Friday, December 23, 2011

merry twistmas!

A joyous, blessed Christmas to you and yours!

and if you really don't know what a Moshi Monster is, find out here

Thursday, December 22, 2011

loving today: book 7

The seventh literary Loving Today inspired by this post.
* * *
The smile that flitted across Arthur's face was a faint one, and instead of following Mr Irwine's playful lead, he said, quite seriously – "Yes, that's the worst of it. It's a desperately vexatious thing, that after all one's reflections and quiet determinations, we should be ruled by moods that one can't calculate on beforehand. I don't think a man ought to be blamed so much if he is betrayed into doing things in that way, in spite of his resolutions".

extract from Adam Bede, by George Eliot


Friday, December 16, 2011

on trains, and thanking God


This past Thursday, the railway system here suffered a massive breakdown during rush hour, affecting over a hundred thousand passengers, and trapping some one thousand passengers in the four trains that had stalled. The trapped commuters were stuck in the carriages for hours, with neither sufficient light nor ventilation; some even broke the train windows with a fire extinguisher to let air in. Passengers reported the heat, stuffiness and chaos, the crying of uncomfortable babies -- all of which one can easily imagine with dismay.

The wondrous part for me is that the kids and I were actually heading home on the train that day, exactly during that time. I remember standing with B, pressed in by the crowd, thinking, "O fine, it's rush hour" (thankfully, a kind man had given up his seat to Ro, who had fallen asleep).

But miraculously, our train ran fine, and, except for one hard, sudden lurch, we got home safely. It wasn't till the next morning that I learnt of what had happened and how narrowly we had escaped it.

Naturally, the breakdown has been a hot topic in the news, and this morning it was a topic of discussion at our family breakfast too. As my mother left the table, still marvelling at how we'd avoided that situation, she repeated what she had said to me the day before: "Thank God He took care of you. We really have a lot to be thankful for".

Of course I agreed, and was about to leave the table too, when my cousin -- who isn't a Christian, or might perhaps best be described as agnostic -- said, "Why do you all say things like that? So, 'too bad' for those other people? You thank God for taking care of you; the 'flip side' of that would be that God did not take care of them".

"That's not what it's about," I started to say.

"No of course it's not," he snorted. "It always comes to that. But you know me, I think logically first" (the obvious inference being that we God-followers don't).

I was so perturbed by what he said, or the very fact that he was saying it, that I couldn't seem to decently organise my thoughts and words. "God uses different situations to teach us different things," was sort of what I feebly came up with. "His care for us doesn't always show in the obvious ways we immediately think of".

I realise I don't have the eloquence even now, away from the source of perturbation, to properly explain God's hand in our lives. And I realise that delving into this could lead to profound, unanswerable questions about evil and suffering and so forth, which I won't, and can't, get into.

But to thoughtlessly, contemptuously, say that God is uncaring -- based on superficial evidence, and without any in-depth knowledge or experience of God -- is simply too much for a Christian to ignore. "Why thank God for some random, meaningless circumstance?" he was in essence saying. "Why thank God for anything really?"

What my cousin said reflects the views of many secular people I think; the belief that God doesn't really exist, and if He did, He's distant and indifferent; that it all really boils down to luck or fortune or whatever it is you want to call it.

Well, I think that there is some degree of randomness in life -- stuff happens -- but God's character, His goodness and love, are certain and unchanging.

I don't know that God actually caused the breakdown (in this case I'd be more inclined to blame human error), but I believe He used it, as He does all trials and tribulations, to some good purpose.

How can our small, finite minds ever fully comprehend God's purposes and plans? We can't, but we can trust to His goodness and His love. Romans 8:28 says, "We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labour] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose" (italics mine).

Perhaps there were people that day who got a lesson in patience, or fortitude, or kindness, or facing their fears. Perhaps there were people whose faith needed to be strengthened, or whose pride needed to be humbled. Perhaps human flaws like carelessness, irresponsibility or greed had to be exposed. Perhaps it was all for the good of just a hundred people out of the thousands, or perhaps it was just a handful, or perhaps just one.

I'm not talking only about the people who were actually there that day, taking, or working on, the trains -- I'm talking about anyone at all connected to the situation, however remote; anyone who has any sort of knowledge at all about what happened, like people who watch it on the news in another country for instance, even if it's a week from now, or a decade. Who can grasp how far God's reach is?

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa 55:8-9).

Many of us are familiar with the story of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. One day the sisters sent to Jesus, telling Him that their brother was sick. But although the Bible says Jesus loved the three siblings, He did not go to their aid immediately. In fact, he stayed away until Lazarus finally died.

"When Jesus received the message, He said, This sickness is not to end in death; but [on the contrary] it is to honor God and to promote His glory, that the Son of God may be glorified through (by) it...

"Therefore [even] when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He still stayed two days longer in the same place where He was...

"Jesus told [the disciples] plainly, Lazarus is dead,

"And for your sake I am glad that I was not there; it will help you to believe (to trust and rely on Me). However, let us go to him" (John 11:4-15).

Jesus let Lazarus and his sisters go through their suffering. He did so for a purpose. I suppose He could have rushed to them as soon as he got word of Lazarus' sickness and spared them all a great deal of pain and grief, but He didn't. Instead He actually said "I am glad that I was not there; it will help you to believe (to trust and rely on Me)".

The way Jesus showed His love and caring was not in the overt way we would have immediately expected. But just because He did not answer their prayers in the patently obvious way they wanted Him to, does not mean He did not hear or answer them, or care.

We all go through different things at different times -- sometimes we're home free, but yes, sometimes we're stuck in a stuffy, miserable train. I think how we respond to those times, how we learn from them, how we use our faith, determines the quality and outcome of our lives, our levels of peace and joy.

Sometimes we have to go through the trials, like Mary and Martha, to see God’s glory, His power and goodness at work in our lives.

I don't think it's the natural "flip side" that God wasn't caring for the people who were caught in the breakdown. Besides the obvious care -- along the "thank God it was no worse" line, or "thank God we even have a transport system to complain about" -- there are often things which God delivers us from, which are never apparent at the time, of which we never know till later (or perhaps never at all in this lifetime). How often have we heard people say things like, "Thank goodness such and such happened, or I would have so on and so forth. I hated it at the time, but I'm so grateful for it now".

I think His providence is also manifest in the grace and strength He gives us to endure, to press on and press through. We live in a sinful, imperfect world; if our faith and hope are in Him, we can go through our trials peacefully, and with confidence.

His lovingkindness toward each of us is personal, and we are called to "thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]" (1 Thess 5:18, italics mine).

Becky came in soon after my cousin had left, and saw me sitting alone, looking troubled. She asked what the matter was, so I told her. And she said, "Never mind, he doesn't understand. Even if we had been the ones who had gotten stuck on the train, we would still have thanked God, and God would still have taken care of us".

wintering at the cottage


Thursday, December 15, 2011

wheee it's a

bring me home!
Just enter code JOYFUL11 to get 15% off shopwide! Happy shopping :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

holiday fun!

Shopping fun!
Outside Shanghai Tang. But we prefer the bookstore next door.

Hotel fun!
Lavender, tea and jasmine-scented pillows. Bubble baths. Room service. Gigantic mirror. Which I forgot to clean first.

Food fun!
Endless sausages, bacon and other greasy things we don't have at home.

Fountain fun!
Who doesn't wanna get completely drenched in a fountain.

Bonding fun!
The best part of being out in the big wide world with the people who love you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011



Ro comes running up from downstairs. B's in her room, writing.

B: What's lunch?
Ro: Something.
B: Yes, but what is it?
Ro: Food.

On another note, we're off on a little holiday!
Have a super lovely week, see you soon!



From Milli Millu. They're gorgeous, but at 295 to 425 pounds a pop, I think I'm filing them under my hm.. ok.. category.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

just a dog

Am I the only who loves this scene from Finding Neverland (from the start till about 03:20)? "That's not a diamond; it's just a rock"... wonderful... And that dog...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sailor Ghost says


A new Sailor Ghost is in the shop!
Sailor Ghost is very much loved for his gentle nature and infectious smile :)


Friday, December 2, 2011

stream of consciousness (narrative mode)


I find this email from B to my husband, who was away on a business trip (the whole thing was underlined, italicised, and in bold, by the way).

To: Daddy
Subject: Dear Dad

Dear Daddy, how is your trip? Oh, he-he.
Nothing! You sure... just look weird in those old Army pants that Mom shortened.
(Ha-ha!) Boy, do you look weird!
I have changed my name from Rebecca to THE Rebecca or THE Rock.
Ooh... waffle coming up! (Gobble gobble)
I was wondering what's going on in that... place.
What's the place called?
I have decided to not use Skype and start using the Internet to E-Mail u more!
Dear Daddy, I am going to find out... oh, never mind!
Hope you have a great time!
Signed, THE Rock.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Vintage silk dupioni dress
Vintage Adrienne handbag

loving today: Book 6

The sixth literary Loving Today inspired by this post.
* * *
... she had dark blue eyes and kept her skin lily pale, and her hair was wonderful, and untouched by bleach or powder; fair and thick and uncurling, yet full with a natural ripple...
extract from The Fair Hair of Ambrosine

He must have been a god of fishes, for there was nothing else near that island but a monstrous fish...
extract from Florence Flannery

Halfway up he paused, suddenly wondering who had thought to leave the light.

"Not my lady wife – not my royal Countess," he grinned.

Then a sudden pang of horror almost sobered him. Jane had never forgotten to put a candle in the hall.

extract from The Housekeeper

... the long rays of the lamplight showed him pale, haggard... with tumbled fair hair and a torn shirt under his mantle, and at his wrist a ragged bunch of hemlock thrust into his sash.
extract from Kecksies

While he was holding it under the candle flame and gazing at the whiteness of diamond, pearl, and enamel, the masked man repeated his words.
"Now will you come?"
extract from The Adventure of Mr John Proudie

"I was very busy hiding all the china – but one set they got – a Crown Derby tea service…"

"With one plate missing!” cried Martha Pym. "I bought it… I was wondering if you’d found it –"

"I hid it," piped Ms Lefain.

extract from The Crown Derby Plate

I have always felt a strange interest in this picture... I was always fascinated by the dress of the lady. This is of dark-green... an uncommon colour to use in a portrait and, perhaps, in a lady's dress...
extract from The Avenging of Ann Leete

As she turned, she half-stumbled against a chair, caught at it, and noticed, hanging over the back, a skirt of peach-coloured silk.
extract from The Scoured Silk

all extracts from The Bishop of Hell & Other Stories, by Marjorie Bowen


Sunday, November 27, 2011

wheee it's a

Leo clay shop sale2
Happy shopping!

Ooh, I just learned of this "Cyber Monday" tradition thing! Many lovely Etsy shops are having sales for the next 24 hours or so -- go check if that item you'd been longing for in your "Favourites" is on sale now!

And I decided to have a Cyber Monday sale myself! Just visit the shop and enter code CYBER11 at checkout to get 15% off shopwide :)

why worry

I'd been wanting to write about this for a long time now, but when this next thing happened, I felt strongly in my spirit that I really needed to share this with everyone.

Well firstly, if you've read my blog at all, you'll know that one thing God has been dealing with me on, and helping me to overcome, is worry. Worry had become pretty much a habit with me, an instinct almost, so it is with immense gratitude that I say that God has really brought me far in my journey of conquering it. And as Joyce Meyer likes to say, I'm not where I need to be yet, but I thank God I'm not where I used to be.

So yes, sometimes I do have "moments". Or perhaps more precisely, "bouts". Much, much fewer than before though, thank God. Well, it was during one such bout that I cried out to God for revelation on what I needed to do to overcome worry. And God brought this phrase to my mind: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness".

The more I thought about it, the more I realised, with increasing clarity, that yes -- seek God first, seek His way first, and everything else will fall into place.

The whole verse is "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt 6:33).

I looked up the verse in its greater context and it was this: "Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on... who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the span of his life? ...

"But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides".

It came upon me with greater clarity than ever before that, as it says in Col 3:2, I needed to set my mind -- and keep it set -- on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. In other words, to put God and His way first. If I kept my mind on God -- His goodness, His faithfulness, His love -- then it wouldn't have the room or inclination for worry or fear or negativity.

So well and good -- I embarked on actively seeking, or putting, God first. And truly I tell you, it does, it really does, enable one to enter that wonderful peace of God, that peace that surpasses understanding. And God does take care of the rest.

But it has to be active of course, it has to be a continual, conscious, concerted effort. And if you've ever battled any sort of bad habit or addiction, you'll know that it's not something you have victory in overnight; you can still have those "moments" and "bouts". But thank God that He transforms us bit by bit, "from one degree of glory to another".

And so I kept on praying about it, and, in that amazing way God has, I was led to that "next thing" I was talking about. He somehow put it in my heart to go look up "Andy Stanley".

Now if you don't know, Andy Stanley is the senior pastor of North Point Community Church, Buckhead Church, and Browns Bridge Community Church. He also founded North Point Ministries, a worldwide Christian organisation. I certainly didn't know all that -- I had to Wiki it just now.

I didn't know anything much about him at all in fact, beyond having briefly seen him once on some Joyce Meyer broadcast, and even then I didn't really take him in. But on this present occasion, I felt in my spirit that I really should go look him up on Youtube, and more than that, to look up the words "Andy Stanley worry".

And lo and behold, up came a bunch of videos that had been uploaded by North Point Ministries, and the first on the list was entitled Why Worry. Well hello Pastor Andy Stanley!!

I listened to all three parts, and I have to tell you -- coupled with my earlier revelation, his messages really really spoke to me. I didn't know he was such an inspired, eloquent speaker. And funny too! I love the way he manages to bring the Bible home to us in this present age, such that it loses that distant, foreign quality it sometimes has. I'm so so glad I was led to search him out, and I wanted to just share some of his insights -- perhaps they will be helpful and transforming for you too.

Well the video in this post is part 2 in the series, which was particularly meaningful to me, but really, do try to listen to all three parts. Part 1 can be found here, and Part 3 here.

In part 1, Pastor Andy starts with Matt 6:24: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in)" (italics mine).

"The thing you worry about the most," Pastor Andy says, "is the thing you are most devoted to... the things that you worry about reflect your core devotions...

"Jesus says, 'I'm not discounting the importance of any of [the things you worry about]... the reason you're so worried is because you're so hyper-focused, and your devotion goes with your focus, and your emotion follows your devotion, and it's just a big mess and you're in a tailspin...

"'OK, [Jesus says], so if you don't like my plan... then go ahead and get hyper-focused on what about what about what about what about, and what if what if what if what if, and if it can't, and what if I dont... go ahead and get like super hyper-focused on all those things, and then ask yourself this question -- am I helping myself'?

"Let me ask you a dfferent way -- can you, by worrying in this now, bring certainty to the next now? Can you, by worrying today, create certainty in the next day? No.

"If I've done all I can do in the now that I do have some control over, can God be trusted in the next now that I have no control over? If so, I'm not going to worry. And I'm not not going to worry because I know whats going to happen -- I'm not going to worry because I'm trusting the only One that can do anything about tomorrow".

In Part 2, Pastor Andy considers v32 in the same chapter: "For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all".

"You don't stop worrying by trying to stop worrying," he says. "Part of the problem is -- and if you don't understand the problem you'll never embrace the solution -- it's a faith problem. Your faith is small. You've not allowed your faith to go the next step. You've not even followed your faith to its logical conclusion".

Particularly impactful to me was this: "If you're so stressed out and bent out of shape over all these things that you can't get to anything else, you're so distracted -- you're acting like people who don't even believe there is a God. You're living your life practically as an atheist.

"The issue is your devotion," he says. "The solution to worry is redirecting your devotion". And this is where that wonderful verse 33 comes in.

"But seek first... in other words, what you have been seeking first is the wrong thing, what you have been extraordinarily devoted to, is leading you to the valley of worry...

"Jesus says, 'I know you're freaked out, and I know you're worried... you don't stop worrying by trying to stop worrying. you stop worrying by exchanging devotions...

"You say, 'that scares me to death'... well, there's another option -- just worry. [You think] 'If I open up my hands and offer God everything, what if He takes it?' Well, what do you think is happening right this minute? Why do you think you're so worried? Because you can't control it anyway".

In Part 3, Pastor Andy shares some inspiring lessons from the story of Elijah and Jezebel which can be found in 1 kings 19.

In it, Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah "by this time tomorrow", and the prophet panics and flees -- despite having just killed several hundred Baal prophets by God's power. Afraid, Elijah runs for his life into the wilderness, where he tells God he has had enough and just wants to die.

"Isn't it amazing," Pastor Andy says, "how today's worries can erase God's past faithfulness". It is so so true. He tells of a couple who wrote him a long letter detailing how God helped them through their adoption difficulties -- he says he told them to keep a copy of that letter so that when some future incident arose which caused them to worry and doubt God's faithfulness, they would have that letter to remind them. Perhaps my own posts here serve a similar purpose.

"We're simply to do what we know to do today, and we're to trust God with tomorrow," Pastor Andy says. "And when those whispering voices come, and when all of a sudden your mind begins to go down the trail of worry, and you begin to make a decision that's going to take you off-centre -- that's when you need to say no, no, no, no, no -- God, I've done all I can do today, I'll see You in my tomorrow... I am going to walk into tomorrow confident that my God is with me".

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Leo says


I'm in the shop now! Come see me :)

Monday, November 21, 2011


Vintage dress
Vintage John Romain purse
Vintage dress clip
(and yep, forgot to clean the mirror first).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

on aging with grace

Christina Olson, by Andrew Wyeth

Yesterday was "Seniors Sunday" at church (our church has a vibrant ministry for seniors -- or anyone above 55 -- which has even attracted a large following from other churches and denominations; the members get together frequently to worship and fellowship through prayer, music, dance and scrumptious teatimes. Email me if you'd like more details).

Well naturally, yesterday's sermon was related to the day's theme; it was entitled Aging with Grace. I think it wasn't only relevant to older people, though, but those who are younger as well. After all, aren't we all aging from the time we're born? And shouldn't we all try to do it gracefully?

There were some points our pastor made which especially struck me. "Life does not go downhill after we hit middle age," he said, "unless we choose this self-fulfilling prophecy of declining doom".

He highlighted two ways through which we can grow old gracefully; one, live in prayerfulness, and two, live in gratefulness.

If you've read my blog much, you'll know that these are two areas I've been working on in my own life. I know, through conviction and experience, that a habitual prayer life really, really does help one through each day -- empowering, lifting and guiding, or getting one back on track with God (you can read some of my thoughts on this here, here and here).

Living in prayerfulness has to be intentional our pastor said; if we don't cultivate the habit of regularly praying and talking to God while we are still fit and able, it will be difficult in our old age, when we'll likely be in even greater need of God's help, comfort and strengthening, and the steadfast conviction that He loves us and is with us.

Our focus as we age, he said, should be on strengthening the inner being. "Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day...

"Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting" (2 Cor 4:16-18).

Living with a sense of gratitude is important too. "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" it says in 1 Thess 5. Throughout the Bible we are exhorted, reminded, to give thanks to God and be grateful.

"Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving" it says in Psalm 50. "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" says Psalm 118. I know myself how much I have to be thankful for every single day, how blessed I am, how many luxuries, comforts and privileges I enjoy. Even the so-called "basics" -- like good food, clean water, peace, safety and security -- are things we should always thank God for, and never take for granted.

If we stay busy thinking on, and thanking God for our blessings, our pastor said, there'd be no room for negative thoughts. He shared the story of Scottish divine Alexander Whyte, who was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. Rev Whyte always found something to be thankful for.

One Sunday morning, though, the weather was stormy and dark, and Rev Whyte came in drenched and bedraggled, but unwilling to delay the service by going to change. Seeing him in his pathetic state, a deacon said, "He won’t be able to thank God for anything on a day like this!"

But much to his surprise, Rev Whyte began the service by praying, "We thank
thee, O God... that it is not always like this".

As I reflect on aging (and really, it's amazing how much one does this when one hits middle age), I am reminded of what one of my favourite authors, William Somerset Maugham, wrote in his book, The Summing Up: "The complete life, the perfect pattern, includes old age as well as youth and maturity. The beauty of the morning and the radiance of noon are good, but it would be a very silly person who drew the curtains and turned on the light in order to shut out the tranquillity of the evening. Old age has its pleasures, which, though different, are not less than the pleasures of youth".

And our pastor shared this wonderful quote by writer J. Robertson McQuilkin: "I think God has planned the strength and beauty of youth to be physical. But the strength and beauty of old age is spiritual. We gradually lose the strength and beauty that is temporary so we'll be sure to concentrate on the strength and beauty that is forever. And so we'll be eager to leave the temporary deteriorating part of us and be truly homesick for our eternal home. If we stayed young and strong and beautiful we might never want to leave".

For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
from Morituri Salutamus, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

on seats, belts, power and peace

Yeah, she fits -- but this was 2 and a half years ago.

So, today on the way to church, we got pulled over by the traffic police. They had actually set up a full road block. It was 8:45 in the morning -- someone had obviously decided that this would be a good time to get all those crazy drivers.

So this young fellow waves us over. We had not been speeding -- who does, on Sunday morning?? -- and we were all belted up, so for a couple of seconds, we just sat there wondering what we did wrong, and experiencing, for the first time, being at the receiving end of curious, schadenfreude-laced stares.

Well, the guy came over, got us out of the car, and told us what our offence was -- Becky was not in a booster seat. She was belted up, but she wasn't 8 years old -- the apparently defining age, we were discovering, when children in this country can stop using booster seats.

Never mind her height, never mind her turning 8 in just a few months, never mind that the seat belt was fitted fine across her collar bone and chest (not her neck and stomach!). The guy was determined to get us to the fullest extent of the law. A warning, even a stern one, would have been insufficient, and well, simply too nice. Instead, a hefty fine and demerit points, with the reiteration that she had to be 8, and that no, he wouldn't measure her height; it would be too impractical.

Now just give me a moment here to wonder -- what is it with these people (never mind that that 8-year-old law is inane; that's obviously beyond dispute)?

Invariably, you find these sort of individuals in positions of "power". Throughout our children's lives, we have conscientiously used the infant seats and the car seats and the seat belts, without fail, while people around us would be happily driving about with their babies on their laps in the front seat, or their kids bouncing about loose all over the back seat or dashboard.

And let's not even talk about the innumerable nutcases who recklessly speed, or the clowns who illegally park and dangerously obstruct.

Where are those Sunday morning road-blocking cops then? That young man captured all the smug arrogance of an unexceptional 20-some-year-old who's given an ounce of power. "If you want to test a man's character, give him power," said Abraham Lincoln. Power untempered by wisdom and mercy is dangerous at the worst -- at this petty level, it's just plain irritating.

And the worst part of it (besides the fact that it made me late)? It affected my peace for at least 10 minutes into church. There I was, singing "My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou; if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now", and my mind was going over and over the details of what had just happened.

During the corporate prayer, I repeatedly found myself shaking my head (figuratively) in disbelief at the guy's swagger and hubris, and going over the ill-considered booster seat ruling (based, according to their website, on the belief that the children in this country who are below 8 are "not tall enough to use a seat belt safely").

I'm telling you the truth -- I could literally feel the spiritual struggle going on in me. I literally had to stop and breathe and ask for God's help to calm down and rein in my thoughts. I do not make myself get up at 8 in the morning for worship, just to have it spoilt by some... person... or some stupid situation. God did not give me "a spirit of power and of love and of calm and a well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control" just to have some cocky kid or senseless ruling make mincemeat of it.

That's what that divine spirit of power is for isn't it? To enable us to rise above challenges and circumstances tranquil and untroubled, with a God-given peace that passes understanding.

"Do not resist the evil man [who injures you]; but if anyone strikes you on the right jaw or cheek, turn to him the other one too.

And if anyone wants to sue you and take your undershirt (tunic), let him have your coat also...

You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy;

But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

To show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven... For if you love those who love you, what reward can you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that?

And if you greet only your brethren, what more than others are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles (the heathen) do that?

You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5:39-48).

Psalm 37:8 says, "Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret — it leads only to evil". I thank God that He did help me regain my peace soon enough, so that I became a joyful, rapt listener of the Word (more on that soon!).

And, well, looks like Beck will be using Ro's carseat for the next few months.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

on working as a Mom

In A Park, by Berthe Morisot - the artist's sister and her children

So my aunt came by yesterday. It was during this space of time when Ro was having her nap, and I was having a breather and getting some of my own things done. My aunt looked around, observed my seeming aimlessness, and said, "Don't you want to go back to work? Don't you feel like your life is just wasting away here?"

OK. You may already have some idea about how I feel about parenting, or being a full-time Mom. I am honestly tired of hearing this kind of… thing. Making money or working for "the Man" is not the be-all and end-all of a fulfilled, successful life. Getting on the train first thing in the morning and being far removed from my kids till nightfall does not capture the term "motherhood" for me. I have no regrets about giving up my high-paying, highfalutin job with the nicely carpeted corner office space, and the 2-hour lunch breaks.

Once upon a time, being a mother meant that you actually stayed home with your kids and, well, mothered. Today, the role of mother or parent is often passed on to grandparents, sundry relatives and minders, or childcare centres. Even in families that could reasonably live on one parent's income, this has become acceptable, and even expected.

Does having that corporate career define a fulfilled, un-wasted life? Do I have to put on my power suit and high heels, and walk purposefully about, clutching my folders with that grim expression of one dealing with the life-and-death issues of that quarter's advertising budget or the CEO's annual report message? Well surprise - fulltime motherhood is real work too.

Sure, I'd love to have steady part-time work in a proper organisation somewhere – ideally a welfare organisation – but I've yet to find one that offers part-time hours and doesn't say I'm "over-qualified" (how could one be over-qualified to help the needy?). They're convinced I'm expecting high pay, that I'd get bored by the "mundane" work, and won't be committed enough to stay long. But when you consider what they do end up with…

So now, this is an aside, and a bit of a vent – but take the XX – sorry, can't name names – but a well-known Christian organisation that purports to help the "poor, homeless, hungry and destitute". They are perpetually looking for people to work in their various children's and nursing homes. Well of course they are – as a volunteer, one does get an insider's view into what's going on! – there's high turnover: the staff are largely young foreigners who are building their careers and will go where the money's at. Well, that's fine and natural I guess.

But then there are those who are just stuck working there for now, not because they altruistically want to help the "poor, homeless, hungry and destitute". These are the ones who simply dump bowls of food in front of ill, elderly people who can barely clean themselves, or shove hot food in their mouths because they just want to hurry on to their next task. That may perhaps be "natural", but it's certainly not fine.

Which leads me to think – good job HR people! You'd rather continue giving such individuals their full-time jobs with their low pay, than allow for some part-time hiring of committed people who really care. I've applied more than once and each time I was told I'm "over-qualified" or that they want someone full-time.

Well, this is a society that doesn't offer opportunities for, or encourage a real, effective balancing of parenting and career – where kids see their classmates and teacher or minder far more than their own parents – why do we even wonder at the moral laxity of today's youth, their psychological and emotional challenges, or their vulnerability to abuse and violence.

So anyway, like I've said, I have no regrets about giving up my career. I did not have my kids just to become – as my mother-in-law likes to say of certain women – a "turtle" who lays a bunch of eggs, and then leaves.

I don't mind spending days upon days, and years upon years, enmeshed in child-centred activities, conversations and entertainments – not just because I believe (and know from personal experience) how important and valuable a strong parent-child bond is – but also because it means not missing those moments in time that can make such a dramatic impact on a child's life.

I mean those moments where my actual, physical presence could make a real, vital difference – where my care and guidance could keep my kids from doing or experiencing something that could cause them a lifetime of pain, heartache or regret. An acquaintance's son, for instance, left almost entirely in the care of the telly and Nintendo, in front of which he'd spend hours with no one saying him nay, now has to wear glasses. He is only seven.

Someone else's young son, left in the care of a maid who was quite content to let him ride his bicycle alone on the road, without protection, was hit by a car and is now scarred for life. The tragedy of instances like these is that they might have, could have been avoided.
Of course, we can’t control a lot of things in life, but I'd hate to be one of those parents who looks back over their kids' lives and says "I wish I'd…" or "If only I'd…".

A friend recently sent me this article. Perhaps I should send it to my aunt.

Monday, November 14, 2011

on transcendent mornings and moments


You may already know that I read of book of devotions as part of my morning prayers every day. I find it such a wonderful way to get the day started on the right foot -- with God -- especially if it's one of those mornings after a troubled sleep, or where your mind fills up with worries and anxieties even before you get out of bed!

More and more I know how important it is that I seek God, spend time with Him, every day, and continually throughout the day. To be actively, habitually conscious of God's presence in my life, His providence and His blessings, makes it that much easier to trust to His goodness and faithfulness during challenging times. It is so, so true what it says in Isaiah, I know it from my own experience: "You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You" (Isa 26:3). And indeed -- without fail -- God is faithful to deliver me.

I was speaking with a friend the other day, and she admitted that she only prayed and sought God when she was desperate, or in trouble. I realised as I listened to her that if we do that -- without the foundation of daily experience and fellowshipping with God -- those prayers are somehow more despairing than confident, and are plagued by doubts and fears. It makes it hard for us to have peace during the trial, and feel secure in the knowledge that God hears us, loves us, and cares about us.

"Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart", says Jeremiah 29:12-14. I know how easy it is to overlook all the good things God does do for us, and focus on all the things we think He should do, but doesn't. Thanking God every morning, and asking Him to guide my thoughts and actions, greatly helps me with my attitude and perspective.

As Proverbs 3:5-7 says, "In all your ways know, recognise, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths".

So -- my book of morning devotions. I read New Day, New You by Joyce Meyer, and I wanted to share this very recent devotion with you. It's entitled Spiritual Nourishment, and is based on Luke 12:22-23: "I tell you, do not be anxious and troubled [with cares] about your life, as to what you will [have to] eat; or about your body, as to what you will [have to] wear. For life is more than food, and the body [more] than clothes".

The devotion reads: "If you have a rich spiritual life, you'll already be satisfied with the moment, the day, the year. We all have these moments at time. You wander through a summer field of fireflies and suddenly feel still and awed at the beauty of it all. You hold your new son or grandson on your lap and you feel a great spiritual bond of love all around you. You're sitting in a pew Sunday morning and the light comes through the stained glass and fills your heart with joy. The moment is complete in itself. You don't think, My heart is full of joy, and boy, do I wish I had a slice of chocolate cake in my hand!

"... In fact, we should all feel those transcendent moments more often than we do. I believe they are essential to physical, emotional and spiritual health. And I think we spend too little time trying to achieve them and too much time meditating on our problems... if we stew in our problems all the time, they are only going to be with us that much more.

"Get your mind off the problems, and spend more time meditating on the one, true solution -- God's love. Our problems in life... should drive us to God, not away from Him... Run to God! He won't just help you find the solutions to your spiritual hunger; He is the solution!" (New Day, New You by Joyce Meyer, p 317).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Miro :)

Remember Miro? And remember what I was saying about toy-adoption-heartache? Well, I was so happy to receive these photos of Miro in his new home -- all the way over in Los Angeles (thank you M)!

He looks happy don't you think? And I mean, there's Woody, and that Happy Feet penguin guy...

O, and by the way, that's a pretty nice office eh?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

on Daniel, and great Bible stories

So I've been re-reading the book of Daniel, and just finished Chapter 6, which tells the story of Daniel in the lions' den. I was so struck by the words in this chapter and wanted to share them, but first, it brought to my mind this book of Bible stories I had as a child.

Called The Greatest Bible Stories, it was published by Octopus Books in 1973, and edited by Diana Bremer. Even as a child I was fascinated by the wonderful artwork -- real, proper illustration, without the aid of fancy software -- and now as an adult I still marvel at it. Unfortunately the artist is not identified; the art was simply attributed to L'Esperto S.p.A. Just take a gander at these beauties:

Ignorance really was bliss.

Have you ever seen the Flood depicted like this? In a children's book? Bet those guys there wish they hadn't laughed at Noah.

Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery. I love the way the artist would have one of the characters turn to look directly at the reader.

The night of the Passover, where every first-born creature of the Egyptians was slain.

The death of Absalom, King David's eldest son. His famously thick hair caught in the boughs of a tree and he was swept off his saddle, where he hung till Joab came to kill him.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace.

I actually love this story by the way. When King Nebuchadnezzar asked them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image which I have set up?", they answered, "O Nebuchadnezzar, it is not necessary for us to answer you on this point.

If our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up!" (Dan 3:14-18)

So the three were cast into the burning fiery furnace, which got turned up seven times hotter because the king was so mad. But!

"... Nebuchadnezzar the king [saw and] was astounded, and he jumped up and said to his counselors, Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered, True, O king.

He answered, Behold, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt! And the form of the fourth is like a son of the gods!

Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God, come out and come here. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the midst of the fire.

And the satraps, the deputies, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered around together and saw these men -- that the fire had no power upon their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed; neither were their garments scorched or changed in color or condition, nor had even the smell of smoke clung to them.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who believed in, trusted in, and relied on Him! And they set aside the king's command and yielded their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.

Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, and language that speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be cut in pieces and their houses be made a dunghill, for there is no other God who can deliver in this way!" (Dan 3:24-29). Isn't that great??

And look!

It's Belshazzar and the writing on the wall. The inscription was MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN -- numbered, numbered, weighed, divisions.

And now, Daniel in the lion's den:

Isn't this great?? And now they've even got the lion looking at the reader!

So okay, as I think most people know, Daniel defied the king's decree that no one was to ask a petition of any god or man -- except of the king -- for 30 days. Anyone who did so would be cast into the den of lions.

"Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house, and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he got down upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously" (Dan 6:10) (Note: I think praying through one's day is a great way to stay close to God, to be strengthened and encouraged as the day wears on).

Well, Daniel was cast into the den of lions. The decree had actually been brought about by the connivance of a bunch of envious deputies and governors, and King Darius himself was in fact grieved about Daniel, and sought to deliver him. However, the law was that no decree of the king could be changed or repealed.

So the king said to Daniel, "May your God, Whom you are serving continually, deliver you!", and he "went to his palace and passed the night fasting".

And everyone knows of course that God did indeed deliver Daniel, and he was not hurt by the lions at all in any way (as a side note, the king commanded the men who had accused Daniel -- as well as their wives and children - eep! -- to be cast into the den; the lions "overpowered them and had broken their bones in pieces" before they even reached the bottom).

Which brings me to the decree that King Darius wrote. It was an order that everyone in his dominion must "tremble and fear before the God of Daniel". What struck me were the words of this decree, which were so uplifting, so powerful to me that I made them part of my own prayer; I pray that you will be empowered by them too!

He is the living God, enduring and steadfast forever, and His kingdom shall not be destroyed and His dominion shall be even to the end [of the world].

He is a Savior and Deliverer, and He works signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth -- He Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

loving today: Book 5

The fifth literary Loving Today inspired by this post.
* * *
"Where is it?" thought Raskolnikov. "Where is it I've read that someone condemned to death says or thinks, an hour before his death, that if he had to live on some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he'd only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so than to die at once! Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!... "

extract from Crime And Punishment, Pt 2, Ch 6, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sailor Animals

Sailor Animals

Custom order Sailor Animal Boy and Girl. They look so sweet together; a postcard perhaps?


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