Tuesday, August 31, 2010

guest post: Deb on how I want ministry to be

My friend Deb hosts discussions about Christian books for women from her church at her house (more about this wonderful ministry another day). Here are some musings she sent me after this ministry got a little inconvenient the other night, about the kind of ministry we'd all like to do.

I thought I'd tell you what I've learnt about myself and ministry today in light of preparing to host tomorrow night's event:

1. I want ministry to be with people I like. Not awkward people who don't think like me.
2. I want ministry to be convenient. I'd like to organize it to give me as little discomfort as possible.
3. I want ministry to go well. I want it to achieve its purpose. I don't want to do ministry that fails. That would feel awful and waste my time.
4. I want other people to agree with my ministry. To see it as valuable and helpful. To approve of me and my wonderful efforts.
5. I want my ministry to be somehow beneficial to me at the same time. I don't want it to be all about someone else.
6. I want ministry to be safe and friendly for me. Definitely not something scary or risky. Something warm and comforting.
7. I want ministry that's interesting. I don't want to be involved in useful but boring jobs. I'd be wasted doing those sort of things. Unless they were easy. And somewhere warm. And didn't take up time that I'd want to use for something better. Then I'd do it. Want me to stuff envelopes in a warm office with a group of like-minded friends over a cup of tea while my husband entertains our children at home? Yep, I'm there! Set up the church hall in the cold with the weird couple who sit two rows up? I'm way too busy with my small children thanks.

Yep. That's what I realized today that I really think about ministry. I just don't say it aloud.

So that's good - off to do some repenting.

image is from Alicakes* at flickr

Monday, August 30, 2010

what I'm reading: No Ordinary View

I've just finished No Ordinary View by Naomi Reed, about this Sydney missionary's recent 3 years in the Himalayas. Last year I read My Seventh Monsoon, about her earlier years in Nepal, and I enjoyed both books.

What I like best about Naomi's books is that she's an ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances. I usually find missionary biographies daunting. The women in them sound impossibly hard-working, brave, self-sacrificing, godly and full of faith, far distant from the daily realities of my life. Naomi, on the other hand, is an Aussie Christian I can imagine being friends with, a woman who loves God and serves him faithfully, but who struggles with fear and doubt and raising three kids in a foreign land.

The two books I've read by Naomi encouraged me in different ways. The theme of My Seventh Monsoon is seasons, and that's what I took away from it: a realisation that life has many different seasons, not just classic ones like child-rearing or empty-nesting, but also seasons of suffering, change and refreshment, none lasting forever, each with its own demands and blessings.

The theme of No Ordinary View is treasures, the jewels of truth to be found in every experience, but especially the dark times of life. Instead of giving you one long quote today, I'd like to share some of the treasures I uncovered in Naomi's words.

If I could somehow learn to plant deeply in Nepal and keep my eyes on Australia, then perhaps I could also learn to plant deeply on this earth and keep my eyes on heaven...Being temporary...did make a difference to the way we lived. Although we were attaching ourselves to people, we weren't particularly attaching ourselves to things...We could appreciate them without being gripped by them. (60)

The only way to grow in patience is to walk a path where patience is required. (84)

It was more what he didn't pray. He didn't pray for...any kind of resolution to their problem...Instead, he prayed this, in the quietest voice I've ever heard. "Lord, when I'm most distressed, help me to bring glory to you." (87)

I realised that in the most part, I had put my confidence in almost everything but the Almighty God. I hadn't normally admitted to it, I had just done it very quietly. I had put my confidence in my home, my husband, my profession, my own ability to problem solve. But mostly, I had put my confidence in my home...On that morning...I realised that it was the first time that God alone was my refuge...In losing my home, I had found refuge in God. (119)

Finally, here's some words from a conversation with Philip Yancey that Naomi quotes:

You know, you can't save the world - you can only do the best you can with what's in front of you...And, as you go, point to the one who can save the world.

It's a quote which sums up Naomi's life, and also what I would like my life to be.

Thank you, Naomi.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Harold and the Purple Crayon

One of our favourite children's books is Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (it's part of a whole series of books, which we haven't read, and it's been turned into a DVD series, which we love).

In this book the intrepid Harold, dressed in a sleepsuit and armed only with a purple crayon, draws his own imaginary world across the blank white pages of the book in dark purple lines. As he draws objects they come to life and he interacts with them, accompanied by the moon as it follows him across the pages of the book.

He draws an apple tree and a scary dragon to guard it, and some pie and a friendly moose and porcupine to share it. He accidentally draws an ocean, falls in and draws a boat to rescue himself. He draws and falls from a mountain and draws a hot-aid balloon to escape in.

Tired out, he longs for his own room and draws houses and windows until he realises that he knows where his own window is: around the moon. He draws a window around the moon, draws his bed, draws up the covers, and falls asleep.

It's a wondrous and simple story which I love because of the way it explores a child's imagination as expressed through their drawing. Thomas (7) said to me today,

I would draw anything I wanted if I had a purple crayon. I would draw lollies and stuff. It would be very handy and it would also make life a lot funner if I had a magic purple crayon.

I'd have to agree.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

when Titus 2 gets down and dirty: how to lead a mums' Bible study in the middle of a creche (2) preparation

Last week I described the chaotic world of our mum's Bible study, and asked how you lead a discussion when you can't even hear yourselves speak. This week, I'll talk about preparing the study; next week, about leading it.

How do you prepare a Bible study for a group where everyone has mummy brain and you know you'll be interrupted every 5 minutes? Here are 8 things I've learned - mostly by making every mistake in the book. Please add your own ideas!

  • Choose a short study booklet (or write your own studies). We don't attempt Interactive Bible Studies (I use them in preparation, but not for our discussions): instead, we use Good Book Guides or Pathway Bible Guides, or I write my own.
  • Consider doing only half a study each week. It took us half a year (a glorious half year) to get through Women of Faith, as we spread each study over 2 (and in one case, 4) weeks.
  • Come ready to make a single point. It took me a while to realise it, but gone are the days of complex Bible studies. We know we've been encouraged when we go away with one new, rich thought from the Bible in our heads. Often, that's all our heads are capable of holding during this stage of our lives!
  • Prepare well. Just because everyone else's brains are on hold doesn't mean yours should be. The better you know the passage, the more clearly you'll teach it, which is important when people are running on empty. Make sure your one point is faithful to the passage and helpful for those who come.
  • Allow yourself to be changed by the Bible. How can anyone else be affected by God's word if you're not? It's often said that you shouldn't prepare Bible studies during your quiet times; I don't have time for such fine distinctions, so I immerse myself in the week's passage every morning, until I can't wait to share what I've learned.
  • Mix things up. Bring along a questionnaire, game or visual aid. There's nothing like a map, a brainstorm, or some Brick Testament (on one memorable occasion we watched the story of Deborah) to focus everyone's attention.
  • If you read a book together, make it a good but easy read. Long and densely theological doesn't go well with mummy brain (I learned this the hard way). Try a punchy book like Carolyn Mahaney's Feminine Appeal or Ed Moll & Tim Chester's Gospel Centred Family.
  • If you don't have time to prepare well, read the Bible together anyway. Some of the richest Bible studies for me have been when I turned up empty and went away surprised and challenged by God's word.

images are by chthonic and REL Waldman from flickr

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

another reason for having kids young?

I see my friend going straight from 9 years at home with young children to caring for ailing parents, and I wonder how she does it. I look at my own 12 years at home with young children, and worry about whether I'll have energy left to cope with the stresses of the next stage of life.

It never occurred to me before that we're reaping one of the results of having kids at 30 rather than 25 - and that's without full-time work on top of motherhood. As I read the article "Shades of blue" in last weekend's Sunday Life, about women juggling careers and motherhood with apparent ease while they battle depression in private, it was this paragraph that stood out for me:

Allison Pearson [author of I Don't Know How She Does It] went on to describe herself as a "sandwich woman", one of a generation who had children in their 30s and then, just as their offspring were "sleeping through the night, one of our parents fell ill". The stress of this situation - and a job on top - took its toll. "Is it women who are mad, or is it the society we live in?" she asked. "We always suspected there would be a price for Having It All, and we were happy to pay it; but we didn't know the cost would be to our mental health."

Yet another good reason - on top of the extra energy! - for having children while you're young, if that choice is open to you. It certainly seems a better option than squeezing all your "fun" and career advancement into your 20s, and only thinking about having kids later.

image is from Wondermonkey2k at flickr

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

a question for you about sharing Jesus with women from other cultures

We live in a very multicultural area. At school, there are families from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. There are Catholics, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. My son's friend is Indian, I chat with a Macedonian Muslim after school, and another mum, who's become a dear friend, is from an Orthodox Christian background. There are many wonderful opportunities for talking with people about Jesus - but I often feel out of my depth.

My friend Deb recently emailed me (and we'd both love your advice):

I have also been caught up reading Miniskirts, Motherhood and Muslims because my new neighbour (we moved house at the start of the year) is a Lebanese Muslim. Have had a sudden realization that she sees things very differently from me and found myself sweeping my front path and step this morning and scrubbing my kitchen chairs lest I give the gospel a bad name! The interesting thing is that she has made (to my shame) much more of an effort to be hospitable and welcoming than I have to her. She is always inviting me in for coffee (and I'm always rushing off with the kids and promising to do it some other time.....here's a problem) and bringing over leftovers. I want to reciprocate but of course find it more difficult when my food would probably not be acceptable. I've found sweets work a treat though as there are four children in the house. Anyway, that's all a very long aside....

Like Deb, I'm sure I've committed many faux pas when my son's Punjabi friend's mum invites me in and insists,"Sit down, sit down! I'll get you something to eat!". Too often, I respond with what I'm starting to realise is an unfriendly Australian, "No thanks, I'm in a hurry." I've thought about inviting her family for a meal; but what can I feed them when they may not like our food, I can't give them anything like the Indian delicacies she offers, and our house is scruffy and cluttered to her immaculate and clean?

I'd love to hear your ideas.

image is by Sailing "Footprints: Real to Reel"(Ross+ashore) from flickr

Monday, August 23, 2010

what I'm reading: not needing to make sense of it from in tandem

When bad things happen, I try to work out why. This isn't just when big things go wrong, but also during the small inconveniences of life.

Why can't I find a parking spot when we're already late for school? Why did our car battery go flat? Why have I got a cold? What is God trying to teach me? As you can imagine, asking "why?" can get very exhausting.

The following words jumped out at me when in tandem arrived in my inbox last Monday. They're from one of my favourite books, Respectable Sins, by one of my favourite authors, Jerry Bridges, introduced by Nicole :

Bridges actually says that we don't have to work out the exact way that God might use a painful event, but we:

...are to give God thanks that He will use the situation in some way to develop our Christian character. We don't need to speculate as to how He might use it, for His ways are often mysterious and beyond our understanding. So by faith in the promise of God in Rom 8:28-29, we obey the command of 1 Thess 5:18 to give thanks in all circumstances.

I've been trying to remember this. When the traffic lights are red, or I break my favourite mug, or my child wakes up vomiting, I don't need to know why. What I do need to know is that God is sovereign, wise and good. Instead of trusting my ability to figure out the answer to the question "why?", I need to trust in Him.

Brought to you courtesy of in tandem.

Friday, August 20, 2010

stress-throwers and stress-absorbers

Are you a stress-thrower or a stress-absorber?

A stress-thrower blames things on others and expresses stress in anger; a stress-absorber blames things on themselves and expresses stress in anxiety (I think I've got that right!). This useful distinction was taught to me by Tom Cannon, a chaplain I used to work with in university ministry. In our family, we have both stress-throwers and stress-absorbers.

One morning last term we were having jacket issues. One of my sons refused to put on his school jacket until threatened with punishment; another forgot his jacket and had to go back inside for it. We were very late for school as a result.

By the time we pulled up at school, accusations were flying fast and furious (many of them maternal, I admit!). As they got out of the car, my two boys fought over who had made them late—but not in the way you might expect.

“It's my fault we're late! It's my fault!”, said one of my sons, at fault of nothing more serious than forgetting his jacket. “Yes, it's not my fault, it's your fault!”, said the other, at fault of disobeying his parents and refusing to wear his jacket. No prizes for guessing who is the stress-thrower and who is the stress-absorber!

I've found that stress-throwers and stress-absorbers require different parenting. To the stress-thrower I say, “Take responsibility for your own actions!”, “Don't blame others!”, and “Acknowledge and ask forgiveness for what you've done wrong!”. To the stress-absorber I say, “Everyone makes mistakes!”, “Mummy's bad mood is not your fault!”, and “I forgive you, and so does God, because Jesus died for you!”.

But in the end, both stress-throwers and stress-absorbers need to hear the same message (a message, oddly enough, also taught to me by my friend Tom Cannon): “Our sin is greater than we will ever know, but God's grace is greater still.” It's a message I repeat often to my children, and even more often to myself.

This post first appeared at Sola Panel today.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

when Titus 2 gets down and dirty: how to lead a mums' Bible study in the middle of a creche (1)

A baby wails. The Playschool theme song ("There's a chair in there...") echoes through the open door. A 3-year-old pulls a rattling toy across the room. "Mu-um!" whines a toddler, tugging at her mother's jeans. The smell of a ripe nappy wafts past. One woman jumps up to check the progress of the lasagna we're having for lunch; another picks up her crying baby and begins to breastfeed him.

A toddler vomits his excess morning tea on the floor. A 2-year-old runs in crying because her blonde curls just received an impromptu haircut from another child. A fist-fight erupts in the next room. We barely blink an eye as we grab a towel, wipe away tears, administer discipline, and get back to the conversation...what were we talking about again?

No, it's not a new mums' group. It's our weekly Bible study, and this is a normal Thursday morning. Squashed next to me on the couch is my clingy 3-year-old, trying to get my attention as I lead the discussion. Six other mums sit nearby, struggling to focus through a fog of sleep deprivation, pregnancy hormones, and the distraction of wondering what that crash was in the next room...

So what do you do when Titus 2 gets down and dirty? How do you prepare and lead a Bible study for a group of young mums when you don't have a child-minder? I've been performing this far from delicate balancing act for 2 years now, and in case you find yourself in a similar situation, here's what I've learned.

Stay tuned for the next exciting installment. In the meantime, why not share your own suggestions, experiences, or memorable Bible study group moments?

image is from Mistress B at flickr

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Equal and Complementary

Today I'd like to tell you about Equal and Complementary, a half-day event where my friends Peter Adam, Martin Pakula and Fiona McLean will talk about ministry from a complementarian perspective. It's great to see this happening in Melbourne!

It's from 1.30-5.30 pm on 23rd October at Holy Trinity Doncaster. The details are here and the Facebook page is here. Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 16, 2010

what I'm reading: the devil on suffering from The Briefing

I really enjoyed the article How to avoid persecution (according to Screwtape) in the last Briefing.

It's written (you guessed it!) as if by an older demon to younger demons on the topic of persecution and suffering.

This bit rang particularly true to me:

For the one who is experiencing it, suffering is a total reality - all-embracing, all-consuming. It threatens to obliterate everything but itself. The presence of pain and the possibility of relief dominate the sufferer's thoughts, emotions and actions. To offset this domination, the Enemy offers a consolation that is based on counterbalancing the long view against the short...

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:17-18)

The present is, well, so present, it is hard to think past it. And it is harder still to think of accepting real, immediate suffering for the sake of a hoped future happiness that can only be glimpsed by faith...Stop him from thinking of ultimate, eternal things. Get him thinking that his suffering is lasting. And whisper into his heart that the Enemy has betrayed him. Rob him of all hope.

When we're blinded by suffering, may God help us to listen to his word instead of Satan's whispered words, and to take the long view, not the short!

Friday, August 13, 2010

how we made a model of Saturn

Time for yet another science project! This one's a model of Saturn,

made from an old vinyl record (Jesus Christ, Superstar, as it so happens) and a large polystyrene ball, cut in half with a hacksaw.
Lizzy painted the rings of Saturn on the record

and made the stripes streaky using a folded paper towel.

She painted the polystyrene ball halves

and glued them to the record with a glue gun.

She screwed a large screw into the top of the model, tied on some fishing line,

and voila!

one model of Saturn.
(She's just informed me she has to do another project - on South Korea, this time - thankfully not involving any models!)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

woman to woman (4b) a Titus 2 curriculum: the Bible and sound doctrine

In Titus 2:3-5 God encourages older women to teach younger women. But what are we to teach? Top of the list is the gospel of grace; second on the list is God's word and big truths about God.

2. The Bible and sound doctrine

It's sometimes argued that women shouldn't teach doctrine, even to women. That's because the list in Titus 2:4-5 focuses on lifestyle, not doctrine, and because men are responsible for the teaching and theological direction of a church (1 Tim 2:11-15, 1 Cor 14:26-39).

But if older women are to teach young women what “accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1), older women need to understand great truths about God and learn to handle the word of God correctly (2 Tim 2:15). When I mentor a young woman, I begin with the same topics as my husband when he mentors a young man: salvation, assurance, the authority of the Bible, and so on. As needed, I'll address topics like the Trinity, the role of the Spirit and predestination. The main thing we'll do is simply learn from God's word together.

At the heart of godly womanhood is confident trust in God—an inner strength that comes from a deep knowledge of the Bible and of God's sovereign purposes. Only a woman who ‘hopes in God’ and who ‘doesn't fear what is frightening’ will have the courage for submission, and will display “the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pet 3:1-7). Women, like men, need roots that go deep into God's word and God's truth.

In her book One to One, Sophie de Witt says that the Bible, prayer and friendship are the three pillars of discipleship. Do you open the Bible when you encourage other women? Do you help each other understand the big truths of the Bible? What stops us from doing this?

image is from jhall987 at flickr

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

my interview with in tandem

Here's an interview I did for in tandem, a blog for ministry wives, about my life as a ministry wife.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your husband and ministry etc?

When I was in my teens I prayed to marry a minister! I knew I wanted to spend my life doing Christian ministry, and that’s how I thought you’d go about it!! God answered my prayer: my husband Steve isn’t quite a “minister” as I meant it then, but he is a student worker at a university in Melbourne.

Steve and I got married in our early twenties, and we had our first child when I was 30. We have four children: Elizabeth (11), Ben (9), Thomas (6) and Andrew (3). I’m 42, and thinking hard about what ministry and family life will look like during the next season of life when my kids are all at school.

Steve and I studied Arts at Melbourne Uni – but we were really studying Christian ministry, learning on the job at the Christian Union. Steve was part of the first team to ever do an MTS ministry apprenticeship in Victoria! Then it was on to youth ministry at a suburban church for a few years, theological study for Steve, and a PhD in church history/theology for me.

Once I’d finished studying I worked as a student worker at a very new Christian Union for a year or so until Elizabeth was born. Steve joined me as the first senior staff worker at that uni and has been there for 12 years. As long as they want him, he has no plans to move!

Here’s how I spend my time: I love Steve; love, teach and train our children; care for our home; lead a Bible study for mums at our church; teach and encourage women when I get the chance; and do lots of writing for The Briefing, Sola Panel and my blog, in all honesty.

What have been some of the joys of being in ministry?

They are far, far too many to mention! But here are a few:

  • teaching the Bible and watching women’s eyes light up when they understand something new about God and how to live for him
  • passing on the wonderful news about what it means to live as a Christian woman to younger women (Titus 2:3-5 - see my article woman to woman)
  • watching with great joy as Steve teaches the Bible, trains leaders, and cares for God’s people
  • seeing the young people Steve and I taught at uni grow to become men and women who care for their families, serve in their churches, and keep growing God’s kingdom. It’s an awesome privilege to help shape young people into the men and women God wants them to be!
What have been some of the challenges?

Again, too many to mention! But here are some.

  • University work has particular challenges, as the work is very erratic – frantically busy during some months and relatively quiet during others. You do adjust, but it’s not easy!
  • Full-time ministry is intensely demanding, especially when you’re the senior person. Steve is careful not to let the burden fall too heavily on others, but that means it often falls very hard on him. It’s hard to see him sick and exhausted when it all becomes too much for him.
  • The hardest struggle for me is feeling torn between the most important ministry in my life – my family – and all the other ministries I’d love to do: teaching, writing and encouraging women. Steve supports and encourages me in doing what I can. But I’d always love to do more!
How does partnership in serving God with your husband work out in practice for you?

I provide a quiet place of refuge for Steve in the evenings. Steve is an introvert, so I’ve learned not to expect him to tell me in detail about his day, but to give him space to relax as we love and enjoy one another.

I joyfully get involved in some aspects of Steve’s ministry: I lead a seminar for our female graduates every year, welcome the staff team into our home for their meetings, offer hospitality to people who drop in, and mentor or encourage the women on the staff team when I get the chance.

I do some humdrum things which don’t excite me but which are important to Steve’s ministry – and, I must admit, do them far less cheerfully than I should! – like finances, editing and cooking for groups.

I pray. Nearly every time I pray, at the top of my list is Steve’s leadership, godliness, purity and prayerfulness both at uni and in our home. I also pray regularly for his leadership team and the people under his care.

What's the one piece of advice you would give to a younger woman about to become a 'ministry wife'?

You’re about to embark on a great adventure! Don’t lead separate lives: get involved and use your gifts, whatever they may be – hospitality, service, encouragement, teaching, etc. - to love your husband and help him in his ministry.

The way you help your husband and serve God’s people won’t look like any other ministry wife’s: you and your husband have unique personalities, energy levels, needs, gifts and opportunities. Learn from other ministry wives, but don’t compare yourself or your husband.

The world tells women that we need our own patch, something which makes us feel important: independent work, study or ministry. Yes, you may work or study or do some separate ministries – that’s fine! – but your life is not about “finding your identity” or “fulfilling yourself”.

God has put you on this earth and married you to this man so you can help your husband as you further the cause of the gospel together (whether in paid ministry or not!). There will be tough times ahead when you grow weary and discouraged, as well as times of joy. Your refuge is God, so keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and don’t give up reading the Bible, praying, and getting to know him. Be a woman of God who is strong in the gospel and growing in grace and godliness. Then you will be all that God and your husband need you to be.

This interview appeared first at in tandem.

Monday, August 9, 2010

what I'm reading: Thanks for nothing

As we've continued to look at women of the Bible in our women's Bible study, I've been struck by how Hannah in 1 Samuel 1-2 brought nothing to God but her need, and how the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4 was taught by God through suffering what it means to be come to him with empty hands. Here's a post about another woman from 2 Kings 4 who came to God with nothing.

Once there was a woman with nothing. No husband, no income, no food, no prospects. Nothing. She was the mother of two boys, but her late husband’s creditor was already on his way to claim them as slaves. I think in some small way, I can relate to that.

She came to the man of God with nothing. And he said to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a little oil.” II Kings. 4:2

One terrified, desperate woman was about to learn something about nothing. She must have listened in amazement to the prophet’s instructions.

“Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons.” II Kings 4:3-4

It was as if the prophet were saying, “Listen, we don’t have enough emptiness here. I want you to collect all the emptiness in the neighborhood, as much as you can beg, borrow or finagle. Then go inside.” So the widow gathered up all the nothing she had and all the nothing she could borrow and went into her empty house with sons who were no longer her own...

Click here to read the rest at Mentoring Moments for Christian Women

image is from mentoring moments

Friday, August 6, 2010

eating veggies can be fun (especially if you play with them first)

Once upon a time, a very long time ago (actually, it was only 2-ish years ago), our toddler Andy wouldn't eat his veggies - or anything else healthy, for that matter (and I mean pretty much anything).

So I asked a question about fussy eaters and received many, many helpful suggestions. The conversation continued with Meredith's a question for you about fussy eaters with its own set of wise responses including my own not-so-wise update on Andy's eating; and concluded with Meredith's far more well-thought-out posts How I Won the Veggie War - Part One and Part Two - which, by the way, make excellent reading for anyone struggling with a toddler who won't eat.

Today (drumroll please!!!) just to show you that even the most reluctant child can learn to eat and enjoy their veggies (well, some of them, anyway - Andy is still a pretty fussy eater, but we're getting there) here are some pictures of Andy enjoying a few of his favourite veggies.

Of course, eating veges is more fun if you play with them. They make good mouths,

shoes (okay, so this is kind of gross),


and "trees" (for some reason this is a great favourite with our younger boys).

How did we do it, I hear you ask? We're still doing pretty much what we did here, staying relaxed but firm; but if the problem hadn't resolved, perhaps we would have tried Meredith's approach.

A friend of mine has just asked me about this issue, so feel free to add your own ideas to the comments!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

more reflections on the year all your kids go to school

As you may have noticed, I've been collecting women's reflections on the year all their kids go to school. I think I'm trying to smooth the transition when my youngest child, Andy, goes to school in a couple of years - forewarned is forearmed and all that! Here's what a friend wrote to me recently:

I'm still finding mothering and homemaking heavy going this year. I feel like I've got a knot in my head that I can't unpick. I wish I knew why things seem so trying this year when really there's no new burden or disaster to account for it. I think partly it's because I came at the year with unrealistic expectations. E. was starting school and I thought this somehow meant that caring for a family of five would get magically easier. It sounds ridiculous when I think back on it now. What did I think I wasn't going to be doing that I was doing before? I guess I've always thought mothering was hard before this point because I've been either pregnant, breastfeeding, waking up at night or had "three small children at home". I've been really cross with myself for finding things tiring and exasperating because now I've "got no excuse" not to be managing perfectly. Slowly, slowly I'm coming to the realization that mothering is actually (drum roll please) hard work! All on it's own. Without even needing the excuse of "small children".

If you're a mum and you're made this transition, what was it like? What did you expect? Did reality match your expectations? What's one piece of advice you would give a woman whose youngest child is starting school next year?

image is from amishsteve at flickr

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

the art of the gentle answer

This last year, one of the ways God has grown my husband is in gentleness. I've learned a lot from Steve about the way a gentle answer (his) can take away wrath (mine). Here's 3 examples I can remember.

  • I went into a rant about some person who had done something in some way to upset me, and instead of saying, "Get a grip!" or "Stop being so judgemental!" or "You're absolutely right!" he said, "You must be feeling bad." Deflated. Me.
  • I went into a rant about something Steve had done (I think it was something significant like the way his belongings affected the look of our living room) and instead of saying "It's not my fault!" or "Well, you did such-and-such!" or "I live here too, you know!" he said, "That must be difficult for you." And he wasn't being sarcastic. Sigh.
  • I went into a rant about how some major life-changing decision was going to affect our lives and the lives of our children and the lives of everyone else we know, and instead of saying, "Well, that's just how it is!" or "Stop whining!" or "Suck it up, princess!" he said, "Yes, I know it will be hard for you", and gave me a sympathetic hug. Aaaah.

My husband is far from perfect - as he would be the first to admit! - but I've learned a lot from him about gentleness, me being a shoot-your-mouth-off let-it-all-hang-out tell-them-how-upset-you-are (as-long-as-they're-family-but-not-otherwise) kind of gal.

I can tell you from experience that a gentle answer is a salve on the bee-sting of irritation - or a pin to the balloon of wrath - or a calm which sucks the wind from the sail of anger - or something like that, anyway.

A gentle answer has long-term effects, too. Months later, when Steve's belongings still decorate the living room or I feel the effects of that life-changing decision, I surprise myself by responding with grace rather than anger. God's word is proved right once again:

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1

image is from stephen.h2010 at flickr

Monday, August 2, 2010

what I'm reading: some words on idolatry from The Briefing

The Briefing has long been my favourite magazine (long before they ever published anything I wrote!) and I read it cover to cover every month. It's like an old friend who's grown over the years, becoming less prickly and more warm and engaging. It's stretched and shaped my thinking and encouraged me in my Christian walk again and again.

I was particularly struck this month by a couple of paragraphs in Ron Serje's review of Greg Dutcher's You are the Treasure that I Seek (But there's a lot of cool stuff out there, Lord). It's a book for "Christian idolaters" about the idols we worship - not generally Buddhas or Krishnas, but idols like food, sex, or recreation (or less tangible things like peace, perfection or pleasure).

The review says,

Idolatry is rooted in and grows out of the heart. This means we take our idols wherever we go. Idols are remarkably portable; we can worship them anywhere, anytime, all the time...

Flee from your idols. That's right: run, don't walk. This might be inconvenient, painful and even disruptive; we are usually very fond of our idols. So don't be surprised if you discover that your thoughts, habits and routines have settled into a smooth, effortless orbit around your favourite one.

"A smooth, effortless orbit": that's spot-on, isn't it? If you need help identifying your idols, have a look at this questionnaire and this one; and for more on idolatry, see what desires do you need to turn from?.