Friday, July 30, 2010

Facebook Friday

I must confess when it comes to the newspaper, I'm a skimmer. I flip through those pages in record time as I scan for important words, get the gist of each article and then move on. If a chunk is too long I move onto the next paragraph. All I want is the details and if the story grabs me, I might re-read it properly to make sure I didn't miss anything.

You might be like me too. Information comes to us in little bites all day long and we've become used to receiving it in all sorts of media. FB is is a great example. If a status is too long, I'm tempted to skip it and read the next one down. I can't help it when there are so many delicious things to discover about the people in my world.

I would even go so far as to guess you have already peeked at the winner of the FB status before finishing this very paragraph. Admit it, you did - didn't you? No? Ok, keep reading then.

When I recently saw a status with one word and one punctuation mark, it grabbed my full attention. Not a difficult challenge you might say, given I skim read. True, but there was something about this freshly added status which made me shiver with excitement. It was only 20 minutes old and already people had commented with happy faces.

The writer was my cousin's husband in Greece. Niko and his beautiful Niki have been married for 15 years and their desire for most of this time has been to start a family. When I read Niko's status I knew some serious praying had not gone unheard.

Niko - 2!

Thats right. A number and exclamation mark. It stuck out like a mistake at first, among the lengthier updates of my FB friends. A quick telephone call confirmed the joyous news that not one but two babies are on the way for this excited couple and following Greek customs, this will make me an aunty again, twice over!

A few days later Niko, shared another glimpse of their amazing discovery after a visit to the hospital

Niko - Two tiny hearts... 

For these two wonderful FB status posts, Niko is my Facebook Friday winner of the week.

What a blessing to be able to share life changing news so instantly. I can't wait to log onto Facebook in the months to come and see pink/blue or pink/pink, or blue/blue. What a wonderful way to discover the answer to my prayers, or should I say the answers.  Yes folks, this little FB status took my breath away.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Arthur Stace and his Yellow Chalk

There are some things I just don't like. I'm tempted to say I hate them, but that would be too strong a word for small irritations. Like the feeling of wet wool when I'm hand washing a knitted cardigan. That squeaky sound always gives me the shivers. Then there's the feeling of cornflour between my fingers. Is it just me or is that another squeaky kind of shiver?

The worst 'do not touch' is chalk. Whether it's me, writing on a blackboard or the sound of someone else scraping chalk as they scribble (or horror of horrors - their fingernails) it's one of my least favorite things.

Not so for Arthur Stace. Born in the Balmain slums of Sydney in the 1880s he could have been the face of any neglected child of that era, brought up by alcoholic parents. His sisters ran brothels and his brothers followed in their alcohol fueled lifestyle. Little wonder Arthur wound up stealing bread and milk from Sydney doorsteps. By 15 he was in jail and by the time he's reached his twenties, he worked as a scout for his sisters' establishments.

When word got around the slums of a free cup of tea and a bite to eat at a local church, Arthur joined the line of 300 dirty, rum soaked men, who ached for a kind word and hot drink. Their food arrived after a half hour sermon, during which Arthur experienced a dramatic conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ. He emerged transformed from an alcoholic fog to the clarity which comes from complete surrender to God.

Months later, in a fiery sermon he heard the preacher say, "I wish I could shout 'eternity' through the streets of Sydney." It was this heartfelt cry which pushed Arthur Stace to became the famous street writer of Sydney's cobblestoned pavements. 

From his pocket, he produced a piece of yellow chalk and in perfect copperplate swirls wrote  Eternity on the pavement. It was the day he "felt a powerful call from the Lord to write."

Not a novel or sermon. Not an article or a blog post. One simple word, Eternity. In his lifetime he wrote this word on the pebbles across Sydney streets half a million times. He did this for 37 years and pointed the hearts and minds of passersby to a day which fast approached them.

Eternity became an enigma for the people of Sydney. It's writer didn't like publicity and remained anonymous for many years amid speculation of his identity. In his later years Arthur Stace revealed himself as the mysterious writer and explained his desire for everyone to consider where they would spend eternity. This week marks the 43rd anniversary of when Arthur Stace stepped into an eternal Christ filled future. He was 83.

His legacy continues today and Sydney has embraced the Eternity sign as its own. On New Year's Eve 1999, it lit the sky as the centerpiece to the Harbour Bridge fireworks display. Adopted as the Sydney Olympic Games emblem, it reappeared later that year on a worldwide stage.

But what difference did it make to the millions who tripped over his words as they hurried through the slums? We will only know when we reach eternity ourselves. On this side of life's journey, we know Arthur Stace was called to write... and he obeyed.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Facebook Friday

A few years ago our electric kettle died. In the days between our loss and me getting to the shops to buy a new one, we boiled water like they did in The Little House on the Prairie. Ok, I deliberately stalled for a week or two because I wanted to play like Laura. I didn't have a creek to fill my bucket and we didn't chop wood or light an indoor fire, but we did fill an enamel kettle with tap water and sit it on a gas flame. 

The best part of boiling water this way was the song our little kettle sang each time it reached boiling point. Unlike the express boil of the electric jug, this humble pot hummed as it got going. Minutes later it would hiss as steam collected in the spout and by the time the pressure was right, a high pitched song would ring out.

Boiling water the old fashioned way brings a little musical theatre to the kitchen. Strike the match, light the flame, simmer the water, catch the steam and then the final number, the bird song whistle. 

If your morning is a lazy one and a hearty breakfast is on the menu, waiting for water to boil can be romantic. If you're busy or life's burdens have pressed you further than you want to be pushed, you may be like the kettle in my Facebook Friday status of the week.

Even tho a tea kettle is up to its neck in hot water, it continues to sing. Press on !!!! 

Thanks to Joe, a friend from Memphis, I took a minute to consider the song composed under pressure. What a beautiful anthem we sing when we allow God to work in us even when the urgency of life seems to press too hard. Without the fire, the song remains hidden. While I resist like mad those situations which bring testing, I know when I'm up to my neck in hot water, God is there. He encourages me to live victoriously and delights in the victor's song. Let's press on!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wisdom with a dash of Coffee

I wonder whether the authors of The Habits of Good Society compiled for Victorian ladies and gentlemen, ever imagined their words of wisdom would do a complete flip flop in the 21st century. That their well thought out rules of etiquette would not only be ignored, but reversed.

In the Victorian era, lovers of tea and coffee were advised to hold their delicate cups by the handle, just so. Not a desperate grip, no looping of fingers through the handle and under no circumstances, were they to "grasp the vessel with the side of their hand". 

So what would they make of two wonderful cups Australians have embraced for their hot drinks?

I think they would love the hug mug. What a wonderful way to enjoy the warmth of a hot chocolate than to wrap fingers around the bean shaped cup. Even before attempting the steaming frothy bits and the goodness that comes thereafter, this mug has a pre-drink gift. The hug mug warms the drinker even before the drink does. Now that's what I call embracing your brew.

The second cup is a charmer. What better way to savor a coffee than with a hint of melting chocolate, delivered by the aptly named kangaroo cup. Slivers of chocolate sit in the pouch along the rim of this cup, melt, and dribble into your favorite blend. Very clever and dare I say, so very Australian. 

Both cups are available at Max Brenner Chocolate Shop, where my daughter and I had a delicious morning tea with dear friends last week. Fortunately some things in life have stayed the same. Even with the passing of time and new fashions, good friendships remain true. They celebrate the sweetness of life, and stir the bitterness away with a generous sprinkling of fragrant laughter. This is how God designed us. To encourage one another and build each other up.

Victorian wisdom may have been forgotten in the endeavor to elevate our coffee experience, but God's word has never lost its impact. His truth is eternal and every generation can apply His precepts, no matter how they choose to cradle their coffee.

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; Love her, and she will watch over you. Psalm 4:6

Monday, July 19, 2010

 Happy Tears and Crumbs

I am one of those mums who cries at every assembly and presentation at my kids' school. I cry when I watch the Qantas commercial where the Australian Children's Choir sings 'I Still Call Australia Home.' And I cry every Sunday during the worship time at church. Many times I cry because my heart is sad. Other times, I assure my family everything is ok, and my tears are just the overflow of joy.

This weekend I found myself wiping away a few more 'happy tears.' They spilled over when I received a heartwarming message from a sweet friend who's been reading my blog. Last week, after sharing my 'afternoon tea' post with her ministry team she sent me the following letter.

So you know I manage a house where children who have been removed from their families live...? This week at my staff meeting with the people who are on the floor everyday fetching and carrying for these kiddies, I took along your blog about afternoon tea and brought up an idea that we too could possibly facilitate this experience. We've all decided that this touch of home (that most of us were never lucky enough to experience) could be a beautiful time for our children. So now on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the time allocated to mopping has been allocated to a staff member to bake! Today, one of our children had their first scone with jam and cream. The smells and sounds coming into the office from the house was like laying on the grass on a summer day - bliss. Thank you for making my job even more of a joy - my staff are thrilled and the kids will truly benefit. Many blessings.

What an honor God allowed, for me to play a tiny part in the memories these children will tuck into their hearts. I never imagined when I wrote my simple post on the pleasures of afternoon tea, that in one household the mops would be set aside in favour of mixing bowls.  I'm thrilled to know a new afternoon tea tradition is born for these wonderful carers and their happy kids. They will never be sorry the floors were not washed on a Monday afternoon, but they will love it that a few scone crumbs dotted the table top. 

For those who have asked, here is a scone recipe you may like to play with. You never know, God may have plans for you to share it with someone too.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  Matthew 19:14

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dreaming of Pitchforks and Haylofts

Anyone else get that satisfied feeling when you fill your car with petrol and know you won't have to do that chore for another few days? Or the sweet knowledge that there's an unopened 3 litre milk bottle in the fridge for the hungry hordes with the cold cereal addiction? 

Sometimes I think about the daily grind of growing, harvesting and preserving food, faced by early Australian pioneers like the characters in my stories. The lives of these brave souls who arrived in remote areas to build their homes and gardens out of nothing, have always drawn and inspired me. 

I think that's why I love to grow my own herbs, fruit and veggies. I love to bake bread, make yoghurt and bottle up jam from my own apricots. I'm a fan of homemade pasta, and I'm thoroughly mesmerised by my father-in-law's bee hives. Staples, I leave to the experts. I'm glad I don't have to produce flour from my own wheat crop, or grow sugar beets. And I'm very glad I didn't spend last summer filling a hay loft with feed and bedding for my animals. Ok, all I have is 5 chickens and I'm thankful it's not my job to grow, dry and bale up the straw for their hen house. 

This week's Facebook Friday award goes to Kathie from Washington. Her status earlier this week transported me to the 19th century and the lives of my pioneering characters. Like them, Kathie is someone who's tasted the benefits of hard work and is now enjoying 

 ...such a good feeling to have next winter's hay put away!

While I suspect the hay is for her animals, the same rings true in her house and barn as it does in my pantry and refrigerator. Hard work and forward planning equal that 'good feeling' we all know when we are well stocked. The reverse is as strong. When we run low on anything vital, the smooth operation of our homes is compromised. Just ask my milk guzzling sons.

Kathie's status reminded me of Psalm chapter 6: 6-8, where hard work is praised. 

"Go to the ant, you sluggard;
Consider its ways and be wise
It has no commander, no overseer or ruler
yet it stores its provisions in summer 
and gathers its food at harvest."

While I have no plans to plant acres of anything anytime soon, I'm eager to put in my veggie garden as soon as our winter has passed and even more excited about my trip to Costco this weekend.

Thanks Kathie for sharing your world. Your hard work encouraged me to squirrel a little bit away for my own family.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Three Awards... and An Award

Like most of my writing friends I shut myself away and spend many hours at the computer working on my story. Some say writing is a lonely occupation and there are days when I feel it. Thanks to the blogging world, the most unexpected bursts of 'love' came my way recently, and once again I'm awash in the glow of cyber-warmth.

In this last fortnight I have been the recipient of four awards by some wonderful blogging friends.

Ceemee @ Cazzapoeia
Ellen Marie @ Mama Pike's Happy Home
Sr. Ann Marie @ Franciscan Life

have all awarded me
A Blog With Substance award. This made my day, and I am thrilled these kind souls have seen past the pretty pictures (which I love to add)  and connected with the heart of what I write.

Kimberly @ The Stinker Pinker also sent through a surprise package and honored me with The Versatile Blogger award.  Thanks so much guys, you are true encouragers!

Psalm 68:6 reminds me of the promise that "God sets the lonely in families..." 

How abundantly God has provided for me. Each day I am showered by the love of my many families. My real life family with all its beautiful branches, my church, friends and neighbours, and the reason for this post... my amazing writing 'sisters' ( as well as some very cool writing brothers.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bread and Water can so easily be
 Toast and Tea.

There's one question my children ask me everyday in the car on the way home from school.

"Mum, what's for afternoon tea?" 

At the end of a long day at school, food is a much anticipated comfort. When I mentioned to my sweet Tennessee writing buddy that I had to organize something for afternoon tea one day, she wondered whether I meant our evening meal.

In this house, we fancify our after school snack by calling it 'Afternoon Tea'. A little posh maybe, but if the mood strikes me, I like to lay a tea table with a hint of refinement. Fresh baking always looks best when it's presented on a pedestal and a dusting of icing sugar is a must. Even a shop bought lamington and glass of milk can be gussied up to look like a feast.

Afternoon Teas have been satisfying hunger pangs since Queen Victoria's reign. Celebrated as its inventor, Anna, Duchess of Bedford, wondered what to do with that 'sinking feeling' she experienced each afternoon. Her servants were instructed to deliver tea and petite cakes to her private rooms. In no time the ritual of taking tea emerged, as sophisticated society clamoured for it in the finest hotel tea rooms. Perhaps they followed tea time etiquette which required all drinkers to "never grasp the vessel... with the palm of your hand." 

While we shy away from serving dainty cucumber sandwiches, like many Australian families we do love our scones with jam and cream as well as pikelets and crumpets.  Lace edged tablecloths may have been pushed aside by the odd school book or lap top computer, but for me the sentiment remains the same. No matter how many cups of tea I've enjoyed alone that day, I'm always drawn to share a treat with loved ones before we go our separate ways again.

As the unknown sage observed:

Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time
 the comforts of solitude
 and the pleasures of company.

There is much benefit in snacking or feasting with others. Days are shared, problems may be solved and plans can be made for the future. Most of all God is honored, when we give Him thanks for all His blessings. It needn't be as fancy as a custard filled pastry. Even an afternoon tea of brown bread and honey is a gift from the Father who always delights in His place at the table. 

'Scuse me now, while I go put the kettle on....

Friday, July 09, 2010

Christmas In July

I promise after today I'll stop gushing about winter. It seems many of my blog posts these last few weeks have focused on the glories of this season. How could I not, when we have enjoyed/endured (take your pick) one of Australia's longest cold snaps in years? 

This month, many Aussies who yearn for a Northern Style Christmas, will gather to celebrate Christmas in July. Together with all the usual Christmas fare, bonbons and eggnog, we get to shiver our way out of coats and toast ourselves by the fire while we wait for the cook to call us to the table. 

This tradition is thought to have begun when a group of Irish tourists took a holiday in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney in July of 1980. Overjoyed at the sight of snow during their own Irish summer, they convinced a local hotel owner to hold a 'Yulefest' party. The concept fired up the imaginations of others who instantly fell in love with the idea of a White Christmas in Australia. The proprietor knew he was on a winner and jumped at the chance to make this an annual event. 

Fast forward 30 years, and Christmas in July has become a well known Aussie celebration. Restaurants, clubs and churches cater to those who yearn for a full Christmas dinner in winter. Perhaps these Yuletide diners like to revisit their childhood days in 'the mother country'. Maybe, they sweltered through Christmas last December with BBQ'd shrimp, cold salads and sorbet, and hunger for roast turkey and plum pudding. 

They may even be like my little friend Emily, who I suspect has a few favorite Christmas movies. Her mum Lillian, posted the following Facebook status this week, and is the Ink Dots Facebook Friday winner for the week.

Lilian (at the snow) - "Ohh look Emily it's snow!
Emily - "ohhh.... is it Christmas time already?" 

That is pretty cute, but.... no Emily, it's not Christmas. Winter is a celebration all it's own but sometimes we can pretend. While some may say Christmas in July is a mockery of our Lord Jesus' birth, the precise date is unknown and worthy of celebration anytime we choose. So go ahead, catch a snowflake on your tongue. Join in with the carolers and smell the gingerbread. It's never too early or too late to falalalala, la la la la.

Ask my other friend Paula from the US. She wrote the runner up status of the week, and I think she secretly wishes she were in Australia this winter too.

Paula - curled up in my fuzzy blanket. had two cups of tea. thinking about baking. loving feeling like December in July.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Highland Blessings   Jennifer Hudson Taylor

What better way to spend wintery days than reading. We're in the middle of school holidays here and the writing schedule gets a bit lost on lazy mornings and during trips away from home. Fortunately reading fits into my holiday routine as naturally as the peppermint tea in my tea pot.

Last week I read an amazing story set in the Highlands of Scotland in 1473, written by Jennifer Hudson Taylor. Highland Blessings is the story of one bride, kidnapped from her own wedding and forced to marry the chieftain of an enemy clan, and one Scottish hero whose blessing is the feisty bride he steals from her home. Used to bring harmony between two waring families, Akira MacKenzie brings a deeper peace, which she has discovered through the words of scripture. During a time in history when the Bible was highly prized yet rarely held by family priests, the MacPhearson clan is in for some lessons only Akira can share.

Coupled with the budding romance of our hero and heroine is the threat of war and a sinister evil which promises to steal more than a bride from her wedding day. If you love castles, a sprinkling of Scottish brogue, a hint of tartan and the whiff of 15th century herbs, this is the book for you. 

Steep a pot of chamomile and be transported back into a world of medieval romance. You will not be disappointed. I promise ye.

Monday, July 05, 2010


Giving and Receiving

It's a thrill when people want to play your games. Facebook Friday has brought out the competitiveness in a few of my dear FB friends and I've watched in fascination as they've challenged each other and jousted for the win.

Today I need to give a special award to Evan, who played the game like a true gentlemen this last week. When he offered to sweeten things and increase his chances with the gift of an apple per day, his opponents scoffed at his attempts. Even when I tried to make it nearly impossible by suggesting only London Pippin Apples would do, he was not deterred. Somehow he found the closest variety available in Melbourne, the Cox Orange Pippin and arrived at church yesterday morning with a box of these delicious apples. That folks, it dedication. Evan and his beautiful wife have been attending a church closer to home lately, but I suspect bringing their gorgeous new baby back for a visit had something to do with it too.

In honor of his efforts, Evan becomes the first Pomaceous Duel winner, named after his FB status of last week. Close runners up are Grant and Susan, who have been relentless in their own pursuits of victory.

Guys, you are tenacious and I never want to go against you in anything.

While we are giving and receiving, I want to extend a very special welcome to my 100th blog follower, Linda from the UK who writes Days Touched By Grace. Linda will receive a little box of something in appreciation from me... because I have learned afresh that old lesson that it really is better to give than to receive.  Thanks to Facebook and Ink Dots, each time I reach out to share with someone, the real blessing is mine.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Facebook Friday

Humble apologies for the late post this week. The school holidays can mess up the ol' blog routine but it's so worth it to get away for a few days with the family. 

We have just come back from our favorite holiday spot, Phillip Island and I can report the wind is out in full force today, cutting an icy path up from Antarctica and into the very heart of those who venture outdoors.

 I am thrilled to be home, although I did lose out when it was time to collect the eggs and feed the chickens. The other contender for the job, my 15 year old son, begged for mercy as he's just had a haircut and the wind is no friend after a visit to the barber. 

This week's Facebook Friday award goes to my dear friend Alissa whose comment caught my eye and made me sigh with longing. This is what she wrote:

Alissa wishes that the cape was still a socially acceptable garment.

Oh, Alissa, as someone who gladly dons a shawl for winter writing, your wistfulness tugged at my own heart. I am sure someone will tell me the cape is back in fashion, or that in some far, far away place it never left, but other than my red riding hood costume (yes I really have one!) I haven't seen anyone else disappear under a cape lately. Superheros not included.

In the Victorian Era, men and women wore shoulder length capes or their full length versions, the cloak. Now there's another delicious word from yesterday... cloak. Typical fabrics used for capes and fur lined cloaks were velvet, silk or satin. Preferred in place of coats, they kept dresses or frocks, (ha... had to use it) from becoming crushed. 

Google images has quite a few pictures of fantastic looking modern day capes and cloaks, and I know Alissa would carry the look beautifully. 

My dear son would look equally handsome in his hoodie, collecting the few eggs the poor chickens manage to lay in such wintery conditions. Their cloak is of the feather variety and reminds me of the covering God's children enjoy in all weather.

Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge: His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 

The Lord Jesus wore a cloak too. In Matthew the story of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years focuses on the moment she reached out in faith for healing. 

She said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed." 
Matthew 9:21

Even more than my longing for a taste of the past in all it's romantic detail, is my desire to know Jesus in the days He has appointed for me. Each day I want to be renewed by His transforming power, and find refuge in His faithfulness to me. 

So I'll wrap my shoulders in my writing shawl and look out for Alissa in her velvet cloak. Our frocks won't be crushed and neither will our spirits.