Monday, October 27, 2014

AFES Wives Conference

Another Term 4 and so another AFES wives conference has come and gone.

Another year of good teaching, helpful seminars, encouraging prayer groups and lots & lots of talking.

As my long term readers know, this conference is a highlight of my year. To gather together with women around Australia and see how each is striving to be godly and faithful in their own circumstances, life stages and challenges is such an encouragement and blessing. Student ministry is an odd thing in some ways, but all these women ‘get it’.

This was my 5th conference and it is such a joy to catch up with old friends and connect in depth each year with the same prayer group. It’s also lovely to see new faces and meet new people.


I also seem to be better at balancing the large amount of people time and personal conversations. While I come away very tired (and struggle to keep conversations going for that final hour at the airport!), I am no longer completely overwhelmed. (Must be managing shyness better!) Although I will say, it can take me up to a week to tell my husband about it all in detail – for when I return I have no words left in me!

I thank God for these women, they really are a terrific encouragement.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Making Couples Happy

I should have written this review months ago when it was fresher in my mind.  Oh well!  We watched this ABC Production over a few days in June and enjoyed it.

‘Enjoyed it’ is the wrong term actually, ‘found it helpful’ is a better one. There is not much enjoyment in watching the way marriages have deteriorated over time with unhelpful communication, destructive conflict management and poor attention to family of origin issues.

However it has much to offer. Four couples come to meet with experts and each other to address the issues that have pushed their marriages to the brink of survival.  Over four episodes spanning 8 weeks, they are assisted to see unhelpful patterns, to work through hurts and resentments and to face each other honestly.  No matter what stage your marriage is in, I would imagine there are many things covered here that you would see reflected in your own relationship – the realities of having a young family, work pressures and unmet expectations.

We found it helpful to be reminded how quickly resentments and bad habits can spiral when unaddressed. All the principles applied by the experts were sensible and similar to things we all know we should do – listen properly, speak positively and fight fairly, to name but a few.

One of the tips that I thought was really useful for an issue that particularly needs addressing is the idea of writing a letter to each other. Firstly, the letter written by the partner who is ‘at fault’ (bad use of language but you know what I mean). This was a long detailed letter with explanation but also asking for forgiveness. This was read out - a great idea, because then you get tone right. Then, the other spouse could draft their own letter of forgiveness and a commitment to move forward. (Actually it might not have been exactly this, but I took it away as a helpful idea!) In areas of large conflict or large transgression this may be a helpful way of both being able to address what happened, how it affected each of you and how to move forward, yet the process of writing out what to say in advance adds the ability to temper what you say and not react ‘in the heat of the moment’.

As pretty much all the marriage stuff we look at are Christian books, this DVD series provides another useful tool, being both non-religious and visual, therefore I could see the appeal for other applications. If a couple were really in crisis, professional help would be much better. But for those who want to stay on top of things and be proactive in this area, it might provide enough conversations starters and tools to get you going and hopefully keep you on track to a happier marriage.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Knuffle Bunny

I have almost left the world of children’s picture books, but every so often one comes across your path that you have to share.

Mo Willems has written and illustrated three books about Knuffle Bunny, the story of Trixie and her favourite toy.

In Knuffle Bunny, Trixie is a toddler out with daddy for the day when Knuffle Bunny gets lost. Oh no! The expressions on Daddy’s face during Trixie’s tantrums are fantastic.

In Knuffle Bunny Too Trixie is now a little older, having started pre-school. She takes her one and only special Knuffle Bunny to school only to discover that he is not so ‘one of a kind’ after all.  The page my children loved here was when Trixie finally realises the wrong knuffle bunny has come home with her and the caption to the illustration is ‘Trixie’s daddy tried to explain what “2:30am” means.’

The final in the series, Knuffle Bunny Free, shows Trixie as a schoolgirl, still with her treasured Knuffle Bunny on an international trip. We know what’s going to happen as Knuffle Bunny has been mislaid twice before. How Willems demonstrates it though is marvellous: older children will realise the truth that we do all eventually learn to cope with lost toys, and younger children will see how this could happen.

Overlaying these lovely stories are fantastic illustrations: photographs of scenes (mostly set in New York), with wonderfully expressive cartoon people drawn over them.

My 7 year old loved these, the older two both appreciated the humour and I really enjoyed reading them aloud. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Call the Midwife

Recently I finished watching the third season of Call the Midwife. I think it’s one of the best TV series I have ever seen. Based on the books by Jennifer Worth, they are a lovely insight into London’s East End in the 1950s through the eyes of Worth working as a midwife with the nuns of the Anglican convent Nonnatus House.

They are likeable and realistic characters (probably because they are based on real people!), very true-to-life birth scenes and a great insight into medical care at the time. Stories develop over the series as the nurses make friends & meet partners, and the lives of the nuns develop and change.

I recently read the first book in the series, which shows how closely the DVD series matched the stories in them.  I will try and get the other books to read on holidays.

I think I would like to own both the books and the DVDs – they make for both lovely reading and wonderful watching, and as my children get older this is a series I would happily watch with them.

I had assumed Season 3 would be the final series, the final episode definitely felt like a finale. However, apparently there is a 2014 Christmas special planned and also a Season 4 for 2015.  Some good viewing to look forward to!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Shyness, introversion and ministry

During the year I have listened to some wonderful interviews on the ABC Conversations program with Richard Fidler (lovely to fill in time on a long run).

There are great stories and interesting things about different people.  Recently an interview was with Sian Prior who has written Shy, A Memoir. Despite being an accomplished performer and journalist, she has suffered from shyness all her life.

Listening to it brought back many memories of my own experiences and how we learn to function with shyness in the world.

Some of these include:
  • Never liking children’s parties in primary school and often choosing to spend time with the host mother rather than the other children.
  • Hating giving talks up the front of class in high school, and being unable to stretch a book review talk to the required 2 mins.
  • Struggling to walk up to groups and join in a conversation.
  • Only really having one or two close friends at a time, rather than a lot of friends.
  • Being quite happy with my own company and quite contentedly enjoying a good book and some silence.
Then it made me ponder the reality of being a shy person and being in ministry.

Much of my natural shyness I have had to overcome in ministry:
  • While I struggle with it, I will walk up to new people and introduce myself.
  • I still find breaking into groups of people hard and am more likely to be seen standing on my own at church wondering who to approach.
  • I have learnt to lead services, give talks and speak up the front with ease and comfort – this is still astonishing to me.
However it has made me realise that shyness, and her related sister, introversion, do come at a cost. My husband is not shy, but is introverted.  At times, I am both.  Both of us need silence at times.  We both need to ‘veg out’ and not talk at the end of busy days before we have energy to talk together.  We both cherish silence but need to keep remembering realise that a house with 3 children will never be quiet.  We both want to be hospitable and have an open house, but know we have limits in how we can do so in a helpful way for others yet also for ourselves.

When we talk about ensuring about ministry is sustainable for the long term, it includes rest and holidays and days off, but it also means we need to ensure we don’t so overload ourselves with people that we are unable to care for ourselves, each other and our family. Some of the things we have found work for us are:
  • We do not host Sunday lunches. Sunday is busy enough with morning and evening church, and having people over for lunch means that there is no break in the day to recharge.
  • We try to make sure school holidays have no busy evenings. Evening meetings and catch ups mean we usually have 3-4 nights a week automatically taken up, and at times it’s 6-7 nights. Breaking the cycle every school holidays is a chance to re-set a bit and take a breather.
  • We share our calendars online. That means we can both see when things are getting too full and we need stop booking in more things.
  • I have to plan my days with ‘free-time’ to enable me to get through the evenings. Sometimes it feels decadent making myself put my feet up with a cup of tea for an hour or two in the early afternoon, but it means I can manage the rest of the day so much better.
  • We have to make a concerted effort to accept each other’s limitations in this area. When one of us cannot do more, we both have to respect that and change things accordingly.
I find it odd that people think I am not a shy person. I am definitely still shy. I just manage it reasonably well in public.

What about you?

Friday, October 3, 2014

ANZAC Girls

I stumbled across this ABC series as it was going to air.  Set in World War I, it chronicles the lives of Australian and New Zealand nurses who volunteer to serve along the armed services providing health care to the soldiers on the front. A six part series, it starts with them arriving in Egypt, progresses to Gallipoli, Lemnos Island, serving on hospital ships, and ends up in France.

I have always enjoyed a good medical show, with favourites such as A Country Practice, The Flying Doctors ER, Scrubs, Northern Exposure, Doogie Howser MD, Chicago Hope, M.A.S.H., N.C.I.S, and Call the Midwife featuring in my watching over the last 30 years.

So I was keen to give this one a try. The combination of history and medical ticks most boxes for me and I have really enjoyed this series. What is really nice is that while some liberties have been taken, the characters are based on real people, adding authenticity to the characters themselves and also to the brutal portrayal of war. You can read what happened to each of them upon returning to Australia here.

Recommended viewing.