Perfect afternoon

Sometimes you have one of those moments where the world is so beautiful it actually takes your breath away.12063505_10208887041354127_1196061294114330455_n

We spent the end of the Easter weekend at our family bach at Waihi Beach. People who have visited this spot know it’s one of the best kept secrets in NZ – stunning beach, a sense of being completely cut off from the bustle of the big city; but with fabulous food and coffee options and great broadband access. It’s our favourite place to be. Usually over the summer we head down as many weekends as possible but with so many things going on back in Auckland we hadn’t been there since mid-January. The teenagers over from the UK came with us to get a much-needed dose of the last of the hot weather before autumn truly sets in.

I decided to go and sit on the beach by myself for an hour or so yesterday afternoon as I knew we were heading back home today. It’s a scene and feeling I know so well – warm sand, the roar of the endless surf, the beach deserted apart from the odd person walking their dog.I planned to read a book but I ended up transfixed by the beauty before me. My book was forgotten and I just sat there and marvelled at the perfection of what was before me.

Eventually I went down to the water and stood in the waves for about half an hour,
mesmerised by the view of an ocean that was both constant and ever-changing.The feel of the water, sand and sun was a balm to my spirit and soul, a moment of unexpected  joy and contentment. Just me and God’s creation.

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Lent Musing #3

In praise of the ordinary.

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning here in Auckland at this pause point of the Easter weekend, and I have been thinking about the last entry in the Lent app I have been working my way through during the lead-up to Easter. The final reflection  summed up what I have been trying to articulate in these Lent thoughts. The writer states that if we spend long enough in the desert we can let go of the illusion that we are somehow more special than others. That is a powerful challenge to my own sense of self-importance and one that I haven’t mastered by a long shot!. And then I read this:

The devil sometimes puts ambitious desires into our hearts, so that, instead of setting our hand to the work which is nearest to us, and thus serving Our Lord in ways within our power, we may rest content with having desired the impossible.
 – Teresa of Avila

I had to read this several times to really start to understand the implications of this.
I mentioned last time about how our online life is cluttered with quotes inspiring and urging us to live a life of greatness, and we hear it in our churches and schools as well. There are so many powerful stories of people doing great exploits in both the Old and New Testament, and definitely people are called to do amazing things, go on epic adventures and lead lives of huge influence.

But I do often wonder about the countless unnamed men and women in the Bible. The many Israelite families who followed Moses into the desert and bought up their families as they trekked for 40 years. Those people Jesus touched,whose lives were transformed, bodies and minds healed, who went back to their villages and families and lived out ordinary lives of service and worship. The thousands of new Christians in those very first New Testament churches who walked a new way – a way that was radically sacrificial and often dangerous. We will never know who they are, and whose lives they impacted (in this life at least).

And what if that is what purpose means or most of us – to serve where we are, to set our hand to the work nearest us, to be faithful in the little things, to worship God for the simplest of blessings and ordinary miracles He bestows on us every day?

Jesus turned down the power and riches the Devil offered Him while He was in the desert. I don’t just think that it was because He had access to riches and power beyond anything Satan could give Him; but to show us(me) that success and the validation of our (my) own importance we (I) so often strive for can be a deception and an illusion that we(I) can also walk away from.

After successfully resisting temptation, Jesus then came out of the desert  and set about building relationships with ordinary people. He told stories of ordinary things that people could relate to, made disciples of ordinary people, and was executed in an ordinary (brutal) manner of the day. Paul later spoke of the fruit of the Spirit – such simple and ordinary virtues that transform the lives of people when they exhibit them.

As we celebrate a risen Christ tomorrow, I will also be thanking Him for my ordinary life and the opportunities I get to set my hand to the work nearest me; and praying that I will become much much better at seeing them and acting on them, rather than dreaming of potential greatness.

Do not forget that the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things…as to do ordinary things with the perception of their great value
– Teilhard de Chardin

Life Got in the Way

Despite every good intention to get into a blogging rhythm, life has got in the way in a BIG way, in a good way. This week has been one of those momentous ones and I am only now stopping to catch my breath.

A week ago we welcomed our youngest back to NZ for an Easter break. It was so hard to

Chrisian and sohpie
Enjoying the beach after a UK winter!

wait out that final week. And then imagining his plane winging all the way around the world – although thanks to Flightradar I could pretend the little plane on the map actually had him and his girlfriend in it). Wondering if they  would successfully navigate the perils of LA transit (always a stressful exercise), and then finally get to see them emerge through the arrivals gate. Coming from the English winter they are very pale skinned beings at the moment! They have started to remedy that pretty quickly by an emergency trip to their favourite beach.

If that wasn’t enough to make it a very good week (especially as we kept it a surprise that Sophie was coming as well) all this on the same day our new grandchild was booked to start making his or her way into the world.

Only a week after posting about the fun of choosing a mountain buggy with our daughter  here she was diagnosed with a complication that didn’t affect her but could potentially affect her baby very seriously. This put her on a countdown to being induced early. What a scary week  as she and her husband walked the line between keeping the baby in as long as possible and keeping it safe.

This is when you realise your children(these people that you still worry about whether they can remember to mow their lawns, eat properly or put the rubbish out) have become adults and that they are calmly and capably running their own lives – when they deal with the hard stuff, when things don’t go as they planned, but they stop and take a breath and then go with the new reality.

After a week of blood tests and monitoring, the decision to induce was made and our first grandson was born safely just over two weeks early, on the evening of our son’s arrival home.  I was very privileged to meet him when he was seconds old. And  all of the siblings and their partners were able to meet their new nephew only hours after he was born. (Don’t think delivery suites are set up for large family visits!) What a lot of joy and excitement – a seriously momentous day!

And now there is a new member of our loud and chaotic family. So tiny and perfect, unaware at this stage of how many people love him (he is very blessed to have a big family on both sides), unaware of  besotted grandmothers and grandfathers, unaware of how long he he has been hoped for, unaware that he has already been pronounced “cousin” and gently held by our  three year old grand-daughter.  I am however profoundly aware that he has turned our daughter into a mother, her husband into a father and changed their lives forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Thought-provoking read from J.S.Park

Some great thoughts here – re-blogged from jsparkblog.com

When Life Hurts and God Has Apparently Checked Out: A Mega-Post on Pain, Trials, & Suffering

 

J.S. Park

Two anonymous questions:

– What are you suppose to think when all you can think is God is taking everything I love out of my life?

– So, what do you do when you feel in over your head? One of my best friends is struggling with faith, my husband is struggling with a lot of stress from his job, and my mom is struggling in a relationship with her bf. Then I read the news, and everything looks so dismal. I feel like there is so much hurt around me. I know my prayers are effective, and that God is sovereign. But I just want to stop all the hurting. Any words of advice?

Hey my wonderful friends, I must first say: I’m really sorry about everything that’s happening and I dearly love you both.  I know it can’t help much, but you must know before I turn into…

View original post 1,448 more words

Buying a mountain buggy

On the countdown now for the arrival of our third grandchild, and our daughter’s first baby. As a girl with  four brothers this makes her journey a bit special (but don’t tell the boys that). Just a few weeks to go so lots of final planning and organising underway. She and her husband have continued what is looking like becoming a family tradition of not finding out the gender of the baby, so there is lots of anticipation and theorising about what the outcome will be.

With all this in mind, this weekend I finally got round to putting a  carseat in my car that will work for our two current grandchildren (who are getting to the stage where nanna can take them out for a hour or two),and the nearly here one.

Well, spending an hour in our sweltering garage trying to decipher instructions worthy of installing a NASA escape pod was interesting. And who would have thought a car seat needed a cup holder?  Or that they now come with expiry dates? However it’s now securely ISOFIXed (thanks Volvo for burying those vital bars so deep in the  bowels of the seat). Driving to worship practice on Sunday morning it felt very strange glimpsing a carseat in the rear vision mirror again after so many years without one.

Carseat checked off, later on Sunday Nicole and I  had fun choosing the all important mountain buggy. As a super fit person she wanted one that was suitable for serious running miles ( she has only just stopped running at 35 weeks pregnant so I suspect she will be back into it pretty quickly).

Have to say I’m a bit envious of all the improvements in  baby transportation from the last time we bought one 19 years ago, and they look like veritable contraptions from another planet compared with the one we bought over thirty years ago (could be 200 years ago they are so different).

Not so envious of the prices. This is a big business once you add on all the ‘essential’ accessories – somewhat of an oxymoron. We had the choice of different types of wheels for different terrains, carrycots, attachable carseats, water bottle holders, food trays, travel bags – these are seriously cool  and very pricey ways to wheel a baby around!  We ended up deciding to buy the mountain buggy second hand and purchased the rather useful carseat capsule that attached to it new.

As we browsed TradeMe at lunch, and then stood in the shop comparing reviews of the buggy cornucopia, Nicole filled me in on all the things she had researched. I realised how wide the gulf between then and now, and yet again marvelled at the wonder and power of the internet. Every model can be compared, both price and specifications, hundreds of reviews to choose from. Even buying second hand is easy through on-line auction sites as opposed to the now forgotten and thankfully defunct classified ad pages. When we had our first baby, we only had the knowledge we could glean from our parents and friends’ recommendations. My mum was great, both in helping choose the right one and financially. There was an awful lot of walking round shops to see  different models, a distinct dearth of choice, and some seriously ugly options in the 80s and 90s!

And  despite all the changes and innovations, on Sunday it still eventually came down to a question from a daughter to her mum – “what do you think?” and we chose together; just like her grandmother and I did all those years ago. The technology may change, baby transport options have definitely changed, but the rituals surrounding your daughter having her first baby thankfully have not.

 

Mexican Quinoa and Beef Stuffed Peppers

We are being over-run by capsicum in our small but prolific garden. They are huge, healthy, and at the moment refusing to change colour to red. I was forced to pick a few just to give the others a chance to grow and also picked a few chillies off our new member of the vegetable garden family.IMG_1811.JPG

I’ve never made stuffed peppers before so thought I’d have a go at a Mexican-style recipe – got the thumbs up from the two males in the household so that’s always good. I kept this pretty mild as a first go.

Fills at least 4 depending on the size of the peppers – these were monsters!

 

Mexican Quinoa and Beef Stuffed Peppers

4 large capsicum (bell peppers). Red is preferable but green is fine.

1-2 chillies (add more or less depending on your heat preference)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp chilli powder (add more or less depending on your heat preference)

1 tsp chipotle salt

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 red onion

1/2 cup quinoa

500 grams beef mince

1 400gm can of black beans or kidney beans

400 mls passata

1/2 cup beef stock

2 tsp lime juice

I cup grated cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Tortilla chips,fresh coriander and lime wedges to serve

Slice off the tops of the peppers and cut out the stems and cores. Wrap in foil, place in an oven dish and bake at 200°C for around 20 minutes to until they are starting to soften. Remove from oven and unwrap from the foil. Set aside. (You may have to drain water out of them when you take them out.)

Cook quinoa according to packet instructions and set aside.

Heat olive oil in pan and sauté onion, chiles and garlic. Add cumin, chilli powder and coriander and fry for one minute.

Add mince and fry until browned. Combine with passata and beef stock. Simmer for 20 minutes at least. If you would like a spicier mix, taste test and add some more chilli powder or chilli paste according to your preference.

Add lime juice and cooked quinoa.

Lightly oil oven dish and place peppers back in. Spoon mixture into peppers, pressing down firmly. Cover liberally with grated cheese and bake for 30 minutes.

Serve with fresh coriander, lime wedges and corn chips.

 

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