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We're home owners!

This afternoon I received the news that we are now the official owners of this comfortable and spacious residence with a very neglected garden! We've been living here for a year, but it is still exciting to become the owners.

If we don't go to South Africa next month we'll have plenty to do improving our garden before Dave starts work as a CSIRO post-Doc in September. Our travel plans are still on hold - decision pending - as there was an issue with Dave's working visa application and it now won't come through for at least a month. We don't want Dave to be refused re-entry to Australia, so we are checking out the stipulations of his current bridging visa.

July should be a perpetual month of thankfulness for us: Dave has handed in his PhD (yay!), Dave signed a contract for a job (Yay!) and we have bought a home. Maybe we'll create a yearly family celebration of God's provision. What an ideal time to remember that God is alive and at work on our behalf: in the middle of winter, when all is cold and dark!


Yum, yum the Ghanan way

Our Somalia prayer night went well. It is cruel of me to take pictures of people while they're eating, but I couldn't resist as we were eating with our hands! I was making a lot of excuses for various lacks on Saturday night, and one of those lacks was cutlery. I didn't put any out because after all, are we sure they have cutlery in Somalia? Some people chose to find their own, but some of us tackled it with our fingers. I enjoyed eating this way! Oh, and do you think Somalis have lots of soft drink or juice? No, no, they would be lucky to have water. Coffee? No, no. I got tripped up on that one, as friends quickly pointed out that Africa is the place for coffee!

Our dinner was Ghana style rice and beans as I could not find any recipes for Somali food. I thought it was delicious! It would be a great way to use up leftover this and that, which can be added as toppings. It would also be yummy in summer with garden produce - freshly sliced corn kernels, tomatoes, and zucchini. As one of my nephews would say: yum, yum. We can learn a lot from Africans about how to cook yummy, cheap food for lots of people.


Ready for Courtship?

Before even thinking about courting or dating, men and women ought to know what they believe God says about marriage. The goal of courtship is to make a decision about whether or not to marry a particular person. Knowing what God says brings clarity and helps couples to build on a solid foundation. Readiness for marriage, and therefore for courtship, could be defined as a willingness to commit to living out God’s purposes. Here are some of the reasons God created marriage:

* A man needs a helper in his dominion (or creation) mandate. The dominion mandate is linked to having kids, which a man can’t do alone (Genesis 1:28). As well as this, a wife is to be her husband's primary helper in every way she can.

* God wants human beings to have companionship (Genesis 2:18).

* God instituted marriage because “He seeks godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15).

* Marriage is the relationship in which to enjoy sex and romance (Song of Songs).

* Marriage fulfils sexual desire lawfully (1 Corinthians 7).

* Couples can minister together and open their home for hospitality and other church activities. The New Testament records couples doing this.

* Marriage displays Christ’s relationship with His church (Ephesians 5).

The Bible also makes role distinctions within marriage. Men are to lead, and carry the responsibility before God for the spiritual welfare of their wives and households. Women are to submit to this leadership. Men have the main responsibility before God for financial provision. Women have the main responsibility for day-to-day childcare and domestic concerns. You may not agree with all my conclusions here, but the important thing is to search the scriptures and come to decisions about what you do believe is God’s will.


Planning my priorities

Those of you who are familiar with Biblical Womanhood blog will know that Crystal is into planning. Due to her cyber-influence, I made up my own planning method. Rather than having daily goals, I only have a weekly goal chart. I write out goals in specific areas:

  • Seeking God - praise, prayer, and Bible
  • Study and skill development - education, household, and other
  • Loving others
  • Homemaking and personal

As each goal is completed, I colour it in, which gives a sense of achievement!

I have found that this chart helps me to think about my most important life priorities right now. It helps to turn good thoughts or intentions into actions. I've learnt more hymns since beginning this than I have for years!

I keep the sheet in a plastic sleeve except when I'm writing a new goal or colouring a completed one. If it doesn't seem like I'll have time to complete an idea/request this week, I write in the "next week?" section at the bottom. You'll also notice all the blank space on my chart - at times I even cross out part of one section if I absolutely have to focus on other goals that week.

At the bottom there are two "big questions" from Crystal's blog:

Does this glorify God and honour my husband?
Will this matter in eternity?

I don't always know the answers, but just asking the questions helps keep things in perspective.


Courtship matters

Two years ago I shared my thoughts about courtship and marriage in this ridiculously long post. Back then I was single. Now that Dave and I have been married nearly a year, I’d like to revisit the topic in a series of posts. Some of the “courtship matters” posts will be revisions of my old “On marriage” post, and there will also be new material.

Why bother?

Courtship matters. The decisions that are made about romantic relationships prior to marriage have an effect upon the rest of your life.

Marriage matters. In the chapter subsequent to the Creation Mandate, God told us that the man needed a helper. He could not complete his mandate alone. Husbands and wives are co-labourers in taking godly dominion over the earth.

Trusting God matters. We can’t do this alone. Marriage is important to God, and it is something Christians should aspire to if they are not called to singleness. However, honouring and knowing God is the greatest goal.


What next . . .

Dave and I are in a busy and stressful time of our lives. To give you an idea . . .

  • Dave has been working on a PhD thesis about trees for over three years, and has just flown to Melbourne to submit it! He'll be back on Friday.
  • Dave preached on Luke 12 at our church last night.
  • We're finalising the purchase of our home this week. We're buying the house we've been renting for a year.
  • Dave is in the process of gaining a temporary working visa to replace his student visa, which expires two weeks after PhD submission.
  • We booked our flights to South Africa on Friday last week, and we are planning to leave on Monday next week! If all goes to plan and Dave and I will be there for three weeks, providing Dave's visa is granted so he can re-enter Australia.
Everday things continue also . . . my assignments, housework, meetings (Choices of Life at my place 1:30 Wed!), people and more people!

We'll need a holiday after all this, won't we?


Slowing down

I have made a lot of progress with my hand patchwork since I started. These are all the completed blocks laid out on a blanket.

One of the reasons Dave loves my patchwork is that it helps me to slow down and sit a while doing something peaceful.

Tonight I read a prayer in a precious handmade book of quotes and pictures a friend gave me a couple of Christmases ago:

In the name of Jesus Christ, who was never in a hurry, we pray, O God, that you will slow us down, for we know that we live too fast. With all of eternity before us, make us take time to live - time to get acquainted with You, time to enjoy Your blessings, and time to know each other. Peter Marshall.
How desperately I need that, especially at a time when I've been fighting a lot of negative and/or sinful emotions and often feel stressed. For me, right now, quietly sitting and stitching is a God-send. So I'm off to sit with my honey and stitch!


Getting ready for summer!

Dave planted some strawberries plants in our strawberry planter a couple of weeks ago. Yum, yum.


Somalia's need for prayer

It is often easy to lump the whole African continent together as a troubled place, and fail to learn about the specific needs of particular countries. Africa contains diverse people groups, languages, governments, and churches. Some countries are largely Christian, others almost entirely Muslim. In many areas the church is in need of discipleship and strengthening, and can even send out missionaries. In other areas the church is struggling to survive. Somalia is one of those places.

Somalia has been war-torn for many years, and is officially labelled as a "failed state". Christians in Somalia suffer greatly as they seek to live for Jesus. Missionaries are in danger. Warlords reign. This week I'm organising a prayer night for Somalia, which will include a dinner of African food.

We long for the Great Commission to be fulfilled in Somalia, so that this nation obeys what Christ has commanded. If you would also like to pray, and contribute to the Great Commission in this way, go to the Year of Prayer for Somalia Open Doors site. You can download excellent prayer resources.


Skin colour

Pictures like this show us that there is very little genetic difference between people of different skin colours.

This couple, who could be described as "middle brown" had twins who are very different in skin colour! Creation Ministries International explains some of the reasons for this in the article The genetics of skin colour in people.

Indeed, the same main substance—a dark brown pigment called melanin—colours the skin of all humans.3 Individuals that have a lot of it appear to have ‘black’ skin; people that have little appear ‘white’. Melanin is produced by organelles called melanosomes, contained in special cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes are located in the bottom layer of the skin, and produce melanin with the aid of tyrosinase and other enzymes. People with lighter-coloured skin have smaller, fewer and less dense melanosomes than darker-skinned people.
I've also read that there can be greater genetic variance between two people with white skin than between a white and a black person. The gospel is God's answer to racism, so we should never use skin colour as an excuse not to extend love and hospitality to others. It is awful that people have been segregated, enslaved, poorly treated, and even killed on the basis of skin colour. Christians need to live out the opposite spirit of love, acceptance, and truth. As Christians, our love for people who are different to us is one way we can represent Jesus in this world of racial division and hostility.


Back next week

In order to better fulfil my responsibilities this week in regard to hospitality, purchasing a home, and submitting assignments, I will be having a break from my regular blogging schedule. Instead of blogging about loving God, I'll just be trying to do it! This quote has been a particular encouragement and challenge recently:

Life is likely to continue to hold many forms of torture and dismay . . . for all who refuse to receive with thanks giving instead of complaint the place in life God has chosen for them. The torture is self-inflicted, for God has not rejected their prayers. He knows better than any of us do what furthers our salvation. Our true happiness is to be realised precisely through his refusals, which are always mercies. His choice is flawlessly contrived to give the deepest kind of joy as soon as it is embraced. Elizabeth Elliot.

For encouragement this week in your quest to love God why not drop by the websites of a couple of women who are much wiser than I am.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss at Revive our Hearts.

Carolyn Mahaney at Girltalk.

Or alternatively, read Matthew’s gospel and grow in your love for Jesus! You’re sure to be blessed!

I’ll be back next week with more musings about the journey of seeking to loving others deeply.


Zimbabwe's election: Take 2

In a previous post I mentioned my thought that a positive outcome in Zimbabwe could give us hope for other African countries. Well, obviously there has not been a positive outcome. The African community is also failing to strongly address the many failings of the electoral process and Mr Mugabe's regime. Read African Union treads softly to find out more. The response of South Africa's president has been particularly disappointing.

I know next-to-nothing about Africa yet, but I am quickly learning that my hope for Africa is only in God. Zimbabewe's opposition leader Mr Tsvangirai seems fantastic, but he is not the "answer". God is. Mr Mugabe has stated that only God will remove him from office. He's right, so we'd better keep praying!


Collecting litter

Dave and I don't live in the best area. The park up the road often features litter strewn across the ground. It is likely that people buy snacks and drinks at the nearby shop and then discard the packaging as they walk through the park. There is also a reserve down the road from our house, which also contains a lot of litter (as well as some ugly burnt out cars). Some people obviously think that the bush is an appropriate place to dump their garden and building refuse, and anything else they don't know what to do with.

For about nine months after we got married, I'd walk past all this and think "oh, that is ugly". After a while I began to think that if others could litter, I could surely collect their mess! So in June on my regular walks I began to pick up some litter.

Whenever I decide to pick up litter on a walk, I always end up with a bag full like this. I don't pick up every bit of litter, as it would take too long and ruin the enjoyment of the walk. I've come across some things that are disturbing, including one item I phoned the police about as I thought it might be indicative of child abuse. There is also a lot of broken glass which I haven't worked out how to collect yet.

I am beginning to notice a difference in some areas. To me, this is just one way to live out our Creation Mandate to care for the earth. God gave us a beautiful world to enjoy, and we can do our bit to keep it that way.


An 18th Century Girl

People have told me that I'm a bit of an 18th century girl. One friend told me that the evidence for this includes the following:

I cook
I love children, and would like a lot of them
I think abortion is really, really bad
I make things

The fact that I started a hand patchwork course on Saturday should bolster my status as a person who belongs in another century. I was very excited about beginning the course, and collected a variety of blue and yellow fabrics.

So far, I have partially pieced two blocks. I've done all I can on them before the next lesson, and my fingers are itching to do more! I've enjoyed playing with what I've done so we can see what the blocks will look like when they're all sewn together.

I'm anticipating the next seven weeks of lessons, and the many patterns I will learn. Hand work is great for sitting and listening to Dave read, sitting and chatting, or picking up to do a little at a time.


Having fun with your husband

Those of you who've enjoyed some of my posts on loving your man may enjoy Crystal's post Lovin' That Man of Mine. Crystal encourages her readers to find ways to have fun with their husbands. This is another area where I know I could improve!


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