Monday, June 30, 2014

For all of you who suffer from Frozen songs

Oh.  Yeah.  I respond to this clip from somewhere deep, deep inside of me.  I'm trying to Let it Go.  Really.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Whole house reveal

I love makeovers! The before and after photos, the back stories, the DIY tips: it’s all just thrilling. So I thought it was high-time I did a makeover on this blog. I decided to tackle our whole house in one week and I’m here to show you the amazing results! You too can take this dramatically different approach to decorating and see a radical difference in your decor. It’s practically FREE although making the results permanent is still largely a work-in-progress at our house.

The entrance

This area was drab and uninviting. The door was largely functional only and sometimes prone to slamming on school mornings.

We decided to keep the paint work and the bricks largely the same. We added in some highlights of hospitality and welcoming. By re-working the aspects of patience and brotherly kindness, we hope we’ve reduced the door slamming. We brought in several pots of generosity and giving and the whole area seems much lighter now! It’s amazing what some small changes in detail can do.

The lounge room

It’s been a long time since this area has been redecorated and it was really quite dated and dreary. The couches were still working well as places to sit but the lack of good conversation was really evident. We needed something new and hip to bring this into the modern world.

We started by stripping back some layers of covetousness and one-up-manship in the entertaining sections of the room. After that, we painted the whole area in a warm tone of kindess and added several repurposed listening ear lamps to better balance the couches which tended to dominate the conversation. The old throw cushions of keeping-up-appearances and glossy fa├žade were just not working with the new colour scheme so we replaced them with some bright new pops of honesty and authenticity. We also repeated the patterns of hospitality and generosity from the front entrance to make the space flow better. The carpet was really threadbare in places, worn thin from worry and anxiety, so we pulled all of it up and laid down brand new floorboards of trust and contentment. I can’t believe the difference that’s made: it’s almost like walking into someone else’s house!

The kitchen

We were reasonably happy with the old cupboards and the sink full of dishes but the large and cumbersome profile of the complaining and whinging really had to go! There was a strange smell in the fridge which could point to hording and it was difficult to get around the critical remarks and short-temperedness that sometimes piled up on the bench. The bland walls of drudgery were very uninspiring and lacked that freshness that would pull others into the space.

First job was to pull out all of the accumulated sense of martyrdom and repaint the walls of drudgery. We choose a beautiful shade of servanthood which contrasted gently with the finish we put on the cupboards which was a deep tone of care and kindness. The oven was updated with a new sense of the joy of helping others and the fridge checked for hording and waste. The bench tops were updated with a durable all-purpose Patience top and we added some dazzle with a bowl of self-control and gentleness. The light-fitting was also replaced with a new gospel shade that will help the workspace be lit with purpose and enable grace to be better seen when working under pressure. We kept the dirty dishes in the sink as they added a gritty retro touch to the final presentation.

The bathroom

This room is frequently used in rushed situations and so a grimy build-up of unkindness and impatience was evident on the tiles, and parts of the grout of self-control were definitely coming away. The mirror had been overused for vanity and discontent and seemed to be warping at the edges to make everything look like it was all about the individual using it. Along with a serious mould problem in the area of self-interest, this room was in desperate need of rescue!

Having stripped away the grim, we repainted the tiles in a brilliant white of peace and replaced the tap-fittings with double-mixer of patience and kindness. The door handles which had been subject to much jiggling were updated to a sleek model of consideration for others. We ripped out the old mirror and hung a new one gilded around the edge with wisdom which now looks out towards others instead of constantly reflecting on one’s own problems. We added super new storage solutions so that concern about outward appearance and the need to be presentable is now housed in its proper place and contained instead of spilling out all over the place. Under the sink we’ve installed a handy caddy full of tools like regular prayer, reading God’s Word, humility and repentance to help keep this room in good order.

The family room

This was definitely the room that needed the most TLC. In fact, the homeowners can testify TLC has been noticeably lacking of late. The self-serving colour on the walls was definitely bringing down the tone of the room and there were also several holes that seem to have been made by anger and harsh words thrown hastily. The couches were falling to hold up good manners and were stained with a lot of unwholesome talk that had been split instead of being used to build each other up. Toys were not being properly managed owing to lack of good sharing solutions. The windows treatment also needed updating as they had a funny sheen on them that reflected self-absorption rather than a genuine interest in others.

The walls were repainted in a stunning harmony cream with a feature wallpaper of encouragement. The couches were steam-cleaned to remove bad language and we bought new storage crates of unselfishness to handle all the toys. Instead of the old curtains, we hung new blinds which reduce noise from the world around us and help refine and focus the listening being done inside the space. To help everything blend better, we added accent cushions in whimsy, laughter and a bold pattern of forgiveness which should enable people to better enjoy the space and overlook small wrongs.

The master bedroom

We saved the best for last. Looking around the space we could see that it was well-decorated originally but that it needed refreshment to continue to make it a valuable and vibrant part of the home. The walls had originally been painted in an orange tone of excitement but that had faded over time and needed reinventing. Clutter and busyness was evident in every corner of the room and was threatening to become the focus of the space thereby pushing the important things aside. Time to restore this old room to its former glory!

After taking out all the clutter and careful considering what should be kept and what would be best thrown away, we were able to see more clearly what was really important in this space. The curtains were showing signs of pickiness along the hem and were simply catching so much dust of criticism at the top that they weren’t worth keeping. Instead, we installed new curtains with a heavy block-out lining to keep out unhelpful intrusions and maintain the privacy and intimacy of the room. We repainted the walls in a beautiful shade of faithfulness with loving kindness as an accent trim. The new bed linen is a deep shade of passion with flecks of purity sprinkled throughout. We added baskets on top of the chest of drawers to hold the clutter and keep the worries of the day from spreading all over the room. To finish off, we added a number of shared experiences and memories that we had thrifted from around the rest of the house to help draw the room together and provide an ongoing reminder of why the room was there in the first place. Truly beautiful.

The conclusion

The new house will take quite a bit of maintenance to keep in its current condition and for many of the rooms the work is barely begun. Some designers might notice that the colour-schemes are still falling well below the standard of Better Homes and Gardens. However, the occupants now find that they have very little interest in redecorating because they are too busy enjoying each other’s company.

* I hope you've enjoyed this little tongue-in-cheek tour of my very real house.  I can assure you that no rooms were tidied up in the making of this blog post. :)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Everyone has a story

You might remember I had a conversation with a colleague at work a while ago about our newly-arrived friends at church. Well since then I’ve continued to find myself bound up in the lives and politics of asylum seekers. Last weekend, our family joined in a march for World Refugee Day. It’s the first time I’ve ever been in a rally like that. I was kind of amazed to find myself there. My voting history would certainly not give any indication that I had such radical tendencies. But I’ve been rearranged in heart and mind by this issue.

While I was marching along, I kept thinking about one comment my colleague made during our talk. To be honest, it’s the one thing she said that has ricocheted around in my mind ever since.
“Of course you feel that way! They are your friends and everyone has a story.”
What did she mean when she said, “Everyone has a story”? Did she mean that when you know someone personally, you feel sympathy and so you want the rules to be bent for that one person? Or did she mean that when you hear someone’s story, of course you feel sorry for them, but we can’t run the country’s business on that basis? Or did she mean that everyone has a sob story to excuse their bad behaviour? I’m not really sure what she meant except for this: an individual’s story does not count in the grand scheme of things.

But I think it does. I agree with her: everyone does have a story. And I think all those individual stories count. I think treating people justly demands that they not be removed from their stories and simply dealt with as “an issue”. Everyone lives a unique life and if compassion is not responding in sympathy to the plight of another then what on earth is it?

The more I get drawn into this whole mess, the more I see that opinions change when they come up against the personal stories of individuals. The only way we can justify the current detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is by not letting ourselves hear their individual stories. Because if we did, the weight of it all would mount up and make our position untenable.

Hearing our friends’ story is hard. It is painful for them to re-live it as they tell me. I go away with the weight of it all hanging on my shoulders, knowing I’m for the most part powerless to help change their current circumstances. Some days I am frustrated, I am angry, and I’m full of sorrow. Sometimes, I just want the whole thing to go away because the responsibility of knowing takes me out of my comfort zone and requires I respond in ways that I don’t want to choose. I don’t want to stand up for my friends by having awkward conversations with colleagues or friends who disagree with my position. I don’t want to write letters to important people and march in rallies. But how can I know their story and just not care? And as much as it is heart-wrenching to hear, I also get glimpses of the amazing story that God is writing in their lives. He is the God of the impossible.

I was trying to think of whether I could find a place in the Bible where there was an appeal made on the basis of just one person’s story. I think I’ve found it in Philemon. Onesimus, a slave, ran away. Paul wrote a letter to his owner, Philemon, asking him to receive Onesimus back as a brother, not as a slave, and offering to pay himself whatever Onesimus might owe. Paul says, “I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.”

Well, Paul, of course you feel that way! He is your friend and everyone has a story.

Yes, they do. God’s grace works in each one of us as individuals known by name to our heavenly father. Far from being irrelevant, those stories count more than news headlines and political loyalties and maintaining polite conversation. 

Everyone has a story. Do we have the grace to listen?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why I don't Facebook

Now, before we all go getting into our Facebook corners, can I just say that I don't have a problem with anyone enjoying Facebook.  Not one little bit.  Facebook away if that's your thing! I write this not as a criticism of that great modern icon of sharing and caring, but as an apology for my failure to embrace it.  To all those who question my sanity for failing to join up, and to those long suffering friends who must contact me by other means every time they need to say something that could have much easily be shared on Facebook, I hereby set out my reasons for avoiding Facebook.  It's not you, it's me.

1. I spend too much time online already.  I have blog-reading self-control issues.  Goodness knows what would happen to me if I had the whole of Facebook to wander through as well.

2. I couldn't keep up a blog, Facebook, Twitter, email and texting.  Truly, I cannot manage all that communication.  I've prioritized and you're all stuck with the blog, email and the occasional text if you are happy to wait three days for me to remember to check my phone.

3. It's the drama of who to accept and reject and settings and privacy and friends that you don't really know anymore who are still friends and .....too hard basket.

4. My job.  We are warned not to have students as friends or even recently graduated students as friends. Do you know what's even easier? Not being on Facebook in the first place.

5. I'm hot-headed with a big mouth. I could jump into controversy with both feet and a chip on my shoulder.  I can do this with a blog too, but the slower pace of writing, editing and posting reduces the frequency of my foot-in-mouth moments.  It's not that Facebook requires me to behave like that - I'm just saying I am particularly prone in this area and so I'm trying to take some evasive action.

6. It's one less thing.  Maybe it's inevitable and one day I'll get on board. Or maybe the next big thing will come along before I ever get around to it.  But for now, I live well without it.  One less thing on my list of stuff.

Mind you, when my dad told us in the early 90s that he was thinking we should get the internet connected to our house, I totally thought he was crazy.  "What on earth will you ever really use it for, Dad?"  So my record on judging technology is not great.  Feel free to rubbish my reasoning all you want.  I'm a bit of a Luddite really.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Review - Shepherding a Child's Heart

Last weekend I read Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp.  I am a bit wary these days when I approach Christian parenting books.  I'd heard a lot of people recommend this book but it's taken me a while to get around to reading it.  In the end, I didn't find it all that helpful.  Here's my summary of the likes and dislikes.

* The emphasis on the idea that we should be thinking beyond behaviour and control to nurturing the heart of a child.  Controlling their behaviour is not as important as seeing them reach a place of maturity where they behave right because they want to behave that way, and not just because they fear various consequences.
* The multiple reminders that disciplining out of fear, frustration and especially anger is not what parenting should be about at all.
* That different ages & stages require different approaches.
* That good communication is as important as disciplinary actions.
* The encouragement to distinguish in the later years between what's really important and what's not.

* There seems to be a lot of theory in there and not a lot of practical ideas.  The one practical idea - spanking - is the only concrete tool given and other tools (like time outs) are sometimes criticized or just not spelt out at all.
* There are a lot of examples of conversations you might have with your child which challenge them about their heart and motivation.  In the book's examples, the child then changes their mind about their behaviour and starts to obey.  Maybe I'm doing the conversations wrong, but that frequently does not happen in my house.  There's no guide to what to do next if the child is not brought around by this chat (other than spank them).
* "The rod" from Proverbs 23 and other places, is interpreted pretty exclusively as "spanking".  I don't have a problem with some spanking as part of loving discipline, but I find it hard to see "the rod" as meaning only spanking.  For starters, if it were to be literally applied, shouldn't it be a rod and not a hand that is used on the child? And if we see it as something beyond the literal use of a rod or stick, then aren't we already moving towards saying that it is a broader term meaning corrective discipline? I would have liked Tripp to further discuss what other discipline measures he would use once spanking was no longer age-appropriate.
* There seems to be an assumption that if you parent right early on and continue parenting well, rebellion will be able to be dealt with through discussion and mutual respect.  Sometimes logical consequences are hinted at (paying back for something broken).  But there's no suggestion of what to do (other than pray and "re-establish your authority in the home") if you have older children or teens who are not displaying basic respect and doing basic required tasks.  That said, I did like the way he saw the older teenage years as a time when dos-and-don'ts give way to a greater emphasis on character and choices.  However, it was still a bit vague.  There seemed to be a big jump between when you gave up spanking and the kind of relationship you might have with a young adult.
* Some of his suggestions could be very impractical if you are parenting more than one child at once and need to maintain supervision (especially in the early years).
* Some of his ideas about family activities or children's involvement in sports etc. are disputable.  There are good reasons and bad reasons for all of those things... I felt he alluded to those areas without giving much direction on how he thoughts parents should approach them.

So all up, it isn't a book I'll be recommending to others.  However, it's interesting that even though I disagreed in a number of areas, I found myself concentrating more on communication and looking for inner-motivation issues after reading the book.  So I think I got a few things out of it.  Here's a more substantial review on the book by Wendy.

More and more I'm coming to think that good parenting is predominately about the character and maturity of the parent rather than specific parenting techniques or theories.  Some Christian parenting books leave me feeling that the task of properly parenting my child is so complicated and nuanced as to be virtually unachievable.  And while I agree that because we are fallen creatures it is a task unachievable without God's enabling grace, I also think that God did not design this relationship to be impossibly complicated either.  Looking after their physical and emotional needs and teaching them how to love God: that seems to me to be the basics of the mission. Most of my own parenting fails have come not from a misunderstanding of my task but from a failure on my part to live as Christ intended: with patience, love, gentleness, self-control and so on. What I really need for parenting is godly wisdom and a continuing growth in my own walk with the Lord. I parent better when my eyes are fixed on Jesus...I think I'd do well to try to keep my reading list reflecting that emphasis.

So, have you read this book?  What did you think?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Parenting is a balancing act

I like to think that the amount of water my children waste when they shower is partly made up for by their failure to flush the toilet and remember to brush their teeth.

Friday, June 20, 2014

I was blind but now I see

Check out this lovely post from Erin Pettengill, a medical missionary in Honduras (murder capital of the world).  A little lad sees clearly for the first time.  I've been reading Erin's blog for a few months now.  Sometimes it wrecks me like this post, sometimes it makes me want to cheer.  They do an awesome work.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Well, it's been a long time since I posted anything that wasn't a youtube clip.  Last week I was marking exams, writing reports, battling an epic cold and holding the reins of the household while my hubby was in Thailand.  Now I am on the mend but trying to catch up on the washing and house cleaning that fell by the wayside while I was busy keeping Kleenex in business.

Meanwhile, my Year 11s have moved on from criminal law to civil law.  Sadly, this has had some negative effects on their alertness levels.  In short, I've averaged at least one kid per class falling asleep at some point.  The other day I hit a new low of two asleep at the same time.  That wasn't all my fault; I wasn't even talking at the time. Instead they were sleeping through the exciting video on tort law that I'd lined up for them.  When it was all murder, rape and kidnapping I had their attention.  But now I'm struggling to keep the same vibe going with defamation and possible defences to a claim of negligence.  Sigh.

Anybody know any killer youtube comedy clips on pre-trial procedures for civil cases?  No?

Well, at least we've only got another few weeks until consumer law.  The Checkout has me covered for that one. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why doesn't this happen at my local Woolies?

Bringing some Italian spirit to grocery shopping.
Thanks, Uncle D for the link!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hunting Eichmann - a review

Hunting Eichmann  : Chasing down the World's Most Notorious Nazi - Neal Bascomb
My husband is quite often sent off on airplanes for work. I like to have a stock of manly books handy for such events.  When I see a good men's booklist like this, or find a recommended reading list from a conference my husband has gone to, I buy a couple to have on hand.  This week, he was sent off to Thailand (while I stayed home and wrote reports and nursed a cold.....not that I'm bitter - cough, cough) and I had two books for him to choose from.  Hunting Eichmann was the one he left behind and, in a moment of cold-induced tiredness, I decided to sit down and read it instead of cleaning the house.

It's basically the story of the notorious Nazi, Adolf Eichmann, his years on the run after the end of WWII, and his final capture and trial.  Half the story focuses on Eichmann and the other half on the searchers and their quest. I found the background into the development and operational procedures of Mossad, Israel's international intelligence agency, very interesting indeed. It's not a book for everyone - you have to like history and you have to like spy stories.  I happen to like both and found the lead up to the actual capture almost overwhelmingly suspenseful and started to skim read just to get over the painful waiting.

As I found with Killing Hitler, just reading the book pressed me into thinking about the moral and ethical dilemmas that permeate the way the world dealt with the Nazi movement. I don't know precisely where I stand on capital punishment, but I think I agree with the hanging of Eichmann.  For such a man, with such crimes, there could be no other sentence.  Almost all of the participants in Eichmann's capture had first-hand knowledge of the Nazi regime and had lost precious family members through his actions.  How people, as individuals and as a collective, go on after such monumental tragedies.... I can't even begin to fathom.

One of the other questions that skirts at the edges of the story is West Germany's desire for the past to be kept in the past. How does a nation that deeply involved in such horror find a way to go forward after it is all over?  Who should bear the blame and for how long?  SBS had a documentary on the other night entitled Hitler's Children.  It investigates the legacy that is left behind to the children and grandchildren of Hitler's top echelon.  This was an interesting book to read after seeing that film. It would seem with Adolf Eichmann's children, the eldest three are Nazi sympathizers and the youngest has denounced all that his father did. Yet he lives with his father's identity as a black stain on his own name.

Couldn't say it was a gentle read. But it was full of suspense and very engrossing.  And thought-provoking.  Well worth adding to your emergency plane-book stack.  If you have one.  Which you really should. Just in case.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Kindle - free Bear Grllys

Quick, quick, quick! Bear Grylls' book "To My Sons" is currently FREE in the Kindle version from Amazon.  Remember, you don't need a Kindle to read Kindle books - download a free Kindle app for your computer or tablet and you'll be set.

Thanks Gary, for letting us know.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Another Westjet surprise

You might remember Westjet from the whole Christmas thing.  Here's another one.  It's sweet.  Warning: may induce tears in those of us so prone.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

From my collegue's desk

Was filling in for another teacher on Friday and saw this mug on her desk. Snortled in appreciation.

In case you can't read it:
* I am brilliant at teaching stuff
* I make my lessons really really really interesting. There's nothing more interesting than one of my lessons.
* I love marking homework. I wish there was more of it. 'Specially in the holidays.

Sometimes, you've just got to do it

As this veteran did when he snuck out of his care home and ran away to France to join his old mates.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Why we couldn't hang around for the church lunch yesterday

Very late on Saturday night, my husband was checking that the laundry door was locked when he heard the sound of a pipe running inside our wall.  He obviously has super-sonic hearing because when I was called to listen to it, I had to press my ear against the door frame to pick it up.  But, yep, there was a pipe leaking water inside our wall.

So with the mains shut off we went to bed.  But of course, you can't have a house without water for too long so after church we raced home to do this.

That's the inside of my laundry cupboard.  I'm so grateful that the leak was found before any significant damage occurred.  Who hears stuff like a pipe running instead a cupboard? He must have ears like sonar!

One person in our house was not at all unhappy about the situation.

Being able to help your dad fix stuff is awesome.  I am actually glad that one of the kids now knows how to turn off the water mains.  I can imagine that coming in handy one day...

Thankfully, The Man of the House fixed the pipe before the end of the afternoon (there was a blow torch involved but all my linen survived) and we have water, wonderful water, on tap again.

In other news, our Korean friend told us on Saturday night that when he first came to Australia he thought my husband was the spitting image of Matt Damon.  So here is the guy who wishes he looked like my husband and was able to hear through walls:

Students are always being asked, "What do you want to do with your life?"

Here's some great advice for that over at zenhabits (HT the Nester).  Wish I was trendy enough to have anyone "young" reading my blog.  I don't know that I agree with all of it, and there's some other stuff that I'd want to add in there too, but a lot of the ideas are really valuable (especially about being okay with discomfort and uncertainty).