Friday, 25 December 2015

Christmas time

Not everyone enjoys Christmas time.  There are a variety of reasons for this.  Stress (have you seen Aldi's Christmas ad this year?), grief over lost loved ones, disappointment that the family get-together didn't include reconciliation.  I'm sure there are many more.

And it's only made worse by those Christmas songs that call this "the most wonderful time of the year".  Those who don't find it wonderful feel pressure to enjoy this season, but it seems in the act of trying the joy slips out of reach.

We think we should be happy at Christmas time.  We should enjoy time with our friends and family and good food.  And these are right and good desires.  That's why it hurts so much when they're not fulfilled.

But I think it's okay to have a good Christmas without these things.  It's possible to have a good Christmas without these things.  Because there are a number of things that we think Christmas is about that are actually wrong.

Christmas is not about your happiness.
Christmas is not about family.
Christmas is not about food, or presents, or generosity, or friendship.

Christmas is about Christ.

That little baby, whom God sent into the world as a gift.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not die, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Christmas is about Jesus.  But you can't understand the gift if you only look at the baby in the manger.  Take a look at Jesus' life, what he did when he grew up, how he died, and what happened next.

When we understand the gift God gave the world at Christmas time, we see that to truly enjoy Christmas is to receive this gift and thank God for it.  So go and check out God's gift, you might be surprised.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

We're on a babymoon!

In my last post I mentioned that we drove down to Melbourne. This was just a stop on our way to Tasmania for a baby-moon. Apparently it's a thing that some people do: go on a holiday before the baby is born as a kind of second honeymoon and a last holiday without children. We thought it sounded like a good excuse for a holiday.

J and I were tossing up between Tasmania and New Zealand. J had been to Tasmania before and wanted to show me around. I have been to New Zealand and wanted to show J around. We only had a week to play with, and since Tasmania is smaller we opted for there. Unfortunately a lot of Tasmanian gems are seen by doing long walks, which I can't do at the moment. But I suppose New Zealand would have been the same. We'll just have to go back to Tasmania another time!

We're hiring a car while we're here and staying in Hobart, Strahan, and Launceston. Hobart is first and so far we love it. It's a pretty city that's easy to get around and has interesting places to explore in and around it.

Again, I don't think I'll be great at getting photos up on the blog, but if you'd like to see some more photos you can have a look at my instagram photos further down on the right panel (website version of the blog for those who read via email).

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Hello new car

So I've been a bit slow in posting about this, but we finally bought a car. Not to replace Claude, but yes to replace Claude. We knew we would have had to up size from the Peugeot, which was only a three door (because the boot strangely counts as a door) to make room for the baby, but we said goodbye to Claude much earlier than we would have liked.

You may have noticed that the last few blogposts haven't included any photos. That's because my computer is currently having repairs done and I've been posting from my phone. Photos are much easier to do on the computer, but I will try and include a photo of our car somewhere in this post (to be honest, I'm not sure where in the post it'll turn up, but it'll be in here somewhere!).

The new car is a 2006 Mazda 3 sedan. 
Features include:

  • black paint (wonderful in Aussie summers!),
  • 6-speed manual (so you get into reverse by pushing the gear-stick down and to the left, very strange),
  • red interior lights (so it feels like we're on an imperial ship),
  • temperature control air-conditioning (no more too cold with air-con and too hot without it),
  • 6 disk CD player (we could fit more than half of our Sherlock audiobook disks in at once if we wanted to!),
  • Cruise control (which I really enjoyed using on our drive down to Melbourne yesterday),
  • A sneaky aux plug (at first we thought there wasn't one, but I found it in the centre console with a little gap in the lid for the cable to poke out, how clever!),
  • and the indicator is on the right side (the right side) because it's not a European car (sorry Claude).

We haven't named the car yet. Naming is tricky, and we've also got a far more important naming to think through at the moment. Any ideas for the name of our car?

Overall, we're very pleased with the car and thankful for God's provision: both in the money to buy it, and in our finding this car.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

I'm not good at goodbyes

I'm not sure I've ever thought about the word "goodbye" before.  It begins with "good", but often I don't feel like goodbyes are good, and I certainly don't feel any good at saying them.

Yesterday I said goodbye to friends who have finished college and are moving back to New Zealand. It was so much easier to say "see you later". But I corrected myself. I know that goodbye is more accurate because I don't know if I will ever see them again.

But then she said to me "until next time", and that felt better than goodbye. We don't know when we'll see each other again, but we are God's children, saved by our faith in Jesus, and we know that we will see each other again in heaven.

Today we also had our church Christmas lunch, which included a farewell to J and I because we will be going to a different church for different training next year. These goodbyes weren't as final as the friends I mentioned, but they were still sad. We won't see this church family every week anymore. Though we'll still be in the same city, our interactions won't be the same.

It was hard saying goodbye to these friends too. It was much easier to say "we'll see you again, we'll come and visit", and try to avoid the sadness of goodbye. I didn't want the sadness of goodbye. But again, I know that I will see these friends in heaven, even after we have our final goodbyes.

Thank you God, for our hope of heaven. Perhaps goodbyes can be good after all.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Thankful Thursday

It's been a little while since I've posted in this what was meant to be weekly series.  Whoops.  We're now onto our fourth week of holidays, or I guess in my case: unemployment.  But I like to think of it as holidays, or even a really long maternity leave, because I don't plan to get a job before the baby arrives, and after will be a whole occupation in itself.

Here are some things that I'm thankful for this week:

Games with friends
We've had two nights of dinner and games with friends this week.  We haven't played games much lately with the stress of the end of the year at college so it was nice to have some fun.  I love that so many of our friends and neighbours enjoy playing board games and card games which means we have so many people to play with.  It was lovely to be able to catch up with these friends and hear about their holidays and chat about life. 

The health care system in Australia
We really do have such a good health care system here.  I haven't had to pay for any of my pregnancy appointments because I'm bulk billed as a low-income patient.  But even despite this there is good public health care available, free!  I had a hospital appointment this week and my glucose tolerance test today and it was all so easy. I'm hoping that my test doesn't turn up gestational diabetes but we'll have to wait and see.

Generous community
Two ladies in my community have just had babies and are also moving out at the end of the year.  Both of them have offered me lots of maternity clothes, more than I even need or could fit in my wardrobe.  I'm so thankful for their generosity and the blessing that it is living in this community.

What are you thankful for this week?

(By the way, my parcel arrived as expected two weeks ago!)

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

My neighbour makes me paranoid

Let me start by clarifying that not everyone who lives in my block of units is from college.  Some of the units are privately owned and rented.  The units either side of us fall into this second category: not-college people.

We've had difficult people living on our left the whole time we've been living here.  You may remember me writing about our noisy neighbour in first year.  He moved out towards the end of our first year and since then we've had a noise-sensitive neighbour who has gotten progressively more hostile and paranoid.

Mostly he just glares at us, and will never respond when we say hello.  But we've also heard from other neighbours that he thinks J and another college student are hacking into his computer and stealing things.  We think he probably has paranoid schizophrenia, and I find myself sadly thinking: how do you love someone who is determined to hate you?

But God did just this, didn't he?  The whole world was determined to hate him yet he was determined to love us.  While we were still his enemies he sent his son as a gift to us (Rom 5:8).  If God did this for me, how can I not also love my neighbour who hates me?  Jesus even tells us to do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27).  But how do I do good to this neighbour who wants nothing to do with us and believes lies about us (and will probably take anything we do the wrong way)? 

One way that I try to love him is by walking quietly on our stairs.  Our stairs are against the wall we share with this neighbour and they can be quite noisy (if his stair-walking is anything to go by.  Seriously, it sounds like someone else is in the house with you!).  I know he is noise-sensitive so I try to keep our noise levels low.  How much of this is being loving and how much is fear of him reacting, I'm not sure.

On to why I'm paranoid.  Because I know that our neighbour hates us I'm afraid that he's stealing our mail.  I'm sure this is a silly fear, but we've had two undelivered parcels this year and I'm anxiously awaiting a parcel that Australia Post tells me will arrive today.  What if it comes while we're out?  What if our neighbour takes it from our front door step, or signs for the parcel himself, saying he'll pass it on but really just keeping it from us? (Sometimes the posties don't care who signs for it, which is admittedly helpful if a college friend is the one who signs for you).

But I now realise that I'm doing just what he's doing.  I'm being paranoid that he's out to get me.  I'm believing untruths about him (or at least worrying that they're true) when there's no evidence for it.  So loving my neighbour in this situation is not worrying or thinking the worst of him. 

I'm not sure how else to love and do good to our neighbour.  Anyone have any ideas? 

Monday, 23 November 2015

What this community has taught me about being generous

People in our community are so happy to just give things away, rather than trying to sell them!  I was particularly struck by this when I saw a friend on Facebook trying to sell his stuff before he went overseas.  It was such a contrast in my eyes.  Fair enough if you need the money, but I feel like the students here probably do need the money, but they have an attitude of generosity and happily give their things away to other students.  

Just as an example: we've had two offers of a cot for the baby, and they didn't want any money for them (I asked!).  Someone is giving us her stick blender when she moves out.  We've had many offers of baby things that we haven't always been able to accept because we just don't have room for it yet.  And this is just a taste of the generosity of this community.  

And it has taught me to be generous too.

We have college friends who lives just outside our college community (down the road a little bit), but who are still considered part of the community.  I think they know us best and so often will ask us for help in the form of "Can I borrow some baking powder? I thought I had some but it's baking soda."  They also used our washing machine for a few weeks while theirs was broken.  

And a couple of days ago another friend from our community knocked on our door twice, the first time to borrow some cocoa powder, and the next time a muffin tray.  The other day a friend knocked on my door to ask for some sewing advice (not that I'm anything of an expert!), and then again later in the week to show me the finished product.

I'm not saying that I'm the fount of all help in our community, this stuff actually happens all the time between everyone.  Sometimes people will send an email to ask the whole community or sometimes they'll approach someone individually.  

I have realised that I love being asked to help. I love that people think to ask us for help. I feel that often people don't like to ask for help, or think that they are being inconvenient or a free-loader when they ask to use something you have.  Sometimes I feel like that!  But I actually enjoy helping people in this way.  So that has changed my attitude to asking for help.  

I remember a sermon I heard a few years ago, and the preacher said that being a good neighbour can sometimes mean asking them for help (rather than offering help), because it gives them a chance to bless you with the skills and resources that they have.  I can certainly say that I have enjoyed blessing my neighbours who have needed help.  

I'm now in the process of cleaning out our second bedroom to get it ready for the baby.  It's currently a study and store room so it really needs a big cull.  Occasionally I find myself wondering what I might get if I tried to sell some of the things I want to get rid of, but that's a rare thought.  I really want to be generous and able to bless my community by giving things away.  This community has been a blessing to us and that has in turn encouraged us to be generous, with our time, resources and attention.  I hope others around us can see this generosity and know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35). 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

When life is hard

Generally I like my life.  Sure, more storage space in my house would be nice, but I can’t really complain about my life. 

But when life is hard (read: I have any sort of deadline coming up) I sometimes wish that I didn’t exist.  Or, more like I wish that I was a bird or a tree and didn’t have to do things like exams.  I just want to escape. 

Or I could wish to be a bird-tree...

Last night I had a panic/depressed/pessimistic moment about my upcoming exams and the study that I’ve done.  I don’t feel I know my material like I should, there’s not enough time to learn it properly, and I feel like I don’t know enough to do my exams. 

But when the thought of being a bird came into my head last night it fizzled out.  I realised that the escape–my–life–and–its–problems feeling wasn’t there.  It’s not just my life that I’m in charge of at the moment.  I’m supporting another little life inside of me.  I couldn’t wish to not exist because a little life relies on me to exist. 

Of course, I know that it is God who sustains our baby but my involvement in this has changed my outlook on when life is hard.  I am humbled.  I am maturing.  I’m not so focused on myself.  Life is more than just these upcoming exams. 

I’m glad that this exam period is my last.  I’m sick of study–stress.  But I have to get through four exams before it’s over.  Please pray for me as I study, and for my memory during exams.  I don’t know if I have baby–brain (yet?), but it’s a convenient excuse if I don’t do well in my exams.  But I don’t want to have to use it.  I want to finish college well and be satisfied with my exam efforts. 

I am reminded by a friend who also posted about exam study today that while exam results are correlated with my effort, life results are not.  It’s incredibly freeing that none of my effort counts when it comes to God.  I don’t have to worry about if I’ve worked hard enough, or performed well enough.  I don’t have to wish for an escape when I feel like I’m failing.  Jesus has done all that is necessary for my salvation and my everlasting with God.  Hallelujah!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

The end of the last three years

This is my final week of college classes.  I’ve been here before of course.  This started out as a one year project, but it joyfully turned into three. 

Mostly it felt like a normal week.  I feel like it should be more than this.  But classes go on as normal, they just might end in applause if it’s our last lecture in that subject.  I want to savour my time but I don’t really know how to do it.  

J kept coming up with all the things that are my last.  Last Ethics lecture, last chaplaincy group, last split chapel, last return thanks (prayer at the end of lunch).  This was a good reminder, but it never felt like the last to me.  There have been a few things that have helped.  We had breakfast in our chaplaincy group this week, and prayed for our chaplains.  Tonight is the farewell for the women (students and wives) who are leaving college. 

I have mixed feelings about finishing college.  I’m sad about leaving friends and daily in-depth focus on my faith.  I'm glad to leave essays and exams behind me.  I’m looking forward to next year with a mix of excitement and nerves.  

Partly it doesn’t feel finished because I still have 4 exams to get through.  They are a daunting prospect. 

There’s really no resolution to this post.  I don’t quite know how to feel about this week.  How do you deal with endings?

Thankful Thursday

Here are some of the things I am thankful for this week:

A new pillow
My parents were here over the weekend and we spent a lot of time with them, which was lovely.  We went out to dinner with them a number of times, J and Dad played golf, Mum and I went shopping, I drove them to a quilting shop Mum really wanted to visit.  One of the fun things I did with Mum was to make a pregnancy pillow.  I'm normally a back-sleeper so switching to sleeping on my side has been a bit of an adjustment. I'd seen a few patterns on the Internet, but I already had a bit of an idea of what I wanted.  I'd been sleeping with two extra pillows, one at my front between my knees and supporting my stomach, and the other at my back.  But they were a bit flat and meant I took up a lot of room in the bed much to J's dismay.  So I knew I wanted something to support my front and back, that was narrower and plumper than a normal pillow.  Mum and I had fun making it up as we went along and here is the result.  I am now, usually, sleeping much more comfortably (except for sore hips!).  

Community living
I've said it before, but I love living in this community of Christian student families.  This week I'm thankful that I can borrow things (like a sewing machine for that pillow!) and I can shoot out strange requests and the odds are that someone can help me.  This week I need egg cartons for the craft at kid's club so I sent out an email to our community and got about five replies from people who had heaps of egg cartons!  I had so much more than enough, thank you community!

What are you thankful for this week?

Sunday, 25 October 2015

An announcement and an apology

Okay, it’s about time that I write about what I’ll be doing next year.  But this announcement also comes with an apology.  

Me at 21 weeks pregnantI am currently half way through a pregnancy and will be spending most of my time being a mother next year.  We are excited to be growing our family in this way, with a good dose of nervous thrown in too!  (This is why we won’t have as much space in our house next year.)   

The baby is due at the end of February, the 29th to be exact (though babies are rarely exact).  J is quite excited about that due date, seeing as it’s a leap year, but I’m glad that only about 4% of babies are born on their due date.  The poor child would only get a ‘real’ birthday every four years!  

My apology is this: for those of you who struggle with childlessness, I am sorry.  I am sorry for the pain that this announcement may cause you, and I am sorry for the pain you have already gone through and are going through as you seek to answer your good desire to have children, be they biological or adopted.  I don’t have any answers and there is nothing that I can say to lessen your pain.  Our desire to be sensitive to you is part of the reason why this announcement has taken so long to happen online.  We wanted to be sensitive to you and not make a big online announcement.  You are not forgotten by us.  We love you, and so does our creator God.  We long for the day that we can celebrate new life with you. 

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Thankful Thursday

Oops.  It’s Thursday again.  I had at least two posts that I wanted to write before we got here.  One was about the space thing I mentioned last time.  I guess that will have to wait, sorry. 

Here are some of the things I am thankful for this week:

Breakfast date and good advice
J and I went out for a breakfast date on Saturday.  We were already up early because our community had its annual photo that morning.  We had heard about a nice cafe just down the road and decided this was a great opportunity to check it out.  When we got there I saw that the menu had Nutella bombs! 

Now I understand if you don’t know what a Nutella bomb is; I myself only learnt about them a couple of months ago.  It is basically a Nutella milkshake, usually with a jam (or Nutella?) filled doughnut sitting on top of the glass with the straw pushed through it.  I’ve never had one before, so all this is just what I’ve heard from others.  The Nutella bomb at this cafe had a chocolate brownie on the top. 

I really wanted to get one, I’ve never tried it before and I LOVE Nutella.  But J convinced me that I wouldn’t be able to fit it in with breakfast as well.  So I made him promise that we’d come back some other time for a Nutella bomb.  Actually, I don’t think I made him promise, I just told him that we had to come back another time. 

Picture from http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/inner-west/meet-the-geniuses-behind-the-tella-ball-shake-from-foodcraft-espresso-and-bakery/story-fngr8h4f-1227483576488This is what they look like.  When I tried to search online for Nutella bomb I couldn’t find it but it turns out the rest of the world (or just Sydney?) calls them Tella Ball Shakes.  If you click on the picture you can get the story about how they were created/invented. 

At the end of breakfast I realised J was right.  I’d only had a bowl of toasted museli with berries and yoghurt, with a glass of fresh juice, but I knew I definitely couldn’t have fit a Nutella bomb in as well.  Sorry I don’t have a picture of the food (it was delicious), but I’ve never been in the habit of taking photos of my food.  But when I have a Nutella bomb or Tella Ball Shake I’ll try to remember to take a photo!

A driver swap
As you know, our community organises a car pool to get to and from college each day.  This week I’m thankful for the driver who was willing to swap times with J and I so that we could get home a little bit earlier for an appointment we had to get to. 

Final assignment done!
Last night I submitted my final assignment (ever! J said, but I told him to never say never, or ever).  As far as final assignments go it was a pretty easy one to finish on.  It was the second of a two part research assignment where we had to reflect upon an application of our research and what we have learnt through the process.  And as maybe you can tell by the name of this blog, I don’t mind reflecting much at all. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Thankful Thursday

Getting an assignment finished
Last week was my final Research Week of my college career!  I chose to look at the significance of Jesus’ resurrection in the argument of the letter to the Romans.  I’m not sure that I answered the question very well, but I enjoyed looking at Romans in more detail and the things that I have now learnt about it.  Now I know roughly what is the subject of most chapters, and I’ve understood the flow of the argument a bit better.  Of course, the lectures that we’ve been having on Romans this week in class have shown up the holes in my essay!

I often grumble about doing assignments.  It’s my least favourite part of studying at college.  But I’m so thankful for what I have learnt through the process of doing assignments (and thankful that the big assignments are over for me!).

Adelaide catch ups
We flew to Adelaide on Friday for a family wedding.  (This made finishing the assignment due Friday a bit tricky, but thankfully we both managed.)  We saw a lot of people over the weekend because of the wedding and because we visited our home church on Sunday morning.  I’m an introvert, so by the end of the weekend I was feeling pretty emotionally tired (let alone physically because of the late nights of assignment writing and wedding reception).  But despite this, I’m so glad we got the chance to catch up with some of our family and friends. 

Clothes airers (and the space to set them up in)
Normally I do the washing on the weekend but that obviously wasn’t possible this time.  The weather was a bit dreary at the beginning of this week so I had to hang the clothes inside.  I’m thankful for clothes airers that mean a lot of clothes can be hung up in a small space.  I’m also thankful that we have some spaces around our house where the clothes airer is relatively out of the way.  We’re not going to have as much of that free space next year so I’m reminded to be thankful for it now.  (More about that decreased space in another post!)

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

I am a music snob

I am a music snob.  I really am, I am ashamed to say.  I don’t mean styles of music.  You can like your punk/funk/heavy metal as much as you like and I’m not fussed.  Each to their own and I’m (mostly) happy to say that it’s just a matter of preference (but screaming, is that really music?).  When I say I’m a music snob, it’s in a far worse way than disliking a particular style.  I mean church music.

In the last while I have been to a few different churches or places where church music is played (e.g. college).  Each church has different resources (in terms of musicians available and qualities of sound systems and things like that).  And I have realised that I am a snob about church music.

I realised this recently when we were in a church singing a song that I knew well and the song leader and congregation sang a note wrong.  They sang two lines exactly the same without the subtle difference of one note.  It was only one note, but it annoyed me. 

Now, I quickly realised that this probably affected only me.  My snobbery caused me to lose joy in what I was singing, to focus more on the music (the tune, the instruments, the tempo) instead of the words that I was (meant to be) singing in worship to God.  It distracted me from what I should be focusing on while singing in church.

I know that this is probably my problem and not something I can blame on someone else.  I could say that the musicians should “work harder” and get the song “right” so that the music is good and doesn't distract anyone.  But I’ve been in far too many small churches to know that this just isn’t possible.  Your drummer is young and enthusiastic and plays too fast and loud, or your guitarist taught themself and can only play certain types of music, or your singers are shy and never know when to come in.  But there’s no one else who can do it, so you use what you have. 

Sure, my problem may be fixed by a talented music team who play well together and produce polished church music.  I will be able to entrust myself to their music and focus on the words and what I am singing to God.  There will be nothing in the music that jars me out of my focus on God.  But what if I’ve learnt the song incorrectly in the first place?  What I think is right and won’t jar, is actually not right, and even if the musicians play the song perfectly (or we sing along to a recording, arguably as perfect as you can get), my problem will still happen.

So much of the way we do music at church is communal.  We learn together and we teach each other.  We may get used to the way that our church music team plays a particular song, and this becomes our favourite and comfortable way to sing it, even if it is “wrong” in certain aspects according to the original composer(s) and performer(s).  

My music snobbery is just something that I need to get over.  I can’t control the music at any church and getting upset about it just puts a barrier in my way to worshiping God through what I’m singing.  I want to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness for the way that God has blessed the church with the people who are there, and I want to focus on the words, more than the music.  Any time I hear that jarring of music not–quite–right–to–my–ears, I hope it reminds me to refocus on the words, to mean what I am singing, and ultimately, focus not on myself, but on my God. 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Thankful Thursday

Here we are again at Thursday.  Sometimes I can’t believe how fast the week goes.  This week has been a bit up and down for me, but I know that there are still things I can be thankful to God for through it all. 

A chance for some crafting
On Saturday we had the college Spring carnival.  It’s kind of an excuse to have lots of people at college for Open Day, which happens at the same time.  It’s lots of fun, particularly for families: there’s face painting, balloon animals and a jumping castle.  One of my favourite things is the cake competition because after the judging you can buy slices of cake for a dollar and try them all.  Unfortunately I was too full from my lunch to try all the cakes, and I stupidly didn’t make good use of the fact they had take-away containers available.  Oh well, it’s probably better that I didn’t. 

Spring carnival also has a lot of stalls, populated and run by students.  Lots of these things are handmade so when I got home that afternoon I was inspired to do some craft myself.  I made a whole bunch of earrings, did a bit of crochet, and fixed a hole in one of J’s pockets!  Very industrious!

Calming colouring
On Sunday I (officially) started some adult colouring.  It’s a bit of a trend at the moment, that has really take flight.  I’ve seen lots of adult colouring books in stores and seen it mentioned on the internet.  A couple of weeks ago I ordered a special colouring book as a gift for a friend (and I got one for me too!).  One of my fellow students put me onto it actually.  His sister-in-law created this book as a way to meditate on verses from the Bible as you colour in the patterns she has drawn around them.  The book is called Meditations and you can find it here

This afternoon I was feeling anxious so I did a bit of colouring and it really helped me to calm down and remember God’s goodness.  Last night as I did a bit of colouring before bed I used it as a time to pray for others.  I love how colouring gets you to stop and wind down and how this book in particular gets you to focus on God and his word as you do it.

Picture from http://www.lorien-illustrations.com/shop/meditations

The Library Box
Third year had an assignment due last night (which I submitted at 10:30pm, woo hoo! just within my acceptable bed time limits if I race).  I had at least ten books to return this morning.  Now, since there’s a big construction site at college the library has moved a few hundred metres down the road.  That doesn’t sound that far… I’m going to look up how far it is.

Haa! Yes, it is only 300 metres.  I probably had to walk further to get to the uni library when I was studying at uni.

Aaanyway, I didn’t want to take them all the way to the library.  Thankfully there is a library returns box on campus so I could just tip all my books in there this morning before chapel.  Thank you library box!

 

What are you thankful for this week?

Friday, 25 September 2015

A thankfulness post

So I forgot to write a Thankful Thursday post yesterday…  But I really do want to get back into the habit of blogging so that you far-away-friends still get news about what I’m up to.  So I’m writing it anyway, a day late. 

Unexpected flowers
But they weren’t from J!  On Saturday we went to a friend’s birthday party.  She had planned to have a picnic outside on our community lawn but it had rained a lot in the days previous so she decided to reduce the number (family celebrations could happen another time) and move it indoors.  So we had a picnic inside her house!  She had decorated the living room with lots of bunches of flowers and told us all that we could take some home with us (she had so many that she let me take two bunches!).  I love how flowers easily brighten up a room, so it has been lovely to have some in our house.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of mine before some of them died so here’s a similar picture.

Picture from http://greeneflorist.com/blog/sweet-peas-a-fragrant-surprise-155/

Sharing friends’ joy
We have some friends who are struggling with life at the moment.  I’m not going to go into any details because that’s their business.  Recently they have experienced a blessing from God, an opened door to ease some of their struggles.  It has been wonderful to see their joy knowing the contrast with their sadness.  I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited for someone else before and it’s such a wonderful thing to be able to share their joy.

Easy love
J has had (and continues to have) a very busy week this week.  I’ve ended up doing the dishes by myself a couple of times.  But he loves it, and it’s such an easy way to love him!  J hates a messy kitchen, it really stresses him out and he’s so thankful when he comes home to see the kitchen clean.  So I’m thankful that he is easy to love in this way, and that I enjoy doing it for him.

What are you thankful for this week? 

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Thankful Thursday

I’ve been sitting at home this afternoon waiting for it to rain.  The weather forecast predicted a lot of rain today but I’m yet to see any of it!  I’m glad that I made it home while it was still dry.  Here are some things I’m thankful for this week. 

It’s my birthday!
It’s my birthday today!  I have to admit that I often feel a bit strange on my birthday.  More people talk to you than normal, saying ‘happy birthday’ and doing nice things.  I’m not used to the extra attention and I’m not really sure how to react to it.  But I have enjoyed the love that friends and family have shown me.  I’m thankful for these people. 

Quick crafts
On Monday I started a crochet project and I finished it today.  It was for a sock bun, I found the pattern here.  It was basically a large square that I rolled up and sewed together.  I haven’t tried it out yet but I’m looking forward to it.  I’m not sure how curly hair goes in a sock bun but I figured this would be a cheap way of trying it!  I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Rebuke and encouragement
There have been a number of instances in the past two weeks when I have felt rebuked about my Bible reading and prayer habits, but particularly prayer.  A lecture two weeks ago, a small group that I led and a chapel sermon.  I’ve been encouraged to get back into the habit, and though it has been slow, I have been more regular than before.  I’m thankful for these painful reminders and the motivation they produced in me.

I’ve got to stop there are get ready to go out for my birthday dinner!

Monday, 14 September 2015

A Garden Holiday

I’m a little ashamed of how long I’ve been away from blogging.  Even my Thankful Thursday series has not been achieving it’s purpose in getting me to post regularly.  To those who wait for news from me via this blog, I am sorry that I have neglected this.  It has been a busy semester of college and I have either felt too busy to write (or think about what to write), or I haven’t know what to write about.  I know there have been things to write about but I haven’t always known how to write about them.  But we’ve just come off a week of mid-semester holidays and we did something worth writing about so here I am again!

Last week, Monday to Wednesday we went away to the Hunter Valley to get away and spend some more time together.  The Hunter Valley, for those who don’t know, is a famous wine region.  And what’s wine without some fancy food?  So there’s also some fancy cheese factories and other things as well.  I’m not really into wine or fancy cheese (give me cheddar or edam any day) but J and I still found some things to do. 

My favourite was our visit to the Hunter Valley Gardens.  Because it cost us to get in we made a day of it.  The step counter on my phone said I’d done over 15,000 steps by the end of the day! 

The Garden is set up as a number of different gardens together in one park (for example, a rose garden, an oriental garden, a formal garden, and so on).  It was a wonderful time to walk around with J and marvel and God’s creation.  So many colours and varieties and ways of shaping them together.  Here are some photos from our time there. 

I got J to imitate this bush!  We marvelled at how well many of the hedges and bushes were shaped and trimmed.  These were some of my favourites:

There was a storybook garden with lots of figures and stories from nurseries rhymes and other places.  I imagine it was a good garden for children who were bored with the rest of the Garden but I found other places much more interesting.  My favourite part was those funny bushes (above).

We also had fun at the Hunter Valley Garden village, which had lots of cute shops and things to try.  J did some wine tasting and we both had some milk and a cookie from the homemade cookie shop.  One afternoon we bought some cheese and had a little picnic of cheese and crackers and fancy spiced pear paste. 

It was a lovely time away together that I think we both needed.  Now we’re back at college and back into the swing of assignments and lectures.  Please pray for us, that we would still find time together, as we enter this busy time. 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Living in a fishbowl

We don’t often think about our curtains and blinds.  The way they let in or block out light as we desire.  Sometimes we might get frustrated when they don’t work as effectively as we think they should, or when we have to clean them (I’ve never tried washing curtains but venetian blinds are a pain to dust).  But I think we often just take them for granted.  All windows have them.  Except when they don’t. 

There are some significant renovations going on in our block of units.  Basically the whole front of 11 of the units needed to be replaced.  The wooden frames would be replaced with metal.  That meant the whole front had to come off. 

Here’s what it looked like for one of the units (friends of ours recently moved out of this unit). 

Here’s our house with the whole front gone.  We put up plastic painting sheets as makeshift walls to keep the dust off our furniture. 

Unfortunately the workmen had to pull the edge of it down so that they could get in.  They put the new frame on the same day but the insides weren’t finished until several days later.  So we lived in our blind-less, compacted living space with our plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling until the inside could be finished.  I felt like I was living in a fishbowl. 

Thankfully our friends who were away on holidays and had lent us their car had also generously lent us their house and bed if we needed it.  So we took refuge in their house most of the time.  We decided to sleep in our own bed, despite having no blinds, knowing that if the sun didn’t wake us, the workmen starting at 7:30 would. 

 

We’re still waiting for the blinds to go back up, but when we got back from our week away the inside panelling was finished and even the door was painted.  I stuck some newspaper to the window following some of the other units so that we would have a little bit of privacy.  Here’s hoping the blinds will go up soon so we can spread our furniture out again!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Goodbye Claude

Last week, we were driving home from our anniversary dinner.  I was driving because J doesn’t like to drive when he’s had some alcohol.  Part of the drive home involved a long left-turning lane, at an intersection, with a stop sign at the end.  J reminded me of the stop sign so I pressed on the brake.  And then we were jolted forward. 

The car behind us had hit us.  Perhaps he wasn’t expecting me to stop, maybe I did stop too suddenly.  He was following too close behind and maybe he was looking for oncoming traffic like I was, instead of looking at the car in front of him.

I’ve never been in a car accident so I had no idea what to do.  I'm so glad J was with me. The man in the car behind me got out and apologised, and asked me to pull over on the road we were intending to turn onto.  We exchanged details about insurance and license and then went our separate ways.  

After taking the car to the insurance-approved smash repairer it turns out that our car wasn’t worth the money it would cost to fix it.  Or to put it another way, the cost to fix it was more than the car was insured for.  So that means it has been written off, not deemed worth driving anymore.  

Our car was a Peugeot.  J bought it as his first car when he started full-time work.  Since it was French he wanted to name it with a French name and "Claude" was chosen.  We prayed over the car, that it would be used for ministry and its seats shared with friends.  It got us between state capital cities a number of times.  I learnt how to drive a manual in that car.  We’ve used it to help a stranded stranger and to car-pool colleagues.  

We handed Claude in on Wednesday.  It was only fitting that we also had a bit of a wake.  J wanted to buy a croissant or baguette in memoriam, but we couldn’t find any in the bakery we walked into.  So we settled for a crème brûlée and a macaroon.  We ate them at home in Claude’s now empty car space.  

But despite the sadness over losing our car, there are a number of things we are thankful for.  Firstly, we’re glad that this happened during the holidays while the college car-pool isn’t operating.  We’re thankful that it was only a small crash (we were stationary and it was only a small bump) and we weren’t injured.  We’re also thankful for the friends who have let us borrow their car while they are away on holidays.  Another friend has offered us his dad’s old car to use until the registration runs out.  We'll be looking to buy a new car but we’re thankful that we don’t have to rush about it.  

Farewell Claude.  We have many happy memories with you. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Things I learnt watching State of Origin

Before moving here I had no idea what the State of Origin was. I'd never heard of it. Since then I've learned that it's a series of 3 rugby games played between NSW and Queensland. The rivalry runs deep between these states. But the strange thing is that the players don't usually play together except for these games. They are normally in a range of different state and national teams and most would be regularly playing against rather than with each other.

Today is the second match. Queensland won the first one so NSW is tense. There are a number of rugby fans in our community so there's usually a bunch of people watching it together. I've joined them this year and have learnt some things about this odd sport.

To move forwards the players have to pass backwards. Seems counterintuitive.  Apparently the Americans still don't understand it.

When someone had been tackled they buck their legs around as if to say "Abuse! Abuse! I'm being abused!"

Before the first guy passes the ball off he taps it on his foot. I'm told that this is a memorial to actually kicking the ball. Yet the game still gets called football.

Each team only gets six tackles and then the ball is turned over to the other team. So before this happens someone will kick the ball as far down the field as they can in a last ditch effort to ensure the other team has further to run back the other way to get to their goal line.

A try by itself is worth 4 points. Don't ask me why, it just is. Like a goal in AFL is worth 6 points. It just is.

Everyone has giant thighs.

Run forward, not sideways. If you get stopped by a tackle it doesn't matter. You think like a team, not like an individual. And you think more than one play at a time.

It's all about piling on the guy with the ball.

Every so often there will be a symbolic scrum where a bunch of players get in a huddle and then break apart without doing anything.

Rugby is mostly about running. But you can stop running and kick a goal almost whenever you want. This is called a field goal.  This is probably the only reason that Rugby League can ever be called football. 

Possible cracked or broken rib? No worries. Painkillers and you're right to go back on.

I'm sure there's more I'll learn but I'm gonna get back to watching now!

Monday, 8 June 2015

A Crowd and a Flashback

I hate crowds.  They make me anxious and grouchy.

Yesterday J and I went into the city to see an amazing light display.  But I’d forgotten that it wasn’t Sunday–night–before–a–work–day, but Sunday–night–before–a–public–holiday.  So there were people everywhere doing the same thing we were.  It was madness.  There were so many people in the city for this event that we weren’t allowed to get off the train at the closest stop but had to get off earlier and walk.  They even closed down a major road in the city for the pedestrians to use.

At one point I was bumped (and this is when I get grouchy), and it reminded me of a similar reaction I’d had before.  I was reminded because I’ve been thinking of doing a flashback series on reflections I’ve written in the past.  I recently went back to a journal that I used to keep and I read an entry about this exact thing.

So here it is, written by my 17 year old self (and edited for length by my current self):

Someone was mucking around in the clustered, confined spaces of the Year Twelve corridor and they caused a small domino effect; only bumping, no one fell over.  I heard my friend behind me offer an apology to someone but I didn’t say anything.  I was in a bad mood and it wasn’t my fault if I had bumped into someone because a few people were acting stupidly.  They were the ones who should apologise.

But does that really justify my thoughts and response? Most people have bad moods sometimes but I don’t think that means we’re entitled to act grumpy and rude.  So how should we express to others that we are upset without becoming completely self-centred or upsetting others in the process?

When I’m grumpy I often want other people to know it, I do become self-absorbed.  But what would be the right way to act when I’m grumpy?  Perhaps being grumpy at all is completely un-godly.  To not act in a grumpy way practically defeats the purpose of being grumpy.  Perhaps by consciously deciding not to act on your grumpy feelings helps you to stop feeling grumpy. Indulging in a bad mood may just serve to make us feel worse, even if we think we’ll feel better by expressing it.  Instead, we should cultivate the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

There it is.  What do you think of my 17-year-old wisdom?  I think that’s something I needed to hear yesterday when I got grumpy from being bumped in a crowd. 

And just for fun, here are some pictures of my favourite building in the light show.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Thankful Thursday

Here we are at Thursday again.  I’m particularly thankful that we are because it means that my last assignment for the semester is finished!  Here are some of the other things I’m thankful for this week:

Growing things
On the weekend I did a bit of work weeding in my veggie patch and was excited to see that some of the seeds I had planted a few weeks (or months? I can’t remember) ago have started coming up.  I have some carrots (I think…) and some kale growing next to my exploding tomato plants, and a few little cucumber seedlings have popped their heads up too.  It has been rewarding being able to eat some of the things we’ve grown ourselves and seeing little seedlings emerge makes me marvel again at how intricately God has made his creation.  All I do is plant and water (and even then I don’t do it very well!) but God is the one who makes it all grow.  I’m thankful most of all for this and the opportunity that the veggie patch has given me to marvel again at God’s creation and to participate in some of his creative work. 

Probably not the best time of day to photograph them, sorry.

Forgiven failings
On Sunday afternoon J and I played tennis with some people from church.  This is a semi-regular thing, happening every few months.  Now I say ‘played’ tennis… I’m sure that’s what J was doing but I’m not sure I was.  I’ve never been very interested in tennis, though I don’t mind watching bits of the Australian Open each year.  Mum and Dad would try to teach my sister and I whenever we visited the local tennis courts but we weren’t very committed.  So I found myself flailing for the ball on Sunday and apologising to my partner whenever I missed it.  But I am so thankful that I could still have fun despite my abysmal tennis, and that my partner and opponents also had fun.  (I’m also thankful that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t that great at tennis.)

Resolutions from assignments
I wasn’t going to talk about my assignment but I realised that aside from being thankful that it is finished, I’m also thankful for what I will take out of it.  This assignment was for my preaching subject.  We had to reflect on what we had learned about preaching, about feedback, our strengths and weaknesses and plans to improve our preaching.  The two things I resolved to start doing to help improve my preaching was to work out the fallen-condition focus of the passage and to pray for understanding of the passage.  Now, I don’t get many opportunities to preach (not that I’m complaining!) so there’s not much opportunity to put these things into practice.  So I resolved to do these things in my personal Bible reading time.  I’ve often struggled with personal Bible reading, making it more than just reading to tick a box but not taking it in.  So I’m thankful that through this assignment I have made some resolutions that will hopefully not only help me the next time I come to write a sermon, but will help me in a very practical way in understanding the Bible. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Saturday, 30 May 2015

When things are broken

It makes me really sad when things get broken or damaged.  Today I dropped my phone on a brick and the edge of the phone got dented.  Now I'm really sad because it's less than perfect.  I know that this is a trivial problem and I could console myself with the fact that at least the screen is still intact and everything is working fine.  But I'm still sad about the damage. 

I've written about this before.  Not in a blogpost, but in an old journal.  In year 12 I accidentally cracked the spine of a new book and was really sad about it.  It was ridiculous to be that sad about a book, and I knew that.  I reflected then about what it says about me that I felt like a book with a cracked spine was now 'ruined'.  The new book was less lovely because of its flaw.  I didn't really come up with an answer back then, I just hoped that I would get over it.  And of course I did get over it. 

So I was thinking today.  Who doesn't get upset when something is broken or damaged?  Of course it depends on the original value of the object, not just monetary value but sentimental, and use value as well.  When things get broken we know this is bad, that something has gone wrong.  We have this innate knowledge that this shouldn't happen.  But it does happen.  We live in a broken world so of course things break and are damaged.   

But I think there is also something wrong with the fact that I love something like my phone so much.  I'm not always aware of how much I love things until they are damaged or destroyed.  There is idolatry in my heart, which too easily loves created things rather than the creator of all things.  

So I'm looking forward to a time when things won't get broken.  When I won't love things as much as I do because they won't come near to comparing to the joy I have in God and the wonder of worshiping him forever.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Thankful Thursday

This week has felt like a pretty regular week.  At least, I’m struggling to come up with anything interesting to write about for today’s Thankful Thursday post.  But that’s kind of the point of this series.  It was to help me to find things in my life to be thankful to God for, perhaps especially when life feels pretty normal.  Here are some of the things I’m thankful for this week:

Internet
We recently had new hardware installed in our house that has made internet access much easier at home.  I know that we are incredibly blessed that college provides us with internet at no extra cost.  I am now even more thankful that it is working at home again and not just in our studies in the unit block next to ours.  When we moved here to study at college we never expected to be provided with internet so this is something we are constantly thankful for (even though we sometimes grizzle when it is slow or not working).

Check out the UFO that landed in our cupboard and now gives us internet!
Progress with my knitting
I learnt to knit last year (or relearned if you count the one square that I never finished when I was a kid).  I knitted one scarf and then promptly stopped again.  By the time I had finished it the weather had changed out of scarf-temperature.  But I have been re-inspired lately and had a lot of time on Saturday to knit, for which I am thankful.  I’ve been following a pattern sort-of.  Well, it’s really following a certain stitch or texture and I’m making up how wide and long I want the scarf to be. 

  
Dinner with friends
This week we’ll have gone out to dinner at friends’ houses twice (Tuesday night and tonight).  I really enjoy the opportunity that having dinner together gives for getting to know each other better.  We’ve really enjoyed winter dinners in our community where we have dinner with a different family each week.  Tonight’s invitation came from some fellow students in our year at college and I’m thankful for their hospitality in inviting us and the chance to spend some time with them outside of college.

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, 18 May 2015

Friendship when you’re far away

A couple of weeks ago in an Ethics lecture we talked about friendship.  What friendship is, why it’s important.  Our lecturer told us that friendship is usually characterised by three things: attraction, reciprocity, and proximity

As we talked about what friendship is I thought about my friends, old and new, and I was so thankful.  I remember when we moved interstate for college I was afraid that I would find it really hard to make new friends and be away from old ones.  But somehow I did make new friends and have kept in touch with some old ones. 

But I’ve really felt the impact that proximity has on friendships.  I’m sure we’ve all experienced it in some way.  We’re no longer friends with all our friends from high school.  And a big reason for this is proximity.  We no longer see each other five days a week.  In many ways this is okay.  Friendships do end, that’s natural.

But I rebelled against the proximity factor as well.  I don’t want my friendships with some people to end.  Whether it be new friends that I’ve made here or old friends back home.  Lack of proximity will become a factor again, as it already is now.   New friends and neighbours at the end of last year.

When you’re living far away from your friends, and you don’t see them regularly you have to put in more effort.  And I’ve often found that since I’m the one who has moved away then I am often the one who has to put in the effort of maintaining contact, or at the least organising to catch up when I’m back home.  Things got better once I realised this!  I think it will be different again when college finishes because everyone is moving away from college and the responsibility of making contact is more equally shared. 

The reciprocity part of friendship also poked at me.  I’ve seen how loving and generous people at college are.  And sometimes I wonder if I’m being like that.  Nobody wants to be a bad friend, me included.  So I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a friend and how I can be better. 

So I have a question and you can comment in the box below (hint: if you don’t have a Google/Wordpress/etc. profile then you can choose the “Name/URL” option next to “Comment as:” and just type your name there and leave URL blank). 
What do you think makes someone a good friend?

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Thankful Thursday

Friends, I’m sorry that it’s been a while since I’ve written.  There isn’t really an excuse.  But here I am again, perhaps procrastinating a little from my research week assignment, but I really did want to get a post out today since I haven’t posted in a while.  So here are some of the things I’m thankful for in the midst of this mad assignment–writing week:

A package in the mail
This wasn’t a surprise because I ordered it myself, but I was surprised with how quickly it arrived.  On Tuesday I got my gumboots! 
I have complained twice on Facebook (and more times out loud) that I didn’t own a pair of gumboots.  The first time was when I went to the show (you can read about it here) and it rained for half the day.  I walked around with wet–sneaker feet all day. 
I haven’t had a chance to wear these gumboots yet because it has been sunny all week (I’m not complaining about that) but when I do I’ll try to remember to take a picture to share with you.

 Concentration
There has been a sad pattern to my research week experiences.  I’m not very good at staying on track (this may be partly my personality but I might talk about that in a different post).  The assignment is so big it overwhelms me and I often wonder what I’m even doing at college at all.  I’m not smart enough for this!  So I get distracted and waste time on other things because I can’t face the fear of not being able to get my head around the assignment.  But it’s a vicious cycle.  The assignment looks bigger as the time left to do it gets smaller.  But I am thankful to say that this week I have been pretty focused (aside from this small break, shh!).  I prayed at the beginning of the week that God would help me to concentrate and to understand what I read, and while I’m not sure about the second part, I really do think that God has helped me this week.  So this thanks goes to God. 

I think I’ll stop there and get back to my essay.  Thanks for the break!

What are you thankful for this week?

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Suspend your morals while I tell you a story

Last night I watched a romantic comedy with a friend and I couldn’t help remembering something J said to me once (or maybe it was someone else, or I read it somewhere.  Anyway, I just remember the conversation I had with J about it).  I’ll tell you what it was in a moment, first I want to write about the movie. 

In the movie we watched there was this guy and girl, best friends, who clearly felt more for each other than friendship, but were always missing each other and were never able to be together until the end (…spoiler?  I haven’t even named the movie, but it’s a romantic film so of course they get together in the end).  All through the movie I groaned whenever one of them was close to telling the other how they felt only to find that the other was in a relationship with someone else. 

As I reflect, this movie wasn’t as bad (subjective term) as some romantic films.  Neither of the main characters cheated on their clearly-wrong-for-them-partner to be with their best friend (a.k.a. love of their life).  But both of them ended up with dissolved marriages before the end.  But that’s okay, right?  They can finally be together now. 

Image from calibermag.org And I know there are other films where you as the viewer are waiting and hoping for a marriage to break up so that the ‘real’ lovers can freely be together.  Of course, the film makers always spin it to make it okay in our minds.  The marriage wasn’t happy, the spouse was having an affair, the spouse was…etc. (because it’s often the spouse’s fault).   

Here’s what J said:  Why is it that in movies we still root for the characters who have fallen in love, waiting and hoping for them to get together, when it is at the expense of a spouse or partner?  We want them to be together even if it means breaking up an existing relationship that one (or both of them) has.  Why are we okay with broken marriages in movies for the sake of ‘true love’?  Somehow we suspend our morals, not just our disbelief, when we get hooked into such a story. 

While I suspended my belief in the importance of marriage during this movie there were a number of other things in the film that did grate against my morals, and I noticed them.  Drunkenness (when does good ever come of it?), lying (this one especially grates when you just want the character to tell the truth about their feelings!), and sex outside of marriage (this one doesn’t always grate, particularly if it’s with the ‘right’ person, the love interest).  So I didn’t suspend all my morals.  But it’s not as though the film was asking me to endorse those things in the same way. 

More could be said on this topic from the perspective of the action or crime-drama genre.  Sometimes we suspend our belief that every life is valuable and murder is wrong when we watch these genres.  We may even suspend our views on justice if it means the bad guy gets caught. 

So what should I do?  Give up romantic comedies and just watch G-rated films (or no films at all)?  Maybe.  I don’t want my culture (or the pop-culture seen in films) to shape my morals.  But I don’t want to disengage completely from my culture either. 

I guess part of this issue can be dealt with by moderating the amount of input these things have in our lives.  As a Christian I get my beliefs and morals from what God says is right and wrong because I believe that he created the whole world and everything in it, including us, and so he not only knows, but made, the best way to live.  So the input of the Bible, God’s words, in my life should be far greater than any input I get from my culture.  In fact, the Bible should shape the way that I view my culture, and everything else. 

I’m sorry that movies can cause me to suspend my morals for the sake of the story.  But after it is over I remember reality, I turn again to look at God and ask him to shape me, knowing that I am a work in progress.  And maybe in the next film, whatever genre it is, I’ll see more of it through God’s eyes. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Thankful Thursday

It has been a little while since I’ve posted but this Thankful Thursday series always seems to give me a little push back into writing.  I already posted something earlier today (mostly because it made this post too long so I had to spread it out).  Sometimes I have other things that I want to write about on Thursdays but I have to wait to spread the posts out. We’ve just gone back to college after a week of holidays so I’ll write a little bit about that.  I also want to post about some of the things I’ve been learning about myself in the last few weeks but they’ll wait for another post.

Anyway, here are some things that I’m thankful for this week:

Busy but good holidays
We did a lot in our one week of holidays.  This has left us a bit tired as we started back at college but I don’t think there’s much I would have changed.  The first weekend we flew back home to attend a family wedding and it was lovely to catch up with friends and family there, and to spend some relaxing time with our parents.  We flew under the radar in order to not tire ourselves out, and only organised one catch-up with friends.  We’re sorry friends if you wanted to see us.  Please let me know if you would like to catch up next time we’re home and let me know what you’re up to in the mean time!  I love hearing from friends.

The view from our campsite.After flying home on Tuesday we readied ourselves to go camping with friends at a spot three hours drive north of Sydney.  We stayed there Wednesday to Friday and had a lovely time relaxing by reading, drawing and knitting (well the drawing and knitting was me not J), sitting around the fire, and doing not much.  On the first night we didn’t have marshmallows to toast over the fire, which was a travesty in my mind.  How can you be camping and sitting around the fire without marshmallows?!  The next day the guys kindly drove the half hour into town to buy some!

Friday afternoon when we got home saw us quickly unpacking the car and re-packing (with the full-size keyboard) to go to a youth conference as part of the music team.  Thankfully that was all we were involved in so we could have some time to relax and get in a bit of college work before term started. 

I loved each of these things that we did but the rush between them was sometimes stressful.  So I’m also thankful for my wonderful husband and his care for me through all of this. 

Wooden floorboards (or simply: no carpet)
If you’ve been paying any attention to the weather in Sydney this week you’d know how the city has been turned into one giant wading pool.  (Actually, as I write this the sky is sunny and the ground dry, hoorah for a reprieve!).  So this week I have been thankful for the wooden floorboards in our house that I don’t have to worry about getting wet as we step inside from the rain.  In fact, our whole house has no carpet.  It’s all floorboards and tiles.  So with the back door leaking a puddle I’m glad I can just leave a towel there to soak it up and not have to worry about drying out wet carpet.

Raincoats
I ran home from college this week!  I’ve posted about it here.  It was rainy and windy and I was so thankful for my raincoat.  It didn’t keep me completely dry but it did keep the wind out so my ears could stay warm.  My ears always ache in the cold wind which makes running unpleasant so I was extremely thankful for warm ears!

What are you thankful for this week?

Achievement unlocked!

At the end of last year I made it my goal to get to a level of fitness that meant I could run the distance between home and college (8km).  Parkrun helped me to get more comfortable with running five kms and helped me to run faster.  The loss of car parks at college provided the motivation for some in our community to up the exercise and start running or cycling to or from college.  But apparently not me.  I talked about running home but kept saying I wasn’t ready.  And it was too hot. 

I think one turning point was on Friday of research week when I went for a run with three guys (friends, neighbours and fellow third year students) and kept pace with them.  One (who was running slower than his usual speed for the sake of the rest of us) encouraged me to just bite the bullet and do the run home from college.  I told myself I would start running home during term two (only a week and a bit away).

Cue wet and windy weather this week. 

But I still did it.  Two neighbour–friends who would normally run home on Tuesday afternoons said they were happy to run in the rain so I went with them so they could show me the shortest route.  We wore rain jackets, I swapped my glasses for contacts (luckily I still had some in my old script) and jumped through the puddles and around fallen branches.  It was actually fun being in the rain but not caring about getting wet. 

Picture from angryjogger.com

It was probably a bit crazy to run my first 8km in that sort of weather but I’m so glad I’ve proved to myself that I can do it.  I’m also glad to know that running in the rain isn’t all that bad (so now I have no excuse on a rainy morning!).  I plan to run home from college every Tuesday and hope to eventually add another day, perhaps Thursday morning or Thursday afternoon, and still continue Saturday morning parkrun. 

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

What drama brings to life

On Wednesday and Thursday last week a bunch of first year students performed in the Mark drama at college, directed by my husband and another third year friend.  I went to see it on Wednesday night. 

I saw it last year when J performed in it (not at college but at a church) so I didn’t expect it to be too different.  Last year I was sick when I saw it so my head was a bit fuzzy.  I was at least looking forward to having a clear head while watching. 

I was blown away. 

I spent the first half of the performance not being able to keep the grin off my face.  Look what Jesus is doing!  He heals people, he loves people, he tells the truth, he’s gentle, he drives out demons, he explains things and leaves you to think about other things.  This is the guy I follow, and he is amazing. 

Then it got uncomfortable. 

Peter denied knowing Jesus once Jesus was arrested.  This friend he had followed for three years and declared himself committed to was cast quickly aside out for fear for himself.  And he cried in anguish long enough to make me uncomfortable. 

“I’m sorry Jesus!”

But it also gave me time to realise how horrible it really was.  Peter broke a promise.  Peter betrayed Jesus.

I have betrayed Jesus.

Then Jesus was crucified and he spent agonising hours on the cross.  We heard Jesus’ ragged breaths and spluttering coughs as he slowly suffocated.  And I felt tears in my eyes.

I’m sorry Jesus.  I did this to you.  I put you here.  I’m part of your pain. 

I’ve been praying that God would help me to hate my sin.  The horrible death that Jesus went through to pay for my sin shows me how horrible my sin is.  I saw and felt this as I listened to Jesus die. 

But he didn’t stay dead.  The Mark drama ends with the women leaving the empty tomb, asking themselves “is it true?  Has he risen?”  I can say with confidence that night, on Resurrection Sunday and always that it is true.  Jesus has risen. 

I pray that this Easter was not just a nice long weekend for you.  Of course we can fill it with nice things like chocolate, family and friends.  But it’s not a nice long weekend.  Friday is Good, but have you stopped to wonder why we call the death-day of the greatest person in history a good day?  Easter Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ victory.  This long weekend is the time we remember and celebrate the greatest event in history.  Take a look at Jesus, read about him and find out why.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Through family eyes

Sometimes life is busy and things happen that I’d love to update you all about, but then the next thing happens and I don’t seem to find a time to sit down and write about it.  There will (may…) be a few posts up this week about things that happened last week that I’d love to reflect on and write about.  I get frustrated writing about things late that I almost give up on writing about them at all, but there have been some great things that I’d like to write about so I’ll swallow the discomfort and write anyway. 

I went with a family of five to The Easter Show on Tuesday last week.  They have a five-seater car but were able to borrow a bigger car from one of our neighbours so that I could ride in the car with them.  The three kids seats took up the middle row of seats and the back row would normally have been accessed from this middle row.  So I climbed over the back of my seat to get in.  The kids couldn’t see me but we entertained each other by high-fives over the back of their seats and surprise tickles on their hands when they were within my reach. 

I had a lot of fun at The Show, helping keep track of the children, visiting the animals, dodging the rain (okay maybe that bit wasn’t so much fun), watching the wood chopping, keeping the children entertained (and being entertained by them), eating show food and marvelling at the food displays. 

It was nice to experience a bit of life with three children, and to help the parents, whether it was holding a little hand or pushing the pram.  I wasn’t bothered about rides or particularly adult things to do at The Show (if there are things that are particularly adult…) and it was fun to watch little faces light up as they spun around in a giant teacup.  I protected a two-year-old from the piglet in the petting pen when she decided she didn’t really want to pat it, reminded her that Hoot had to go home and we said goodbye to him already, and told an-almost-four-year-old the story of the three little pigs. 

The Show through family eyes was fun.  I found myself looking at certain things from a child’s perspective (piglets are quite large when you’re the size of a two-year-old).  But I also saw the parent perspective: constantly on the look out for the children, following her if she wandered in the other direction, and dealing with tantrums.  And it made The Show enjoyable in a different way being there with a different focus that I would at The Show back home. 

Thanks friends for letting me tag along with you and be part of your family for the day!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

When I didn’t want to pray

Last week at college we had week of prayer to pray for the mission teams that we would all participate in the following week.  This meant that we prayed more than usual in our morning chapel times and chaplaincy groups, usually in small groups rather than being lead from the front.  

At some point in the week I suddenly felt exhausted from praying.  I didn't want to pray anymore, I was tired of praying and it had tired me out.  

I was shy of admitting this here.  After all, I'm a Bible college student, I've chosen to study my faith full time, shouldn't I love praying?  Shouldn't I be good at it by now?  I shouldn't be feeling like I don't want to do it.  

But in case there is even just one other person out there who feels the same way as me sometimes, I thought I should share this.  And I want to be honest here not just about the good things, but the struggles too.  

I know I can come up with a number of reasons to explain away why I was tired of praying.  I'm an introvert and praying in groups for 20-30 minutes each day with people I don't necessarily know well, if at all, is emotionally taxing.  I'm also shy about talking in groups so often praying out loud is a push out of my comfort zone.  Then there's the fact that you have to reword and add-lib on the fly because simply reading out the prayer point doesn't quite feel like I'm praying sincerely (even though that's a totally legitimate way to pray, particularly with the detailed points).  

But honestly, I don't want to let myself get away with excuses for my attitude to prayer.  Prayer has often been hard for me, in groups and alone.  I know that I'm not alone in this.  Pray is hard, that's the truth.  It's hard to keep at it, to keep trying, because it feels so weird.  There's nothing else that we do like it.  And often we wonder what's wrong when we pray because we don't feel any different, as if feelings are the gauge of God hearing us.  

Image from thegospelcoalition.org

But my thought that day last week shocked me.  Because while I don't expect that I will always love praying, and I certainly don't expect to be good at it without a lot of hard work, I shouldn't let that stop me from persisting.  And I shouldn't want to opt out from doing it.  Prayer is our lifeline to God.  It is our expression of our utter dependence on him for everything, and a product of our relationship with him.  How can we have a relationship with God if we never speak to him (prayer) and if we never listen to him (reading the Bible)?  

It was my sinfulness that said I was tired of prayer.  And I know I'm not disgusted enough with my sin, but the shock at my sin was good.  I was glad it shocked me because it showed me that God is changing me, little by little, working in my heart to make it like his and to despise my sin and love his righteousness. 

We visited a mosque today as part of our mission, to learn more about Islam and what Muslim's believe.  I've often been impressed with the amount of praying that pious Muslims do (at least five times a day according to the rules of their faith).  But I shouldn't need rules about when to pray to get me to pray.  Paul says to pray continuously! (1 Thess 5:17).  I know that God has made it possible for me to approach him in prayer without any need for special words or special actions.  Jesus has interceded for me before the Father and made me clean.  Praise be to God.  I need to remember this and keep trusting in God for everything, knowing how much of a privilege it is to come to him in prayer.

O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

(“What a Friend we have in Jesus”, lyrics Joseph Scriven)

Friday, 20 March 2015

Thankful Thur– Friday

Oops!  After all that rush on Wednesday I’m late with my Thankful Thursday post.  Here are some things that I’m thankful for this week:

Church camp
Last weekend J and I went away up into the mountains for church camp.  It was a lovely time away and a great opportunity to get to know some people at church better, and have fun together.  I felt more relaxed (and sometimes a bit crazy) than I usually am at church.  Thanks to everyone who shared thoughts with me, sat next to me, played games with me, puzzled with me and prayed with me. 

Making music
On Monday night our college had their graduation ceremony and J and I were involved in leading the songs with three others from college.  It was lots of fun.  There was playful banter, helpful instrument carriers, some insistent glasses cleaning, nerves and beautiful noise.  I also surprised myself by being chatty in the car when we were taking instruments back to college.  It was particularly lovely getting to know our drummer a bit and to see her enjoyment and enthusiasm for music.  Thanks music team!

Our year group at college
On Thursday afternoon we held a “senatorial inquiry” on Luke’s gospel and how it provides hope for a number of different people groups of the time.  It was hilarious (and also informative of course).  People dressed up in togas (or dresses or toilet paper bandages or hessian sacks) and went to town on first century jokes and year group references.  I’m thankful that our year group is funny, friendly and overall fantastic.  I’m so grateful for the friends I have, the helpfulness people show, and the fun we have together.

A flower
I only noticed today that my passionfruit plant has produced a flower!  To be honest, I wasn’t sure that the plant would do very well in a pot so I’m excited that this has happened.  One step closer to getting fruit!

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Wednesday woes

(Oh no, quick!  Get in a blog post before Thursday so there aren’t two Thankful Thursdays next to each other!  Not only does the Thankful Thursday series ensure that I post once a week, it’s really more like twice a week because I don’t like having two next to each other.  I suppose it doesn’t really matter but for some reason I don’t like it.  So here’s a post about Wednesday instead.)

I’ve just (finally) submitted an assignment which was very painful to do.  I’m currently waiting for J to finish but I really should just go to bed. 

Wednesday isn’t really a woeful day, only on assignment submission days (always Wednesday for third years, apart from research week assignments), and there haven’t been many of those so far this year.  But this assignment was hard.  It was only an 1,000 word book review but the book was difficult to read and difficult to understand and I didn’t enjoy doing any part of the assignment.

But having submitted and (hopefully) understood the book better than when I first read it I’ve realised that even though it was painful, I have learned some things.  And that’s why I’m at college.  I want to learn and grow and stretch my understanding of God and his word.  Even though learning can be painful at times it’s still an important thing to do and it is valuable. 

I can appreciate that this assignment has forced me to learn things that I may have simply glossed over had I not done it.  So I am thankful for doing this assignment (but only in hindsight now that it’s finished!).  And I hope that I remember this moment next time I’m complaining about doing an assignment (friends, please remind me).