How do you measure the life of an Australian YAGM in 8 months? A hymn that has really spoken to my YAGM year is “My Life Flows on an Endless Song” by Robert Lowry. This classic hymn speaks to sorrow and anguish in this world and the joyous new life found in Christ alone. For those of you who are not aquatinted with this hymn, stay tune, you will soon.
I can visualize a picture hanging in my dad’s office of a tornado not far from our family farm that is captioned with the lyrics from Lowry’s song. That image has always stuck in my mind and in the midst of my YAGM year, I’ve found it alive and evident in all I do.
A little bit of history on this hymn, Robert Lowry wrote these lyrics in the midst of the American Civil War. A hymn of true hope, in the center of so much unvertainty. My own community in Ausralia has had its own unrest. A devastating fire filled drought and Cyclone Debbie (the term cyclone in Australia, means hurricane in the USA). Greater than the brokenness, joy rings on like an endless song. Read on to the beautiful lyrics of Robert Lowry, accompanied by a YAGM life in Australia.
“My life flows on in endless song;”
When I first moved to the Sunshine Coast, I lived with a family that is near and dear to my heart. Every now and again I am blessed enough to meet up with them. One day, it was an effortlessly joyous day at the park. We laughed and played until the sun came down. We swung to new heights and saw brighter sunsets than most. Below you can meet the small but mighty Pearl. When her mom told her I’d be moving back to the USA in a few months she quickly replied “But then we will pray for her.” My life is occupied by children, a true endless song that I would not have any other way.
“above earth’s lamentation,”
I was working a bush dance one night, where I get to teach classic Australian folk dances to children. That night, I saw a little girl crying off to the side. I discovered two days ago she found out her dad was diagnosed with cancer. She told me the realization hit in waves, after we talked awhile, we went inside and danced the night away. I cannot make the cancer go away but I am blessed with the opportunity to ease those waves a bit, even if it is as simple as a prayer and dance.
“I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.”
On Palm Sunday, I woke up longing to hear the hymn “All Glory Laud and Honor” with the adorable children waltzing around the church with their palm branches. Just one sliver of home in a church that is quite different to my own. Unfortunately, my regular service at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Maroochydoore did not have my tune or wandering children. That Sunday though, the Lee family, whom often give me a ride to church were volunteering at the Nursing Home’s church service. In the midst of ten Australian senior citizens, two cats and an out of tune piano we sang “All Glory Laud and Honor.” Not at all what I imagined and exactly the humbling, blessed memory I needed.
“No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging.”
If you’ve read my past newsletters, you know the state of Queensland has suffered a devistating drought. Followed in the month of March to a destructive cyclone and flooding. My former camper Anna and her family in Central Queensland never let this ever-changing weather get the best of them. Their mother Katy was telling me how the girls rode horse through the flooded water, with smiles on their faces. From fire, drought and a storm that flooded the mountains, they smiled on.
“Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?”
Cyclone Debbie found my community in a time of clean up and humor. Read the words eloquently written by my dear friend Jess about the cyclone’s effect on Luther Heights. This picture of a shark washed up from the cyclone is what I think of when I picture Queensland. Even in a time of destruction, they find a way to have humor, while looking out for others safety. #Reallifesharknado
“Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing.”
On Ash Wednesday, I was working all day at camp which meant I wasn’t able to attend a church service. I was on a night shift with my dear friend Jenna and before we began our session she pulled me outside and made the sign of the cross on my forehead from the dirt on the ground. “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” that grainy feeling of Luther Heights gravel still feels present on my skin. It is always in the unexpected that God meets us.
“It finds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?”
I went on a road trip to the state of Victoria with my dear friend and fellow Luther Heights team member, Jess. We saw many breathtaking sights and communities, one of which being Craig’s Hut from the Man from Snowy River. Banjo Paterson wrote this poem of the Australian High Country in the 1880s. Paterson’s words were inspired by the young country and the need for uniting amongst the nation. He felt the country needed a hero to uplift and inspire its citizens. This gave birth to the man from snowy river, an Australian legend. When I was a child my sister Kirsten and I would watch the movie, riding old saddles in the dusty garage. Dreaming of the day we might get our own horse. An Australian legend and a childhood dream, merging into one. An echo of hope for a new born country and young child.
“What though my joys and comforts die?
I know my Savior liveth.”
One night a coworker sent me a picture of my camper asking if that was my foot on the top. Not quite sure how she recognized my foot, I replied yes and she sent me the news release about how she had been kidnapped upon her return to school. In Lily’s nine short years of life, this was her second time being kidnapped. With a family past of drug addiction, she had been in and out of foster homes most of her life. This little girl who mere hours earlier was helping her team across the swing bridge, was forced into a past nobody should have to encounter. I am blessed to work with numerous youth, each one carrying such unique stories. You never know what weight these youth carry when they come to camp but I am blessed to have the opportunity to show them love and hope. Lily was safely found but her journey does not stop there. There is many days I just look out and wonder what Lily might be doing. Is she safe? Does she feel loved? My Savior liveth, is what I know and that gives me hope that my prayers for Lily are heard.
“What though the darkness gather round? Songs in the night he giveth. The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart a fountain ever springing!”
My mother left the United States for the first time in her life, to visit me in Australia. It was a week that flew by but it meant so much to share this community with my mom. It was incredibly peaceful to spend some precious time with my mom. To walk along the beach, pet koalas, worship together and simply be with each other. God has blessed me with a family that means the world to me. A love that spews like a foundation.
“All things are mine since I am his!
How can I keep from singing?”
I led a devotion at the Australian YAGM retreat in Alice Springs where through my stumbled words, I remembered the loss of a dear family member. I ended the devotion with our group singing this hymn. A tune that has been with me through it all in Australia. Through the unexpected and the joy. This is a glimpse into my life and my community in Queensland. We’re not perfect, we make mistakes but we are always growing and continually blessed.
Thanks be to God.