Tuesday, January 29, 2008

By Chance

I read a strange little Chinese fable that struck a chord with me. It went something like this.

A great emperor went on a long journey and when he returned, he discovered to his horror that he'd lost his precious pearl along the way. He decided to send some of his servants to search for it.

First he sent Education, but Education couldn't find it.

Then he sent Perseverance, but after a long time, Perseverance couldn't find it either.

Finally, he sent By Chance, and By Chance managed to find the pearl.

That was about it. It made me laugh because that same guy, "By Chance" has made his input on my life too. I'm sure we could all say the same. I've tried to control many outcomes in my own life and fallen short. I think those other servants in the story, "Education" and "Perseverance" are all tied up with control. I ought to know because I've tried kowtowing to them in the past and they've never lived up to all that I've hoped. The more I think about it, the more I see that so many of the good things in my life were brought by the other servant, "By Chance."

I was introduced to the man I married "By Chance."
Each of my 3 children was conceived "By Chance." That's the absolute truth. We persevered in trying, but those times seemed to either result in nothing or end in early miscarriages. My 3 children were the only accidental pregnancies I had. How strange that seems.
Several people who helped me get my books edited and published came across some other writing of mine, "By Chance."
One of the photos I stumbled upon for a front cover was "By Chance."
I've sought several books I'd heard of expecting a good read, but many of my favourite authors became so "By Chance."
My daughter even met her best friend at kindergarten "By Chance" and they are now both homeschoolers who live around the corner from each other. At other times, I've tried to encourage my kids to be friendly with certain others, and they've inevitably drifted apart.

Trying to work things out in my own strength has so often made me miserable when they haven't worked out, but I have a tendency to keep doing it because I guess I like the illusion that we can make things happen the way we want them to. But when I remember "By Chance" I feel more optimistic. "By Chance" seems to be one of God's reminders that He alone has the wisdom and knowledge and power to control my life and I don't have to struggle and strain. We each stand slap-bang in the middle of our own lives and can see only a little way. God has a much greater perspective and knows exactly when to send things to us "By Chance."

Thursday, January 24, 2008


We had a great walk a few days ago - one of my very favourite things. I thought I'd put up some photos up. Although these were taken at a conservation park not too far out of the city, they still give a pretty good indication of what the Great Australian Bush is like.
A row of cliff steps up to this cave with a magnificent view.

Logan took this photo of a couple of kookaburras. They're often fairly shy so this wasn't too bad. Cute, squat looking birds they are, a member of the kingfisher family. The laugh they make is wonderful.

A few bits of water are left. We'll have to remember to return in the winter when the creeks are full and the falls are rushing.

Not a bad day of climbing when you're talking about cliffs like these.

Dad and the kids in that cave.

Here's me and Blake.

I took this tree because it had really interesting bark, like something from a fantasy novel, and I thought it'd make an interesting picture.
In a few weeks time we're off on a real holiday for a week, to somewhere I haven't been for several years, and I'm looking forward to taking more then. But it's not bad at all to have this sort of scenery sort of on our back door, anyway. I hope this was a good virtual tour of some of our features.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Encouragement Letters

What I've decided to do this year, as a result of the thoughts I discussed in my last post, is send encouraging letters to people whenever it occurs to me or I have the opportunity.

It's actually something I've been thinking about for quite a long time. Early last year I went to collect mail from our PO Box and my spirits were pretty low. Very early on, my kids noticed, "Those letters with windows are usually boring," and I have to say I agree with them. Yet the letters with windows are usually our most common, including bills, receipts, statements etc. On this day I had a small pile to glance through. Beneath a real-estate advert, medicare cheque and a couple of bank statements was a cheerful looking envelope covered with stickers. The very sight of it was enough to ignite a flicker of interest in me. Even though I hadn't opened it I knew it was going to be good.

It turned out to be from a 16-year-old girl who'd written to tell me that she enjoyed my fantasy novels. It took just a moment to read but really transformed my day. It was better than a dose of medicine. I went to bed thinking how powerful a few words of sincere encouragement can be. And the idea of making a sort of hobby of written encouragement has been on my mind ever since. If one person would commit themselves to writing just one encouraging letter per week, 52 people would be positively affected. If the same person would increase their output to two, more than 100 people would benefit. And if 10 people would commit to doing this, the grand total would escalate to more than 1000 positive letters. It would be a simple commitment that would involve no group meetings or evenings out. It's stayed on my mind all that time. So this year I'm beginning, and have already written a couple, either email or land mail.

You might ask why I waited for so long to start something so simple. Well, some of the thoughts of resistance that came up in my mind have been quite amazing! It's shown up all sorts of emotions that I wouldn't have wanted to admit were there.

1) The "What Difference will it really make?" question. Over the years I think I must've got into the mistaken habit of thinking that only the big actions are the ones that really count. You know, like being a missionary or a surgeon or a social worker. But hey, getting written encouragement is a fairly rare event these days. Who's to say that this sort of action won't bless and encourage people enormously maybe just when they need it? I now think it's probably a bigger mistake to assume that just because the action is small, the result will also be small. A bit of simple kindness, written or otherwise, may make a HUGE impact in the life of a person who is just doing their best to battle on like the rest of us. (Maybe too many of us assume that small actions will yield small results and that's why we decide not to bother.)

2) The "What's in it for me?" question. I admit, this one surprised me even more than the last one. I never would have dreamed how often I automatically ask myself this question until I started toying with this idea. For example, I was reticent to accept the offer of a flight to Brisbane and accomodation last year because of fear, but I reasoned, "I'll get book publicity, maybe meet some influential people, maybe even sell some books, so I'd better go." You see, it was the "What's in it for me?" question. It's actually been quite disturbing, to see how often this question motivates me without my even knowing! And for this encouragement letter idea, as far as personal ambition is concerned, there seemed to be no personal benefits as far as looking good and improving my career prospects are. I hate to admit it but I think it made an important impact so there it is in black and white.

3) The "What if I look silly?" question. This was the easiest to squelch. The thing is, it doesn't really matter. I'd rather appear slightly odd while sticking out my neck and doing a positive action than staying in my narrow comfort zone, looking 'normal' and making no positive difference at all.

Now I have to say, having sent about six encouragement letters to different individuals recently, all but one of them were acknowledged very promptly and that's given me quite a buzz that I hadn't anticipated. It actually is more fun than I anticipated to know that I made people happy with a kind word. Now that I committed myself to this, it's going to be fun.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The little stitches in a tapestry

Some other homeschooling families I've come across have expressed interest in getting their children involved in community services. There are several to choose from. St. John's Ambulance, zoos, Meals on Wheels, Lions or Rotary clubs, not to mention Boy Scouts or Girl Guides, or Cubs or Scouts or Gumnuts or similar groups of other names along these lines. It could give you a headache if you try to decide on one that might suit the talents or skills of your family when they all sound so good. In the past, it often has given me one. Especially as many of them seem to require their own financial and time commitments. But I've latched onto an idea for getting out there and doing a bit of good in the local community that has no fixed cost and can be done anywhere or anytime.

This begins with a story that happened last August. We were planning to attend a birthday party for my oldest nephew, Jarrad's, 17th. I'd been talking to my sister on the phone earlier that morning, and she mentioned that one of the boys' friends who was going to be there also had his birthday that same day. He decided to go to Jarrad's party rather than celebrate at home with his own family. We know this boy fairly well, as he's often over visiting when we're there too. So when I hung up the phone, I thought, "It might be nice if we stopped to buy a birthday card and maybe some chocolates for Matthew too." I already had a card and present for Jarrad, so it would've meant calling in at the shops again. But Emma's ballroom dancing class ran a little over time, we were in a hurry to get going, Blake had already done enough walking around, so although I could have easily stopped at the shops, when the time came, I decided not to bother. It seems to be always easier 'not to bother' when the job is something that doesn't really need to be done. We had a fun night and I forgot all about this.

Then a few weeks later in early August, my Bible Study group was watching "The Purpose of Community" videos with Pastor Rick Warren. During the first study, he challenged us on whether we were really living lives of love. He said something like, "You might think you are, but do you do acts of kindness whenever you have the opportunity or only when it suits you?" And although I hadn't given it a second thought until then, I instantly thought, "Ooops, there was that time a few weeks ago when I didn't buy Matthew a birthday card."

The thing is, it's so easy to reason that this sort of thing doesn't really make all that much difference to anybody in the great scheme of things. That's why it's so easy not to bother doing them. But I knew in my heart I'd been especially convicted about this. Now I think that these small acts really do make a difference. They are the little stitches that altogether make a huge tapestry, not only in our own personal lives but in the grand scheme of all the good things that ever get done by anybody. So this year I want to do, and encourage my children, to do all the nice things that occur to us whether we think they'd matter or not. Because now I'm certain they will.

Last week I was doing an internet search and logged onto, www.helpingothers.org which gives many, many great ideas of simple and easy actions that can get us started. Maybe we get so caught up in wondering how our lives can "make a difference" in big ways, that we neglect to do little things. Then when we do no little things, big things don't get done anyway, because big things are made up of lots of little things. And I want to commit ourselves to not let a week pass without carrying out at least one or two. It was Mother Teresa who said, "We can't do great things but only little things with great love."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sifting thru' Memories

For the last few days, we've been getting out a whole lot of old family videos to run off and store on a new hard-drive system we've bought. The ones we've been watching have been great, starting almost from the moment Logan drew his first breath. (Actually, there are a few earlier ones. A compilation of my childhood times, my 21st birthday party, our wedding, but so far we've been concentrating on the ones with the kids.)

Today, I found myself growing a little frustrated with my younger self in the video. Logan is almost 13 so it must've been about 12 years ago, while I was urging him to take a few of his earliest steps for the camera. "Come on, I know you can do this because you were doing it a few days ago... walk over to Mummy, it'll only be a few steps." He'd start on his feet, then fall on his knees and crawl over to me. Then I'd say, "We know you can crawl good, but we want you to walk this time. Start again." I felt like telling my 26-year-old self, "No, let him crawl! I want to watch him. There's plenty of time for walking. He walks all the time now. He hasn't crawled for so long and it looked really cute. Why were you in such a rush to show him off walking?"

Perhaps it taught me, even now, to enjoy every phase as it comes, even the prickly, cool-dude teenage one which is in its early stages. Later on, I watched Emma's sweet little baby face as she did her commando-crawl across the carpet. If we didn't have the reminding evidence we might've forgotten, but Emma never did the classic crawl like the boys. It was always one elbow being lifted over the next as she dragged herself along, but she did it at a cracking pace. And she'd watch Logan closely and turn her little head to see whatever he was up to. There were no cross words between them then. It was fun back in the mid '90s, although I didn't always realise it. It's still fun now, with family dynamics as they are, and the addition of Blake to the family. I'll remind myself of that in those loooong, pain-in-the-neck moments. One day I'll be watching memories and saying, "It was quite a lot of fun back in 2008."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Summer Fun

We decided the only thing to do to beat the heat was to spend a couple of evenings driving down to the beach. It's well worth the longish car drive to get down out of the Hills. The Glenelg foreshore, where we ended up, is Adelaide's version of the Gold Coast. There is quite a great tourist trade drumming up every summer, with about 5 or 6 different ice-cream and frozen yoghurt boutiques. One of my nephews, who was with us, called it "Party Central." It probably deserves its reputation because the beach is very clean, sandy and free of pebbles or weed.
Blake has decided he's camera shy. Here he is, making a mad dash away when he saw me take out the camera, but I managed to snap him fleeing.

He didn't mind so much when we went walking through the sideshows in the nearby waterslide complex and he got to sit on a ride with Blinky Bill the koala.

Emma looks happy and most of the time she was. But she got a jelly-fish sting in a big wave while we were doing our own version of body-surfing. It left a couple of nasty welts across her wrist. She cried a bit, but decided the beach was too much fun to stay sad for long. And although I love the thought of driving up north and visiting the tropics along the coasts of Qld and NSW, I'm glad we live in good, safe old South Oz at such times. We have none of the poisonous jelly-fish, octopii and sea creatures they have up there, so we knew not to get too stressed about Emma's mishap.

Nothing like a leisurely sunset after a hot day.

I consider this sort of evening get-away is something like a mini-holiday. Even better in its own way, because we return home refreshed, but not needing to unpack, face a whole lot of washing, pick up mail from neighbours. We are going away for a week in February to the Yorke Peninsula but until then, this sort of thing suits me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


With part of his Christmas money from relatives, Logan bought himself a few new Play Station 2 games. One was a tennis game. Like all those sport games, you get to choose who you want to be from a very life-like looking list of players, then you can either play against an opponent or the computer. He and Andrew have been giving it a good go, as it's too hot to do much else. Logan likes to be Lleyton Hewitt and he was very pleased to beat his dad, who'd chosen Roger Federer. I remarked that it's probably about the only time Federer gets beaten by Hewitt these days!

But being a child of the 1970s, I couldn't help comparing this game, with its vivid graphics, to a similar Christmas present my brother received about 30 years ago. Although I used the word "similar", the two games were poles apart. My brother's old game was one of those early TV tennis games with little white sticks. I'm sure some of you remember these. We'd move our sticks around the screen with clunky old controllers and when they made contact with the spot that represented a ball, they'd BEEP. And back in 1978, we used to LOVE that game! That game was one of the highlights of all the presents anyone received that year! And how my kids would laugh to see it now. Although we still feel fairly young, I think many of us are in the process of watching our childhood days relegated to "the good ole' days."

And my poor old parent's generation can't help being pretty clueless about the whole technology thing. I suppose they can't help it when you consider that in their childhood, they didn't even have TV!

At my sister's place on Christmas Day, my Dad asked his grandsons what they were up to, to which my nephew Travis replied, "I'm just going to burn a CD for Logan." Dad says, "Don't do that. It can't be that bad and someone else might like it!" They had to explain, "We're not going to really burn it in a fire, Papa!" Similarly, a few weeks ago, I heard an elderly gentleman ask a group of girls about Emma's age what they'd like for Christmas. "Nintendo DS games," they replied, and I knew instantly that they'd be asked to explain what Nintendo DS games were. I was not mistaken. The old gentleman was mystified.

I read a very interesting thought not long ago, about a Biblical prophecy in Daniel 12: 4. The scripture says, "...even to the time of the end: many shall run too and fro and knowledge will be increased." The author explained his opinion that this quote was clearly pointing directly forward to the 20th & 21st centuries. And it's probably only just beginning to get rolling. Before we know it, we'll all be grandparents ourselves, who'll possibly lose the plot when we ask our grandchildren what they'd like for Christmas, and they might reply, "I'd like a hydrofusion megatron for my NintendoXGZN 1000000."