31 January 2010

45 Days

Forty five days ago school finished for the year.  Tomorrow marks the beginning of the new school year.  It's been a lovely summer.  Here are 45 glimpses of the last 45 days...
  1. Went on a bus trip through the city a week before Christmas to see the Christmas lights with thirty five others from our church.
  2. Celebrated Christmas wonderfully.
  3. Finished my Christmas cards on the 30th December and proved once and for all that if you keep saying, "It's OK, tomorrow night's free, I'll do some then," continuously between 1st and 20th December, then yes, you will finish your Christmas cards just before New Year!
  4. Celebrated my birthday over several days and lovely occasions.
  5. Bought a new washing machine.  The old one finally gave up the ghost just in time for the post Christmas sales! And the 6kg one I ended up choosing uses half the water and has two more stars for energy efficiency than the 7.5kg I intended to buy.  Who needs an extra 1.5kgs anyway?? 
  6. Went to Rottnest Island for a day to hang out with friends holidaying over there.
  7. Went to Moore River and stayed there with good friends for three days.
  8. Saw the totally miss-able "Alvin and the Chipmunks" at the movies.
  9. Saw seven growling, big, robotic dinosaurs at the museum.  Expensive but worthwhile.
  10. Watched R pass to the next stage in swimming lessons.
  11. Spent good time with friends who were in town from Adelaide and Manchester.
  12. Farewelled friends who have moved to the opposite end of the state.  Sob sob...
  13. Swam in the ocean at different points along the coast and in four different swimming pools.
  14. Cleaned the gutters against torrential rain from summer storms to avoid a leaking roof.
  15. Joined Facebook.  I seem to go mad in January.  I started to blog last January!
  16. Listened to good talks and music on my iPod while hand watering the lawn and watching swimming lessons.
  17. Ate out at two different Thai restaurants.  I went to one of them twice!!
  18. Made it through several days over 40 degrees celsius, including three in a row at one stage.
  19. Went to a university graduation ceremony.
  20. Did sufficient housework - but I now face some catching up.
  21. Started a new Bible reading plan.
  22. Put my new bird bath in the garden.  It was great to watch a honey eater having a play in the water yesterday while I had my quiet time.
  23. Kept my pots of herbs alive...although the parsley is looking a little worse for wear.  The hydrangea however will need major TLC if it is going to see another Christmas - I have new pot ready to improve its life.
  24. Met a blogging buddy in real life.  That was fun.
  25. Watched some fireworks on Australia Day.
  26. Ate lots of Asian-style, mayo-free coleslaw.
  27. Read five sevenths of The Narnia Chronicles.
  28. Got a third column on my blog.  Thanks Sharon!!
  29. Went through three tubes of sunscreen.
  30. Only got a tiny bit sunburnt once.
  31. Spring cleaned my desk.  It's good to be able to breathe again.
  32. Notched up 25 years since I got my driver's licence.
  33. Joined the Calvin Club
  34. Watched "Ice Age 3" a lot.  And "Aladdin" quite a lot.
  35. Made only slow progress on "West Wing."
  36. Watched several movies on DVD with my husband.  My favourite was "Night at the Museum". It was really funny. 
  37. Declared 2010 to be the Year of the Roast.  Just waiting for the weather to cool down and a moment to start reading the Jamie Oliver books.
  38. Bought new Colorado sandals with some Christmas money from my mum.
  39. Went to Ikea to buy four kilograms of meatballs.  There are a few meals in a hurry and unexpected dinner guests sorted out for the next little while.
  40. Speaking of food, learned how to delicately pan fry salmon.  A delicious, summer holiday treat.
  41. Worked out that I can probably blog more often than just once a week during January but am absolutely certain I will only be able to blog once a week (or even less) during December.
  42. Taught N to write his name just in time for Kindy.
  43. Enjoyed slower, later mornings and correspondingly later evenings.  Shall have to reign that in pretty soon.  Well, immediately actually.
  44. In preparation for tomorrow, labelled a great number of pencils, textas and other items of stationery and covered a few books too.  The whole process took THREE episodes of "West Wing" (which was the first real progress I've made in that department for a while - see # 35) although I suspect it may have gone a little faster were I NOT watching West Wing while I was doing it.
  45. Thought lots about what I will do when N is at Kindy two days a week this year.
So summer's over.  Time for the year to begin!

30 January 2010

Two Public Service Announcements

1.  To fellow bloggers...some time last year I wrote a post lamenting the fact that aspects of Blogger are quite problematic, like the way it adds lines between paragraphs at will and how hard it is to put photos into the text without it rearranging the format.  Well, I discovered the other day that Blogger has updated its editor and the new one is much, MUCH more useful.  It gives you more options (like easy strike through) and downloading photos and rearranging them is now a snap.  Even for me.  So look for the spot where you get to update it (sorry, I can't remember where I found it...see, I am really hopeless...but it isn't too hard to find because I managed to find it) and go for it.  It will make your blogging life much easier.

2.  To the dear folk who subscribe to this blog via email...as soon as I have published this post I am going to get rid of this means of subscribing on my sidebar because I have some unhappy issues with Feedburner.  As I don't know enough about all of this, I don't know if it will affect your subscription or not.  It may be that you have control over your subscription.  If that is the case, I am happy for you to keep receiving posts from this blog via email but this facility won't be available to anyone else.  Subscriptions, if you like to read blogs this way, will need to via Google (or some other) reader.  Otherwise, just keep clicking on my actual blog and see it in its natural setting. 

Thanks.  Mxx

25 January 2010

Happy First Birthday to The Key to the Door

When I first started this blog, my dear friend Helen was the first person to leave a comment. She said,

"The pressure is on me leaving the FIRST comment for it to be significant! I am sooooo excitied for you Meredith to enter the world of blogging. I hope it brings as much thought, friendship, growth and amusement in your blogging life as it has in mine. Looking foward to sharing the Year of Optimism with you!"

At the time I was so excited to actually get a comment on my blog that I didn't fully appreciate what she had written.  But a year down the track I can safely say that Helen was absolutely correct.  A year of blogging has brought thought, friendship, growth and amusement in truckloads. 

As I reflect on one year of blogging I am thankful for
  • a place to write and think, especially about the most important things of all...the things of God.
  • the accountability to keep reading my Bible and other good books that being in blogosphere has provided.
  • the encouragement I've received from dear friends via the comments, emails, letters and things you've said to me in person.  I have been blessed with so many kind words about my ramblings.
  • the new friends I have made - through our comment pages, some who I am now in contact with via email, a handful for whom it is my privilege to pray and one I am looking forward to meeting later this week!  It is great to be a part of this community.  Thank you.
  • and yes...it's just been a hoot.  For example, if you actually saw our "garden" you would realise how funny it is that, to date, I have NINE posts labelled "How does my garden grow"!  And this post was pretty funny too.
The first year has been an absolute joy.  Thank you for travelling with me.  Now, onto the second year!

24 January 2010

Lists too Good not to Share # 4 - Blessing Missionaries

This is my last list and no, it isn't Monday. But tomorrow I have something else I need to post.

Do you know any missionaries? Or at the very least, do you know of any missionaries? They are ordinary people who eat, sleep, have families, do a job, try to work hard at their relationship with God and at their relationships with one another under God. But as it happens they work in a foreign setting. Sometimes their work is a direct ministry. Sometimes they do a mainstream job and seek to be Christian in how they work and live. Another feature of missionaries is that they have left their homes, families, friends and churches to do this. It is good work but it can be isolating work. So here is a great list from the Desiring God website of 13 ways to bless a missionary without paying for postage - which will surely appeal because I know there are some of you out there who don't like writing letters!! And the good thing is that you don't have to wait until Christmas to have a go at one of these...each of them will work and be gratefully received any time of the year.

This list is again presented to you with full permission and as per their request, I have copied the article in full which was originally from here.

Were you unable to send a Christmas present or care package to some missionaries you love this season? It’s okay. You can still bless a missionary this Christmas.

[Update: It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway—even though Christmas is past, these ideas can still encourage our friends overseas. Let's keep serving them all year long!]

Here are 13 post-office-free ideas to get you started, most of which you could do right now from your desk:

1. Pray specific Scripture for them and their ministry, and then email it to them.

2. Call or email their parents—Christmas might be just as lonely for the ones at home as the ones away.

3. Purchase phone minutes for an international calling card through an online service like OneSuite and email them the account number.
4. Donate frequent flier miles to them.
5. Purchase an iTunes gift card for them. Have it sent to you and email them the account number.
6. Commit to pray for them on a specific day of the week for a year.
7. Write a song or poem or story for them. Email them the text and a recording of you reading or singing it.
8. Get friends and family together to create a holiday video greeting for them using Google Video or YouTube. Include lots of people you know they miss.
9. Make a year-end gift through their missions board or agency.
10. Western Union—the fastest way to send money.
11. Call their local florist (not everyone is in the jungle these days) and have flowers delivered, or their local Pizza Hut and have pizza delivered—with corn and shrimp as toppings!
12. Donate to a charity that means a lot to them.
13. Make a monthly commitment to support them financially.
If you have your own ideas, respond to this post and let us know what they are. Maybe next year we can offer 50 suggestions, or 100.

(Remember to use discernment in written or video communication if your missionaries work in security-sensitive locations.)

" Copyright 2007 Desiring God. Used by permission."

And here is another similar list, this time from the Gospel Coalition Blog, which does include a visit to the post office!

21 January 2010

Dishonesty at the Pool

I've spent each morning for the last two weeks watching children doing their swimming lessons in what is a great Western Australian tradition - Vac Swim - two weeks of lessons for a $1 a day during the summer holidays. Vac Swim has been around for seventy one years now.

Sitting on the sidelines watching the boys have their lessons brought back memories of the Vac Swim lessons I took as a child. The terror of learning to dive and having to duck dive for the teacher's whistle in the deep end of the big pool.  The joy of being allowed to buy a packet of potato chips from the vending machine after the last lesson. Coming home with another certificate having passed the next stage. Green hair and red, stinging eyes from the chlorine.

And today, as one of the boys was tested to see if he will pass his current stage, I remembered how I fudged my way through not one but two swimming tests.  The first was in the very early stages.  We were required to swim freestyle across the width of the pool - eight lanes in all.  I could do the arms.  I could do the kicking.  I could turn my head to the side every second stroke to facilitate breathing.  But I just couldn't manage to take a breath!  And so when being tested, I took in a huge lungful of air and swam as fast as I could to the other side.  It all looked OK and I made it to the other side, lungs bursting. 

I passed.  (Without passing out!!)

Much later down the track when I doing life saving lessons, one of the things required of us was to demonstrate resuscitation.  Every time we practised this we did it for two minutes, pretending to resuscitate a partner, who would count how many cycles we went through.  One breath every five seconds...two minutes...twenty four breaths.  Text book.  When it came to the test, my partner counting my cycles, I got to twenty four and then thirty six.  I thought I must be going way too fast...nerves during the exam!  And so I whispered to my partner that she should say, when asked at the end of the exercise, that I had done twenty four cycles.  And then I revised that to thirty when time seemed to drag on. 

Examiner:  How many cycles did Meredith do?
Partner:  Thirty.
Examiner to Meredith: That seems very slow.  Show me what you were doing.
Meredith demonstrates perfectly timed cycles every five seconds.
Examiner: You must have been going a bit slowly or maybe your partner didn't count correctly.  I did let the exercise go on for a few minutes.  (Meredith did not correct this situation and defend her partner who, at the age of twelve or there abouts, could of course count to forty eight.)  But you seem to be doing just fine now.

And I passed.

So naughty!!

"Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity.  Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin."  Leviticus 19:35,36a 

18 January 2010

Lists too Good not to Share # 3

Are you getting ready to start a new Bible study group for the year? Here is a fantastic list of questions I found here on Jean's blog In All Honesty that could be used to help your group get to know each other. You write each question on a separate piece of paper, fold the pieces of paper up and put them in a bowl. Members of your group take turns to choose a question and answer it. Or you could choose five questions and get everyone to answer each of them and do this over several weeks. It's great! I used these questions last year in a group I ran and it really helped ease some "new group nerves."

This list is copied with full permission. Here it is...

How did you become a Christian?
Name one film or book that you hated and explain why.
Who was the best teacher you had at school and why?
What is one of your favourite parts of the Bible?
What is you favourite ice-cream flavour?
If you were an animal, which animal would you be?
What is one of your favourite songs we sing at church?
Tell us about one time when you were really scared.
What is one thing you think you are very good at?
What's the most important thing that happened to you this week?
I've always wanted to...
The person in my family that I get along best with is...
What was one of the nicest presents you ever received?
If I could be an animal, I'd be a...
Tell how you are feeling today in the form of a weather report.
If you could go anywhere in the world for a holiday, where would it be?
One of the hardest things I have ever done is...
I'm most aware of God's presence when...
Three things that make me angry are...
Three things that make me happy are...
An embarrassing moment...
Three of my favourite films are...
My favorite tv show is...
If I could be one fictional character who would it be and why?
A talent or skill I have is...
Something I’m not good at but would like to be is...
On the way to this meeting, I was feeling...
Introvert or extravert? And would you change?
The first album I ever bought was...
My first job was... And I was paid...
My favorite pizza topping is...
Tell us something about the shoes you're wearing.
Who is your favorite super hero and why?
What would your family say you're like first thing in the morning?
What’s your favourite room in the house and why?
What's the weirdest thing you eat at home?
What is a Christian book you have enjoyed? (not including the Bible)
Name a Christian leader or historical figure you admire.
If you could have a full day at home by yourself what would you do?
Which fruit of the Spirit do you struggle with most?
What is something goofy that another family member does that makes you laugh?
What is one habit you just can’t break?
What is one thing your parents did for you that you are really grateful for?
What is one naughty thing you did when you were little?
A toy I really liked playing with when I was little was...
A film or book that really made me laugh was...
Name two of your favourite film stars.
Tell us about something you collect.
Can you think of one thing you might be doing differently if you weren’t a Christian?

11 January 2010

Lists too Good not to Share # 2 - Reading

Until February I am only posting on Mondays and will be showcasing some helpful lists I found on other people's blogs during 2009.
The series is called "Lists too Good not to Share."
I have received full and direct permission to reproduce these lists here from the owners of the blogs who originally featured them.

Did one of your New Year's resolutions have something to do with reading? Reading more? Or getting started on some solid reading perhaps? Two weeks into the new year is your resolve weakening?

Here is an inspiring list all about reading that encourages and enthuses - a distillation by Justin Taylor from Between Two Worlds of some longer posts by one Professor Bruce Ashford.

On “what” to read:

1. Guard your time in the Scriptures.
2. Avoid limiting yourself by era, tribe, or category.
3. Reading the great authors is more helpful than reading a great number of books.
4. Make a list of categories and read a selected number of books each year, in each category.
5. Read a few select journals and magazines.

On “how” to read:

1. If you would like to become a disciplined reader, you probably need to make a plan.
2. Figure out your “reading style.”
3. Always carry a book.
4. If possible, drink and read at the same time.

On “why” to read, suggesting that reading does the following:

1. Sharpens the mind.
2. Exercises the mind.
3. Gives one something about which to converse.
4. Allows one to “travel” to other times and places.
5. Reduces stress.
6. Provides an inexpensive and low maintenance form of entertainment.

Doesn't that make you want to make a cup of tea and find a good book? To that end, I have updated my reading list for 2010 on my sidebar. Now, where is that book?

04 January 2010

Lists too Good not to Share # 1 - Hospitality Questions

Until February I am only posting on Mondays and will be showcasing some helpful lists I found on other people's blogs during 2009.
The series is called "Lists too Good not to Share."
I have received full and direct permission to reproduce these lists here from the owners of the blogs who originally featured them.

The summer holidays are in full swing here in my neck of the southern hemisphere. There are plenty of opportunities to be inviting people over for a relaxed meal during the warm evenings. So here is a fantastic list of questions to help with meaningful conversation over all sorts of dinner occasions, written by Nancy Rogers and first posted at the Girl Talk website here.

Questions to Get to Know People Better

1. Where did you grow up?
2. Where did you go to school and what did you study?
3. How did you meet your spouse and how long have you been married?
4. What dreams do you have for the future?
5. What is one thing you have never done that you wish you could do?
6. What is the most important thing you have accomplished in your life?
7. What do you enjoy doing with your spare time?
8. If you could do anything other than what you are doing now, what would you do?
9. Ask questions about their work, their kids, where they like to take holidays or their favorite foods.
10. What books are they currently reading?

Questions for Biblical Fellowship

1. What is one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year and what are you doing to this end?
3. Who is one person you would like to spend time with asking questions about their relationship with the Lord?
4. What is one new way you could help strengthen the church?
5. What is one thing you could do to improve your prayer life?
6. What habit would you most like to establish this year?
7. Who do you most want to encourage this year?
8. What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?
9. In what area of your life do you most need growth and what will you do about it?
10. What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year?

Questions to Get to Know Internationals Better

1. What country are you from?
2. Can you describe your daily life and family traditions in your home country?
3. What was your education like and what are your interests?
4. What are your impressions of our country?
5. Were you brought up in a religious home?
6. What foods are unique to your country and what food from our country do you enjoy?
7. Would you teach me a few words in your native language?
8. Are there any questions you would like to ask me?
9. What are your special holidays and how do you celebrate them?
10. Is there any way I can serve you?

01 January 2010

Forget Biodiversity! 2010 is the Year of...

...the Roast.

Some people seem to think that cooking a roast is the easiest meal to prepare under the sun. I can roast meat. Especially lamb. And I can sort of roast vegetables, although the potatoes aren't necessarily cooked all the way through every time. Timing the vegies is tricky. And getting all the vegies AND the meat cooked and ready to be eaten at the same time...well, that's quite a feat. I CAN make gravy. Real gravy using the pan juices, a little flour and a few secret ingredients. I used to make the gravy every Sunday when I was growing up. Problem is, when I was making the gravy back then I wasn't responsible for the rest of the roast dinner. Just the gravy. And then there is one more thing. It's not just the meat and the vegies and the gravy. It's then getting myself to the dinner table with the roast looking like it was a breeze. No stress.

Roasts are such an economical way to feed guests. I've just got to master this skill.

2010 is The Year of the Roast.

I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, feel free to give me ALL your favourite tips. I want to know EVERYTHING.