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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

There are Cheesecake People and there are Salad People, and then there are the Jellybean People




There are Cheesecake People and there are Salad People, and then there are the Jellybean People. I’m a Cheesecake person, but not for the reasons you’d think. I don’t like eating them, but I love making them! They’re just so easy to make look beautiful (and expensive!). Not much effort for a whole heap of class.

Eating? I’d prefer a nice salad over a cheesecake any day. You know, those ones with fancy names like Chargrilled Pumpkin and Feta salad, Roast Green Beans with Sweet Berry Tomatoes, or Peach Pancetta and Mozzarella salad. Yummmmmmm!!!

My sisters-in-law are great at making salads. I should know. Every Christmas I fill my plate with their creations. Last Christmas, my five-year-old daughter skipped the meat, lollies and cakes spread across the table and filled her plate with salad too, if that gives you any idea of how great they looked!

But before the eating comes the inevitable stand around the table and admire each other’s creations. It goes something like this…

“Wow! Check out that salad! That looks awesome! Is that mango in there?”
“Yep.”
“Yum! And that one! Caramelised sweet potato? Seriously? Wow! Can’t wait to try it.”
“It’s just a salad.”
“Ha! My salads consist of badly chopped tomato, iceberg lettuce, carrot and, if you’re lucky, capsicum and cucumber. Nothing like that. I wish I could make salads like that.”
“Yeah, but look at your cheesecake! I can’t believe you made that! It looks like something you’d buy from a cake shop.”
“It is pretty but really, it’s heaps easier than it looks. Anyone could make it.”
“I couldn’t.”

And so it goes on. We each think our creation is the easiest thing in the world to make, while the thought of making the other thing has us completely stressing!

Cheesecake People and Salad People.

Then the Jellybeans turned up. No baking or mixing to make them whatsoever but hours of fun since the giant bag of crazy flavoured Jellybeans didn’t come with a cheat sheet of what each flavour was. It wouldn’t have been the Christmas it was without the Jellybean Person.

Or the Chocolate Ball Person, or the Pizza Scroll Person. Or the ‘I Just Provided the House’ (but we really know she did way more than that) Person.

See, Christmas lunch wouldn’t be Christmas lunch if everyone didn’t bring the bit they were good at. I bring cheesecakes because, believe me, even ducks who eat anything turn up their beaks at my salads. But I can do cheesecakes. My sisters bring salads because they hate baking but their salads are incredible. My brother brought jellybeans and a stack of laughter. And Mum and Dad provided the house which really is a big deal since we’d all be sitting on the street if not for that. I don’t think even cheesecake would taste good sitting on the side of the street.

Nor would a whole table full of cheesecakes make a very good lunch. Or a whole table of jellybeans. Or an empty house with no food. 

Pretty sure you’ve got the idea by now but in case you haven’t, here it is:

The world needs you and your gifts.

Whether you’re good at baking, tossing a salad together, buying jellybeans, opening the door to your house, finding the right music to set the scene, cleaning up, organising everyone else (or footing the bill to enable them to do something they might not have otherwise been able to do!), telling a joke, being adorable, filling the silence, providing the silence, or turning on some lights, you’re needed.

Got that? You’re needed. You. Your exact set of gifts. That thing you can do? God needs it. The world needs it. Something you find incredibly easy to do really is a challenge for someone else, and vice versa.


It might be nothing to you, but it means the world to someone else.





Sunday, 23 October 2016

I Don't Want to Learn How to Cut Onions



I’m pretty good at cutting onions. The way I do it is perfectly fine. Not great, but fine. It’s fast enough, dices neat enough – and every time I do it, I wonder what I would do if my hand slipped slightly and I sliced off my finger and had to somehow drive with half a finger (and three kids) to the doctor to get it stitched back on. It might be a perfectly fine way to cut onions, but it’s not particularly safe.

There’s a better way. I’ve seen it on cooking shows. It’s the proper way to cut onions. Not only is it fast, even and precise, but it doesn’t come with the risk of cutting off any fingers (Well, not many!).

I’ve tried it a few times, and been frustrated with how uncoordinated it feels. So I go back to my usual way and hope for the best.

I should do it properly – especially since I really don’t want to have to figure out how to get three kids in car seats and drive with half a finger – but it’ll take time. And I’m not that patient.

Silly thing is, I’ve been through this situation before, when I was learning to touch type.

I was good at typing before. Well, good enough. Okay, so I was fast but had to look at the keys to type and only used four fingers. Which is fine if you’re only typing things every now and then but limiting in the long run. There’s only so fast you can go with four fingers, and the need to look down at the keyboard to figure out where all the letters are.  

I wanted to learn to type properly but knew it’d take time. And patience. And a whole heap of frustration. And I’d be really, really slow for a while. But I also knew that, despite those things, it’d be worth it. One of those skills that would be useful to have for the rest of my life – and that was before I knew I’d be typing out whole novels.

So I spent a few lunch hours a week for a whole term in Grade 11 learning to type. Unlearning the bad habits I’d picked up and going right back to the start. A-S-D-F, A-S-D-F…

I will forever be thankful that I did that typing class at school. While I’m not game enough to say it was the most important thing I learnt at school, it’s definitely very high on the list. These days, I can type an average of 77 words per minute with 99% accuracy – basically, fast enough to keep up with my thoughts while writing or just under the speed most people talk. I never would have been able to do that had I not gone back to the start and learnt to type properly.

There’s no way changing the way I cut onions could possibly take as long to master as typing did. It’d probably only take me a week of practice. But for that week, I’ll be slow. I’ll probably even cry (not just out of frustration but because, after all, they are onions!). But will it be worth it? No doubt.

There are lots of bad habits we pick up along the way through life. Some of them are trivial, like the right or wrong way to cut vegetables, but a lot aren’t. What we eat, the way we talk, the way we think about ourselves and others.

It’s hard to go back to the start and change them. It takes time, effort, frustration, patience and bucket-loads of courage. Maybe even pain. You not only have to learn to do things the right way, but you have to un-learn all the bad habits, which is often the most difficult part of the whole process.

Partway through, you’ll probably feel like giving up altogether. The old way was easier. Less effort. More natural.

But then will come the day when suddenly the new way, the better way, feels natural and you realise it was worth every bit of time and effort it took to learn. Every bit of frustration. As my fingers fly across the keyboard faster than I can speak, I marvel at how close I came to giving up on that typing class because it was too hard. I’m so glad I didn’t.

Replacing bad habits or practises with good ones can be ridiculously painful and take every bit of self-control you have.

But is it worth it?

Absolutely.








Sunday, 9 October 2016

The Christmas that Definitely Didn't Go to Plan



It was 10pm Christmas night and I was sitting happily beside my husband on the couch watching the end of a crazy movie I'd only watch at Christmas and thinking how nice it would be to fall into my bed and sleep. We, and our two very tired little girls, had made it through Christmas. Four Christmases, to be exact. Three full days with extended family and then Christmas day with just the four of us. It had been wonderful, absolutely wonderful, but I'm really glad life's only that busy once a year!    

And then I heard my youngest crying in her cot and went in to find she'd thrown up all over herself, the cot and the floor. With a yell to my husband, I took the child who was still working on emptying her stomach and hid out in the bathroom while my amazing husband cleaned up the room.

Far from my comfortable bed, I spent Christmas night lying on my daughter's floor beside the mattress we'd put out for her trying to get a few minutes’ sleep here and there between cleaning up and holding a very miserable toddler who spent all night throwing up.     

Needless to say, it wasn't part of my Christmas plan.   

Lying awake in those silent early hours of the morning gives you lots of time to think and far too much time to ponder and my thoughts turned to Mary the mother of Jesus.

Now, Maybe Jesus slept peacefully from birth like the Christmas cards depict but I have my doubts. He probably cried. A lot. He might not have fed properly, or been one of those vomity babies who brings up everything. Can't you just see Mary, exhausted from birth and getting to know a first baby, no help from the stench of animals around her, apologising awkwardly to a shepherd for her baby throwing up on the sheep? Or asking for some privacy while she attempted to figure out this whole feeding thing?

But even if Jesus did sleep and feed well - and liked his manger bed – I’m sure Mary never planned most of the things that happened that 'Christmas'. When she pictured holding her first child, I doubt she ever imagined it would be God's son. Or that she wouldn't be home with her mother when she gave birth. Or that a star and angels would announce his birth. Or they’d be visited by wisemen and hunted by a king. Or that people would still be talking about, revering, her two thousand years later.   

One little bit of my Christmas might not have gone to plan (and, technically, Christmas was pretty much over anyway) but nothing about hers did. And yet... that was the plan. All along, that had always been God's plan.  Prophesied from the beginning of time.

Why am I so quick to assume everything that goes 'wrong' in my life isn't part of the plan? What if it is? What if it’s been part of God’s plan all along, even if it was never part of mine?

The floor might have been a little uncomfortable that night, and I certainly didn’t get the restful night’s sleep I’d hoped for, but the company was great. As was the chance to show my cuddly little girl just how loved she is.


Because, plans going awry or not, love is what Christmas is all about. And that was always part of the plan.