Woven- When friends become family..

My interview this morning is with the amazing Annette! She used to baby sit me as a baby and now has become one of my nearest and dearest friends. Her and her family are family to Greg and I- they are amazing examples of following after God’s will and simply loving people! They pastor a thriving church up on the Gold Coast, parent two amazing boys and work full time as Pastor’s and (Annette works) part-time as a teacher. We seriously adore this family!

IMG_1311.jpegOkay, so- a few standard questions to start with, tell me a bit about your family.

I come from a Lebanese background. My parents and siblings migrated over to Australia in 1971, my siblings were very young! Lebanon was pretty war torn at the time so they migrated for a better life. My dad’s sister had some family here, so Australia was the obvious choice.

How many Siblings do you have?

I have four- three sisters and 1 brother. I’m the baby.

Are you Sydney born and raised?

Yep, I am. My siblings are a lot older than me. I had a great childhood but my siblings, because of the age difference, were more parental. I spent a lot of time with older people which is why going to school was so hard when I first started. I didn’t have many friends my age at the time.

You’re married to Jacob.. How old were you when you both met? I was 15 when we started dating, Jacob was 18. We dated for 6.5 years but our “dating” was so different to today. We were really good friends for a number of years and then got married when I was 21. We always said we would have children after being married for 5 years but I found out I was pregnant just a few months after our wedding!

Now, you have two boys? Yes, they are 16 and 13.

Whereabouts did you have them? I had Josiah at Bankstown Hospital and Judah at Liverpool Hospital.

Were you hoping to have two boys? I was actually hoping for a girl with Judah though in hindsight I was happy to have two of the same gender because the boys have become best friends.

How did you pick the boys’ names? Since Bible School Jacob loved the name Josiah and I loved it too so we knew our firstborn would be Josiah. Judah on the other hand- it wasn’t the original name we picked but someone had already taken it. We were back at the drawing board when we attended a conference where we heard a sermon preached about Judah, Judah meaning praise- it was a powerful service.  We fell in love with the name! We loved the meaning of it and knew it was the name for our second son.

Did you have the boys natural or C-Section? Both Natural! Labour was about 3 hours. For Josiah- my waters broke early, so I was in hospital for 18 hours, but the actual labour was only 3 hours or less.
They were both born on their exact due dates.

You were pregnant at your university graduation- tell us about it! Yep I was! To start with, when I was pregnant with Josiah I had morning sickness for about 7 months. I was working part time and going to Uni full time. I used to catch a train to work in the city, at that time, and I remember getting off at certain stops to throw up on the train tracks and then getting back on to keep going on my journey to work. 1 week after I handed in my last assignment for Uni to become a teacher, I gave birth to Josiah.

Shortly after giving birth to Josiah, I had to finish my prac for my degree- I did my final prac in February when he was 4 months old, and then got offered a full time job. I took the job! It was my first real full job- I worked 3 years full time. Now, in hindsight, I do regret it a little but he was with my mum and mother in law and they formed a close bond.

Josiah was just over 3 years old when I left my job and had Judah. When he was 5 months old, I went back to work part time but at a different school. Because I lived closer to my sister (we had moved house by now)- my sister watched the boys part time. I went back to full time when Judah was about 3 years old and switched to part time when he was 6. I still work part time at a school now.

Coming from a Lebanese background your mum is an amazing cook! Do you have any of her recipes? Well my mum made all her dishes by memory- when she received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, my sister in law tried to record as many recipes as she could on paper.

Here is her amazing, world famous Tabouli! Friends I am telling you- this is hands down best Tabouli recipe you will ever have!!

Sis Ayoub’s Tabouli Recipe

7 Medium Tomatoes

2 bunches parsley, chopped

1/2 bunch of mint, chopped

1/4 bunch of shallots

1 onion chopped finely

1/2 cup cracked wheat

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

1/2 lemon juiced

1/2 tomato passata

3/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp pomegranate molasses

sweet chilli sauce or Tabasco sauce

How To

– Remove any stones you mighty find in the cracked wheat, then wash and drain it well by squeezing it with your hands

– Add the lemon juice to the cracked wheat and set aside.

-Wash the chopped parsley and mint then drain well by squeezing out excess water.

-Chop the tomatoes very finely and add them to the cracked wheat

-Chop the onion very finely and rub them with the salt and black pepper

-Combine all ingredients with the cracked wheat and stir in olive oil
You moved to QLD over 6 years ago.. I always thought that because I was born and raised in Sydney I would never move…I never wanted to move but my husband was feeling that the Lord was leading us elsewhere- we didn’t know where though. His prayer was God if you want us to go to another church, and Pastor, you need to speak to my wife.

When he was in Fiji a number of years ago he found out that there was a church in the Gold Coast that no longer had a Pastor- he knew God was calling us there but his prayer had always been that God would speak to me because of the heartache it would entail leaving my family in Sydney.

In the meantime, I had been going through some things and was praying that God would help me to work through these things positively, you know, respond to negative situations in a positive way.

A lady I respect, in my life, came to me in the altar one service and asked if there was anything specific I wanted to pray for. I said no… whatever you feel… she proceeded to tell me about a vision she had had that God was going to move us. The vision was of a really big beautiful house but it was isolated- what she felt the Lord was telling us was that He would move us, and we would be isolated at first but it would be something beautiful and God ordained.
I, of course, didn’t want to feel isolated so I called a prayer partner freaking out that God was going to isolate us! We prayed together and she said something that I remember to this day- she said Nettie, it doesn’t have to be a literal thing that God is going to isolate you but rather that he is moving you from your comfort zone.

The whole time that this is going on, Jacob is still overseas in Fiji.

Meanwhile, he’s been praying every day that God would speak to me

Jacob’s on the plane coming back from Fiji, on Fiji Airways, and he picks up the inflight magazine and there was a double age spread ad which read “If you’re thinking of relocating to the Gold Coast, do it now..” He came home and we went about our day. We were in our room, I was unpacking his stuff and he says “The Gold Coast church no longer has a Pastor.” And I knew… I knew that this is what God was calling us to but of course I was absolutely freaking out on the inside… I said nothing to him for a week about it..

I went back to my prayer partners and I really felt that this was it.. this is what we had to do.

After a week, I approached Jacob and I said I don’t know about you but I believe this is God’s will. He confirmed that that’s what he had been praying for since he first felt the call. We both determined that we would only go if we were released by our Pastor. We spoke to our Pastor, and though we were all really good friends, our Pastor was very supportive of our move!

So 3 months from that conversation we packed up our lives and moved. We never even saw our house before we moved there. We flew up a few times to view some houses but they had all fallen through- the real estate agent let us sign a lease for a place before even seeing it, which is generally unheard of!

Judah got cellulites before we left, the houses we saw fell through, we had left our jobs and had not yet received jobs on the Gold Coast, it seemed everything was fighting us moving but we knew that God had called us.

The whole process taught me so much about faith..

The boys were 10 and 7 at the time, so you can imagine the heartbreak for them. This was a mother’s heartbreak. Leaving Sydney we had some friends come and say goodbye… for about 90 minutes our eldest broke down weeping… which made me weep… As a mum I was crying more for him, but still about the major life decision we had made.

A funny story amongst all this pain… During our cry our 7-year-old (who was happy to move by the way) and my husband were smiling at each other through the rear vision mirror. Jacob decided to put on Andrea Bocelli’s Time To Say Goodbye and from out of my mouth came this scary voice threatening to throw the CD out the window if he didn’t turn it off… His thinking was that he wanted to cheer us up, which I reassured him that this was not the way!

When we arrived on the Gold Coast we were unemployed for 5 months… We used up all our savings. It was a huge step of faith but through it all, God always provided. There were people who knew nothing about the situation but blessed us until we found employment. God knew that we needed these few months to make connections with our neighbours and the people we were going to be pastoring.

Wow.. what a story of God’s faithfulness and your willingness to move!So, you’ve found work..haha.. Yes, I am currently working part time in a role that was created for me. I’m reading coordinator. I mentor teachers and do an intensive reading program. Jacob, is a full time Pastor – going on 3 months. We pastor Gracepoint Church, Coomera on the Gold Coast.

And the boys? They’re both still in school- Judah is really good with co design in an architecture class and Josiah is an entrepreneur! He has sold t-shirts, made his own brand label at 11 and is currently working on getting into a trade. This kid is very savvy when it comes to business… side hustle to the max.

And Gucci…Yes, we have a little dog- Gucci… we’ve had her for almost a year… 9-10 months.

What would you say is the hardest thing about this stage of life and mothering? I find the teenager years can be challenging. Being a Christian mum is so different to how other parents parent their teenagers. We truly have to fight for what we believe in. When your kids are younger you know everything about them, but as they get older I am having to learn to balance everything and let God have the reigns. I’m having to trust God a lot more… all I can do is pray… pray over them and pray with them…

Do you have any words of advice for mums out there? Enjoy every stage of your kid’s life. It goes so quickly… it will fly by. Don’t be so caught up, and busy, that you neglect your kids.

What would you say is your greatest achievements to date? My family, my boys. Although our family isn’t perfect, we have fostered so much love for each other… and what God has done at Gracepoint. From a church of a handful of people to where He’s brought it today; to see what He’s done in people lives. To see people who are new to church and be a part of their spiritual growth. I am so thankful.

So there you have it- we love and cherish this mum and her family! I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about Annette and her family!

Till next time.

xx

Woven- A story from Iraq

They say it takes a village to raise a child..

I wanted to introduce a new series of stories from the women around me- their stories of labour, love and growing their little families. There will be women who have migrated from other countries, women who are in ministry with young families, women who are stay-at-home-mums and mums who run their own businesses.. Mums of twins, mums of boys and mums of girls.. I hope you see the imperfect perfect of this thing we call motherhood in the tapestry of stories woven by each woman..

My first story comes from Nan, my grandma, my mum’s mum. Since going back to work part time my Nan has been an amazing support. From watching Ava one day a week, to making sure we have nappies and wipes.. we are so very blessed. She is the most selfless woman I have ever known..

So.. while there are many stories untold here, you can catch a small glimpse into her life as a woman and mum.

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A short background- Arpin (or Nan to us) was born and raised in the city of Mosul, Iraq. At the age of 21 Nan married Dinkha. Side note- her mum married at 12 but didn’t live with her husband until she was 13/14. Nan said she was playing with children at her own wedding.

Also, another side note- a lot of the answers here are about my mum (Jena). Nan’s son Johnny passed away 6 years ago- It is still a very difficult thing for her to talk about.

So Nan, how big was your family? It was me, my mum, father and three brothers. I was the second eldest..and then George and Edward.

Can you tell me a bit about your dad? My father was the best father. As a teenager he sent me to typist school (no one in those days sent their girls to education), he sent me to a dress maker to learn to be a seamstress. He hired a private tutor at home.. he used to buy me gold and clothes.. he preferred me over the three sons. He was the best dad. He moved here to Australia in 1965 and died in 1972. He was a very hard worker.

In those days most families didn’t let female children have higher education. My dad went to the principal and said what do you think- we send our daughters to high school- I was best friends with the principals daughter.. the principal said no.. they are just going to get married..But my father said no.. I will send her to high school.. So I went to high school.

So Nan, how many children do you have? Jena (53) and Johnny passed away 6 years ago- he was 49.

Where did you have your children? Baghdad, Iraq in a hospital.

Did you have a Natural of C-section birth? Natural. When I had Jena, I woke up to go to work that morning and had her later that day.. Jena’s labour was about 6 hours, Johnny was 22 hours..

How was your pregnancy? No problems, very normal.

Did you take maternity Leave? In Baghdad, they give you 40 days with pay, and then you had to return to work. My mother-in-law looked after Johnny and Jena full time after I went back.

Nan and her family moved to Sydney, Australia back on the 1st of July, 1966 from Iraq.

How did you tell the children that you were moving to Australia? We didn’t! Wherever we went the children went.. Jena was 2, Johnny was 5. They didn’t ask anything.. we just packed and left. They just followed.

What was the hardest thing you struggled with being a new mum? Probably the broken sleep, during the night. I remember Jena used to wake up during the night a lot..I can’t remember why, she just would always wake up..

 

If you could give one piece of advice to a new mum what would you tell them? The first thing would be- show your children lots of love. The second thing would be to take good care of your children. Back in those days I had a very weak heart- I was emotional.. I would worry that they would get hurt..but now I am the same way with my grandchildren and great grand children..

I devoted all my love to my children..

When we moved here, Jena’s dad wanted to go out all the time, after work… but I would always say no, because the children don’t see us all day.. I wanted to stay with them.

My kids were pampered..

Do you have a funny story about one of your children? (I prompted her to tell this KFC story) 

I used to work full time, so in those days, the shopping supermarkets were only open till late on Thursdays nights. So on Thursday night I did the shopping, and didn’t cook. I bought take away food. I asked Johnny what do you want to eat? Every Thursday it was KFC. KFC. This went on for a very long time (months and months). One day I said I’m sick of it. I have to do something to change this..So I bought him 9 pieces..9 pieces.. he ate 7 pieces.. After that he never asked for KFC again..

Did you work outside of the home when you had the children? 

I wanted to be with Jena when she started school but I used to work full time. I went to my boss, and asked him to

give me part time work- I’ll just work during school hours. The boss said no, sorry we don’t have part time workers. So I left. At this stage there was no such thing as part time work.

I used to take Jena to school and bring her back at 3pm.. After 2 months the company sent after me saying you can come back part time.. there were 2 girls who tried to fill my job but couldn’t keep up with the workload.

So I came back but only worked school hours..  I dropped the kids… and picked them up.. no one was part time in the company- only me..You see how I sacrificed my time for Jena..

After we finished the mini-interview Nan wanted to tell me this funny story:

When I was a littler girl I was religious. By myself I used to walk to church… it took about 20 min.. So one Sunday, in those days there were not many cars.. just bikes.. so my eldest brother had a bike.. The houses in Baghdad where normal in a circle.. in the middle they had a courtyard. I used to keep the bike in the courtyard. So on Sunday everyone was home- I got up to go to church, it was winter- I had raincoat on.. so I went outside, crossed the street, there were two Assyrian men..They asked me “Did your dad give your pushbike to someone?” I said no.. so I went back to the house…I said to dad.. my pushbike is taken.. So my dad came down to go and find the thief.. We asked the men which way did the thief go.. They pointed “this way..” So my dad started running.. I forgot about church and I followed my dad..

So anyone who saw us went with us running and running to find this man who took the push bike, maybe there was 10 people with us running.. they joined the club.. so my dad, had put a new coloured grip on the bike, on the handle.. so as he was going he saw the thief.. he noticed the pushbike with the different grip on it. The thief is standing there putting air in the tyres.. my dad saw the bike and knew it was ours.. he swore at him.. he said.. “where are you taking this bike?” The thief ran away.. My eldest brother had a suit on.. Because he was leaving the house he had to put his suit on..so my dad said “what, after you put your suit then you go to find the thief?”.. here I got the bike, go..

It was a big story in the neighborhood.. Joseph (my father) brought the push bike back.. No one went looking for their push bikes but Joseph did!

We were a group running through the streets.. imagine.. my father first, I was second and all the people were following running.. everyone thought It was something to see.. when they saw it was a pushbike they were very disappointed..

So that day I didn’t go to church..