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

29 October 2009

A Good First Impression - The Visual

I'm not the most visually aware person in the world. If something is not right, I am more likely to pick it up by the tone of your voice rather than your appearance - by the dynamics between the people in your home rather than the state of your home. I'm quite a perceptive person, but making use of visual cues is not dominant in my armoury of perception.

However I have learned that this is not so for all people. I have a friend named Helen who is very visually aware. One peek at her blog and you will see why. Helen's world is all about colour and form and balance and beauty. Where my table has battered old placemats and this morning's crumbs from the toast, Helen's table has a quilted table runner and a scented candle burning. Helen is a very grounded, practical person. But the visual impression is important.

And time spent with Helen is rubbing off on me. I realise that even though the visual aspect is not going to feature strongly for me as I form first impressions, this is not so for all people! So maybe we are not creating a good first impression at my place given that when we open the door to you, this is the first thing you will see.

Yep! Three new loos!*
And as you enter and your eyes are averted to the right (having recovered from the initial shock of our indoor water feature) you notice this disaster area...

What a mess! And actually, you don't have to come inside to have your eyes assaulted. Take a look at this "garden bed" right next to our letterbox.

So to show that I am committed to working on this creating a good first impression thing, I am launching a new list in my sidebar...The "Creating a Good Visual First Impression" TO DO List. You can keep an eye on it and see how we are progressing. Mind you, it is lurking quite low on my sidebar at this point, which could cause some to question my commitment to this task...

* Even though the sight of three toilets in our entrance hall is shocking, it does create rather good talking point and it has certainly proved to be a fantastic icebreaker when new people come to visit.

26 October 2009

A Good First Impression - The Relational

Remember the days before computers? Maybe you don't! (If you don't, please don't tell me because that will just make me feel old!) In those days if you were at university you'd work hard at writing out assignments and essays VERY neatly because a good clean assignment created a good first impression on the marker. No, they weren't supposed to mark papers based on presentation - but a marker would be happier about looking at an essay if it didn't look like chicken scrawl. This is the silent power of a good first impression.

We all know about the importance of creating a good first impression. It is widely known that interviewers have often made up their minds about whether or not we will get the job within the first five minutes of the interview. If we get the job then there's that moment we step foot into our new workplace and meet our new colleagues for the first time. And how about the moment when we meet those two particular people...the folk we hope one day will be our parents-in-law? These are the moments in life when we choose our clothes, words and demeanour very carefully.

Those big moments of creating a good first impression fortunately don't come along too often. Just as well - I don't think I could cope with the stress! But there are good first impression moments to be seized upon in every day life too. And making use of them can make a big difference in our relationships.

Here are some daily "first impression" moments that come to mind...

* Greeting my family first thing in the morning.
* Greeting someone who knocks on my door.
* Walking into church on Sunday.
* Entering a room to join a group of friends.
* Answering the telephone. (My dear sister thinks the manner in which I answer the phone is way too officious!)
* Smiling and saying a warm hello to the person who is about to serve you in a shop.
* Greeting my husband when he comes home from work.

There is a bit of theme here - greetings. We set the tone for time spent relating with people in the way we greet them. A greeting marks a fresh start in a new round of interactions. It is a small but significant opportunity to create a new first impression.

At one time I worked with a teacher whose husband frequently collected her from work. I noticed that she always greeted him with a warm, "I'm really pleased to see you" smile. Always. It didn't matter what sort of day it had been. I observed that she would actually prepare herself for this daily after-work greeting. She would see him approach, pause, take a deep breath (especially if it had been a bad day) and prepare her demeanour to ensure that the first contact with her beloved was warm, genuine and loving.

I am not suggesting that we walk about the place with false, plastic smiles on our faces all the time. If things are bad then things are bad. But except for the really patient souls amongst us, don't we weary of the one who greets us with a downcast expression every time or who answers the phone with a sigh every time? We are worn down before we even start.

Back to that teacher. I am sure it wouldn't have been too long into the journey home and she would have been telling her husband about the good, the bad and the ugly of her day. But I am also sure that he would have been ready to listen to her, no matter what she had to say, because she had created a good first impression - a warmth and respect - that invited relationship.

The quality and mutuality of our communications can be greatly enhanced when we start on the right foot...if we create a good first impression that says something about valuing the relationship. All it takes is pausing to think, taking a deep breath if necessary, smiling and saying hello with some warmth. Just as an interview can go so much better for putting in the preparation to create a good first impression.

By the way, in my final year of university I invested in a Canon portable electric typewriter. It cost me a fortune in the one-use-only disposable ribbon cartridges and as I couldn't touch type at the time, a 3000 word essay took FOREVER to type up. But I'd say there was a good 10% increase in my marks. Nothing like a good first impression, even for an essay!

23 October 2009

Bursting with Thanksgiving


To be bursting with thanksgiving is a true witness of the Spirit within us. For the voice of thanksgiving speaks without ceasing of the goodness of God. It claims nothing. It sees no merit in man’s receiving but only in God’s giving. It marvels at his mercy. It is the language of joy because it need look no longer to its own resources.

The Christian rejoicing in this blessing of a thankful heart will have his eyes fixed upon the right person and the right place, Christ at God’s right hand. He cannot be taken up with himself without being immediately reminded that everything he possesses is the gift of God.

From R.C. Lucas, The Message of Colossians and Philemon (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 1980), 93-94

21 October 2009

Some more Holiday Survival Tips

While "The One to Whom I Will Look" was quietly unfolding we had a week away on holidays.
Here's a peek.

This patch of forest was one block away from where we stayed.

As well as forests, there were many beautiful beaches. We went for a swim most afternoons here.

Well, the boys splashed around in the ocean, my husband went in once and otherwise we adults stood at the water's edge, ankle deep, watching the boys...the ocean, straight off the Antarctic in October is no place for me!

We took the boys to a farm for some up close and personal time with all sorts of groovy farm animals.

And one afternoon we walked along a skinny bush track down a valley into the most amazing karri forest. I gave the boys the camera to keep them amused while I just stood there, breathed deeply and marvelled at God's creation.

This trip away helped me to further refine my top ten tips for surviving school holidays, with particulare reference to trips away.

So here are five additional holiday tips when travelling away from home.

1. If booking a holiday house on the computer, don't be tricked by photos on the internet. Some clever photography could potentially make what is in actual fact an average house look amazing!

2. If the holiday house you have chosen has bottled gas for cooking, heating and keeping the showers hot, check that the spare bottle actually has gas in it when you arrive. Give yourself plenty of time to work out a contingency plan before all the gas runs out (on the weekend), especially if the spare bottle is empty and especially if you know the owners of the house are overseas!

3. If you have room in the car (and we did because for the first time in six years we didn't pack a portacot, pram or stroller in the boot!) take your favourite kitchen knives, tea pot, coffee pot and mugs for happy food preparation and lovely moments with good tea and coffee in just the right cup. Holiday house cups are notoriously chunky and that just won't do!!

4. Bring pre-cooked meals. A bit before you leave on holiday, when you cook a lasagna, cook two and freeze one. And a curry. And a meal's worth of bolognese sauce. And a casserole. Take them all with you (frozen and in a good esky) and then you don't have to worry about cooking while you are away. (I didn't actually do this but a friend of mine who has also been on holidays recently did - and if you aren't travelling too far I think this has merit.)

5. And the big budgetting tip...When having lunch at the country town bakery just buy one sausage roll for the two small boys to share. If they eat it all and are still hungry (leaving space for the meringues - and a even an enormous meringue doesn't take up that much room) you can always buy a second sausage roll. Buying them a sausage roll each up front means that you effectively throw away a whole sausage roll between the two of them if a parent doesn't want to eat the leftovers. (And there isn't much to commend a half eaten, cold sausage roll - even to the most seasoned of parents.)