"Let my heart now resides where the tide will rise, I have made Australia my home."

This is a quote from my own pen back in the year 2000. I've mentioned and posted on facebook a few times of our trip to Australia, my husband and myself. I was searching through my blog posts to see if I'd written about it. I hadn't, so now I write for this beautiful country that stole my heart is on my now I write.

It was the trip of a lifetime. If you have never been to the Olympic games then you are missing out! I truly suggest you put it on your "to do list" or "bucket list". The excitement was so thick in the air it was nearly intoxicating. But what made our trip particularly enchanting is how we got there.  It was the summer of 2000.  John had two, in his stable of athletes, who were Olympians for the summer games. One had already made the team (water polo) and the other was waiting for the Olympic trials to be held in Sacramento, just weeks before the Opening Ceremonies. Upon the official "win" and "qualifications" John's Olympic discuss thrower was locked in, placing top three at trials and on the team. She is a dear friend to this day, but on that day, she told John she was going to pay his way to Sydney so that he could train her at the Olympic Training Center up until her venue, which was the third week of the games. This was such great and exciting news! One problem...John had just returned from a two week tour of Europe with a men's basketball team (all expenses paid...which was great because he brought me home some Swedish crystal). We had two small children at the time and I had spent those two weeks home with babies. I wanted to go to Australia, too! So, on our knees we went....

My parents knew we were praying for me to go, but other than that, we hadn't really said a thing to anyone.  I remember vividly, when I would seek the Lord in prayer on this very subject, how I lacked the faith to believe he would really do it for me. I mean...I had a lot of faith and belief for others, but for me...well, I just wasn't that comfortable believing it for myself. For whatever reason, that required even more faith on my part that I didn't really have. I did have enough faith to pray on it though. Each time I prayed, I could discern the Holy Spirit speak something like this, down into my depths,

"why do you have such belief for others but not yourself? I AM going to give you this trip and show you that I can do for you the same as anyone else!"

I heard this so clearly that I got a bit excited. Keep in mind, I am very confident with how I hear the Holy Spirit. VERY. This is not to my credit, but the Father's and guess what? He used the miracle of this trip, in addition to countless others opportunities to obey, to show me how clear I DO hear him. I can believe him. I can trust him and I should never doubt him.

I told John what I just shared with you and do you know what he said? He said, "Then you better go get your passport before you have to get it express (we were only weeks out from the games). "WHAT?" More faith required! This was stretching me. Now, if you know anything about my husband, it won't be hard for you to believe that every day of my life since I met him has stretched my comfort zone because his comfort zone is a zillion times bigger than mine. That's one of the ways he is good for me:-) But if you know ME well at all, I am very conservative by nature in pretty much every area. I am not a huge spender, especially on myself. I was thinking $100 is a lot of money to waste on a passport if I wind up not going (can you discern my doubt creeping in?) When I verbalize thoughts like this, John gets upset with me and like a good leader of the wife, he tells me what to do! I don't always like it, but I do.

First, I had to locate my birth certificate, which is necessary to purchase a passport. I call my Mom, convinced she has it. She did'nt. "What? Now what do I do?" I hadn't a clue where to look because it wasn't on file. I began to fret and get anxious. I walked through my house, each room, praying and asking God to help me find it. I figure, if I am to go He will direct me to it because it had to be here somewhere! Just as I entered into my bedroom miracle number one occurred. I have  a small bookcase in our room that John's grandfather made. One book on the bottom shelf had slipped half off the shelf and half lying on edge on the floor. I am a bit of a neat freak, so by natural tendency, as I walked past the book I reached down and slid it back into its space on the shelf. When I slid it back to it's position, the book right next to it fell completely off the bookcase and wide open onto the floor with a little something marking a page....let's see what this is....MY BIRTH CERTIFICATE! When that happened, I did the happy dance, arms flinging around as I danced around my entire house singing, "I am going to Australia! I am going to Australia!" That whole episode was so strange and I knew I would have never looked through each book or  thought to do so...God truly was telling me he was sending me on that trip. So, I went and got my passport.

Next miracle We can't afford a plane ticket to Australia on just a few weeks notice during the Olympics. All prices are sky high for such an event. When we priced it out, round trip, one ticket, approx. $3,000.00. So we prayed.

Two weekends prior to John leaving for Australia to meet up with is athlete we had to go to a conference for our side business. Friday night, while visiting with the founder of the company, he asks John about the excitement of the trip. He was a very impressive man. The kind of man who commanded attention by his mere presence in a room. Powerful person of influence, personality and stellar leadership. He was a man who profoundly impacted my destiny and this day was one of them. He looked right down at me (he was a huge man) and asked if I was going also. We kind of shyly told him we were still praying on it, but were trying to make it happen.

Miracle number two.

Without a flinch he turns to his assistant who stood right beside him and told him to send us the required funds for me to accompany John on the trip. He turns and asks us how much that would be, we told him, he did it, then he looks back at me and says with all gentleness in his eyes, "because the wife should always be able to go with her husband." What a true gentleman. He is since passed, but this giant of a man in ways far greater than stature, impacted my life forever....this was only just one way he did so.

So, we were on our way. John and I were not able to get on the same flight, but we did fly the same day out of the same airport. I had a direct flight to Sydney and he had to fly into Melbourne with another small connecting flight to Sydney. I would arrive approx. four hours ahead of John. The plan was to just sleep and relax in the airport until he arrived and we'd go from there....literally. This is where miracle number three is required. God provided to GET to Sydney, but we hadn't a place to stay once IN Sydney. At least, not for the first four days. The second week of our 21 day stay was going to be with an athlete host family through the Samsung program. But the first four days and the last portion of trip we were homeless.

I arrived on schedule to Sydney. I had the funnest flight ever. My plane was nothing but media executives and athletes. When we weren't sleeping, we were having so much fun socializing. However, here is one of the opportunities I had to grow in the confidence I now have in hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. I was lounging on a sofa in the airport at Sydney, taking a little nap, but about an hour into it I began to feel very agitated in my spirit like something wasn't right. I was a bit annoyed and tried to go back to sleep. I don't sleep well on flights usually, so I was exhausted. But this agitation only seemed to grow stronger until I clearly heard a voice say, "go check on John's flight." So, I did. Come to find out, because his flight landed in Melbourne first before heading to Sydney, he was now technically coming in on a domestic flight and that was an entirely different airport on the other side of the the city. I had to go change my currency so I could catch a bus to the other airport and try to connect with John there. I decided to do it then and not wait because I could just as easily finish my nap at his gate. Good thing I made that choice because by the time I got there I only had to wait for him 15-20 minutes.

Prayer Break: Thank you, God, for taking care of me so well. 

Now for that much needed miracle number three...

John and I head to the Concierge desk at the airport and ask the clerk to please try and find us a hotel. She outright laughed at us very arrogantly saying, "You do know that this is the Olympics?" She reminded us that every hotel in Sydney has been booked for months and we weren't going to find a hotel. We told her we understood all of that but could she try anyway. So, she did. The first call, she begins to jump up and down while she was on the phone (literally). She begins to squeal. She hangs up and very excitedly tells us that not only did they have a room (CBS had booked over 100 rooms and had just that morning cancelled for the first four nights), but it was at the finest hotel on the Darling Harbor at Circular Quay...right by the Opera House. After all the currency exchange rates and the drop in price for I don't know why...we paid $25 American dollars a night! No sleeping on the beach! Thank God, because that was John's Plan B (now do you see what I mean by he stretches my comfort zone..haha). This hotel was gorgeous and had a beautiful continental breakfast each morning, fit for a King! We had prime location to walk to any place we'd like to explore for the next few days before our host picked us up. Breath taking.

Praise Break: Thank you God for how you  take my breath away with goodness and love.

This entire trip was a complete dream.

On the fourth day of the trip we went to stay with a family host for coaches of athletes. Our family was delightful and the Father of our host was the Tom Landry of Australian Rugby...quite the celebrity in Australia we quickly realized. The Turner's (our host family) lived in Crunulla and had their own private beach. Wednesday was sailing day...all the neighbors took their sail boats out on the peninsula. The Turners treated us like a king and queen. Beautiful family who helped us fall in love with this country. The Turners had a dog named Reggie. "Reg" was a bull mastiff who liked to open the gate himself and take walks down to the beach. Reg frequented the beach regularly so the cafe owner on the beach took to sending Reg home in a cab on numerous occasion. This is how we met Reg. Our first day at the Turners, as we sat for biscuits and tea, Reg arrived, delivered by the cab driver and a call from the cafe owner saying, "sent Reg home in the cab, wanted you to know he enjoyed several Magnum bars while at the beach."  We had so much fun with this family. Many delightful stories, like pretending to run the Olympic torch (The "Tom Landry" named Jack) that Jack had carried in the Opening Ceremonies. But my two favorite were about Reggie and the Magnum bars, riding in a cab and one about a photo.

Jack was good friends with a famous American NFL football coach and they spent many holidays together. The Turners had a photo in their home with  Jack, the NFL Coach and  another celebrity from Australia. There was a fourth man in the photo and the host family asked us who he was because they couldn't recall and he was a "famous American", as they said. We asked to see the photo and of course we recognized him right away...Bob Hope!

The Turner's were so hospitable to us it was humbling really. Such profound love and benevolence to strangers really. They not only hosted us for the allotted 7 days, but invited us to stay with them the rest of our stay in Australia.

Thanksgiving Break: God, how profound and excellent are you. You haven't a resource problem in the world and you are ever generous and never stingy with your goodness. Blessed.

I returned from Australia, 21 days later, a transformed woman. Fullest of full was my faith tank. The experience was beyond anything God could have done to demonstrate his tremendous ability, favor and love to me. But He chose to go above and beyond into the realm of exceptional. What a disposition of grace has my Lord. Not to mention, more stories on the flight home with the Gold Medal winning baseball & softball teams, Track Icon Gayle Deavers (love her shoulders!) and a kiss from Tommy LaSorda, or did I kiss him (on the cheek people! Geesh!)? But that's another story for another blog...GO DODGERS!

All of this to say...

God used this trip as a stepping stone of faith for me. Not all of my faith building stories were happy ones. Some of them made the hair on my body stand on edge and I lie awake at night with utter and complete void of faith as I faced some of the most ominous days of my life.  But through it all, I truly learned how to depend on His name, trust him, lean on him, abide in the internal compass he anointed me with and obey with a steadfastness that was deliberate and consistent. God wants his Bride to practice a new level of "deliberate" obedience. Though this story is all good and fun, obedience could save your life some day, or the life of another. Learn the steps to trust and obey. While in Australia the people frequently commented to us how in America we have so many choices. Choices galore on everything...perhaps that is one of the reasons it is so hard to obey? Distraction abounds and reasons and influences outside of what God is speaking to your heart. What God calls each of us to do and obey is between us and the Lord. We all have the same "guide book" that makes specific mandates, but we each have our own flavor and unique blend of gifted ability to offer this world as a source of light. Let us make sure it shines bright, we avoid the night, step into His pure radiant sunlight and recapture the light he first lit in us. God desires obedience. I hear it is greater than sacrifice.

Blessings! ~Nicole

"Shine your Light so that ALL might see it. That the whole world might believe it. Love has come to help you overcome." ~David Crowder