I know I was busy, but…

He came home last night, kissed me and asked me what needed to be done.

In between the fritters being fried, the vegies being nuked, the long-forgotten fish fillets being rescued from the oven, the lamenting that the other fridge was not cold and then rejoicing at finding that there were two cold bottles of ginger beer in the kitchen, we asked each other,

‘What did you do today?’

I answered first.

‘You know, I’ve been busy all day, but I can’t really tell you what I’ve done. I feel like there’s nothing to show for it – oh, except for the quilt-block on the ironing board which I sewed during my lunch break.’

He laughed. ‘You know, I feel exactly the same. I know I was busy, but feel as if I didn’t achieve anything.’

We each grabbed the plates of dinner, the drinks and cutlery, took them outside and lit the mosquito-repellant candles. We looked at our plates, said ‘Thank you God’ that the food had miraculously appeared on clean plates…

without us having achieved anything for the day.

You Are Beautiful: A Conference to Serve Women

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL: A Conference to Serve Women

‘Think about when you go to events at church, on camps, to parties, to weddings…’ I said to my hesitant son.

 “Have you ever stopped to think about the women who are unseen, working in the background—and yes, some are very happy to be there—who make sure there is enough food, and clean plates, and clean toilets for you and your friends to have a good time? Do you see that this is an opportunity for you to serve them for a change, to say thank you and let them know they are appreciated? Please pray about it.’

That’s how several conversations went in our house a few months ago. But in our congregation the conversation went slightly differently.

What we’re looking for is an invisible army.

‘What we’re looking for is an invisible army. We want to give our faithful servants a day off – a day for each of our women to be able to sit and hear the message ‘You Are Beautiful’.

So, on July 1st, 2017, an ‘almost-invisible’ army of twenty blokes aged 8 to 80 served 140 women aged 12 to at least 88 (but who’s asking) at our ‘You Are Beautiful’ Conference for Women. Women came from all over South Australia, from Lutheran churches, local non-Lutheran churches, and some from no church at all.

Initiated by a group of women who attended the SA/NT Lutheran Women’s Retreat in Alice Springs in June 2016, the conference featured author, life-coach and speaker Peta Soorkia, of ‘Empowering You.’ Her engaging and entertaining talks inspired each of us to see the beauty that God has placed inside each of us. She coached us through God-moments – that is, taking moments during the day to meditate on God’s word. And she reminded us of God’s vision of us. 

In the evening, she called on her fashion design background to help us look at enhancing our own attributes to help us let our inner beauty from the inside shine on the outside. Our ‘models’ made the evening memorable – and convinced us that not everyone who appears shy is always shy.

It was anything but a ‘Guild Convention

But the day wasn’t just about the speaker. And it was anything but a ‘Guild Convention’. It was a very special event to be part of, from concept through planning, production and participation. 

When the women arrived in the morning, they were greeted with a foyer full of barista-made coffee, tea or hot chocolate alongside tables of home-made biscuits, or fruit for the health-conscious. Seminars by Peta during the day were followed by lunch from the Two Wells Bakery  and an afternoon of relaxation, socialising, being pampered with manicures or facials or hand-massages, doing handicrafts or sitting outside soaking up the rare Salisbury-winter sun.

A light but delicious meal in the evening provided by a local food-cart ‘Bohemian Barbecue’ took our day event through to our fun-filled evening event.

And what made it so special? 

It grew out of prayer. Prayer – when the women from our church were asked about having a speaker. Prayer – when the people who usually run things all booked to be away, so we needed a new team. Prayer – when we needed skills that none of us had ever had the opportunity to use in this context before. Prayer – when we needed a particular skill-set and had no idea where to look. Prayer – when we recognised that our retired caterers would be sitting in the pews and we’d promised them the day off. Prayer – when the invisible army of volunteers were slow to put their arms up. Prayer – that we would cover costs. 

And what did we learn?

We learnt that women need to be with women: But the way we’ve been doing it in the church over the past one-hundred and seventy-five years may not be relevant to the women of 2017. 

Women who faithfully attend worship for years have gifts to share – but we need to give them opportunities to find them.

Women LOVE the opportunity to simply sit and be with others. Our days together do not need to be planned to the minute – though we also learnt that something for the idle fingers to do, such as colouring, would have been appreciated.

Some women have NEVER had someone (i.e. a male) serve them. 

The older women who have been associated with ‘guild’ enjoyed not-having a business meeting. 

The younger women would have liked to have a deeper spiritual input.

That hiring caterers was a huge blessing. Resoundingly they said they were as blessed to be part of our day as we were by eating their delicious food. One of the caterer’s workers collected any left-over food to be distributed through a service to the homeless. 

That God provides what we need always on time – and never too early.

That getting advertising to congregations is really, really tricky.

That we’ve neglected Paul’s admonishment to Titus to ‘teach the older women to train the younger women’ and we need to find ways to do that better. 

That serving in a different capacity was great for our blokes, enabling them to use their untapped skills – and yes, they can serve salads at a barbecue. 

And even our once-hesitant son discovered that blessings can come from being the server instead of the served.

But most importantly…

But most importantly, we learnt that when we follow God’s direction, and we join in willingly, and even not-so-willingly, God is glorified in achieving much more than the total of our contribution. It was way beyond what any of us could have imagined, and is an occasion that participants will look back on as significant in their life.  

There have been plenty of questions about when we will do the next one, and many times we’ve been asked ‘When will you do one for the blokes?’ 

Our answer is that we are convinced that this came about because we listened to God. We followed God’s lead. Perhaps God has more where this came from. Perhaps not. Our job is to pray, listen, discern (use wisdom and scripture to tell whether it’s God’s will or our own) and to join in God’s work wherever the opportunity arises. 

Did You Do Something Wrong or Are You Living In A Forgotten World?

Have you ever wondered ‘Did I Do Something Wrong?’ or Are You Living In A Forgotten World?

Imagine discovering a wonderful place. 

At first, you were a little shy to approach it. But soon, you’d worn a track between your home and this special place. You told your friends about it, and they soon joined you – so the track grew wider.

At the other end, you and your friends met up with a bigger group of friends. They loved your company. You loved meeting up with them. There was a great deal of laughter and love shared over many cups of coffee, tea and celebratory drinks.

As your friendships grew, it made sense to travel in a vehicle together – then a bus, then a bus system. Eventually so many people were using the bus system that a train system was installed. All this new technology was great. It got you there quicker, more efficiently. There were more and more choices of times to travel. You could stand at the train station and just wait for the next train, knowing it would take you to where you wanted to go.

But one day, you stood at the train station and waited for the next train. But there was no train. You waited for the next few hours. Still, no train. You would have asked someone what had happened. But you were the only one there.

You went back there the next day. And the next. And possibly even the next. Waited all day. Still no train.

Overhead, you noticed planes flying. You hadn’t taken notice of them before. You grabbed your binoculars and looked at the tail-end of a plane ‘Faster BB’.

What is this ‘Faster BB’? you wondered.

But there was no-one to ask. Because everyone else had gone on board the plane. And somehow, you’d missed it. You didn’t even know where the terminal was. 

You ask yourself, did I do something wrong? 

Or are you living in a forgotten world?

This scenario happens every time new technology is rolled out without consultation or information in an understandable form–whenever someone is in a hurry to change something, without taking the time to think about who it will affect. 

How many people are stuck at home in Australia, unable to communicate with the outside world because their telephones have been cut off with the roll-out of the NBN? How many people are unable to access public transport because nobody’s ever asked the people who don’t use it, what is stopping them? 

How many elderly people are confused because the highways in their brain have not been considered when IT and Social media experts have had a new idea?

How many people who spent many years developing their own coping mechanisms are now considered mentally ill because they’re expected to change at the next whim of creative designers who have made their new design shinier and ‘more economical’—supposedly—to the bean counters.

Before we change for the sake of it, consider the paths–the highways–that have taken years to develop. Let’s not discard them, for in doing so, we are devaluing the lives of others, both now and their history.

And history ignored is oft repeated.

What do you get when you mix a Writer with an Auntie?

What do you get when you mix a Writer with an Auntie? Not much writing done –but lots of fun putting everything I’ve learnt into practice.

Writing has also been on hold as I’ve been working on family matters – most particularly being a very active Auntie to my two-year-old nephew. It’s so much more fun putting Child Development knowledge into action when it’s your nephew and not your own child. 

I’ve been working on getting my first book ready for publication – and have been building up my bravery muscles to approach Publisher/Agent/Editors…So many choices!

More recently I’ve been experimenting on writing Fiction and poetry, which is new to me. The few poems and fiction stories are new attempts. What I won’t be publishing anytime soon is my NaNoWriMo attempt – an attempt at writing        50 000 words in a month – all in the aim of getting disciplined writing back into my life. It is fun – but is possibly more difficult than to write stories about my children growing up and my disastrous attempts at being their mum.

Anyway, as long as you’re game to read on, you’re welcome to see my attempts.

Welcome Back!

Julie

Our Adventure as On-The-Run criminals

Before we knew it, we were heading home from our Magical Mystery 30th Anniversary Tour. Little did we know our adventure was just beginning.

Chris and I hired a campervan from transfercar.com.au in Melbourne. We brought home a van that was needed in Adelaide, but was going to cost the company much more to bring it across on the back of a truck than if a middle-aged couple drove it back and just paid for the petrol.  

All had gone pretty well. We had wandered through the Dandenongs and outer western suburbs of Melbourne before heading to stay on our friends’ farm out of Bordertown. 

 

 

 

 

A short stop at Tintinara to see the craft shop in the old railway station, and a little too long at Coonalpyn to see the silo painting meant that we were running a little behind schedule. 

 

When we arrived in Adelaide, Chris dropped me off at our daughter’s where we’d parked the Tarago before we left. So I drove the Tarago around to the hire-car company–which was closed. Chris followed me, filling up the campervan’s petrol tank on the way. 

Chris arrived at the hire-car company about three minutes before the time we needed to return it. Slightly flustered and with a headache that he’d kept hidden all day he said, 

‘I forgot to pay for the petrol!‘ 

I know that a loving wife should be consoling and supportive. This loving wife burst into giggles. 

I know that a loving wife should be composed in such circumstances. But our time away had been so relaxing that my mind went into story mode. I could envisage a movie about this whole experience – or at least a news report.

Today’s News

A middle-aged man of Middle-Eastern appearance has made a sneaky take-away. After filling his campervan with unleaded petrol, the man neglected to pay for it. He can be seen in this video splashing petrol, cleaning his hands, getting into the van and leaving. The van was later found parked in an unattended hire-car company but the man was nowhere to be seen.

Attendees at a church function across the road said that a man fitting that description had been seen kissing a middle-aged woman of short, solid stature before they both drove away in a silver Tarago – getaway vehicle.

By the time we returned to pay, the petrol-station attendant had already called the police. He showed Chris photos of the van, and reassured Chris that he would call the the police back–though that wasn’t very reassuring when we turned from the petrol station onto the main road and saw a police car with flashing lights heading in the direction of the petrol station.

Though we’re quite embarrassed and rather alarmed, I must admit that we were also a teensy bit excited that for a fleeting moment we experienced life as on-the-run criminals. 

Life has returned to normal . And we look forward to our next adventure–though perhaps without the criminal bit. 

 

 

 

 

Don’t worry if you’re the only one in the audience who got the joke

The audience was full of women including my mum and my piano teacher. The hall was familiar to me. With nearly ten years of daily practice under my belt, nerves were not likely to get the better of me. 

I sat at the piano and began to play. 

Footballers, tennis players, singers and other performers usually get to warm up before they start the main event. Year 12 music students, who are about to perform Chopin on a piano in the local district hall, don’t. 

I struck the first five notes. Chopin died on those keys. My fingers were used to playing that piece. They’d moved along the keys of my piano every day in the same sequence for the past two years. Yet it wasn’t my fingers that were the problem.

The piano played as if someone had stuffed it full of cotton wool. The piano had no resonance. Even though my fingers knew what to do and where to go, I relied on my ears to tell me what came next.

I heard nothing. 

My fingers faltered. 

The music stopped. 

Embarrassed, I began again. I got to the end of the first page of three that were in my head but not on paper in front of me. But no sound reverberated to remind me of what came next. I stopped. I bowed. I left the stage. 

I don’t remember what happened after that, but I’ve never forgotten the feeling of playing on a piano with no feedback. It’s much the same as playing on an electronic piano that has not been switched on. 

A brand new musical

Last night, I went to the World Premier of a brand new musical. From the moment I walked into the foyer I was transported into the 50’s.

I met my family there and we entered into the auditorium–early for a change. The theatre was decorated magnificently. While we settled in and chatted to each other and those around us, characters came and interacted with us. It was such a warm, inviting atmosphere. We could hardly wait for the beginning of the show. 

The show was great. An accomplished band, very talented performers and choreography that enabled anyone to join in the fun, told a story. Though the story lost me a little, so did ‘Cats’ which I’ve seen four times. So that doesn’t signify the level of my enjoyment. 

I can still hear the songs this morning. I can still remember the jokes. I can still remember seeing the faces of the performers as they realized that they were in front of hundreds of people and that it was a good place to be. 

But, from where I sat, it felt as though someone had stuffed the auditorium full of cotton wool. The music resonated around us but was not applauded. The performers urged the audience to join in. 

Nothing. Well, nothing until I clapped as loudly as I could, quickly joined  by my husband and then slowly joined by others spread throughout the auditorium. 

Either the jokes went over the tops of the heads of those around me or the people in the audience thought they were in church. It seemed as though the audience needed permission to enjoy themselves and give back to the performers.  

When I commented on this at the end of the show my comments were not very well received. Understandably, I guess. But having been a stage performer virtually all my life, I know how important it is to get feedback from the audience. If it’s funny, laugh. If it’s good or demonstrates effort, applaud. If you really enjoyed it, cheer. 

The Conductor handed over his baton

Twenty years ago, I went with my children and their pre-school to an orchestral performance in our then-home-town of Memphis, Tennessee. A clown wanted to be part of the show. 

The Conductor gave the clown a chance to play a violin, a cello, drums, a trumpet. None of them at all successfully. 

Then the Conductor handed over his baton. That was even worse. A very obedient orchestra played according to the whim of a very uncoordinated, out of time, clown. 

The clown looked miserable…until the Conductor told the clown that there was a place within the auditorium that the clown hadn’t yet tried. Every orchestra and every performer needs an audience. Without an audience, a performer has no purpose. 

So the clown sat with us, and we all practiced being the audience together.

Maybe that’s what the audience needed last night–Practice at being the audience at the theatre. 

Performers need feedback from the audience. It is what encourages the performer to continue, to try a little harder, to soften their pose if necessary, to know which jokes are funny, to perfect their timing. Performers need us to be brave enough to laugh, clap and cheer – even if we’re the only ones.

Don’t worry if you’re the only one who got the joke. If you laugh, you give permission to others to search harder to find the joy. If you clap when no-one else does, who cares? It encourages the performer. It’s like saying,

‘Yay! Well done! Thanks for all the work you’ve put into this!’

It’s not the last of the performances for this musical. But I really hope that  future audiences relax a little and allow themselves to become part of the performance. 

If not, perhaps the parents of those performers should quit paying for their music, singing and acting lessons, and enroll them all in tennis. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Get Excited about Hollow Easter Eggs

I asked some kids at our local school the other day to find out why Easter eggs are hollow? Why don’t they have anything inside?

They looked at me with puzzled faces. Was this a test? A trick question?

I remembered back to a clown in my church. She took a huge bite out of the top of a chocolate egg.  She looked inside it. She tipped it up and shook it so anything inside could fall out. She looked inside again, almost getting her eye covered in chocolate.

Then she looked at the person who had given her the egg, pointed to the egg, then shook her head. She pouted and stomped her feet. She threw up her hands and turned towards the exit.

But a little girl sitting near the front shouted,

‘An empty egg is the best surprise of all!’

The clown stopped. She turned around to the little girl.

The little girl continued. ‘An empty egg reminds us that the tomb was empty.  It says ‘Jesus is not here. He is risen’. Jesus is ALIVE!’

Some of us take this news for granted.

We accept that this is what Easter is about: That Easter is when we remember that Jesus died on the cross, taking on himself everything bad that has ever happened, or ever will happen. We celebrate on Easter Sunday that Jesus defeated death. He came to life again – because He had never, ever done anything in His life to deserve to die.

But sometimes we get so caught up in remembering Easter and its traditions, that we protect our days off, or prevent others from watching the football, or going to the pub, or going to the races.

We forget that Easter isn’t about a particular day or weekend. It’s about the difference that Jesus’ death and resurrection makes in our lives every day.

This Easter, let’s not keep the wonderful news to ourselves. Let’s celebrate in the way we speak to people, in the way we behave, that Jesus is alive and lives in us everyday.

And let’s get others to know that ‘An empty egg is the best surprise of all!’

 

Why I Love Easter (and Les Mis)

 

How an Icecream Won the War

What our five-year-old daughter wore to school each day had become a battle – so much so, that every morning we’d have another screaming match.

“You will, I won’t … I will, you won’t”.

Every morning at least one of us would end up in tears, and often one of us would end up with a spanked bottom.

One day an experienced grandma advised me to ”choose your battles.” Her wise words encouraged me to take a step back to see what was really happening.

A look from a different perspective enabled me to see that my daughter was trying to assert her independence as a part of growing up. But I was afraid that she was leaving me, so I tried to control her, in every aspect of her life.

Sure, I needed to have my daughter’s respect, but I also needed to show respect to my daughter and allow her to grow up and take on more responsibility and choices as she grew.

***

 

We soon solved the “clothes war”.

We went for our first ever “date” –which became a family custom and we continued with all of our children, individually.

Over an ice-cream, we made a mutual decision: My daughter could choose what to wear from Monday to Saturday.  But I had final say on Sunday mornings and special occasions, and I chose the clothes to weddings.

***

Grandma’s words helped me to realise that if I were to continue to fuss over every aspect of my daughter’s life, there would  come a time when I would really need to “make a point”. Then how would my daughter distinguish between what I believed was really important and what was “just a fuss”?

Ultimately, fussing over little things did not gain my daughter’s respect – just her resentment.

The difference between life and death

Little things like whether her shirt matched her shorts, or how she wore her hair did not really matter in a world where decisions about drugs, alcohol, sex and fast cars can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Saving my “fussing” for those issues that were important helped my daughter learn how to make wise choices.  And as she entered the pre-teens, equipped her to face the “grey issues”. As she grew older, the grey issues became still greyer, but she became more confident in her decision making, having had years of experience.

***

Twenty-plus years after the “clothes war” we still talk about the big and little issues with great respect and much love for each other.  We still have different tastes in clothes, and ice-cream is still our favourite date.

 

First published in The Lutheran

Grace-givers

Last year, we all celebrated James’ and Tiarna’s engagement at a church beach retreat, exactly where I am now, exactly one year later. Yesterday was their seven-month Wedding anniversary – So yes, we’ve had a big year.

Last time we were here, I wrote:

James came down the stairs (of another unit) at exactly the same moment that I’d determined to give each one of my family members a hug.

I went to him, arms outstretched.

‘But I can’t hug you back!’ he said, as if I didn’t notice that his arms were stuffed full of the weekend’s rubbish, headed for the bin.

‘That’s what grace is all about. Isn’t it?’ I teased. ‘When you receive and you can’t give back’.

I continued down to the beach.

Grey sky. Storm clouds. Crashing waves. I noted the contrast between the heat of yesterday and the refreshing cool of this morning.

Into my heart flowed ‘God of wonders, beyond our galaxy, You are holy. The universe declares your majesty…You are holy’.

The song continued in my heart and I joined in praise and worship for a brief moment bathing in glory…until a friendly dog came up to me, licked my shoe and then my hand, and splashed me with my second shower for the morning. I laughed, and the poor dog looked up and ran off towards its owners, one of whom was dressed similarly to me.

My walk continued – and so did my contemplation of the ordinariness of our lives in comparison with God’s glory.

But God gently reminded me of my hug with James and of how we often welcome new members of the family. Most often He gives us babies into our family—little ones who can’t coordinate anything yet, can’t do anything to receive our love, our service, our all.

God gives us others who can’t give back, to teach us grace–to gift us with the joy of being grace-givers, and thereby to learn something of the love He has for us.

 

*Song by Third Day

 

 

 

 

 

The Elves and the Quilt Makers

 

By Julie Hahn 2017

‘Twas​ ​the​ ​first​ ​night​ ​of​ ​Quilt​ ​Camp​ ​when​ ​all​ ​through​ ​the​ ​hall  

The​ ​shriek​ ​of​ ​a​ ​quilter​ ​stopped​ ​work​ ​by​ ​us​ ​all  

The​ ​quilter​ ​had​ ​sewn​ ​all​ ​her​ ​stitches​ ​with​ ​care

But​ ​her​ ​shriek​ ​echoed​ ​out​ ​‘All​ ​I​ ​need​ ​is​ ​one​ ​square!’ —

The​ ​quilt,​ ​not​ ​yet​ ​finished​ ​to​ ​place​ ​on​ ​her​ ​bed

Because​ ​of​ ​one​ ​lousy​ ​square-inch​ ​of​ ​​that​ ​red!

 

 

Her​ ​dorm-mates​ ​assembled,​ ​each​ ​with​ ​a​ ​night-cap,  

‘Twould​ ​be​ ​better,​ ​we​ ​think,​ ​if​ ​you​ ​took​ ​a​ ​long​ ​nap.’  

So​ ​they​ ​guided​ ​her​ ​out​ ​and​ ​put​ ​her​ ​to​ ​bed  

While​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​the​ ​quilters​ ​scoured​ ​the​ ​hall​ ​for​ ​‘that​ ​red’.

 

To​ ​their​ ​tables​ ​the​ ​quilters​ ​all​ ​flew​ ​like​ ​a​ ​flash  

Tore​ ​open​ ​their​ ​luggage,​ ​and​ ​​combed​ ​through​ ​​their​ ​stash  

All​ ​hopeful​ ​they​ ​surveyed​ ​the fabric ​out-spread  

But​ ​alas​ ​there​ ​was​ ​not​ ​a​ ​faint​ ​sign​ ​of​ ​‘that​ ​red’.

‘It’ll keep until morning,’ the quilters then said,

‘It’s been a long day so we’re going to bed.’

But while they were sleeping, there arose a great sight

The last thing you’d think of in a quilt hall at night.

Three not-so-miniature elves did appear:

Three quilting elves and their well-used quilt gear.

 

The elves made short work then of checking the hall

For projects unfinished, stashes, threads…and quilt stall.

At last they encountered that problem ‘fore-said

The quilt not yet finished because of ‘that red’.

 

‘Tis a problem, that’s true!’ said the first quilting elf.

‘But I have a solution. I’m quite proud of myself.’

‘She may have run out of the red that she blames

But this block in the middle has a square that’s the same.

 

If we took our unpickers and unstitched with some care

We could just change the fabric to replace this red square.’

With neat, tiny actions, so lively and quick

The elves saved the quilt with their old quick-unpick.

 

‘But now what?’ they said to each other, when done.

‘We’ve hours to go ‘til the rise of the sun.’

So to tables and projects the quilt elves returned

To help one more quilter before they adjourned.

 

And there on a table, some blocks they did spy.

The squares were all muddled so the quilt was awry.

At the end of the night then, the elves solved a muddle

Of pieces kerfuddled like a quilt jigsaw-puzzle.

 

As the first glimpse of daylight appeared from the east

The elves found the place for the last jigsaw piece.

The quilt elves looked over their work with delight.

Their elfing was finished. Good work for a night.

 

When the quilters returned to the hall for the day

The work of the quilt elves they found on display;

No more muddled pieces and no tangled thread,

And no longer a hole for a square of ‘that red’.

 

 

 

If you ever attend a Quilter’s retreat

And your work turns to porridge

You’d best get some sleep.

Though our quilts all begin with do-it-yourselfing

Our problems are solved with communal Quilt-Elfing.