Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Hopes: How I Went

It's that time of the year again.  I've blinked and it's New Year's Eve and I'm sitting at my computer wondering what hit me this year.  It has been the worst year of my life!

How did I go with my hopes for 2013?

1.  SURVIVE.  My aim is to get home from hospital and be in 'survival mode' (like I am when I'm sick or recovering from being sick - just do the bare essentials).  A shower is an achievement.  Preparing a meal is an achievement.  This will be hard for me.  I like to DO things other than day-to-day tasks, but I also know my limitations.  I'm aiming just to rest, recover, enjoy getting to know the baby, and being a family of three.
I failed!  Although by God's grace, I am sitting here typing this post today, I should have known I would never have been happy with just surviving.  Yet, I have survived!  There were many moments during August where I decided to take my own life.  Now I am feeling much better, and although I want to be with Jesus, I also want to live for Him right now, in the present, on this earth.

Should we have another child, there are so many things I would do differently.  I would refuse visitors for a start.  It was all too much.

2.  Continue editing my book and then search for a literary agent.  I'm doing some editing at the moment, I will stop (obviously) when baby is born, then try to do little bits here and there when I'm feeling a bit more robust.
I didn't do any editing until October and I only managed a few chapters.  My main aim this year was to get well and keep Rory alive.  The moments of spare time I did have I spent doing much more pleasant things than editing.  When you've had broken sleep for months, it's not a good time to be carefully reading your own work.

3.  Join our church's women's Bible study group or meet one-to-one with another Christian woman.  Again, this can wait until things have settled down a bit.
Just when I felt ready to get back into Bible study, my church's morning ladies Bible study shut down because of a lack of numbers.  I started my own small group with two other ladies from the farm, but that ended up falling in a heap unfortunately.  Rory's terrible sleeping meant it was impossible for me to rejoin the night Bible study Duncan and I had been a part of before Rory was born.  Duncan would go on Wednesday nights and I would stay home, only joining in if it was at our house.  Next year I feel more confident that we could put Rory down in a portacot at someone else's house and he would actually sleep so hopefully I can get back into some sort of Bible study again.

4.  Go on a holiday to Sydney to celebrate my 30th birthday instead of having a party.  My birthday is in May, but if we do go, it won't be until July or August.  Duncan thinks an interstate trip with a baby will be hard for us.  We'll see.
Well, we did this one!  We braved a plane trip with a baby, visited some dear friends in Sydney, and I got to add to my wonderful Sydney memories.  I even managed a party a few weeks before our trip....bonus!

5.  Keep on with the mission convenors role at our church in partnership with Duncan.  Last year I hoped to get the congregation (including myself) to take more of an interest in missions.  This year I want to actively encourage the missionaries we support through emails, letters etc.
Duncan and I stepped down from this when Rory was four weeks old as it was clear I had postnatal depression.  We've just been voted in to do the role again as of now.

Good riddance 2013!  You gave me my beautiful boy!  You showed me what a great man I have.  You surrounded me with some lovely friends.  You gave me new friends in women who were fighting the same battles.  You showed me that I have a great God.  Yet, I am so glad to see the back of you.  No, a change of year won't make everything different but, to me, it feels like a fresh start.

Friday, December 27, 2013

We've All Had That Friend...

Imagine if you had a friend who you only heard from when they wanted something from you.

When things were going well for them they never bothered to talk to you.  But when a disaster happened they were begging you to help them.

If you didn't give them what they wanted, they grew angry at you, shook their fist at you and told you to get lost.  They didn't want to hear the hard truth about the dodgy decisions they were making.  They thought it was perfectly ok to interact with you at special occasions but ignore you for the rest of the year.

Even though they don't bother with you most of the time, they still think they have the right to invite themselves into your house.  It doesn't matter to them that it's your house and you alone have the right to decide who enters it.  Not only that, they think that they and all of their friends have the right to come over because they're good people and of course you must want them in your house.

You love this friend and desperately want a good relationship with them, but you never seem to get much of their attention.  You know you're the best friend they'd ever have, but you're always competing with their many other 'friends' who you know aren't good for them and will only lead them astray.

Have you had a 'friend' like this?  I know I've felt used by some people who just want to waltz into my life whenever they see fit.  I've felt outraged at their expectations.  I mean, how DARE they!

While we may have been treated badly by that friend....we also ARE that friend.

That's how all of us treat God.

We come crying to Him when there's a natural disaster or when we or a loved one are ill, but when He doesn't answer our prayers the way we want Him to, we tell everyone what a bad God He is for not doing what we want.  He forget all of the times He's loved and cared for us, and we take all of His blessings without a word of thanks.  We talk to Him at Christmas or Easter but ignore Him for the rest of the year.  Despite heaven being His domain, we think we have the right to make the rules about who enters and who doesn't.  Of course, we and our friends are in 'cos we're 'good people'.

Yet, despite all of this, God loves us and pursues us.  He gave up everything for us.  But He is a jealous God who won't compete with the idols in our hearts and lives forever.

Something I'm pondering as the new year approaches....

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Quote of the Day

True friendship isn't about being inseparable, it's about being separated and nothing changes.
- Unknown

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Why Trust The Bible?

On Christmas Eve it seems fitting to ask the question, Is the Bible true?  After all, many people will have been reading the Christmas story in the Bible in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  How we do know what REALLY happened?  Can we trust the Bible as a reliable historical manuscript?

These are good questions to ask and are a stumbling block to many when it comes to investigating Christianity.  Amy Orr-Ewing was challenged by her friends with these very questions and so she set about proving that what the Bible says about history and Jesus is wholly reliable and true.

In the book, she addresses 10 main questions that non-Christians challenge the Bible with:

  • Isn't it all a matter of interpretation?
  • Can we know anything about history?
  • Are the biblical manuscripts reliable?
  • Is the contents of the manuscripts reliable?
  • What about the canon?
  • What about the other holy books?
  • Isn't the Bible sexist?
  • What about all the wars?
  • Isn't the Bible out of date on sex?
  • How can I know?
This is a great book to give to non-Christians who are asking the hard questions about the Bible.  It is particularly aimed at those 'academic types' (some of it went a bit over my head even though I've been to uni), people who want facts and 'proof'.

It's also ideal for Christians who've been asked this question by friends and are not quite sure to say.  It helped me feel more confident in explaining why I trust the Bible and that it's not a book of fairy stories.

However, the thing I had to remind myself was that faith is ultimately God's work.  A book like this is great to give to someone wanting to hold the Bible up against time and history, but it cannot change people's hearts.  It may set them along the path to faith, but only God can make the seed grow.  Too often when I've had conversations with people wanting hardcore proof, I've thought that if only I could find enough proof, then they'd come to faith.  But sometimes the questions come because people DON'T WANT to believe.  I used to ask these questions before I became a Christian, but I didn't really want the answers - I just wanted an excuse to mock the Bible.  I was quick to believe other stories passed down in history, but doubt the Bible because it makes such big claims on our lives.  God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.

Still, for someone with these questions, whether they are genuinely seeking or not, this book would be good to give to them.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bible Verse of the Day

Merry Christmas to all readers of this blog in 2013!  May you rejoice that the Saviour of the world is come, and His birth was foretold hundreds of years earlier.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Funny

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of meeting Rory in person....now you'll believe me when I say he has the best laugh! :)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I'm Not The Only One...

... in my household to have suffered from depression and anxiety this year.

In March, when Rory was two months old, I noticed Ebony had a bald patch on her abdomen.  When she rolled onto her back, I was shocked at the extent of it.  Not long after that I noticed her pulling her own fur out.

At our first trip to the vet to investigate they checked her out for ringworm but she was all clear.  Apart from her increasing baldness, she was in otherwise good health.  The vet came to the conclusion that Ebony must be suffering due to Rory's arrival.  It is common for cats to respond by grooming excessively when a dramatic change (such as a new baby) occurs.  They sold me a diffuser which emits an odour that is meant to calm cats.  I tried it for a month but it didn't make a difference.

Vet Trip #2.  Same vet clinic but different vet.  She wanted to rule out allergies.  Apparently some cats around Ebony's age (she is nearly eight) can suddenly become allergic to food they've always eaten and never had a problem with.  Ebony was injected with a steroid.  If the hair grew back they would know it was something in her diet and a food elimination process could begin.  If it made no difference, it must be a psychological problem.  The injection didn't make a difference.

Vet Trip #3.  This time they tried injecting her with an anti-anxiety drug.  It still hasn't worked.  She is balder than she's ever been.

Apart from the fur loss, she is in otherwise good health.  She sleeps on our bed every night.  I make an effort to give her attention (but it is so SO hard with a baby).  While she was wary of Rory at first, now she comes up to him and sits near him, even though he's now crawling and can easily grab her (I say, "NO Rory.  Gentle.").  Other than the excessive grooming, her behaviour isn't really any different to the pre-Rory days.  She's always been a diva cat.  I know that Rory's crying does freak her out a bit though and I think she can sense Duncan's and my stress.

My heart is breaking for my poor puss.  The next step is probably going to be a skin biopsy.  I don't want to blame myself for causing her stress when I've been unwell myself, but it's hard not to.

I've even emailed Dr Harry to see if we can appear on one of his surprise house calls!

These photos don't even show the full extent of it:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Quote of the Day

If you know someone who's depressed please never resolve to ask them why.  Depression isn't a straightforward response to a bad situation, depression just is, like the weather.

Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness and loneliness they're going through.  Be there for them when they come through the otherside.  It's hard to be a friend to someone who's depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest and best things you will ever do.
- Stephen Fry

Monday, December 16, 2013

Waking Up Tired by the Hoodoo Gurus

Harvest is tiring me out as much as it is Duncan. Even if Rory doesn't wake me, the summer weather and light is. Urgh!

Oh, the nights are long,
And I'm so tired of waking up tired,
Man, they just drag on and on,
And I'm so tired of waking up tired.
The company I'm keeping won't let me get my sleep in.
Oh, I hate the light,
And I'm so tired of waking up tired.
The morning sun is getting way too bright,
And I'm so tired of waking up tired.
If I was worth a fortune I'd never leave my bedroom,
I just wanna stay right here, safe and sound.
Oh, I have to go,
But I'm so tired of waking up tired.

Lyrics sourced from here.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

God's Good Design

I loved this book!  FINALLY a book that takes a good, hard look at what the Bible has to say on the roles of men and women, the meaning of 'submission', and clarifies those passages which make us squirm and reluctant to explain to our non-Christian friends.

Claire Smith shares her own story of how she became a Christian as a young adult, yet it wasn't until years later that she had her feminist views challenged by the very passages she examines closely in this book.

The controversial passages include:
1 Timothy 2
 1 Corinthians 11
1 Corinthians 14
Ephesians 5
1 Peter 3
Genesis 1-3
Proverbs 31

The passages are divided into those who are about men and women's roles in the church and the roles of husbands and wives in the home, and how God did not intend these to be vastly different.  What I liked about this book was the methodical look at each verse in the passage, the mention of the context, and the challenge to take off our cultural 'glasses' when we approach the Bible.  When I first read some of the Bible properly as a first year uni student, I was coming to it with my own biases firmly in place, heavily influenced by what Australian society says about men and women.  It was very, very hard to come to the Bible and not immediately get my back up (it still is sometimes).  Claire makes no apologies for what the Bible says.  She knows Christians often cringe about these passages and would love an easy escape route in the form of a preacher who would say they are no longer relevant.  But God's Word, although written in a different time and place, is as relevant today and tomorrow as it was back then.

The book neither dismisses submission as old-fashioned and no longer required, nor does it add a list of culturally-inherited 'rules' for women to follow.  Submission will look different for each woman depending on the context she is in.  The way I submit to Duncan will look different to how my other married Christian female friends submit to their husbands.  Although I appreciate the example of other godly women, my marriage is not to be modelled on someone else's - it is to be shaped by God's Word.

I appreciated the reminder that men and women were designed by God to be equal, yet different.  God is not a male chauvinist, nor are men and women exactly the same.  Both are equally loved by God, both are as equally important, both are sinful, but they have different roles.

This book is available from the Matthias Media Australian store here.

There is also a US store here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Marriage 101: The S Word

I came to uni as a feminist.  I guess I couldn't be considered all that hardcore - I didn't like bras but didn't actually want to burn them - but I believed in women's rights.  The Bible was an outdated, chauvinistic book.  If I ever got married, there was no way 'obey' was going to make its way into the vows.  Submit was a dirty word.

Fast forward a year and a half and I'm sitting at Mid Year Conference (a camp for all of the Christian Unions at all of the unis in Perth), talking to two girls I'd just met.  I'm 19 years old and they're both around my age.  The two girls were discussing how some high school girls they knew were talking at youth group about how they didn't want to submit if they got married one day.
"I don't know why some girls think submitting is so hard," one girl remarked.  The other nodded and I, now in the process of being softened by Jesus to His ways, nodded as well.

Looking back, that conversation seems so ridiculous.  We were all single.  We had NO IDEA what it was like to be a married Christian woman so how could we say submission is so easy?

Submission has been a constant struggle in my marriage.  Although I was only 24 when I got married, I was set in my ways and liked having full control of my life's steering wheel.  I was only prepared to submit if Duncan wanted something that I wanted anyway.

Not only that, I was confused as the what submission looked like practically.  I've already observed a number of different interpretations and practices in Christian marriages:
  • When it comes to major decisions, the husband should have the final say and the wife must go along with it, even if she disagrees. 
  • Then the opposite - submission does not involve the wife not having her say - both husband and wife must come to an agreement before any action is taken.
  • The wife must follow her husband's interpretation of the Bible, even if it is heretical, because he is her spiritual leader.
  • Then the opposite - the husband's role is to lead the wife spiritually, but the wife's ultimate allegiance is to God so she must not follow her husband into heresy.
  • The wife should stay at home, cook, clean and raise the children.  The husband should work.
  • Then the opposite - how each family works is up to them, whether it be both spouses sharing work and child-raising or something else.
  • The wife should not spend money without asking her husband for permission.
  • The husband should initiate quiet times with the wife.
  • The wife must take a real, active interest in the husband's work (especially if it's farming).
  • Being a submissive wife does not mean the wife should turn off her brain or shouldn't think for herself.
All of this coupled with jargon such as 'complimentarian' and 'egalitarian', men spouting off Ephesians 5:22-24 smugly, and hotly debated Bible chapters such as 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Peter 3, no wonder I was confused!

After five and a half years of marriage, I still struggle to follow Duncan's leadership and I forget to encourage him to lead.  Just as I'm learning to be a wife, he's still learning to be a husband.  We need to show each other some grace.

Thankfully I read a book last year which addressed many of my questions, concerns, objections and really nutted through the Bible passages I mentioned above.

Stay tuned for a review.....

Monday, December 09, 2013

Quote of the Day

The man is the head but the woman is the neck.  And she can turn the head any way she wants.
 - Maria Portokalos (Lainie Kazan) in My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Friday, December 06, 2013

Emma's 30th

The second last 30th I will attend this year.

My dear friend and former housemate Emma celebrated her 30th a couple of weeks ago.  She had two parties - a 'dessert indulgence night' followed by a picnic the next day.  On the Saturday night she, her mum, her sister and five of her closest female friends had the delight of dressing up and tasting a variety of exquisite desserts.  Unfortunately the picnic ended by being rained out, but it was still a great affair.

Emma, Rhianon, me, Rianna

Emma telling everyone to go and eat cake

Mmm so many cakes to choose from

The birthday girl

Bubba Rory

Christina getting cuddles with Rory

Christina and I

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Get On Your Soapbox #24

Urgh, I am SO OVER the world's OBSESSION with happiness and positive thinking.

Apparently everyone's main aim should be to be happy all the time and, if something bad happens, well, we'll just close our eyes and think positive and it will all go away.

First things first, I'm not at all meaning people who think that thinking positively will help them fight cancer or unemployment or whichever battle they are facing.  That's great!  Should we count our blessings and keep slogging away when things look bleak?  Absolutely.

What I've had a gutful of is people telling those who are suffering to just be happy because life's too short, or think positive and it will all be ok, or something else equally patronising, superficial and trite.  To the suffering, it sounds like, Shut up and get over it, I'm sick of hearing about your problems, you're ruining my happy existence.  Newsflash: life is hard, people are suffering, and no-one can be happy all the time.  If they are, they must be high on drugs.  I've had people try and get me on the happiness/positive thinking juggernaut when I've been in the midst of depression and it just made me feel worse.

The Comfort In, Dump Out model has been floated around a bit on Facebook and Meredith posted it on her blog.  It's so spot on!  People going through hard times need comfort and support, not silly whimsical advice.

I don't go for happiness.  No, I'm not a masochist or like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh (at least I hope not).  I'm a realist.  Life is hard.  We live in a fallen world.  Grief needs to be worked through and done well, not just shoved away and a fake smile plastered on.  Happiness is fleeting because it usually arises from a particular circumstance and when that circumstance changes for the worse, it is difficult to remain happy.  I don't want happiness, I want joy.  Joy is deeper.  Joy is constant.  Joy is knowing that my troubles are fleeting and one day I will be with Jesus.  One day there will be no more crying, mourning or pain.  Joy is knowing Christ, that He is Lord and my Saviour, that He loves me deeply, no matter what I may be going through all the time.  I can have tears running down my face and still be joyful because I know and trust Him.

The other reason I dislike the world's obsession with happiness is that it is so self-centred.  Happiness is all about me.  I want to feel good.  It's about having things go my way so I can feel good, so I ultimately need to keep pursuing happiness more and more.  This pursuit doesn't consider others.

Tim Minchin got it so right in his address to staff and graduates at UWA.  Watch it.  I agree with his views on the pursuit of happiness.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Bible Verse of the Day

To some people, studying at university, then working, only to give it up to stay home and be at the mercy of a very confusing baby, seems ludicrous.

But that's in the eyes of the world.  I don't see having my little man and staying home to look after him as a waste of my time or talents.  I'm glad to be home with him, watching him grow (most days).  This time will never come again and, God-willing, I can still use my qualifications sometime down the track.

Yet, as much as I love Rory, sometimes I feel like I'm stuck in Groundhog Day.  The feeding, the nappy-changing, the entertaining, the comforting, the housework...each day seems the same.  And the days are long!  Often I wake up feeling like I haven't recovered from the day before.

There is someone that notices.  My Heavenly Father sees all.  You see, I don't just do it all for Rory, I do it all for God...for His glory.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24

Monday, December 02, 2013

Press On Mums by Colin Buchanan

I've mentioned before that Colin Buchanan is a regular feature in my car now (the man knows how to settle grizzly babies, I can tell you!)

Karen and Meredith recommended I get Colin's CD, Real Hope which has the following song.

It's the middle of harvest here and, boy, now I know why mums with small children on farms detest seeding and harvest so much!  It's hard on the men, but it's hard on the women as well.  I feel like a single parent some days as Duncan's gone before Rory gets up and not home until he's in bed again.

I take my hat off to you, single mums!  You are amazing!

Thank you, Colin for this song!  May it encourage all of the mums out there.  I can't wait to buy this CD!

Press on, Mums, in all the chaos,
Look to Jesus through the tears,
God will guide you
Through those precious, tender years.
And in all you do, do it for Jesus,
Who won you life and free forgiveness.
Yesterday, today, He is the same,
All you do, do it in Jesus' name.
And when all your human energy is gone,
Look towards your Jesus and press on.

Lyrics sourced from here.