Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Did you know the Griswold's lived in Australia??

I can't believe that Christmas is two and half weeks away! And despite the 85 degree weather and tank tops, I am trying to get in the spirit. Last Saturday night, I put on my favorite Christmas movie, White Christmas, and did my favorite Christmas activity, put up my tree. The beauty of being a HIM worker is that you get lots of hand-me-downs. Case in point, my leaning Christmas tree with random decorations, which I inherited from former HIM Workers Jamie and Sammie. It's a modge podge of old baubles and colored lights, but I love it anyway.

The leaning tree of Pisa.

My favorite Christmas decoration. It didn't make the top of the tree this year, but it wouldn't be Christmas without Alex's 7th grade face smiling at me.

Christmas lights are not as common as they are in the States, but they starting to take off in Australia, and especially on the Central Coast.A local radio station does a contest each year for the best decorated house. (A group of young adults from church will go check out the best ones on Christmas Eve.) Somehow, I don't think this one is going to win...
The Aussie Griswolds
I hope you are having a great holiday season!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Beyond Blessed

I have experienced my second Thanksgiving in Australia, and it was even better than my first one. In my family before you can eat Thanksgiving dinner, you have to say what you are thankful for (or read your thankful acrostic if my Grandma is in charge of the festivities). This is what I would have said if I would have been standing in that circle among the Jackson Family:
I am thankful for other HIM workers like Anne and Joe and Tiffany Buck who I can share American holidays and all the other crazy things that come our way on this adventure.
I am thankful for my Australian family and friends who love and accept me, even my weirdo American ways.
I am thankful for a great HIM supervisor who let me take a day off in the middle of the week to celebrate.
I am thankful for those people who have gone before me in working for the Lord in Australia.
I am thankful for skype, which allowed me to talk to my entire extended family on Thanksgiving Day, including my 78 year old grandma and my 6 month old niece.
I am thankful for the Sydney Blue Sox and the Australian Baseball League, who provide a little slice of home for me.
I am thankful for old friends who know me and know I need extra encouragement when I am away from home on my favorite holiday.
I am thankful for my family, who love me unconditionally and support me. If they didn't believe in me, I couldn't be here.
I am thankful for my great boyfriend who just gets me and doesn't give up on me, despite the 15,000 miles that separate us.
I am thankful for the way God works and His timing that has brought me to this point in my life.
I am thankful for the church that unites people of different countries, languages, and backgrounds.
I am thankful for God for being a faithful father; for Jesus for being the perfect example and sacrifice; and for the Spirit for guiding me daily.
My first (of many) Sydney Blue Sox games. Watching live baseball is good for the soul.

Thanksgiving feast with the Bucks.
Anne, Tiffany, and I enjoying some good ole sweet tea on Thanksgiving Day.
We tricked Jude into taking a picture with us!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cornicopia of Goodness

Bring on Thanksgiving! I am now officially ready to celebrate my favorite holiday after coming home to a lovely brown box from Arlington, Texas sitting on my doorstep. I was giddy as I ripped open the box to find my treasures. Nestled against about 20 snack size boxes of Hot Tamales were the Thanksgiving must-haves you cannot get in Australia: cornbread mix, stuffing mix, and french fried onions. Yummy! Oh how I missed cornbread! The box also included a Texas Rangers American League Champions t-shirt (finally!), an order from Gap (despite what they say, I don't really think they ship internationally...), a new necklace (my mom has good taste), a Texas shaped cookie cutter (gotta represent), and a note scrawled by my Grandma Jackson. It was like heaven. THANK YOU, THANK YOU JGray Sr and Slick, you are way too good to me and I love you so much!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Beyonce and Kelly

My good mate (no, I am not Australian enough to say it, but I can type it), Amber Drew, turned the big 2-0 two weeks ago. Though I am late, I still wanted to comemorate her day of birth (in 1990! she is such a baby) with a list of 20 things I love about her!

What I Love About Amber Drew:
1. She loves the Ninja Turtles more than anything else.
2. She practically lives at my flat.
3. She would marry Jack Johnson in a heartbeat.
4. Her family talks about poo and farts at the dinner table.
5. She has seen a grand total of five movies in her life: Shrek, The Mask, Mean Girls, Baby Mama, and Into the Wild (I'm working in this one, don't worry).
6. She moved 12 hours away from her family and home to do STAMP (Short Term Australian Missions Program) and learn more about God and serving others.
7. She has been to the great state of Texas, and knows the beauty that is Sonic.
8. She lets me tag along on family holidays to Tasmania.
9. She has a small crush on Tina Fey, and can't stop quoting her movies.
10. She is a talented guitar player.
11. She rides shot gun in my car, and is starting to like Lady Antebellum.
12. She hates to make decisions...about anything.
13. Her guilty pleasure is Destiny's Child.
14. She is a great listener, but also tells me when I need to get over something.
15. She challenges me to be a better person and to live more like JC.
16. She is a proud owner of Toms Shoes.
17. She dreams big in terms of what the Kingdom can and will do in Australia.
18. She makes a mean lasagna.
19. She forces me to experience Australian traditions like ANZAC Day Dawn Services.
20. She keeps me up all night long laughing so hard, I almost cry.

My favorite moments with Amba:
Amber's parents and she stayed at my house when they were visiting Amber in June. We had so much fun sharing my flat and seeing the sights on the Central Coast.
We do this everyday.

Beyonce and Kelly

Driving two hours to Campbelltown and two hours back in one night.
My first rugby game, supporting the Sydney Roosters.
Going to a million camps together.
Freezing our tushies at the Mariners Game.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Still Learning

"Miss Jenny, I need a rubber!"
I heard this phrase today while helping with first grade math groups at a local primary school. My first thought was, "WHAT?!?!" Then, I remembered that Australians call pencil erasers rubbers, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Although I've been living in Australia for over a year and am pretty fluent in Aussie-talk, sometimes I get caught off guard. Living in a different culture is definitely a learning process, and no one ever has it all figured out. Thanks to my six little first grade angels for reminding me of that today.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I used to really resent baseball...

I used to really resent baseball. For years I hated being dragged to Little League batting practices and all day Saturday select tournaments. In fact, I thought it was a special brand of punishment that my dad and brother cooked up to torture me.
But, my dad loves baseball. He only loves two things more: God and our family. Not only does he love baseball in general, but he especially loves the Texas Rangers. My dad has been there from the beginning, cheering them on in the good years and supporting them in the lean years. No matter what kind of season they were having, he is there.
I used to really only go to Texas Rangers games to humor my dad. He taught me about the rules, the players, and the history, and eventually I became a true fan. I actually wanted to go to games and pay attention to what was going on. I started reading the sports page and voting for players for the All-Star game. I even worked for the Texas Rangers for two summers while I was in college. Even though my job taking tolls wasn't glamorous, I still loved it because I got to work for my favorite team.
When the Texas Rangers made history by winning the American League Championship Friday night, there was only person I wanted to talk to. There was only one person who could completely share my excitment and pride. There is only one person who understood the significance of the moment: My dad. Even though we are separated by miles and miles of ocean, we are brought together by our love for a game and a team.
My dad and I at a baseball game. One of my favorite ways to spend a summer night.
After Birkley's first Texas Ranger game. Please notice her bow and shirt.
He's learning to love them.

At Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona in March 2009. I met Josh Hamilton and he autographed my shirt! He loves God and he's my favorite player.

As the World Series approaches, there is only one thing left to say:


Sunday, October 17, 2010


This weekend Gosford Church of Christ had their annual family camp for members of ages called R Cubed (Revive, Renew, Recharge). Most churches in Australia have a weekend retreat for their whole congregation each year,which I think is a great idea. I was part of the planning committee for this camp and really wanted to help create an uplifting weekend of fellowship and study. The weekend started off a little bit rocky with a tire blow-out on the freeway while Anne, Amber, Sara, and I were driving to camp. Did I mention we were in a bus with the groceries to feed 70 people for an entire weekend? So, we were very excited to see the NRMA man (Like AAA) when he showed up to change the tire.

Faces of joy that our hour long wait on the side of the road is over.

Friday night was pretty low-key. It started with lots of people meeting at McDonalds for McFellowship before driving the rest of the way to camp. Once we got there, we get things set up and settled before having a devo to introduce the weekend theme of "Shining Like Stars." The night finished up with a massive game of Paper Chinese Whispers (which is like playing telephone but you draw pictures and write sentences).
Saturday was super busy! We had classes for all ages in the morning after breakfast and a devo. Hannah and I taught ten kids ranging in ages from 3-11 years! It was slightly crazy, but we lived and I think the kids learned what it means to shine like stars in the process. Right after lunch, we spent an hour teaching the congregation 4 new songs: "Mighty to Save," "Magnificat," "Ancient Words," and "Above All." People spent the rest of the afternoon playing ultimate frisbee, rock climbing, riding bikes around the lake, chatting, writing encouraging notes, and doing crafts. We were supposed to have a canoe race, but it was too windy and cold. The evening activity was playing BUNKO, which the Aussies had never heard of. Once everyone understood the rules and got the gist of the game, they were yelling out "BUNKO!" like they were veterans. Saturday ended with a great devo and s'mores around the campfire.
The whole camp playing BUNKO. The teens loving BUNKO.
Singing around the campfire.
Sunday morning began with an early morning prayer session and devo at 6:30 am. We originally planned to have a sunrise devo by the lake to focus on Jesus's resurrection, but because of the cold temperatures, we went with plan B. We had our regular time of worship at 9:30 am. A few of our older members who couldn't come to camp for the weekend came for worship and the barbeque afterwards. We also had an congregational meeting with the elders and kicked off our new small group program on Sunday. After cleaning and packing up and dealing with a dead battery on the bus (talk about a bad car weekend), we finally made it back to the Central Coast around 4:30 pm.
Even though R Cubed was exhausting with all the planning and organizing, it was such an awesome weekend. Not only did we spend time studying Philippians 2:14-16 and learning how to shine like stars, but we also got to spend lots of time in fellowship. Long talks were shared over cups of tea and relationships were taken to different levels. After weekends like this, I realize how much I love this church family and how sad I will be to say goodbye to it.
Gosford Church at R Cubed
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky...
-Philippians 2:14-16-

a nerf gun definitely makes camp more fun.
Lindsey and Mel
Amber and I (and Doug) about to watch the kids' play

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Southern Voice

This is who I hung out with last night...

Tim McGraw and the Dance Hall Doctors!

Tim McGraw brought his Southern Voice Tour to Australia this week. Luckily, I have friends who know my love for country music and keep an eye on the local music scene for me (Thanks heaps, Dan and Mel!), which is how we found out last May that Tim was coming to Sydney in September. Who would really pass up seeing TM in Australia?!?! Not me, so my parents graciously got me a ticket for my birthday!
The concert day finally arrived: I put on my cowboy boots, and Dan, Mel, Joy, and I headed South, TM blaring on the ipod. The concert was AWESOME, probably my favorite concert I've been too. Before the show started, Joy and I were practically bouncing in out of our seats, buzzing with energy.We could barely contain our excitement as we impatiently willed the opening acts to hurry up and finish! TM came on at 9 pm and played until almost 11, and sang almost the whole 2 hours... and so did we! Not a big talker, that Tim McGraw, but I didn't mind one bit. He sang my favorite oldies like "Indian Outlaw" and "Just to See You Smile," as well as his more recent hits and a song off his new album. Just when I thought the show couldn't get any better, he started singing "I Need You," and everyone started screaming. We all knew Faith was going to have to come out and sing her part of the duet! Out she came, and brought the house down. Our seats were in the front row nose bleed section, which turned out to be the best seat in the house. We could see Tim perfectly, and hear even better. One of my favorite parts was hearing everyone else in the audience singing along to his songs, too. Sadly after an encore, TM went off stage, the house lights when on, and the concert ended. We joined the masses leaving and finally made it back to the Central Coast at 12:30 am. We fell into bed, happy and still humming "Don't Take the Girl" as we drifted off to sleep.
Tim and Faith, singing their hearts out for us.

Great view from the cheap(ish) seats.
Joy and I were definitely the most excited out of our group, but maybe out of everyone in our section! We both had a sore voice from screaming and singing at the top of our lungs.
The rest of the TM posse: Mel, Dan, and Joy.
All of the Mowday kids went together to get Joy a ticket for Mother's Day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

True Dedication

So, this is what we do when our beloved Mariners are out of town...
Despite being gone all weekend chaperoning teens at Bible Bowl, no shower, and not much sleep, I was still there to cheer on the Mariners on a tonight. And they aren't even in town!!! They were playing in Queensland against Gold Coast United. We had to go to a local pub (which is really a restaurant with a bar and a grill. Don't worry, we sat in the restaurant side, Mom) to see the game, because it was only being shown on satellite. Sadly, the game was a draw, but it helped us hang on to her 2nd place lead in the standings.

Sidenote: TREK Youth did not win Bible Bowl this year, despite being the reigning champions. Even though we lost, we still had a great weekend of fellowship and worship with the other Sydney churches. We'll get 'em next year!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung in Gosford and that can only mean one thing: SOCCER! We are oh so blessed to have our own major league soccer team in our backyard (well, it's by Donnison Street, which I feel like is my backyard some weeks.) The past two Friday nights I have been cheering along with all the other loco fans at Blue Tongue Stadium as the Central Coast Mariners fought their way to victories over two different Melbourne teams. Many of the members of the congregation, especially teens and young adults especially love going to games together, which makes the games even more fun.
Before I moved to Australia, all I knew about soccer came from watching OC soccer games and intramurals. Let's be real: I did a lot more socializing at those games than actual watching. But, I am a changed woman! I can now tell when a player is off-sides...well at least 50% of the time I can tell. I even can name 3 players (Matty Simons, Daniel McBreen, and Bow-itch) and I know what they look like. Sadly, the Mariners won't be back in town for 3 weeks, and I have no idea what the under 30 population of Gosford Church is going to do with all of their free time. But on October 2 when our yellow football team returns, we will be there to cheer them to another win, and we might even have homemade t-shirts! Can't wait!
All the little soccer teams practicing at half-time of the Mariners game.

We do watch the game, I promise!

This past Friday night was so cold! Good thing Amber and I had our Mariners scarves to keep us warm.

The girls at the game.

Central Coast Mariners beat Melbourne Heart 1-nil last Friday night.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Home is...

- snuggling with your new baby niece.
- taking walks with your sister-in-law.
- going to a Ranger game with your family wearing matching t-shirts.
- being picked up from the airport in the church van.
- driving around in a green Honda with Nebraska plates.
- going to Wal-mart at midnight...and then an hour later because you forgot something.
- summer bbqs with friends.
- holding hands in church.
- eating Chicken Express twice in one week.
- praying before dinner.
- Grandma Jackson hugs.
- Rt. 44 Sonic drinks with easy ice during happy hour.
- Buffalo Wild Wings on a Thursday night.
- two triple dates.
- staying up until 2 am talking and laughing with old friends.
- getting a pedicure with your best friend, your mom.
- laughing over old stories with your cousins.
- Singing along to country music on the radio.
- spending 5 days in a row with your childhood best friend, but that's still not enough.
- Pilsbury cinnamon rolls on Sunday morning.
- mom's brisket at a church potluck.
- ESPN on non-stop.
- adopted parents driving 3 hours just to see you off at the airport.
- taking naps with your dad.
- the aching feeling in your heart when you leave.

I was blessed to have 3 weeks of furlough to visit friends, family, and a few places I call home. Two weeks in Arlington, one week in Edmond, and a weekend in Stillwater. It was a great couple of weeks, but also crazy couple of weeks trying to spend time with as many people as possible! Though I came back exhausted, I came back rested and refreshed, feelings that only come from spending time at home. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to have a break and go home, and I wouldn't have traded the last 3 weeks for anything!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tie-Dye Tuesday

School Holidays=Tie Dye Tuesday! This past Tuesday afternoon, Amber and I got some of the teen girls together for some tie dye fun. Because of all my years as a Gamma girl, I consider myself a tie dye connoisseur, but I had never actually tie dyed a shirt! After mixing up 3 buckets of dye and rolling our shirts into spirals, we were off and ready to go. Once all the shirts we brought were dyed, we were looking around for more things we could twist and tie. The Moads almost ended up with tie-dye curtains in the kitchen, but we restrained ourselves. After the tie dying had died down, we made some pancakes and spent the rest of the afternoon playing Wii. It was a great way to spend a lazy Tuesday off of school.

Three of our tie-dying apprentices.

The finished product.


Last weekend, I was privileged to attend a camp on the Gold Coast of Queensland. (I know, right? I could make a career out of going to church camps all over Australia). Five of us Gosfordians set out from the Central Coast Friday morning at 8 am. After over 700 kms, two trips to Maccas, one drunk man insulting customers in the Subway line, and 9 hours of driving, we finally arrived at the camp. It was such an amazing weekend, and I was able to catch up with many people I hadn’t seen since attending Camp Gidawarra in Queensland after Christmas. Also at the camp were two campaign groups—one from Harding and one from Lipscomb. Ironically, I met a second cousin of the Watson-Hawley family from Harding, and played spades with her. I felt like I was back in Mexico! I also saw the Gentry family from none other than good ole Arlington, Texas. Todd Gentry used to be one of the main organizers of Arlington Work Camp, which I attended for 6 years and led one year while in college. I couldn’t believe it as soon as I saw Todd, his wife Debbie, and Tyler. Though we never knew each other well , we all recognized each other and had friends in common. The weekend retreat was filled with great teaching from Peter Randall and awesome singing. Many of the songs I hadn’t sung since I had been here in Australia. I was asked to lead one of the small groups, which met 4 times throughout the weekend. We had a great group of teen and young adult girls who had lots of great insights and discussions into having a real relationship with God. One of my favourite things about the weekend was the gorgeous weather! It was so warm in Queensland that we were able to wear flip flops and go to the beach on the Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t warm enough to swim, but we still enjoyed soaking up the sun and watch the people play ultimate Frisbee. We finally headed back South on Sunday after worship. We left about noon and didn’t arrive back until about 11:30 pm. Though it was a quick trip and lots of driving, I was so blessed by this weekend.
The Gosford crew hanging out at the beach: Anne, Tim, Cam, Me, and Amber.

My lifesaver and co-pilot on the long drive home.

Amber and Peter being Amber and Peter.

We saw a double rainbow while we were driving to Queensland on Friday. We were in the middle of nowhere and could see both ends of it! So beautiful.