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

24 July 2009

Lists and Letters

I'm a list writer.

Why do I write lists?

1. To remember what I need to do.
2. To help me organise the day/week and give a little bit of structure to my life.
3. To make sure things get done when they need to be done.
4. To have the pleasure of being able to cross things off when they are done.

And yes, I have been known on a bad day to write something onto a list that I'd already done just so I could strike it off and feel some small sense of achievement...I know, I know…

I've got the whole list writing thing down to a fairly fine art these days. I have a diary and a book. The diary is for keeping track of events. The book is for everything else. The book is a simple, inexpensive A5 spiral bound thing. And it serves two purposes.

Firstly it replaces scraps of paper. What used to be written onto scraps of paper – a reminder note to myself, a phone message, the address someone just gave me over the phone, the recipe, the name and number of the three roof plumbers I am going to call for quotes to get the roof fixed – all go in the book. There are no more scraps of paper in my house. Well, not any which belong to me anyway.

The second use of the book is the TO DO lists. I seem to write a TO DO list about once a week. It's not something I do at a specified time of the week. But it seems to happen about once a week because it takes about a week to clear a list (or to get sick of the sight of the old one!)

My TO DO lists include:

1. People to ring.
2. Emails, letters and (more recently) blog posts to write.
3. Things to prepare (like scripture lessons, Bible studies, meeting preparation).
4. Jobs to do (banking, trips to the post office, birthday presents to buy, specific cooking for events or people and so on).

My TO DO lists don't include

1. Domestic tasks – unless it is going to be a particularly BIG week and things need to be prioritised.
2. Things that happen every day – like making breakfast.
3. Every single little thing.
4. Things I know I am just not going to get to – like defrosting the fridge.

But I have discovered that THANK YOU NOTES do not belong on a TO DO list. After we have attended a lovely event or after being the recipient of a gift or beautiful act of service it often occurs to me that I should write a quick THANK YOU NOTE. So typically Ilook for my book and add this intention to my TO DO list.

Unfortunately in the last month I have missed several opportunities to bless someone with a THANK YOU NOTE. Yes, these opportunities make it onto my TO DO list. But by putting "Write thank you note to..." on the list (to be attended to some time later in the week) the spontaneity and immediacy is lost. And by the time I get around to writing a THANK YOU NOTE on Friday for something (for example) that happened last Sunday – when I will see that person again at church before the postman has had the opportunity to deliver my letter – the moment has passed.

And the ironic thing is that THANK YOU NOTES don't take very long to write if you have a stack of paper, a nice pen, some envelopes and stamps ready on your desk for such moments. It's not quite as quick as noting it on a TO DO list – but it's not far off. And it is far better to act on these opportunities to bless someone who has blessed you rather than seeing good intentions lost to inaction because the period between the event and the letter has become too great.

NOTE TO SELF:If it occurs to me that I should write a THANK YOU NOTE to someone then I will not put it on my TO DO list. I will just write the note – and enjoy the moment.

22 July 2009

New Mercies Every Morning

This morning I woke up before the alarm, felt as though I'd had enough sleep and decided to put this extra time to good use. I got up, put the heater on, made a cup of steaming hot tea and had a glorious, extended time of Bible reading.

It was God's good providence - He clearly knew the encouragement I needed - as I read Psalms 73 through to 84 slowly, carefully and prayerfully. Obviously there is a lot of material in twelve Psalms but of greatest encouragement to me this morning were Psalms 73 and 84 - the bookends of my morning's reading.

Psalm 73 starts:

Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied...

Yes! I was nodding my head. This morning I knew in my head that God is good - but my feet have been slipping. The holidays (ah, the holidays!) were fun but again they saw the predictable loss of routine and my feet were slipping. I found myself envious of people in different situations and circumstances. And envy soon gives way to discontent...

The Psalm continues:

For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from the burdens common to man;
they are not plagued by human ills.

That was the Psalmist's source of envy and he took twenty verses to explain his feelings of indignation, discontent, misery and yes, envy. This may not be the issue that causes your feet to slip but anyone who does find their feet slipping could insert their own twenty verses describing their own situation and how it eats away at them.

I was nodding my head feeling some empathy with the Psalmist's "righteous indignation" and yet feeling rebuked at the same time. But from experience I knew that soon, before the end of this very Psalm, there would be a word of encouragement. And here it is from verse 23 to the end:

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me,
it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

What a beautiful encouragement to get my thoughts away from the things of the world and to turn my compass back towards God.

And so by the time I read Psalm 84 I was truly ready to read verses such as 84:1 and 2:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

and verse 10:

Better to spend one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.


When the morning started at 6am I knew in my head that God is good. By 7:20am I knew that God is good with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

O LORD Almighty
blessed is the one
who trusts in you.
Psalm 84:12

Garden Update # 5

There was a bit of time and a tiny patch of fine weather that allowed for gardening during the school holidays so small progress was made.

Firstly I repositioned the daisies and geraniums in "the patch" (a.k.a. the bed of clay as seen above in its original state) and then dug holes for each of them down to the impenetrable clay. Then I poured in the gypsum and the boys filled the holes with water.

While the water was soaking in we dug a little hole by the fence for a passionfruit vine. I had been musing about growing passionfruit along the fence but it was a long term plan. And then we had a "Bring and Buy" stall at church and someone brought some little pots of passionfruit vines. What's a girl to do but support the cause and buy one? So we popped it in.

Now I have read that passionfruit don't thrive when grown near big trees whose roots will compete and potentially win…but I am giving it a go anyway. And if it doesn't work, the "Bring and Buy" stall made $1 out of me!!

Then I raked the yard and swept the brick paving again. I have a good plan there…I rake or sweep into piles and R gets to earn some money for his piggy bank – 10c for every pile placed into the bin. It works for everyone – he likes wearing my gardening gloves and earning money (I make sure there are at least ten piles so that he gets $1 or more for his efforts) and I am spared the part of that job that I don't enjoy.

By then the water had soaked into the clay taking the gypsum with it and total amazement – five holes in the ground and not crow bar in sight. I LOVE GYPSUM. So we planted the plants and watered them in. And took a photo.

This is the start. There are plans for more plants – rosemary, lavender, and I'm thinking some diosma. But that will come in time as the promised plants and/or the dollars come available.

The boys have expressed an interest in growing corn, carrots and tomatoes. Interesting - because they haven't read my blog so they didn't know there was a vegetable plan. I seem to remember that when I was little we grew corn in the summer. I'll need to check out my timing there. And the section where the corn will go is my first target area for the composting project.

Good work.

19 July 2009

Reading the Bible - Plan B

I try to read right through the Bible each year and I have various reading plans (borrowed and invented) to organise my reading. Last year I embarked on different plan because I wanted to read the gospels more frequently (the reason for that is a post in itself…maybe for another time!) so I devised a plan (Plan A) that enabled me to read through the Old Testament once, the New Testament twice and each of the gospels ten times.

That plan roughly went - OT book, NT book, three Psalms, one gospel, next OT book, next NT book, next three Psalms, next gospel and so on.

I have decided to leave that plan with six months left. I have reached the Prophets…a bit of a biblical black hole for me…and I want to spend some time concentrating on that area.

So one of the things I did during the holidays was to revise my Bible reading plan to the end of 2009.

And here it is...Plan B.

July – finish Proverbs*, Ecclesiastes*, Isaiah, 4 lots of three Psalms & Romans**

August –Song of Songs*, Jeremiah, Lamentations, 4 lots of three Psalms & Romans

September – Ezekeil, Daniel, 4 lots of three Psalms & Romans

October – Hosea through to Micah, 4 lots of three Psalms & Romans

November – Nahum through to Malachi, 4 lots of three Psalms & Romans

December – all four gospels – one a week.

* These OT books aren't part of the writing of the Prophets, but I didn't get to them before the plan changed.
** And Romans is a book of the New Testament.

Plan B achieves the following things…
* Finish off the books I didn't cover from the Old Testament from Plan A so that I've read through the whole Bible over these last two years.
* Finish reading the Psalms – which I read three at a time for a day's reading.
* Spend time reading through all the Prophets – major and minor – at a slightly slower pace. I usually aim for four chapters of the Bible a day but the slower pace will leave some time for some basic reading of commentaries so that I can establish the basics of which prophet goes with which kingdom and king.
* Have five runs through Romans – another biblical black hole!
* December is left free to read through all four gospels in the lead up to Christmas.

Next year, at this stage, I hope to study the Prophets in greater depth again. Between now and 1st January 2010 I will be working out a plan that allows for this but doesn't neglect the rest of the Bible. I'm not sure how that is going to work as yet but I have six months to pray, think and plan that out. No doubt I will keep you posted.

03 July 2009

School's Out

Today is the last day of term and two weeks of school holidays stretches out before me. During the last round of holidays I had some thoughts on how to do school holidays well. (well, things to to remember in order to do them better!) So, here are my thoughts. But please note that this is what suits me – I'm not being directive.

1. Of first importance for me is to maintain starting the day by reading the Bible and praying. I let this slip badly last holidays in favour of staying in bed a bit longer in the mornings. Staying in bed for longer has a short term benefit - that has usually worn off by morning tea time. Starting the day in God's Word and praying for the family has an eternal benefit and better sets the tone for the day.

2. In the early days of settling in have a few structured, at-home activities planned such as cooking, craft or particular games to play and set aside plenty of time to be with the children while they do these activities. This helps facilitate getting the children to remember how to be together again, if that is required. I also think having a couple of fresh, structured, parent-directed activities up your sleeve for the end of the holidays when it is becoming clear that every one is ready for school to start again is also useful.
3. No friends over to play for the first few days until everyone is used to each other again and has learned how to share the space, the toys and the parents again.

4. School holidays - not the time to attempt spring cleaning. Keep housework to a bare minimum – the children are just going to mess it all up anyway with their holiday projects and games. Not doing housework allows for more time with the children.
5. The pattern of out in the morning and home in the afternoon seems to work well.

6. Going away for some of the time is always good. And make sure about three quarters of the packing is stuff for the children – games, sports equipment, DVDs, diversions of all kinds, favourite blankie, favourite soft toy. The happier the children, the happier the parents.

7. Not too much screen time (except if mummy is going crazy and needs respite!)

8. Cubby houses! Outside, inside, in a different room every day with different furniture, blankets and so on. Endless fun creating them and endless fun playing with the same toys in a different setting. And a cool place to eat snacks and lunch!

9. An hour after lunch devoted to quiet time – naps, quiet play in one's room, quiet reading – self generated, quiet activity in one's own space for children and for mummy! And as the children get older me thinks this should be devoted to reading…but mine are not quite old enough for this. (I'm shooting for the ideal here. I don't necessarily manage it!)

10. For me, no blogging during the holidays. This makes concentrating on the family easier and provides me with some clear time to think about what I might write about next term.

And so I will be back around about the 20th July. Have a great couple of weeks whether this time finds you at work or at play.

Love Meredith xxx

01 July 2009

Do Thy Work

Troubled soul, thou art not bound to feel, but thou art bound to arise. God loves thee whether thou feelest or not. … Try not to feel good when thou art not good, but cry to Him who is good. He changes not because thou changest. Nay, he has an especial tenderness of love towards thee for that thou art in the dark and hast no light, and his heart is glad when thou dost arise and say, "I will go to my Father." For he sees thee through all the gloom through which thou canst not see him. Will thou his will. Say to him: "My God, I am very dull and low and hard; but thou art wise and high and tender, and thou art my God. I am thy child. Forsake me not." Then fold the arms of thy faith, and wait in quietness until light goes up in thy darkness. Fold the arms of thy Faith I say, but not of thy Action: bethink thee of something that thou oughtest to do, and go and do it, if it be but the sweeping of a room, or the preparing of a meal, or a visit to a friend. Heed not thy feelings: Do thy work.

From "Unspoken Sermons" by George MacDonald.