Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Friendships in Different Seasons

In hindsight, friendships seemed much easier at high school. Generally everyone is in the same stage of life – having crushes on boys, getting braces, getting periods, cursing pimples, thinking about what you’re going to do when you graduate. The biggest thing that threatens friendships is boyfriends. Generally the single friend knows that they just need to wait patiently and their good friend’s relationship will soon be over and they will have girl time again.

But after high school, everything changes. People go their separate ways. Busyness and different life paths take a strangle hold on relationships and threaten to tear them apart. You go from seeing your best friends every day to battling to see them every few months. Then there’s the financial gap. Some will quickly secure well-paying jobs and struggle to relate to their friends who chose full-time study. Then there’s the relationship gap. Some will marry and get swept up in the ‘couples crowd’, while their single friends either live it up solo or mourn their lack of attachment. Then babies come along and the chasm widens.

Yes, I think it’s babies – not boys – that prove the test of a friendship.

That’s not to say I resent my friends for having kids. Nor do I resent their offspring for being there. But it does make friendships rather tricky.

Why Babies Come Between Best Friends is a really good article which attempts to explain both sides – the friend with no kids and the parent. So much misunderstanding can occur when your good friend has children.
I guess the parent is the one who has experienced both sides. They know the feeling of being childless and also the trials and responsibilities that come with having kids so therefore they can probably relate more than the childless person.

We are often unsure what to do with friends who are in different stages of life. Rather than simply seeing life’s changes as a challenge, we see them as an insurmountable barrier to friendship. I don’t need to have kids to want to maintain a friendship with friend who has kids. Sure, it might be EASIER if I had kids too (more understanding, sharing problems, kids could play together while we talked), but I see having friends in different stages of life as a GOOD thing. It helps us step out of our little clone world of only socialising with people like us, and attempt to understand others. If you’re a parent, then having childless friends is a good reminder that there are other topics worth discussing besides kids. If you’re childless, then it can be very interesting and helpful watching your friends in their role as parents and seeing how they interact as a family.

Here are what I think are the perspectives of both camps. I can’t relate to the parent camp because I’m not in that stage of life yet, but I can go on what many of my friends who have kids tell me.

Single/Married With No Kids
When you’re single, your friends are a huge part of your life and provide the social interaction and emotional support that we all need. When their good friends marry off, it can be really hard for single people. They’re watching their friends gain more while they’re left behind with less.

Also, parents need to realise that not every single or DINK (Double Income, No Kids) is unhappy in their stage of life. While I was unhappy in my single days, I resented the constant question, “So when are you getting married?” Now I’m married, the constant, “When are you having kids?” annoys me even more! When I meet up with my friends who are parents, I don’t want them asking when I’m going to be like them; I just want them to accept the stage of life I’m in and that I’m content with my lot at the moment.

Unfortunately I’ve found forming relationships with some mums hard going. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t want to be friends with mums, or that all the mums in my life are cliquey and exclusive. Some of my really good friends are mums and our friendships survive and thrive because we don’t see the kids thing as a barrier. But not all mums are like my good friends. Some only appear to want to hang out with other mums and discuss poo and nappies and labour stories all day. Some seem to resent the ‘freedom’ my childlessness brings and make snide remarks such as, “Wait ‘til you have kids.” etc, making it sound like parenthood is an absolute nightmare, but then they can’t not see me without asking if I’m pregnant yet. I’ve also heard one of my friends (who is in a relationship) say that she is sick of mums implying that they are the only ones who know what hard work is. I don’t doubt motherhood is hard work, but my friend is a carer at a nursing home, she works long shifts, but loves her job and the dignity she helps bring to old people at the end of their life. Motherhood may be 24/7 but that doesn’t mean other work is not difficult or valuable too – just in different ways.

It’s sad but I’ve started to stop hanging out with groups of women who are all mums and I’m the odd one out. I love hanging out with women who are in different stages of life and celebrate the fact that we’re all WOMEN, or we’re all CHRISTIANS or we all like the same books. But some women only want to talk about what divides rather than what unites. I had the experience a couple of months ago of being with a group of young mums who did nothing but talk about their kids the whole time. It’s not that I’m not interested in their kids or grossed out by labour stories, but it meant that I was sitting there feeling like I might as well have been a hat rack in the corner because I couldn’t contribute to the conversation. When they noticed I hadn’t said anything for quite a while, they said, “Oh sorry, Sarah.” I explained (gently…yes I can do gentle) that I wasn’t grossed out by labour experiences, but I would appreciate the topic being changed to something that all of us could relate to. Two seconds later, they were back to the labour stories and this was after a day of asking me, “Do you like kids, Sarah?” or “Have we put you off kids yet?” I mean, how am I supposed to respond to those questions?

Being childless, I think you’re more aware of ‘women’s groups’ whether it be Bible study or just a catch up being hijacked and turned into mothers’ group or a place to whinge about husbands (DINK women are just as guilty of this). If any good has come out of this, it is making me more aware of how single girls must feel and I do try to steer the topic away from husbands and kids when there are a minority of single women present. I’ve been in their shoes and I know how alienating it can feel. I think many married women are just so happy to be married they don’t realise they’re doing it. And many single and childless people don’t NOT want to hear about families, they just want to feel valued and included. I think this is more of an issue in country towns. Duncan and I were asked when we were going to have kids the second we got back to Dally after our honeymoon. This would not have happened in Perth where most people accept that married couples will generally wait for a few years before starting a family. I just want to be valued as a person and not for my breeding capacity. Let me just say here that I admire single female teachers and nurses in country towns tremendously! They are my heroes.

In relation to kids, the B word is also what can drive a massive wedge between friends in different life stages. Yes – babysitting!

The reality is that many childless people feel used by their parent friends and feel like they are only good for minding other people’s kids. Years ago, a single friend of mine wanted to befriend the married women in her church so she offered to babysit the kids during the Women’s Bible Study (who were all mums). My friend LOVES kids so this brought her great joy, but she was not only seeking to serve, she wanted friendships too. She considered these women to be her good friends, but when she changed churches, only two of them kept in touch with her. She then realised that the only times she had been invited for meals was when there was babysitting attached. She felt these women had unwittingly used her.

Now I’m not telling you this story to paint all mums as evil people who just want free babysitting. Like I said before, I have fantastic mum friends who have never ‘used’ me, rather our friendship is one of give-take, and they don’t resent me for not babysitting their kids. But unfortunately there are parents who are on the lookout for potential babysitters rather than potential friends. Duncan and I feel that if we were to have a family one day, we would not ask our friends to babysit unless they offered or had lots of kids and didn’t mind a few more coming over. It’s not that we don’t want to help our friends; it’s just that we feel completely ill-equipped and awkward to deal with other people’s kids (and no, I don’t think any amount of babysitting can prepare you to have a child of your own). I’ve had well-meaning people suggest to me that if I want to befriend mums, I should offer to do some babysitting or ironing for them, and that has immediately got my back up. First of all, I’m not on a mission to befriend mums in particular – I want to befriend women and I don’t care what stage of life they’re in. Nor do I want to be ‘used’. I think Ali from Something My Foggy Day is right in her post On Friendship when she spots the difference between friendship and service. Like I was told to just ‘go out and serve’ in order to make friends, she picks up that this doesn’t equate to friendship. Certainly friendship does involve serving one another, but the service is reciprocated according to the abilities of the friends.  If it's one way, then it isn't friendship.

I’ve also realised it is harder for childless women and mums to become friends than it is for childless men and dads. For a long time, I’ve had difficulty convincing Duncan just how alienated I feel being the only ‘non mum’ on the farm. There are five other blokes on the farm besides Duncan and four of them are dads. When they get together they talk about farming or shooting or something they have in common. Duncan does ask them how little Johnny is going and they give a brief update, but don’t go into much more than that. It was only recently at a friend’s daughter’s birthday party did Duncan come away saying, “Gee those mums talk about their kids a lot.”

I told you so, Duncan!

In aiming to share the parents’ perspective, I’m drawing on statements my mum friends have made over the years. I’ve also been thinking a lot about how my life would change should I become a parent, and where I would want my childless friends to show understanding.

Many of my friends who are mums say they battle with the isolation that parenthood can bring. A fifteen minute task now takes forty-five. Getting out of the house is a struggle no matter how much they might WANT to go out so it just easier to stay at home (particularly if they have more than one child). Their old spontaneous life is gone and they need to plan their day around feeds, naptimes and school pickups.  In my naivety, I thought it would be easier for mums to make friends because they can meet other mums at playgroup or school.  But a few mums have told me they found other mums would form cliques and exclude them, leaving them feeling more lonely than ever.

Many of my friends with kids use Facebook for some adult conversation and a window to the outside world so they feel hurt when being accused of being Facebook addicts. To them, Facebook is their way of keeping up with friends they may not be able to see in person.

Many childless women are guilty of just letting their friendships lapse when their friends become parents, as if they assume their friend is only going to want to hang out with mums now. Many mums say they find this hurtful. They DO want to keep up their friendships – they just find it hard. I’m just as guilty of this. Sometimes it’s nice just to invite people even if you know they can’t come. It shows that you are still thinking of them.

If the mum has given up a lucrative career to have a child, then it’s good to encourage them and tell them their new role is valued and worthwhile. The world often looks down on women for leaving the workforce for motherhood. Nobody values the love and care they are bestowing on a new human being. Instead they are just criticised for swapping suits for trackies. All I’ve heard some mums say they want is to be considered valuable and appreciated by society for the sacrificial role they are fulfilling.

Another thing mums have said they want is for their friends to help them in the way they want help. For example, I’m not even a mum, yet people coming to my house and putting dishes away where I can’t find them is NOT helpful. Ask your friends who are mums how they want to be helped. They may want you to mop floors rather than hold the baby for them. Of course, not all friends will be comfortable with or have the ability to do everything the mum wants (i.e. babysitting). But you can try and help in practical ways.

Keep coming over to see them even if their house is messy or they haven’t had time to have a shower. Don’t make them feel bad; they’re doing their best.

Take an interest in their husband and kids. Often it’s easy for a single person to feel threatened by these other people in your friend’s life who have taken YOUR place. But not all husbands are idiots and not all kids are badly behaved brats. Talk to them and get to know them. You may find that you haven’t ‘lost’ your friend after all – you’ve gained extra ones.

If I have kids, I could imagine I would find it quite hard. I don’t like busy, stressful times where my life feels like it has been turned on its head. I would find it quite difficult to get out and about. I don’t cope well with little sleep. I want practical help (like cooking and cleaning) not ‘advice’. I hope that if that day comes, my friends without kids would understand and know that I still want to be their friend.

It Takes Two
When one friend has children and one doesn’t, it can really rattle the friendship. But it need not end it. The friendship will only fall apart if one friend chooses to let it. Sure you will probably have to say goodbye to spontaneous trips to the cinema or the pub. Things won’t be the same, but they can still be good.

I used to wonder which was harder – watching a friend you have grown up with become a mum, or trying to become friends with women who have always been mums as long as you’ve known them. I think both can be hard. Both require effort from both parties.

There will be times when one friend may feel they are putting more into the relationship than the other. These times may include getting married, having a baby, starting a new demanding job, and moving house. But while these seasons of change can be demanding and stressful, wisdom is needed to know when that season of busyness has ended. For example, you may not see much of a friend who has just got back from their honeymoon, but things should have settled down after a few months. A friend may not have much time with a newborn, but things are different when all of their children are at school. This requires BOTH friends to stop making excuses and realise they both need to put the effort in.

See a new season as a new chapter - not the end of the book.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Quote of the Day

A candle loses nothing of its light by lighting another candle.
- Unknown

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Get On Your Soapbox #19

It seems like it's the Australian thing to have a whinge about our government...

But did you know that governments are established by God?

They were established for our good, to maintain order, to prevent anarchy, to administer justice, to govern wisely.  Yes, there are bad governments, no doubt about it, but as much as I might not like Julia Gillard, I do not think things are as bad in Australia as the whingers make out.  We should be grateful we don't live in Zimbabwe, Libya, or Syria.  We should get down on our knees and thank God we weren't born in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or Italy under Mussolini.

So, when Christians think they are above the law, it really gets my blood boiling!

Our ultimate allegiance is to God.  If the government asks us to do something which disobeys how God wants us to live (like trying to stop Christians telling the gospel), then we need to obey God first and foremost.  But I personally know too many Christians who take that as a licence to disobey the laws of the land and decide which ones they should reinterpret.

A couple of weeks ago, it was Census night here in Australia.  Once in five years our government asks us to fill out a basic form.  ONCE in FIVE years.  That's not a massive inconvenience.  You're not being asked to disobey God.  How hard is it to fill in a ruddy form PROPERLY?!?  I get so sick of hearing about Christians generally being idiots by writing that they speak 'Crap' in the Language section or ticking the wrong gender.  I'm sick of people saying, "Oh, but the information never gets used for anything anyway."  Really?  I know people who have worked for the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  I have worked at Curtin Uni and taught students how to access and use the Census data for their assignments.  You'd be surprised at the range of courses that need statistics for assignments.  So the government may not use the information for what we would like, but they are asking us to do a simple thing.  Do it!

Don't get me started on Christians who think it's ok to speed or drink drive.  I was the designated driver once while out dancing with a group of Christian friends.  I was horrified that they kept trying to pressure me to drink!  They must have been completely insane!  I never have more than one drink when I'm out now (going out is rare now that I live in the country).  I've been in the situation before where the designated driver started drinking and fortunately I'd had nothing to drink so I could drive us home.  If not, we would have been screwed!

Then there are the revhead morons who think it's their right to reinterpret the road rules.  Apparently it's ok to speed because everyone else drives too slow. Hmmm.  Apparently they have such brilliant driving skills, I should trust them even though they are going 20km over the speed limit.  Apparently it's ok to read a book while driving on the freeway if it's the Bible you're reading (no joke).  Then there are the Christian girls who think Christian guys being tools in utes on the road are like....so cool.  I roll my eyes.

No, burning CDs illegally is NOT ok.  You are stealing from an artist who has a right to an income.  I can imagine how it would feel if my book was published and someone scanned it and put it on the net for free download.  I've slaved away for years on that book!  No, it is not ok to make a copy for a family member who does not live with you.  A lot of copyright rules state that you can make another copy for yourself (i.e. one for your house and one for your car), but you may NOT make a copy for another person.  I had one person try to justify illegally burning CDs because they reckoned they are too expensive and they have a right to cheap music.  Really?  I didn't know CDs were a necessity.

Our government is far from perfect, but they have been established by God.  We are called to honour our government whether it be by obeying traffic laws or filling in a form.  And we should not submit out of fear of the consequences for disobedience, but submit joyfully out of conscience and our love for God.  For there is nothing like Christians living as though they are above the law that brings dishonour to God's name.  So, yes the next time you merrily do 10km over the speed limit and Mr Speed Camera lets you know about it, remember he is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bible Verse of the Day

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.  Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.  For he is God’s servant to do you good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing.  He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.  This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.
Romans 13:1-7

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

5 Favourite P!nk Songs

Last year a friend of mine gave me P!nk's latest CD for my birthday, and I liked it so much, I went out and bought one of her earlier ones as well.

The language can be a bit off sometimes, but I love the honesty in her lyrics.  She captures thoughts and feelings that I've often felt myself.

It was hard to choose just 5 songs.....

1.  Funhouse
2.  Sober
3.  Please Don't Leave Me
4.  Dear Mr President
5.  Don't Let Me Get Me

Monday, August 22, 2011

Please Don't Leave Me by P!nk

Marriage is like walking into the toilets at a nightclub.  If you've ever been to a club, chances are the toilets had those awful purple lights that show up every flaw on your skin.  You can go to a club confident that your foundation covers everything, only to have every blemish revealed under the lights.  Like the purple nightclub lights, marriage reveals your heart, your flaws, your weaknesses, your sin.  But while that sounds horrible, I believe it is a good thing.  Although it is uncomfortable and sometimes terrifying, we need to see what is below the surface.

When I heard this song by P!nk, I felt as though she had written it just for me, that she had somehow gotten into my head without my permission.  Not that I have an awful marriage by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm just being honest here.  Of course P!nk has had dramas in her own marriage which perhaps provided the inspiration for this song?

I don't know if I can yell any louder.
How many times have I kicked you out of here?
Or said something insulting?
Da da da, da da.

I can be so mean when I wanna be.
I am capable of really anything.
I can cut you into pieces,
But my heart is broken.
Da da da, da da.

Please don't leave me.
Please don't leave me.
I always said how I don't need you,
But it's always gonna come right back to this.
Please don't leave me.

How did I become so obnoxious?
What is with you that makes me act like this?
I've never been this nasty.
Da da da, da da.

Can't you tell that this is all just a contest.
The one that wins will be the one that hits the hardest.
But, baby, I don't mean it.
I mean it, I promise.
Da da da, da da.

I forgot to say out loud how beautiful you really are to me.
I can't live without, you're my perfect little punching bag.
And I need you, I'm sorry.
Da da da, da da.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Marriage 101: Hot Stuff

Hmmm I fear that I may have to put a disclaimer on this post just to avoid having my head bitten off.


But seriously, I think I'm going to have to put, "I mean this...but I don't mean this," about fifty times.   Here goes....

Duncan and I like to joke around about getting old.  I say to him, "Will you still love me when I'm old and wrinkly and saggy baggy?"
He always replies with, "Yes, honey.  I'll still love you, honey."  Then he adds a joke about my boobs being down around my knees someday.  Ha!  I tell him that I don't have any now anyway so I've got nothing to worry about.

When Duncan asks me if I'll still love him when he's bald, I tell him, "Only if you go to Advanced Hair (yeah yeah)."

'Til death do us part' in marriage often involves growing old together.  The aging process is part of life and, despite all the lotions and potions on the market these days, nothing can reverse that.

But you can grow old gracefully...or you can grow old disgracefully.

I honestly think there is a place for looking after yourself when you're married (or at any stage of life).  Knowing that some people may take this the wrong way, I'd better proceed cautiously.

I do NOT mean a 1950s kind of idea where a woman is expected to put on makeup and a pretty dress to greet her husband when he gets home from work, despite having a busy, stressful day of raising kids.

I do NOT mean things about our bodies which may impossible to change (such as women regaining a pre-baby figure).

I am NOT advocating plastic surgery, liposuction, tummy tucks, boob jobs etc.

I am NOT suggesting you need to spend hundreds of dollars on a designer wardrobe.

Now that's out of the way, I DO mean that each spouse should make an effort to look after themselves.  Yes, this is not a woman being told, "You need to look good for your husband."  The onus is on the husband as well.

Look after yourself and your body.

For women, this might mean foregoing that extra block of chocolate (especially if you are going to complain about your weight afterwards).  Comfort eating does not work!

For men, this might mean taking your health seriously and going to see a doctor, rather than assuming, "It's all good, mate."  And that beer gut didn't appear on its own.

Nearly two years ago now, Duncan decided he was fed up with his weight and that he was going to do something about it.  So during harvest 2009, he gave up eating cake, biscuits etc while he was driving the truck, and replaced them with fruit.  He said it was hard going at first and he felt so tired, but his body eventually adjusted and he lost 10-15kg.  He has managed to keep it off!  Now Duncan didn't lose weight for me (he primarily did it for himself), but I benefited from a happier and less-snoring husband.

We expect our spouse's love to be unconditional (and it should be to an extent), but that doesn't give ourselves the right to just let ourselves go and demand love anyway.  Duncan would still love me even if I put on 50kg, but he would be concerned if it was because of my own poor diet.  Yes, we will face difficult seasons in life such as running around after small children, illness or injuries.  Putting in the time to look after ourselves will be a struggle.  The irreversible effects of aging will creep in.  But there is a vast difference between not being able to do anything about the scars or wrinkles on our body and scoffing more chocolate (which you can do something about).

When you are married, your body is no longer your own.  It also belongs to your spouse.

We are friends with a couple who have a regular date night where they get really dressed up.  Yes, they are only at home having a candlelit dinner.  And before anyone asks, yes they have three children.  But they make the effort.

Some things are unavoidable, but you can look after yourself so that even after 50 years of marriage, your spouse says, "You look as good as you did on the day I married you."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Another Questionnaire!

Is your best friend single? Don’t have a best friend, but most of my good friends are married or in relationships.

Who was the last person you cried in front of? Duncan

Has anyone said they love you in the last week? Yes, my honey and my mum.

What’s wrong with you? A few things.

Where will you be 12 hours from now? Asleep

Do you know what you are going to wear tomorrow? Something appropriate to wear to work.

Are you on a desktop or laptop? Laptop

Does anyone hate you for no reason? For no reason? Probably. For a reason? Well, they must have a reason.

Would you go back in time if you were given the chance? Yeah it would be incredible to see how things were long ago. As long as I could get back to the future though.

Are you easily confused? Sometimes. Some movie plots baffle me and so does some people’s behaviour.

What is it you truly want right now? My loved ones to come to know Christ…oh a big block of chocolate would be nice too.

How many windows are open on your computer? 3

Who was your last incoming call from? The accountant.

Ever dated anyone starting with J? No

What did you last eat? Chicken and salad.

Last drink? Water

Who do you want to be with right now? My Duncan...awwww.

Where is your sister? No sister, only one brother.

Do you like surprises? Yes, good ones.

Last three people to text you? My dad, my mum and my netball coach.

Is there a meaning behind your Facebook profile song? Whaaat? I didn’t know you could have a profile song. Isn’t that a bit myspace?

Are you slowly drifting away from someone? Yes, unfortunately. Some friendships just don’t survive growing up, distance and life changes.

Where was your profile picture taken? On Facebook: Frenchman Bay, near Albany.  On my blog: my old house in Cannington.

Something you do a lot? Watch TV, listen to sermons, read, Facebook, blogging, walking, cooking, looking after pets, sport.

Are you mean? I do have a mean streak, I’ll admit that.

Do you know anyone who was adopted? Yes

Do you get a lot of colds? Not usually, but the second half of last year was horrible for sicknesses.

Would you consider painting your bedroom purple? No. Duncan wouldn’t like it one bit, and it would remind me of the Dockers *bleergh*.

Do you like Chris Daughtry? Who’s he?

Would you rather watch the Disney Channel or the Discovery Channel? Disney, but I want the old Disney stuff from the 1960s - Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Sword in the Stone, Pollyanna, The Parent Trap, Swiss Family Robinson…stuff like that.

What is one thing that you hate about living where you live? No mobile reception, isolation, small town mentality.

What is the weather like today? Overcast and windy.

Did you know that you can actually RENT wedding rings? That’s awful, it’s like just assuming the marriage will fail. Although I think some Hollywood couples should invest in this sort of thing.

Have you ever read an entire book in a matter of a few hours? Yes, but it was a short book.

Do you like 3OH!3? I have no idea.

Do you own an iPod? No, I’m so behind in technology. I don’t feel the need to keep up with the Joneses.  I have an mp4 player, but it's crap.

What was the last movie you watched? Antwone Fisher

How many siblings do you have? One younger brother.

Do you have a lot of posters on your wall? No, stopped doing that when I left home at 17.

What's your writing look like? Half neat, half scrawly. It used to be much neater when I was at school, but got messier when I went to uni and was trying to take notes in lectures.

Did you drink any coffee today? No, I usually only drink it when I’m at work, a friend’s house or a cafĂ©.

Do you eat whip cream straight out of the can? No, gross.

Do you have any Jordan's in your cell phone? Yes

What was the last thing you spent money on? Groceries

Have you kissed or hugged someone lately? My man everyday.

Are your parents over the age of 40? Yes, well over 40. They are in their early sixties.

Do you like glitter? Not really. It gets over everything and is hard to clean off.

What colour was the car that you last rode in that wasn't yours? White

Friday, August 12, 2011

Charles Spurgeon: The Great Orator

I'm slowly getting around to reading books I've had in my bookcase for years.  I've had Charles Spurgeon: The Great Orator by J.C. Carlile since my 21st birthday (shame, shame).

Charles Spurgeon is one of those Christian figures in history I'd been curious about for a while.  I'd heard he was famous for his preaching but nothing much else.

While the book was hard going at times, I finished it feeling inspired and encouraged by Spurgeon's life and the impact he had for God's kingdom.  Part of the Heroes of the Faith series, the biography kind of lags in the opening chapters, but gets more interesting and readable as Spurgeon's life and ministry progresses.  I think this is due to the way it's written more than the content.  It doesn't have the fresh, bouncy language of many other books I like.

One thing the book did was make me acknowledge the importance of the gift of preaching to God's church.  Today the value of preaching is becoming diminished.  People are quick to point out that they don't find someone standing up and speaking to a group to be the most effective way to learn from God's Word.  I agree that we all have different learning styles, but often in our busyness, we have lost the ability to just be still and listen.  Yet in Spurgeon's day churches were slowly emptying as well.  His preaching combined with the work of the Spirit impacted many, many lives for eternity.

The Word of God is powerful!

Overall, I found the man more inspiring than the book.  I'm sure there are better biographies out there, but unfortunately I don't know of any to recommend.  I'm now looking forward to reading some of his sermons one day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Quote of the Day

By perseverance, the snail reached the ark.
- Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Refiner's Fire by Brian Doerksen

While the purification process is painful, the results are definitely worth it.

Purify my heart.
Let me be as gold and precious silver.
Purify my heart.
Let me be as gold, pure gold.

Refiner's fire,
My heart's one desire,
Is to be holy,
Set apart for You, Lord.

I choose to be holy.
Set apart for You, my Master,
Ready to do Your will.

Purify my heart.
Cleanse me from within,
And make me holy.
Purify my heart.
Cleanse me from my sin,
Deep within.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Malachi 3:3

Malachi 3:3 says:

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.

This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.  One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study. 

That week the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work.  She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up.  He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.  The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says, He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.  She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time.  The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire.  If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. 

The woman was silent for a moment.  Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?"  He smiled at her and answered, "Oh that's easy - when I see my image in it."

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.  Whatever you're going through, you'll be a better person in the end.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Welcome To My Wardrobe

Earlier this year I had a wardrobe cleanout.  Duncan still thinks it was an excuse to buy more clothes.  I have two words to say to that....OP SHOPS! :)

When it comes to clothes, I've always had a certain attraction for the weird and wonderful.  Yep, this post is something a bit different.  You're about to take a whirlwind tour of my wardrobe. :)

I do have a thing for weird skirts!

Bohemian skirt

Hippy skirt

Funky Asian skirts

Random purple skirt

My dad thinks this skirt looks like a towel.

'Whoa you're spinning me out' skirt.

Bright colours for summer

Crazy shirts

You can never have too many faces.

A friend thought this was Michael Jackson (definitely NOT)



I love t-shirts with witty sayings.  This one says 'I Go Batty At Night'.

I'm Awake...What More Do You Want?

Chocolates...Here Today...Gone Today.  A friend found this shirt for me and reckoned it was highly appropriate.  I think she's right! :)

Oh and have I mentioned how much I love HATS? :)

Despite my semi-unusual taste in clothes, I am very fussy when it comes to others buying me garments.  I have one friend who I trust to buy me clothes and that's it.  Another friend once bought me a top two sizes too big (ummm...hello?)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

What's So Amazing About Cooking Shows?


Why is everyone currently OBSESSED with Masterchef, My Kitchen Rules and all that jazz?

I have one word to say about such shows:


What is so interesting about watching people cook?  Why are so many Australians hooked on reality TV? We know by now that it's not 'reality', but highly crafted.

Maybe it's because I couldn't eat half of the stuff they cook on these shows anyway.  But even in my pre-arthritis and pre-low starch diet days, I never understood why some people are so tantalised by gloop, garnished with gloop, with more gloop on the side.

I'm proud to say I've never watched an episode of any cooking show.  The most I've ever seen is a few seconds while I change channels, but when I've been asked if I've been watching Masterchef and reply 'no', the horrified looks I get are quite hilarious.  It seems it is THE show to watch for Christians and I must be committing blasphemy by not tuning in.

If you want a reality cooking show, then come to my kitchen.  'Cooking with Sarah on the Farm' doesn't quite have the same ring to it, but you'd get to see me in all my cooking glory with no editing.  Here's what you could expect:
  • An improvised recipe due to me forgetting some of the ingredients, and now the shops are shut and just too far away anyway.
  • Shooing Ebony out of the kitchen.
  • Cooking by candlelight because the power's gone out (thank God for gas stoves and ovens).
  • The smoke alarm going off (fortunately this is a rare occurrence and usually only happens when I get distracted).
  • Me deciding to scrap the planned meal and do something easier instead.
Yes, my friends, THAT is reality.

I suspect the answer to this post may well be, "Each to their own."  Other people probably don't understand why I like what I do either.

I don't get it.  Please explain....

Monday, August 01, 2011

Small Groups: Why Have Them At All?

I guess this is the logical question to ask in this series.

What can small groups achieve that larger groups may struggle to?

I've been in some shocking small groups (which I'll go into in a later post), but overall my experiences have been positive.  I think small groups benefit introverted or shy people especially.

Here are some reasons why I think small groups are beneficial and worth putting effort into:
  • It is generally easier to get to know people on a deeper level.  This does depend on the personalities in the group, but a small group makes it harder for people to remain silent and not have anyone notice.  Generally people notice if you're sitting quietly and not speaking to anyone which doesn't always happen in a crowd.  Some people have mentioned they have found it easier to invite friends to a Bible study group rather than a big church service.  Again, this depends on the personality of the person you're wanting to invite (some people like being lost in the crowd where they can just take everything in rather than having people set upon them, asking them who they are etc).
  • Moving on from this point...I've found some great friends in small groups whereas many people I've only known at church remain at an acquaintance level.  I became friends with a good friend of mine through Bible study.  We'd been in the same church for years, but never got to know each other.  She had to leave early each week because of work so I would email the prayer points to her.  Our friendship grew from there.
  • There are more opportunities to become involved and serve others.  There often tends to be more 'passengers' in larger gatherings.  Because you're getting to know people better, their needs become more obvious.  Small groups give people to confidence to try new things in front of a familiar, supportive audience.
  • Small groups enable you to focus on and care for a particular group of people. There are so many opportunities to love others, it can become a bit daunting.  That doesn't mean we ignore other needy people, but the group gives us a place to start.
  • The people you're meeting with are likeminded.  That doesn't mean there aren't personality clashes and disagreements, but generally the reason for meeting is pretty clear e.g. we read books, we study the Bible and pray, we're all mums, we play tennis etc.  Sometimes in larger groups the group's purpose can become lost.
I don't know where I would be in my faith if it wasn't for small groups.  I would have ended up with only shallow relationships and become daunted and lost in the crowd (this can happen in churches only of 50 people).  I don't know where I would be in a small farming community without sporting groups.  That doesn't mean everyone I've met has become my best friend (some experiences have been far from positive), but overall the benefits are huge.

The sad thing is when small groups die.  You're in a group which has been a fantastic experience, but slowly people's busyness is choking the group.  Less and less people turn up at each meeting.  You're still keen, but others have lost their drive.  The hardest thing is learning to let go.  Some groups were always destined to have an expiry date, but having wisdom in when to give up trying to resurrect a dying group is painful.

What small groups have you been part of, and did you find them beneficial?