Friday, September 28, 2012

he has his daddy's hands

Andy has just started learning piano. A joyous occasion!
He has his daddy's hands.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

online meanderings

Bearing with one another - When your feelings are hurt. Another beautiful post from Nicole.

The key to any effective ministry - Dave Dunham on ministry in a difficult place, and what it's taught him about all ministry.

He's simple but not a simpleton - Put down the marriage books and get on with loving. Brilliant simplicity from the husband of Kim Shay.

Marching for Allah (1) what should we say about the Muslim protests? - First in a fascinating series about how cultures view reality differently. Nathan Lovell.

10 ways I try to be a better dad - A great bunch of suggestions from Bay Warburton.

Blogs are not enough - Please read books as well! Joe Thorn.
A young mother chose to do her washing in the local laundrette because it was a useful meeting point for developing links with other local mothers. In her scale of values, deepening of relationships with neighbours was more important than the convenience of doing her washing at home, even though she possessed her own washing machine. Roy Joslin

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

coming up for air

Spending time online can leave me feeling disembodied. So can long days spent studying, writing or editing.

I feel hazy, disconnected, like when I've been swimming and there's water in my ears and my eyes are a little unfocussed and the world looks blurry blue.

I'm grateful for the things that ground me. For a child curling into the crook of my arm while I read a picture book. For wind tangling my hair when I walk out the door. For a husband who wants my company that evening. For a floor that needs vigorous vacuuming. For a coffee-shop conversation that lets me into a friend's life and thoughts.

I catch myself breathing in the smell of my son's hair or running my fingers along the bark of a tree or staring into the distance just to remind myself that it's real, and oh, so much bigger than the confines of my mind.

How grateful I am to God for this very solid world.

online meanderings

Impoverished by giving - An encouragement for the times when we regret the cost of the ways we have chosen to serve. For mothers and others. Catherine.

Communicating with Carly about autism - An autistic woman writes a letter about her struggle with doubt and her journey to a "reasoned" faith. Lori Sealy.

Joy in the midst of hope deferred - Trusting God when the hopes we have for life and ministry collapse: learning from Samuel Rutherford. Mike Leake.

The devolution of marriage - It's fascinating to see how our understanding of marriage has changed over the years. Phillip Jensen HT Gordon Cheng.

Accountability groups: a barrier to honesty - What happens when accountability groups focus on sin rather than the Saviour. Tullian Tchividjian.

Giving historical biographies to the church - Here's a list of useful resources: inspiring talks about well-known figures like Augustine and Luther by Piper and Haykin. Justin Taylor
The mind is no different from the body. Too often we feed our minds with rubbish – intellectual donuts and coke. This might be pulp novels, gossip magazines, reality television shows, shock-comedy, poorly written or argued works, or simply those books and articles that propagate untruth. When we consume this type of material in quantity our minds become fat and sluggish...A steady diet of faulty worldviews, incorrect assumptions, and blatant vainglory will do the same for your mind as a steady diet of coke, donuts, and cheeseburgers do for your body. Barnabas Piper

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

swiss chocolate tart

Turns out I posted the wrong picture on my post and recipe last week: it was actually a picture of Jess's Swiss chocolate tart. So I thought I'd better share the recipe. It looks even easier than the last one. No photo - sorry! - but Jess tells me it looks like this or this.

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 Tbs cocoa
150g butter
½ cup plain flour (GF works fine)
icing sugar and cream to serve

1. Mix flour, eggs, sugar, cocoa and vanilla.
2. Melt butter and add to other ingredients. Mix until well combined (takes a while).
3. Pour into greased and lined, round cake tin.
4. Cook for 30-40 minutes at 1750C. Should still be moist.
5. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with whipped cream.

rejoice in your smallness

Ed Welch:

There are seven billion people on this planet. We are replaceable. No one is indispensable. No matter how big a splash we make in our own local pond, the ripples will only last a minute or two. We really are small and insignificant.

On top of being small and insignificant, we are failures. Take any standard: Mom’s hopes and dreams for you, your boss’s expectations, world records, batting averages, your income or God’s standards. We fail at them all...

Our falling short of God’s standards is the most far-reaching and palpable failure that human beings experience. It is also the one we sense the least. Hiding behind all other failures, this is the granddaddy of them all. We are failures before God. We are God’s offspring who were intended for greatness and we seem to ruin everything we touch.

Now what?

There are plenty of ways to go, but consider just resting here for a while. Enjoy it. You are a failure, so am I, so is the person whose easy success you envy. Human beings are small and insignificant; human beings are also failures. Go ahead. Admit it and take a break from covering yourself with your fraudulent resume. This is called weakness, and it is critical to the abundant life. You cannot really appreciate grace without it.

Then be amazed:
What is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him? (Ps. 8:4)
Read the rest here.

online meanderings

The devolution of marriage - It's fascinating to see how our understanding of marriage has changed over the years. Phillip Jensen HT Gordon Cheng.

Joy in the midst of hope deferred - Trusting God when the hopes we have for life and ministry collapse: learning from Samuel Rutherford. Mike Leake.

Ask for tolerance - "If you’re placed in a situation where you suspect your convictions will be labeled intolerant...turn the tables." Gregory Koukl.

What I'm learning about younger women - Teaching younger women is not just about marriage and family, but about sound doctrine and how to apply it to all of life. "Singleness is not meant to be endured; it's meant to be lived." Kim Shay.

Solving Generation Y's passion problem - "Find your passion": the rise and impact of a damaging phrase. This reminds me of a great talk I heard a few years back showing how Christians confuse "passion" with "purpose". Cal Newport.
This temptation confronts us every time we go online: to neglect the business God has given us to do today in favor of reading about, and in some cases, meddling in the business of others. Carolyn Mahaney (and see Not only idlers and Staying busy)

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

what I'm reading: Bonhoeffer on how war helps us to see

Just as time-lapse photography makes visible, in an ever more compressed and penetrating form, movements that would otherwise not be thus grasped by our vision, so the war makes manifest in particularly drastic and unshrouded form that which for years has become ever more dreadfully clear to us as the essence of the “world.” It is not war that first brings death, not war that first invents the pains and torments of human bodies and souls, not war that first unleashes lies, injustice, and violence. It is not war that first makes our existence so utterly precarious and renders human beings powerless, forcing them to watch their desires and plans being thwarted and destroyed by more “exalted powers.” But war makes all of this, which existed already apart from it and before it, vast and unavoidable to us who would gladly prefer to overlook it all.
Eric Metaxas Bonhoeffer 373

image is by focus capture at flickr

Sunday, September 23, 2012

online meanderings

The mundane work of the Spirit - Sandy takes up my challenge to start a post with the words, "I burst into tears". Except he didn't. But close. And it's a gorgeous post.

My daily Bible and prayer time: a new strategy - I love the way Nicole keeps working at finding a way to read the Bible and pray, whatever her circumstances!

Praying for your pastor - One finger less than a handful of helpful prayers. Joe Thorn.

Same-sex attraction and the inevitably of change - A fair and loving article by Piper.

Things I've quit doing at my desk - This is actually really helpful! Justin Jackson.
Do you see what the phone does? There’s a great irony buried within it. The cell phone, a device meant to enhance my communication with others, can increase my ability to communicate with those who are far from me, but this often comes at the cost of communication with my own wife and children—those closest to me. Tim Challies

Saturday, September 22, 2012

a circus cake for Andy's 6th birthday

My youngest son Andy turned six this year (hard to believe!). He wanted a circus cake. So out came our trusty Women's Weekly birthday cake book, and we made ourselves a big top.
Here's how we did it. We started with two gluten free cakes (made from a cake mix) and lots of stripy sour straps.
We hollowed out the top of one cake (in the recipe you hollow it out all the way down, but we just did the top bit - you'll see why later) and used the cake scraps to make the "point" on the other cake.
We made a triple batch of blue butter icing,
and spread it over the two cakes.
We filled the hollow with lollies (now you know why I didn't hollow out the cake all the way down, even though the kids wanted me to: "Go deeper, go deeper, Mummy!").
We used sour straps to make the stripes on our big top (toothpicks helped secure the stubborn bits),
then put the pointy cake on the other one. We used a couple of Nerds Ropes (I can't believe there's a Wikipedia entry on that!) to cover the join between the two cakes.
The final touches were some "happy birthday" candles and balloons, and a Duplo ringmaster and animals.
"Happy birthday, dear Andy, happy birthday to you!"
The best bit was the kids' faces when I lifted off the top and they saw the lollies underneath... Surprise!

online meanderings

Singleness and chastity are hard, so why wait? - A thoughtful, real article. Anna Broadway.

Why I don't run family devotions around the dinner table - Another excellent idea from Jodie. Wouldn't work for us, but it might for you!

The different gifts of ministry wives - Helpful insights that might help us stop comparing ourselves with each other and get on with serving. Richard Coekin

Dear pastors, please quit picking on video games - Laziness and irresponsibility can be expressed in all kinds of ways. Here are some of them. Stephen Altrogge.

The Christian celebrity - I've experienced "transferred expertise", and I love Challies' advice about how to handle it. (I also enjoyed these thoughts about how to make blogging sustainable from Keven DeYoung.)
It may be subtle, but often, our service can be less about the object of our worship and more about ourselves...When service is done for the accolades or the pat on the back, it has stopped being an act of worship. Kim Shay

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

of God’s gifts and chocolate torte

I burst into tears.1 It was one of those comments made occasionally by even the most sensitive of husbands as he dares to go where female friends fear to tread: “Jess made some yummy gluten-free sandwiches for the staff meeting today. You should get the recipe!”

“Sandwiches? Sandwiches? Did you say sandwiches?” That was my anguished cry, followed by a certain amount of, well, crying. “The staff team will never want to meet at our house again! How can I ever live up to that? I know, I know I don’t have to, but how can I? And no, I’m not making those sandwiches! Get Jess to make them for you!” (Okay, so maybe I made up that last sentence, but you get the gist.)

My husband listened patiently to my tantrum, hugged me, and reassured me that he loved me, sandwiches or no sandwiches; but no amount of reassurance could quite take away what I was feeling.

Al and Jess are friends who recently returned from theological studies in Sydney to take up work alongside my husband in university ministry. We trained them years ago, and were excited to welcome them back. Even better, they moved nearby; and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s the value of having a good friend who lives just down the street.

But I was about to discover something about Jess. When the staff team meets in our house, they’re lucky to get a packet of chocolate biscuits and, on a good day, some store-bought dip and crackers. At Jess’s place, there’s a constant stream of home-made delicacies – pastries, summer rolls, and, yes, sandwiches – all healthy, skilfully made, and delicious.

Not only that, but they’re supplied in a clean, organised house: open Jess’s pantry, and instead of ten half-eaten boxes of cereal falling on your head, you’ll see three boxes lined up in a neat row. My discipline is slightly haphazard, whereas hers is carefully thought out and consistent. She jogs; I sit. When I waste a morning composing a blog post (right now I’ve interrupted my vacuuming to write this) she probably cleaned the bathrooms, bought and put away some shopping, and cooked a three-course meal for the Bible study at her place tonight.

Jess belongs to that rarest of threatened species – cue David Attenborough whispering, in reverent tones, “Here we see the Domestic Goddess in her natural habitat…” – and she puts my erratic attempts at homemaking and hospitality to shame.

A few days after my fit of tears, I sat across from Jess at her (carefully wiped) table (cups, jug and snacks set out between us) and laughed about how intimidated I was by her (admittedly delicious) sandwich fillings. Then Jess said something that stopped me in my tracks: “Don’t you realise you’ve intimidated me for years? All that writing, all those blog posts! I could never do that!”

That day we metaphorically shook hands, celebrated our different gifts, and agreed that we would never allow ourselves to be intimidated by each other again.

I was reminded that God’s gifts come in many shapes and colours. To some he gives gifts of hospitality and service, to others gifts of teaching, to still others (and these I find the most astounding) gifts of evangelism (Rom 12:6-8; Eph 4:11-13). Then he wraps us up and gives us to each other.

There’s no place for the foot asking, “Why can’t I be a hand?”, or the hand asking, “Why can’t I be a foot?” or, in the case of ambitious perfectionists like me, “Why can’t I be a hand and a foot and a knee and a neck and a shoulder and a…?” (1 Cor 12:12-27). There’s no room for comparisons or envy or ambition in this body (Phil 2:1-11).

We’re not given strengths and skills to win recognition for ourselves, to get people to like us, or to show off how smart or loving we are. We’re given them to serve one another in love, and to help each other grow up into Christ (Rom 12:3-8; Eph 4:7-16). There’s no “self” in the gifts we have, only a “you” – and a “Him”.

Of course, I still have my moments. Gorgeous photos of Jess’ famous chocolate torte and lemon pie on Facebook, complete with comments and requests for recipes,2 rub a little salt sugar in my wounds. “Isn’t the Internet my territory?”, asks my baser self. (And, yes, please do keep posting them online, dear Facebook friends, it’s good for me – and Jess.)

But then I tell myself to shut up and get over it, to put others ahead of myself, to remember that my true value is found in Jesus, and to rejoice that there’s something in each of us that we can point to and say, “Wow! It’s wonderful how you do this for the rest of us! And you do it so very well! Thanks be to God who made you and gave you this gift!”

I’m going to stop writing now. I’ll take a moment to thank God for Jess, and then get back to my vacuuming and inexpert lasagna making. You see, we’ve got a Bible study at our place tonight, and while there will be no home-made chocolate torte (probably a Coles one), we’re going to encourage each other, learn from my husband as he brings God’s word to us, and delight in the varied gifts we bring to our time together. And if I’m tempted to ask why I have to cook when my hubbie gets to teach the Bible, I’ll give myself in a swift kick, tell myself “Princess, it’s not about you”, and pray:

Thank you, Father, for the opportunity to serve, both in ways I’m good at and in ways I’m not so good at. Both do my soul a world of good.

In the name of your humbly serving Son,


1. I challenge my male blogging friends to start a post with those four words. You can do it, blokes!
2. You'll find the recipe for Jess’s chocolate torte recipe here.

This post first appeared today at The Briefing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jess's dark chocolate torte

Today, it's a recipe: my friend Jess's famous dark chocolate torte, easy, delicious and gluten-free. Tomorrow, it's a post about a recipe. Bet you can't wait! [Oops - turns out the photo below is actually of Jess's Swiss chocolate tart. Here's the recipe. Jess tells me the picture below should look more like this or this.]

100g (¾ cup) slivered almonds (or any other almonds with skin removed)
120g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
120g (2/3 cup) dried dates, pitted and chopped finely
3 egg whites
125g (½ cup) castor sugar
125ml whipping cream
2 tsps castor sugar, extra
30g dark or milk chocolate, grated, extra

1. Preheat oven to 180deg. Line 22cm springform tin with foil.
2. Blend almonds and chocolate in food processor until fine.
3. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar and continue beating until dissolved.
4. Fold in almond and chocolate mixture and dates.
5. Spoon mixture into tin and level the surface.
6. Bake 30-35min or until set.
 7. Cool in tin before carefully placing on serving plate.

To serve, whip the cream and extra sugar until soft peaks form. Spread the cream over torte. Sprinkle with grated chocolate.

Serve with strawberries either on top or to the side.

Note: Torte can be make up 4 days in advance and stored in a sealed container without cream.

Serves 8

Storage: Torte keeps well, without cream for 5-6 days wrapped in foil. With cream, this is best eaten on the day of baking.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"What does he do all day?" "Do you work?"

When your husband or you are in vocational ministry, it's hard for the rest of the world to know what's really going on.

Often, I get the sense that people in "real" jobs are wondering, "What exactly does he do all day?". I feel like saying (truthfully), "He works really hard!". And I'm not alone. (Now I think about it, it's a lot like people asking me, a stay-at-home-mum, "Do you work?".)

This quote reminded me that it doesn't really matter whether people know exactly what my husband or I do all day (although I agree with Jenny that it can be helpful to let them know). What matters is Jesus' approval. From him alone comes our contentment and joy.
The only thing, in the end, that can truly satisfy the pastor’s heart is Christ’s, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” In other words, pastors, indeed all Christians, must seek contentment in Christ and not the approval of man. If pastors thrive off of the recognition of their congregation, they will quickly run out of spiritual energy and motivation. But if his sole source of contentment comes from Christ, then when recognition and gifts come, he will give thanks, and when no one but Christ recognizes his sacrifice and service, he will give thanks. Therein lies the contented heart, and therein lies the heart of a pastor.
You can read the rest here.

online meanderings

The race-transcending gospel - Such an encouragement to share our faith with everyone and anyone without fear or prejudice! Trillia Newbell.

Counselling the hard cases - Yes, God can help - even with the really hard cases. Interesting reflections on severe mental disorders, porn addiction, and so on. Matt Smethurst.

The pleasures and sorrows of work - Can we know our "calling"? Or is this a modern, Western idea - even a "cruel" idea - grafted onto Christianity? Some interesting thoughts here. Alain de Botton via Ali.

Learn to be a ‘there you are’ person rather than a ‘here I am’ person - Read this if you walk in the door and instantly feel uncomfortable and wonder what people think of you. Jani Ortlund.

How to pray for your husband - A great list for married women to print out and tuck into your Bibles. Shared by Susie.

Monday, September 17, 2012

what I'm reading: Bonhoeffer on the sweetness of death

Bonhoeffer was executed at dawn on 9th April 1945 at Flossenb├╝rg concentration camp, only two weeks before the camp was liberated by US soldiers. He was killed because of his role in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.

A few days before he died Bonhoeffer told his friend, "This is the end — for me the beginning of life." The camp doctor who watched the execution said, "I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."

How was Bonhoeffer able to die with such courage and hope? Here he writes about the sweetness (yes, the sweetness!) of death.
No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward to being released from bodily existence...That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up — that is for young and old alike to think about.

Why are we so afraid when we think about death? Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God’s Word. Death is not bitter if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.

How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world?

Death is hell and night and cold if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.

Eric Metaxas Bonhoeffer 531.

Friday, September 14, 2012

my special person

My 8-year-old son Thomas wrote this about me. I'm sure you will agree there's a striking resemblance.
My mum, out of every person in the world, is the best!

Now I will tell you what she looks like. She has blue eyes and long, brown hair. Her arms are normal and strong. She has smooth skin and nice, healthy white teeth. She has perfect ears.

Now I will tell you what she does. She makes hot chocolate and sometimes she does jobs. She cooks dinner, breakfast and lunch. She also takes us to different places and at night she puts us to bed. On Saturday she watches movies.

Finally, I will tell you what she is like. She is nice and she cares for us. She loves us and helps us. She is simply the best!

I particularly like the Proverbs 31:17 touch about strong arms. Although it does sound a bit like he's describing a horse, sound in wind and limb, along with the "healthy white teeth" and "perfect ears". And no, I don't watch movies all Saturday, just in the evening, which is family movie night. But I do cook a lot of meals. And put kids to bed. And sometimes I even do jobs.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

online meanderings

Challenges of para-church ministry part 1 and part 2 - I love Jenny's honesty about the challenges of ministry. Familiar territory for my husband and me.

Guys it matters whom you marry too - A bit squirmy in parts, but really, very helpful advice for single guys choosing who to marry. A follow-up to Women, who should you marry?

A possible marriage saver in 9 steps - Say sorry, even when you don't mean it. Then say it again when you do. John Piper.

Why kids stop going to church and Do you know where your children are with God? - Two fantastic posts about how to help children trust in Jesus, and how to support them when they don't. Zac Veron and Lisa Robinson.

Get past your theological mocking and nurture others with the gospel - 'If I wonder, “What are some problems with the doctrine of the atonement?” hands fly up all over the room, but if I straightforwardly ask, “What is the gospel?” the room falls strangely silent, and I find myself staring at rows of students quietly avoiding making eye contact.' Love it! Timothy Larsen.

Let us not forget our friend Job, who was refused his Why so that he might recognize the Who. - Tullian Tchividjian.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

an interview about blogging and writing

Here's an interview I did with my friend Susie. If you want to know how blogging fits into my life, how I think about the whole writing thing, and how this has changed over the years, here it is!

What does being creative mean to you?

Words flowing as if they have nothing to do with me. Walking or listening to music until I’m in that relaxed state where ideas float into my mind. Working hard when the ideas aren’t coming. Editing until every sentence is like a carefully-placed line in a painting. Going to sleep with a question and waking up with an answer. That joyous moment when I know just what to say and how to say it. Running to the computer and typing it out before I lose it. Learning how to write better (lose the adjectives, cut out the adverbs, say less to say more). Growing in confidence. Uncertainty. Joy.

What things have inspired you, given you pleasure and joy?

Other people’s writing: the kind that makes you slow down and savour every word. The Bible: that “wow!” moment when God’s truth and life intersect. Encouragement: the always unexpected moment when someone comes up and tells me what something I’ve written meant to them. Companionship: when a comment lets me know there are people on the other end of my links and posts, walking with me through the day. Above all, God’s goodness in Jesus: every year, my own efforts mean less to me and his grace and glory mean more.

Where did you grow up and how did family life and your home influence how you see the world and ignite this desire to write?

I grew up in Melbourne. My dad is a mathematician with a logical mind and a soft heart: he taught us to think clearly and to play with words and numbers, and serenaded us with the poems of AA Milne. My mum, an English teacher, nurtured and surrounded us with books and poetry: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and all the classics. I read and read and read and read, and when I wrote as a child, I wrote in the language of Elyne Mitchell and Paul Gallico.

I don’t think I was a very good writer as a teenager: plenty of sentimental adjectives and purple prose. I only threw myself into writing five years ago, and to this day I don’t quite know why. Perhaps it was lying dormant, waiting to come out. Writing perfectly suits my love of reading and reflecting and sharing what I’ve learned with others – along with the joy of expressing it as clearly and creatively as I can.

What is in all honesty? When did it begin?

In all honesty is my blog. It began in October 2007. I wasn’t planning to start blogging; I didn’t even know much about blogs, but for some reason, I woke up one morning with the idea “blog!” fully formed in my head. My subconscious invented the name in all honesty overnight: my goal was to write honestly about my struggles and to encourage others that they were not alone.

How has it developed and changed over the years?

I learned very, very quickly not to talk too much about other people’s lives online. I also found being vulnerable about my own experiences harder than I expected: it’s bizarre when you see someone face-to-face and they already know what’s going on in your head. I no longer put everything out there as soon as I think and feel it, which I think is emotionally healthy, although I admire bloggers who can do this wisely and well!

I blog less than I used to. I came close to burnout a couple of years ago and had to put writing on hold for a while. That was good for me, because instead of feeling controlled by the need to post every day, blogging became something I’m free to do or not to do, depending on family circumstances and ministry responsibilities and whether I have anything to say. I own my blog, not the other way around!

My writing has inevitably become more professional as I’ve started writing for others. There’s a bigger gap between writing, editing, and pressing “publish”. I miss some of the immediacy and freedom of my early posts. So my blog is still a work in process! At the moment, I’m trying to find a good balance between the new professionalism and the old vulnerability.

What are some of the ways you have had to juggle your creativity around different seasons in life?

I have four children, and I didn’t start blogging till they were all out of babyhood. I think I was beginning to look to the next season of life, and that’s why the creative juices kicked in. Writing, in some ways, was an obvious choice: you can do it from home and it doesn’t disrupt home life too much. It’s not surprising mums with young kids blog: it’s a great way to stay connected with others when you’re at home all day. Then the kids get older, life becomes more mixed, and blogging slows down!

Now all our kids are at school a new season has opened up, with more undistracted time during the day to give to writing (and, paradoxically, lots of new ministries outside the home to distract me from it). Writing is very important to me, but it’s a lower priority than caring for husband, children, home, and people in our church and community, so I fit it into the spare hours and quieter days.

How do you balance family life with time to blog?

I’ve done such a bad job of this at times! I started blogging when my youngest son was only one year old. Looking back, that was probably too early: I was obsessed with my new pastime and gave him less attention than I wanted to at times. I still feel guilty about that. But it’s also true that I was there for him, at home, interacting with him throughout the day: that’s both the curse and the benefit of blogging, that you do it from home.

These days, I don’t usually write during the afternoons and evenings or on weekends: that time is reserved for my husband and children. I also take regular vacations from writing. Giving time to writing does mean that the house is a little less organised! I stay on top of the regular chores, but lots of the extras don’t get done. You have to give up something, but I’d like to make more time for some of these things.

I think introverts often find the chaos of family life and ministry tiring. Writing helps me relax and gives me time alone to reflect and process things, re-energising me so I can better love the people in my life. In that sense, as long as it’s kept within bounds, it helps, not hinders, family life.

What creative people do you admire - writers, artists, cooks.... How have they influenced your writing and thinking?

Novelists who take exquisite care in shaping every word: Marilynne Robinson, Kazuo Ishiguro, Cynthia Voigt. Authors who write about books and writing: Tony Reinke, Mark Tredinick, Annie Dillard. Bloggers who reflect with such wisdom and beauty on their lives and thoughts that I catch my breath: AliNicole, Catherine, Meredith, Cath, and many others, including you, Susie.1 Christian writers whose work is richly textured: CS Lewis, Tim Keller, Paul Tripp, Ed Welch. Theologians who shape how I think about God and the gospel: JI Packer, Don Carson, Tim Chester. I also love music and the visual arts, but the influences are more subtle. You have to soak yourself in good writing to be able to write well.

What opportunities have opened up from blogging?

The biggest one is writing regularly for the Christian magazine The Briefing. It’s such a joy to see my work in print and online where it can encourage others, and it’s still a wonder to me that it’s valued by those I respect. At times, I’ve been able to earn some extra money by writing and editing: I feel very privileged that I can contribute to the family finances doing something I enjoy. I dream about books I might write in the future, but have no firm plans yet. I’ve also been asked to speak at women’s events and conferences, though mostly I say “no”, as I have to be careful not to take on too much. But I love teaching women in our church and university ministry, so I wonder if God will open this door wider when my kids are older.

What’s your goal in writing?

My goal is to bring glory to Jesus as I serve others and help them know and live for him. I think Christian writing can sometimes be a little dry and removed, which is such a pity, because God’s truth grabs and shapes every part of us: thoughts, feelings and actions. It’s rare to see a Christian author who is both rigorous in their thinking and rich in their writing. I know I often fail, but I try (poorly!) to do both these things.

If I could deliver anyone at all to your desk who would you most like to share a cup of tea with?

To be honest, it would be some of the lovely female bloggers I’ve “met” through my writing! I’d also love to sit across the table and chew the fat with people I write for and with at The Briefing: I feel a bit disconnected being part of a writing team that’s not in my home town.

Complete this sentence: I wish I had known......

…that I was free to blog in a way that served Jesus and my family. I’d say to the “me” that started blogging, “Lighten up! The world’s not going to end if you don’t post every day. Breathe. Enjoy your kids. Enjoy the people around you. It doesn’t all revolve around you. It’s about Jesus, not you.”

And finally, what advice would you give someone starting on their journey of blogging?

Be prepared to have your life turned upside-down and inside-out. And if you’re not prepared for that, maybe choose another creative outlet! Nothing you write online ever really disappears, so make sure you’re always fair and kind, remembering that it could be read by the person you’re writing about even if they’re famous. The only way to get good at writing is by doing it, so write a little every day, be brave, and put it out there. Pray before you press “post”, and pray for those who read. Write for God’s glory, not your own. Enjoy the adventure.

1. If you're a blogger and your name isn't here, please don't feel bad! Chances are I still read and love your blog. It's a certain style of blogging that I was thinking of here.

online meanderings

Yikes - so much for posting only 5 links twice a week! This week has been unusually fruitful in the blogosphere. (Stop writing so many good posts, people!!) Here are a few of them.

A tale of two teenagers - How long-term sickness helps us - and our children - grow. Nicole.

When ministry becomes a mistress - "We can start to rely on ministry instead of Jesus to meet deep needs in our own lives." Dave Kraft.

True holiness befriends sinners - Get out of your comfort zone and into the lives of others. David Mathis.

Fight like a girl - Is your daughter a teenager? Fight for, not with, her. Melissa.

Christian values can't save anyone - "Hell will be filled with people who were avidly committed to Christian values." Al Mohler.

And here are some riches by Ed Welch from the CCEF blog
Post-wedding regrets: what have I done?
Panic attacks
When godly plans go pear-shaped
Anxious or depressed?
Talking about "The Hunger Games" with teens
Battling depression (this one via Justin Taylor).

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here (Twitter).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

the comfort of memorizing the Bible

I was humbled, saddened and encouraged to read this response to my series on memorizing the Bible at The Briefing:
Thank you to Jean for her article on memorizing Scripture.
Yes it seems a little far out of reach for most of us, but the benefits of knowing slabs of Bible passages will pay off.

In January 2011 I sat on a park bench at a caravan park in the south of New Zealand’s south island.

I sat there all day. I was alone—bar the interruption of police as they came to tell me how the search and rescue efforts for my husband were going.

I didn’t know then where my husband was or what state he was in. In my thinking he was late coming out of a walk, which wasn’t unusual!

I didn’t have a Bible with me. No iDevice with the Bible on it.

But God spoke powerfully to me as Psalms came to my mind. One Psalm particularly resonated.

Psalm 139.

I hadn’t intentionally memorized it. But somehow I knew it. And the comfort of that Psalm significantly carried me as later that day it was revealed to me that it was no longer a rescue but a body retrieval. My husband of 23 years had died. But God knew where he was. He had ordained his days.

The power of knowing Scripture later that day was evident as the policeman that had been in charge of the rescue/retrieval of my husband from a remote mountain cliff was a Christian. In the middle of the night with a full moon rising he drove me back to where my children were and as he did he quoted Psalm 121. Tears streamed down my face, and continue to flow, but God spoke powerfully to me that day and continues to do so.

So yes it seems like effort, especially when we are so lazy about doing anything that is hard! But the benefits outweigh the effort!

Elizabeth Poland,

Tasmania, September 2012.

online meanderings

Once a week might be wiser - An encouraging post about family devotions. Jodie McNeill.

Reading the Bible in chronological order - A lovely post on the benefits of reading David's story this way, maybe with your kids. Meredith.

Choose to have a baby every day and What do you do all day? - Encouragement for mums from Deb and Nicole.

He is all my righteousness - "I was reading a book about grace, and when I turned the last page and shut the book I thought to myself, "That can't be right." Lisa Spence.

Resources for battling addictions - A great list including some excellent authors like Ed Welch, compiled by Paul Tautges.

To see the rest of my links, click here (Facebook) or here (Twitter).

Monday, September 10, 2012

what I'm reading: Bonhoeffer

My calling is quite clear to me. What God will make of it I do not know...I must follow the path. Perhaps it will not be such a long one. (Phil 1:23). But it is a fine thing to have realized my calling...I believe its nobility will become plain to us in coming times and events. If only we can hold out. (123)
I've just read Bonhoeffer, a biography by Eric Metaxas. All I knew about Bonhoeffer before was that he wrote The cost of discipleship and was martyred under the Nazi regime. This book is a fascinating read. Not easy - I took a break to dip into a light novel - but good, like a hearty meal, filling and nourishing and life-giving.

I was inspired to read more biography by my friend Jenny after we both read Tony Reinke's Lit!. I started with Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, which I highly recommend, then moved on to Bonhoeffer; next, I want to read Eric Metaxas' biography of William Wilberforce, Amazing Grace. Mostly, I have to admit, I don't love reading Christian biographies - they leave me feeling inadequate - but this one informed and encouraged me.

Bonhoeffer is the kind of book that falls into your life like a (rather large) stone: I can picture ripples spreading out from it through my life for years to come. It challenged me to live more whole-heartedly for Jesus; to get more involved in the world, both in enjoying its blessings and engaging with those who suffer; and to face persecution and opposition with courage and purpose.

Above all, Bonhoeffer doesn't let us get away with playing with God's word. He said to a friend, "when you read the Bible, you must think that here and now God is speaking with me" (128). The Sermon on the Mount  gave him his "calling" and showed him what it might cost. Ultimately, it would lead him to his death. He said,
Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God’s Word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. (261)
It's a risky business opening the Bible. Who knows where reading God's word might take us?

Friday, September 7, 2012

the joy of starting school

It's a magical time, the year a child starts school. This is the last year I'll see it first-hand. I'll miss the confidence and optimism of a child this age: awards are received with pride, a teacher is beloved, friends are treasured, and one's own abilities are boundless.

At the start of the year I interviewed Andy about starting school. Here are some snapshots from the year so far.

Andy on his teacher:

"Miss M. has a beautiful name, doesn't she Grandma?"

"Miss M can see from the back of her head. She really can, Mummy!" And then, as he realised that this might not actually be true, "Well, at least her eyes see out sideways more than most people's."

Andy on humility:

"I am looking forward to the school disco 'cos I am a really good dancer!" (He took one look and decided that a disco wasn't really to his liking.)

"I am the most popular kid in the school because all the kids know me!" (A slightly inaccurate self-assessment based on the blessing of having 2 older brothers.)

Andy on his learning goals:

Term 1. "My goal is to hold my breath for longer."

Term 2. "My goal is to make new friends." (He wanted to keep his goal from term 1, but the teacher suggested this instead.)

Term 3. "My goals are to read more fluently and to learn the sounds of 'y'."

The way the goals change, from light-hearted to earnest to academic, makes me a little sad about the whole growing-up thing.

Andy on friendship:

Since his term 2 goal was "to make new friends", Andy did just that. Soon he was playing not just with Toby, his best friend from preschool, but also with Matilda and Lauren.

When asked how he was enjoying his new friendships, he answered,

"Yes, 'cos I'm achieving my goals."

Did I mention that Andy is both practical and determined? Now he's achieved that goal, he's back to playing with Toby again.

But Andy also has a soft heart. One day Lauren was feeling sad, and Andy talked with her and cheered her up. When I said it was good to see him being kind, he answered,

"O' course! 'Cos that's what friends do."

Names have been changed throughout this post.

online meanderings

Pain-filled memories - "I remember how her eyes had already begun to show a hint of distance, as she began to discern the light on other side of the veil." RC Sproul Jr. writes about his memories of a wife's struggle with cancer.

9 vital reasons for small talk in your small group - Great advice. Ben Reed HT Sandy.

A husband's sacrificial love: what does it actually look like? - A clear-sighted, wise, biblical post from Lionel Windsor.

Don't feed Cupid - Good advice for parents of teens, especially if you plan to allow them to date. Kim Shay.

Refuse to be numbed - Paul says, "I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart." (Rom 9:2) But do we? Jon Bloom.

For more links, click here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

let yourself be inconvenienced by inconvenience

I was challenged and encouraged by this brilliant post from Challies. I'd love people to feel like this with me - like they can inconvenience me, drop in at a moment's notice, take up my time and my life - but I don't think they do. Something to work on!
Anything worth doing will take time and cost you something. We notice, as our attention focused more on families and children, that many people in our community protect themselves from inconvenience as though inconvenience is deadly. We decided that we are not inconvenienced by inconvenience. We are sure that the Good Samaritan had other plans that fateful day...

Your house is not your own....You have not fully reconciled yourself to the fact that it is not your house until you are willing to have others invite themselves in...

One of the highest purposes of Christians is to extend hospitality and friendship to others. In a culture where individuals are becoming ever more individualistic and families are ever-more retreating into their own lives, Christians can be known as people who graciously and cheerfully extend hospitality to others, who refuse to be inconvenienced by inconvenience. Christian houses will be known as the ones with open doors, where invitations are extended and expected...

Do people feel that they can presume upon your time?...Or do they feel that to use your time is to cause you inconvenience and that you are hesitant to make time in your schedule for them?...

Do you allow people not only past the door of your house but also in your home, into the life of your family? Do you invite people into your living room, the formal room immediately beside the front door, or do you invite them into the kitchen where you can be less formal and extend more intimate hospitality? Do people feel they can come to your home only for formal Bible studies or can they come to your home for a personal chat or simply companionship? Do people feel they can drop by at a moment’s notice or do they wait to receive a formal invitation?...

Your house, your time and your home are not yours. They belong to God and need to be fully surrendered to him and to his better, higher purposes.
You can read the rest here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

online meanderings

I'm trying something new: 5 favourite links, once or twice a week, instead of stacks every Friday. Tell me if it's helpful!

Be inconvenienced by inconvenience - A wonderful, challenging post from Challies.

On mission, changing the world, and not being able to do it all. - For those of us who feel guilty because we can't do it all. Kevin DeYoung.

On slowing down - How to slow down when you read the Bible. Meredith.

The power of a dependable father - Check out the brilliant idea for 1,2,3 prayer triplets in the second last paragraph. Phillip Jensen.

When despair is our only song and How to pray when you're depressed - two very helpful posts on praying the Psalms when you're depressed. Eric Redmond and Mark Kelly.

To see the rest of my links, click here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

what I'm reading: too much about what I ought to be doing

One thing about reading lots of Christian posts on the internet is that you start to feel bad about all the things you're not doing. Come to think of it, I'm pretty good at that already. So for all of you who beat yourselves up over the head about the many things you're not doing, here are some wise words from Kevin DeYoung:
Most days I don’t feel guilty about all the stuff I’m not doing. But that’s only because I’ve learned to ignore a lot of things well-meaning Christians say or write...I also realize that right now that my main work is to lead my family, shepherd my church, and preach faithful sermons. If I do these things, by God’s grace, and grow in one more degree of glory this week (again, by God’s grace), should I still feel guilty for all that I’m not doing in the world?...

Greater is he that is in me that he that is in the world. The most important work to be done in the world has already been accomplished...

In all our efforts to be prophetic, radical, and missional, we end up getting the story of Pilgrim’s Progress exactly backwards. “Come to the cross, Pilgrim, see the sacrifice for your sins. Isn’t that wonderful? Now bend over and let me load this burden on your back. There’s a lot of work we have to do, me and you.”...

No doubt some Christians need to be shaken out of their lethargy. I try to do that every Sunday morning and evening. But there are also a whole bunch of Christians who need to be set free from their performance-minded, law-keeping, world-changing, participate-with-God-in-recreating-the-cosmos shackles. I promise you, some of the best people in your churches are getting tired. They don’t need another rah-rah pep talk. They don’t need to hear more statistics and more stories Sunday after Sunday about how bad everything is in the world. They need to hear about Christ’s death and resurrection. They need to hear how we are justified by faith apart from works of the law. They need to hear the old, old story once more. Because the secret of the gospel is that we actually do more when we hear less about all we need to do for God and hear more about all that God has already done for us.
Read the rest here.