Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

30 June 2009

Garden Update # 4

I've been thinking about my options given the problem with the clay.

1. Brick paving.
Well, I'll keep that one in my back pocket but it isn't my preferred option. And besides, other people around here have gardens so it must be possible to get around this.

2. Forget the flowers and get a ground cover with a shallow root system.
I don't think so. That would be boring and where is the challenge in that?? I don't want TOO much of a challenge...but I can do better than that!

3. Instead of planting into the ground, get lots more big pots and plant in pots. Arrange them in some funky way and then scatter gravel/rocks/pebbles around to fill in the gaps.
Again I am not keen. Firstly, all the trees nearby create a lot of leaf litter. I think it would be awkward to keep the area tidy. Secondly, this would be expensive to set up. Mind you, if push really comes to shove, it could be done as a gradual process. But I would need help because I think I lack the creativity to arrange things in "some funky way." Apparently there is a nursery nearby with a courtyard garden done entirely with plants in terracotta pots. I might go and have a look sometime soon by way of professional development.

4. Build up the beds.
This may end up being the answer. Takes infrastructure so this may become a slightly more long term project.

5. Buy a bag of gypsum.

And here it is...modelled beautifully by the parsley. I am going to try this in conjunction with some elementary composting. And probably borrow our neighbour's crowbar!!
I'll let you know how it goes.

29 June 2009

Garden Update # 3

I've hit a problem. Literally!

The time came to put the daisies and geraniums into the patch!

So I raked it, cleared it, drew lines in the sand and made a rough plan for a layout...backplanting with the rosemary when it arrives and then dotting the daisies, geranuims and lavender in the front two thirds.
I placed the pots in their spots to make sure it looked OK. All OK.
And then I started to dig.
And then I realised why, when we came to this house, there were no plants in this patch.
You can't really get a sense of perspective with this photo. The grey bit is sandy soily stuff. To a depth of about 15cm. The orange bit is clay. The clay has not had a drop of water on it in a very long time. The clay is rock hard. The clay bent my (albeit cheap) shovel. There are no daisies going in there!


Downed tools and went straight next door to our neighbours, one of whom was once a landscape gardener and knows a thing or two about these things. After a short discussion with my friendly neighbour I figure I have five options.

1. Brick paving!

2. Forget the flowers and get a ground cover with a shallow root system.

3. Instead of planting into the ground, get lots more big pots and plant in pots. Arrange them in some funky way and then scatter gravel/rocks/pebbles around to fill in the gaps.

4. Build up the beds. Create some sort of mini retaining wall with bricks or sleepers and ship in large amounts of soil. Then plant. The roots of my plants, my neighbour tells me, will find their way through the clay and thrive. It is just a matter of having enough soil to put them in to start with.

5. Buy a bag of gypsum. Apparently, my good neighbour tells me (and Google has just confirmed it!), gypsum will break down the clay so that it isn't rock hard. It would still be hard work to dig through - the neighbour said he used a crowbar - but not impossible.


27 June 2009

My New Plan

I have given up watching "The Bill" on television.

Right. I have said it. I have made a public statement. Deep breath.

It's not that I don't like it. In fact I quite enjoy it. But I do my ironing while it's on. I usually finish the ironing before the second episode is over. So once the ironing is done I finish watching the rest of the episode. It finishes at 10pm. Then I put the iron, the ironing board, the clothes brush, the bottle of water for spraying the tough creases and the ironing away. And then I have a shower, check the children, say goodnight to my husband if he is still working and pray. And suddenly it has become a late night. Every Saturday night.

Sunday morning. Feel tired. Not completely organised for church. And have you noticed this too? You can get everyone ready to be out of the door in an organised, calm and happy fashion every other day of the week but on Sunday things seem to fall apart? I am certain that Satan does his best to interfere with families trying to get to church on Sunday morning.

So I have decided that I need to work a bit harder to avoid giving him a foothold.

I will still iron on Saturday nights. (I know, it's an exciting life!) To amuse myself I will watch ONE episode of "The West Wing." I've started right from the beginning. I caught it in the last three episodes of the final series and loved it! So there is a bit of catching up to do - 155 episodes all up - so that should keep me going for three years!!

The benefit is that the process can start earlier - I don't have to wait until 8:30pm to get going - and finish earlier too. I can do my hour or so of ironing, pack it all away and still have some time to get everyone's bits and pieces ready for Sunday morning. And if all goes to plan, I can have an early night and be fully focussed on having a calm Sunday morning. And then all of us should get to church in better shape.

That's the plan.

24 June 2009

Out of Africa

I would like you to meet two friends of mine. Both work in Africa.

J, who I have mentioned before, works in a west African country. This week she sent me an email that started like this.

This comes with fresh greetings from a location where the air is clean from summer rains. While the downside might mean more litter washed into one's yard and less electricity (supplies perhaps 30% of the time), it is good to have the trees so green and the air dust-free.

Imagine if we only had electricity for 30% of the time...

The other is R, who works in a landlocked country in the south east of Africa. This is what she wrote in her blog earlier this month.

Remember my 'experiment' last year?

$1 a day (or was it $2?) no power, carry my own water for a week (or was it 2?) oh yeah - i remember- and no matress. lol

Well, I'm upping the ante. I've been given the opportunity to live in a village for a few months... and I moved out there last Friday! It's not about living on the edge or feeling good that I'm doing it tough- it's about getting as much language and cultural interaction as i can.

I'm looking forward to blogging all about it ...soon. But for now- First impressions?

- stinging eyes from lighting and cooking over a smoke fire
- the sheer time investment into every chore
- from boiling water for a cuppa to pumping water and carrying it up the hill to my house
- amazing generosity and friendliness of my new neighbourhood. They've visited, shared their food, invited me to family events (sadaka) and cleaned my pots....

but they're all stories for another day!

I'll write when I can- in the mean time, please pray that I'll get to the next level with language, make some good friends and stay well.

What J and R do takes my breath away.

J and R don't live choose to live in these circumstances so they can be seen to be living the politically and environmentally correct lifestyle.
J and R don't live like this to store up impressive stories to tell at dinner parties.
J and R aren't trying to show off.


J and R are two humble women who love God and love the people of the nations in which they live and work.
J and R remind me of the difference between living surrounded by abundance and living abundantly.
J and R remind me to be thankful and to stop complaining when I am inconvenienced in some small way.

And there you have J and R, two friends of mine. Two amazing women.

22 June 2009

Garden Update # 2

So, I thought I would ease myself into this gardening thing. In addition to the "tough flowers" and the herbs purchased at the nursery, I also got several bags of potting mix. I got my five large terracotta pots (actually, four terracotta pots and one plastic terracotta-look-alike pot), filled them with the potting mix, popped in the herbs and...

...there you have a very satisfying little corner. I'm very happy about that.
As for that rogue marigold, if you remember this part of the garden that looks onto the trampoline... will notice a couple of dodgy looking plastic chairs just to the right - a place to sit when supervising children on said trampoline.
That little space has been transformed into this, with thanks to the marigold!
That is a much better spot to sit and supervise trampoline shenanigans, complete with a place to put one's cup of tea. I have visions of sitting there in the mornings to read and pray with a cup of tea when the weather warms up too.
Well, that was a good start!

19 June 2009

What Genderanalyser Thinks of Church History

Genderanalyser has been doing the rounds for a while. How it works is that you type in your blog address at the Genderanalyser site and it decides whether the blog entered has been written by a man or a woman.

When I entered The Key to the Door this evening, this was the result.

We guess is written by a man (52%), however it's quite gender neutral.

Interestingly, I ran Genderanalyser over the blog before the Athanasius post and look what they said then...

We guess is written by a woman (54%), however it's quite gender neutral.

Athanasius seemed to make a big difference! Surely church history isn't the domain of men only!

17 June 2009

Gonzales on Athanasius - Something for all of us

I have been reading "The Story of Christianity: Volume One" by Justo Gonzales from my reading list. Last week I read a chapter on Athanasius, a hero of fourth century Christianity. (Find him in Wikipedia here!) He was truly a great man of his time and God used him mightily for the Kingdom.

But have a look at how Gonzales describes this man early on in the chapter. (Please note, the following quote is one complete paragraph in the book. I have divided it up and the italics are mine, just so that you can see clearly what is going on here.)

Of all the opponents of Arianism, Athanasius was the most to be feared. The reasons for this were not to be found in subtlety of logical argument, nor in elegance of style, nor even in political perspicacity. In all these areas, Athanasius could be bested by his opponents.

His strong suit was in his close ties to the people among whom he lived,

and in living out his faith without the subtleties of the Arians or the the pomp of so many bishops of other important sees. His monastic discipline,

his roots among the people, his fiery spirit, and his profound and unshakable conviction

made him invincible.

I was SO encouraged to read this. Although his great learning, capacity as an orator and ability to lead were important (he had a big job to do so he needed a certain skill set!) what helped him to cross the line, in Gonzales view, was how he lived.

We may not be in a position to do significant theological study, we may not be good at public speaking and we may not find ourselves in a position of leadership such that we find ourselves with a great sphere of influence.

But we can all live well.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:11-13

14 June 2009

Garden Update # 1

Having presented the garden baseline here, the time has come to move forward on this little project. Thankyou to those who offered helpful suggestions, both in the comments section and also in person.

My first question is to ask about composting. We anticipate being here a good long while so getting some composting happening to keep boosting up the soil (as well as doing something more environmentally friendly with the carrot and potato peelings than just throwing them into the bin) seems a great idea. We have no composting infrastructure and I am after low cost solutions. What do I need to do to get started?

Received some great ideas about this long stretch here.

We have indeed used it as a cricket pitch and expect to have many more backyard games of cricket here. One of R's little friends suggested a swimming pool. And the mother of that friend suggested a lap pool. Both very good ideas but I don't think the owners of the house will come at that! So it will remain a cricket pitch/general running around and playing sort of space - and since winter arrived and the rain started, it has been greening up nicely. I am toying with the idea of a passionfruit vine or two along the fence and maybe a fruit tree or two tucked into a corner but these ideas are a long way down the track. And we may well be getting a friend's surplus-to-requirements swing set which will go somewhere along here too.

The more pressing issue is this patch.

When I first saw this space I immediately thought of a vegie patch. In the eighteen months since this patch became ours to fill, my ideas have moved from vegie patch to flower bed to a mix of the both, a children's garden with interesting little plants and stepping stones and even, in several moments of I-can't-be-bothered-ness, more brick paving...just do away with the problem altogether!

Well, to cut a long story short, I have decided on a garden of tough flowers, but keeping the little angled section to the left free to maybe do some basic vegies (ie. tomatoes and perhaps lettuce in the summer and spuds in the winter) for the boys to have the vegie growing experience.

As I said, I am no gardener! Well, not yet. And I don't have loads of time to give to the garden. I need plants that I know will thrive on neglect and that are low cost to acquire. But at the bottom line I want some flowers because this patch provides the view from the kitchen window.

So I've decided on rosemary, lavender, daisies and geraniums - and I may add a few other items down the track. A friend's mum is potting up some lavender and rosemary for me. And here is the stash from the nursery.

Yes, that is a marigold in there. I have other plans for that!

And because I love using herbs in my cooking and spend a small fortune on fresh herbs in the supermarket...and because I have all those empty pots to is the herb stash.
Sage, basil, coriander, thyme, parsley and mint. And rosemary will round that out well.
Stay tuned.

12 June 2009

Prayer - (2) Quantity

I always feel it well to put a few words of prayer between everything I do.
So said Charles Spurgeon. And CJ Mahaney quoted him here as he wrote about punctuating his day with prayer, humbling himself before God in each new event rather than relying on his own self-sufficiency.

As I make my way from meeting to meeting, decision to decision, and phone call to phone call, I find the counsel of Charles Spurgeon very helpful. “I always feel it well,” he wrote, “to put a few words of prayer between everything I do.” Throughout his busy days, Spurgeon scattered words of prayer between each activity, a model I have sought to emulate over the years.
I really, really, really like this idea.

It's not a substitute for periods of extended, focussed prayer. But it's about coming to God at frequent intervals during the day – making sure that we are relying on Him in all that we do, that we are serving Him in all that we do, giving the mundane activity some purpose and doing such tasks with a cheerful, thankful heart - and keeping the things of God as our main priority throughout the day.

Since reading this I have been thinking about how this practice of pausing to pray before each new thing might apply in the life of a stay at home mum. Because the life of a stay at home mum is not divided into neat hourly blocks. I seem to move to something new every three minutes or so...from hanging out the washing to assisting in locating that critical piece of Lego to sweeping the leaves off the trampoline to dinner preparation and oh yes, back to hanging out that load of washing that was interrupted by the Lego! The days can pass by in a bit of a blur of unfinished activity. Which is fine. This is the nature of life with smalls.

But how might Spurgeon's model apply when life lacks a bit of structure?

1. Use cues in the environment. A friend of mine gave me some really groovy clothes pegs at one stage. At the time she was in great need of prayer and so I got into the habit of praying for her every time I put out the washing. That habit remains – she gets a lot of prayer because I do a lot of washing! This is one example of many.

2. I have the prayer diary of the main mission society we support and also our church's directory on my recipe rack in the kitchen. I seem to be in the kitchen a lot – doing things that don't take a lot of concentration so I use the time to pray through those lists of people. You can cover quite a lot of territory in a day this way!

3. The thing that punctuates my day is people - the people I meet at school drop off and pick up times, the people I might visit or who visit me, the people I speak to and do business with at the shops. I have decided, spurred on by Spurgeon (and CJ Mahaney!) to use people rather than appointments as markers in my day. So I am trying to stop (actually stop) and pray before I go to school, on my way to see someone, on my way to answering the door when someone calls by at our house – praying for those I will meet, praying for a valuable and encouraging interaction, praying that I will be like this.

4. Pray with our children. When something happens or someone comes to mind and prayer is required – or in any of the above three categories – I am just starting to try to form the habit of praying about it with our children. It is one thing to be praying often and silently (which is fine) but I have also become aware that our children need to see this habit of praying frequently throughout the day modelled too so that they learn to "pray without ceasing" and realise that prayer doesn't just happen when saying grace or goodnight prayers. And by teaching them this habit maybe they might even remind me to pray about something one day. That would be a joy.

I'm not too bad at the first two ideas. The second two are new habits that I am trying to form.

I always feel it well to put a few words of prayer between everything I do.
Well, between EVERYTHING may not be practical, but frequently has got to be a good alternative. Any other ideas?

09 June 2009

Prayer - (1) Quality

As I was praying for my family a few weeks ago I noticed something about my prayers that absolutely horrified me.

There are various things that I pray for repetitively. I pray that my husband will have an effective and productive work day and that any meetings he has will of value. I pray that the gospel will sink deep into my boys' hearts.

And there are other things that I pray about repetitively. I pray that gospel seeds will be sown in the hearts of the children in my scripture classes and to that end, I often pray that they will simply behave during our lesson together so that they can engage with the lesson.

I pray that the children at our Sunday School will love coming to church, that they will make real relationships with each other and the grown-ups who are trying to connect with them and that they will learn something wonderful about God in their time together.

On these and other subjects I pray the same things over and over and over and over.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with repetitive prayers. Nothing at all. Except when you catch yourself thinking, before you pray one of your repetitve prayers, "Well, I suppose I ought to pray for such and such now..."

I suppose I ought to pray for my husband and his day ahead because I am his wife. I suppose I ought to pray for our boys because I am their mother. I suppose I ought to pray for my scripture classes because I am their scripture teacher...

It is wrong to pray repetitively if those daily prayers become empty words mouthed out of a sense of duty.

That horrible (and wonderful) morning I realised that I was praying my way through a list in order to tick the box of duty served and not because I actually believed God would answer those prayers. Autopilot meets unbelief.

It was horrible to realise that this was what I was doing. A weight lifted off me as I repented of my wretchedness. And a certain joy and fresh enthusiasm for prayer replaced it as the quality of my prayers changed - as I actually began to pray in belief that God is listening and will answer.

Yes, I still pray my repetitive prayers for my husband, my boys, my scripture classes, the Sunday School children and for a whole lot more besides - but now I try to start those prayers asking God to help me to pray with concentration, with genuine love and concern for those I am praying for and for a sincere and deep belief that God will hear those prayers and answer them. Again and again.

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief." Mark 9:24

01 June 2009

Fellowship with Vitality

Last week at Bible study we were looking at Hebrews 10:24-25 which reads,

And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together , as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

In discussing this we were talking about the importance of continuing to meet together as Christians and more over, the importance of making those times vital, valuable and worthwhile.

Which reminded me of a quote from Mother Teresa I heard on the radio recently - my Words of Encouragement for June.

Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbour…Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness - kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.

I think I have often considered the Hebrews passage quantitatively. But it has been very encouraging to think about not just the quantity of my fellowship with others but also the quality. And this is going to become a subject of much prayer for me. Because both are important.