A Window into Life in the Suburbs


"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Monday, October 31, 2011

What My Children Teach Me About Prayer

Prayer is a sticky area for the Christian. Theoretically and theologically we know its importance in our lives but practically we seem to have all kinds of issues getting our hands dirty.

One of our elders preached on the subject yesterday and I appreciated his approach. I learnt something from it and it provoked a series of afterthoughts.

It seems to me that our problem with prayer is not that we don't know what it is or that it is, well... commanded of us. Just like keeping up with a daily bible reading, we don't have the stomach for it.

Prayer is hard work... it takes time... it's a discipline. Jesus prayed so it's obvious we should. A no brainer. The best sermon I ever heard on prayer argued that prayer is about relationship which made a lot of sense to me at the time. It should logically be an overflower of my love for God and people. Okay. But still I don't prayer consistently or fervently.

Perhaps I'm not desperate enough. Quite possibly true.
Perhaps there's a part of me that's afraid that God will actually answer my prayer. That could be dangerous. Very craven of me.
Perhaps I just don't think prayer really makes all that much of a difference. Ouch.
And... let's try this on for size... Maybe we think we deserve the good life. God will give us everything we need anyway, right? Life is good, why bother with prayer? (An entitlelist view of things)
And perhaps... we ain't got the stamina to go the distance.

This is an area I think, I can learn from my kids.

I don't mind saying that the thing that annoys me most about children is the way they keep at you when they want something. It is highly annoying. Especially when you really don't want them to have the thing they really want to have. They scheme, they plot and they even try to play mum off against dad.
Depnding on their age, they ask and beg and nag and plead and negotiate and weep piteously. They are oblivious to the concept of "no".

They are, in short, persistent.

For 2 years, 10 year old begged us for a Nintendo DS Lite. She turned the conversation at every opportunity to the subject. Finally we agreed that if a certain thing happened, she could get one but of course, that didn't pan out in the long run because effort from her was required.

I don't think I'm saying that prayer is a presenting a Christmas list in childish fashion. But isn't it interesting that Jesus tells us to "ask", "seek" and to "knock". Obviously he knew we would have a problem doing all of the above. So much so that he used the earthy analogy of a father's relationship with his children, which is pretty telling.

Persistence in prayer is a good thing... in fact, it is so good it is commanded. But because it is hard work and because there are a million other things we do instead of prayer, persistence is a lost art as well as an oft forgotten command.

There are areas in scripture which we are called to pray about -- missions, evangelism, protection, sickness, our Lord's return, and generally for God's will to be done. Etc etc etc...

Our God wants us to pray...
So why don't we?

The next time the kiddies beg and plead and throw themselves at your feet because they want something...
be reminded of how much more we are to plead for the things that bring glory to the name of Jesus.
Things of eternal consequences.

Have a good one!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Purple Flowers

It's a lovely time of year on our suburban streets with the Jacarandas in full bloom. Although not native to this country, our neck of the concrete jungle does play host to a multitude of them.

A friend, originally from Japan, tells me that it reminds her of the sakura blooms (cherry blossoms) during spring. My experience of sakura is limited to j-dramas but they do look pretty spectacular especially if they're lined up in an avenue.

4 year old knows I'm on a look out for them for photography purposes so she's yelling "Mummy, purple flowers" every minute or so while we're in the car.

We've had quite a number of overcast days so some of these pics don't quite do the "purple flowers" much justice.

There's something very calming about gazing upon these magnificent specimens of God's creation. Not just the ones with purple flowers. Even when they're bare, they're awe inspiring. Spending time behind a good lens can really change one's perspective for the better.








Friday, October 28, 2011

The Printer Goes to Hospital (Finally!)

While I'm normally rabidly anti-superstitious, I'm not sure what it is about me and printers the last couple of years. It's been Dudsville for me. The Epson I got the year before last was a nice machine though violently noisy. The results were good but the printing action was terrifying to watch. 4 year old got it into her head at the time that it would be fun to add pieces of chalk to the paper feeder which was unsurprisingly, its death knell. It led to, in short, a quick, painful death. And well, it was also out of warranty...

Printer #2 was a basic wireless black only laser that we procured from a certain supermarket chain. It was adequate for our needs during the life of the first toner cartridge. When I went to get it refilled...  it was all downhill from then on. These days each printed sheet looks like a particularly bad case of chicken pox. Because I am cheap, I will continue using it until the toner runs dry and get the drum replaced.

Printer #3 was colour laser that I purchased from a large stationery chain which shall remain nameless. Although working terrifically well for a time, I soon discovered that it was suffering printer xenophobia, adamantly refusing to print black. Which in effect rendered the thing useless. Rang the manufacturer, had tech support take me through a series of tests and was asked to go to a service centre 25 minutes from where I live. Thing was, I... er... misplaced the proof of purchase... and well... so much for taking it in. I tried ringing the stationery chain on the off chance they kept records but no... apparently they didn't keep records for more than six months which I thought was bizarre.
As it was my own stupid fault, I didn't press the issue and so Printer #3 sat in the living area like a white elephant collecting dead human skin and other misc particles.

While convalescing the last couple of months, I chanced upon the receipt in an old wallet while going through a drawer filled with junk. I rejoiced noisily, relieved that I hadn't been as moronic as I thought I had been.
Today we finally got our act together and took off to the 25-minute-away-from-home service centre. When we got to where we thought we were supposed to be,  er... there was no service centre for XYZ international electronics company just an engineering firm. Hmmm... interesting...
So I ask the guy working next door. He doesn't know anything -- only been working there for 2 weeks. Later (probably after talking to his boss) he tells us that there was a service centre there 4 months ago but they moved.
By this time 4 year old is clamouring loudly to go to playgroup. Can't entirely blame her. The whole excursion seems to be taking a complicated turn.
So we ring the manufacturer... we wait for 7 plus minutes before talking to a customer service officer, definitely not locally based. I get pushed to another department and then another. After talking a few minutes, we lose connection. Sigh... So we ring again... this time we get speedy service.
CSO tells me that there are 3 service centres in my area... (really... why didn't someone tell me that before?) and the nearest one is actually about 15 minutes away. Before hanging up, I tell the CSO as kindly as I can muster that they really need to update their database because well... they're 4 months behind.

This afternoon we took ourselves off to the nearest service centre after picking up 10 year old from school. It was a relief... I tell ya... a relief. We might actually have a COLOUR printer to use for MOPS and school next year.

Chicken Coop

Our verandah has become a serious embarrassment to any notion of civilization. Not that it was great before but since we brought in the chickens, it's given us new notions of "OCCUPY".
Their ability to perform ablutions with rapidity and without discretion never ceases to amaze me. Please somebody invent a chook nappy... please...
Hence I'm chuffed that we finally have ourselves a chicken coop custom made by my incredibly talented father-in-law.

 Front View

 Nesting Box

Nesting Box
 Interior with perches

 Gangway...

 Checking it out...

The Headless Chook Exits

Entry to the nesting box

Whether all three are hens... is still in doubt.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NAPLAN

NAPLAN (National Assessment Program -- Literacy and Numeracy) results came out a few weeks ago and I was, in all honesty, both surprised and relieved. "Surprised" that 10 year old did as well as she did and "relieved" that there was signifcant progress in the numeracy side of things.

This post isn't about the NAPLAN testing system or what I think of it. I'm broadly supportive of it's aims but that's a post for another time.

To make a long story short, I've spent the whole year worrying (I don't mind saying) about 10 year old's academic record even to the point of considering homeschooling. Talking with the teacher on the odd occasion, it was the same o'l same o'l: inability to concentrate... not able to keep up with her maths and avoiding assignments. Mid-year results showed that she had gone backwards in a few significant areas.
I'm far from being Tiger Mum (more Pig Mum actually, in nature and in name) but I well know how much I struggled with maths in secondary school even though my fundamentals were fairly good.

I've come to the conclusion that no matter how good the school or the teacher, if I, as the parent, am not on board with my child's education wholeheartedly, it just doesn't happen at all. I know for myself and the 10 year old at least, that if I'm not hands on about it, she's going to fall through the cracks. In the last couple of years, I've had renewed respect for my own parents and what they went through for my sake.

I have battled much with this issue for the last few years. 10 year old is a great kid in so many ways but her lack of drive I find disheartening. On the positive side, I think that the God of grace has really used this situation to teach (and is still teaching) me patience... nay, endurance... to go the distance with her.

Another thing I've learnt is that our children's development is so tied up with our emotional well-being that sometimes... no, often... it's really hard to know if we're doing it for them or for us. Am I projecting? Am I living vicariously through their achievements? Do I feel disappointed because it reflects on me or because I'm genuinely concerned about their future? Those sorts of questions need to be asked from time to time. Human nature being what it is, I expect, overlaps are inevitable.
 

For me, it's an ongoing issue. I feel we (husband and I) must persist. It's a marathon from start to finish.

I'm Baaaaaaack... in Bloggersphere

Yeah... I'm back blogging again... after taking a seven week hiatus with the odd post here and there just to update people on my condition. I should have probably written something about that before indulging in a post dumping binge yesterday.
Frankly speaking, I didn't much feel like blogging during this time and focused my efforts mainly on recovery. Even when I did feel better, blogging seemed like too much effort.

Innumerable thanks for your prayers and messages of care and concern. They were much appreciated.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Ideal Man

Speaking of fantasy vs reality, I am reminded of a Japanese drama I watched a couple of weeks ago about an office temp, quite desperate and dateless, in search of the perfect boyfriend. She tumbles onto a mysterious corporation that claims to provide women with their ideal boyfriend, most likely thinking it's some kind of dating service. As it turns out, the company manufactures androids and one of their leading scientists has created the first of what is to become a series of artificial boyfriends.
It's a great premise... reminded me of the Jeff Bridges classic, Starman. Starts off being rather light-hearted but ends up being a melodrama.

While I enjoyed the show for what it was, I never for one moment seriously entertained the idea that an artificial life form and a human being could end up having a life together. Okay, so he's evolved, he's now developed an ego and he utters "I love you" at least once every episode. He was, afterall programmed to be her ideal boyfriend.

Because I watched this online, it was fascinating to actually see the viewer feedback. I was surprised and not a little disturbed to see that the overwhelming majority of commenters so thoroughly immersed in the fantasy that they bought the viability of the relationship completely. Someone even suggested that the couple of in question could adopt. And here was I thinking that the story was some kind of parable about where sentient life began and ended.
I scratched my head rather befuddled. It was a moment of cognitive dissonance for me.

Later I was reminded of persons who were wallowing in the doldrums after watching James Cameron's Avatar because (surprise, surprise) the paradise he created didn't actually exist. Apparently they were hankering for a trip to Navi Land.

Everyone, I suppose, goes through phases in life where a bit escapism is probably fairly harmless.

But the perfect man? Purlease... Haven't met him yet. Unless we mean Jesus... and that's another story altogether.

In the end, I don't even think robot boyfriend from our drama in question was really that perfect. He ran on batteries and was overheating faster than my previous laptop.

The female protagonist gradually falls in love with a fantasy who seems able to meet all her needs except what she craves the most -- permanence.
As with these things, there's "another" guy. He's not perfect but he is human and in his own fashion, he's devoted to her welfare and future. Many would deem him highly eligible. She likes him too at first but as the fantasy gradually takes over her life, the reality is pushed to the periphery.

In the end the fantasty must die before reality can be restored.

Magpies

I suppose it's that time of the year when magpies get terriorial and protective because while taking a stroll along my street yesterday, I received the feather end of one mighty nasty magpie parent.
I can't get too upset about it even if it hurt for about a minute as, well, magpie parent was acting instinctively.

Before I went into the business of reproducing, I used to think that I didn't have a shred of what is commonly called "maternal instinct". I can't confirm if such a thing exist or whether our present society with the influence of feminism has beaten it out of many of us that we're no longer comfortable with the notion of motherhood as normative.

Still having offspring is supposed to be normative even if our feelings don't always line up. It was God's idea for us to be "fruitful and multiply" even if we are so brainwashed to think otherwise. Raising children is hard but I think our present difficulties are compounded because we are encouraged in our world to be selfish with the notion of "choice" and the myriad of choices that offered to us.

The solution? The sacrificial love of our Lord Jesus Christ. The only antidote to our battles within. To fall before the cross and acknowledge our inability to be the parents we should be. But we have his grace to become the parents we were called to be... everyday... just a little... one step at a time.

We love... because He first loved us...

Back to Real Life

I'm having a little trouble getting back into routine after convalescing for several weeks.
It's a lot like going on holidays for an extended period of time and having not such a bad time and then trying to get back into the grind of everyday stuff.

It's a bit like how I used to wonder about the companions on classic Who. For the uninitiated, Classic Who generally refers to the Doctor Who universe before Christopher Ecclestone.
Classic Who seldom... almost never really... revisited former companions. Watching the show transitioning from one companion to the next, I often wondered what happened to Barbara, Ian, Susan, Tegan, Romana, Sarah Jane, Alyssa, Leela etc etc

Susan and SJ came back in The Five Doctors but with no or litle reference to their current reality. Time travel can be confusing with all the time streams and odd planets but still...
How did these people cope with living in the humdrum of earth reality while having memories of travelling the galaxy and back in time with an eccentric Time Lord? And you couldn't tell anyone about it unless you wanted a one way ticket to Bedlam or its equivalent.

When we have kids, we are obliged to deal with reality head on a daily basis so that they have clean clothes to wear and food on the table. And in the case of the 10 year old, a bit of "encouragement" with homework. Contrary to what a physio once told me, they can't be left to their own devices. I shudder to think what would happen if they were.

4 year old came in this morning clockwork to remind me of her existence as she does every morning. It's a ritual she calls: "Mummy-I-Want-To-Say-Good-Morning".
That's after she's wandered into the kitchen looking for something to eat. She has a priorities all worked out, you see. After all, you can't say "good morning" on an empty stomach.
Despite all their propensity for make belief, children are fundamentally realists... when they're hungry, they're hungry. There's no fantasy that's going to convince them otherwise.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Good to Be Alive

It's been almost 2 weeks since I underwent a hysterectomy and I'm deeply grateful to God that recovery has been on track. I am well aware that things can be a lot worse.
I am paranoid by inclination and was prepared for the eventuality that things can go south, especially when I've been stupidly watching Japanese medical dramas to kill time where most of the highwire action takes place in the operating theatre.

So what I have learnt from the last six weeks? Quite a lot actually. Some of which I already knew but there's nothing like the sledgehammer effect to carry a point across.

1) I learnt for the 100000000th time that God is good. Not just because I'm alive, not just because I didn't bleed to death and not just because I'm getting an unexpected holiday from housework.
God is good because He is. Because he works all things for the good of those who are called according to his purpose. Because when I went to hospital, I thought a lot more about Jesus... I thought a lot more about his grace and I thought a lot more about how he died for me so that I can live with him in heaven.

2) I learnt that I haven't really been taking care of myself healthwise. I haven't doing the little things like drinking water regularly and taking walks so as to be a more effective mum and child of God. And the big things too... like prioritizing and saying "no" when I need to.

3) I learnt that my Christianity community is my lifeline and I've come to depend so much on the people there these past weeks. For the first time in a very long time, I really felt LOVED.

4) I learnt that I have an amazing husband. Of course, I knew that already. But when the man in your life, the father of your children can find the same relief as you when one's own "internal plumbing" is functioning normally, I think it adds a new dimension to one's marriage. And really he's worked so hard to ensure that my general comfort levels have been of room service quality.

I am so blessed... I have never felt so blessed in my whole life.
All because of a single fibroid... that was a nuisance... that became a health hazard.

To God be the glory.