Three things I love about our fruit and vegetable co-op

One of our friends recently set up a fruit and vegetable co-op. There are five couples, we each put in $20 ($40 for our super nutritious friends) plus a few $ for eggs, and following a roster, every two weeks one couple goes to the growers markets at Flemington on a Saturday morning and buys fruit and vegetables in bulk for everyone. They bring it back to their home, split it up and then everyone comes by to pick it up. We went on Saturday morning for the first time and we will only have to go once again before the end of the year.

Our car full of healthy food!

So far, there are three things I love about the co-op:

1) Building community

All the co-op members are part of a private Facebook group. We communicate pick-up details for Saturdays, make requests for certain items and share recipes with one another based on the produce in all of our fridges. I’m getting to know other people’s cooking styles, visiting friends’ homes and learning a bit more about them in the process. It’s not exactly unique to be bonding over food, but we have to eat. So just like school was more fun with friends, our co-op is bringing a touch of community into our day-to-day meals.

2) Healthy, cost-effective eating

When our small fridge is packed full (and I do mean 3D-Tetris style full) of vegetables and the fruit bowl is overflowing, it’s hard to justify not eating healthy.  We are generally eating less meat and more eggs too. Given that most meals we make create leftovers, we have plenty of food to last for two weeks from the $20.

3) A variety of new meals

Since we started about six weeks ago, I have cooked more than 12 new recipes. In the busyness of life, I easily fall into a pattern of making the same old meals all the time, so its great to be challenged to try new things.

some recent meals (an old family favourite and three new ideas)
some recent meals (an old family favourite and three new ideas)

On Monday I roasted beetroots in balsamic glaze and poached pears – both things I’d been curious to try. Tonight I made my friend’s delicious pumpkin, broccoli and chickpea curry. Perhaps it’s the optimiser in me, or the memory of dad saying ‘waste not, want not’ throughout my childhood in my head, but either way I am simply compelled to put the fruit and vegetables in my fridge to good use!

It’s an early morning once every 2 months, but well worth it so far!

Getting back on the horse

On Saturday I got to meet my friend’s beloved horse Genna for the first time. It was so wonderful to see this stunning animal who she has invested in, competed on and cared for since the middle of last year. My friend even let me have a ride…

…which was really lovely until I found myself trotting briskly towards a fence. In a moment of panic trying to make her stop or turn, I in fact clung on tighter and leaned forward (which in horse language means ‘go faster’), so she bucked me off. I completely confused her.

I have generally felt that I had a pretty good understanding of the old adage, if you fall (or fail?), you just have to get back on the horse. I’ve tried and failed and tried again plenty of times over the years – from music exams that didn’t go as hoped to recipes that didn’t work or my attempts to learn to surf.

And then I really did fall off a horse. So, despite being in a state of teary shock, covered in sand and dust, with a swelling right ankle and a rather sore back, as well as being the very last thing I felt like doing, getting back on the horse was exactly what I did.

It’s really tempting when something like this happens to worry about my injuries and pain and my own failings which brought them about. “What if I have lower back problems forever now…?” “If only I had…” I have been praying about and trying to resist these temptations.

One of the ways I have been doing this is by reminding myself that there is much I can be thankful for. I am particularly thankful that I wasn’t more badly injured, that I landed on sand, and my friend was right beside me within seconds with hugs and calm words of wisdom (and later ran me a spa bath at her house!). I’m also thankful that my friends  supported my decision to get back on. Even though I’m in no hurry to ride again, I’m really glad that my last experience on Genna and on any horse, was a calm, positive one. Getting back on really does make sense.

post fall - back on the horse
post fall – back on the horse

A very good book

I have been reading this book since I was a little girl. And as long as I live I will never finish reading it. It never gets old. There are sections I haven’t yet read at all, and others I know by heart. There is always something new to learn or a truth I need to remember or a challenge to change something in my life.

It isn’t just a good book. I think it is the best book.

I received this copy of The Message Bible as a gift at a recent conference. I usually read from the NIV or ESV translation when doing Bible studies or my quiet times. But I’ve started reading from this translation, before I go to sleep. It’s a blessing to read this beloved book in fresh, every day language.

The Bible is the best book because it’s all about the best thing in the world – God’s mission to bring people back to relationship with himself through sending Jesus, his son, to die on the cross and rise again.

One foot in the door

After reflecting yesterday on the challenge of connecting with our neighbours, some relatively new members of our church brought along another of their neighbours to church this morning – the second young woman in less than a month. Just awesome.

When we found ourselves giving them a lift to a spontaneous lunch with other people from church, I couldn’t resist asking: what’s the secret?

He said “I just talk to people!”

I was like, but how? Where?

His answer: “The lift is the best place to talk to people. When people get in I check what button they press then estimate how many seconds I have to make conversation with them. I think quickly about what to ask them about. If they have kids I ask them about their children, or if they are holding shopping then I ask what they have bought and what they are cooking.”

So then I asked: “How did Sarah* come along to church?”

“Oh I met her in the lift last Sunday and we were talking about where we had been. I had just been to church, and wanted to know which one. I told her about One1seven and she was very interested. So I stuck my foot in the lift door and got her email address.”

He also reflected on the ease of striking up conversations with people in the park – you ask them about the dog – name, breed, age etc, and a few questions about themselves – find out about them first, then ask do they go to church? Apart from momentarily wishing I had a dog, this confirmed something I had observed recently – loving people always means listening to their stories and perhaps beliefs first, then sharing what we want to say – whether that’s telling them about Jesus or anything else.

Do I have the boldness, the confidence, the courage it takes? No, not really. But then I have to remember, it’s not about me. I can’t save people. God does that.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

Romans 1:16

20 seconds is not enough time for a meaningful relationship to develop, but perhaps it could be a foot in the door. Who knows? A question about a dog or a baby could be an opening for a powerful message. I just have to be faithful, prayerful and take the opportunities I get.

Neighbours – so close and yet so far

It’s more than seven months since we moved into our flat. We love so much about living here – from the balcony to the dishwasher, from the parking space to the pool. We love sharing our home with our families and friends and our new small group every Thursday.

But when we moved here, close to church, into a huge apartment complex, we really hoped and prayed that we’d be able to connect with our neighbours. On our floor alone there are 11 other apartments. But most of the time our hallway looks like this:

our empty hallway
our empty hallway

So the best (and only?) time to interact with our neighbours is in the thirty seconds it takes to use the lift from the parking lot or ground floor, to our level and vice versa. In theory. And preferably going up, so that the conversation continues down the hallway. We soon learned however, that other people don’t really want to talk to their neighbours. Perhaps living in close proximity to so many others makes people more private. Perhaps Australians aren’t as friendly as we make ourselves out to be. Perhaps people don’t want new friends.

So we have become those people. We try to smile at our fellow building dwellers when we share the lift (although headphones and back turners can make this rather difficult) and strike up conversations ranging from the weather to work and little else in between. Beyond the lady next door and her cute little one year old, we don’t even know anyone’s names on our floor…

It can’t stay this way, that much is clear. But how can we love our neighbours if we don’t know them?

Should we start a building Facebook group like others in our community have done? Where to begin? What would its purpose be? Do we have the energy to establish and sustain something like this…and what if we move? Should we start small – a meal with the couple next door or invite our whole floor to casual drinks on our balcony? The ideas excite and scare me at the same time.

What if people aren’t interested or are too busy? A friend told me a few months ago about how their new neighbours in a very different part of Sydney declined to come over for a BBQ, full-stop. They were too busy. It would be sad, but it would be ok. At the very least we would know we had tried. And I really hope that in the next few months we will indeed try. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:30-31

 

 

My strength

Every day I am tempted to do things in my own strength. I don’t think I am exactly strong, but I still try to be a godly wife, employee, friend, church member, daughter and sister, on my own. Without God, I am weak and I constantly fail. Last night at Colour Conference I was struck by these words:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

Psalm 84:5

I realised afresh that not only do I have the strength of my Heavenly Father because of what Jesus has done on the cross, but I am also blessed as I set my heart on pilgrimage towards eternity with him. Why rely on my human strength when the Almighty God of the whole universe wants to bless me when my strength is in him?

The purpose of Colour Conference is to gather Christian women each year, to encourage and strengthen them, and then scatter to the places where they are planted – empowered and strengthened to be the change.

This is my third Colour – one of the reasons I love going is because I know I will leave uplifted, strengthened and empowered to continue serving God faithfully in the church where God has planted me. And as I scatter (only a couple of suburbs away to Redfern), I must remember that God alone is my strength, and blessing is possible when he is in control. I can do nothing without him.

Snapshots from Colour Conference 2013
Snapshots from Colour Conference 2013

‘My’ (not-so) secret garden

Nestled in the middle of three office towers and the freeway that leads to the Harbour Bridge, there lies a garden. Grass, ponds, shady trees, a fountain, interesting plants and garden seats. Each day, as long as it’s not raining, I escape from our dark windowless office, lunch in hand and wander through the lobbies of those office buildings (with my best accountant/banker face on of course) to the little sanctuary beyond.

This little garden is my favourite place to spend my lunch breaks. Though on an especially sunny day it can be hard to find a seat, it’s rarely crowded – with people or birds or cigarette smoke, rather unlike the other parks and open spaces in the city.* Here I sit, eat, read and ponder over my Bible, soak up the sun and people watch. This escape sustains me, refocuses me on the bigger picture and helps me keep going through the afternoon.

It’s not really so secret either – you would just have to know it was there. I’m thankful for my slightly secret garden.

my secret garden

*Once, an ibis tried to steal my lunch out of my hand here, but I haven’t seen any for weeks!

(And after what turned into a month long break from blogging after my Advent Blog, it feels good to be writing on here again). 

New Year’s Eve Reflections

It’s almost time to venture out into our busy city to celebrate the end of 2012. But first, a moment to stop and write. As my friend over at Eternity wrote today, the end of one year and the start of a new one, is a good time for self-reflection.

This morning I read some wise words from John Piper. He says,

For me the end of a year is like the end of my life. And 11:59pm on December 31 is like the moment of my death. The 365 days of the year are like a miniature lifetime. And these final hours are like the last days in the hospital after the doctor has told me that the end is very near. And in these last hours, the lifetime of this year passes before my eyes, and I face the inevitable question: Did I live it well? Will Jesus Christ, the righteous judge, say “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

~ John Piper, ‘Solid Joys’ App, 31 December 2012

I was confronted and humbled as I reflected on this notion that each year is a miniature lifetime. What if my life was to end tonight? Did I live 2012 well? Was I faithful?

Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—

they are like the new grass of the morning:

In the morning it springs up new,

but by evening it is dry and withered.

Psalm 90:5-6

I used to hate thinking or talking about death. It’s still not my favourite topic, but I have learned in recent years that it’s helpful to think about from time to time. Remembering I will die one day forces me to stop and think about whether the life I’m living today is of value in an eternal sense. It also challenges me (and I know this is cliché) to see each day as a gift – not something I have owing to me, but something precious bestowed upon me to use for God’s glory. As I look towards 2013, I’m not sure yet what my ‘resolutions’ will be, or if I will make any at all. But I will be seeking to see each day as a gift!

And so, in no particular order, here are ten things I’m thankful for as I come to the end of 2012.

  1.  The opportunity to experience living with friends and the ways this blessed, challenged and refined me.
  2. Our fantastic holiday in Spain.
  3. Completing my Advent Blog in December.
  4. The provision of our cozy new apartment in Alexandria – with a studio for Adam and a great balcony to share with friends and family.
  5. Going deeper into God’s word and seeing the fulfilment of his promises through studying my first theology subject.
  6. A challenging, busy, great first year working at CMS. I am thankful that I like going to work most days!
  7. Growing in my understanding of what the Bible says about being made in God’s image as a woman.
  8. A whole year of no migraines for my husband – the first year this has happened since he first started getting them as a teenager.
  9. Challenges, adventures, joys and trials in our marriage – all of which God has used to make us more dependent on him and closer to each other.
  10. Deepening relationships with our church family at one1seven, Redfern.

photo (26)

 

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

Advent Blog Day 25 – Christmas Day

It’s technically Boxing Day now, but nevertheless, Merry Christmas! After three family gatherings, two church services and our fair share of driving across the city over the last two days, I’m exhausted (and there’s still another lunch tomorrow). So I thought I’d simply share some photos today.

We’ve never done brunch before – it was refreshing to share a different meal!

ready for Christmas Brunch
ready for Christmas Brunch

Opening presents with the family, and a selfie from my brother-in law.

family!
family!

We do a Kris Kringle with my family, and this year I got Dad – he asked for Bunnings vouchers for a proper composter – he looks pretty happy about effectively reusing kitchen waste!

Dad looking pleased with his gift!
Dad looking pleased with his gift!

My sister made this super cute Christmas card for me. Isn’t she creative!

Christmas card by Heidi
Christmas card by Heidi

My siblings may not be impressed, but after finding all of these, I couldn’t resist sharing one of our Santa photos – complete with matching Christmas dresses made by Mum.

memory lane – our 1991 Santa photo
memory lane – our 1991 Santa photo

It may not be his favourite time of year, but I still love sharing Christmas with him.

my love.
my love.

The tradition continues in 2012. Gingerbread house demolition pose:

Adam ready to smash our gingerbread house!
Adam ready to smash our gingerbread house!

Today I got to bring along my first Christmas dessert. The cooler weather worked in my favour and my choc-mint ice cream slice didn’t melt in between home and my Aunt and Uncle’s!

Christmas dessert
Christmas dessert

This is my final Advent Blog for Christmas 2012. What started as a crazy, seemingly impossible ‘shower’ idea, became a very challenging but rewarding journey through advent. Thanks for reading my blogs over the last 25 days.

There will be new posts and new challenging blogging opportunities in 2013. For now, I’m looking forward to doing some more reading and craft during my short break from work, and a little more sleep each night! God bless. Adios.