Portrait of Jessica Shipton smiling at Cattai National Park

How Believing in Santa Reminded Me to Have Unashamed Faith

I remember growing up believing – both unashamed and without a doubt – that a big, fat man wearing a red suit with a white beard was going to park his sleigh and reindeers and give me presents each year. (Who am I kidding, I remember being in high school and still believing this).

My sister and I were the only children on the school bus that unashamedly believed in Santa. We would spark weekly debates on the bus trips home with other kids our age, and sometimes even younger, that Santa was real. They were adamant that he wasn’t, but we weren’t going to let them tell us otherwise.

“He’s real! Just trust us!” we’d confidently say.

“No, he’s not! Have you ever seen him?” the chorus of children would aggressively sing back to us.

“Well, no. But just believe us!” we’d fight back.

Our parents went the full hog when it came to Christmas time. We had a Santa Claus beard in our dress-up box that they pulled bits of white hair out of and stuck in the door, as though he’d gotten it caught when dropping off our presents.

They shovelled horse poo into a pile, next to the white, spray painted ‘sleigh marks’ to indicate that the reindeers had left us some presents too. The cookies and milk left out for Santa were gone and there were remnants of the carrots we left for the reindeers outside.

The brief questionnaire that inquisitive and curious little Jess made for Santa each year was filled out with messy writing (obviously, because he was in a rush delivering presents to all the good children).  See, I wasn’t lying when I said ‘full hog’. Don’t even get me started on the Easter bunny.

Admittedly, they went above and beyond, and personally, I think they had way too much fun doing it all. They actually did so well with it all that they ended up having to convince us that Santa wasn’t real, instead of us asking them about it, which I assume is what most kids do.

Some people might be reading this wondering why parents would bother going to so much effort. Heck, with children knowing that Santa isn’t real as young as six-years-old these days, or never believing at all, people may even say that it is cruel to be “lying” to your children.

But why? The magic, awe, and wonderment that revolved around Santa is something that I will always remember and I hope that my children can grow up experiencing it, too. Maybe not until they’re 12 though…

Sure, it’s a bit deflating finding out that it is, in fact, your parents putting something under the tree each year. (Found this out last week; still getting over it). But to this day, Mum and Dad still label our Christmas presents from ‘Santa’ and it reminds me to be unashamed and unapologetic about my faith in the One I cannot see. The ‘One’ being God.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” – Hebrews 11:1 (NIV).

I’m going to get real with you for a second. It’s hard to believe in something that isn’t standing right in front of your face. Having faith isn’t easy. It can actually be the hardest part about having a relationship with God.

But on a bus full of people shouting and telling me that God wasn’t real, would I sit there in silence, allowing them to convince me that my faith is based on a lie? Or would I unashamedly speak out and stand up for what (and Who) I believe in?

Would I remain quiet, or would I confidently share how my faith has shaped my life? Would I cave into words of the world, or would I show them the Word?

There is so much awe and wonder in the small things that my Creator shows me in nature, as a promise of His love for me. Why would I want to keep that to myself?

I encourage you to intentionally choose to have unashamed faith. Your love for Jesus should not be something you are scared about sharing. It shouldn’t be something that you are embarrassed about. Be confident in Him and unapologetic about how much you love Him, and how much He loves you.

Don’t cave into what the world wants you to believe. Don’t listen to the voices telling you otherwise. Trust me, there will always be those voices. Instead, be proud of your faith.

I don’t know whether you ever believed in Santa, the Easter bunny or the tooth fairy, but I want to encourage you to stand firm in your belief.

You may not be able to physically see the One you believe in, but I pray that your faith in God mirrors how I believed in Santa growing up: unashamed, unapologetic, unhidden and made manifest among others.

Keep smiling. x

Dear Mum, There’s Something I Haven’t Told You…

Words are important. For me, individual words that stand alone beg to be carefully strung together to create something powerful and meaningful.

In honour of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share something special that I have asked a few people to help me with. Often, we talk too much, but sometimes, we talk too little. This post is all about the latter.

When we say things too often, they tend to lose meaning. But in the same breath, if we fail to say things enough, we tend to take it for granted. We need to remind those who are close to us how valued they are; how cherished, special and loved they are.

So that is what this blog post is about. Here are some words that my beautiful friends have strung together in an attempt to show their mums just how much they mean to them.

Dear mum, there’s something I haven’t told you recently…

// jessie schilling

she listens to the buried stories,
drawing gems from this trove within

she sees the inconsistencies,
speaking truth with love and clarity

she nurtures in her hospitality,
extending care through the culinary

she prays protection over me,
this life i lead away from family

she shares what i write,
but she reads between what i say

she speaks into my life,
crying when i ache

she disciplines with love,
encouraging me to grow

and i don’t know how
she let me go

i don’t know how
to love her so

Mum and Daughter

// kim parmenter

Dear Mum, there is something I haven’t told you recently…

I just want to thank you for giving me the best gift I’ll ever receive. You taught me about Jesus and helped me find my own relationship with God. Your love and trust in God inspires me and has made me the person I am today and I’ll forever be grateful. Happy Mother’s Day!

Mum and Daughter

// aimee shipton

Dear Mum, I’m going to warn you now, you may want to get some tissues because knowing you, you will cry. There is something I haven’t told you recently…

You are such a strong (apart from the fact you’re probably already crying), selfless, kind and sometimes, sort-of-funny woman. I love you more than words can describe.

You always put others before yourself and that is such a rare quality to find. You put up with Jess, Dad and I, and honestly, some days I don’t know how you do it; they can be annoying.

You deserve an award, but that is not enough to thank you and commend you for all you do for others, even if they don’t realise it. You are the best human, Mum. I love you to the moon and back.

Mum sitting at cafe

// Karina Merkel

Dear Mum, there is something I haven’t told you recently…

You are the most selfless person I know. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without your care, influence and support.

One of the best things you have ever done for me is to never hold me back – enabling me to become my own person and learn from my own mistakes.

You have, however, always been there to offer me guidance when needed and I can never thank you enough for this.

I am very appreciative of all your hard work and the sacrifices you have made to allow me to be able to travel and pursue my dreams, with the comfort of having a home to come back to.

I can never doubt the love you have for me and our family. I hope you always know that the love I have for you is never ending and I would hate to imagine a world without you in it.

Mum and Daughter

// Bryson Partridge

Dear Mum, when I was asked to write something I haven’t told you recently, I was actually a bit upset with the list of things that came to mind straight away.

So I guess the biggest one is thank you. But not the ‘thank you’ as in “thank you for dinner” or “thank you for doing my washing” – I mean the thank you for being you.

Thank you for loving me the way you do. Thank you for listening. Thank you for doing things for me, knowing full well that you probably won’t ever receive any recognition for it, not just once, but hundreds of times.

For all these things, plus all the things you have done in secret, thank you! I hope you have a fantastic Mother’s Day.

Lots of love,

Black and white image of mum sitting in church

// Connor Phipps

Dear Mum, there is something I haven’t told you recently…

I still need you now as much as I did when I was little. I try to do everything on my own; sometimes I’m not even sure why, but I do.

Yet even though I act that way, I still see myself as the young kid that couldn’t sleep until his mum was home. I don’t know if I’ll ever get better at accepting help or acting like I appreciate it, but I just want you to know, I definitely do.

I wouldn’t be who I am today without you. So whenever you try to help and I suck at just saying I’m wrong and letting you help me, please remember I’m still that dumb little kid you raised and I will always need you – no matter what I say or do.

I love you, Mum, I always will.

Mum and Son

// Angus & Emma McDonald

Dear Mum, there is something we haven’t told you recently…

You’re awesome! When we think about the time in a week, for over twenty-five years you have spent forty hours each week working as a registered nurse. And somehow in that mass amount of time you spend helping others, you have time to fit in catching up and helping your own extended family.

You find the time to take care of us, your twin twenty-year-old babies, and be there when we need you. You even sometimes help us to run our errands and find the time to spend with our dog (who is quite a handful).

Through all of that, you somehow manage to sit down with us and watch My Kitchen Rules for family time. You are the most awesome human, and we have both been blessed abundantly to have you as our mother.

We may be biased, but you are the best mum in the world, and we love you so much.

Mum and Twin children

A very happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful, selfless mums out there. Thank you for always putting us first, even when we don’t deserve it. The special love and care you have for your families do not go unnoticed and we appreciate everything that you do.

Keep smiling. x

Silhouettes of raised hands in Hillsong Church with believers in close proximity.

The Power of Proximity: What an Ed Sheeran Concert Taught Me About Faith

Picture this: your favourite singer has arrived and their concert is the only thing people are talking about. You’ve been waiting for this moment for what seems like forever. To see their face in person and in close proximity. This is literally what dreams are made of.

Of course you have just paid over $300 for a ticket to their concert. Front row seats, duh. None of that ‘up the back’ business. You need to be in their presence. Soaking it all up. Breathing it all in. This is the real deal.

A couple of weeks ago, Ed Sheeran was in town. I had seen him live in concert before, so I didn’t really look into going, but when my friends approached me offering a ticket, there was no way I was going to turn it down. I mean, it’s Ed flipping Sheeran, hello. Sorry, I’m just thinking out loud here 😉 (if you got that, I appreciate you).

Once we arrived and found our seats, we waited for the man himself to come on stage. We were seated a fair way away and I remember looking down at the mosh pit thinking, if I paid $165 for a seat here, I don’t even want to know how much those guys paid.

It probably would have been more than double the cost of my ticket. Crazy hey. It made me realise that there are two types of concert-goers. So let me introduce them to you.

1. nigel nosebleed

You know the type. You’ve probably been the type. Nigel Nosebleeds are the ones who are comfortable with paying the cheapest amount possible to sit in the nosebleed section. Or perhaps they left it til last minute and they scored the only tickets left. But you know what, a concert is just a concert and as long as they are there, they’re happy.

2. francis front seat

Again, you have probably been this type too. And let’s be honest, if you are an avid party- or concert-goer, then it is likely you have only ever experienced this. These are the people who have spent a fortune. They have probably pitched a tent outside the night before to ensure they are the first ones in when the doors open. Their enthusiasm in the mosh pit is next level and they intentionally position themselves to be in close proximity.

Concert tickets can be a lot of money. I mean, seriously, I could buy a small fridge for my room with the amount of money it costs to be in a mosh pit. Let’s be real, I could probably fill the fridge too.

All this effort, just to be up close and personal with someone. To experience it from a different perspective. To intentionally position themselves to be near this person they desire so much. To be in close proximity.

So how come it’s so different when it comes to God? Think about it. Where are you positioning yourself? Would you say you are an enthusiastic Francis or a comfortably satisfied Nigel?

Are you intentionally choosing to place yourself at the feet of Jesus, or are you okay in the nosebleed section? Sometimes we feel comfortable with paying the smallest price for the general admission ticket, because hey, we’ve made it to the concert and that’s still pretty good, right?

It doesn’t sound that bad when we use concerts and celebrities as an example. But it leaves a different kind of taste in your mouth when we start comparing it to our faith, doesn’t it? When we start likening this power of proximity to our relationship with God.

I attended a youth camp last month and the speaker’s message was all about this topic. Here are three of my favourite points from the weekend:

  1. There is someone who is positioning themselves close and clinging to you, because they see something special and something different in you.
  2. This specific generation has been called at this specific time to be the difference in this conversation. God has positioned you to make a move, so why aren’t we moving?
  3. Be willing and open to getting close. There is power in proximity and allowing yourself to be intentional about where you go, who you speak to and what you do.

Boom. There is power in proximity – and not just in our relationship with God, but with our relationships with other people, too.

Perhaps we need to start being more meaningful in our behaviour. We need to make deliberate efforts to draw nearer to Him. Let’s make a conscious attempt to position ourselves in environments where others don’t know Him yet. We need to be a reflection of Jesus, so we can walk with purpose and show others theirs.

So here’s the hard stuff. Stop allowing yourself to fold. Stop feeding off the constant lies that society convinces you that you are hungry for. That you are inadequate, not enough, too broken, too messy and too much to handle. That you need to be a certain way in order for God to want you.

Hold up. I’m going to tell you straight out that He wants to be made manifest in your brokenness. He would rather have you messy, than not at all. Because at the end of the day, you can surround yourself with many opinions but there is only one that truly matters. I heard someone once say that God says, “stop resisting me”, rather than “stop living like that”.

So what is your body language saying? Are you leaning in or are you complacent with where you are? Of course, He is just happy that you have shown up, that you are interested and you have made it. But are you comfortable with sitting in the nosebleed section or are you intentionally seeking ways to position yourself closer to him? Are you in this halfheartedly?

Because sorry to break it to you, but He isn’t a ‘sitting on the fence’ kind of God. When He says He wants you – He wants it all. Every single piece of your heart. He wants you to want to be in the front row seats. None of that ‘up the back’ business. After all, your relationship with God is the real deal, remember?

Keep smiling. x

walking alone on road through forest

The More the Merrier: Why It’s Not the Case When It Comes to Friends.

Something I remember so vividly on my last day of school is that one line your friends would say: “I’m going to miss you so much!” followed by my personal favourite, “we will keep in touch”.  Yeah, we all know how that ends.

Inevitably, life happens and we get busy. Friends drift and you often find yourself spending time with other people. Can I just be super upfront and say what we all might be thinking? Friendships are hard. After school, everything changes. You have to start putting in the effort to make time to see each other.

Something I’ve noticed as I’ve grown up is that I am a full-time people pleaser. Other things I have learnt over the years is that I am extroverted, have a fear of missing out and love being around people. I often hold grudges, but I also give second, third and fourth chances way too easily. I try to convince myself that I don’t care about what other people think, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I too often seek validation from people.

GIF of Phoebe from TV show FRIENDS saying "I'm a really cool person".

When it comes to friendships, I’m the type of person who will make up excuses on your behalf. If you’ve been acting a little distant or perhaps hurt me in the past, I’ll analyse my side of the friendship and blame myself for whatever went wrong — failing to appreciate that it is in fact a two way street.

The last year or so has challenged me to determine who my true friends are and one huge lesson I have learnt is that often, ‘more’ doesn’t always equate to ‘merrier’ when it comes to friends. I’m not saying you won’t be happy if you have lots of friends, I’m saying your priority needs to lie within quality not quantity.

At the end of last year, I prayed really hard about all of my friends. I asked for clarity in determining who was meant to be in my life and reassurance, as well as acceptance for those who were perhaps meant to drift.

You see, I’m not great at losing friends. In fact, I hate it. Whenever I feel a friend becoming distant, nine times out of ten I will hold onto them with both hands, doing all that I can not to lose them. I will put in more effort, rather than realising that relationships of any sort require equal effort to work. In other words: you can’t be the only one doing it all. Perhaps some people have been placed in your life in a particular season for a certain reason.

So long story short: I kept praying. And here’s where the God-things happened. They say good things come in threes and these following three weeks definitely lived up to that saying.

god-thing #1:

A friend from university messaged me and we organised a time to catch up. We had met in our first class and ever since, our friendship had grown stronger. We just clicked; sharing the same passions, clumsiness and cheesy sense of humour.

We had lunch together and talked about our dreams for the year. Driving home that afternoon I realised that this friend had been placed in my life for a reason. I felt so encouraged and completely motivated to kick my goals. She believed in me and I believed in her. A friendship centred on empowerment, rather than competition.

god-thing #2:

I kept praying. A week later I attended a youth camp filled with amazing people and incredible programs. After one of the night programs, one of my closest friends and I were catching up. Despite a crazy nine years of friendship, we have had our fair share of ups and downs. We have experienced distance not only physically, but sometimes emotionally too, due to living so far away.

We spoke for a while about life and before we knew it we had moved away from the crowds, positioning ourselves outside in the middle of the campground. Two plastic chairs with two vulnerable women seated, placing their hearts before God. We prayed for each other. Hard. We took turns speaking words of encouragement and affirmation over one another and with tear-stained cheeks, I can honestly say that it was one of the most powerful things that we have both experienced together.

god-thing #3:

I kept praying. A few days before the youth camp a friend from high-school sent me a text asking how I was. Since leaving school, we have caught up a few times and it’s one of those friendships that pick up right where you left off, no matter how long it’s been since you saw one another last.

After a few lengthy texts back and forth over the course of almost two weeks, we figured it’d be easier to call. Fast forward two hours and we had covered a lot of ground. Turns out we were both experiencing the same period in our lives, trying to filter through our list of acquaintances and work out who was genuinely a friend. We ended up meeting up for lunch a few days later, but the entire time we both realised how grateful we were for people who put in the effort to just show up and be present.

These three separate friends and three separate events showed me that God was not only listening to my prayers, but He had in fact answered them. These friends had been placed in my life for a reason and while each person came from a completely different walk of life, they shared one common purpose in mine: they were my cheerleaders.

And no, I don’t mean they all brought pom poms and started chanting for me when we caught up (although, I’d be totally cool with that too). But they were placed in my life to speak words of encouragement, affirmation and empowerment into both my heart and mind. To truly believe in me. To genuinely care. To be accepting and open. To be authentic and real. To listen. To be a cheerleader.

two friends hugging

I truly believe that God places these people in your life to be a prominent reminder of the way He cares and loves for you. After all, life is all about people. Finding others to journey alongside through it all and experience things with. Having relationships where the effort is mutual and you are both cheering one another on. And you know what? God is continuing to show me who those people are.

Life is not about being alone, but it’s also not about surrounding yourself with so many people you feel lost. There are many people who have lots of friends, and yet they still feel lonely. That’s not what life is about.

We often fail to remember that our timing is not always aligned with God’s timing. This year, trust His plan for you — including the people He is placing in your life and those He is slowly taking out.

Maybe seeking validation from others and striving to please people is actually feeding the emptiness and loneliness that we sometimes experience. Don’t allow yourself to become so dependent on other people for your happiness that your worth diminishes when those people do drift.

Here’s to few friends, but damn good ones.

Keep smiling. x


12 life changing lessons I Learnt in 12 Months

12 Life-Changing Lessons I Learnt in 12 Months.

As the New Year is well and truly underway, I spent the last few days reflecting on the experiences I encountered in 2017. The last twelve months taught me a lot, so here’s a little recap of the life-changing lessons that I have learnt.

1. conversation is crucial to healing.

January taught me that conversations are important – particularly during the healing process. Whether it be through grieving the loss of someone significant, or through accepting some sort of change in your life.

Perhaps it is even forgiving a person who has hurt you in the past and letting go of the grudge you have been holding on to for so long. Acceptance and moving on can be incredibly difficult, but I have learnt that being open and honest with someone allows you to experience vulnerability in a way in which it frees you.

2. your testimony is always worth sharing.

I had the opportunity in February to share my testimony at a youth program, in which I spoke about the impact my sister’s accident had on my life. Life is all about people and we can choose how we interact with those we come in contact with.

It could begin as small talk with a cashier at your go-to coffee shop, or connecting with a lifelong friend on a deeper level. However it may be, if the opportunity presents itself, don’t take it lightly. Your story is so much more powerful than you think and no one can take that away from you.

3. don’t let the white noise distract you from god. 

It was at the Hillsong Colour Conference in March that my eyes were drawn to the row reserved for deaf women. I watched the translator sign the lyrics to the ladies – completely engrossed in the moment and in love with their God. I could hear everything, yet they could hear nothing. It made me wonder whether their disability had been a catalyst for such passionate faith.

Often we get distracted by the artificial ‘white noise’ constantly surrounding us that we lose focus of what it means to love God, or worse, we lose focus of God altogether. As I witnessed them in worship, I prayed that my faith would be a reflection of theirs – complete, unhidden and made manifest among others. In a world full of chaos and distraction, ask yourself: what would my faith look like if I stripped away all of this background noise?

4. travel when you can.

I visited Melbourne for the first time in April and explored the Great Ocean Road. I have learnt that when it comes to travel, you need to find a way to make it work. Whether that means booking the tickets when they’re on sale and letting future Jess worry about it (obviously not speaking from experience) or saving some money by making more of an effort to take lunch to work rather than purchasing it.

Travel teaches you perspective. Regardless of where you go, as you experience different places you realise just how small you are and how big the world really is. You not only discover more about other places, people and their culture, but you learn more about yourself, too. It really is a reality check when you appreciate how vastly different each of our journeys are.

5. consider closed doors as an opportunity for new ones to open.

I was let go from my position as an employee at my local supermarket in May. Rewind a month prior and I was having an interview at a digital marketing agency. Little did I know that while the door to my supermarket gig was quickly closing, another was opening.

Fast forward to now and I have been employed as a social media contractor at my old work place, while also working part time at the digital agency. Often some doors close in order for us to grow, learn and as a result, step outside the confines of our comfort zones to try something new. The answer will always be ‘no’ if you don’t give it a shot, so why miss out on the possiblity of a ‘yes’?

6. friends shouldn’t be convenient.

The usual “how are we already half way through the year?” question hit me hard in June. I realised that three years ago I had been studying for my Year 12 trial exams, which reminded me how different things are now, after school.

Friendships suddenly require effort. Life quickly gets busy and you need to intentionally set time aside to catch up. I hate losing friends and I care too much about people, but sometimes you inevitably drift from others. I have learnt this lesson the hard way – a few times now. Friendships require effort from both sides. Be genuine, be authentic and be intentional with your friends. Don’t choose friends just because they are convenient.

7. stop waiting for a better offer.

Our generation is lacking commitment at a rapidly growing rate, as the ability to change our minds at the drop of a hat (and the fact it is deemed acceptable) is easier than ever thanks to social media. I held my 21st party in July and this, along with other events throughout the year, helped amplify my recognition of this behaviour.

We are invited to a party, but wait to find out who will be there before committing to going. Then the morning of the party, a group of your other friends suggest more appealing plans, so you log on to Facebook and quickly change your RSVP – or better yet, you haven’t responded to the event anyway, ‘just in case something comes up’.

I have done it and chances are, you probably have too. Welcome to the era of FOMO. We constantly choose to wait for a better offer and we have a fear of missing out. Perhaps we need to stop tolerating this excuse for commitment (and frankly, just being polite) and stop taking other people for granted.

8. you don’t need to fear the unknown.

From a simple blood test to see if I was iron deficient, to an ultra sound and more – I found myself consistently fearing the unknown in 2017. August in particular was terrifying, with an appointment for both an endoscopy and colonscopy just days after my 21st birthday. Waiting for test results was worrying. The uncertainty was unsettling and I was caught in this never-ending cycle of ‘what if’ – questioning everything and overthinking the smallest things.

We tend to jump to conclusions very quickly; overlooking the finer details. One of the most important things we overlook is the fact that God knows our before, our now and our after. He sees everything. However, I learnt that our own perspective is limited to the before and now, so don’t fail to remember that the unknown is in fact known to Him.

9. do something that scares you.

September was uncomfortable. It was exciting and brought me a lot of great opportunities, but it was scary and it was uncomfortable. I presented three separate pitches in front of real-world clients and I took the plunge and decided to start my own freelancing business.

We can choose to be comfortable and settle for our current position, or we can choose to not be scared of stepping outside the confines of our comfort zone. By choosing to do something that scares us, we give ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow – and nothing bad has ever come from learning and growing. Maybe we need to do a regular self-check and consider whether we are genuinely happy with our current position or just comfortable.

10. uni group assignments will never not be bad.

If you say otherwise, you either never went to university or you are lying. In October, I graduated university. When it comes to working alongside people, there are always times when personalities clash. For the last three years, I had my fair share of group assignments and no, they weren’t fun.

People can be challenging, but remember to be open-minded. Hear each other out, be understanding and empathetic. Other people will have different views, ideas and beliefs to you, but rather than being close-minded, listen and be challenged. Stand your ground on what you belief, but don’t let pride or stubborness impinge on your ability to be accepting.

11. celebrate the little things, often.

Instagram has allowed me to use my blog as a plaftorm to reach hundreds of people through my writing. It has also given me the opportunity to meet so many inspiring people who share my passion. My platform continued to grow in November, however it is easy to become disheartened when you begin comparing your growing to other people’s milestones – particularly when it comes to chasing your dreams.

Having big goals is not a bad thing, but don’t feel disheartened when you see other people achieving bigger dreams quicker. Let that motivate you, rather than discourage you. Choose to celebrate the little things and don’t feel silly for getting excited about it. Acknowledge how far you have come and allow those moments to be a catalyst for further growing.

12. make time for those who matter.

It’s almost as if once December arrives, so too does everything else. And by ‘everything else’, you know exactly what I mean – the busy shops filled with people who suddenly can’t steer shopping trolleys, the crazy family gatherings each weekend, the hectic holiday planning and the Michael Buble and Mariah Carey albums on repeat.

We get caught up with work and other distractions, that we become busy and priortise the wrong things. I learnt in 2017 to make time for those who matter. Family is important and we often don’t take enough time out to be present in the lives of those who mean the most to us. Make sure you remember to put the right things first.

So here’s to another year of learning. All the best for 2018!

Keep smiling. x

what I learnt from singing with strangers.

Have you ever had one of those weird experiences while driving? You’re driving on the freeway. It’s 100km/hr. There’s this one car cruising at 90, so you decide to overtake. Fast forward a few minutes and the stranger has magically decided to drive the speed limit. Now they’ve overtaken you and within a matter of seconds, you’re tailgating them. Before you know it, it’s this game of leap frog. It’s awkward, hey?

Or my personal favourite – you’re matching speed with another car and awkwardly make eye contact. One of you speeds up, but then suddenly you’re both stopped at the same set of lights.  Yep, can confirm I feel you cringing from here.

GIF of Homer Simpson slowly disappearing into a bush.

Well, I have one to add to my list. One that had never happened before. The other day, I was driving by myself and had stopped at a set of lights. I looked in the rear view mirror at the car behind me to find a young couple absolutely belting out a banger.

Usually, I would smirk a little and exhale slightly at this sort of behaviour, because I know well and truly that it would be something I would do. However, this situation deserved something so much more. Their passion and enthusiasm were somewhat invigorating.

Naturally, I wondered what song they were listening to that required such aggressive dance moves. I began channel surfing, flicking through the frequencies trying to determine the song that, unbeknownst to the pair of strangers, they were performing for me. Eventually, I reached The Edge 96.1 and Dessert by Dawin was playing.

Now, if you know the song – this next part will make more sense. Confident that I had tuned in to the correct backing track to their lip sync battle, I lingered a moment on the station. As I continued watching, eagerly awaiting the chorus – the couple delivered precisely what I had been waiting for. Right on time with the boop bup dippity dup, doopy dip dup” part, they reached their peak performance.

Would you believe me if I said, that this wasn’t even the best part? The lights turned green and I figured that was the last time I was ever going to see the dancing pair. Little did I know that we would stop beside each other at the next set of lights.

As I glanced over at the other lane, I looked over at them both smiling (the boyfriend low-key head banging at this stage). They caught me watching, so I knew this could go two ways: I either pretend like I wasn’t some creepy chick staring at their mini rave party to save embarrassment, or I do the only sane thing any normal person would do – start head banging as well.

Obviously, I immediately chose the latter. I began singing and dancing along and the couple quickly realised that I was listening to the same song. Their smiles grew even larger than I thought possible. Who knew sitting in traffic could actually be fun?

Other than being hilarious, the whole experience of singing with these strangers made me think. Perhaps the kind of attitude that I have and the type of energy that follows, not only impacts me. I have the opportunity to share my gratitude, thoughts and positive energy with those I come in contact with. Likewise, when I’m not feeling overly happy and bubbly or I have had a bad day, others see that negative energy and I am potentially feeding theirs too.

I’m not saying that we should never show that we are anything but happy. Rather, I’m saying, how about we start actively recognising how our attitude can positively or negatively impact not only our perspective but others, too.

The people we choose to be friends with generally share common values and interests. We naturally gravitate toward people who make us feel comfortable. It makes sense. To feel supported, encouraged, loved and happy. Who wouldn’t want to feel all of those things? After all, they do say, “your vibe attracts your tribe”.

They also say that “the grass is always greener where you water it”. But something that I have realised is that people are the same. Fill yourself with negative things and you will wither, but surround yourself with good people and their positivity will be a catalyst for your growth.

So I want to ask you this: if we have the ability to unintentionally make someone’s day, imagine the difference we could make if we all intentionally tried to spread positivity. With everyone actively seeking opportunities to make someone smile, laugh or turn their entire day around – imagine how different the world would be.

Sure, we might not be able to change the world, but you can make a difference in someone’s life which could mean the world to them. And I think that’s pretty damn special. I want to be that kind of world changer. Who’s with me?

Keep smiling. x

spoiler alert: you’re not a big deal.

And here we are, making it all about us. Time and time again, without fail. It’s just so easy. But what if we stopped doing all of that? Because spoiler alert: you’re not a big deal.

For some reason, we have to make sure we leave all the baggage, put on a mask and pretend like we have it all together. We have to dress a certain way, post the best picture out of the hundred we have taken and let everyone know where we’ve been and who we’ve been with. I mean, did you really go to Bondi if you didn’t post a picture of the Bondi Icebergs? #DoItForTheGram.

Real talk though. I do all of these things and more. One thing that I constantly tell myself is: “I don’t care what other people think”. But the funny part is that the one thing I know I tell myself, but don’t really mean is: “I don’t care what other people think”.

Yep, I’m a full-time people pleaser. To see perfectly curated social media feeds. To compare one lifestyle to the next. It’s no longer just a quick filter or photoshop, it’s “lifeshop”. We pick and choose the best parts and conveniently (intentionally) skip all of the heartache, the pain, and the daily struggles.

But why? To achieve what? To be happy, or to appear happy? 

For some reason, we often think we are a big deal (guilty)! But spoiler alert: you’re not. You matter, yes. I’m not trying to tell you that you don’t. But sometimes we need to be reminded that the world doesn’t, in fact, revolve around us.

We can get so big-headed and forget that there are other people struggling too. Other people that also matter. This world is so huge and I often forget how small I really am. It takes a whole lot of perspective, with a sprinkle of humbleness to really grasp it. You are no greater than any other individual. Likewise, your worth is no less. 

So here’s my question. What if?

What if we treated each other as if we were equals? Seeing anyone and everyone we came in contact with as a human. Race, gender, religion, sexuality, personal history, job, income – all of the nitty gritty things aside – human.

What if we acted as silhouettes, stripping away the facade? What if we were raw and authentic? Imagine what the world would be like if we were all genuinely ourselves? We would see each other’s mess and not only accept it, but empathise, because we would know that other people are going through a difficult time, too.

What if we didn’t judge people we had never met, let alone friends, through our screens? What if we stopped using social media as a grading system; as a way to measure up to other people? What if we acknowledged and appreciated each other’s flaws, rather than criticise them?

What if we stripped it all away and uplifted, encouraged and empowered one another? What if we stopped picturing brokenness as a sign of weakness, but rather that of strength and perseverance?

Ha, what if.

Keep smiling. x

from where I’m sitting.

She is sitting in the passenger seat, looking right at me as I perfectly serenade her with the entire second chorus of our favourite song. As I start telling her about my passion for flying and for travel, I can tell she is no longer paying attention.

He is sitting in the driver’s seat and I am listening to him sing each word so confidently, yet so wrong; his fingertips playing an invisible drum set on the steering wheel. Carefully, I watch his jaw clench; cheek pulsing as it tenses. His eyes light up as he talks about his passions for flying and for travel. Sitting there, staring at him, I can’t help but freeze.

She is sitting in the passenger seat and I doubt she has even blinked in the last five minutes I have been talking. It’s obvious that her mind is elsewhere. She has that goofy smile plastered on her face; clearly losing interest in the current conversation. Though I keep talking, because I know it’s not often that I get to say much when I am with her. While she is lost for words, I may as well take my chance.

He is sitting in the driver’s seat and he knows as good as anyone that I am hard to shut up, but for once in my life I am speechless. Frozen, with a goofy smile plastered on my face, I take in every bit of him. His entire face is gleaming and it is the most beautiful thing. He speaks so passionately. His motivation and drive inspire me as I look at him, proud to call him mine.

She is sitting in the passenger seat and I am beginning to seriously wonder if this woman can fall asleep with her eyes open. I start talking more about the places I want to visit with her. Surely this couldn’t bore her, I’m talking about her now! I tell her how this world is so incredibly big, but together, anything is possible.

He is sitting in the driver’s seat, continuing to talk with that sparkle in his eye. He has no idea just how much my heart longs to be his forever.  He looks over at me every once in a while and I can’t help but think, he is everything I never knew I needed. He sees the entire world as something incredibly big that he can conquer and yet if he had asked me what I see my world as, the answer would be him.

I didn’t mention a name, but you thought of someone didn’t you?

Keep smiling. x