Going Wrong in significant and insignificant bits of our lives and too much news on a scale of zero to devastating, about people we know and love. Dad and I felt dazed – saddened – by it all. I’m super optimistic, mostly, so it’s not often that I find myself asking God if he really is still in control and, like, what’s happening to believers who seem to have stopped believing and can we be desperate but not hopeless?

I hope you guys will read these posts and letters when you’re twelve or sixteen or twenty-two – whenever God quickens it in you to read what I was writing when you were little. I don’t know what this shifting world will look like when you’re bigger. But I know some things will be the same – like human hearts, grace and freedom.

I’m so very sorry that you’ve inherited our wickedness. It sucks – seeing our instinctive me-me-me rebellion manifesting in you both. So I’m writing to you tonight because I desperately want you to understand this thing called sin. It causes death. I mean – obviously – eventually – we’ll all physically die because of a decision involving two people and some fruit long ago. But there’s more to it. Death follows sin – every time. It’s always the wage you pay. The death differs, depending on the sin. It could be the death of your health. Or the death of a relationship, or someone’s trust. Maybe it’s the death of a job, a dream, your finances, your waistline, your reputation, or your desire for what’s natural and good.

And don’t think that you’ll see death coming. That’s the terrifying thing. Sin is insidious. Even beautiful. It promises you’re not hurting anyone. It starts with a thought. That lingers to nibble. And will come back for bigger bites if you let it.

It’s not cool or trendy to talk about sin much at all anymore (or judgment or hell or any of the other uncomfortable topics). But I so want you to get it that if we weren’t in dire need of redemption God would not have sent a Redeemer. In which case, why Jesus? Our faith would be lame and laughable and we might as well just join a country club.

I want you to cling to Jesus because he’s holy and you need him more than air. I want you to see how he holds grace in one hand and freedom in the other. Grace says he owes you nothing but he calls you beloved and offers you forgiveness and eternal life anyway. And freedom says that sin is no longer your master. You’re liberated from its grip. Released so that you can stop trying so hard and failing even harder, and let Christ live his life through you. For sure, sin comes with consequences you may not be able to escape, but grace cuts the tripwire so you can run free.

It’s like, we’re not just recipients of a no-worries, mediocre kind of lenience – left to live by whatever floats our boat. Grace is so much more than benign tolerance. It doesn’t leave us trapped. It brings radical heart change – life change – world change. Grace said to the Pharisees who caught the woman in adultery and challenged Jesus to enforce the law that would stone her, ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ (John 8:7) Freedom turned to the woman, once her seething prosecutors had turned sheepish, and said, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more. (John 8:10-11)

Jesus didn’t say, ‘You’re alright, love. Carry on!’ He loved this woman far, far more than that. He lavished upon her acceptance, cleansing and hope. And then because he wanted her to be free he said, ‘Sin no more.’

Which he wouldn’t have said if it wasn’t possible.

So tonight my prayer is that you’ll grow up to rest in God’s unthinkable, unmerited favour and that you won’t be bound by sin or religion but rather that you’ll enjoy Jesus-freedom – abundant life – for your good and his glory. I pray that you will always have the courage to love and to say the hard things when they need to be said.

To answer the questions I started with: God is still in control. He will build his church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it (Matthew 16:18). And yip, sometimes we feel desperate. But we are never, never hopeless.

Walk in confidence. He reigns in glory.

All my love, 



Sunday, October 20, 2013

A letter to my husband after our housewarming

Dear [slightly embarrassing nickname I won’t share online]

For ten hours yesterday we had a steady stream of 81 different pairs of big and little feet through our house to warm it with well-wishes and laughs and too much cheese and good bread. Under this wetted roof there was history – the way-back kind that’s old and safe and there’s no need to finish sentences – and there was newness – the kind that forges fresh things and the promise of different journeys.

We took turns to get the door and make hotdogs for kids (I lie; you made all the hotdogs) and cavort in a juvenile fashion on the jumping castle and replenish snack platters and snatch at conversations of how-have-you-been? You do it so well – barefoot hospitality that makes for rest and welcome – and you help me so much to let go of cupcake smears on the walls.

When the last guests left, the house wasn’t beautiful anymore because there were wet picnic blankets and muddy carpets and incredible gifts and dirty dishes and the strong sweet scent of friendship and I felt pinch-myself rich and free. You put on 702 and late-night golden oldies softened the edges of the mess and there was the quiet peace I’ve only ever known with you. They played the Beach Boys – ‘Well I walked up to her and I asked her if she wanted to dance. She looked awful nice and so I hoped she might take a chance’ – and I remembered my Mom telling me it was the first song she and my Dad danced to – ‘When we danced I held her tight, then I walked her home that night, and all the stars were shining bright, and then I kissed her’ – and I thought about generations and how so much changes in the drifts of culture and so much stays the same in the fibre of families.  

Then they played the Seekers as we stacked polystyrene cups and found space in the fridge for leftovers and it was another slice of like-yesterday childhood – ‘Close the doors, light the lights. We're stayin' home tonight, far away from the bustle and the bright city lights. Let them all fade away. Just leave us alone. And we'll live in a world of our own.’ I thought how God always saves the best for last – how when all is said and done and all have come and gone there is always you, and this, ‘a world of our own that no one else can share’ – a refuge from this crazy world.

We both get so easily overwhelmed by what seems irrevocably messed up in society – like the world we’re leaving to our boys is drowning in darkness. Insidious corruption and injustice. The whip of stress and so-little-time. Hurt and the fragility of life. And yet last night I could rejoice with you that the God who anyway owns the cattle on a thousand hills has given us authority in this patch of Kingdom ground to be ploughed. And the promise that when our lights shine out on this street after sunset, the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1). There’s an assurance that when friends and family grind salt at our table it is salt of the earth and will not be trampled underfoot but used to flavour and heal and preserve (Matthew 5). This place of peace, where Christ is King.

Thank you for doing life and kids and friends and fun and mess and hope, with me, forever.

All my love


Monday, October 7, 2013

A letter: Of congenital defects and world change

Guest posting tonight over at Irresistibly Fish – Brett is running a series on the one thing you want to teach your kids that might change the world.

Dear Cameron and Scott

I’m writing this letter because Brett asked me for a post on one thing I want to teach you boys that might change the world. And because I had a conversation this week about being fearfully and wonderfully made. And I think the two might be related.

So this friend and I, we said sure, God says we’re fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). But what if we’re not? What if it’s very fearful and not at all wonderful to be born with Down syndrome or no limbs or epilepsy or cataracts?

Here’s the thing.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Your first broken heart: a letter to Cameron

Dear Cam

Today you were riding the too-small-for-you tricycle and you stopped and said:

‘I’m sad that Chanty is leaving.’

I called you to me. You sat in my lap on the lawn. I held you and you sobbed and we talked and prayed and sat long and silent and sad until Scott climbed on us with the frisbee.

From that morning in August 2007 when there were two pink stripes on the test I started praying five big prayers for you. One of them was for godly friends. When you started Grade 00 at the beginning of the year we prayed more than ever that God would make you mighty for others and raise up strong, special friends for you. Chantal was one of the first. She is a precious thing with enormous gentle eyes and she smiles pure sugar. She is a hand-holder and quiet-kind-word-sayer and a fun-and-games-giggler. She quickly became part of the little band – Ben, Jordan and others – who would play with you and page through books with you and imagine worlds with you and call you back inside when you hadn’t seen everyone leave. You wanted only five people at your birthday party: four boys, and Chanty. And now she’s leaving your life and your wide-open soft heart can’t imagine how far Australia really is.

I want you to know that no one can steal your story. Chanty will always be woven into this part of your history, whether or not your paths cross again. You’re different for her influence, and she is for yours. That has eternal significance – your good, God’s glory.

I want you to know that the impossible is possible. We’ve seen a Ross's Turaco in the garden three times now. We really shouldn’t have. It’s impossible that there should be a Ross’s Turaco in our garden. And yet it lopes loerie-heavy high in the yellowwood and swoops low and brilliant to the neighbours. Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26) It’s not impossible to entice exotic birds to your garden or to grow friendships across oceans and life has a funny full-circle way of working out sometimes and you never know. Just sayin’.

I want you to know that pain happens. Hearts can break over and over and nothing raises the threshold. I can’t now or ever hold your heart closed tight or imagine that you will be spared the desolate pain of journeys split or the bewildering pain of egos bruised. And one day you won’t want me to see you sobbing angry in your pillow and your brave wild heart will have to ride out those storms. But I promise you I will pray.

And I want you to know that there’s purpose. Dad and I have asked God to choose for you every friend – every teacher – every connection and interaction. Sometimes the season of a relationship is as brief as the kid sitting next to you at snack time. Sometimes it’s a lifetime. Whichever it is, it’s never for nothing. And if you look at it right, it’s always a gift.

Love you so very much, darling boy.



Saturday, August 17, 2013

Of home and heart renovations

Dear Cam and Scott

It’s been almost two months since I last archived your unfolding days because life has been full and frenetic and kind of like scrambling to stay on a treadmill that’s going too fast.

We’re moving in a week. The other night we’d finished bedtime stories and we were waiting for Dad to get home and I put on a CD and we danced wild in the lounge as we have at so many bedtimes and now amidst boxes packed and labelled (sort of) and you both begged me to spin you ‘til we were dizzy. How I’ll miss this lovely home.

Cam, you had squint surgery on your left eye on the 29th July. Your anxiety over the operation resulted in some off-the-charts whining and tantrum-throwing. But closer to crunch time you showed courage and calm way beyond your years and we were so very proud of you. Your eye is healing beautifully and already we’re seeing a difference and I think you might be, too. Time will tell if and how much this will improve your vision. The other day I asked you how your eye was feeling. You beamed and said, ‘Very good! It’s just a bit achy and scratchy and itchy and stinging but it’s fine!’ Oh, that Jesus would guard your irrepressible optimism as you navigate this crazy life. You are still fascinated by metals (‘Can you cut through copper with an angle grinder?’) and fabrics (‘Mom is this nylon or polyester?’) and army rescue helicopters and offshore lifeboats and box cars and you help me carry groceries in from the car and you get the tomato sauce and mustard out the fridge at suppertime. (Thanks, my brave shining star.) Yesterday at breakfast I could see you weren’t yourself. I asked, ‘Is something making you anxious?’ You replied, ‘Yes. I’m feeling anxious about moving to the new house because I think the lounge won’t look the same.’ Your remarkable ability to articulate your emotions helps us so much to parent you.

Scott, you are potty-trained! Woo hoo! (Insert: our ceremonial celebratory hand ritual: high 5 – low 5 – baby 5 – fist pump – claw!) For sure, life is not without its lavatorial accidents. But the other night we forgot your nappy at bedtime and you slept all night in undies, dry as a desert. And it’s freakin’ fantastic for me to leave the house with only a handbag. You had your first (successful) swimming lesson this week (after an abortive attempt in January). You were so super excited that you put on your costume an hour and a half early. After five minutes in the pool with Coach Bradley you yelled, ‘I swimming like a fish!’ I love the way you say ‘Incredible!’ and the way you hurtle down the passage with absolute purpose. I just adore your snuggles and the way you stroke my cheeks and tell me you love me with ‘even my whole heart!’ and your emphatic declarations of, ‘I – am Mommy’s – LAMB!’ On the way home from school yesterday, Cam reached through the headrest to feel my hair. He said, ‘Your hair looks so silky. It looks like satin.’ You said, ‘No Cammy. She’s not silky. She’s beautiful.’

My boys, you’re growing so fast. And Dad and I have been aware lately that we wouldn’t be doing you any favours by making you out to be holier than you are. So we’re not shying away from showing you your selfish hearts when one of you smacks the other on the head with a plastic axe or when the I-had-it-first battles rage. We never want you to be deluded into thinking that you don’t desperately need the redemption of Christ.

Our new house is being renovated (thanks to Uncle Kean and Aunty Kim – who are selling it to us – big yay!) and if ever I thought that perhaps I should have pursued a career in the construction industry this experience has shown me that that would most certainly have been an epic fail. I strongly – strongly – dislike hardware stores and, if I’m honest, the people who work in them. I suspect this has more to do with me than it has to do with them because aisles and aisles of small metal objects from which I have to select something that will prevent sewerage from coming through a basin drain makes me go into a cold sweat and quite often I end up crying.

An unexpected pleasure has been the catharsis of painting things clean and wheeling away barrow loads of building rubble and miscellaneous garden junk ranging from curious to dangerous. And spending time with Grampa who has done all sorts of snag-listing and fixing and hammering and polite suggesting and life-saving.

The house isn’t quite finished yet, which seriously messes with the straight lines in my head. I’d really like it to be flawless the day we move in so that I never have to go into another hardware store. Ever again. And because I don’t want unfinished projects. I want perfection. But God has been reminding me gently that all four of us are unfinished projects and so actually, why shouldn’t our home reflect that? He’s been whispering about journeys and gratitude and it-is-what-it-is and privilege and first-world problems and letting go.

Still, I do want this move to be wonderful for you both, because chances are (and this is no prediction or guarantee – just a projection of strong probability) the next time you move will be to varsity or your own flat or a home with your bride. Dad and I have always prayed that our home would be safe and simple. Warm and welcoming. Clean and neat (mostly). Beautiful, and always open to you, your friends and any that God chooses to bring. A refuge where you will be free to rest and wrestle as God calls out the men you are to be. A place of peace where Christ is King. We fervently and expectantly pray those things for this next home, too.  

Here are some pics of the last couple of months. (Some of them are sideways and upside down - will try and fix. I blame my new S4. So random. They're all the right way around on my laptop...?)

Love you so, so much, my bears.



 Prezzies from Portland

 Our not-yet new kitchen
 Cam and Annabelle
 Botanical gardens with the van Reenens, Simpsons, Earls and Eberleins
 Box construction

 Waiting for your op
 Going into theatre
 Visits from Teacher Karen

 Lachlan and Analia's SA wedding


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Boys playing dolls

So on a wintery Wednesday morning my loud-shouting high-climbing rough-and-tumbling dirt-magnet boys play dolls. They’re the dolls my mom still has from when we were little. They survived us four sisters and they’ve survived our eight kids. We had supper at my folks last night and the boys asked to borrow two dolls, some blankets and a pram. One of the dolls is Coral’s Baby Angel and it’s at least three decades old and mostly the eyes still blink when they should.

This morning I bring my coffee to bed and Cam and Scott bring the dolls who must be girls, they agree, because they are wearing pink. They name them Emily and Rosie. Cam says their parents have died so we are looking after them. He says his baby is very good. She doesn’t cry much. And she lies very still when she sleeps. Scott says, ‘Catch Mom!’ and lobs his baby feet first at me and my coffee. He retrieves her and power slams her face-down on the duvet crooning gently, ‘Don’t cry, baby.’

Cam instructs Scott: ‘Don’t punch her in the stomach. She will vomit.’ Which leads to the glorious and exciting assumption that both babies have a violent stomach ailment. He’s jumping – delighted – ‘Mom can I get a bucket for the babies to puke in?’ He hurtles in with a bucket just in time because…

Scott (ecstatic): Look! Baby puking in a bucket! (puking noises)
Cam (jubilant): Mom look! Did you see my baby puking in the bucket?
Me (weirded out): Ya… Um… Cool…

Cam decides they should take the babies on a ship trip to a sand island. There isn’t space for everyone so he gallantly swims there wearing a life jacket. Scott interjects intermittently with variations of: ‘Yes Cam! Me too! Let’s go! Follow me! I fell out the boat! My turn!’ And every now and then he looks out the window for the aeroplane that (he thinks) Dad is (still) in.

I get more coffee and I watch them and call me crazy but I keep thinking of Isaiah 41:4 – ‘Who has done such mighty deeds, summoning each new generation from the beginning of time? It is I, the LORD, the First and the Last. I alone am he.’ And I pray that this generation of little men – beckoned to the stage of this century – would have the extraordinary compassion and courage to change the world.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Of miracles and madness: a day in the life of motherhood

It’s 7h15. Murray has left with Cam who has left his rice crispies on the dining room table. Scott is home with tonsillitis and me. He’s tender and compliant today because the memory is fresh of yesterday and the wooden spoon and my tears. (We went to the doctor and then the pharmacy where he was wild and I reached the zenith of my most-embarrassing-mom-moments. Despite my reproaches hissed low through gritted teeth and a surreptitious smack near the immune booster aisle he ran and skidded and played horsey-horsey on Cam and took several things off several shelves. He also knocked over a life-size cardboard cut-out of Victor Matfield selling vitamins. Mad as hell I righted Victor and of course he was still smiling which kind of made me want to punch in his cardboard face. Then Scott lay on the floor and made imaginary snow angels on the pharmacy tiles and I went red and asked the (thorough.) (slow.) pharmacist please to hurry and avoided all eye contact with onlookers. At home there was the spoon of reckoning and hugs and sobs and profuse murmurings of I sorry Mom I sorry Mom I sorry Mom.)

The heater’s burning in the playroom and I’m trying to write a post for the WordSpace but Scott is in my lap then on my laptop and he’s pushing Ctrl-Z on my thoughts. I give up and hug him and sift emails while he zooms trucks on the couch.

8h45. Scott violently refuses shoes and a jersey but I pick this battle and redouble my incursion and conquer. Warm, we head to the mall to swap the shoes I bought Murray and speak to the home loan guy at the bank and buy mushrooms for tonight’s chicken. Scott behaves beautifully.

Back home he asks for Marmite toast and his blanky and his tummy is ‘too sore’. I microwave a bean bag and drape it warm and cover him and rub his back and sing Jesus loves me and the sun floods in drowsy and he sleeps.

There are emails to answer and texts to send and faraway people to facebook. There are play dates to plan and appointments to make and money to transfer and itineraries to organise. I scan the latest posts of my favourite bloggers and feel inferior.

I leave Scott sleeping while Maria irons and sings and I drive to fetch Cam. He shares fragments of his day but he’s tired and quiet. (Yesterday when I fetched him he mistook another mom for me in front of all his friends and more moms and he was embarrassed so he lashed out. Then he walked into a pole and everything I did for the rest of the day was wrong. So today I’m careful and prayerful.)  Cam is supposed to rest when we get home but Scott wakes up so there’s pretend-pretend snoozing for like, five minutes.

Then they play move-to-the-new-house-move-to-the-new-house – but for some reason the new house is in Europe and they’re hiking there in snow jackets. Europe is upstairs and I let it go – the mess they’re making on the spare bed and the cupboards they’re unpacking because I want them to enjoy this magical loft while they have it – to live to the edge of their boundaries in this season, of this home. They want me to play with and I don’t want the chicken to burn so I do intermittent stair climbing and nose wiping and distance cooking all the while wishing I could just switch off the stove and my task-orientation and give myself over to the moment and the make-believe continent on the bed upstairs.

For accountability I’ve put Specials of the week on a chalkboard hanging on the wine rack listing three yum-fancy meals that take time and effort. Because I’m in a cook-what’s-cheap-and-easy rut and I don’t feel like fighting and forcing the boys to try exotic things, like peas. But slow-roasted lamb and masala rotis don’t come naturally to me. Fish fingers and chips. Now that comes naturally. But I’m determined to try harder because there are men in my house, grown and growing, and all the time we’ll spend around food in the decades coming will shape them more than I understand.

I take the boys’ teatime up to Europe in plastic bowls – bananas and Tennis biscuits. Then it’s time for homework. We write Cameron Benjamin Reyburn 0 1 2 3 4 5 a few times over slow and deliberate and oversized and wobbly and I’m convinced he’s the cleverest 5-year old in the known universe. Scott pretends to write his name with earnest, intentional strokes of coloured koki and he’s so kind and exuberant – clapping and exclaiming – ‘Well done, Cam!’ Cam’s memory verse this week is one of the first I ever memorised and I still say it at the dentist: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. I’m newly amazed at the preservation of this ancient text – words to Joshua on the brink of battles – now from the mouth of my son, so little and keen as mustard.

They ride bikes on the stoep and fight and pinch and there are more tears and more smacks and sulking. Some days it feels like all we do is yell and scold and I fail fail fail at keeping my cool. We’re desperate for wisdom to juggle obedience and holiness and grace because how we parent them is shaping their view of God and we can’t afford to drop one of these balls.

Yesterday, the boys were ‘hiking through snow’ (big theme at the moment) on top of a pile of bricks at a friend’s house. Scott fell and scraped his face. Today his lip is looking nasty so we go back to the pharmacy (a different one) for cream and peace of mind.

Coral invites us for tea and the late afternoon is cold with glorious sun and Cam is wearing his gown over his jeans and a cowboy hat. Scott doesn’t make it to the loo so we clean him up and he charges about in a pair of Craig’s Lightning McQueen undies.

How would I describe motherhood today? The exhaustion of savouring furious blessings. And in the savouring and the sacrifice, there’s peace – a ‘universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight – a rich state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Saviour opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.’ (Cornelius Platinga)