Thursday, January 28, 2010

Book Recommendations

Although I have a pile of unread books under my bed, I am always on the lookout for interesting reading material. Reading widely inspires my own writing.

So, I would love for you to suggest some books for me to read. Christian or secular, I don't mind. What books have you particularly enjoyed and would like to recommend to me?

List as many as you like.....please list away.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

5 Things I Like About Summer

Ho ho ho, I bet some people are thinking. Sarah liking anything about summer?!?

Yes, it's a well known fact that I'm not a summer person. However, I thought it's better to start with some positives before I have my '5 Things I Don't Like About Summer' rant later. :)

1. Beach!
2. Lazy evening barbecues with friends.
3. Less clothes to put on in the mornings.
4. More space in my suitcase when travelling because summer clothes are less bulky.
5. The washing dries in two seconds!

What do you like about summer?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Marriage 101: Date Night

Like many young couples, especially those who are Christian, we did a marriage preparation course prior to our wedding. It involved meeting up with our pastor and his wife on a regular basis to go through five or six different challenges we will face as a married couple. On one of these occasions, they encouraged us to have a regular 'date night'.

I had heard date nights mentioned by my married friends, but I really didn't have much of a clue as to what they involved. Basically, they involve a couple setting aside one night of the week to spend together, alone and uninterrupted. Whatever a couple chose to do together on this night was up to them, but this was their night to focus on their relationship in the midst of the busyness around them.

Many of my city friends have date nights. When I moved to the country, the concept seemed foreign to many people. They couldn't understand why they would need one or what the benefits were. When I was single, I was quick to misunderstand the challenges married couples have to work through in order to spend quality time together. Once I was out with a newly married friend when she commented that she really should be going home soon as she needed to spend time with her husband. I was thinking, "Ummmm, you're married. Don't you see each other every day?" Now that I'm married, I can see where she was coming from and I admire her and her husband because they are strict about designating time to spend together. It doesn't always work amidst life's interruptions, but they are good at working out what is an 'emergency' and what/who can wait for another night. It's too easy when you're married to see each other but not really spend any time together and you can easily end up living like flatmates, your main topics of conversation being bills and grocery shopping. Yes, I think date nights are a necessity in the city and highly recommended for the country. Country life may be slower, but it's easy to get bogged down by other people and things which just seem to pop up on the calendar.

My pastor encouraged us to set aside the same night each week otherwise it is easy to make compromises. His advice was not to watch TV but to spend time interacting with each other. Duncan and I don't heed this rule; we watch TV or movies regularly on our date night. I think each couple need to make their own 'rules'. Go out for dinner, enjoy a candelit dinner at home, get dressed up for no reason other than to look nice for each other, play boardgames, read aloud to each other, study the Bible, sit and chat, go to the movies, play sport...or do something else *wink wink*.

But the golden rule above all others is that this is a night for you....not family time. Put the kids to bed early or get a babysitter. Don't answer the phone or make calls. This has been an issue of contention for Duncan and I. In the first few months of our marriage, we neglected to have a date night and we found our nights were being taken up with calling people or having them call us. Then one of us would be spending half an hour or more on the phone trying to maintain long distance relationships with friends or family. It really got to me after a while; as much as I want to keep in touch with people, we are not at their beck and call. Duncan likes phone conversations much more than me and even now, he still automatically goes to answer the phone on our date night which gets my goat sometimes. Ignore the phone. Whoever it is can leave a message. We've never had an instance where the person has been calling due to an emergency; they usually just want to chat. If it's an emergency, fair enough, but other people should just respect your time together, especially if they already know it's your date night and call anyway.

But there will be instances where you may have to change your date night to another night of the week either temporarily or permanently. Originally ours was on Monday nights, but we changed it to Thursday because of netball. Sometimes we've had visitors who've been staying with us so we just changed it to another night for that week. If someone has a birthday, then of course we'll go; we'll just make sure we have a date night on another night. But don't deliberately invite people over for dinner on your date night.

Honestly, our date night has been a great blessing to us and we're grateful to the wise counsel we received before marriage and after. Having a date night is not selfish, that is what was stressed to us. A marriage is a bond worth maintaining. It's too easy in this day and age to just let it fall apart.

Do you have a date night? What sorts of activities do you like to do with your spouse (please keep it G rated ;) ). What challenges have you faced trying to have a weekly date night?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Year of Judy Nunn and Belinda Alexandra

2009 was the year that I was introduced to (in my opinion) two great Australian authors. At first, I was very sceptical when a friend offered to lend me one of several Judy Nunn books she owned. As an avid Home and Away fan, I'd watched Judy Nunn play Ailsa on the show for many years and my first thought was, "Soapie stars can't write." I think I got that thought from having watching soap stars go into the pop music world (or vice versa). But I borrowed the book, Territory, and was soon eating my words. It was FANTASTIC! Since reading Territory, I've also read The Glitter Game, Floodtide, Heritage and I'm in the middle of reading Kal. I can't wait to get my hands on more of her books! The fantastic research behind them brings Australian history to life, particularly focusing on the post-World War 2 period and the birth of multiculturalism.

Later on last year, the same friend lent me three books by another Australian author in Belinda Alexandra. I had never heard of her before and by looking at the covers of her books, my first thought was that they looked like pansy romance novels. Again, I was wrong. She is very much like Judy Nunn in that she writes historical drama and the books are very well researched and rich in detail. I've read White Gardenia, Wild Lavender and Silver Wattle and her fourth book is due out this year. Her stories are set in China, Russia, Australia, the then Czechoslovakia and France.

So if you're in a book club and looking for books to read, then I highly recommend these two authors. I think any authors who draw me so far into their story that I bristle with anger, shout with alarm or cry in sadness is a good author. I hope to evoke emotions in my novel the same way as these two women do.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wedding 1 2009

For the third and final consecutive weekend I spent in Perth, I did what I do best.....go to weddings! :)

After attending 14 weddings in 2007-08 (including our own), 2009 had a severe wedding drought for us. I had to wait until the last few weeks of the year to attend one and poor Duncan missed out because of harvest.

Our friend Yu from our old church married Dada at St Barnabas Anglican Church in West Leederville and the reception was held at the Aqualife Centre in East Victoria Park. It was such a cool wedding because it reflected two cultures. The couple wore white to the ceremony and red to the reception.

I have a heap of photos on Facebook here but here are just a couple of the very sweet bride and groom and a not so glamorous one of yours truly.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Black, Gold or Bling

That was the theme of my friend and former housemate, Sarah's 35th birthday. It took place in early December on the second of three consecutive weekends I was in Perth.

I didn't have any gold or bling so I was boring and stuck to black.

Mick's very festive thongs.

The birthday girl.

Corinne and Mick.

Mick and Jill.

Lyndsay, Sarah, myself, Terios (and the knife!)

The brie deserved to die muahahaha!

Mick and Corinne playing gripball.

Gee I look like a grumpy bum here and, no, those glasses were not mine!

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Dream of Haiti

On Wednesday night I had the strangest dream.

I dreamed I was in Haiti to help with disaster relief following the catastrophic earthquake. Duncan was there as well as many Christians from my current church and my former church. We were all there to help in various ways. I'm not sure what triggered this dream. Perhaps it was reading Rodney's post about the situation or the fact that it was on the news when my clock radio went off (I pressed snooze and fell asleep again). Either way, it was good to dream about something positive (in the sense that I was there to help) rather than something scary or just plain weird.

But it was frustrating because I only had a toddler's bike to get around on and I was pedalling away looking to help but I didn't really do anything important. I just made some craft things to give to orphans and then we went home.

I'm not sure if this dream has any real meaning or not but when I woke up, I was close to crying and I couldn't stop thinking about the plight of a country I'd previously thought little about. I was touched to the point of desperately wanting to do something to help the Haitians but not sure what on earth I could do from halfway across the world.

There was something I could do....something we can all do. Pray and give.

I'm often guilty of doubting the power of prayer. But prayer is not a cop-out. It is asking the God of the universe, the only one who has complete control of the situation, to stretch out His mighty hand and help, to save lives both physically and spiritually. I couldn't help but be incredibly grateful for all that I have and the privilege of sharing some of that with the people of Haiti. I may not be able to do big things but I can do little things with a lot of love and if each of us did that, imagine the impact.

If you would like to give to the aid appeal in Haiti, you can donate online through Compassion Australia, the Australian Red Cross, UNICEF, Medecins Sans Frontieres or World Vision just to name a few.

Picture is from

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quote of the Day

We cannot do great things. We can only do little things with great love.
- Mother Teresa

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bazza's Big 40th

Our friend, Barry, turned 40 late last year and us Dally mob joined him on a day trip to Perth to celebrate at Han's, Whitford City for lunch. I was already in the big smoke so it was lovely having Duncan come down for the day and then he could drive home hehe :)

Baz enjoying the festivities.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sounds in the Valley

Late last year I headed to Perth alone for three consecutive weekends. Duncan was busy with harvest and all of my appointments happened to be close together so I did a lot of travelling. It wasn't ideal when I was already so tired but I still managed to enjoy myself.

Here are some photos of Emma (my bridesmaid and former housemate) and I at the Sounds in the Valley concert up at Elmars in the Valley which is German brewery and restaurant. I was so excited when she told me about this concert because I actually liked all of the featured artists - Wendy Matthews, Mark Seymour, Darryl Braithwaite and Chris Murphy. Emma is the only friend of mine who likes these artists. Duncan said being forced to go that concert would be a form of torture for him. Hahaha he missed out!
Overall, the concert was brilliant and most people (including us) got up and danced when mark Seymour came on at the end. I think I'd rather hear Wendy Matthews in a small pub setting as she has that kind of husky voice which would sound good in that environment. The food left a lot to be desired. Some people brought their own picnic food but we decided it would be easier to buy it there. It was revolting to say the least....and disgustingly overpriced. $9 for some German sausage in a bun with all kinds of strange things in there. I won't be making that mistake again!

Anyway, here are some photos. I look pretty gross in them and I had to take them with my mobile since my camera batteries decided to cark it at the crucial moment.

Friday, January 08, 2010

From Head to Hand: The Head to Hand Divide

One of the most frustrating things about being a writer is that what appears on paper (or on the computer) is seldom as good as it was in your head. Somewhere between head and hand, there is a derailment of sorts and the masterpiece of your thoughts gets somewhat lost in the writing process.

Often I think of some great dialogue in my head but by the time I get it down, I've forgotten it. Sometimes this happens late at night and I'm contemplating putting a notebook next to my bed to jot down any inspirational thoughts before they disappear forever.

Someone told me that Woody Allen once spoke about this frustration and I've been searching for a quote from him online but can't find it. If anyone knows the exact words, please let me know. I sure know what he was talking about though.

Generally I'm pretty happy when I reread what I've written but it still doesn't reach the lofty heights I thought I had achieved in my own head.

Still, that's being a writer for you.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

What Nightmare Are You?

You Are Falling
Sometimes things in your life feel completely out of control. You get overwhelmed. Like everyone else you have a fear of failure... just like falling in a nightmare. You may need more balance in your life. Take time to take care of yourself.And learn to go with the flow a little bit more. Falling can feel exciting if you let it!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Lonely But Not The Only

I know I said I wouldn't be back blogging until the 9th January....but I'm in Dunsborough at Dunc's parents' place.....and they have internet access.....AND I've been totally tempted by the fact that the Christian Blog Carnival is on this week.

Have you ever felt like the only Christian in existence? In reality, you know this isn't true but when you're in a workplace, family or uni class where you're the only Christ follower, it sure can feel this way. All of the workplaces I've been in, I'm sure I've been the only Christian. It can be hard to continually grit your teeth and endure ridicule for your faith, knowing that it is Jesus they are persecuting and not yourself. It also can be difficult and discouraging when there are other Christians present who are sinning recklessly and don't seem to care.

But the reality is that though you may feel alone, you AREN'T.

Although you may be the lonely one, you are definitely not the only one to have ever felt like you are the sole crusader for Christ. There are many others in the same situation who are battling on, humbly trying to live Jesus' way and it's easy to slip into self-righteous arrogance, as if you are the only faithful servant God has at his disposal.

In reality, there are more Christians out there than we know; faithful, godly people who are serving the Lord, encouraging one another from the Scriptures and keen to see others know him. There are churches beyond the social circle you mix with that are reaching out to their communities with the good news about Jesus.

I get annoyed when I hear Christians badmouthing churches they know nothing about simply because they assume that the only faithful churches are the ones they know of. I once heard someone say that Christian uni groups (Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students) are what will spread the gospel and teach the Bible faithfully in Perth as if all churches and groups besides them were heretical. How stupid to think that God will only use you or others you know! What foolish ignorance!

In 1 Kings 19, we can read of the prophet Elijah sitting down under a tree dismally and when God asks him what he is doing, he replies, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." He says this twice and, in other words, he's basically saying, "I'm the only faithful one left, God. All of the other Christians have sinned against you and I'm the only one who still follows you." (1 Kings 19:10).

God does not indulge Elijah's self-pity. After telling Elijah what he must do, the Lord says in verse 18, "Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel - all whose knees have not bowed to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." Instead of sitting and weeping about how faithfully we have served the Lord all by our little selves, we too should acknowledge that God has many people working for his purposes. We are not alone. We are not the only faithful ones. Our church is not the only church faithfully preaching the word of God. Sometimes it may seem you are the only Christian in your workplace, but in large workplaces there may be more Jesus followers than you think. There are individuals and churches out there who we may not of, they may not be on our radar of 'good churches'....but they are there and God is using them.

We may never see the results of others' labour. We may never see the results of our own. But God has reserved a people for himself and from that we can be encouraged.