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

31 December 2010

2010 in lists

At the beginning of 2010 I joined Facebook.  An application popped up recently that allowed you to discover which ten words you used most frequently during the year.  My top ten were...

1:  Tea 
(I have had one of those "Quote a day" calendars dedicated to tea on my fridge this year.  Couldn't help but share a few of the gems found there in, although when this list came up I did wonder about have "Tea" before "God"!)
2:  God
3:  Jesus
4:  Reading
5:  School
6:  Book
7:  Club
(Frequent references to The Calvin Club and yes Cathy, I am back on board for 2011!!  I have one bookmark at Chapter 10 and another at Chapter 12...)
8:  Bible
9:  Great
10: Happy

What then is the view of 2010 from surveying this blog?  Apart from the various posts where I signed off from blogging (not once but twice...ridiculous...just ignore it if I do that again!), here are the posts that generated the most comments this year...

1. A Difficult transition
2. Epiphany
3. God is always good
4. How I won the vegie war
5. Highlights from Raising Boys
6. Meredith - Masterchef for the month of May
7. The year of the roast - 30th March 2010

The major decision that dominated the first half of the year, parenting, reading, cooking, reflecting on God.  These posts didn't just rise to the surface because of the number of comments either.  Apart from some of the lists that I have on my sidebar, the Stat Counter suggests that these are the ones that people seem to revisit the most.

In our annual family Christmas letter we each listed our top five highlights of the year.  Mine were...

1. Attending not one but TWO symphony concerts during the year, one of which included the most perfect performance you’ll ever hear of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 – “The Emperor” – with soloist French pianist François-Frédéric Guy.
2. The family holiday on Rottnest Island. Finding two baby mice having a party in our food box one morning was funny. Sitting on the beach with [one of our sons], sheltering from the rain under beach towels was gorgeous.
3. Being a member of the “Taste Test Team” for an edition of an Australian cooking magazine – which entailed testing four recipes and writing reviews – and receiving a Kenwood hand mixer for those efforts. The Pears in Parchment were truly excellent!
4. Rediscovering the joy of reading again. Fifteen books – a mix of fiction and non-fiction - under the belt for 2010. Looking forward to another fifteen (or more) in 2011.
5. Drinking tea – with [my husband] (while he had coffee!), with friends and family, while reading the Bible in the morning – good to have the time to drink the tea hot in good company and to get to the bottom of the cup for the first time in a few years.

In lots of ways these three lists wrap the year up pretty well.  Of course there were many other things that don't rise to the surface because maybe they happen in some form every year - or they can't rise to the surface because they just aren't my stories to tell...

1. The deepening of relationships with others here on earth and with God.
2. The stuff of family life.
3. Meeting new friends and farewelling others to other parts of the world and to heaven.
4. The handful of particularly good Scripture lessons.
5. The a-HA moments during personal prayer and Bible reading.
6. The privilege of walking alongside others practically and prayerfully as they circumnavigated the year in all its joys and tragedies, that in turn shaped my own life.
7. The letters penned and received.

These lists lean mostly towards the positive and don't give audience to the harder times of the year, which, like every year, were there.  Every year will bring good times and hard times - sometimes driven by circumstance and sometimes by attitude.  I am thanking God for 2010 and praying to grow in grace - to be genuinely grateful for the good times that lay ahead and to travel the tough times that will also come in a way that honours God all through the new year ahead.

But I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands.
Psalm 31:14,15a

25 December 2010

Christmas Day 2010

Merry Christmas.
May you wonder afresh at Immanuel - God with us - as we celebrate the birth of God's precious Son,
our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
today.
And thank you for reading my blog this year.  I love it when you come and visit.
Love Meredith xx

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 4:5-11

24 December 2010

Advent 2010 # 4 - An Advent Basket

One aspect of Advent is that sense of waiting, of hopeful anticipation.  And one of the things that has filled me with joyful anticipation during Advent this year is knowing that a very dear friend of mine will find out tomorrow morning that this basket, which she received at the end of November...

All wrapped up

...was from me.  I first read about the idea of Advent baskets on Molly Piper's blog and was further encouraged when Cathy picked up and ran with the idea.  And so I made one too - a basket of 25 small gifts, one to be opened each day in December, leading up to Christmas.
 
These baskets can operate along the lines of Advent calendars with daily Bible readings pointing to the birth of Christ.  My way of incorporating that aspect was to make a copy of Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus as the first gift to be unwrapped.  After that, the emphasis was on little, happy gifts - to help with the preparations for Christmas (cards, pens, ribbons), things to ease the stress of December (tea leaves, candles, lollies), a few Christmas-y things (magnets, decorations, Christmas cooking bits and pieces) and towards the end, things ready for summer holidays (lotions and potions and grown up, nice sunscreen).  The final gift was a copy of Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, which is the Easter companion to Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, because without Christmas there is no Easter.

What was under all the wrapping paper
The basket was delivered to my sweet friend via a long and winding road of people.  She has no idea it was from me.  So much so that when I spoke to her on the phone about a week ago she told me all about it.  I was delighted to hear her talk - it has blessed her in all the ways I hoped it would, giving a little light each day in what has otherwise been a pretty dark end to a dark year - and I was so glad that she couldn't see my face as she was speaking.  It has blessed her but it has also blessed me.  It has been fun thinking of her opening a new parcel each day, finding joy in the daily surprises, wondering where they came from and it has reminded me to keep her in my prayers.

And so tomorrow Advent becomes Christmas Day.  The waiting is over.  My friend will know who gave her the Advent basket because I wrote her a letter with the last gift.  I will get to talk to her about the joy it has given me.  And together we will rejoice.

18 December 2010

Week three in "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus"

Advent reading
From Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. (pages 97 and 98)

People love to celebrate.  People love to break from the routine of life and celebrate.  All over the world right now lights are strung and special music is being broadcast and  trees are decorated and gifts have been lovingly purchased and lavish feasts are being prapared.  The curse over C.S. Lewis' land of Narnia was that it was always winter but never Christmas.  What monotony and tedium and bleak weariness!  Life must be punctuated with celebration.  It's a universal human impulse.  And where did this inclination come from?  God created us this way. "What is the chief end of man?" the Westminster Catechism asks.  'Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever."  Now, that is celebrating worthy of the name!

...Whether we have a silly reason or a solid reason, we will celebrate, because God made us this way.  And we who belong to Jesus have powerful reasons to celebrate.  God has come to us.  God has shown that this life is not the only life we will ever know, and that this world is not the only reality we will ever experience.  God has thrown open the gates of heaven to us through Christ his Son.  We have seen the celebration going on within those gates.  And that's where we're headed."

From Joni Eareckson Tada (page 137)

On this side of eternity, Christmas is still a promise.  Yes, the Saviour has come, and with him peace on earth, but the story is not finished.  Yes, there is peace in our hearts, but we long for peace in our world.

Every Christmas is still a "turning of the page" until Jesus returns.  Every December 25 marks another year that draws us closer to the fulfillment of the ages, that draws us closer to...home.

When we realise that Jesus is the answer to our deepest longing, even Christmas longings, each Advent brings us closer to his glorious return to earth.   When we see him as he is, King of kings and Lord of lords, that will be "Christmas" indeed!

14 December 2010

Advent 2010 #3 - Presents


Image from here
Here is a really great idea that a very dear friend of mine shared with me last week - which I share with permission.  She is going to write out key Christmas Bible verses on small pieces of card and stick them on a few of the Christmas presents under her tree - each one to be read out before the present is opened,  to remind everyone about Jesus in the midst of the wrapping paper frenzy.  Genius.  I think it would be exasperating to have too many, but maybe six or eight verses all up might be great - one or two each depending on the size of your family. 

I am thinking that I might do this by starting with a long strip of cardboard and dividing it into eight sections, cutting it out like a jigsaw.  The verses will end up being read out in a random order (unless I organise some very fancy way of ordering how presents are opened...probably not...) but we can collect the jigsaw pieces up as we go.  Then maybe on Boxing Day we can put the jigsaw together and read through the sequence one more time before the Christmas story is packed away until next year.

As I think about it, this might be a great idea for a Sunday School activity for this coming week.  Each child can make a set of jigsaw pieces and give them to their parents to attach to the gifts under their own trees.  Must get that organised before Sunday. 

11 December 2010

Week two in "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus"

Advent reading
From J.I Packer (page 71)

This Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity - hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory - because at the Father's will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross.  It is the most wonderful message the world had ever heard, or will hear.

From Randy Alcorn (page 89)

As we gaze on nativity scenes and smile at those gunnysack shepherds, let's not lose sight of the striking irony.  A handful of shepherds, marginalized by the social and religious elite, were chosen to break the silence of centuries, heralding Messiah's birth.

04 December 2010

From "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" this week

Advent reading
From George Whitefield (page 12)

"And as, my brethren, the time for keeping this festival is approaching, let us consider our duty in the true observation thereof, of the right way for the glory of God, and the good of immortal souls, to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; an event which ought to be had in eternal remembrance." 

From Martin Luther (page 26)

"We must both read and meditate upon the nativity.  If the meditation does not reach the heart, we shall sense no sweetness, nor shall we know what solace for humankind lies in this contemplation.  The heart will not laugh nor be merry.  As spray does not touch the deep, so mere meditation will not quiet the heart.  There is such richness and goodness in this nativity that if we should see and deeply understand, we should be dissolved in perpetual joy."

01 December 2010

Advent 2010 #2 - Craft


I have been inspired by the lovely Ali to have a go at making some of these...


So, you will need...
red and green cellophane
pipe cleaners (red or green - or gold - half a pipe cleaner per decoration)
jaffas - three per decoration
mint leaves - two per decoration


Cut the cellophane into squares, allowing at least an inch border right around each lolly.


Twist the cellophane around each lolly.  Or invite a friend over to do the twisting bit for you...


...which will leave you free to work some magic with the pipecleaners.  First take three wrapped jaffas and bind them together with the pipecleaner.


Add one mint leaf...


...and then the other.



Secure tightly with the pipecleaner, and there you have it!  Sweet little table decorations.



And if you get a friend to help, you can make lots and lots of them, in the time it takes to watch a DVD together.


Enough to give away as sweet little treats for the children in my Scripture classes at school today.