the gift of community

“Who knows other people in their local area who can help out when the baby arrives?” said the midwife.

In a room of about 15 couples, all about to have their first babies, we were the only ones in our antenatal class to put our hands up.

I know in some cultures it’s common for the grandma to come and help out for a few weeks, months or even years. And so I know that a quick survey like this doesn’t paint a full picture of people’s lives and support networks. Nevertheless, the thought that some of the people in the room might have to go it alone as they adjusted to being parents made me feel sad.

Without our church community, our hands would have stayed down too. But it’s now two and a half weeks since our baby girl arrived and I haven’t had to cook dinner since before I went into labour. We’ve had delicious fresh homemade meals delivered by people from church several nights a week, as well as a small stockpile of frozen meals in our tiny freezer for other nights. As well as the meals, we’ve received thoughtful gifts and several of the local mums are contacting me regularly to check in on how I’m going.

Our friends and family from further afield have been a great support too. One friend brought over an amazing hamper of goodies, including some homemade cookies, muesli bites and camembert cheese. And many people here in Australia and in our wider community of friends reaching across the globe are praying for us It’s so great to know we’re not alone and that our little family is in God’s strong, loving hands – both now in these early weeks, and also into the future. We want to raise our little girl in community too.

As I sit here watching our little girl wriggle and gurgle, I wonder how all the other couples in our antenatal class are going, and I pray that there are people in their lives who are supporting them through this big, challenging and exciting time.

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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!

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

 

 

Advent Blog Day 8 – living local

Today we had lunch in the sunshine at a local café with good friends and their cute kids, I did some grocery shopping while Adam had some emergency dental work, then we had our first swim in the pool in our apartment complex and this evening we tested out our new BBQ.

Now I’m sitting on the couch listening to the crack-crack of fireworks I can’t see.

I love ‘local days’ like this – days when I don’t have to leave our local area. And today I really needed a simpler day. We are always glad to visit friends and family who live further afield in Sydney, but I’m thankful for a highway-less day on the weekend. I think it’s good for the soul.

three cute kids
three cute kids