Christmas is a season that stresses people out. I know why but I still don’t get it. Christmas is such a happy time. Seasonal decorations. Seasonal music. Seasonal food. Australia doesn’t get the whole seasons thing so Christmas is the ultimate time of year – the one season we all love to hate. I particularly love Christmas. I flourish on the very things that stress other people, particularly the mother that I live with. The family dinners, the barbeques with friends, the cooking, the shopping, the gifts, the wrapping, the cleaning, the decorations, the constant sweeping under the Christmas tree to pick up the dropped pine needles. What’s not to love? People, generosity, food, the Christmas smell? This morning I went to Aldi and Woolworths with my mother for “a few last minute things” we apparently couldn’t get two days ago when we were also at the supermarket. Usually I would volunteer to drive, but at the last minute I couldn’t be bothered walking upstairs to get my wallet. I relinquished the control and experienced the other way to do Christmas. I love my mum but we look at situations very differently. For all its generalisations, the Type A/Type B personality is an appropriate example. I’m the former; mum’s the latter. While circling the carpark she decided in less than 30 seconds, parking in a side street more than a 500metre walk from the shops entrance was her game plan. I tried to share my car parking tips. Her response, **brake!** “Do you want to drive?!” Alas, we found a park within 5 minutes (actually we found one in two minutes but some dick literally stole it. Think reverse park undertake. Yeah, not cool. I said some words and leant over from the passenger seat to slam the horn to which my mother said, “Melanie, language please.”) I know my approach is a little different to others and probably sounds like a nightmare to most. I’d like to experience a less rigid, less haste way to do Christmas but all I see is stress or Christmas Eve Eve 24-hour shopping. In the words of a dear friend, I know “We’re not all Melanie Pennington,” but seriously what other game plans are out there?   Here’s Christmas the Melanie Pennington Type A way: Plan and do it early. Don’t procrastinate. Christmas shopping in the week of Christmas is not planning. Deciding what to get someone at the shops is not planning. Going to the shops is not planning. (Online shopping is where it’s at. They deliver it to your house/workplace for cheap-cheap-cheap or even free!!). Don’t guess what your loved ones would like. Yes, you could ask them (or in my case get them to give you a list, see below), but better yet – listen to them. If they’re forward they’ll tell you, but I prefer to jot down their gripes from about September onwards. “I never have any tops to wear.” “My favourite perfume is about to run out.” “You have so many nice necklaces.” “Wow, check out this super speedy top of the range computer-y thing.” Boom, Christmas present decided. Write a list – for everything! A Christmas wish list (from September onwards, if I think of something I need, it goes on the list), the Christmas gift list for everyone else, the menu, the decorations. A list means you won’t forget anything. Budget for it. Work out how much gifts will cost you and then spread it out across the year. In my annual budget I allocated $10 per week or about $50 a month to Christmas and Birthday gifts. I don’t have a credit card choosing to live in the present not the future. “Oh budget, smudget,” I hear you say. Here’s why: when your employer tells you they’ve screwed up your contract and you won’t get paid throughout December until Christmas Eve, you can say “okay” and not completely freak out. (Note: I didn’t. I told them a lot less friendly words before confirming because of my organisation I wouldn’t need to scour dumpsters for food for the month.) Tackle a carpark like it’s a game. To win is to find a park – a close one and quickly. To lose is to drive in circles aimlessly. Game plan: Pray. Drive towards where the people on foot are entering the carpark. Follow. Pounce. Job done. Thank God. Move like you’re on a mission. At the supermarket, if the list has more items than you can hold without probably dropping the strawberries, grab a trolley. If you think you probably can hold it all do it. Baskets are for sissys. People will avoid a trolley on a mission or poor girl holding the last minute shampoo grab with her chin. If you move around with speed and purpose, other people will move. The old lady with a trolley is primed to be overtaken mid-aisle. Supermarket aisles are wide enough for 3 trolleys. You will fit between the two idiots old friends, catching up beside the tomato relish. At Westfield, plot out your route. Take short cuts through the multi-entrance stores, use the escalators inside department stores or the stairs halfway between the main centre ones. If you walk fast, you avoid those semi-familiar peopel from high school or your mother’s friend who wants an update on your entire family. Ie. They’ll inconvenience you to make you stop. (Note: downside, you’ll also walk straight past your best friend unless they are bold enough to yell your name out.) Set a time limit. Shopping isn’t meant to take all day. The aim is to be inside the shops not circling in the carpark. Tackling the shops prior to a social outing gives you a deadline. We all work better with a deadline. With a time limit your better placed to move yo’ butt faster, not fret over which brand of sliced almonds are cheaper (unit pricing FTW!) and to choose the quick aisle. There’s a lot riding on it. Fail at sticking to the time limit and you’ll be late to your next activity. Keep a well-stocked gift drawer. Throughout the year, keep your eyes out for bargains. My favourite markdowns are usually at Kikki K, Sussan, Typo, Lovisa, Witchery, David Jones food section. My reward cards tell me so. The extra item here and there don’t break the budget (in fact they’re budgeted for each month in ‘miscellaneous’) and when you find yourself heading off to a party with another Secret Santa and you’ve already re-gifted that weird mug from your colleague/aunt, grab something from the drawer. The friend you’ve failed to catch up with since last Christmas hands you an unexpected gift, grab the pre-wrapped gift from your handbag. No stress. Disaster averted. (Goes without saying, a gift drawer is paired with a wrapping box with ribbon, doilies and cards for every occasion.)   And so here I am sitting in my room on Christmas Eve with all my gifts purchased and wrapped, food items purchased and the time to prepare them scheduled. My leftover paper, doilies and ribbons are with my sister as she wraps her boyfriend’s parents’ gift. My gifts for my sister and brother-in-law living 4000km away under their tree (thanks to Express Post. I may have left it one day too long for Australia Post to guarantee its delivery and an extra day for my sister to likely need to pick it up from the post office because she wasn’t home). There are homemade Christmas bunting flags fluttering in the wind outside and a Santa snowman is at home on the inside our front door. I wish I could say I have Christmas carols playing, but I’d be lying. I like to think I’ve mastered Christmas. I like to think I’ve won at Christmas season. But there’s my Type A talking. Wondering if there’s a downside, check out ‘10 reasons you should be glad you’re Type B’. (In short, be happy because I’ve got nothing but heart attacks and heart ache coming my way).   I’m completely aware this article reads very self-absorbed. If you saw me writing it, you would see the little smirk on my face – the kind of smirk my friend Kimjeng would like. With all the above out in the open, I completely appreciate my mother does things differently, yet also gets the job done – just less efficiently! Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
There were many a time when I’d think of 18 December and wonder if this day ever going to arrive. It was the long days. The days clients would ignore your consultation, the days they’d have just another small (read: at least 10) change to the publication due to print 3 days ago and the days you just wanted a sleep in. Today is the day. From tomorrow I have 18 mornings to sleep in (past 6am!) and go to bed late (after 10pm). Eighteen full days before I need to wake up, wash my hair, dry it, slap makeup on my face, concealer under my eyes and wear proper clothes and make the hour commute to work again. It’s the longest break I’ve had since, well, 12 months ago! Earlier this week I received some Hershey’s kisses as part of my ‘Brainchild Award’ for the office decorating competition. I put them in my bag in the afternoon much to the dismay of my colleagues. I assured them to I’d return them in a different form. They rolled their eyes. Today I arrived with Christmas superfood cookies. They were happy. My team pod has been overly concerned about nutrition of late so I assured them they were a superfood in an email to my larger team. I’d love to share the recipe with with you but I kind of made it up… Here it is in loose terms: 140g butter, softened 1 egg 1 cup icing sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence Beat until fluffy. Add: 1 1/2 cup plain flour 1 teaspoon baking powder Sift into the butter mixture and mix. Meanwhile, unwrap a handful of candy canes. Throw in food processor or get out a trusty rolling pin. Crush/process into fine dust. Add most to to cookie mix. Roll into inch wide balls. Roll in fine excess candy cane dust. Bake for 10 mins on 180 degrees. Push a Hershey kiss in each cookie immediately upon removal from oven. Put cookies in freezer ASAP to prevent the kiss melting. Give to someone to enjoy!   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
It’s taken me a while to decide whether to publish this because in part it exemplifies the very issue I’m trying to bring to fore. Alas, I have spoken to a few people, prayed and decided I would. If you take issue, bring it up with me – I’d love to talk further. A number of months ago I was chatting with a young single sister- and an older brother-in Christ, one that I respect and have learnt a great deal from. The conversation flowed about the struggles of relationships, singleness, strong-willed women and in jest he commented, “Well as a first year single guy, I would have been intimidated by you both!” I laughed it off and moved on to another topic. I moved on so quickly I missed his apology for his remark. However, my dear friend standing with me went silent. I didn’t notice. We spoke later and she admitted she was hurt by the comment. Today a dear sister shared her anxiety after disagreeing about an action decided upon by a brother she is in a ministry partnership with. Deciding not to speak up, “Mel, I don’t want to intimidate him!” She isn’t interested in him, but still conscious of her actions. I’ve had other conversations of a similar nature. Strong young Christian women confused as to how to live as a disciple-making-disciples, serving in ministries, often in leadership positions, without intimidating the godly young men they meet. I myself have been labelled an “outspoken single adult,” and wondered at the time what to make of the comment. In a wife I might be described as contentious and far from temperate, the exact opposite of what a wife is called to be. I know it’s unhelpful to have a part of the body so confused as to how to respond and so here’s just a small insight into what’s going on inside the intelligent minds and huge hearts of so many young Christian woman. Before setting out on a longer-than-usual drive on Sunday I pulled up The Village Church podcast and saw Matt Chandler’s most recent talks were on women. Strong-willed, judgemental Mel was fired up: ‘Ah a married Southern man talking about the role and downfall of women – this is gonna be great!’ I pounded my finger on the play icon and pulled out of my driveway. Standard stock introductory music and then Chandler boomed out of Penelope’s speakers: “A man teaching on the purpose of women. What could go wrong?” Huh, way to go brother, at least we agree on that. The first 30 minutes were fairly standard; wives, submission, husbands, male headship. It wasn’t anything new (although he explained ‘helpmate’ in a quite a helpful way). He then moved away from role of women in the family and to their role in the local church. Things heated up. “Now let’s look at the church. What we see clearly in the New Testament is women are as needed and necessary in the flourishing of the church body.” In Acts 8:4, women are almost certainly included in the list of disciples who went everywhere preaching the gospel. Older women are to teach younger women. We see that in Titus 2. Priscilla helped her husband Aquila teach Apollos. In Acts 18 Philip had four virgin daughters who prophesied. The women prayed and prophesied in the gathering at the church in Corinth.” Damn straight. “Women are not only needed and necessary, but they are indispensable and essential in the life of the church.” Men and women are created equal and we should see that play out in the local church and in other areas of life. He had set things up well. He moved on to single women – ah yes, here we go. “Let me tell you what [a helpmate for single women] doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to sit around and wait for a husband. In the Old Testament, the blessing was children. In the New Testament, the blessing is disciples. So don’t sit around twiddling your thumbs waiting for some man. Please don’t do that. The kingdom of God is at hand and you’ve been called to actively play a part.” Amen brother. Amen. For a while now, as I attend more weddings in one year than my non-Christian friends and colleagues will attend in a lifetime, tour the new homes and apartments of friends and as I awkwardly rub the growing stomachs of my pregnant Christian sisters, I’ve refused to sit and wait. From getting involved at church, to making independent financial decisions, understanding superannuation and investing in relationships far and wide. I’m not waiting. I may not be waiting but I also haven’t discounted serving God with a husband. I’ll happily admit I notice young men. I notice Godly young men. I notice Godly young men who are theologically sound, serving the church and can stand on their two feet (and preferably mow a lawn!). I notice them and sometimes* I wonder why they don’t notice me. I know I’m not alone but it’s also not something I’ve ever heard spoken of ‘from the front’ – until Sunday (via my car’s speakers). “If you’re a single woman in here and you’re like, “Chandler, if I go strong like that, if I get deeper theologically, I’m nervous that young men would be intimidated and wouldn’t approach me.” Now, I don’t struggle with confidence. I am confident in how God has made me. The gifts he has given me. The passions he has instilled in me. The go-get attitude I use to serve the church. But I’m guilty of thinking this – and so are my friends. Perhaps if I’m less assertive, less opinionated, less keen to grapple with God’s word, less vocal in trying to understand women’s role in the world, less enthusiastic in trying new things, less change-happy. Perhaps [insert any number of attributes] I’d be more attractive to a male suitor. Matt’s response was on point but the statement he had made just previous to it changed its weight. His response: “Practice and exercise your gifts to make disciples for the glory of God. Be the type of women who are iron that sharpen the iron of your husbands and male friends. And young men, don’t be intimidated by women who are more theologically informed and educated than you are.” Awesome. But he had just made this condition: “The only caveat we ever see in the Bible around this is that women don’t exercise their gifts in a way that emasculates men or usurps their authority…[so] quit waiting around for some doofus to ask you out.” While I openly joke when discussing the role of men and women, and throw around the term feminism, hear me when I say I appreciate the role God has designed for men – that’s some serious responsibility thrown in their direction. With a sociology major under my belt, I also accept the sociological reality of a man’s impact on the stability of family and children’s wellbeing. Despite my ongoing struggle in understanding the term, God designed women as a ‘helpmate’ for men (Genesis 2:10). However, God instilled a desire for knowledge and understanding, He gifted me in a way that sees me speak up when I don’t understand/agree. He designed me in a way that people may label me as “outspoken”. Matt Chandler suggests we should not wait for a doofus, nor should we exercise our gifts in a way that usurps the authority of men or less diplomatically – emasculates them. It is this very statement that leads me to start thinking perhaps I should curb by words, think more, listen more, speak less. I seek to live life that pleases God and follows his teaching in his Word, the Bible. Now I do not uphold a particular pastor or teachers words as truth, rather I look to the bible and it’s teaching. It just happens that Chandler was the first pastor I’ve heard to address this issue. There is a great deal written about women and here’s just a few passages that address how a woman should live: A gracious woman attains honor, And ruthless men attain riches. // Proverbs 11:16 It is better to live in a desert land Than with a contentious and vexing woman. // Proverbs 21:19 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. // 1 Timothy 3:11 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. // Proverbs 31:30 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. // Titus 2:3-5 The bible is punctuated by honourable woman who have served the Lord faithfully. Faithfully with honour, dignity and goodness. Their temperament patient, encouraging,  kind, loving, generous; temperate. These are the things a woman should be. We read about those who worked with Paul in the early church as “fellow workers.” We see  women used powerfully for God’s glory and growth of the church. Mary Magdelene, Lydia, Tabitha, Mary, Phoebe, Priscilla in the New Testament.   We also see single woman passionately standing up for truth, for social justice, for unity. Single women, and married women, are integral to the church. But here’s the challenge where we get caught up thinking, ‘I don’t want him to be intimidated.’ We actively are trying to balance living as biblical women and serving the church with our gifts, while also allowing men to fulfil their roles. We want them to live as Godly men and so we’re left questioning the impact of our thoughts, words, actions. Am I fulfilling my role? Is he fulfilling his role? Am I doing too much? Am I preventing him from fulfilling it? These woman I speak of aren’t after a doofus. We want a husband fit for his role. We want brothers serving faithfully. Now this is not a call out for help, I’d like to think I wouldn’t go to my little corner of the internet to do that. I don’t wish for you to come up to me and pat me on the back and say: “The Lord has someone picked out for you,” or “Patience sister,” or any other patronising statement. I’m good. I’m better than good. Many of you may want to help so it’s worth considering what will be helpful for single women. There are too many unhelpful articles, too much ill-informed advice and weak prayer going on. This isn’t about me and my future, rather the healthy, fruitful service of this part of the body of Christ. I’m also not calling young men to be stronger in how they live and serve our God. I would be out of place doing so and I also don’t think it’s the solution. It’s the unhelpful thought that is pervading young Christian women and holding them back. It’s a thought that makes me question the ministries I’m involved in. It’s what distorts my thinking and question why the attractive, (and before you all jump, not physically) godly, faithful brother isn’t interested. It’s about a confusion that is pervading the thoughts of strong Christian single women unsure how to serve God best. As we live, prayerfully serving and considering how best to do so, it’s worth considering and praying for the confused sisters around you – whether you’re married, single, man or woman. I don’t know if we’ve made this fear of ‘intimidation’ up or whether it’s legitimate, but without resolution these woman, and I, just continue. I continue praying with a confessing heart. I continue serving with a generous spirit. I continue running; running with perseverance the race marked out for us. May we all.   Listen, read or watch Matt Chandler’s talk ‘Woman’s purpose‘. (I also recommend his next talk ‘Woman’s hurdles‘ and look forward to his most recent ‘Woman’s redemption‘.) *Please don’t think I’m wallowing in my singleness, or it consumes my thoughts. I am trying to be honest. I look forward to seeing and praising God for the great things single woman and I could do without the added responsibility of a husband and children. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
This year I put on five kilos. It doesn’t seem much but it’s difficult not to notice the jeans that used to gape at the back don’t anymore. The shorts I’ve worn for the past three summers are now awkwardly pulling across my hips. And the tight, short skirt I love but always think twice about wearing is sooo out of the picture right now. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t happen all of a sudden. I knew the scales were showing a higher number each couple of weeks. It was a long and slow process piling on the kilos- a weekly one of rushed morning muffins and Friday blueberry bagels on the way to work. It was my Friday treat of Thai for lunch. It was my new reality of sitting for more than 10 hours a day. At the end of September I knew it was time to do something. I’m not a huge fan of fad diets, the latest being Paleo, but I knew I had to do something otherwise next year would just be another five. I looked into a few diets and just as I like to cook, I combined a few that worked for me. I haven’t cut out sugar or gluten or foods not eaten by my Paleolithic ancestors. I just cut down. For a month now I’ve eaten 1200 calories a day (give or take the odd day where I’ve blown out big time!) It’s hard. I’ve had to change almost every meal I eat: portions, types of food and frequency. It’s also great. In tracking exactly what goes in my body, I’m accountable for the bloating, the aches from ignoring my lactose-intolerant stomach and my conditioning to need sweet after every savoury. After a month, I know what calories are wasteful, I know what foods will stop my stomach from growling at my 11am meeting and I know what foods I can snack on to my hearts content. The daily nutritional report makes me think through recommended daily intake of vitamins and my consistent lack of iron. It’s going great. In cutting most store-bought processed foods and going back to basics, I’m sleeping better, I can concentrate longer and I’m losing some of the five kilos. In fact, two and a half kilos in four weeks. I read earlier this year in one of those classic click-bait articles 10 things you should get under control by the time your 30. One of them was healthy eating. I’m realising why – healthy eating has huge benefits. Alas, enough about weightloss, I’m actually keen to share my latest new favourite breakfast/lunch/dinner food – corn fritters. Their versatility is amazing. A bit of avocado on top is great for breakfast, broken up and in a salad at lunch, or served with a delicious salsa a great summer dinner. I tried one recipe a few weeks back, but today I decided to mix things up. Corn, zucchini and quinoa fritters with avocado, tomato and capsicum salsa Fritters: 1 can of cornThe kernels of 1 husk of fresh corn 1/2 of creamed corn 1 zucchini, grated 1/3 red capsicum, diced 1/4 cup raw = 1/2 cooked quinoa 1/4 cup milk (I used Lidell’s new hi calcium, low fat lactose free milk) 3/4 cup self-raising flour (would have used whole meal but didn’t have any) 2 eggs (I’ll probably scrap one of the yolks next time) 1 teaspoon ground cumin Fresh parsley Fresh spring onion Salt and pepper to taste Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Add extra milk or flour until the consistency is like a pancake. Lightly spray a fry pan with vegetable spray and cook at test fritter. Taste. Adjust any flavours or consistency. Cook the remainder. Makes 24 x 8cm fritters 101 calories per serve (2 fritters)   Salsa: 1.5 avocados, diced 1/2 tomato, diced 1/4 capsicum, diced 1/8 red onion, small dice Juice of half a lime Fresh coriander and parsley Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Done! Serves 4 68 calories per serve — It’s always amusing to see the end result of my cooking – and it’s not the food.   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
I’m not very good at doing nothing. My ideal holiday involves people, activites, museums, sightseeing and the like. The typical picturesque sit-by-a-beach and relax is torturous. Add waterskiing, sailing, beach cricket, kayaking and you’ve got my attention. Last week I took three days annual leave and went camping with a group of friends from home. The camping trip is a yearly, if not more, trip from the group of 80% teachers enjoying their holidays. My previous life of vomiting words on to a computer screen during the holiday period is no longer and so they invited me into their fold. By the afternoon of the first day (the morning involved driving, setting up a comfortable campsite and lunch), I was making activity suggestions. Frisbee. Kayaking. Tennis. Anything?! A dear friend sitting across from me in our circle of chairs joked, “Mel, you do know how to do nothing, right?” I laughed – it’s what I do when I don’t know what to say. As the three days ensued, my usual pace of life took a dramatic shift. I become familiar with ‘doing nothing.’ A how-to guide for people who don’t know to stop and do nothing: Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)