Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year Musings

It's hard to believe we've just chalked up another new year. Doesn't it seem that this last revolution around the sun went amazingly quickly? As always, I like to step back and reflect on the way my life is going and the plans we have for the coming year. I felt a twinge of alarm when I considered the following.

As Logan edges further along the High School continuum, I'll have to help him begin to decide the educational options that are available to him outside the normal public high school choice. They are out there, but it takes time to figure them out. So much time that ferreting it out could easily be a full-time occupation all year.

Blake, my youngest, is keenly getting into reading and basic maths. Helping him through that early literacy/numeracy phase could easily be a full-time occupation all year.

Emma is busy with her interest in arts, upper primary studies and such. Following her interest in these could easily be a full-time occupation all year.

Keeping a ship-shape house is definitely an occupation that could easily take more than a full-time job all year. In fact that one's a beast that could take all you want to pour into it and still never be done. I know several ladies who seem to master this one with poise and grace, but it's always been a hassle for me.

Keeping Apple Leaf Books, our little fiction publishing venture going, could be a full-time occupation all year.

Looking at all this, I groan and think there's no way I can possibly do any of this very well because I'm spreading myself too thin across all of them and not giving any of them my complete, full-time attention. And my first instinct is to throw up my hands and stop doing any of it, because it's a recipe for burn-out. Those ladies who actually work more on top of this outside the home must have super powers. Even ladies with kids in the school system have their work cut out for them. (If my kids had been in the system this year, I would have had one at High School, one at Primary and one at Kindy. I would've been always jumping in & out of the car. Ridiculous!)

But then I remember the advice that's always given to first-time writers. I'm familiar with this because I've come across it in every course or how-to book I've studied on the subject. To those who say, "I want to write a novel but the size of the commitment alarms me," they reply, "You only need to bite off small chunks at a time. If you restrict yourself to as little as one page per day, at the end of the year you'll have a 365 page manuscript." I'm sure it's the same with all the other stuff I've mentioned. Taking small chunks of time each day for helping Logan, Emma and Blake = an education for each of them. I've already proven to myself that finding just a smidgin of time for work on Apple Leaf Books gets stories circulating out there. And I'm sure we all know how quickly a house can be made to appear reasonably clean and tidy when we know that sudden visitors are on the way. But if we do none of this, things fall in a heap very quickly.

This is one of the things I'll try to remember in 2009. The little ways seem useless, but persistance pays. After all, huge, beautiful stalagmites are formed by little drops of water.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Little Boy Shop

Here are a couple of photos I took of Blake and his friend Maggie, when they were posing as Joseph and Mary in a little Christmas play by our church kindy class, The King's Kids. I wasn't sure he'd go along with the plan, being somewhat of a stubborn one and not patient like his brother or anxious to perform like his sister at the same age. But he did agree and the result was sweet. Especially when she sat on a little wooden rocking horse on their journey to Bethlehem, and they ended up with a sweet Baby Jesus doll.
Time is passing. Blake had a pretend friend named "Mr Blooggins" who used to come up in family conversations not all that long ago. Yet when I was putting him to bed a few nights ago, it struck me that Blake had been very quiet on the Mr Blooggins front for quite a long time. I asked Blake what had happened to him, and he got all embarrassed and said, "He's gone away."
Logan and Emma used to have pretend friends with weird names too, and the same thing happened in those cases too. You never realise that a pretend friend has gone for good, until one day you suddenly reflect, "Hey, what's happened?" In this case, it's a little bit sad because Blake's pretend friends are definitely the last pretend friends who'll ever be part of this family.
There are still funny things happening, though. Last night he was arguing with Emma about the proper way to play a game, and it ended with Blake leaving her in a huff. He came to me and said, "I want you to buy another little boy." It dawned on the rest of us that being the youngest, and not being familiar with other pregnant ladies, he was quite serious. So we asked him, "How can we buy another little boy?" After a moment of thought, he said, "We'll go to the little boy shop."
If only it was that easy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Drenching we Needed

We had a lovely rainfall a few days ago; the sort that sets in all day long and keeps us housebound. The perfect start for the summer. At the moment, most of us have forgotten what it's like not to fling a few loads of washing up on the clothesline whenever we feel like it. I got out an umbrella from some deep, dark recess and had a walk. I liked the fresh smell of the good water soaking into the dry earth. And little gullies and ditches which have been powdery-dry were transformed to rivers. I could not believe how one good day of thorough soaking could transform my block. One new river which had been a dry trail the day before even had ducks swimming in it. Local ponds had swollen. Water was pouring downhill with great force, bubbling everywhere. There were smiles from other walkers I greeted and comments that, "The farmers are really going to appreciate this."

But what surprised me even more was the following afternoon, when I asked my daughter to come with me to see all the rivers and ponds that had magically appeared. They'd all disappeared already. The ponds had become wading puddles and that river that the ducks were swimming on had become a slimy foot trail. How thirsty the land must have been! So much for that one decent rainfall.

Makes me think that we can be like dry, parched, thirsty landscapes ourselves, without even knowing it. When I'm wrung-out and exhausted, I sometimes feel that one restful afternoon might replenish me, but that's not necessarily the case. In the same way, one morning of Bible study and devotions won't last us the whole week! And filling up your car with petrol won't get you all the way from Adelaide to Melbourne, however quickly you want to make it. This has reminded me to schedule times for refreshment and contemplation into my agenda.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Camels are Coming

Here's a good way of looking at things when you feel over-worked, under-paid, waiting on something that doesn't seem to be coming or just plain exhausted.

We all know that Jesus was born of Mary in a stable and laid in a manger. At the same time, after years of studying the heavenly bodies, the Magi from the east were following a star, expecting to be led to the Christ Child. When they found Him, they offered the family their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and worshipped Him.

The point of this post is this. Mary and Joseph didn't go around seeking gifts. To all appearances, everything had been going completely haywire for them for some time. The Roman census happened to be decreed at the time when she was almost ready to have her baby. It forced them to embark on a long, tiring journey which I'm sure she must have been well over by the time they arrived. Imagine a long trip by donkey when you're nine months pregnant! Then the town was crowded, they couldn't find anywhere to stay and had to resort to a stable of an inn. Her labour would have been hard, with nobody but Joseph around to support and encourage her. It would have been cold afterwards with nowhere to place the newborn baby but in a feeding manger full of hay. And by modern standards, it wouldn't have been very sanitary, with all those animals and old hay around.

But in spite of their dodgy-looking circumstances, Mary and Joseph were in God's will, exactly where they were supposed to be. And in His timing, He sent them wise men from the east mounted on camels and loaded down with provisions beyond their wildest dreams. The book I was reading went on to say that there's a principle we can rely on here. When we're in the will of God for us, He'll always bring provision to us. We don't have to chase it down and anxiously fret that it'll never reach us, because it'll surely seek us out. We don't have to try to make things happen. God will bring them to us.

Camels will come for each of us if we stay in the will of God. We don't have to fret and worry, trying to figure out what to do to take care of ourselves. We can simply leave it with God, who after all has our best interests at heart and is completely trustworthy. It's a thought that takes all the stress out of the waiting period, when we feel we've done all we can do.

Although I'll no doubt be blogging before Christmas, I wish you all a happy and prosperous festive season.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Subjective "Truths"

I like to walk as my main form of exercise and at the corner of our street is a house with a beautiful lawn and garden. There are bushes trimmed in the shapes of animals and the lawn is soft and springy. Blake, my 4yo son, likes to announce that he's tired and sink right down into their nature strip on his back, looking up at the sky. Sometimes other passers-by stop to grin at him and exchange a few words.

One lady said to me, "Don't these people do a wonderful job of blessing the neighbourhood with this beautiful place? Just looking at it is enough to make you feel happy and calm."

Then just a few days later, a man who we met at that spot remarked, "Have you noticed the water they use on this joint? (Because we're in the middle of water-restrictions here in South Australia) It's appalling and someone really should report them."

There's two different ways of looking at the exact same thing, and I suppose it could really be said that both points of view are true. That's a funny thing, I suppose 'truth' often depends on the person who perceives a thing. Some teachers used to tell my parents that I was too day-dreamy and remote, and I got upset because I knew it was true. Then other, kinder people said that I was relaxing, and refreshing to be around, and I suppose that was true for them. I watched movies and read books that I thought were fantastic, yet they were blasted to pieces by critics in reviews. Yet I persist in thinking that they really were fantastic because I found them so.

I think the Biblical advice to take people's words lightly is wise. Don't worry when people criticise you or your work, because they are really only voicing their OWN opinion! It took awhile for me to learn this and sometimes I still forget. On the other hand, when others heap praise on us and tell us how great we are, we ought to take this lightly too, for the same reason. If we let this sort of thing get too deeply into our heads, it'll hit all the harder when the other sort of feedback comes, as it always will. I think the very best thing we can do is carry on faithfully doing what we are sure is our calling without letting people's words affect us much at all. Then we are probably in the best position for God to use our input.