Wednesday, October 12, 2011

We're moving...

First things first...

Steven and I are moving back to Vancouver, Canada. This is not a decision we chose on a whim in the moment. This issue of where to live and in particular our expectations of how we wanted to live came to our attention on the day of the double earthquake we and everyone in Chch experienced last June.
On one hand we didnt want to run away so to speak when as able bodied persons without children or elderly living with us, helping to rebuild Christchurch felt like a given. For me in particular it has been my home for 22 years, even including the times I lived in Dunedin as a student, Christchurch was always where my heart was. My mother and family live here, my church is here, my mentors and close friends are here. Why on earth would I consent to leave?

A couple of reasons, two practical and one selfish.

The selfish reason, for me personally I am naturally adventurous and I love to travel. Canada is the second largest country in the world and is a part of a continent. I think of CA (geographically) as like a blown up version of NZ really. I want to have a crack at living there long term. I want to explore the place.

The practical reasons, are money and housing. Here in New Zealand, Steven's Canadian qualification as a specialised teaching assistant isnt recognised, therefore all he can he can do is the minimum as well as the pay. With the recent earthquakes and govt cuts to spending in schools, its likely that when push comes to shove he would probably be first in the firing line. In Canada he has strong networks and strong work and character references. Not to mention hes paid more in a dollar with a higher value than NZ. I suspect he also very much misses the personal satisfaction that came with his last job and previous church through mentoring young people.

Secondly, finding a job as an OT in NZ is awful. Out of the 2009 graduating group from the OT school in Otago, 2/3 had to move to Australia to find work, despite the fact that there is a huge need for OTs the govt just can't afford us. The govt here made cuts to ACC a while back and those who got made redundant were OTS and physios. So when a group graduates theyre not only competing with their fellow classmates for the few jobs but their also competing with very experienced OTs. Its an unfair advantage that causes the new grads to do a runner over the ditch after being turned down for a position for the 20th time. Quite frankly, Ive had enough disappointment in just completing this degree. We hope to have children in the future and though I know money doesn't buy happiness I dont want an unhappy husband who is working in a area that doesnt meet and accommodate his potential. I dont want to raise children while struggling to pay back my $20,000 debt while unable to find decent work. In Canada, occupational therapy is huge and definitely valued. The minimum pay alone made me gasp when I first saw it. In Canada we can get house and contents insurance. I have no idea what it takes to save for a house, but to save for a house in Christchurch where the majority are broken and cold and the minimally decent ones become so inflated in price you have to be a millionaire to buy. On our pitiful income? With children in the picture? I dont think so. Vancouver is incrediably expensive, but I don't ask for much, but I feel more confident over there than in Chch.

I don't feel that wanting to be in a wealthier country to NZ is selfish and materialistic. Im not expecting Canada to be some kind of free ride to get away from liquefaction and pooping in the backyard. I want to pay off my huge debt, I want to see my husband happy and fufiled in his work and our church and I want to raise our children myself instead of giving them to others while I work full time with a dinky income while they develop asthma and chest infections because we can't afford a healthy home.

This hurts more than I think anyone can understand at the moment. Its very bitter and sweet at the same time. I start sobbing at the top of a hat if I think about those I love who I will be leaving, but I am also excited and happy and hopeful in my heart for this next adventure that awaits us.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

nb: Recipe taken from New Zealand Womens Weekly

4 Tbsp poppy seeds
1/4 cup of milk
Juice of one lemon
200g of butter - softened
Rind of one lemon - finely grated
1 cup of caster sugar
3 Eggs
2 1/4 cups of flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sour cream or milk

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease a 25 cm cake tin (or loaf tin). Soak poppyseeds in lemon juice and milk for 10 minutes.
  • Beat butter, lemon rind and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, mixing well after each one is added.
  • Sift flour and baking powder into a larger bowl. Add half the butter mixture, mix then add the other half. Add the poppy seeds with its milk and the sour cream/or additional milk.
  • Spoon cake mixture into prepared tin and cook for 45-50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

There are also lemon flavoured icings and syrups that can go with this cake, but given that I added double the required lemon juice and rind, I hardly thought it needed more lemon flavour, and it still tastes fantastic.
This is one of those recipes that reminds me of food served during tea parties in the Regency and Victorian period that make me reminisce of my 50/50 English and Scottish heritage. For something thats essentially cake, it tastes really refreshing as weird as that sounds, which I suppose comes from the lemons, and while eating a slice I hardly felt as if I was eating something with butter and sugar in it as it was so light and moist.
So my husband came home after a hard days work of overseeing spoilt and annoying prep boys to find the kitchen a mess, our bedroom and living room a mess, but oh hang on a minute! I made a cake to make up for it! I gave him a slice which I saw him sniff appreciatively and I never saw him chew it but I did see him licking his lips. I take that meaning it disappeared into his stomach and I have better wrap up the rest for other occasions (I always hope to share my baking with visitors, but they typically get rationed when we've run out of ice cream).

Its a cheap and easy recipe and of course another excuse to happily rummage through my mother's lemon tree.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pickle Joy

One of the most marvelous yet slightly silly way of feeling joy in my life frequently involves getting something right the first time. This concept feels rather foriegn to me in the long term (concerning my heart wrenching/cardiac arrest inducing bachelors degree). But nevertheless, I have been compensating this fact with what pretty much always gives me joy - cooking. And not just cooking, because that would be a waste of my wallet and another contribution to my expanding waistline.

No, cooking involving making something that a specific person or people would enjoy.

One of my goals since meeting and becomming engaged to my handsome Canadian is to learn more about food in general from his side of the world. New Zealand to its credit has a wonderful array of ethnic foods specific to our land and sea, as well as the traditional favorites handed down to us from our settler ancestors (whether they be Maori or European). But at the end of the day, we are still a tiny country, and upon reading a 'Lonely Planet: Canada' book I realised how impressive and gigantic their food heritage is. Compared to the US where people go to become "American's" in the "land of the free", I find Canada's history a lot more open, friendly, explorative and sensitive than compared the US (my experience with American and Canadian border securities prove this theory of mine..) In Canada, I noticed, ethnic differences (especially concerning food) are not given the cold shoulder but are highly celebrated. And being the second biggest country in the world, I grant theres a lot.

What I want to reflect on is the humble sweet pickle that until this morning I have underestimated my entire life.

I won't bother trying to figure out where the sweet pickle comes from or who makes them the best. But to my fellow New Zealanders, before you laugh at me for crowing over the delishness of something that resembles a lumpy green penis, think again!! Have you truly tried them? I suppose after my penis joke no one will now.

I did this for Steven and for my own curiosity.

Every day since Steven moved away from his family and country to be with me, I have made it a priority in my life to incorporate and meld with my own, his Canadian culture. That means I wear the maple leaf as proudly as the fern (except in rugby cos they suck), maple syrup AND ketchup are now twin staple condiments on the table. Secondly I now say specific words like Steven (mainly cos I lost a bet re pronunciation), like Tom-ay-toz instead Tom-ahh-Toes. Mar-Garrr-Rin instead of Mar-Gaar-Rene, Ketchup instead of tomato sauce (shock, horror!! as my Mum says). Our children will have encyclopedic knowledge of both Rugby Union and NHL and *gulp dare I say it - Canadian Football...

When I first went to Vancouver, Canada to see Steven after 6 months of long distance and for meeting his family for the first time, I noticed he had a weird penchant for eating sweet gherkins/pickles straight out of the jar with a fork in one hand and an endearing childish grin on his face. Obviously this strong smelling green thing gave him enjoyment and with my only knowledge of gherkins comming from those disgusting little sour floppy green things you get in your Big Mac, I wasn't going to touch his sweet pickles with a 10 ft pole.

I do of course LOVE the Anathoth Farmstyle Relish that is made here in NZ. I don't know why. Its crunchy, its sweet and sour all in one taste. Its delicious on toast, its delicious on veges esp the good ol baked potato. In the words of Road Dahl its scrumdidliumpcious!

So out of wanting to give Steven this lovely home made treat that reminded him of home I never once thought the flavours would pretty much be identical with only a different vegetable being used.

I planned for two whole days. I scoured recipes online as well as processing instructions for using glass jars and storage and such. I remembered the wonderful Christmas present my futher mother in law gave me - a mennonite cookbook. I found over 10 bread and butter pickle recipes. All pretty similar but with a few differing tweaks in ingredients and processing methods. For my first time making such a foriegn recipe - this indecisiveness in recipes freaked me out! I thought, wasn't there just a base recipe that Mennonite women just stuck to?! Out of desperation I went back to my comfort zone for a mental break - New Zealand cookbooks. No where in the hugely celebrated Edmonds Cookbook was there any mention of any kind of pickle recipes. Then I took a risk and pulled out my Mums copy of Dame Alison Holst '500 Recipes' cookbook. This glorious woman had an entire section of pickles, relishes and chutneys along with the usual jams/jellies. Hallelujah!! AND two pages devoted to incrediably clear instructions for idiots like myself on preserving and sterilising.

I found a bread and butter pickle reciple with excellent instructions but the ingredients seemed rather bland compared to its Canadian Mennonite counterparts. So, I merged the two recipes.

The torturous thing about making home made pickles is not the cooking process but the wait. Every recipe version demanded that I wait a minimum of a week for the flavours to develop. I thought to myself - 'Great, I have to wait seven days in which I torture myself on whether I did it right only to find that when Steven eats it he will pull an ugly face or worse get food poisoning...'

Well, today was the big reveal and I couldn't help it, I was excited. I was reasonably sure that I got the recipe right but I still had a tinge of worry that I think kept me prepared should the worst occured.

Firstly, the seal was perfect. How did I know this? After 1o years of confidently opening difficult jars on my own I finally had to hand it over to Steven, who tried and then regretfully handed it to Mum who opened it with a jar opener by which it made a clear 'pop!' noise a freshly sealed jar makes when opened. Secondly the smell was amazing. Vingary, sugary and mustardy. Sounds like a weird trio but it works it really does.Thirdly, was the look on Steven's face when he poked a fork in the jar and ate some. Delighted surprise is the best way of putting it :D That made me soooo happy. We both then promptly cut into fresh bread buns with ham and cheese and loaded it with my pickles.

Oh my goodness, the taste was brilliant.

My only regret was that every pickle recipe catered for multiple jars. I only wanted one jar, so having to figure out how to divide ingredients and interpret conversions made me very anxious.

On making this recipe I had no idea how many cucumbers I would need so I ended up buying three very fat, over ripe, seedy dark green and lumpy ones. And after I poured the vinegar syrup with the cucumbers in the jars I found I had quite a bit left over. So, I will make an educated quess while looking at my pyrex measuring jug and say that the amount I made overall equalled to two 900g Pams jam jars. (thats two and a half pints). My other regret is how few cucumbers I used. This is my fault as several of the recipes suggested I soak the cucumbers in plain salt and water for 24 hrs. I ommitted this stage out of pure impatience and learnt my lesson from it. At the time, I remember packing the cucumbers in the hot jar like sardines in a can. But while it was in the fridge I noticed worryingly how it was appearing to look like there was just liquid and only a few cucumbers floating around. What happened? The cucumbers shrunk I think. I don't know how to deal with this in the future so I suppose Ive got to hunt for answers.

Until then, below is the recipe for two jars:

3 medium garden cucumbers (cut them depending on your jar size. I sliced mine into thick rounds, others like to slice them lenghways or not at all :D
1 Pickling onion for each cucumber (or half a normal onion for each)
2 Tbsp of plain salt (not iodised or else it goes scummy apparently)
1 cup of plain white vinegar
1/2 cup water

1 cup of brown sugar
1 Tbsp of mustard seeds
1 tsp of celery salt (or seeds)
1 tsp of turmeric

- Slice the cucumbers and onions into a bowl and prinkle half the plain salt in and mix ( I put rubber gloves on for this). Cover and leave in refridgerator for 24 hours.

- After 24 hrs, rinse the veges well and set aside.

- In a medium (non reactive) saucepan on medium heat bring remaining ingredients to simmering point. Add veges. Keep watchful and remember to stir so it doesn't get congealed. If it does add a little water and keep stiring

- In a large saucepan place chosen jars and lids and fill with water til everything is submerged. Remove and bring to the boil. Once the water is boiling place jars back in and set timer to 5 mins. It needs to boil for the entire time. Watch this very carefully and don't burn yourself! (Cover your arms and wear two cooking mitts if you freak out over spitting boiling water like I do).

- On your work bench place a clean tea towel or cloth and on top of that paper towels.

- For the last two mins of boiling time, place in boiling water the tongs you will use to lift out jars.

- After 5 mins is over turn off the heat to both saucepans. Very carefully transfer the hot jars using the tongs to the prepared surface and let dry for a minute.

- If you don't have a jar funnel like me, what I found useful for reducing spills was getting a piece of baking paper and folding it in half and placing it in a circle in the rim of my jars.
With the baking paper in place, use a large slotted spoon and scoop the veges out and place in the jars. It they overflow, pack them in (I used a potato masher). Pour the remaining syrup in until it overflows a bit (hence the paper towels!).

- Put the lids on and screw on snug (but not tightly!) and wipe down and store in the fridge

- Remember not to open it for a week!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hospitality and Narnia

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is one of my most beloved books. I loved it as a child, and as a 22 year old my love for this story has only increased and I suspect it will increase more when I one day read it to my own children as my mother did to my brother and I.

About a month ago, I felt a drawing to read in my bible the story of Abraham giving hospitality to two angels and the preincarnate Christ, who appear as foriegn travellers to Abe (Genesis 18:1-15).
Hospitality is treated as big deal in the bible and is therefore a big deal to learn and act similarly to this standard as Christian's. Even in secular cultures, a lack of hospitality shows hostility. And a lack of appreciation or acknowledgement of given hospitality is incrediable rudeness and often seen as deserving of death (at least in the bible and other ancient stories).

As many Christians know, CS Lewis is a renowned author known for his essays defending and explaining christianity. Steven and I own a fair amount of these collections, but Lewis's writing style is so academic and British (I mean that in a nice way) that it often takes as much concentration reading and mentally sifting through his ideas as reading a statistics textbook. Although Id much more prefer the former. But, putting aside his brillaint essays, the Narnia stories are the most easiest to read and interpret because he aimed for the books to be written for children.

There have been so much written on biblical allegories of the Narnia stories that I darent try anything major here in my blog except to focus on one small portion of LWW (The Lion the witch and the wardrobe). The example being shown in the picture on the right of the dinner shared by Mr & Mrs Beaver and the four Pevensie children. I won't explain the plot here, because if you haven't read the story, shame on you! Go read it now!


I absolutely adore this picture, and whoever did the illustrations for the series did a wonderful job. True to the book it shows the wonderful simplicity of the hospitality given by the Beavers. There are quite a few examples of food used in LWW ie Lucy's meal with Tumnus, The reuniting meal of the four children after Edmund is saved, the post battle supper and of course the coronation feast at Cair Paravel. All stories illustration the fantastic use of food in bonding, fellowship and celebration.

Here's an excerpt about the Beaver's hospitality:

"'Here we are, Mrs Beaver,' said Mr Beaver, 'Ive found them. Here are the Sons and Daughters of Adam and Eve' - and they all went in.
The first thing Lucy noticed as she went in was a burring noise, and the the first thing she saw was a kind looking old she-beaver sitting in the corner with a thread in her mouth working busily at her sewing machine, and it was from it that the sound came. She stopped her work and got up as soon as the children came in.
'So you've come at last!', she said, holding out both her wrinkled old paws. 'At last! To think that I should ever live to see this day! The potatoes are boiling and the kettle's singing and I daresay, Mr Beaver, you'll get us some fish.'

'That I will ,' said Mr Beaver, and he went out of the house (Peter went with him)... Meanwhile the girls were helping Mrs Beaver to fill the kettle and lay the table and cut the bread and put the plates in the oven to heat and draw a huge jug of beer for Mr Beaver which stood in one corner of the house, and to put on the frying pan and get the dripping hot... There were no books or pictures, and instead of beds there were bunks, like on board a ship, built into the wall. And there were hams and strings of onions hanging from the roof, and against the walls were gumboots and oilskins and hatchets and pairs of shears and spades and trowels and things for carrying mortar in and fishhing rods and fishing nets and sacks. And the cloth on the table, though very clean, was very rough...
Susan drained the potatoes then put them all ack into the empty pot to dry on the side of the range while Lucy was helping Mrs Beaver dish up the trout, so that in a few minutes everyone was drawing up their stools (it was all three legged stools in the Beaver's house except for Mrs Beaver's own special rocking chair beside the fire) and preparing to enjoy themselves. There was a jug of creamy milk for the cildren (Mr Beaver stuck to beer) and a great big lump of deep yellow butter in the middle of the table from which everyone took as much as he wanted to go with his potatoes... When they had finished the fish, Mrs Beaver unexpectantly bought out of the oven a great and glorious sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle onto the fire, so that when they had finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out. And when each person had got his (or her) cup of tea, each person shoved back his (or her) stool so as to lean back against the wall, and gave a long sigh of contentment.
'And now,' said Mr Beaver, pushing away his empty beer mug and pulling his cup of tea towards him, 'if you'll just wait til Ive got my pipe lit up and going nicely - why now we can get to business...'"

Theres some points I want to make about this passage re biblical hospitality (or lack thereof).
  1. Although I didn't add the passage in from the previous chapter, by the opening statement of Mr Beaver, its clear that Mr Beaver had been looking for the children. Neither do we know when Mr Tumnus' arrest occured (which is the reason Mr Beaver is looking for them being a close friend of Tumnus). Mr Beaver would have gained all his knowledge of the children from the faun, and we can guess that he knew the children were foreigners and needed provision. The fact is, is that Mr Beaver persued the children with passionate concern of the level of a loving close relative or parent. Secondary to Mr Beaver's actions were the reinforcement from Mrs Beaver. In the movie version, the Beaver's relationship with one another show something like an old couple who are still young at heart to tease each other but wise enough to trust, cherish and help each other. Mrs Beaver epitomises the biblical allegory of God naming Eve as Adam's helper. She maintains the home while Mr Beaver searches for the children. That role I believe is not anti feminist nor chauvinistic. Instead the roles appear as very complimentary. The description of pairs of tools around the house and of Mr Beaver assisting with the dinner (catching trout) show that they work together as a team. So whats the lesson here?
  • Firstly, although I believe God places persons in our lives (sometimes right in front of us) so that we can help them, and other times we have to persue them. I don't think this is because we have a lack of trust/faith in God, but a way of following our faith in action. In the bible Abraham's example of faith was described by the apostles not as a thought but as an action of hearing the Call and persuing something he could not see but which was promised to him as a reward. The same is true for Mr Beaver.
  • Secondly, as I said before Mrs Beaver is illustrated as the biblical female helper. The first statement re Mrs Beaver shows her busy at work at a constructive activity (sewing). This is later to be explained as a cherished activity that is particularly hers by the fact that she later gets a brand new sewing machine from Father Christmas. When the children arrive they find she (in the practical sense) is ready to meet their physical needs and she immediately stops what she is doing and extends a lovely sincerely warm welcome to the children. It doesn't show her pacing up and down the house worrying (maybe perhaps in her head) nor rocking backward and forward in her rocking chair doing nothing. She is prepared. And in the story she strikes me as the kind of she beaver who regardless of Mr Beaver unsuccessfuly searching for the children for days, she would still make sure that there was at least simple food and hot water ready for tea at all times.
  1. CS Lewis goes into great detail of explaining how humble and simple both the Beavers and their home are. It comes to mind a parable in the bible about stewardship - "Whoever can be trusted with a little can be trusted with much..." (Luke 16:10). The thing that grabs me as genuis is the fact that in the animal kingdom, the beavers are known to be practical, hardworking and domestic. They're not grand, lazy nor do they eat other animals that come near their territory. Despite the weirdness of animals/creatures wearing clothes, eating toast and discussing politics, to the reader the idea of the beavers doing the same thing seem rather normal and comforting given their inherent nature. Us humans need to be more like them. I hear a lot of people saying that when they win the lottery, THEN they will be able to be more charitable. Bollocks I say. Its starts with being content with what you have and sharing what you have. As a christian I believe that the more propensity we are to learning this the more then God then trusts us with more in order for us to give more.
  2. In the entire passage it decribes in detail how each of the children (minus Edmund) help with preparing dinner. Technically speaking Peter didnt help either but went along willing to learn and be Mr Beaver's assistant. As hostess Mrs Beaver accepted help from the girls. I wonder what Edmund was doing during this time and what the beavers and his siblings thought of his rudeness. We will never know. My guess is that he sat at the table and mulled over his situation (bitterness/anger at siblings for being found out to be a liar and longing for things his siblings supposedly wouldnt have access to - turkish delight, hot chocolate and a crown). Edmund's actions (or lack of) is how NOT to be a good guest. In todays world, we are taught to think that entertaining is cool, fun and easy. Just so you know - its not. I have an entire family made up of Edmund's. Womens magazines advocate cooking entire 3 course meals from scratch in just one hour, with no mention of help. The magazines also go on using words like envy, impressing, flavour explosions, elaborate etc etc. In a New Zealand House and Garden magazine never have I seen a home photographed that was simple, rustic and old. I quite often long to see homes that just look like a typical flat that looks lived in and homy and not fake, just to give myself some hope and contentment. Christian/Beaver hospitality as compared to 21st century entertaining is quite radical. Eating at the table, with no outside distractions is cherished. Focus is on one another not a piece of media. The beavers and three of the children understand the concept servanthood yet are not treated as servants (as compared to Edmunds ideas). The children have their milk, Mrs Beaver her rocking chair and Mr Beaver his beer and pipe. Reaping the rewards of their hard work particularly for the Beavers is wonderfully shown. Some legalist christians might be freaked out by the drinking of alcohol and spoking of a pipe in front of children, but I go back to my typical argument: though I think smoking and excessive drinking is unhealthy, I believe that when demonstrated by mature sensible parents (as shown by the Beavers, responsible drinking is beneficial and neither is smoking tobacco a sin so long as you're not breaking the law. Bearing in mind the context when this story was written and the author. CS Lewis himself was a great pipe smoker during a period when boys were getting blown up by bombs, and was viewed as a rare luxury, so too did he spend an enjoyable Friday night with Tolkien discussing their books over a beer or two.
  3. Lastly the Beavers prioritised and provided for the basic needs before the secondary need of learning. They allowed the children and themselves to unwind, relax, eat their fill and get to know one another before moving on to serious important matters with a caffenated drink so as to focus. Genius.

In a nutshell
Persue hospitality & persons
Be a team player
Don't stress - Accept help
Work with what you've got
Its not about impressing
Be a good guest, pay attention and give thanks
Be content and enjoy your rewards
Provide an atmosphere of relief and relaxation before anything else.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


So, Steven and I are getting married in exactly a month.
I suppose I really had better start making wedding preparations... Jokes
Thing is everything is going swimmingly well, Ive had to do hardly nothing except pretty easy things like outfit, picking out cutlery, music and my bridal shower (mind you my maid of honour and mother are doing more than me in that respect).

One thing that has been on my mind more than the wedding would you believe is our flat (apartment to you North American folks). Aside from the sunshine daisy cotton candy joy of marrying the one I love the other thing Im looking forward the most is having our own home.

Seriously this is a big deal to me. Ive been wanting this since I was 13, maybe even younger.
Ive been to college, lived in a dorm and dealt with random guys streaking naked passed my room covered in coffee granules. Ive flatted with other christian girls and found them to be a right royal pain in the arse. Ive boarded with a woman and her 10 year old daughter discovered an unknown hatred for Miley Cyrus music and American teen sitcoms I never knew about. Ive lived with persons (older woman, two older guys) who introduced me to the brilliantness of Jon Stewart and turned out to be lot more interesting to live with than the missionary kids despite the general lack of bathroom cleanliness.

Wherever Ive lived, Ive tried extraordinarily hard to make the kitchen in use the kind of kitchen where wonderful things were created, things were organised exactly as I organised it and above all things the rules I made for the care of my knives and tupperware would be upheld. This had never happened. Aside from my hope in Jesus, my secondary hope is in a pantry cupboard where someone hasn't screwed with my labelling, jar turning and geographical brilliance.

So I am currently living with my Mum and using her kitchen in a way that sometimes annoys her (ie "MELODYYYYY!!! Where did you put the baking powder!!!" "In the place where its always been!! "I don't see it!!! Oh wait, there it is!!!! Why isnt the label facing the right way!!!!). I swear the jar turns itself, 'cos I know how annoying turned jars are..


So we as a country (New Zealand) have officially entered into winter (dun duh duh DUUUUH!!) and mum still has a huge glut of lemons growing on the tree in the backyard. Not content to watch them eventually fall, rot and decompose FOUR times longer than the average fruit n vege scrap, I collected an entire colander of lemons (theres still enough for 3 years worth of lemons to eat through on the tree though). I took these lemons, donned a pair of my mums surgical rubber gloves (she's a nurse) and grated and juiced the whole lot into a an ice cube tray and once frozen I put the little cubes into labeled ziplock bags to be kept for winter lemon cravings or as additional Vitamin C in my anti flu brew.
I believe this is pure thrifty genius.

I live in a city called Christchurch which is located on the Canterbury Plains in the South Island of New Zealand. A lot of words I know so heres a map to help the overseas folks reading this.
The awesome thing about Christchurch in the winter is that the area is known for hoar frosts in the winter. This begins at night with rain or storm type weather (sometimes even a smattering of snow) and by dawn the entire sky clears up and you wake to a blinding sunny morning with sunshine that literally hurts the eye balls (after a couple of grey wet days, no wonder). The scenery gives the opportunity for amazing photography. The down side is that the temperature seriously drops. Not earth shattering news for the boy who grew up in Manitoba and knows truly cold winters but for me its horrible. And for a lemon tree - its murderous torture. The hoar frosts causes practically every living plant to look as if its been coated in white sand paper. As a kid I used to often enjoy walking to school through the nearby park and hearing the blades of grass beneath my feet literally break like glass

I don't quite understand the ins and outs of caring for a lemon tree, but somehow without any work done on the tree at all every year our lemon tree/bush continues to give fruit.

When I find a decent price for a block of butter at the grocery store (for a huge dairy exporting country like us its nastily expensive to buy our own products), I will make a jar or two of lemon curd..

Heaven knows (and my mother) every autumn I will continue to take my pilgrimage to said lemon tree and take my tiny sneaky fill of lemons...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wifedom and Submission (modern day swearword)

Lately Ive been contemplating what it means to be a wife.

Aside from my usual cries to Dad about my career related 'when will I finally be an OT' nightmares, my most frequent cry for help is this:

"God, I don't know how to be a wife!!"

And I often times feel pathetic for crying out like that when theres multiple bibles all over the house illustrating some brillaint examples of wives and some truly heinous examples as well as stories of women who do their best, still sin, screw up, anger themselves, their husbands and others, my faveorite of course being the history of Sarah. "The mother of our faith" as the apostle Peter says. REALLY?? You've got to be joking. What about Rahab or Ruth for crying out loud.. Those are exemplary women who showed obvious faith. Where in the bible does it say Sarah was faithful?

  • This is a woman, who laughed at God. In case you didnt know, thats not a good idea.
  • This is the woman who got so frustrated at Gods timing that she took matters into her own hands and gave her husband a mistress, and when that blew up in her face she then blamed him! Because of a woman taking matters into her own hands instead of waiting on Gods timing there were two heirs instead of one, boys who grew up resenting and hating each other and as a result their descendants have pretty much forever been fighting ever since (Arabs and Jews).
  • This woman as a result of this mistake, instead of repented, coveted another woman and started abusing her instead.
  • When her husband tried to save his own skin and lied about her being his sister to the Pharaoh, no where does it say "Sarah replied, 'Abe you're acting like an idiot."
"For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. " - 1 Peter 3:5-6

No offence, Peter but why on earth did you use Sarah as an example for biblical submission? All her mistakes were due to fear.

Because of course part of being a christian wife is submission right?

Tonight was a fantastic example. After being tight with our money for a while and stressing out over our budget, I thought I had no right to ask to be taken out on a date (NOT one held at McDonalds), but I couldnt help but long for Steven to just get up and take me somewhere as a treat no matter how cheap. And while I was out in the garden weeding and getting my hands and knees filthy, he quietly plans to take me to a restaurant and movie.
I submit to that!

I think Peter used Sarah as an illustration as christian wife material not because she was the annoyingly perfect housewife from Proverbs 31 but because she was the noisy, argumentative, sarcastic, sinning and fearful wife of a faithful man was also was far from perfect. He chose her because she was imperfect and in need of grace.

That gives me hope.
Yes, Sarah started the Middle East conflict, but its not how you start but how you finish. When Sarah died, the bible says that Abe was distraught and mourned for months. And from Sarah came a lineage of unlikely  women like her -

A blackmailer/extortioner (Tamar)
A prostitute/traitor (Rahab)
A widow from a pagan family with a legacy of incest (Ruth)
An adulteress and co-conspirator of murder (Bathsheba)
A poor, illiterate teenage peasant girl (Mary)

I love how God redeemed these women and gave them the honour of being the mother and maternal descendants of Jesus Christ.

The submission thing. Some women hate the very word. When I put submission + Jesus = I see love.
When I see Husband + Wife(submissive) = I am afraid. And I have every right to be. Women have the right to be fearful of submitting to a husband who they don't trust to have their interests and welfare first. That is why I exhort women who are dating to hold the men they are considering as a husband to a very high standard - Gods standard. If a man properly worships the God of the bible and desires to imitate Jesus Christ, then the number one thing on his list of things to do as a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and human kind. Sacrificially lay his life down for her, lead her, love her, encourage her, convict her, support her, provide for her. If you receive that as a wife then submitting to that kind of husband becomes not so hard as the world thinks.`

Of course thats easier said than done. I only have to look around and see the world isn't perfect like that. Thats why the theology of sin makes so much sense to me. How can we not believe in sin? My husband doesn't always love and lead and encourage and convict perfectly. I don't always submit, love, support, build up as a I should do. Sometimes Steven gets lazy and ambivalent and I get arrogant and controlling. But our love for God never goes away. If we have dry periods, its because of the support and community of our church family that we stick at it. Even if we don't feel like it, the discipline of bible reading and study pushes us on through our tough spots. In painful times its when we reacquaint our knees with the carpet and cry out to God like a child calls for their loving Dad that helps, and He always comes. And in the periods of overflow and joyful faith in our marriage, the prayer and bible study and serving each other and leading and submitting becomes a honorable joy not a burden

So I make it my business to make this equation:

Steven (submitting to Jesus= sacrificing for Melody) + Melody (submitting to Steven) = That can definitely work.

I heard a fantastic sermon on wives and submission by Pastor Mark Driscoll once, he made some excellent points on what is and isnt godly submission in a marriage:

Submission doesn't mean:
  • A husband is in ultimate authority.
  • A wife does not have independent thoughts. 
  • A wife does not seek to influence her husband. 
  • A wife must obey her husband’s command to sin. 
  • A wife is less intelligent or competent than her husband
Submission does mean:
  • A husband and wife are equal with complementary roles like a right and a left hand. 
  • Wives are to submit like Jesus did in Gethsemane (Luke 22:42). 
  • Husbands are to lovingly lead like Jesus does the Church (Eph. 5:25). 
  • A single woman should only marry a man she can follow. 
  • Christian marriage should illustrate the Trinity and the gospel.

Help me Dad. Help me to give up my pain and fear to you. Help me to give up my self righteousness, arrogance and firery tongue. Encourage and tell me how to comfort and rebuke while knowing the difference when to do the other. Please open my ears and eyes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

First Post for 2011

Boy has it been a long time!!

Thats what happens when you start a blog for the sake of an assignment and forget to carry it on once the assignment is done.

So currently Ive no idea what to base this blog on except to sift through my own rambling thoughts on things I wish I could talk about more if it werent for the fact Id know peoples eyes (and heads) would roll.

I'll start with what Im reading.

With my fiance Im currently reading a book called Becoming a Prayer Warrior by Elizabeth Alves.
The thing is, my church here in Christchurch (Grace Vineyard) became geographically misplaced after the major earthquake that hit us last February and among many buildings that were severely and irrevocably damaged, so was our church building on Ferry Road. I suspect, the leaders and those who grew up in the building and had ties there feel the pain more than I do (as I only permanently joined the congregation in January). Anyway, Spreydon Baptist Church has graciously allowed us to use their church building til our leaders figure out our situation. So the big question is should we stay or should we leave Ferry Rd. They feel the prophetic need to teach us out of Nehemiah since the parallels are so uncanny as the theme of that book is physical, emotional, social and spiritual rebuilding. And one of the things theyve implemented is a time called Hope Rising, where the combined churches of Spreydon and Grace have been called to pray and fast for 3 weeks. The leaders feel that doing so is biblical and in my opinion smart after such an upheaval that an earthquake brings.

So the point is, that everyone is encouraged to give up something (typically a meal or multiple meals) and in that time pray for 3 weeks. The first week for ourselves and families, the second week for our church and the third week for the city and its leadership.

well the week before it started I prayed about it because I don't like going hungry and Id rather give up something else, but I felt God say to fast on Monday. Start my week focusing on God I suppose.
So last week I did just that and went hungry on Monday and spent the majority of the day either praying or reading my bible. It was incredibly uncomfortable (as I said I like the feel of having food in my stomach) and in all honesty I was wondering what sort of impact this was going to have on me as I wasnt really inviting the idea of doing this EVERY Monday. So anyway, I base my weeks praying on my needs and the needs of my fiance. And hardly surprising was our need for money. We had our WOF and Rego needing to be paid, while looking for a flat to rent once we're married, I had become officially unemployed and we still have wedding and honeymoon things to be paid for. So money is an issue right now. We're not painfully flat broke but we are at the level where we are praying over any and everything to do with money.

But wonderful things started happening. Our WOF check failed (as expected) but our bill wasnt as high as we thought it would be. We discovered money in our bank account that we did not budget for, so we were able to put a deposit on our honeymoon and we found a flat to rent within 3 days of looking AND Steven's boss asked me for my resume so he could see if he could find a position for me or at the least hand it on to others he know could help me.

So after the first week, was praying while hungry worth it? Heck yes.

So back to the book.
In the second week of praying (completed my 2nd fast yesterday a lot more cheerfully lol) and I thought to myself, what gives me the impression that my prayer life is great? Or even adequate? Admittedly these days I havent prayed with as much fervour as when I was a teenager when I prayed constantly and passionately. I realised, Ive actually have been very slack in this area of my walk and maybe its time for a bit of spiritual pruning, so I got a book from the church library to read and get some more ideas.

Onto the second chapter at the moment, and its a very good read and Steven and I had a fantastic discussion about it last night.

Before I go I'll share an interesting thing that happened this morning.

Two nights ago while I was reading my prayer book I was reading a bit on the difference between normal prayer and intercessory prayer. I dont think Ive fully figured it out but by my thinking intercessory prayer is when the Holy Spirit deliberately puts someone in your mind for you to pray for immediately. Theres been tons of freaky stories where people have interceded for someone at a weird time of the day/night to later find out that the person they were praying for was in a potentially or very harming situation, then to be saved by something or someone at that exact time. Other times it can be spiritual warfare intercessory prayer for someone. Sometimes God tells you whats happening to that person, other times he doesnt.
So anyway, I thought to myself, wouldnt that be an interesting experience.

To cut it short, I woke up this morning with the sensation of someone abruptly waking me up. I thought it was Mum cos she does it all the time but she wasnt there and the minute my mind focused on the fact that it was morning, into my head popped the face of a person I havent talked to since highschool. I wasnt even friends with this person we were just classmates who uttered a hello to each other a few times a year. It was totally weird, and I felt a huge sense of urgency to pray for them (though I had no idea what to pray). And I said out loud "God can't I just snuggle in my warm bed and casually hope the best for that person wherever they are?" The response I got - "No!"
So I literally stumbled out and onto my knees next to my bed to pray for this person and words started comming out that I didnt know I had. WEIRD. I hope it helped though.