shadowmount

Anaesthetic

Yesterday, I received the coolest job rejection correspondence ever. After being interviewed at the local Christian bookstore, I was sent the stock-standard ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter PLUS a small gift – a 365-day women’s devotional entitled Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young. Props to Koorong for their generosity, and I became aware very soon after opening the book that this was no accident. Perhaps it was God’s purpose in giving me an interview for a totally unsuitable job – just to get this little volume into my hands.

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Flipping to May 7, I found that the entry was all to do with trusting the Lord. The book is written as though Jesus is speaking directly to the reader, and addressed me yesterday thus: “If you learn to trust Me – really trust Me – with your whole being, then nothing can separate you from My peace. Everything you endure can be put to good use by allowing it to train you in trusting Me. This is how you foil the works of evil, growing in grace through the very adversity that was meant to harm you.” (Gen. 50:20; Psalm 23:4)

Turning to May 6, I was then urged “Do not search for security in the world you inhabit. You tend to make mental checklists of things you need to do in order to gain control of your life. If you could only check everything off your list, you could relax and be at peace. But the more you work to accomplish that goal, the more things crop up on your list. There is a better way to find security in this life. Instead of scrutinizing your checklist, focus your attention on My presence with you.” (Isaiah 26:3; 2 Cor. 4:18)

Now, the checklists referred to here are not the kind that people use when they don’t trust their memory at the grocery shop, or when there are five uni assignments due in one month. These checklists contain weighty items like ‘getting married’ and ‘owning a house’ and ‘getting promoted.’ They are stuffed full of the things people tend to think are necessary for a good life – non of which are necessarily objectionable in their own right, but which may become so when fuelled by rebellious motives. John Eldredge, in his book Desire, describes his dream of owning a ranch property and his heart’s response to the prospect in one very telling sentence: “I could really be happy here without God.” THAT is the nature of the checklist; an inventory of things by which we may achieve satisfaction and contentment on our own terms, without having to do that pesky trust thing. Our lists contain unique prescriptions for anaesthetic to dull the ache of a life spent in a fallen world, separated from the living God.

But God WILL be God. He WILL be loved, above all else, and He will not tolerate rebellion or idolatry. This is something I am coming to grips with in a very real and visceral manner. What’s my anaesthetic? The allure of a ‘normal’ life and self-sufficiency. I look around at other single women who have steady jobs and can afford mortgages – women who aren’t afraid to admit they like the security those things bring – and I just want what they have. I long for a great job that lets me use my skills and abilities, and pays me well enough to provide all the bits and pieces I feel would equate to a lovely little life. I want a plushy sofa suite and a heat pump and a dishwasher and an espresso machine. I would love a fantastic home entertainment system with awesome speakers and a new TV (which I justify by saying that it doesn’t need to be all that big – 32 inches would be plenty, thanks). I crave a space of my own where everything is the way I like it and I’m queen of the domain.

But hang on a minute, what am I trying to ‘anaesthetise’ here? What am I compromising for? (Because it is a compromise.) Turns out I’m trying to arrange for a life of singleness. In a refusal to trust God with the fulfilment of my most cherished hope, I’m seeking to make up for a life without human intimacy by substituting creature comforts. As though any amount of home-made lattes and movie nights on said plushy sofa would mean anything without a husband to share them with. And even thinking life would be so much better if I were married is potentially misguided, if by that, I mean “I could really be happy without God.”

So in His wisdom and righteous jealousy, my Father has so far denied me all of these means of securing life for myself. I have no occupation by which to identify myself; no husband in whose eyes I may find my beauty; no house of my own to fill with all my favourite comforts. There’s just Him, in all His sufficiency, if I would only drop to my knees and accept it.

“What of my friends, Lord?” I ask. “Why do You allow them their little securities?”

To which He replies “Don’t look around at others. Look to Me. Trust Me. I love you, and I want you to be entirely Mine. It is necessary in order for you to accomplish the things I have planned for you.”

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Why I (Don’t) Write

When asked to describe myself, I inevitably end up stating that I am a writer. Since the days in Grade 1 when we were told to sit down with our little exercise books and thick, clumsy greylead pencils (all misshapen from being subjected to the ruthless grinding of the crank-handle sharpeners), I have found an ease, a solace in wordcraft. To say that I am a writer is not about what I do for a crust, or how often I churn out a blog post, or whether I have any published works to my name. When I identify thus, I mean that it is who I am. A pen in my fingers is not a tool; it is a conduit for the energy of my observations, which would otherwise remain imprisoned and ineffective within me. Two words on paper – lines of ink drawn in particular shapes – can answer a question or solve a problem I have wrestled with for years. Writing is an integral part of my design. It is how I make sense of the world and release my understanding to any and all who may seek it.

And yet, even with such power in my hands, I find myself often afraid to use it. The reason, I have discovered, is simply this: I have seen things, felt things and thought things so pure in form that they can never be given justice by recreation. How am I to adequately describe the artistry in a curving, softly-furred horse’s ear, or in diamonds of winter dew on a spider’s web? How can I express the magic of a kiss from a man I love? Or even the taste of chocolate?

I can’t. My words will only ever be a shadow, a breath of the actual experience. And that knowledge breaks my heart just enough to deter me from trying. Sometimes it seems better to hold the beauty within and to know I saw it, or felt it. Even if it aches for release; even if my heart is a vessel hardly big enough to contain it.

Allergy-Friendly Carrot, Date and Walnut Loaf

Meet the first of my gluten and dairy free recipe conversions! This loaf is one of my favourite things. It’s sweet and dark and sticky and spicy. Takes a good while to prepare, but totally worth the effort. And now I’ve discovered another little trick in its bag – it works equally well if it’s made with gluten free flour and olive oil instead of butter. What’s not to love?? I think this loaf is good for breakfast, a daytime snack, dessert or supper!

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil (or 100g butter, chopped)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pitted dates
1 tsp mixed spice (I use a combo of about 40% cinnamon, 20% nutmeg, 20% ginger, 10% cloves and 10% coriander)
1 tsp bicarb soda
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups gluten free self-raising flour (or normal self-raising)
150g crushed walnuts
1/2 cup grated carrot
1 cup cold water

Method:

1. Place oil (or butter), sugar, dates, spice and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for four minutes or until sugar has dissolved (and butter melted, if using it). Bring to boil and remove from heat. Stir in bicarb soda and cool for 20 minutes.
2. While the mixture is cooling, preheat oven to 180 degrees, and grease and line a loaf tin.
3. Stir in eggs. Add flour, nuts and carrot, stir to combine and pour into tin. Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out.

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Choice and Pursuit in Christian Dating

I sometimes read Christian dating forums – it’s interesting to see what other singles my age experience in the search (or lack thereof) for a spouse, and to note the trends in discourse. One topic that keeps popping up in various guises is the question of whether a woman should ever ‘make the first move’ with a man, or if it’s best for her to sit back and hope some bold huntsman out there will catch her scent and start seeking her out. The prevailing image seems to be one of quiescence; a good Christian girl is to wait patiently to be selected by a man, and only then is she free to throw the gossamer strands of her feminine allure around his heart. She is not to compromise or (heaven forbid) threaten the man in his inherent role of pursuit by being too assertive.

I’ve gotta say, this leaves me totally cold, and here’s why. I believe it’s true that the male design reflects the wooing-and-pursuing side of God’s nature, the same side He uses on us all to win our hearts. And there aren’t many things worse than a passive man who’s just along for the ride because he’s too afraid to make moves himself or because it’s nice and easy to accept attention from a woman who’s willing to do the hard work.

However…the crucial element often overlooked in this whole ‘women shouldn’t pursue’ argument is that of choice. A woman’s choice. God as pursuer doesn’t force Himself on anyone. He waits for our hearts to choose Him, to begin hungering for what He can offer, and then He makes the move. We’re not passive recipients of His pursuit. I feel that on a deep, prototypical level, the same ought to be true for men and women.

As a woman, I know that I cannot be won over by persistence or pursuit from any man without having first noticed and ‘chosen’ him. If I have not chosen, then the pursuit is just irritating and awkward. I’ve never yet been in a position where some guy thinks I ‘owe him a chance’ just because he asked for one, but I do know women who have, and their distaste speaks volumes. If God operated that way, I don’t think He would get many followers.

So girls, by all means, wait to be pursued. No one says we have to go out and be ‘modern’ and chase men around. But no one says we have to respond to any and all men who are willing to approach us, either. We get a choice. Furthermore, there’s nothing wrong with putting ourselves strategically in the way of a man we like. After all, our Creator – whose beauty and allure we were designed to portray – does that all the time to win the hearts of His people. A woman who seeks appropriately to capture the attention of a man she has noticed honours God, just as does the man when he initiates romantic pursuit.

More cards!

A few more of my card making efforts…

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Six-Word Stories

After attending a rather fascinating story-telling evening tonight entitled ‘Poor Man’s Pot’ (episode #3), I recalled this curious exercise that I once came across in a chain email or something similar. I remembered writing about it in my old (VERY old) MySpace blog. So this is, in effect, a re-post. Hardly original, but hey. Here it is, with a few edits:

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Throwing pearls to pigs

There’s a young woman at my church who writes a Christian column for our local newspaper. She beavers away to try to present a balanced but thoroughly faith-based perspective on current and topical issues, and although her thoughts don’t always accord with mine, I have to applaud her for subjecting herself week after week to the disagreement, ridicule, and downright vitriol and personal attack that are bound to come with writing opinion pieces on spirituality (especially Christian spirituality). I don’t know how she reacts in private, but her written responses to criticism are gracious, fair and thick-skinned. She takes it on the chin and keeps on fighting the good fight – and I admire that, because I simply would not have the patience to continue doing what Jesus termed ‘throwing pearls to pigs.’

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MONA

On a trip to Hobart this past weekend, I finally had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA, as it’s commonly known. This place has apparently become the most visited attraction in all of Tasmania – an impressive feat considering it’s completely man-made while our usual tourism chestnuts (like Cradle Mountain, Wineglass Bay, or the Tarkine reserve) tend to pack a heavy combination punch of natural beauty and strategic development. So, as a bit of museum/art gallery junkie, I was curious to see what MONA had to offer.

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Accidental chocolate hazelnut cupcakes

Yesterday, I set out to make some cupcakes using a standard, simple recipe, but upon measuring out ingredients, I discovered I was about 15 grams short of cocoa.

DISASTER!! What to do?! O.0

The answer turned out to be surprisingly simple. After staring into the cupboard for a good 5 minutes or so, a nearly-empty jar of Nutella suddenly caught my eye, and I decided to melt it down a bit and incorporate it in place of the missing cocoa. It was a bit of a gamble, but the result was delicious! The cake lost none of its soft, fluffy texture, and took on a delectable hint of hazelnut beneath the rich chocolate flavour. Obviously, I didn’t have any cocoa left over to ice them, but this particular recipe does well without icing anyway.

Anyone interested can copy & paste this link to find the recipe:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/easy_chocolate_cake_31070

I substituted approximately 2.5 tablespoons of Nutella for 15 grams cocoa. Enjoy with a coffee! 🙂

First attempts at card crafting

This year has seen a resurgence in my long-dormant artistic/creative impulses, and a completely new-found appreciation for handcrafts (previously, I thought such things were a bit old fashioned and stuffy, but these days, I place a higher value on individuality than on mass production). So, inspired by some friends who produce beautiful work, I decided to try my hand at making cards. I know there are specific techniques and styles people use, but I have deliberately gone it alone in an endeavour to bring greater singularity to my own attempts. That way, if I end up using popular techniques, it’ll be because I figured them out for myself and not because anyone said “This is the way you make a card!”

Here are some of my initial creations.

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