Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Of birthdays and felt owls and chocolate mousse, oh my!

[a birthday morning Skype chat with mother and smallest brother]

[the tulips have opened up gloriously]
[my sister Lauren made this little guy for my birthday]

[we called him Hoo and took him on a Winnie-the-Pooh-style Expotition...]

[he seemed to enjoy it]
[this face is me pretending I don't feel sick on my birthday]

[and this is Lauren and I pretending we are -- I don't know -- teenagers or something]

[and this is my frabjous birthday non-cake]

[and it was James-my-sister's-boyfriend's 21st on Friday (they're cute)]
Happy days!

Who I am in Christ is more important than just who I am.

This week someone called me out on something they felt I had got wrong. Essentially, we were both on the same page; we'd just misunderstood each other. But somehow the exchange still left me feeling down -- sad, confused, and even a bit lonely.

When I got to wondering why someone's critique could make me so gloomy, I came to an embarrassing conclusion: once again, I realised I'm too wrapped up in how others perceive me and whether we all agree in sweet, sweet harmony (confessions of a chronic people-pleaser, eep!).

It came back to the lesson God seems to be hammering home lately: who I am is not about who I am, even; it's about who I am in Him. Forgive me for harping on about it. It's just... I'm taking a while for the truth to absorb. It helps that my theology lectures this semester are all about security, and the rock-solid basis of who we are which comes down to Who made us and redeemed us.

So who are you?

Me, well, on my own I'm not much. I'm awkward, full of failings, and my esteem is based on how others view me. But Someone had a different plan for me. He rushed in and ransomed me from all of that (even though sometimes I forget and live like I'm still held captive). He rescued me and then He told me I belonged to Him for now and forever. More than that, He called me His child, and that is who I am. That is the real me. Funny, isn't it? The real me is not even about me. It's about Him.

Thank you times a hundred for joining all the fun of the blog de-lurking party! It was awesome reading your comments and finding out where you're all from -- a big happy mix of old and new friends. Although I was actually sick for most of my birthday week, I do have nice pictures and I was incredibly spoilt. So a picture post is coming soon :).

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's a blog party!

My dear friend Abigail's birthday was last month, and to celebrate on her blog, she threw a big de-lurking party and invited all lurkers to drop by and leave a comment. It's my birthday tomorrow, and in an act of bold and unashamed theft, I am outrightly stealing her idea and doing the same thing, here and now.
So whether you've stumbled onto this little piece of web for the first time today, or are a long-time reader, I'm inviting you to leave a comment. My site visit statistics tell me people pop by from some very awesome places with very cool names, so feel free to tell me where you're visiting from. And if you'd rather not leave your name, maybe you can sign off with the name of a book character you most relate to -- or the one you secretly wish you related to.
I will leave you with some pictures of early birthday present happiness from kind friends: tulips and rainbow choc chips! Let the de-lurking begin.

In praise of treehouses.

When I was small, a kids' magazine I subscribed to included, in one special issue, a large fold-out poster of a treehouse. The treehouse wasn't a real one; it was just a stylised artist's concept drawing, but I remember spending ages lying on my stomach on the floor, chin propped in hands, gazing at this picture. Then, for months, I drew my own plans for treehouses with amazing multi-levels and real windows and doors. Oh, and a pulley system for lowering and lifting snacks and mail. Always there had to be a pulley system.

Nowadays, pictures of treehouses still fill me with that same sense of otherworldly enchantment. I remember being a small person and believing that it really would be possible to make a treehouse with six rooms and a shingled roof and a rope ladder which could be drawn up when intruders appeared.

And so it makes sense that I want to jump straight into these pictures, from Pete Nelson's New Treehouses of the World. Aren't they just incredibly dreamy and fairytale?

Happy Monday to you all. Long live treehouses!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Grace and chocolate.

Last night my sister and I watched the 2000 film, Chocolat. I relished much of it -- 1950s dresses! chocolate! Juliette Binoche! Johnny Depp! Judi Dench! amazing soundtrack! -- while not liking other elements.*
Essentially, Chocolat (more serious fairytale than realistic drama) is the story of a Frenchwoman, Vianne, who travels from town to town dispensing grace along with chocolates, but never quite finding it for herself. Vianne is the true heroine of the story, offering forgiveness to those who hurt her, and working to mend the cracks in the small community where she has currently settled. The baddies of the story -- because all good stories have a baddie of some kind -- are the townspeople, who are so wrapped up in legalism and a series of unspoken village laws that they will break the spirit of anyone who refuses to conform.
The problem is, Vianne is a pagan, unwed mother. Her enemies are the church folk who are caught up in Trying to be Good. It makes me a little sad when I see Christianity portrayed in the media as a series of rules that, when followed, suck the life from its disciples, turning them into emotional automotons and harsh moral judges. And that's how I felt when I watched Chocolat. The very people who ought to be showing grace are the ones who don't even know what it looks like.
But hasn't this happened throughout much of history? Between the Pauls and the Tertullians and the Luthers of the church were the Simon Stylites and the Crusaders and the Zwinglis, men and women who heard something of grace but who failed to see its power to save. Instead, their zeal -- right and true in itself -- led them down a path of legalistic action which, in its varying extremes, denied the grace they claimed to serve.
The gospel without grace isn't the gospel. His grace and love come first, then our obedience follows. If we reverse the order, we are only trying to save ourselves and the people we believe we are helping. If I speak in the tongue of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
On a surface level, Chocolat appears to be glorifying a rebellion against the status quo, showing that the true heroes are the ones who live in freedom and tolerance. To an extent, I agree. But freedom isn't freedom until we have been set free -- and the freedom that Christ brings is the only freedom that can free us from ourselves and show us grace. His grace comes to us in the form of His love. For us to share that love with others would be a true rebellion -- a rebellion against a status quo which has prevailed since the fall of Eden. Fortunately for me, the grace that was there then is here to help us share grace now.
*Therefore, not a blanket recommendation.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The creative wardrobe :: part 2

In the second instalment of my little bundle of creative wardrobe posts, I want to introduce you to Frocks & Frou Frou, my current favourite source of clothing inspiration.

I love this blog for numerous reasons: Firstly, Lilli is Australian. That not only makes her cool but also means that she shares clothing sources that I can actually take advantage of, seeing as we live on the same continent and all. So much of the wonderful stuff in blog-land comes from overseas; it's nice to be able to read the words of someone a little closer to home. But quite apart from that, Lilli's outfits are classic and feminine and fun. Best of all, she's a curvy lady so her styling ideas don't work just for the waif-like. The images she shares inspire me to do new things with old clothes, and my wardrobe definitely benefits from a visit to her blog.
[All images from Frocks & Frou Frou.]

Bonus: check out for modest fashion!

Monday, August 3, 2009

In print, times two

I confess: I still get kind of little-kid excited when some of my work comes out in print. Words I have pulled together rank top of the excitement meter, but it's also pretty cool to see design work appearing in glorious glossy full colour. This week I get to experience the fun double, with work appearing in two Australian quilting mags. My hand-stitched cover for an inspiration journal is part of Homespun's volume 10 #8, the full-of-pretty garden issue. And -- one of my favourite quilts to stitch -- the Paradise Quilt made the cover of volume 8 #4 of Country Patchwork and Craft. Yay!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Living in freedom from tyranny.

Uni started back this week, so I am once again immersed in books and assignments and lectures, and it's a treat. Learning really is so much fun. But adding to that, the timing of this week's theology lectures has been particularly super. The last two months have been ones of massive change for my family and I and, being rather a stick-in-the-mud, I don't always handle change particularly well. So this week's lectures, which discussed how living in the freedom of Christ means being steadfast because of what He has done within (instead of being changeable based on what is going on outside) were incredibly encouraging. I'm challenged to make choices and responses based on what Christ has already done, rather than what is happening in the moment. And what has Christ done? He's opened the door for us to be part of a new way of life in fellowship with Him.

I love Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of a powerful section of Ephesians 6:6-14:

Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life -- no longer at sin's every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection.
We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, this of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That's what Jesus did.
That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don't give it the time of day. Don't even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholehearteduly and full-time -- remember, you've been raised from the dead! -- into God's way of doing things. Sin can't tell you how to live. After all, you're not living under that old tyranny any longer. You're living in the freedom of God.

Praying that for all of us, this week.

PS. It's been like Spring here in Queensland this week. This afternoon was spent under the sun by the water with a bunch of church friends for an 18th birthday party -- a perfect place to be on a Sunday afternoon.
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