Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Marriage 101: The 'Good' Wife

After 3.5 years of marriage, I can say that expectations really suck!

Sometimes these are the expectations put on me by others.

Sometimes they are the ones I put on myself (maybe because of the real or perceived expectations of others).

The surprising thing I've found is that the person who has placed the least pressure on me to conform to a certain image is Duncan.  Kind of surprising really since I'm HIS wife so you'd think he would have expectations.  I'm sure he does (we all do), but he is very kind.

I've also come to the realisation that there are two types of wives who face untold pressure to conform:

Pastors' wives
Farmers' wives (in my case, farmhands' wives)

When you're married to a pastor or a farm worker, it seems that there is a new level of pressure to be a certain kind of wife.  You're expected to be involved in your husband's work in a higher level.  My married female friends have husbands in a wide variety of occupations.  I have a friend whose husband is a pool salesman, but she doesn't know heaps about pools.  I have several friends who are married to engineers, but they don't know stacks about engineering.  Most of these women could probably state where their husband works and his role, but I doubt having a husband in that profession has made them an expert like he is, nor would they want to be.  They love their husbands and want to support them, but they are just not interested in pools or engineering.

But when you're a pastor's wife or a farmer's wife, you're expected to know the intricate ins and outs of church or farm life.  Whenever we go out to church, to tennis or wherever, people ask me what Duncan is doing on the farm and how much rain we've had.  Normally I can give them a basic answer, but sometimes a basic answer does not suffice.  They want DETAIL and I feel like shouting, "For heaven's sake, Duncan's standing over there, go and ask HIM!"  I feel like I am defined by the farm and the fact that my husband works there.  In the loneliness that sometimes comes with country life, I'd just like someone to take an interest in me and what I do - not just the fact that I'm a farmhand's wife.  Praise God, there are some lovely ladies at church who are interested in my work and my book.  That makes me want to take an interest in their lives as well.

Maybe it would be easier if Duncan was a pastor because sharing and teaching the word of God and encouraging others is something we're BOTH passionate about.  I'd suck as the stereotypical pastors' wife, but at least it'd feel we're in it together and it's something I understand.  The farm, on the other hand, is something I'm not passionate about and find difficult to understand.  It's like calculus to me.  Despite what some of our city friends seem to think (that you just stick a seed in the ground and watch it grow), farming is an intricate science and I don't get the terminology.  I am there to support Duncan and that's it.  I don't think I should be forced or expected to take any more of an interest in my husband's job than my friends with engineering husbands do.  I see my role as 'holding the fort' - doing housework and helping make life easier for Duncan during busy seasons of shift work. The farm is NOT our family business!  I was talking to one of the other wives on our farm and it was such a relief that she GETS IT.  Her husband is also a farmhand, but he does not have a farming background and this is their first time on a farm.  While she loves the country life and raising her kids out here, she does not take a huge interest in the farm.

I'm also realising that the word 'support' means different things to different people.  To me, it means allowing Duncan to do what he loves and helping him to do that.  It doesn't mean that I BECOME him or pretend to be interested in things that I'm not.  Sure when you love someone, you want to take an interest in the things that make them tick, but there is a line.  I've seen some women totally change their personalities when they meet a guy.  Suddenly they've become revheads because their boyfriends/husbands are revheads - even though they never liked cars or bikes much before.  When Duncan and I first started dating, he took up blogging because he could see how much I liked blogging.  But not long afterwards, he canned his blog because he just wasn't into it.  He didn't HATE blogging - he just found writing hard and it wasn't for him.  That's fine, I don't love him any less because he isn't into everything that I'm into.  I'd like Duncan to support my writing by letting me write books and seek out publishers, but I don't expect him to want to become a writer himself, to feel strongly about it, or want to be my agent or my editor.  I just want him to let me do what I love, the same as I try to make things easier for him when he is working on the farm.

It's women that I've found the most discouraging in my 3.5 years as a farmhand's wife.  Some women just don't understand that I want to pursue interests off the farm. They don't get how I don't want to kill, pluck and cook my chickens, or sit around making jam all day.  They think I should be able to answer all of their questions about the farm - and some have criticised me for not being able to.  I'm wondering if this is a generational thing where, in the past, farmers' wives didn't work, except on the farm, and their whole life was the farm.  I went to an office management course for work earlier in the year and I met a number of young farmers' wives who seemed rather discontent about their life on the farm - having to do the office role (even though they find it hard and would rather be doing something else), dealing with a disapproving mother-in-law etc.  I really felt for some of these women.

So how have I learnt to deal with this?
  • Remind myself that I am playing for an audience of one.  God is the one I'm looking to please in my role as a wife and He is already well pleased with me because of Jesus.
  • Support comes in different ways.  Duncan has asked me to work part-time in the past because we've needed the extra income.  He doesn't want me to sit around doing nothing.  He's very excited about my book even though he's not a writer or much of a reader.  Likewise, I try to do little things for Duncan that encourage him - going out for a ride with him in the ute, tractor or header (depending on what he's doing) because he likes the company, getting meals at a reasonable hour, making sure he's got plenty of work clothes etc.  And when I fail at these things (which is often), he tells me not to put so much pressure on myself.
  • Telling people, "I don't know," and suggesting they ask Duncan if they ask me a question about the farm which I can't answer.  If they give me a disapproving look, that's too bad for them.
  • Rising above any snide criticial comments for not being a farm expert.  If other ladies don't approve, again that's just too bad.

Monday, November 28, 2011

How To Rid The World Of Nagging

If everyone did what they were asked the first time, nagging would not exist.

That is all.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Funny

Another one I found in my inbox...

1.  No-one is listening until you fart.
2.  Sex is like air - it's not that important unless you aren't getting any.
3.  Always remember you're unique - just like everyone else.
4.  If you think nobody cares whether you're alive or dead, try missing a few mortgage payments.
5.  Before criticising someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.  That way, when you criticise them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.
6.  If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.
7.  If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably well worth it.
8.  Some days you are the dog, some days you are the tree.
9.  Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.
10. Never, under any circumstances, take a laxative and a sleeping pill on the same night.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Pendulum: Christmas Cards

Ok people I need your help.

I've been wondering whether to do Christmas cards this year.  You can tell I watched a lot of Gilmore Girls in 2009/10 because I've written a pros and cons list just like Rory does.

  • People know we're thinking of them.
  • People who've sent us a card don't feel we're snubbing them.
  • A chance to point my non-Christian relatives towards the true meaning of Christmas.
  • Time consuming.
  • Likely to be unappreciated.  Seriously does anyone really care or not whether they get Christmas cards?  I don't feel offended if people don't send me cards.  If it's a card they've made themselves and has a personalised message in it, then I appreciate  and treasure it, but if it's a cheapy with To Sarah from Bob inside then I don't really see the point, and it's off to Planet Ark to be recycled as soon as Christmas is over.
  • A waste of paper if they are unappreciated.
Each year some of my cousins send Christmas postcards with updated pictures of their kids.  I guess this is a good thing to do if you have kids - relatives get to see how much the kids have grown etc.  But we don't have kids so I'm not sure we really have anything interesting to say other than 'Merry Christmas'.  In 2009 I sent this picture off to everyone - some in an actual card and some as an e-card.

I suppose I could send an updated picture of the animals now that Gypsy has joined our family.  But I can't see Ebony wanting to be in the same photo as the dogs.  It took a few takes to get this picture and, as you can see, both animals are trying to escape.

If I did send Christmas cards, it wouldn't be to everyone.  Maybe just my small extended family, a couple of family friends and those who don't have email.  There's no way I'm doing Duncan's family as well - they are as numerous as the sands on the seashore!

Are you doing Christmas cards this year?

Do you care whether you receive a card or not?

Help me make up my mind, people....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quote of the Day

When you begin a journey of revenge, start by digging two graves: one for your enemy, and one for yourself.
- Chinese Proverb

Friday, November 18, 2011

God, Justice, Underbelly, and The Magic Finger

I mentioned in my post 5 Things I've Learnt in 10 Years of Following Christ that sometimes I really don't understand grace.

Perhaps it is because grace involves getting what you DON'T deserve.  In their song, Be My Escape, Relient K wrote, "The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair."  That's the whole point of grace - it makes things unfair.  It does not always appear just.

Don't get me wrong - I'm very glad God showed grace to me.  He gave me life and salvation when I deserved judgement and death.  But often I struggle with understanding grace and showing it to others.

I've always been very concerned with justice - even since I was a child.  I remember screaming at my mum on countless occasions, "It's not FAIR."  Usually this was in response to getting punished for something my brother did.  Perhaps it's also because I, like many others, was bullied at school.  When you're a kid, it hurts to see others doing terrible things to you and getting away with it.  The lack of justice can be spirit-crushing.

Maybe this is why I got so excited when I heard about the book, The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl.  Although I never read the book until I was an adult, I'd heard that it was about a girl who had a magic finger to get revenge on those who made her angry and I thought, Cool!   Here's a caption:
The Magic Finger is something I've been able to do my whole life. I can't tell you how I do it, because I don't even know myself. But it always happens when I get cross... and suddenly a sort of flash comes out of me, a quick flash, like something electric. It jumps out and touches the person who has made me cross...
How great would it be to literally point the finger at someone and something humiliating happens to them.  Excellent!

Some people I know have also wondered why I have enjoyed watching all of the Underbelly series.  "It glorifies crime," they say.  I actually think it does the opposite.  It shows evil people briefly having their time in the sun, but in real life, they all seem to be either dead or in prison.  I think that's why I'm drawn to Underbelly and other crime shows.  Justice is inevitably done.

I know that God is just.  What I have trouble dealing with is suspended justice.  God has set a day in the future where He will call everyone to account for their thoughts, words and deeds.  This is both comforting and scary, and sends me running to the cross of Christ for mercy.  But knowing this doesn't always make it easy to live in the here and now where I need to leave justice in God's hands, and resist the temptation to take revenge.

Over the past 10 years (and particularly in the last four years), I have learnt a lot about trusting God when I am wronged and mistreated.  It has been a hard and painful journey at times.  I have had to fight the urge to take matters into my own hands.  In saying this, I do not mean that it is wrong to use the earthly justice systems.  It is not wrong to involve the police or go to court.  But these systems are not perfect and God is the only one who executes righteous anger and true justice.

Last year I was listening to a sermon which challenged to me to think harder about what Do not take revenge actually means.  It can mean not bashing the person, but also it means not doing more subtle things like trashing that person's reputation during a conversation with a friend and....here's the shocking one....not praying for the person.  Massive ouch!  How many times have I refused to pray for someone because my anger was burning towards them.  Not lifting someone up before our Heavenly Father can actually be the ultimate form of revenge.

A few months back I was treated badly by someone and plotting revenge was at the forefront of my mind.  I considered playing some pranks like ordering them a pizza and a taxi (I know, how juvenile am I) - even though I didn't have their phone number and would have to get it from the White Pages (if it was in there).  I thought about how many people I could tell how evil this person was.  I couldn't pray for them except to say, "Lord, please smite them for me."  I was ANGRY.  I wanted revenge.  Even though I felt God telling me, "NO Sarah!  Leave things to me," I strongly considered putting one of my plans into action.

But then, not long after the incident, I was prayed for by a Christian friend and this friend told me she felt God telling her that I would inherit His nature.  This friend did not know what was going on, so when she told me that, I could not describe the peace it brought to my soul.  Despite my evil thoughts of revenge, God was at work in me and He was going to make me more Christ-like.

Then a couple of weeks later I found myself praying for the person who had wronged me.  I'm not saying this to make myself look good.  It was hard to get the words out, but I was honest with God, and He helped me.  I told Him that I was having trouble praying for this person, but He enabled me to pray for her.  This person is not a Christian and I found myself praying that God would change her heart and bring her to Himself.  All glory to God here because this was definitely not from myself.

When I find myself on the receiving end of hurtful behaviour, it's a constant battle to stop wishing for a magic finger.  Instead I need to keep trusting in my good and just God, who knows and sees all.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bible Verse of the Day

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this:
He will make your rightousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it only leads to evil.  For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

Psalm 37:5-9

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why? Why? Why?

Why does the phone ring (after being silent all day) when....
  • I'm on the toilet
  • I'm in the shower
  • I've just got out of the shower (so I'm standing around wrapped in a towel and freezing)
  • I'm outside hanging washing
  • I'm outside feeding the chooks or the dogs
  • I've got food in my mouth

When I'm having a great day, why does someone always have to say or do something to ruin it?

Why does it always start raining when I want to leave the office to get a takeaway coffee?

Why do I bump into someone I know at the shops when:
  • I'm in a filthy mood and don't feel like talking to anyone
  • I'm in too much of a rush to talk
  • I'm wearing old trackies or the like
  • I'm buying a present for that person
  • I'm buying something 'personal'

I don't get it.  Please explain.....

Monday, November 14, 2011

5 Best Posts From Other Bloggers in 2010

Sometimes it's tempting to see the blogosphere as a competition - or, as the Urban Dictionary puts it, to be overcome with blenvy.

But I believe credit must be given where credit is due and these blogs are infinity times better than mine.  Yes, I'm running a bit late.  2011 is nearly over and I'm blogging about posts from 2010. Oh well.... stay tuned in early 2012 for 2011's best posts.

This is not about giving those silly awards or tagging people.  It's just highlighting some great posts that I can relate to now, or feel might be relevant to me in the future.

Drum roll, please....(in no particular order)

1. How To Be a Successful CHRISTIAN Parent or Not  - No Reading at the Breakfast Table

2. There Will Always Be At Least One - Markedly

3. Not Trying To Be Missional - Women Bible Life

4. 13 Ways To Discourage a Younger Woman - In All Honesty

5. A Difficult Transition - The Key to the Door

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Simply Christianity

I'm all for evangelistic courses.  They aren't magic, but God used one of these to bring me to Himself 10 years ago.  It was Simply Christianity by John Dickson.  The following year I was given the book of the same name, but I only read it for the first time last year.  It was Easter and I wanted to read something that focused on the gospel.

Simply Christianity is good because it really does let the Bible speak for itself.  A vast amount of the book is simply the gospel of Luke intermingled with John Dickson's commentaries on the chapters.  So you're reading chunks of Scripture and then hopefully any questions you have will be answered in the subsequent chapters.  For this reason, I found the book more helpful than the course, although the course has the advantage of having group discussions.

When I read the book and did the course, I was presented with Jesus.  10 years ago this shocked me when I encountered in the pages of Luke not just gentle Jesus meek and mild, but also a man who had authority over nature, over mankind, over sickness and over death.  He was and is like no-one I've ever known.  The book explores the repercussions of meeting this Jesus.  Who is this man?  If He is who He says He is, what does that mean for our lives?

The downside of this book is the same as I imagine it would be for all 'life of Jesus' type courses.  Inevitably questions arise about sin.  Before I became a Christian, I did not think I was a sinner.  I believed that sin was murder, rape etc and because I had never committed those sins, I was not a sinner.  My question was: why did Jesus have to die?  For this reason, something like Introducing God would have been helpful because it goes through the Bible from creation to the fall and you get to see God's great rescue plan for the world unfold so when Jesus comes along, hopefully it makes a bit more sense.  But having said that, John Dickson does a great job addressing potential FAQs in an 'Extra Information' section at the end of the book.

If you or a friend are wanting to investigate Jesus, then the Simply Christianity course and book are great places to start.  Put aside any views of Him you may have got from the media or friends, and be willing to encounter the real Jesus in the pages of Luke's gospel.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Quote of the Day

Grace is the most perplexing, powerful force in the universe, and, I believe, the only hope for our twisted, violent planet.
- Philip Yancey

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Amazing Grace by John Newton

I hadn't really heard this old hymn until I became a Christian.  When I heard it all the way through I was blown away by its relevance to me.  I especially love the last verse and how good the new creation will be - praising God forever.  I was blind, but now I see....

Even if you've heard this 10,000 times before and it's an old favourite, read through the lyrics and be amazed again at how amazing God's grace is.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
Twas grace that brought us safe thus far,
And grace will lead us home.

When we've been here ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
Than when we first begun.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Bible Verse of the Day

...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6

Friday, November 04, 2011

5 Things I've Learnt in 10 Years of Following Christ

I've been a Christian for 10 years (read my story).

Here are just some of the things I've learnt in what has been an incredible adventure:

1.  God is big (well duh, you say).  He is bigger that we can comprehend.  He is not a genie.  He is not a butler.  He is not my grandfather.  He is King, Creator, Lord, Judge, Lion, yet also Saviour, Father, Lamb, Counsellor, Brother and Friend.  He cannot be put in a box.  He can do more than we can ask or imagine.  I will never understand everything about Him.  He has chosen to keep some things about Himself from us.  Yet He has also revealed Himself so that we can trust Him.  Some days I'm content not knowing everything about God.  Other days I just want to ask Him what on earth He is DOING?

2.  God is all about waiting.  I'm not.  He has control of time.  He knows and sees all from beginning to end.  Everything happens in His timing.  Moses was 80 before God called him to rescue the Israelites from Egypt.  This makes me impatient.  I get frustrated at myself to change.  I get frustrated at other people to change.  But things happen in God's time and not ours.  He is in no rush.  Sometimes in hindsight we can see why God allows things to happen.  Other times we will never know this side of heaven.  It's a constant choice to remember that God is good.

3.  People have been angry that I have become a Christian.  More so, my family have been angry that I've become a Christian, particularly my Mum.  This has got nothing to do with preaching or Bible bashing - they just don't like that I believe something different to them.  Jesus was right when He said that the world would hate Christians for following Him.  Most people are ok with 'nominal Christianity' - ticking Christian or Catholic on the Census form, sending your kids to a Christian school, church attendance at Christmas and Easter - but not when it affects lives in any real way.  The message of the cross is offensive because it pricks at human pride.

4.  People will disappoint us.  I look back and remember people who were pivotal in introducing me to Christ.  Now they have fallen away.  Some deny they ever really believed.  This is terribly discouraging and heartbreaking.  It's easy to think that if these 'super Christians' failed then how will I be able to keep going?  But there is no such thing as a 'super Christian'.  We are all susceptible to falling.  We are all reliant on God for each breath.  Sometimes it seems for every person who decides to follow Christ, there will be one who drops out of the race.  Churches will disappoint.  Fellow Christians will be apathetic.  I believe that somehow we need to balance this reality with the responsibility of the church to love others.  If you've been turned off Jesus because of His people's hypocrisy, please reconsider.  This does not excuse really bad behaviour from Christians, but fix your eyes upon Jesus.  Find out about HIM!

5.  The cross is where justice and mercy meet. In the person of Jesus, God took the punishment humanity deserved for rebelling against His good rule over us. Grace is one of the most perplexing concepts ever. Somedays I think I understand it and other days I don't. But when I reflect on it, I feel the most incredible peace and joy. There will always be hardships in this life, but I have great hope because of what Jesus has done and I know where I am going.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

RIP Gwendoline

I found one of my chookies dead in her nest today. :(

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Wedding 1 2011

It wouldn't be a normal year if I didn't go to at least one wedding! ;)

On Saturday 22nd October we went to the wedding of Jeremy (who works with Duncan on the farm) and Caitlin.  Unfortunately the skies opened on what was set to be a beautiful outdoor ceremony in Pinjarra just before the bride arrived.  After initially taking shelter, everybody then rushed out with towels to wipe down the chairs.  By the time Caitlin arrived it was cloudy but otherwise fine, and everything else went according to plan.

My new car (I wish haha)

Myself with Shayela (who lives on the farm) and baby Cara

Cam, Shayela and Cara

Having a cuddle

Adam (who works on the farm) and his girlfriend, Alicia