Archive | November, 2014

Able…having the power, skill, means, or opportunity to do something…

18 Nov

There are some times in life where you are able to stop and see how despite what can appear to be negative circumstances, good can come. Here’s another of those stories, I hope that it encourages you, just as it encouraged me!

I have just returned from a trip to Adelaide. I had rescheduled my Critical Care Education course in Brisbane in May to attend one in Adelaide in November (as I was a patient in hospital at the time I was due to do the Brisbane course). The course was on High Acuity Nursing and I learned a great deal. The break times gave opportunity for networking (something that I am terribly poor at – I’m just way too introverted!). While eating my lunch on the first day, I was joined by a lovely woman named Alana. It was an enjoyable lunch break, chatting about life and nursing and where our careers have taken us to date. It was a nice interlude to a big day of learning.

On the second day I sat at a table at lunch, unknowingly joining Alana again (there was a plate of food at the table I joined but no person – Alana had stepped away to get a drink). We discussed our respective evenings when Alana identified hers had been particularly stressful. She started telling me about a trip she had arranged to PNG – a trip arranged a short notice, but one which was coming together so smoothly that it had amazed her. But the night before she encountered a problem she had not anticipated – the immigration laws have changed since her previous visits and you can no longer get a visa on arrival in Port Moresby. She could get a visa in two places Brisbane and Canberra – and she had just three working days before she was due to fly out (one of which was a special public holiday in Brisbane for the G20). She told me how this had been a source of stress for her, trying to organise a courier to get her passport to Brisbane by Monday and then trying to work out how to get it back approved before her flight first thing on Wednesday morning. She laid out her concerns and the impossibility of them and she identified that this futility, heartache and stress had brought her to her knees in prayer the night before.

It was then that I had a perfectly clear thought – I was flying back to Brisbane and I had Monday off work. I couldn’t see any reason why I couldn’t drop off her passport at the embassy for her. I voiced this. Alana had a look of disbelief as she thought about that option. I acknowledged that it wasn’t a decision she could really take lightly – handing a passport over to someone you met only one day prior… However, the more we looked at our schedules the more this seemed to be a divine coordination – not only did I have the Mon off but I was working a late shift on the Wednesday – and would therefore be able to meet Alana at the airport as she transits through, to return her passport. As I opened my phone wallet to exchange contact details, Alana was drawn to the small card I carry with me which says simply this:

“GOD IS ABLE through his MIGHTY POWER to work within us, to accomplish infinitely MORE than we might ask or think”. Ephesians 3:20

It seemed like the answer to our question. So Alana finished her lunch quickly and raced off to complete all the necessary documentation, ready to give it all to me at the conclusion of our day’s training. As I left the training course on Friday afternoon with a head full of extremely valuable training, it was also with precious cargo – Alana’s passport and visa paperwork (and some Haigh’s chocolates – she sure knows a way to a SA travellers heart!). As I left for the airport in Adelaide on Sunday night I’m sure I checked at least 6 times that I had Alana’s passport safely in my handbag.

Monday morning dawned and it was time to head in to the city for the PNG consulate. As I sat on the train I opened my bible app – yesterday’s verse of the day jumped off the screen. It was none other than Eph 3:20-21 – Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen. The same verse that had been a great reminder on Friday was back again on Monday. With renewed confidence I headed into the consulate.

I was ready when the consulate opened, but was still the third in line. The person ahead of me in the queue had arrived in Brisbane that morning with an onward ticket to PNG but had just been informed that visa on arrival was no longer available and had been sent into the city to secure his visa. He was promptly told to cancel his ticket, the best they could do would be get his visa processed in one week. He begged them to reconsider, and changed his scheduled flight until the following day, but still they advised him to cancel – there was no way his visa would be ready in that timeframe. Suddenly this didn’t look good. If they were not prepared to make an exception for someone with an onward ticket today how would I go 48 hours before Alana’s flight? Still, confident in the way things had panned out to date I approached the counter as my number was called. As the staff member looked over all the documents she noted all were present and complete. She read Alana’s cover letter… twice – seemingly open to her plight but with a shake of her head she said that the best she could do would be have the application ready for 26th November (in 9 days time!). I pleaded with her but she was adamant. I turned away from the desk. A quick call to Alana and we both decided that this couldn’t be the end. We decided I’d have another go and decided that Alana should try calling someone working on the inside to see if together we could get it over the line. Approach number two arose and I got a little further than the first time – I got to a second person who was still fairly non-committal but took the application and said she would see but had “no guarantee”. I left my contact number and walked out the door. I admit that I left feeling a little deflated. I had honestly felt that the circumstances had so well lined up that a miracle would occur and the visa would be approved while I waited. I called Alana and let her know we were one step closer – they had the application now, but I was no longer confident. We agreed that getting in touch with someone on the inside would be our only option and Alana was obviously keen to try. I sent a message off to my family and ever faithful prayer warriors, and was promptly reminded that we had gone from “no” to “no guarantee” – God wasn’t finished with this yet! (I’m thankful for the encouragement my family continue to provide when my faith takes a dip!)

At 1130, after a couple of hours of trying, I received a call from Alana – she had been able to speak to staff on the inside, including the person who would be required to approve the visa. Apologising profusely while talking to this staff member about her plans Alana was able to gain a commitment from her that she would process the visa and have it ready for her flight on Wednesday!!! Just one hour later, and 3 hours after my arrival at the consulate, I received a call from them – they would have Alana’s passport and visa ready for me to collect on Tuesday from 0930. I called Alana immediately. While both of us would have been far more comfortable with the passport in my hand on the same day, we had a renewed sense of hope – things again looked promising!

Tuesday morning dawned. I decided that again I would be on the consulates doorstep when the visa office opened at 0930 just in case I needed extra time as I had a shift at work in the afternoon (oh me of little faith). As my number was called I approached the desk. The look on the staff members face was quite clearly that of – “oh no, not you again” but politely she asked how she could help. I informed her that I had been called and I was here to collect Alana’s passport. Her look soon changed to disbelief. As she opened the drawer she discovered Alana’s passport, with visa firmly inside. I signed for its receipt, thanked her enthusiastically and walked out the consulate quickly – just in case they changed their mind! I promptly sent a message to Alana informing her that I had it, and was therefore one day closer to her having it. I held the passport in my hand the entire trip home (thankfully by train so I had a hand free) – I was almost too scared to put it down.

So tomorrow, I meet Alana at the airport, return her passport to her and wish her well in life. Our lives have crossed for a period of less than a week, but I’ve no doubt at all it was meant to happen that way. Maybe one day we’ll see each other again. Maybe not. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds our futures.

So just like that, God has proved again that he is able. In circumstances that seemed impossible, he made a way. He has used this experience to remind me afresh that nothing is impossible, that he can use any circumstances if he desires, and can coordinate the most amazing chain of events to enable that to happen. I so often wish that I had unwavering faith, but I’m thankful that God continually shows up and reminds me of his ability when I do doubt.

This is just some of what was orchestrated by God from my side to achieve this (not ignoring the things he put in place from Alana’s perspective):

  • I was sick in May and had to change my course attendance with Critical Care Education selecting one in Adelaide
  • I can tell you the name of only two people in the two day course – amongst 60 participants God saw fit for Alana and I to meet and sit together at lunch – twice!
  • My shifts at work slotted in perfectly around three trips – Monday and Tuesday to the consulate and Wednesday to the airport
  • Favour with the consulate staff to consider the circumstances and approve the visa

At the time of my illness in May, I wrote this on my blog: But the only thing I can think of is – Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives”. Again, I feel that is the case. I have no idea where this trip will take Alana, but I pray that God will continue to use her as she works and wherever she nurses in the future I am confident that her skills will be used to save lives.

I see fit to end with the verse we were so regularly reminded of throughout this process:

Eph 3:20-21 – Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen.

godisable


No stopping him now!

8 Nov

Well a month ago you saw that I was pretty proud of my brother Peter, awarded SA Manager of the Year by the Australian Institute of Management. Yesterday he met and was interviewed by more judges who sought to find out more about him. Last night, at the national awards night in Brisbane Peter further excelled and was awarded the National Manager of the Year. That’s quite an accomplishment and we’re all proud of him.

SA Manager of the Year - Peter George

SA Manager of the Year – Peter George

Firstly, let me take credit in assisting him in securing the initial position with Employers Mutual. Back when he first started I was working in recruitment and helped put together his job application, without me, he wouldn’t be where he is today… ha ha… end of shameless self plug….

On a serious note however, while I’ve not seen Peter in his work environment, I’m sure he applies the same level of dedication he exhibits in all other aspects of life.  The Australian Institute of Management state Peter has helped “realign Employers Mutual Limited from a precarious position into a profitable organisation” – and this shows his extraordinary impact on his organisation’s financial success through his forward thinking strategies.

But beyond the boardroom and organisation he’s still “just” my little brother. He’s a husband, a father, a family member and a friend to many. An ordinary human who can do extraordinary things when he puts his mind to it and is surrounded and supported by a wonderful team of people.

Combined with my other siblings (and their partners), my parents, and my extended family I’m grateful to be part of a wonderful family of unique individuals, all with a variety of strengths (and weaknesses).  I’m thankful for each and every new day, and thankful for every day we share (from various parts of the country). After all, no-one knows what the future will hold, but we do know that our futures are held securely in the hands of a God who created us, and loved us enough to offer a free gift with no strings attached – forgiveness and salvation.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a brunch appointment… with the National Manager of the Year, his gorgeous wife, and my wonderful husband….

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National Manager of the Year – Peter George with stunning wife Mandy

 

Noosa Triathlon Recap

3 Nov

Well the countdown clock has ticked over and the Noosa Triathlon has been and has gone. So it’s that time – time to reflect on the event as I sit here, on my couch, with my feet in the foot spa…

It started a few months ago when I was looking for a new challenge – something to keep my fitness up. Emma suggested that there were a few positions left in the Smiling for Smiddy Noosa Triathlon team and that I should do it with her… in a moment of weakness I agreed. Fast forward a few months and here I am – having completed my first Noosa Triathlon. This is more than likely going to be one of those really long winded posts (in my defence it was a long race…) so if you make it to the end, I congratulate you!

transition

Noosa Transition Area… just one or two (thousand) bikes

Saturday morning dawned, and I was up before the dawn… another restless night as I tried to fight off a cold that had suddenly decided to make itself known – I was not getting sick – I had a triathlon to do! Cold and flu tablets consumed and packed I set off to collect Dave who was returning from his international trip- destination – Noosa. As a member of the Smiling for Smiddy team we had the benefit of a transition tour and then a team briefing and Q&A with Mark Smooth (Sharky) – founder of Smiling for Smiddy, and Noosa Veteran and Mark Turner (both qualified triathlon coaches). These sessions were extremely valuable and the tips offered helped settle my nerves and gave me a few things to consider on race day. Then it was a team lunch and time to check-in. Following that it was time to rack the bike – all bikes had to be in transition on the Saturday. Dave brought my bike back into town (after checking in to our motel and having a short nap – had just got off an overnight international flight after all…) and I found a spot for it on the Smiddy rack. Everyone had told me when I racked my bike I must let the air out my tyres to prevent them bursting. I was anxious about doing this, but as I racked my bike in transition I was surrounded by the sound of bike tyres being deflated – well if everyone thinks it is a good idea I’d be stupid to not follow their advice. So, the bike was racked, I was registered all I had to do was get a good night’s sleep…

mytransition

My transition set up

Race morning – although the alarm was set for 0400hrs there was no need for it – I had been awake on the hour every hour overnight. We still hadn’t really decided how we were going to get to the start line. So in the morning we decided to just walk to the start line (there was a shuttle bus about 1km up the road but I was anxious about queues there etc so we decided it would be easier to just walk…) So I had a museli bar, an electrolyte drink, picked up the remaining half a bottle of water, took two more cold and flu tablets and set out – it was only 3.5km to the start line. We arrived; I set up my transition, pumped up my tyres and headed for the exit. This was the first time I started to get pretty anxious. They were trying to get about 4500 of us out the run exit – an exit that hits single file…. After queuing for 30 minutes and still getting nowhere I was starting to wonder if I’d make my start line! The organisers finally seemed to find some sense and opened up about another 4 exits around the transition area to let people out – by this stage I was stuck in the queue I was in. It was now 6:05 and I had to be at my race start in 10 minutes… thankfully pre-race nerves didn’t require a toilet break, and I had heeded Dave’s advice to put the sunscreen on when we were still at the motel. I quickly managed to get my remaining gear to the Smiddy tent, briefly see Dave (for the required pre-race photo of course) then it was time to head to the swim start. I guess it meant that there was no standing around getting nervous…So it is here where my race begins!

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My very first tattoo!

The swim – 1.5km. Our start time was 6.36am. It was a deep water start. That meant we had to be in the water, treading water awaiting our start, not going from the beach. I wasn’t too sure about this concept but in the end I was thankful for it. A deep water start meant I was required to warm up – just being in the water, moving my arms and my legs, helped get my nerves under control and get ready for the swim. I’m now in favour of deep water starts. I felt comfortable from the word go (highly unusual for me in the swim leg). I found my rhythm immediately, and by starting at the back of the pack on the left, I was able to have clear water around me and not get caught in the washing machine. I am more than happy to lose a little time to have a stress free swim. About 1/3rd of the way through the swim I found myself next to another Smiddy competitor. She was doing consistent breaststroke. I decided then and there I’d stick with her. Our pace was the same (her breaststroke to my freestyle – just shows I’m a slow and steady kind of a person) and I decided this would work really well for me – she became my eyes. I knew if she was doing breaststroke she was paying attention to where she was going and if I stayed just off her hip I’d essentially be able to keep plugging away at my freestyle and she’d guide me through the route. So – Smiddy competitor who did breaststroke the whole way, I have no idea who you were, but thank you! I made it through the swim leg hardly being hit, and feeling pretty good. I had managed to control my breathing during the swim and steady my stroke and I was happy. My biggest gripe was that my tri suit was rubbing on my neck as with every right arm stroke – and yep, it has nearly rubbed it raw… But, as I came out of the swim leg I felt good. A look at my watch told me about 37 minutes – I was happy with that. Certainly not my best time, but I was feeling good and everyone had said don’t go too hard in the swim as you need to save yourself some legs for the rest of the race… so from the swim it was through transition to head to the bike. Transition for 4000 competitors is quite large – so it was about 300m from the swim to get my bike and be on my way.

The bike – 40km… As I came out onto the bike course I passed the Smiddy supporters tent – being in Smiddy gear sure meant lots of support. This was far from the last time I’d see it in action. As I heard all the “Go Smiddy” cheering I fist pumped the air to let them know I heard and kept on going. At this point I had only one thing in mind – the Noosa Hill. At the 10km is about a 3km hill – just a slow and steady incline. I also had in my head words of wisdom from the team briefing the day before where one of the veterans said he had given too much in the start of the ride one year that he couldn’t make it up the hill – so I decided to try and ensure I still had my legs by the hill – I backed off my gears and tried to keep my cadence up – I thought if I could keep my legs moving but not push them then I’d have enough power in them for the hill. I was right. As I approached the hill I had a bit of confidence – I’d been up it twice before and knew that if I just kept pedalling I’d get there and that is what I did. From there I pushed myself a bit harder as I knew that was the hardest part of the bike leg. I was pleased to see the half way turn around and headed back towards Noosa. Next challenge was the Noosa Hill only this time in reverse. The path is slightly different and the downhill is a steep 10% gradient. I hit a top speed of 66.5km/hr – well and truly fast enough for me (they say there is an ambulance and haystacks at the bottom for a reason…. I wasn’t going to be testing out either resource). Ensuring I continued to take in fluids I kept cycling home. As I unstrapped my shoes on the bike I wobbled slightly to the right – oops almost got in the way of another cyclist… I was still feeling pretty good, and I was amazed that I had reached the end of the swim and the cycle in about 2 hours 20 minutes. It was now I started to realise that my goal of going under 4 hours should be possible! I racked my bike, stopped to finish my bottle of water, put on my socks, shoes, hat and running belt and set off – another 300m in transition before you actually hit the run leg.

The run – 10km…well that was just hard work. Again, past the Smiddy cheer squad it was a bit easier to keep going. The advice the day earlier had been “whatever you do, when you are going past the Smiddy tent look your best…you can triruncollapse just around the corner…” and that is almost what I did! My first km was a good one, but I was starting to mentally and physically fatigue. The weather had been perfect – wasn’t too hot, and there was cloud cover to keep the bite of the sun away. But by now it was starting to get humid, and I was starting to hurt. I took on more water at the first station and kept going. Soon my resolve started to crack and I resorted to walking, but then I’d pick myself up again, run for a bit, and then soon the cycle would continue. At the water stations the advice had also been to throw some water over your head to keep cool. This was a great theory but it was to start to be my undoing. In other triathlons I would have been almost dry for the run leg – now I was running in wet lycra and it started to rub – it was getting pretty uncomfortable. At about the 4km mark I was joined by a fellow Smiddy member. She looked at my race number and said “Hi Jennifer, my name is Pam” (thankful for names on our race numbers!!). She said, you know what, we can do this – I’m going to run slowly with you. She was absolutely lovely. We ran together for a bit – she chatted away (I was concentrating on breathing!!) and she was a great encouragement. She even dashed ahead at a water station to grab me some water to keep me going! At close to the 5km mark when I didn’t think I could run another step I assured her I would be okay and I would keep going – when she was confident I was telling the truth she continued on with her run. She was such an encouragement to me and I appreciated it! Finally I had reached the 5km on the run and I was on the home stretch. It was here I saw two guys that I knew were competing (and who I had assured various others I would get out of their way as they passed me… it came to fruition!). Tim French (2:13) – so focused he didn’t hear me cheer for him (or if he did he didn’t respond), and Matt Rixon (2:14). Both brilliant triathletes who were competing in the same category, finishing within a minute of each other – and their sub 2:15 times were amazing. I appreciated Matt’s encouragement as he passed me on his final leg home. I found it so hard coming to the end of the triathlon. Part of me knew how close I was to finishing but I just couldn’t get my body to cooperate and keep running. It was getting hot and the cool relief from people on their front yards with hoses was tempered by the knowledge that each soaking would increase the rub factor of my trisuit, increase the weight of my sneakers (my socks and shoes were waterlogged) and increase my blister problem. I kept telling myself that I could finish the run from here, the distance was achievable (and compared it to routes around my home) but again couldn’t get my body to respond. In the last 1km people line the course and I hate walking when people are around… still the last 1km was really tough! I couldn’t wait for the finish line! With only about 500m to go I saw Dave and heard him cheer me on. From there the Smiddy supporters tent – high fives the whole way along the tent distracted me for that 50m (the benefit of being one of the last to arrive is the cheer squad by then is massive!) – then you can hear the announcer call your name… woo hoo! Relief! The finish line!! Official time: 3 hours 36 minutes. At the finish line there are cold showers to walk under, first aid if required then more fluids and watermelon. I found Dave and told him he really shouldn’t hug me as I was soaked! I congratulated other Smiddy competitors and kept moving almost afraid to stop in case I couldn’t start again.

Then before I knew it, it was time to collect my bike and find a shower and some rest. Dave’s offer to bring the car to collect me was wonderful until we realised that the road was blocked and he couldn’t get the car out, so we decided just to walk the 3.5km home again… Now I was well and truly spent and the shower was oh so inviting! So there you have it – my first Olympic Distance Triathlon is complete! As part of the Smiling for Smiddy team we were able to raise in excess of $150,000 for cancer research – it was wonderful to be part of the crew and meant that not only was I completing this triathlon for me, but I was doing it to benefit others as well. Thank you so much to all those who sponsored me to ensure I was able to participate in this event.

To all those who have supported me, encouraged me and kept me going through training, physio (thanks James – Optima Sports Medicine) and various problems like ear infections and colds… Thank you! Especially Dave – he puts up with a lot and I’m grateful for his support and encouragement. For those interested in splits and things, please see the photo with all that information. I was really quite happy with my swim and my ride and a little disappointed with my run. But having said that, I finished and that alone makes it a PB!

jenfinished

FINISHED!

jenem

A picture with Emma – the one who got me into this! Congratulations Emma on a 3:25 race – amazing effort!

NoosaResultssplits

All my information

noonesupporter

My number one supporter!