Letters From Greece—#1

Dear Reader,

It’s been a year—exactly a year today in fact—since my husband Ross and I moved to live in Athens, Greece. And what a year it has been!

Culture stress is a well-known phenomena experienced by anyone who moves to live in a culture new to them. Someone once briefly described to me how the human brain (or is it the mind?) reacts in relation to a new and unfamiliar culture; it made sense and helped explain what I was going through. In a fairly normal, everyday sort of situation in my new life, I automatically head off down a well-worn pathway in my brain only to find that I can’t go that way. All the familiar signposts don’t work here! The process of developing new pathways can be a confusing and exhausting one, even if the adventure of it adds a wonderful myriad of colour to my life!

So, you might ask, what are some highlights of this first year in Greece for me?

The food. Most local areas in Athens, like the rest of Greece, host a weekly farmer’s market known locally as the ‘laiki’ or more technically, the ‘laiki agora’; literally, it means the people’s market. Imagine table upon table of the freshest fruit and vegetables—and you’d be correct! Not only is the food fresh, but it is also seasonal. I remember the time I forgot about the lettuce in my fridge. I expected to find it wilted and sad; but no, I found a lettuce which looked fresher than I would’ve found in the supermarkets of Melbourne!

The people. (Maybe they should’ve come first!) This is a nation of people who are strong and resilient and creative… a people who have learned to persevere in the face of one trial and crisis after another—both historically and more recently. Hospitable, friendly, helpful, delightful, kind-hearted, passionate, encouraging. These are all words which might generally describe the Greek people I have encountered. Of course, there are exceptions, but aren’t there anywhere?

The language. One of the best things I chose to do was to more formally learn Greek. A lesson with Kiki (my teacher is Greek and she teaches Greek!) is a weekly adventure. Each new grammar rule expands the capacity of my brain, even if it does sometime ache with the effort! (Note to school students: it’s worth paying attention to those grammar lessons!) Each new word and phrase learned and practised, serves to open up a new avenue of communication! It’s an exciting new world, and one in which I have encouraging and enthusiastic language helpers most places I go to; supermarkets, the local church, market, neighbours… And just a note on language dear Reader; if you ask me to say something to you in Greek, in my experience, all my words seem to disappear somewhere I can’t access ‘on the spot’!

The roads. Oh, the roads! One of the major victories I have had during the last year in Greece, is to learn to drive on the ‘other side’ of the car, on the ‘other side’ of the road! Another has been to learn to expect the unexpected! That time when the woman crashed into the rear of our (borrowed car), I was so very thankful that Ross was with me, no one was hurt, she spoke English and she admitted fault! On a more general note, it seems to me that switching on the hazard lights of a car means its driver can pretty well do anything—even stopping unexpectedly right there on the road in front of you! I might add here that the many motorbike riders without helmets worries me. I’ve worked in a major hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. Enough said…

The weather. Living in Greece has allowed me to experience every season. Summers are long and hot made even hotter by heat waves! Anyone who can do so, escapes Athens in summer, especially in August. Winter was cold but not as cold as I imagined it might be. There was a brief covering of snow on the mountains just before Christmas which made for some super-cold winds but spectacular scenery! Springtime has possibly been my favourite season with its mild weather, and such treasures as the wildflowers. On my daily walks, to see the rich display of red poppies together with their neighbours all dressed up in blue, yellow and purple in a riot of colour, has been wonderfully life-giving.

The Celebrations. Christmas, Easter… It has been such an experience to be here and experience the various celebrations that are familiar to me but are celebrated in different ways. Maybe I’ll tell you about the red coloured Easter eggs another time (by the way, I didn’t see any hot-cross buns and very few chocolate products which was refreshing!). Other celebrations or remembrance days unique to Greece, have spoken into my love of culture and history.

Transition and Home. Dear Reader, Ross and I don’t regret leaving ‘home’ to come to live in Greece but we do miss our family and friends, not to mention all the familiar support structures that we took for granted. We treasure your communication with us and gifts of encouragement to us, as we continue to navigate our way through one transition after another. We’re gradually making new friends and learning how to thrive in our adopted home.

We began our adventure in Athens staying for a few weeks in an apartment in central Athens. From there, we moved to the foothills of one of the mountains surrounding Athens to ‘house-sit’ a property for eleven months (we sub-leased the fully furnished house). The cat, whose care was entrusted to us, will be joyfully handed over to her family soon! (We’re not ‘cat-lovers’—apologies if you are!) The coming three months will see us staying in different places whilst we wait for an ‘inner-city’ apartment to be ready for us.

May you and I know through faith and experience—especially in the winds of change and uncertainty—the reality of being held secure, at peace, in the sure and strong and wise grip of Jesus who is magnificently one with the Father.

Until next time,

With love from Heather

PS, What’s a letter without a few photos? Here are a few of my favourites in a slideshow…

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The path


Imagine with me for a moment as together, we stand on the path…

Look! I see Jesus… He is standing there up ahead at the bend in the pathway! 

Of course Jesus has been with you all along! Did you know that? Or did you not recognise that it was Jesus who was with you all this time? Is it possible that you have been so intent on just getting to where you think you must be, that you paid no attention to Who it was that has been offering to equip you, help you and guide you on your journey in life?

Did you not know that if only you would come close to God, He promises to come close to you?

Or have you been so focused on the path itself—trying to work out how and where every part might fit in (does it even have a place?), that you lost sight of Jesus?

In perfect and loving harmony with God the Father, Jesus has not lost sight of you.

Did you notice the wonder and the beauty of the unfolding story contained within the path?

Did you see that even the smallest piece of rock has its own place and is held securely together in the cement?

Or did you think He did not care?

Did you think He did not treasure even the smallest part of your life that you thought would not matter? Did you think He was just watching—from a distance? 

You are loved by the Father-heart of God! He sees you. He knows you. Intimately. 

The Father’s plans are all about Jesus. He loves you with the same love He has for His Son Jesus! There is no other pathway to God except through Jesus.

Beloved, just like every one of your tears and sorrows is lovingly, carefully collected and treasured in the heart of God, so has every one of the steps you have taken this far in life been lovingly, intentionally and creatively brought together.

It is all there and there is more yet to come! 

Worked together. Held together in the embrace of Jesus who is The Way. The Truth. The life!

It is the only wise thing we can do. Leave everything to be where Jesus is. Go where He is going. Choose to partner with His Spirit wholly surrendered to God’s plans!

It is all for the glory of our redemptive and sin-forgiving God who is love and has the gift of life to freely give and invites us to join Him!

Through Jesus. For the fame of the name of Jesus Christ!

By the way… did you notice in the picture that the day is drawing to a close? The mercies of Godwho is I AMare new every morning.

“… we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what he was doing from the very beginning.

He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.

After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself.

And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.” (Romans 8:28-30 The Message) 

What else might the Holy Spirit want to speak to you about or show you as you reflect on my photo (taken in Athens, Greece)?

I see something different every time.

I see that there are gum trees and I am comforted by the grace of my compassionate God who has transplanted me into another land and gives me visible memories of my home in Australia.

I see the dry ground scorched by the summer heat and am reminded that by God’s grace, I am like a tree planted along a riverbankwith roots that reach deep down into the water. Such a tree is not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. The leaves of such a tree stays green and never stops producing fruit. (Jeremiah 17:8 NLTparaphrased)

God has so much to show you. Get your journal out. Take the time to be still with Jesus and listen to His Spirit and receive all that He has to give you. 

Peace. Hope. Freedom in Christ. Healing from the inside out.

To love God is to trust and obey.

All for Jesus!


Have you ever wondered where all the people are going? Have you ever sat in the safety of your dwelling place and wondered…?

Here I am on ‘day 3’ in Greece—downtown Athens— and I’m wondering. How do I do life in this place mostly unfamiliar to me? The explorer in me is weary from all the preparations of just getting here. The courageous part in me wants to hide for a few minutes, maybe even a few days. The observer within me is watchful and alert, working hard to interpret and process all that I see around me through the lens of my personality and experience of life.

So many questions with an accompanying cacophony of emotions… What is happening around me? How do they do it? How do I do it? What do you call that? How much is that? Where does it go? What does that mean? What must I do? How do I ask for that?

I don’t fit in. Yet. Will I ever?

I witness the uninhibited joyful response of the woman behind the counter as I use her language to say “Thank you for your help” and I know I will keep going…

Life. It really is all about relationship and not so much about the task after all.

And I know I will explore—one step at a time. Where the people are. How they get there. Where they are going. I will join them on their journey even if my steps are a little tentative at first.

My dwelling place is a safe and secure one. In this place of belonging I am daily prepared and equipped for exploring the world around me.

I go out. I come back in. I go out… The very air I breathe—the very atmosphere in which I have my being—in this place I am utterly loved and accepted.

So I will remember to live and love well for life is not a guarantee but a gift. And I remember.

I follow Jesus and when I follow Jesus, life happens…

Man in alley