Friday, April 29, 2011

family catch-up: Lizzy

Lizzy is now 12, and turning into a young woman -but she can be just as silly as ever.She still enjoys cookingand loves her little brother very much.She graduated from primary school(much more fancily than in my day)and started secondary school, which she loves.From thisto this in just a few short months!That's our girl.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

what I'm reading: 'the story is much bigger' from Wolf Hall

I easily forget what it means to have the Bible in my own language. Hilary Mantel writes about a time when the Bible became available to ordinary people in 16th century England (the 'he' is Thomas Cromwell):

The London gardens are bright with berries. There is an obdurate winter ahead. But he feels a force ready to break, as spring breaks from the dead tree. As the word of God spreads, the people’s eyes are opened to new truths. Until now, like Helen Barre, they knew Noah and the Flood, but not St Paul. They could count over the sorrows of our Blessed Mother, and say how the damned are carried down to Hell. But they did not know the manifold miracles and sayings of Christ, nor the words and deeds of the apostles, simple men who, like the poor of London, pursued simple wordless trades. The story is much bigger than they ever thought it was.

He says to his nephew Richard, you cannot tell people just part of the tale and then stop, or just tell them the parts you choose. They have seen their religion painted on the walls of churches, or carved in stone, but now God’s pen is poised, and he is ready to write his words in the books of their hearts.
From Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, p. 515-6.

Friday, April 22, 2011

conversations about God

Andy (4) is trying to figure out what God is like.

"God doesn't have arms, Mummy. God doesn't have legs."

And then, with complete certainty,

"Hey, Mummy, God is a floating head!"

So much for the old man in the clouds! Instead we have a rather disconcerting image that sounds like it came straight out of The Wizard of Oz (which I'm starting to be glad he hasn't seen).

It's a little over Andy's head (no pun intended), but we talk about what it means for God to be a spirit without a body. God is everywhere.

(Through my head drifts question 4 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, learnt some time in my Presbyterian youth - "God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable...".)

"So does that mean I'm inside God? Is God inside me?" (Great hilarity.)

Well, I guess that would have to be a "yes". We're not there yet, but at least he's getting closer.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

there are many ways of being a godly woman

There are many ways of being a godly woman.

In my mind there is the one way. Her house is clean and uncluttered. Her washing is neatly folded and placed in tidy drawers. Her children are well-behaved (and if they're not, she has her discipline system all worked out, and applies it without anger and with consistency). She gets up at 6 every morning to read her Bible and pray. She's a brilliant cook, turning out healthy meals and home-made cakes. Her family eats with candles and napkins, and discusses helpful topics as they use their knives and forks. There's no pile of un-dealt-with school notices and ancient-things-she-meant-to-get-to-years-ago next to her phone.

There are many ways of being a godly woman.

I visited a friend the other day. She confessed that her cooking reached an all-time low last year when she made toast for her family's main meal - and burnt the toast. She has a large family, and the house isn't huge, but there's often a boarder living with them, and you'll usually find some of the local kids hanging out. She works in ministry, sleeps until 8 every morning, and the kids do their chores before she gets up. She's brilliant with a paint-brush or a spanner. When people arrive at the door, she laughs at the mess and asks them in. She has gifts of evangelism I can only dream of, and loves, chats and gently hectors her friends into the kingdom.

Put her in the domestic goddess box, and she sticks out all over the place.

I can't live up to her. I can't live up to the domestic goddess either. But I can be me. I can be the godly woman God made me to be.

With God's help I can, anyway.

And yes, before you ask, I know there are lots of non-negotiables in being a godly woman, some of which I wrote about in this series. But lots of variety too, depending on personality and circumstances!

Monday, April 18, 2011

what I'm reading: 'I cannot unlive my life' from Wolf Hall

Protestant writer and theologian John Frith has been condemned to die for his faith. Thomas Cromwell - ever the pragmatist, though sympathetic to the reformers - is trying to convince him to recant:

'They will burn you.'

'And you think I cannot bear the pain. You are right, I cannot. But they will give me no choice. As More says, it hardly makes a man a hero, to agree to stand and burn once he is chained to a stake. I have written books and I cannot unwrite them. I cannot unbelieve what I believe. I cannot unlive my life.'
John Frith was burned at the stake on July 4, 1533. He was 30 years old.

From Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, p. 435.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Easter catch-up

I'm relieved to see that Meredith is also behind on her family Bible Easter readings! I, too, have put Meredith's readings in some plastic eggs (along with some lollies) and we're reading the Easter story together in the evenings. It's the first time we've attempted this. I've doubled- and tripled-up the readings to fit them into 12 eggs, which isn't ideal, but it's been very encouraging nonetheless.

I'm also behind on my personal Easter Bible readings (like Nicole and Meredith, I'm reading through Nancie Guthrie's Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross) and again, I'm reading a couple a day. I've been deeply encouraged by reading through the Easter story with the kids in the evening, then opening this book in the morning and meditating on the wonder of Jesus' death.

This morning I was reminded that he - the perfect, innocent Son of God - became sin for me: all my rebellion, all my idolatry, all my lovelessness. And that he faced hell, the burning horror of his Father's anger, instead of me. I'm filled with wondering thankfulness today.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

some lovely long books

There's nothing like long books. They're perfect for holidays, and perfect to ramble through in the snatched spare moments of ordinary life. Here are 3 long books I've enjoyed recently.

New York by Edward Rutherfurd. My friend Emma introduced me to this epic novel of the history of New York, as seen through the eyes of the generations of a family. I learned stacks of American history, but never boringly! Rutherford tells the story of one individual through several chapters, then picks up the story of another (a son, a grandson, a nephew) until the novel reaches the recent past. I look forward to reading London, which by all accounts is even better.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Recommended by my sister-in-law Kath, this winner of the Booker prize tells the (first half of the) story of Thomas Cromwell (yes, a sequel is coming, but not yet - *sigh*), who rose from lowly beginnings to became chief advisor to Henry VIII. I particularly enjoyed the sympathetic portrayal of Protestant martyrs like Ridley, Latimer and Tyndale. Neither a bodice-ripper nor a yawn-fest, this lyrical, skillfully-written historical novel is a very satisfying read.

At Home: A Short History of Domestic Life by Bill Bryson. Having read and loved A Short History of Nearly Everything, when I saw this book in Target (of all places), I raced home and put it on hold at our library. Tired of telling the story of everything, Bryson thought the history of domestic life would be simpler and more constrained - which of course it wasn't. This rambly book is packed with bizarre details like the disgusting toilet habits of Queen Elizabeth's royal party, the hazardous history of beauty treatments, and the importance of salt and pepper.

Monday, April 11, 2011

what I've learned so far

What have I learned, 3 months into this quieter year? Here are 10 things God has taught me so far:
  • Rest is God's good gift. Meredith wrote to me, "It is OK to stop...This is the time to prepare deeply for long years of ministry ahead."

  • I can live with my blog, you can live without my blog, and the world goes on without my blog. I kind of knew that already. But now I really know it. Which makes it easier to be sensible about blogging.

  • "One of the strangest things about cutting everything out of your life is that it leaves you with just one thing: yourself." I wrote that in my journal in a discouraged moment earlier this year. Healing and change take time.

  • There's a different viewpoint that comes with rest, as if you're looking at your life from above. You see things more clearly. Sometimes it's good to get outside your life for a while.

  • I can't blame blogging and busyness for everything. I'm quite capable of being disorganised, distracted and forgetful - not to mention fearful, guilt-ridden and discouraged - without them.

  • On the other hand, now I'm less busy, I have more energy and time for our family, I'm less anxious and overwhelmed, and I'm a more effective household manager. This impacts my ministry decisions.

  • Circumstances change, but some things stay the same. I look back over my adult life, and there are constants: I love to read, I love to think, I love to write, I love to teach. Some things are here to stay.

  • I can't be every woman I admire: the brilliant evangelist, the domestic goddess, the mother who's busy in a dozen different ministries. It's time to start being the woman God has made me to be.

  • As I reflect on the future, I need to avoid two equal and opposite mistakes:

    • making decisions because I think they'll solve my temptations and struggles

    • making decisions without taking my temptations and struggles into account.

  • Finally, there's no point worrying about whether I'll make the right decisions, or whether I'll cope with things in the future. God is sovereign, and he is my strength. It's okay to try things out, make mistakes, and try again.
I've learned many other things during the last 3 months. You'll hear about some of them in the weeks ahead. And this year of rest is just beginning! I'll keep sharing what God teaches me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

blogging again

Hi everyone! Here I am, back again, blogging. It feels odd to be sitting here at the keyboard, sending my thoughts out into the ... well, into wherever it is that blog posts go.

My last post was about 3 months ago, just before Christmas. For 2 months I did nothing much: just recovered from the last 3 years of over-doing things, spent time with my family, and settled 2 kids into pre-school and high-school (okay, so that kept me pretty busy!).

During those 2 months I picked up nothing more challenging than a novel (and my Bible). But about a month ago, tired of feeling bruised and battered, I prayed for healing, and woke the next day feeling energised and hopeful. I'm reading Christian books again. I'm teaching Sunday School. I've been dreaming about ridiculously ambitious writing projects.

I'm still not sure how I can best serve Jesus in the long-term. This will be a quiet year, as my husband has long-service leave, and we're planning to rest, recover, reflect, and re-connect with our kids (4 R's!). But I'm starting to realise that writing is part of how God has made me. So I'd like to keep blogging, for now, and see how it goes. You'll notice a few changes:

  • I've changed the look of my blog to make it more readable and usable (tell me what you think!)
  • I may take another break later this year, to spend time with my family
  • I'm planning to blog less regularly and systematically, at least for now (less exhausting for me - and for you! - and I've discovered I like reading those kinds of blogs anyway).

In other words, I'll dip my toes back in the blogging water, and see where it takes me - and you. It's good to be in touch again!