Saturday, April 30, 2016

What cracks you up?

When you think about your best feature, what is it? Your wavy hair? Your scintillating sense of humour? Your dazzling smile? Your rapier sharp wit? We all have one.  We all have something about ourselves that makes us feel special… a chocolate egg if you will…something we protect and feel pride over… my personal chocolate egg is my intelligence…my book smarts.  I did well at school (getting into my first choice uni course easily) and reasonably well at uni (studying all sorts of fun courses in English and History).  I was even so brainy that I did honours in two subjects.  Honours in English went off without a hitch, and honours in History was also looking good.  I spent months writing a thesis… reading articles, forming ideas, polishing arguments. I handed it in.  I thought it was good.  I thought I might scrape a Distinction.

But then some cracks began to form in my egg…  I found myself sitting in a meeting with my supervisor and the head of the department trying to explain why my thesis should not fail.  The mistakes were everywhere.  I thought I had been doing it right.  They couldn’t pass it.  I was devastated. Months of work down the drain.
My egg was broken.  I had failed. 

We live in a society that is terrified of failure. 
We send our kids to extra maths tutoring, music lessons, sports practices…sometimes we sacrifice holidays and bigger houses in order to send them to private schools…anything to give them a chance to succeed. 
We have an “everyone’s a winner” culture.  At the end of soccer season every kid gets a trophy.  At the end of the year, every kid gets a certificate listing their achievements or failing achievements, their best personal traits.
We work hard to look successful (whatever that means)…the big house, the flashy car, the nice clothes, the high flying job
Every year the bar for success is higher.  We have to work harder to look successful...

We work so hard to please our bosses. Our parents. Our kids. Ourselves.  We hold ourselves to high standards but we fall short all the time…we collect our chocolate eggs and hoard them… but they crack and break.  We are late to work having forgotten to bring that important presentation; crack.  We forget a family dinner that we have known about for weeks; crack.  We forget to go to that important soccer game.  The one where our kid is the one who scores two goals; crack.  We pick yet another fight with our spouse because we just can’t hold it together after such a big weekend packed with events; crack.

We can paper over these cracks though.  Apologies to colleagues.  Gifts for your disappointed parents.  Contrite letters to grandma.  A special day out for the soccer player to “make it all better”.  We think we get a pass.  We think all is forgotten.  Until the next time.  And the next.  And the next.  More apologies.  More gifts. More evidence that we are not as successful as we seem to be.  More evidence that all is not right with our “successful life”.  More cracks in our perfect chocolate egg life.
It’s not as if we have a monopoly on making mistakes in the 21st century.  In the time before Jesus, mankind wasn’t that successful at keeping their chocolate eggs from cracking and breaking either… they cheated, they lied, they stole, they slept around, they ran after other Gods… they basically did the exact opposite of what God told them to do.  In fact there was not one person who lived completely the way God wanted them to… no one could stop their chocolate eggs from cracking.  “ALL HAD SINNED AND FALLEN SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD”( Romans 3:23). Not some.  It’s not like some could live up to God’s high standards and others just weren’t trying hard enough.  NONE of them could live up to God’s standard. 

ALL of us fail.  All of our eggs crack.

Of course the ultimate failure in life is death. Death. The great leveller. The end of living.  The end of all things.  All people die.  We can take all the medicine we want… swallow all the health supplements… do all the exercise … eat all the right foods… have all the operations… do all the meditations … avoid all the high risk activities like sky diving without a parachute, or riding motor cycles while drunk and high in the rain at night without a helmet… all the care we take is futile. Death is inevitable for all of us sooner or later. 

When Jesus died on the cross on that first Good Friday, it looked an awful lot like failure.  The man who called himself the Son of God who was going to usher in a new way for humankind to relate to God and to be right with God.  Beaten. Bloodied. Dead. Buried. Sealed into the tomb.  Death had won.  The Son of God could not avoid death… just like us his Egg broke.

But then. 

The empty tomb was found by Jesus’s followers.  His body was missing.  They couldn’t explain it.  The Roman guards on duty could not explain it.  The body could not be found. 

He was seen by his followers alive.  Alive and Eating with them… touched by them.  Alive and teaching them.
He was no longer dead.  Death could not hold him down.  He was risen from the grave.
His death, the ultimate failure, has become the ultimate victory. 

We can paper over the failures in our own lives. But eventually we have to face these failures.  All of them.  Sometimes we get lucky.  Sometimes we get a second chance. A “do-over” if you will. 
You remember me?  Sitting there in the office at the university? Being told that my thesis had failed?  I talked to them.  I pleaded.  I cried.  I asked them if I could possibly, maybe, please pretty please with sugar on top, please rewrite and re-submit?  It would mean totally re-writing a 20,000 word thesis.  I could have just written it off as a failure, chalked it up to experience and walked away, with pride dented and intelligence forever questionable.  But I chose to ask.  I asked for a new chocolate egg to start over with.
I was very lucky.  I received a moment of Grace.  I was allowed to rewrite and resubmit my thesis.  One year, 20,000 words and lots of stress later, I handed it in secure in the knowledge that I had worked harder, written better, polished shinier than I thought was possible.  A new egg with no cracks in it yet.
The second attempt passed.  I got a second chance.  A do-over.  Success!
But does this success affect my eternal failings?  Does it make me right with God? 
NO.  I could write 10 theses and get 100% in all of them, and still not be right with God.   My eternal failings… trying to live my own way, trying to avoid death under my own steam… these are not effected by thesis do-overs.  They need a much bigger fix.  The ultimate fix.

By rising from the Dead, Jesus gave us a way to be right with God… a new and better way to engage with God.    With Jesus we don’t need a second chance. We don’t need to rewrite the thesis.  He has wiped out the need for second chances. He has taken the failed thesis and made it a 100% thesis.   He has taken our broken lives full of all our failures, and made them perfect.  Our broken lives are like broken chocolate eggs…smashed beyond repair.  And yet through Jesus our egg is no longer smashed. It is whole and perfect once more.
So when we eat our chocolate eggs this Easter, we can remember that because of Jesus, our lives can be made whole again, and we can be right with God.

Hospitality... a Christian Discipline

Women’s Breakfast All Saints West Lindfield April 30th.
When I lived at home before Luke and I got married I was one of a household of five people.  It was a busy house with 2 adults, 1 uni student and 2 teenagers.  I was allowed to have friends over but we had to vie with everyone else for hanging out space.  In a house of 5 people, 4 of whom are not Christian, it was difficult to have people over for pastoral reasons.  Such a busy home wasn’t conducive to sharing confidences and praying aloud when a vocally sceptical teen or parent could come in at any moment.
So when Luke and I got married we revelled in our ability to have people over.  We had people round for dinners, lunches, afternoon teas, Biblestudy groups. Prayer meetings, brunches, breakfasts, late night cuppas, board game nights, you name it.  We had close friends married a year longer than us, who lived nearby and used to pop in at all hours of the night for a cuppa and a chat.  We love looking after people, and sharing our lives with them.  We love sharing the love of a welcoming God with them.
Hospitality is not just a nice thing to do in and of itself.  It is the reflection to the world of aspects of God’s character.  God is a God who welcomes the stranger; who provides for all people (both believer and unbeliever); who extends Grace even unto the worst of sinners.  He is a God who “prepares a table for us” even in the midst of our enemies, who “makes our cup overflow”.  He is a God “whose house has many rooms”… enough even for me? Enough even for you? Enough even for the worst of sinners? YES.  God’s model of hospitality is one of practical Grace… he provides for us, or he provides people who can provide for us… I remember a particularly rough week early on in our marriage when we were skint.  We had $5 til Wednesday and not much food in the house… I had mentioned in passing at church that things were a bit tight that week, and our Assistant Minister’s wife essentially dragged us to their house and sent us home with lasagne that was in their freezer for the next night’s dinner.  That is practical grace.  God gave them an opportunity to show us hospitality in a time of need, with no thought of obligation or reciprocation.
Hospitality is a key component of Christian discipleship.  As Romans 12:13 says, “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality”. A chance to model God’s love to those in our pastoral charge, or those who do not yet know Christ.  Paul explores the model of how we are to live as Christians, as living sacrifices in Romans 12.  As I said, hospitality isn’t just a nice thing we do.  It is something we do as part of the larger imperative to love others sacrificially as Jesus loved us.  It is something we are commanded to extend not only to our friends but to our enemies,( “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.) giving without expectation of reciprocation or even of thanks, so that we may overcome evil with good.  Hospitality is a key way that we can show the love of Christ to unbelievers, allowing them to experience practical grace.

But in our busy world there are barriers to demonstrating this practical grace. There are many, but I will talk about 2.  Firstly, the sheer Busyness of life.  And secondly, Fear; fear of comparison and judgement.

Busy-ness? Life is really really busy. Whether you are a mum at home with young kids like me, or you are a mum who works outside the home (and then does all the housework at home), or if you are a career person pursuing the next promotion while trying to hold a marriage together, or even a retired (or semi retired)grandmother helping to care for the grandkids and keep the home moving, Life is busy.  There is so much to be going on with.  And when you go to church there are so many extras on top of your normal life busy-ness… rosters, Biblestudy groups, extra meetings and committees.  Even if we love showing hospitality to others in our homes (or elsewhere) it can feel too hard to carve out the time and the energy to make it happen, especially when you are dealing with other people’s schedules as well!! 
I constantly have some variation of this text discussion with my friends:
Me: we should get together for a bbq/cuppa/playdate at our place… what Saturdays are you free this month?
Them: well we can do the second and 4th Saturdays but only after midday because the kids have soccer and then we have to be home by 7 because the kids have to go to bed by 7.30.
Me: damn. I’m double booked for those afternoons but could have done the mornings. What about next month?
Them: next month we’re fully booked with weddings and birthdays. Maybe the one after that?
Me: I would but we’re on long service leave then and we will be away for ages…
Them… Ok lets book in a date for next year sometime…

I’m joking. But only barely.  You spend so much time trying to find times that work for everyone, that it is easy to say why bother? It’s easy to say what’s the point?

How can we not let busy-ness not be a barrier to hospitality?

We need to remember that hospitality is about the building up of relationships for God’s glory. Hospitality is not JUST having people over for a meal (although it is that too).  Hospitality is sharing your lives with people and showing true care and concern for their physical and spiritual wellbeing.
It is choosing to meet people at a park between two far flung suburbs rather than make people trek all the way to the other side of the city. Again.
It is being ready to add an extra person or two to your table at night rather than kicking them out at bath time.
It is just simply hanging out together while the kids play, drinking a cuppa and talking about stuff.
It is chatting to a friend at church who is having a bad week or morning and praying with them right there and then…
It’s the impromptu old style drop in.
It is caring enough about people to ask what they can/can’t eat do/don’t like when you make them a meal or have them over for one.
It can even be the question on fb messenger/text message asking how you can pray for someone that week.
Some people think outside the box… some friends in ministry were blessed when a member of their congregation bought ride tokens for their kids for the Easter show (something they would never have afforded for their 5 kids).
We used to have a church friend over for Christmas and Easter and family dinners when her kids were with their father.
Our boss’s wife would have a room of their rectory set up with kids toys and games and outside toys for when members of the congregation with kids would come over for biblestudy or a meal even though their kids were long grown.
The same boss and his wife would regularly babysit for a couple at our church who had no family (both had come out of adoptive families) and essentially adopted their kids as extra grandkids… they would go to grandparents day at their school and looked after them for a couple of nights at a time to give their parents a break.

These are just some examples of what hospitality can look like.  It’s easy to say we are too busy.  But time can be made if we make the relationship rather than entertainment the priority.

I think the more insidious reason that hospitality doesn’t happen is to do with Shame. Or The Comparison Game
I don’t know about you, but I am ridiculously competitive.  I want to be the best at everything.  Without trying.  Without practicing. Without even having to learn how. Just by osmosis. Or genetics. Or something. 
But I can tell you right now. I am not the best at “keeping house”.  My house looks “lived in” (true there are 3 kids who live there with me)… well loved… messy?
My kitchen is always a couple of dishes away from being a disaster area.
The couch cushions are often seen doing duty as fort walls.
The washing is, as always, never ending and perpetually half done.

I have come to see the state of my home as a service to stressed out people everywhere.  The people (not just mums) who are trying to keep all the balls in the air- the kids, the husband, the career, the house, the admin, the life…  It is so easy to look at other people’s homes and think that they have it all worked out… their perfect kitchen without it’s piles of papers and bowl of death and 3 meals worth of washing up… their perfect lounge rooms without the pillow fort and crumbs everywhere (even though I vacuumed this morning I swear!!)… their kids that never fight and always do as they are told… every other family has magical unicorn kids when guests are over…only mine fight and scream and end up in time out…  

And on and on it goes.  We compare ourselves.  Our houses. Our kids.  Ad nauseum ad infinitum. It is so insidious. We don’t even realise we are doing it.  But it is a huge barrier to hospitality.  I can’t have them over…what about the state of my kitchen? I can’t have them over… they always have much better food than we do…  I can’t have them over… they will get bored of our kids vying for their attention…

I have come to believe that my home is not the physical building in which I live, but the people who live there and how those people show love to others.  If the messy state of my house or my need to keep it clean is stopping me from following Christ or showing hospitality to those who God puts in my way to encourage, then I need to revise my expectations either by cleaning up a bit, or being ok with a bit more clutter.  Am I so bothered by what people will think of the state of my house that I can’t have people over until everything is perfect? Or is it so messy that it makes me stressed? 
In the end, hospitality is about relationships.  It’s about your relationship with the guest and their relationship with God (explicitly or implicitly). It is not about what you do together but how it makes them feel.  Do they feel loved? Do they feel truly cared for? Do they feel like your place (whether your house, a park or a café or even an online private chat conversation) is a safe place to be vulnerable and share the really hard parts of life? Did you share the love of God with them? Were you vulnerable with them? 
Do you remember my friends who used to come over at all hours of the night? Well it came out recently that my friend was then suffering from depression and that when she was feeling low her husband would suggest the walk to our place for a cuppa “because you are always happier there”… I never knew she was depressed… we used to go to their place too… all the time… I would hang out with her all the time when I was looking for my first teaching jobs after uni. We would go to the gym together and walk for endless kilometres round the north shore.  When they went off to College we kept making the trek to see them and they wold keep hanging out with us, praying with us and for us, and encouraging us in our Christian lives, and ultimately into ministry.  When she had her kids and we moved out to Parramatta and then to Appin, I would set aside a day a week and head in to visit her, hang out, drink to, go on their grocery shop, and bring Bede to their church playgroup.  Even on her busiest days she had time for me, and even when my life was hectic with teaching and then kids, I made time for her.  Our relationship is one of the main cornerstones of my adult life, given to us by God to encourage us in good times and bad times. 
I tell this story because I hope it is instructive in demonstrating how hospitality can be done well; our lives may have been busy, but we always had time for each other because it was the relationship that mattered; and there was never any judgement of housekeeping or kids behaviour on either side because we respected each other’s parenting and housekeeping standards (which of course have shifted over time with kids). 
It was practical grace.
Sacrificial love.
Those experiences so early in my marriage have shown me the true importance of hospitality to our relationships with God and with each other and inform how I perform hospitality now.  Serving God and loving his people.

Friday, February 13, 2015

What is Romance.....?

There has been a lot of discussion on television and social media lately about the opening of the film Fifty Shades of Grey.  This is not a movie I am planning on seeing or a book I am planning on reading (for many reasons not to be discussed here)... but I want to hone in on an idea that is coming up in the discussion... the concept of Romance.

When we think of Romance, we think of the box of chocolates, the flowers sent to a workplace, the candle lit dinner, the walk on the beach, or the weekend locked alone in a mountain cabin with a fireplace and a bear skin rug don't we?

We think of the grand gesture... the proposal at the top of the Eiffel Tower... or the proposal on the beach next to the fire that his best friend lit... or the proposal over dinner with the engagement ring in the glass of champagne after a decadent chocolate dessert...

We think of poetry..."How do I love thee...?" "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments..." "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"...Roses are red violets are blue...

We think of Romance as one of those things that shows that a relationship has spark... that your special someone loves you and only you until he or she dies.  We have a love affair with love affairs on film and television... love at first sight... romantic dinner dates... following your heart no matter how many people may be hurt in the process.

In some ways Romance is like that... there are grand gestures... decadent desserts and diamond rings... happily ever afters...

But the happily ever afters aren't littered with roses and diamonds taking place in palaces with diamond sunbursts and marble halls.  The most romantic fictional literary couples after they marry would still have to do the washing up and would still have morning breath just like the rest of us...

So I put it to you that yes, romance is about the chocolates and roses... some of the time and mostly in fictional universes.  In the time and place in which we find ourselves romance is an entirely different beast.

Some years ago Luke and I served on a beach mission team in Kiama.  Each member of the team was customarily interviewed at a meal, and I was asked what Luke's most romantic present to me had been.  I remember talking fondly of the first birthday I celebrated while we were going out, at which he gave me a couple of history books by Alison Weir (which I still have and love)...and all the girls in the room simultaneously sighed... how romantic! He knew what I liked and was interested in and went out of his way to find it!! The guys were all thinking...he got her books?

Romance is about knowing someone intimately and doing little things to make their life better.  It is about the tiny daily acts of kindness that make up the tapestry of a life...

Romance is making me tea in the morning with milk and one before I even say a word... romance is falling asleep with me on the couch each night as we listen to Mike Duncan's Revolutions podcast... romance is getting up in the middle of the night to replace a dummy or cuddle a crying baby so I can keep sleeping... romance is lovingly preparing dinner after a long day at work... romance is making a mix tape with songs he wanted to introduce me to (back in the day)... romance is praying with the kids each night before they go to sleep... romance is doing bathtime every night and seeing it as fun!... romance is about taking Miss 3 out on Daddy-Daughter dates... romance is about shoehorning me out the door to spend time with friends... reading to me from a mutually favourite book... binge watching tv series for me freedom to study again even though it will make things harder for him... giving me freedom to go places alone to recharge...and sitting in bed in companionable silence each night each with a book...

Sure we love going away for weekends without the kids... sure we love going out to the ballet or nice dinners in the city and things like that... But I never expect to be given flowers... it hasn't happened yet, and if it did I would think it was strange... it is more likely to be books or dvds anyway these days...

I know that may not be everyone's experience of Romance... what is yours?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

On the retirement of the bassinette...

It is time.

It is time to retire the bassinette. The sleeping home of my three little cherubs.

It was the same bassinette that my mother slept in as an infant... the same one my sister Fiona slept in in the early 70's... the same one I slept in in the early 80's...

It has held the children of family and friends for over 65 years.  It has held my children on and off for 5 years.  It will probably hold the children of my sister and brother (when they have them)...

But for now it is time to retire it.

The bassinette has sat in the corner of our bedroom for 9 months now.  It held Silas for basically 6 far the longest of any of our babies.  And has sat empty of an infant ever since.

The bassinette, like the bouncer, has since become the receptacle of miscellaneous junk... clean clothes, books, toys...  it gets moved out of the way when we need to get into the cupboard against which it stands...

It is time to put it away.  For the last time in this house.

But I can't.

The cynical amongst you might say that this is because I value the storage space it gives me... and to an extent they would be right... it would mean actually putting things away where they go instead of just dumping them in the bassinette at the end of the day.

But there is more to it than that.

Even though I know that Silas is my last baby, putting away the bassinette says that his early babyhood is over forever...irrevocably finished.  His is 8 months old and yet he is still my tiny boy, who I cradle to feed many times a day...sustenance from my own body.  He is still "Baby Silas", dwarfed so tiny next to Bede and Tabitha.  He can't crawl yet so the illusion of helplessness is still there... but soon he will be off and moving.  My last tiny boy will be moving towards toddlerhood, away from babyhood... away from total dependence on me for his every need.

It is sad.

But it is freeing... it is only a short time that I will have a small boy who needs sustenance only from me... a short time that I will be able to soothe him in the middle of the night with a cuddle and a feed... then I can have my sleep back...  and the corner of my room... but my heart will be forever fuller... forever his.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ages and Ages Hence...

I have been a mother now for five years come Monday.

I remember being very apprehensive about motherhood.  I always thought that the endless days spent at home attempting to entertain a small person (or several small people) would turn me into a drooling mess, unable to communicate effectively or coherently with other adults.  I thought that I would lose all ability to think critically about anything of an academic nature again.  I thought that people would stop valuing me for my intelligence and professional experience, and that I would become *just* a mum.

How has motherhood been? How has Mr Bede, 5 on Monday changed my life?

Well suffice to say I am not currently a drooling mess, unable to communicate with other adults... I am just as adept at the art of both spoken and written words as I was before the advent of Mr Bede... if anything more so... since having Bede I have given my first talk at a brunch for Christian Women... I have started a Masters Degree in Education (for which I am receiving marks beyond any in my previous academic endeavours, including my first HD)... I have proof-read and edited a Masters Thesis for a friend that received an HD grading... I have a few things to be proud of...

So in that sense, my life is little different.  My intellect is intact, and potentially more acute than it was.

But my life experiences?

My life experiences are vastly different to what they were...

Now I know the true horror of the toddler who hasn't napped.  I know how to wrestle a rolling baby into an all-in-one suit without scratching or breaking the bones of said baby.  I can breastfeed an infant whilst mediating a dispute between two other children, while making dinner.

Is it hard? Yes.  There are days where Mr Bede has stretched me to my breaking point.  And he hasn't even started.

It is very interesting to watch him grow up.  Five years is at the same time a very short but very long time.  He has gone from the flailing, crying infant dependent upon me for his every meal, to the flailing, running, jumping, shouting, train-imitating, Boy (and the capital is intentional.  He is SUCH a boy) who is still dependent upon me for his every meal but perhaps not in as physically immediate way these days...

We haven't even got to Homework Wars or the dark and shadowy realm of the Teenaged Years to come. He hasn't even gained a fraction of his arguing and negotiating ability... and if his current verbosity us anything to go by, we should be VERY worried.

He can and often does talk from sun up so bedtime without drawing breath, offering a running commentary on anything and everything, asking questions all the time... according to my parents, I was exactly the same.  He will talk to anyone he meets and makes friends easily with the person next in line, the kid on the swing, the old person at church... and even after a full day with lots of people will still ask when he is going to see more friends... again, a mini-me... He loves stories and being read to... he can basically recite whole books and chapters of Winnie the Pooh (a gift I think he gets from Daddy)...

He is and has always been a boy on the move. Able to crawl at 6 months and walk at the back end of ten months he could dribble a soccer ball at the tender age of 15 months.  Now he loves to practice his fast bowling, and his forehand with equal interest and equal skill.  He also loves to ride his bike for hours without stabilisers... This ia a boy who seems to have a natural affinity for sports.

This year Bede starts school up the road.  He has been at preschool several days a week for the past two years or so, and has matured so much in that time.  He leads the gang of boys in their games with balls, sand, trains, and all sorts of other things.  He can and does lead group discussions when he has the preschool 'friend' home to visit for a week and has to report back... leads the discussion, fields questions... you'd think he was born to be in the spotlight... a natural leader.

It will be fascinating to see how school affects him, how he fits in to the group... how he learns and grows and develops... It is an exciting time...

And yet... sometimes I wish he was that tiny baby again.  I would do so much differently.  But then wouldn't we all?  Wouldn't we all cuddle them more and stress about that skipped nap a bit less? Wouldn't we all shout less and rough house more? Tickle more?

Be less annoyed by his endearing quirks? Be less annoyed by his constant (and I do mean CONSTANT) chatter? Be less annoyed by his apparent inheritance of all my bad points?!

In some ways the next few years are going to be a lot about me learning to parent him better... learning to see his similarities to me and love them.  Learning to enjoy my own annoying traits... and learning how to teach him to manage them effectively...

Saturday, November 29, 2014


For the benefit of the non-Cricket watching/playing/casual fans amongst you, this has been a very sad week.  One of our brightest young batsmen, a man who was poised to re-take his place in the Australian team, has died following an on-field injury. 

The public outpouring has been in many ways unsurprising.  Australians love their Cricket and venerate their favourite players... in High Schools around Australia, members of the Australian team have their fangirls... I taught a few in my time as a Modern History Teacher.  

The team gets to meet the Queen, they play for the PM, they travel to far-flung corners of the globe and play in the most inhospitable climates imaginable (Madras Test 1986 anyone?)... One might almost say that Mad Dogs and Cricketers go out in the midday sun... 

But this death, and my own reaction to it, has me more than a little puzzled.  This man was not one I had ever met.  I had seen him play on TV but not in person... He wasn't one I had watched with particular attention, except to notice that he was good, but kept getting dropped from the side.  He wasn't someone I had ever met, or ever expected to meet in the future.

So why then, am I so upset by it?  Reading all the articles about the accident, watching all the interviews, favouriting tweets by other famous players who did know him...? Tearing up over tributes by Richie Benaud and Michael Clarke? 

I don't know really.

I can't say.  

Is it growing awareness of my own mortality? Maybe.  

Is it the shocking thought that I may outlive one or all of my own children? Possibly.  

Is it growing awareness of the inevitability of other grief to come?  Definitely.

This grief we share for the untimely death of Phil Hughes seems to be collective realisation of universal mortality. 


We mourn the ending of our own lives.  

Our own youths.  

Our own days of playing Cricket in the park with friends...or surfing at the beach with friends...or playing footy in the playground with friends... or playing... or ... or... or...

The end of  our age of innocence, our age of play and fun, the end of our seemingly endless summer holidays punctuated with the voices of Tony Greig, Richie Benaud, Bill Lawry and Ian Chappell.

Tony's voice is forever silenced.  Bill's heard more rarely.  Chappelli is still a stalwart of the commentary team, but Richie? 

Richie is old.  Old and sick.  Old and sick and injured.  We hear his much beloved voice less and less as time goes on.  It will be a sad day indeed when his voice is forever silenced.  Cricket will be without its Grandfather. Its Elder Statesman.  

In a sense, the idea of losing Richie (inevitable though it may be) is too hard to fathom.  The idea of that national grief is too scary, too much like losing a member of our own family.  So we embrace the grief of losing someone we barely knew.  Someone we liked but didn't venerate or revere in anywhere near the same way in which we do Richie.  Someone who may very well have had a long and illustrious career wearing the baggy green, even in front of the camera as a commentator... but whose future was cut short.  

At the moment, we have a future.  A future in which we can still play Cricket with our friends at the park... surf at the beach... play with our footy... play... ... ... 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sleeping like a... baby?

So Mr Silas is six months old as of yesterday.  He is a truly lovely little boy... very affectionate and happy.  He is eating real food and drinking my milk like the others did.  He laughs when you play round-and-round-the-garden on his tummy like the others.

And just like the others, he is awakening my parental obsession: baby sleep (which of course morphs into toddler sleep as they get older).  Once again the quality of my day is becoming about how well he sleeps...or as in the case of this afternoon, doesn't sleep... Once again I am wracked with anxiety around whether he is getting enough sleep and guilt that I cannot just 'clear the decks' (like I could when Bede was little) and stay home to get him back into routine, or to let him recover from a particularly busy couple of days...

Today was the second big day in a row... the morning was fine... he woke up late after a night which included an extra feed... he slept on the way to our new church and was good during the service...he slept in the carrier on me for a while, had some lunch and stayed awake in the car... we thought we would put him down for a nap then given that he had been awake for almost three hours by then... but all our efforts were to no avail... the window of sleep had shut, and he got progressively more and more overtired...and less and less likely to just drop off... and more and more grumpy.  In the end, he was so over tired that dinner was a non-event (meaning that he screamed so much he wouldn't eat anything)... the usual calmer downer of the bath didn't work (he screamed through his almost unheard of occurrence)...and was asleep for the night by 6.15... an hour earlier than usual...

This reminds me why I am so protective of my kid's sleep... lack of it can derail a perfectly nice Sunday afternoon, and a perfectly happy relaxed mood... but it also reminds me that I need to learn  to lighten up a little more... something I thought might have happened by now...three kids later... 

But as Anne Shirley was known to say, "Tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it"... or in my skipped naps in it...yet.

Monday, November 10, 2014

"Love and Muddy Puddles", a novel by Cecily Paterson

I remember well the yearnings of my adolescent heart towards enduring popularity.  I remember hanging around the edges of different groups of girls at school desperately hoping to be noticed and accepted.  

I remember with a pang the pain of being dropped from a group that I had been on the edge of for a year or so...the agony of betrayal by a one-time best friend who had to drop me too...for the sake of the group.

It is a rare book that can reach out of it's target demographic and thrust the reader kicking and screaming back into their own painful adolescence. "Love and Muddy Puddles" (LAMP)is such a book.  A book aimed squarely at the Young Adult niche, LAMP took me back to my days of desperation, longing, hoping, disappointment... days of wanting to be popular,wanting to be looked up to, wanting to be recognised for my wit and charm...rather than my shrimpiness and not-pretty-enough-ness... It was in some ways an uncomfortable read because I could see myself in Coco...the maddening always-right-ness of youth... the dismissal of the road less travelled... the certainty of ones' superiority... 

Paterson has the knack of creating true to life characters with believable story-arcs... in some ways LAMP is a tragedy with redemption... in other ways it is the comeuppance of the bitch.  
Either way, Coco is not your run-of-the-mill heroine. She is flawed. But capable of growth and change... it is an existential journey... one that all adolescents will undertake... 

LAMP is a book that your teenaged female reader will like... an astute reader will enjoy LAMP for the generous nods to Austen... and those alone will be a good reason for me to re-read it!

Monday, November 3, 2014

"Too Pretty"...a novel by Andrea Grigg.

I have a confession to make.  I am generally quite wary of Christian novels. You may think this is a strange attitude for someone who has been a Christian for 15 years and counting, and especially for someone who devours every book within reach apparently indiscriminately...

I have my reasons.  I am somewhat of a book snob.  No.  I take that back.  I am a huge book snob. Ask me one day to explain just how much of a book snob I can be.  Suffice it to say, I almost never read Christian novels.  I made an exception in the case of the Left Behind series, but I class that as fantasy which is my go-to genre.

Basically I can't stand cheese.  I cringe when I read of Christian books that are heavy on proof-texting moralism, and unbelievably perfect characters and unbelievably perfect love stories (because of course all Christian novels are romances right?)...

Now having said all that, "Too Pretty" by Andrea Grigg (who I met due to a minor mutual Outlander obsession... you know...the one with Jamie and Claire? but I digress) is NOT like any of those books that I have so far managed to avoid reading in their entirety.

"Too Pretty" is a modern Australian novel which just happens to be Christian.  So none of the stereotypes of American Christianity that we know so well.  It is a novel in which Ellie (the impossibly beautiful, but totally real protagonist) speaks everyday English to normal people. In which truly human struggles are dealt with fairly and realistically.  In which (in short) a modern red-blooded woman makes counter-cultural decisions about relationships in a way that (to a Christian reader) is laudable.

If you want to escape from the modern world, "Too Pretty" may not be your bag... if you want impossibly perfect male romantic main characters then look elsewhere.  One of Griggs' main strengths as a writer is her ability to draw characters that are flawed enough to be real, but not too flawed as to be ladling it on with a trowel... her ability to infuse the story with *just enough* Christianity... enough to leave the reader in no doubt that her characters are Christian, but not so much that the reader is belted about the head with the fact.

This is a book that I will be recommending to Christians who may be young in their faith (both male and female), and also to non-Christians (of any age) who may be interested in Christian literature; as it will challenge both groups to think through their beliefs and their experiences of the Christian faith and Christians they may know or be influenced by.  And yes. I am classing "Too Pretty" as literature. Most definitely worth a read and a discuss with a friend!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A new departure for the blog...Not Quite Nigella

So I haven't really gone in for reviews much (try at all) on this blog.  But I think I am going to start giving you my readers some reviews of the books I have been reading lately.  I have been reading all sorts of stuff lately, dabbling in newly published books for a change.

Food blogging seems to be all the rage at the moment, with the fate of new cafes and restaurants no longer only in the hands of the mainstream food critics, but also in the hands of influential bloggers with thousands of readers each week.  As you know I am rather domestically disinclined (or disabled as Luke likes to call it), and I don't do meals per se.  But I do like to read about food and places where I can eat it!!

Not Quite Nigella is a food blogger from Sydney who I discovered a couple of years ago when I was looking for cafe and restaurant reviews for places to eat out in for an anniversary dinner.  She not only reviews cafes and restaurants but also posts favourite recipes (some original, some adapted and some given by others).  I have found her reviews of Sydney cafes in particular to be very accurate and engaging, and have tried a couple of the easier baking recipes and found them to be both easy to follow and reliable in producing yummies fit for a banquet.

Not Quite Nigella has recently released a book of the same name which is the first cross-over foray I have seen from the blogging world to the world of books.  This book is a welcome addition to my bookshelves which groan with fantastical-historico-fictional tomes by the score.  It is long since I read an autobiography that involved food rather than nursing (my reviews of the "Call the Midwife" series are coming soon), and it is a breath of yummy baking-scented airy goodness!

So this is an autobiography with a difference.  It is the only autobiography I have ever read that includes special family recipes pried from the shakingly reluctant clutches of the author's mother.  I'm looking forward to getting Luke to test some of them out for me!!

But in all seriousness, "Not Quite Nigella" is a cracking read.  I knocked it off in an evening, so it isn't exactly taxing, but it isn't supposed to be.  It is a great story of how a young woman discovers her passion for food and blogging about that food.  I am a great believer in doing what you are passionate about whether it is bean counting or cooking or taking photographs of cats for a living.  It is hard for me to imagine being a food blogger full time, but them that isn't my passion.  It certainly seems to be a fulfilling choice and all the dice lined up for her to make it work.

I would totally recommend it to anyone who is interested in good human interest stories, to people who like food and to people who are interested in taking their blogging to the next level.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Friends friends friends...

Ok so I've written before about the question of friendships.  About how I don't tend to let go of friendships that many may consider to be dead.  About how I often feel jealous of people who have lifelong living-in-each-others-pockets type friendships.

And just the other week I caught up with two friends in one day.  I hadn't seen either of these people is some years, and had once been very close to both of them.

I had lunch with one, a lovely young man who I nursed through a couple of breakups in his early 20s, and with whom I (and my husband) had spent many a long night after church at cafes talking about things both deep and ephemeral.  He is since married to a lovely girl, got a wonderful job and has been serving at the church we used to attend together.

It was a wonderful lunch.  The food was great, and the company was also good.


And there is always a but.

The conversation didn't flow as freely as it once did.  We didn't talk in as much depth as we used to.  It wasn't unpleasant, but it was clear that time and distance has (some would say inevitably) had it's way with our friendship.  True it's not like I ring him, or text him (except when momentous stuff is happening).  He isn't on facebook, so I can't catch up with him like that (indeed most of the news he told me was stuff I had already heard through other sources on fb... ).  He is on twitter which I don't really frequent.  We moved away geographically, and with every move, are further from the church we went to and the people we knew together.  We had a couple of kids and he hasn't yet... so basically we're now worlds apart physically, socially, emotionally.

And yet I can't give up.

I can't feel ok about this.  This "moving on" that seems to have happened.  I have the claws in and am not letting go!!

So that was one...

Then we had after work drinks with another friend that we went to uni with.  I have seen this person about 3 times in the last 10 years, and basically the only contact we have in between is facebook messaging.

It was amazing!! This is a friendship which has not changed!! It was as if no time had passed.  The same jokes/funny stories were just as hilarious.  The same repartee...

I suppose I'm thinking about this whole issue of friendships because in our business, friendships can be necessarily transient affairs.  We could only be at a church for a couple of years at a time.  And as I've mentioned before, some people are ok with that.  They just think as they move on, "Oh well I'll see this person in heaven".  But I'm not sure how fair that is to the people we serve.  Does it mean that we never truly invested in them? Maybe.  Does it mean that we were never their friend? Possibly.  Just someone to have as a project while I'm at this church, and next church will have new projects.

But that is not how I see friendship.  I mean sure, I can't keep in touch with everyone I was friendly with from every church/workplace I've ever been at.  but I certainly emotionally invest in the friendship while I am there and care deeply about what happens to them after I am gone.

I care that time and distance erode what was once a deep friendship.  I care that someone who I used to meet up with every week at uni and who was one of my bridesmaids hasn't really kept in contact with me, and hasn't invited me to her wedding.  I care that I don't see the girl who was the first person to invite me to church.  I care that a Biblestudy leader that looked after me for 3 years during high school, and another one from when I was at uni won't be friends with me on facebook; even though I shared significant times in my life with them.  I care that people I thought I was friends with at our last church really don't seem to want to make the effort to drive half way and catch up for a coffee and a chat. And I care that every time I try to catch up with my friends from Mother's Group it falls in a hole.

Is it wrong of me to care?  Am I wrong to be hurt?  No.  I'm not.  God gives us friendships at different times to fulfil different functions according to what we need right then...or according to what someone else needs.  Does that sound too sterile? Damn right it does.  Does that make it any less meaningful? No way.

So what have I learnt from my musings about friendship?

1)  Sometimes friendships are just for a little while.  And that's ok.

2)  Some friendships, despite the best of intentions, will fade with time and distance. And that is ok.  Painful but ok.

3) God gives us friends to bring us joy, love and support both for the short and long term.  It may be that I am not the kind of person that needs to have the same friend for 80 years.  God knows and provides the friends I need when I need them.

4)  It is a wonderful thing to have a friendship for which nothing seems to change.  I have a few of these and they never cease to bring me joy!!!

And 5)  That it is ok to be hurt when friendships fade.  It shows that I have invested in that person.  That I cared about them.

So I'm not entirely finished thinking about friendships.  But for now I'll leave you with this thought:

A friend is a blessing from God.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Making Sense of Suffering...

I was listening to 103.2 on the way home from doing the pre-school run this morning.  They were playing a short from an interview with a guy called Christopher White (I think) who has just written a book called "The God I don't Understand".

He spent years struggling to make sense of suffering.  Why does it happen? Why do some people suffer more than others?

Ultimately he came to the understanding that by trying to make "sense" of suffering and "evil" we are trying to impose a good thing (sense, rationality, understanding, logic) onto something in which there is and can be no good things (evil!).  He came to understand that suffering and evil are things to be defeated and smashed by the death of Jesus!  What a way to understand suffering!

So according to this guy, we should not be asking "why?" but "how long before God deals with it by ushering in the final judgement?"!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Friends with Benefits?

Something strikes me every so often when I check Facebook.  There seem to be two kinds of people when it comes to the kinds of friends they have.

The first kind make friends at school (at whatever point) and keep them forever more. They are bridesmaids at each other's weddings. They meet up all the time so their kids can play together.  They go on holidays together sans kids.

The second kind seem to acquire friends like a collector, some from this phase of life, some from that phase. They may be friends only while they work at the same place or go to the same church.  they may be friends only while they are in the same class at uni or while they have kids in the same class at school.  Sometimes they become friends at a specific stage and the friendship seems to transcend that stage.

I seem to be of the latter category.

At school I had friends, but my year at school had lots of groups of girls that would sit together.  For a while, I would sit with one group or another according to who I was friendly with at any one time.  But it never lasted long really.  I never had enough friends in each group to make it really fun or fulfilling to stay long.

So I was a floater between groups. One who belonged to all groups and to none.

Then I joined a youth group.  Suddenly I had friends.  Instant friends who cared how I was during the week.  Friends who shared their faith with me.  Suddenly I was being invited to parties and gatherings. In some ways it made school easier, and in some ways harder.

When I went to uni I joined the Evangelical Union.  I joined small groups and went to public meetings and weekends away and met heaps of people.  Some of my best friends are from that time of my life. I met my husband there.  I met people who are now scattered to the winds, in Cambodia, the USA, China, the UK, Tasmania, Victoria, Northern NSW; good friends who I see very rarely but when I do see them it is as if no time has passed and we just pick straight up where we left off.  I love those kinds of friendships.

I met heaps of different people each year at Beach Mission as the team shifted and changed.

I have been to three different churches since Luke decided to go to College.  I made friends at each one.  Some I have kept in touch with.  Some I haven't.  At our last  church we met the godmother to our now 13 month old daughter and lots of other friends besides! I go back there whenever I am near , and revel in the fellowship and friendship found in a loving church family.

At College, we met heaps and heaps of people from all sorts of places who I catch up with as often as possible. These are people I saw often in Biblestudy groups, at the women's group, and people I lived along side when we lived in College accommodation.  We see the people from our year group quite often which is great since they are our spiritual and professional family.  The only people who truly know what it is like to be in ministry.

So I look at my life and think "Ok so, somewhere along the line I picked up a lot of friends".  But then I remember my grandmother who had a best friend for over 85 years, and some others for almost 80 years.  I don't have any friends like that.  I don't have any friends from pre-school that I still see/write to/skype regularly.  I don't have friends from kindy/school in the way that some do.  I see the photos from weddings and think "why couldn't I have had friends like that? friends that just stick together through everything for 20 years? why can't I have 10 friends who I go to Byron /Bali/somewhere with every year or so?"

Then I look at my own wedding photos.  And I look at the lists that I draw up when I am inviting friends to things.  I have friends on these lists from school, churches, uni, work, beach mission, College, and just random other times.

Is my life poorer for missing the lifelong friendships? or is it richer for having friends from a plethora of places and times in my life?  Sometimes I can't say.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Anyone?... Bueller?

Ok so here's the thing.

We all love "Ferris Bueller's Day Off".  We love that he ditches school, has lots of fun with some friends, sticks it to the man and gets away with it.  We love that he gets away with it.

Well, we loved it when we were teenagers, because we wished it was us.  We loved it in our twenties because we liked to think that when we were at school we too would have jumped at the chance to ditch school (if we knew we'd never be busted).

As a teacher though, the movie can leave a bad taste in my mouth as I get older.  It irks me when students ditch school.  It irks me more when they are obviously intelligent kids with lots of potential (like Ferris).

And as a parent?  I'm not sure what I think.  I know for a fact that if I ever find out my kids have ditched school, they will be in trouble.  I also know that I'd like to think my kids will look back on their time at school and know they put in the best effort they could.

But at the same time, everyone needs an experience like Ferris' to look back on with nostalgia and a bit of pride.  Kind of an "I beat the rules and had a great time" thing.  I would hope that I wouldn't be so uptight that I wouldn't let them have some experiences that would give them those sorts of memories.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Are you perfect?

Are you a perfectionist?  Do you have the discipline the master a craft, profession or hobby, to play a musical instrument?  Do you spend hours...days...weeks... practising? working at your passion? learning everything you can about something you love to do?

I am.

I am a perfectionist.

But I am not your standard run-of-the-mill perfectionist. I am not the perfectionist who spends hours, days months and years in disciplined activity desperately trying to better my skills.

I am the anti-perfectionist.  The kind of perfectionist who is so afraid of failure, so paralysed by the idea of not being perfect straight away, that I give up on things before I have a chance to fail.

This most annoying attitude applies to many many things... like playing piano, singing lessons, writing stories, academic study, keeping my house clean (or just generally being the "perfect housewife"), playing sport of any kind, controlling a class, cooking...

It is a frustrating trait.  For me, for my husband (who would totally love it if I took up further study, or became the domestic goddess that he sometimes wishes I was...). I would totally love to excel at everything I love instead of feeling mediocre at everything.

I would be able to say "Yes I play flute and oboe and piano", instead of saying "well I played flute for a few years, and my piano teacher fired me because I wouldn't practice".  I would be able to say (like a friend of mine) "Sure, I love cooking.  I cook every meal my kids eat; breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday", instead of saying "No I don't cook.  My husband does all the cooking in our house.  But I bake" in a please-don't-judge-me tone.

Some people would laugh at me.  Some would say "work harder at doing better".  And they would both be right.  It is comical to be the anti-perfectionist.  But it would be more godly to say "Screw my tendencies towards failure avoidance.  I am going to work harder to perfect the skills and knowledge that God has given me the capacity to achieve".  For once I could stop being extremely intelligent and capable in my own mind, and actually be that way.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lions and Tigers and Bears...

It is an amazing thing watching a small person learn to communicate.  From first coos to full sentences, it is quite a journey.  It is a journey in which you can often see the wheels turning in the head of the small person as they try to find the words for what they wish to convey.

For a long time, true language is intelligible to only the parents of the small person, and only part of the time.  Half-pronounced syllables standing for things desired, needs to be met (usually related to sustenance). One word demands for comfort, or a special someone.

And so it goes.

Sometimes it may take a few days before a new word or phrase can be added to the list of "understood words".  Sometimes words don't sound anything like they are meant to, but if consistently used, will make the cut.

Eventually other people begin to understand the burgeoning vocabulary of the small person.  Other people can also begin to influence the content of the vocabulary.  The small person may appear to have different sets of words for different care-givers. He or she may begin to imitate the mannerisms or catch phrases of certain people.

My small boy is now almost entirely intelligible to us, and intelligible to others most of the time.  But watching him grow in his knowledge of language and how to manipulate it in order to get what he wants and to manipulate those around him has been a most fascinating journey.  Watching his growing ability to use language to speak to his Father in Heaven in prayer each night is truly humbling.

This journey is only just beginning with small girl, and we will watch with interest the differences between them, and how they express their individuality through language as they grow.  Will she be more verbal sooner?  Will she say different words first?  I would think so...Mr Bede's first words were 'car', 'cat', and 'cake' in that order!!

What did your child say first? Do they have any favourite phrases or strange mannerisms picked up from you or a close family member?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Literary Questions...

I am a big reader.


Strike that.  

I am a HUMONGOUS reader.  I have no idea how many books I own.  I don't want to think about how much money I have spent on books in my lifetime.

As mentioned before I do not only read books once.  I read them over and over and over again.  I consider books to be personal friends, and favourite characters to be members of my family.  I have a pile of books next to my bed that is level with my bedside table.  I am a compulsive bibliophile.  I do not own a kindle.  I understand why people may buy them...easier to carry than a book etc.  But to me, reading a book is a sensory experience.  The feel and sound of the paper as I turn the pages.  The smell of the book as I hold it. The pictures in my head as I follow the action.  I even have soundtracks to some books that some back to me years after I carelessly read the book whilst listening to music.  

I cannot imagine not enjoying reading.  I cannot imagine finding reading a chore.  But I know people for whom books are mere words on a page.  People who do not like reading, who do not see the action as they read about it...who essentially do not enjoy the act of reading.  I have taught a few of these people.  

I found that there were a couple of series in the last 10 years or so that made non-readers or reluctant readers take up a tome or two.  Harry Potter was one, Twilight was another.  The literary merits of both series are disputed, but was is undisputed is the effect on adolescent reading habits.  

Teens are reading more.  They are trying new authors.  They are even reading their school English texts.  This can only be good.  It broadens their cultural them a larger sense of the "other"...a greater ability to engage with different kinds of people.  It helps them to communicate with each other, with people of other backgrounds and generations.  There are so many benefits from reading.

How did I become such a big reader?  How did I become someone who could devour a Harry Potter book in a single sitting?  

Well it wasn't an easy road for those who helped me to get there.  It involved (and still involves) copious hours of reading aloud for my mother, father, grandparents and (now) Luke.  I LOVE being read to.  It was one of the highlights of my day when Dad would come and read to me before bed each night.  I used to beg for the same stories over and over again.  My grandmother could probably recite "The Enchanted Wood" by the end of my childhood.  Luke and I read to each other all the time (it's part of our bonding time).

But there is more to it than that.  It comes back to losing an older sibling at a very young age.  The silences were deafening for my mother.  So she read to me for hours each day to fill up the silences that used to be filled by chatter and laughter and games.  It was such a feature of my childhood existence that I cannot imagine not loving being read to, and loving stories and language and characters. 

 But if I had not lost her, who would I be?  I may not have been read to nearly as much.  I may have grown up not loving being read to...not loving stories and the closeness that sharing them with someone else brings.  Who would I be then?  I may not have loved English so much that I chose teaching as a career.  I may not have had so much in common with Luke...  Scary thoughts.

Many books and authors shaped my childhood and literary path.  

Enid Blyton was a favourite author. I still re-read the Famous Five series every so often, and still love the unedited versions of the Faraway Tree books.  

L.M. Montgomery introduced me to two literary heroines: Anne Shirley and Emily Byrd Starr.  These fiery women taught me to chase ambitions and not take no for an answer.  The language in these novels gave me a true love of a great descriptive passage.

David Eddings introduced me to the world of fantasy writing; to wizards and knights and swords and writing in High Style.  Through him I came to find dozens of other authors, other worlds to explore.

Mary Grant Bruce is the only Australian author I truly enjoy reading.  But I can revisit Norah Linton frequently, learning about graceful womanhood and true mateship. 

Dylan Thomas introduced me to the amazing world of radio plays.  I carry a debt to my HSC English teacher who insisted that our class study "Under Milk Wood" instead of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead".  It became one of my all time favourite plays and opened me up to a whole world of sounds.  Words don't even have to be true words to be intelligible and evocative.

That should about cover it.  But again the question remains... Would I have loved these books and authors if not for those deafening silences that were crying out to be filled?


I used to like what I wore…then I had kids and everything is always dirty so I never really pay much attention to it and don’t fit into it very well anymore. I need to do a massive clothes cull because I have stuff from 15 years ago still hanging around that I can’t face throwing out and lots of pre-baby things that I still like but can’t see myself fitting into again…I think my style has changed but I’m not sure what it is now so I don’t know what to buy, and because baby T is still so little there is no point in getting new clothes (apart from pjs…which I’m totally doing very soon) til my body shape changes again…advice anyone?

Monday, March 5, 2012

What's in a name Pt 2

Life is one of those things that happens while we are thinking about writing a blog post.   Since the last time we met I finished gestating and given birth to the wonderful Miss T.  Last time we met I was bemoaning the difficulty of choosing a girl's name for a baby.  Well as you can tell we chose one...but not without much searching and compromise.

I may or may not post about the actual birth of Miss T...some bloggers like to, but for me the birth was somewhat traumatic...I am happy enough to talk about it, but hesitate to write about it...

The naming of Miss T was problematic for many reasons (mostly covered in the previous post), but mainly because our name list had so many awesome names on it...we simply could not settle on one... So we waited until we saw her...and that didn't help us much!  For a large part of her first day Miss T was nameless and beautiful... and didn't really look like any of the names on our list (in my opinion anyway...).  Luke decided to take charge...he argued that I essentially got to choose Mr B's name and therefore it was he turn to choose...the name he picked was not my first choice to be honest but it has grown on me with time, and I got to choose the middle name (after one of my grandmothers) so I was happy.  The bonus is that both names are Biblical but not obviously so (each only mentioned once each), so we can share that with her when she is older.

There are many joys that come with a new baby: a tiny body to cuddle, milestones to watch out for...that first smile (many sleeping ones, but not a true one until her one month birthday)...but one never associates better sleep with having a newborn.  Well we do.  Since her arrival at home Miss T has never slept less than 7 hours straight in one night, and often closer to 9 hours.  Her first night home, we both woke up at 4 and checked that she was still breathing...when she woke at 6.15 (after going to sleep following a 10.30 feed) we looked at each other and said "it must be a fluke"...after the second night we thought we were lucky but did not expect her to keep doing it...but by the end of the first week at home and no 2 am (or 4 am) feeding calls we started to think that we may have a keeper.  I am very lucky to have good milk supply so I am not technically required to wake her to feed through the night...and now after 5 weeks of life, Miss T has only woken us to eat once...and I thank God for every night of sleep I get because I still do not expect this wonderful thing to continue...

Monday, October 3, 2011

What's in a name?

Ok so I know it has been a ridiculously long time between drinks.  I know that most of my audience has probably grown old and died between blog posts...but much has been happening and I have not the time tonight to go into details.

Suffice to say that we are once again choosing names to apply to a small member of our family yet to be born.  This time we are choosing female names.  

You would think that choosing a couple of names for a small girl would be easier than choosing a name for a small boy.  You would think.  But no.

Choosing a name for Bede was relatively easy.  We always liked the name and I had done a thesis on the historical figure of the Venerable Bede, and the name means 'prayer' in Old English.  Our first son was always going to be Bede.  

But when we fell pregnant I choked.   I thought "can you really name a kid Bede in this day and age?"  We looked at all the other ideas on our list and came up with nothing.  But when he was born, he was Bede.  It was that easy.

This time it's not so easy. We had a boy's name all picked out (even though I wasn't wild  about it, I could live with it) but could never agree on a girl's name. Female names are fraught with emotional baggage.  Specially for a teacher who went to a single sex school.  So chances are every name has a face sitting behind a desk in a classroom.  And chances are every name has more negative associations than positive.

So we both have our preferences.  And both of us have non-negotiables.  It makes it very hard to come up with viable options.  And since we know it's a girl, it means we have to come up with something...I know we have a few more months but I like to be prepared.  

My need to be prepared is one of the many reasons I needed to find out what we're having.  Some people want to be surprised at the birth and hear the Dr say "It's a ____"...  I figure it's a surprise whenever you find out what it is, so I'd like to know now thank you very much!

Tell me, how did you choose your child's name?  Did you go with a Biblical name?  A family name?  The name of a particular celebrity/friend/influential person? 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

There are two certainties in life...Death and...

I have been thinking about parental mortality lately.  I have a father who is in a somewhat fragile state of health at the comparatively young age of 64.  This is weird for me because he is a doctor.  Someone who is meant to be a fixer of illness not a sufferer.  It is also weird because he is my father. 

I have a kind of weird relationship with my parents for various reasons (to remain undisclosed).  Suffice it to say, we are not overly demonstrative in our affection for each other either verbally or physically. I gather this is not normal by watching my husband and his parents, and other friends of mine with theirs.  It is something I regret.  

I regret that I feel unable to verbally express my love for them.  I regret even more that they feel unable to verbally express their love for me.  Their love for me is expressed in the things they do for me and in the sacrifices they made for my education.  These are admirable.  But there is nothing quite like hearing "I love you" from a parent.  And I cannot remember the last time I heard that from mine.  I realise that different people express and receive love in different ways, but I'm not sure my parents understand this.  

This comes to a head for me as I contemplate my father's mortality.  He will not live forever.  Not only will he not live forever but he cannot live forever as he does not know Jesus.  That is very hard for me.  The mere fact that he is still alive is testament to God's grace.  

This is a man who has been 'brought back' by CPR twice.  The chances of it happening once are about 5%.  I don't want to know the stats for twice.  Even less do I want to know the stats for three times. 

But it is clear to me that it is only by the grace of God that my father still lives today.  And yet.  And yet he still rejects God

My question to you today dear readers is this: How do you share Jesus with a man who is a walking miracle and doesn't acknowledge miracles?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Good News?

So in light of the fact that there are many lies being fed to us about sex, some people may be thinking: well there goes my chance at a happy marriage then"...or "well I can't be a Christian if I've had sex before marriage".

NOT SO!!!!!

There is very good news for those of us who have had sex before marriage, and who may be worried about what that may mean for their current (or future) marriage.  The good news is that as Christians we belive in total redemption.

A common error in Christian circles is to regard sexuality as somehow less fallen than the rest of our being.  This is seen through the use of sexual codewords such as "purity" or "innocence" which are misleading terms at best.  The effect is that sexual transgressions become a higher moral failing and are seen as a barrier to true faith and redemption.  This is not the case.  Sexual sin is no more sinful than greed or murder or disrespecting your parents.

The promise of Jesus is the redemption of soul and body.  Which means that as Christians our sexual sin as redeemed as all other sin.  And we are given the pattern for godly sexuality which puts love ahead of sexual gratification.

The effect of Jesus' work on the Cross for our sexual sins?  It is as if they never happened.  It is as if you never had that one night stand that you can't help remembering.  It is as if you and your fiancee never slept together "just this one time...since we're getting married anyway".  It is as if you never went home with that guy after a few too many drinks with the girls.  It is as if you and your boyfriend haven't lived together for 3 years before the wedding.  It never happened.  In the eyes of God, you are a virgin again.  In the eys of God, your marriage has a fighting chance because Jesus is at its centre pulling you together towards God.

What does that mean for William and Kate?  It means that if they belive that Jesus is the Lord of their lives, their marriage has a fighting chance.  It means that their wedding night is a true wedding night. I pray that it is truly the case.

Damned Lies and Statistics!!

I think I am a very strange person.  No.  I know I am a strange person.  I am a monarchist and I was not excited about the Royal Wedding.  No I take that back... I was marginally excited about it.  It was great to see our future King finally get married to the girl he loves.

But as I was watching, I was wondering.  And I was hoping the statistics are not against them.  The statistics that for couples who live together before they get married, 75% end up divorced.   

I watched and prayed that they would learn from the mistakes of so many who "try before they buy".  I prayed that God would protect their marriage, especially given that it is going to be such a public one.

It is one of the lies of modern life.  That living together before you get married gives the relationship a better chance of working.   It is the same lie that having sex before you get married will make your married sex-life better...or stop you from making a mistake...or something...  

The whole concept of "trying before you buy" has to be the biggest relationship lie there is.  It encourages people to sleep around, comparing the sexual prowess of their various partners, and getting married based on the brilliance of the sex lives they share.  It encourages people to start their married lives together in a spirit of deceit "of course you are the best darling...the very best"...but in the back of their minds there is always that niggling thought..."maybe I didn't truly find the best..."

The lie that society is swallowing hook line and sinker is that the heart of your whole relationship is sex.  If you base your relationship solely on sex, as soon as the sex is bad/difficult/non-existent, the relationship suffers and a partner starts looking for a way out.

Good sex is not a right.  It is something that you learn together with your partner (ideally your first partner) and grow into as your marriage matures and as you share lives together.  Any married couple who begin their married life as virgins (and yes it does happen) will tell you that sex in marriage is a learned skill.  Not something that is all sky-rockets and lightening bolts on the first night.  It can (and often does) take years to grow into a healthy pattern of relating sexually.  

There is a difference between thinking that sex is an innate skill, and seeing it as an investment made between two people for the long term.  If you start out married life with that sense of deception, that niggling comparison in the back of your head, then of course you will never be satisfied sexually by your marriage partner.  It is easy to see why people who live together before they get married have such high divorce rates.  No matter how good their intentions towards each other, the little voice in the back of the head is always saying "maybe I could have down better"...

So when I say I was not hugely excited about the Royal Wedding, it's true.  But I am still less excited about the statistical likelihood of a Royal Divorce...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Money...the root of all kinds of evil?

It's ok people...I have not fallen off the face of the earth.  I have just been either lacking inspiration, or too inspired by very controversial topics...I have decided to lead with my chin tonight and broach a sensitive topic: Technology as a commodity and the money we use to consume it.

Caveat: I have one laptop, and one mobile phone (not a smart phone) and am married to someone who also has a mobile phone (not a smart phone), we have one television (old style)... 

I have noticed a disturbing trend over the past 15 years or so...or to be more specific, since the iPod was first released.  I was going to an affluent church in an affluent area, and suddenly everybody (hyperbole alert) had an iPod.  To be fair, not everyone had an iPod, but a fair number of people did.  The service I was a part of at this church was a consistent underperformer in the area of voluntary giving as was evidenced by the relatively frequent appeals to the parishoners for greater generosity (with graphs and everything...).  I could never understand how we could afford to buy an iPod, but not give substantially more to the church.

Fast forward a few years and the trend continues at many churches.  Many people have become consumers of the smartphone and tablet phenomenon (let the reader understand).  People will happily shell out several hundred dollars for a tablet/smartphone, but may not be as generous in their voluntary giving at church.

It disturbs me that christians appear to be amongst the first to take up any new and fashionable technology.  I am disturbed even more when ministry families may have multiple laptops/desktops and tablets and smartphones.  Is this a wise use of the money entrusted to them/us by our parishoners?

I realise that quite often such purchases are assisted by grants which expire if they are not taken advantage of.  But I am also aware that many many of our parishoners are not in a position to afford many of these things, and seeing us taking advantage of such new technologies may lead them to critisise our choices when it comes to how we spend the money they entrust to us.  They may look at us and think "why should I scrimp and penny pinch just so they can lead the good life?"  We are not flush with cash by any means but the outsider, or unbeliever would never know that to look at us.

I wonder whether it is wise for us to always be the first to get the next new thing.  Whether it might not be better to be seen to be living a more frugal lifestyle, having the necessities rather than the expensive luxuries?  Might these luxuries lead people to think that if you become a christian, then God will bless you materially? (whether or not he chooses to) Would it not be a better witness to those less fortunate than ourselves if we forgoe thse new technologies for the sake of the gospel and the lost rather than flaunting them?

I am aware that these may be controversial sentiments, but let me know what you you think Jesus would approve of our stewardship of his good gifts to us?

Monday, February 21, 2011

When is it time to emotionally disconnect...from church?

I don't do change well.  This is no surprise to anyone who knows me.  So when Luke and I left our home church to go to College it was very very hard for me.  Actually, hard is a major understatement.  Changing churches was like cutting a major organ out of my body.

Let me explain.  I had been an active member of this church for over 10 years when we left.  I had come to faith in the youth group, I had led Biblestudy groups, I made some of the best friendships of my life at this church.

When we moved churches we moved to a church that was different in every possible way to the one we had left.  Gone were my comfort barriers: my friends, my teachers, my leaders.  Gone was the accustomed style of worship, and engagement with the Scriptures.  Gone even was the local area I had grown up in.

I was initially excited about starting at a new church.  I knew it was going to be different.  But I had no conception of just how different it would be.  At the new church the form of worship was alien, there was no guarantee that we would theologically agree with many of the congregation, the music was difficult.  Our minister was awesome and did everything he could to make us fee welcome and at home.  But it didn't work. For two years I lived in my own little version of Egypt.  I told myself that it was ok, that at the end of College we could go back 'home' and it would all be the same as it was.  I held onto my 'home' church as hard as I could despite the changes I saw there (services changing a bit, people moving on), emotionally I had not let go yet.

After two years, we finished our time at the difficult inner city church.  We moved to a smaller semi-rural village church.  It was a wonderful place that welcomed us with open arms, had people who loved Jesus and weren't afraid to show it.  It was a place where I made many good friends, where I was looked after by older Christians and enabled to grow in wisdom both as a worker and as a mother.  And still I held on to 'home' as 'home'.  I had not yet disengaged from my original church even though I did not go to a service in two years, even though I barely saw my friends there.

And this year, we made the biggest move yet:  leaving College, leaving a very homelike church, leaving the metro area even.  We have moved to a rural church with a small but incredibly faithful congregation who are keen to welcome us and look after us.

This last weekend I was visiting family in the leafy north.  I visited our most recent church which was such a joy!!! Many friends to catch up with and news to hear and share.  Ministries to discuss, and rejoice in!!

In the evening I visited my 'home' church.  I was struck immediately but how few people there I knew by sight.  True it is a transient and young congregation, but still.  I was struck also by some logistical changes (not worth discussing), and as usual really enjoyed the teaching.

But I thought later that I missed the church as it was when I was still a regular; the friends I saw weekly and the deep friendships which have of necessity shallowed with time and lack of investment.  I missed the combination of people I knew and loved, who gelled in a certain way, who responded in a certain way.  I had been emotionally 'hanging on' to a reality that had changed beyond recognition, and to be fair, hadn't existed anywhere but in my mind for some time.

It was a very sad realisation that the 'home' I had been so tightly holding on to is no longer there to return to.  The faces have changed, the people have moved on, but the message remains.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Time to get moving?

I seriously need to get exercising.  

I have been very disheartened lately every morning when I play the "what to wear" game.  Not because I don't have enough clothes.  I have more clothes than most people could wear.  I have clothes in three styles for basically each season.

I have been disheartened because I have very few clothes that fit me.  I must explain myself further.  For those of my readers who have not met me, I am short.  I am very short.  I don't always feel least not until I try to reach something high up.   I have a very small frame.  For most of my childhood (particularly my infancy) I was underweight and struggled to gain weight.  I was a slow and very 'small' eater.  It was not until I was about 19 that I began eating what people would call a normal sized meal.  I was never anorexic, but I was tiny.

Since I started uni, I have (for want of a better term) filled out.  I grew some hips.  That's ok, I would tell myself.  Women need hips.  While at uni I was basically a size 6-8 depending on the clothes (let's not talk about the variation in women's clothes shall we?!).

After I got married, I ate more.  For the first year I was working and studying at the same time.  For the next year and a half I was hunting for work, during which time I would go to the gym.  That was the healthiest I have basically ever felt, and the best I have ever felt about my weight (which really was not that good).  Once I got a job and since then I have basically put on a dress size every year or so.  

So I went from a 6-8 (in 2003 ish) to closer to a 12-14 (in 2008 ish).  This may not sound like that much.  In perspective, when I finished school I was about 45 kilos.  When I got married I was closer to 50 kilos. When I fell pregnant with Bede I was about 60 kilos (maybe a bit more if I'm honest).  

After I had Bede I quickly lost all my baby weight and then some.  Within a few short months I was back in single digit jeans but still feeling unhealthy.  But at the 6 month mark I started to gradually put weight back on. I put it down to a number of factors.  Little or no exercise, continuing to breastfeed (which can make your body hold on to fat), and being at home, eating irregular meals and snacking on unhealthy things.  Now with Bede 1 year old, I tip the scale at almost 65 kilos.

You may think 65 kilos is not much.  When I go shopping for clothes I am always pointed straight to the size 8 clothes.  But on a 5 foot frame...let's just say I can feel it in my knees when I climb stars and when I carry Bede and if I try to run...oh dear. 

Now for the scary part. Someone my height (not quite 5 foot tall), should weigh between 45 and 55 kilos (according to the somewhat flawed BMI scale).  This scares me because it is only a few hundred little grams until I could be classified as obese.  How can I even write this??? Me?? Obese?? What planet is this anyway????  

It should be easy enough for someone like me to lose weight right?  All I have to do is make a few dietary changes and walk a little more and the kilos should just drop off!!!  I don't think so.  I seem to have lost the ability to make good food choices, and have little to no motivation to get walking (other than getting the boy out of the house and in this heat...well you can imagine).  For me, someone who spent their entire childhood in an underweight mindset, 65 kilos may as well be 85.  I have no idea how to eat to lose weight.  I could buy gym equipment, but I know it would gather dust.  

I need a gym.  I have found a good gym.  I can afford it.  I know Luke will support me in getting there regularly, and in eating well.  But can I do it?  Not alone.  I can't do it alone.  Just like trying to live a sinless life, I can't lose weight alone.  I need help.  I need God's help because I can't help myself, neither in life nor in weight loss.  

I need Him to give me the motivation to get in the car and drive to the gym and put Bede in creche and eat healthily even though I'm not a fan of fruit and veggies.  I need to know there are other people out there in the same boat.  People who need to lose weight but struggle to find the motivation, and who want someone to talk to about it.  I need someone to talk to about it and to pray with about it.  I need people to pray for me that I can get healthy again both in mind and in body.