Sunday, January 27, 2008

As baby's birth gets closer - is it really just three months?! - it is starting to hit me a little more how much parenting involves. Most obvious is the material aspect of things. As mentioned before, we've been delighted to get various things second-hand for baby over the last few months (crib, stroller, high chair, bouncer seat, diaper bag, clothes, and toys). We are now starting to think about what else we might need. The current list of stuff to get includes a few big items: a changing table, a carseat, a baby carrier, a baby bath and baby swing (maybe?) and a rocking chair. Then, I need to go through the baby clothes that were given and figure out what other clothes will be necessary. Finally, there are the little things like diapers, wipes, baby powder, diaper rash cream, baby shampoo and soap, washcloths, spit blankets, bibs, bottles, pacifiers, etc.

I almost wish there were some need list that you could go through and check off, but at the same time the variety of opinions on what is and isn't healthy, necessary, natural or whatever are bewildering. One tends to fall back on what one remembers from childhood... after all, I grew up all right, didn't I? But I welcome hearing about what others have found to be best in their experience.

The other bewildering thing is that I am very unfamiliar with the baby market in Australia. Online things aren't quite as easily accessible, depending on the location and shipping policy (and price!) of the company. And there aren't any big baby stores that I've seen in Launceston, just one small shop that's very expensive (Baby George) and several small second-hand shops. I guess I'll have to check out the options in the local cheap-o department store (K-mart) and the next-step-up ones (Target and Harris Scarfe) and maybe the pricey one too (Meyer). And then there will probably be a few products in the grocery stores like Woolworths and Coles. Hmmm....

Aside from baby things, there's the parenting itself to prepare for. Terry and I are borrowing a book from friends called Growing Kid's God's Way by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo. I've only just begun to read it as of now. We're aware that there's a bit of controversy surrounding the authors and their parenting curriculum, but we're going to check it out anyway on our friends' recommendation. As with any Christian book, we'll seek to approach it with Biblical discernment and common sense. And of course, any parenting method needs to be applied with close attention to the context of the author's advice, not strictly literally or legalistically, and with prayerful sensitivity to the heart issues of the parent and the child within the given situation. If anyone has favorite parenting books or articles to recommend, feel free to share. Thankfully, we are ultimately equipped with all the principles and insights we need by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word (II Tim. 3:16-17), and we are assured that if we lack wisdom we may ask God, who will supply it liberally and without reproach (James 1:5).

On a more light-hearted note, I found something at the store the other day that reminds me of my mother's approach to food preparation. She strove to feed us tasty and healthy food, though those two priorities sometimes seemed to be in conflict; she'd sprinkle wheat germ or ground flax seed liberally, use part whole wheat flour in cakes and pancakes rather than just white flour, substitute raw sugar or honey for white sugar, feed us molassas milk rather than chocolate milk, and so forth. I have to say we enjoyed her innovations most of the time, and her home-made whole wheat bread was delicious! As a parent, she was very conscious of our need to consume a proper amount of veggies every day - and she was especially mindful that we get our greens. And really, she wasn't extreme; we all grew up enjoying our ice cream too, and in a whole variety of flavors, mind you.

But one of her tricks was to sneak a little more healthiness into foods by adding a secret ingredient or two of which she would eagerly inform us after we had taken a few bites and agreed to her insistent question, "How do you like the such-and-such? Isn't it good?" Ah, then you knew you didn't want to hear the half-proud, half-penitent confession that was coming: "I put a bit of ___ into the soup. Maybe it was a little too much, but it's so good for you and it really doesn't taste bad, does it?" Sometimes, you'd rather not know. :)

Well, this first parenting book purchase was in honor of my mother. And really, I must confess, I bought it because I was intrigued myself. It's the book Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld, just out on store shelves and recently featured on Oprah, too. Yes, the author is the wife of Jerry Seinfeld, and it's sprinkled with little quotes from him and their three children. It's a cookbook with various simple recipes in it. The main idea of the book is to put vegetable purees in the dishes you feed your kids. It has breakfast, snack, main dish, and dessert recipes - and frankly, they all look great. I have to say that the brownies with spinach puree pique my curiosity, however; could such a thing possibly be good? But then again, I think back to the "thunder cake" I made with mom in my childhood long ago and smile.

"Thunder cake" was made with a recipe that came with a book called Thunder Cake that we read in elementary school. In it, a girl is visiting her grandma; as a scary storm approaches, they distract themselves by racing with the storm to make a "thunder cake" by the time the storm is overhead and there is no time lapse between the lightning and thunder. They end up feeling brave and happy, eating cake together... it's a really cute story. But anyway, this cake is special because not only is it especially good for making during a thunderstorm, but it's also a scrumptious moist chocolate cake with pureed tomato in it, of all things! So there's the connection; yummy things may be produced from recipes with odd ingredients. Thus, there is hope for the spinach brownies too!

Most of the other recipes in Deceptively Delicious don't look so shockingly weird, thankfully. I think the book will be quite useful in the future - especially if we eventually acquire more freezer space. And the design is really cute and fun. You can read more about it on the book's website, And for the author's thoughts on the originality and wisdom of this method of sneaking veggies into foods, check out this page.

Baby kicks vigorously nowadays - I'm sure the most recent burst of energy can be interpreted as a hello to all our friends and family out there. And now, we may go do something fun together in celebration of another of Australia's many public holidays - the Monday after Australia Day. Have a happy, healthy holiday if you're in Oz - and if not, go eat some cake anyway. Maybe even thunder cake!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Today is our half-year anniversary. Six months of marriage somehow seems very incredible. It has been a busy and blessed time of transition and trust, and most of all, the living out of true love. The above photo was taken in front of the apricot tree today, which produced over six buckets full of fruit this year. Most of the fruit went to church folk, and I plan to stew the bag I kept if I can scrounge a few glass jars somewhere.

This picture seems to be from a long time ago, a euphoric day that was just the beginning of our adventures together as man and wife. The Lord has been so good to us in bringing us together and in keeping us united through the learning, communicating, and miscommunicating of married life. And all through the day today, baby has been kicking at an unusual rate. I think he is celebrating our marriage too, because that's the reason he's alive inside me. (And no, we don't know if it's a "he" or "she" - we're keeping that a surprise for everyone, including ourselves. But we have several prophets who think they know.)

The other reason baby may have been kicking is that we went to "The Cheesecake Shop" amid some other errands in the city. Alas, it is not the sit-down restaurant I had foolishly been expecting. I think I was still associating this local place with "The Cheesecake Factory" which is a classy restaurant in the States. Above pictured is one of this American restaurant's offerings, a luxurious dessert called Chocolate Tuxedo Cream Cheesecake. I spent about a half hour when we got home on their website,, just drooling over the menu. I'll have to go there sometime when I'm back in the States. The cheesecake I had from the shop was okay, but more sour and cheesy than I expected. This is probably because it was "continental cheesecake" rather than American. Oh, well - baby and I still got our sugar high going there!

These pictures are in answer to some complaints from family of not having an idea of what our house looks like. It's also to show off some of the little snowmen we got in a post-Christmas sale. They are sitting on the mantelpiece with our Christmas cards in an attempt to capture the snowy wonder of the holidays in a land of no snow and opposite seasons. The picture above the mantelpiece is one that Terry's mom sent us of the Mackinack Bridge (pronounced Mack-i-naw), which has a span of five miles and connects the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan.

Unfortunately, the various visits that have kept us occupied in the last couple of weeks have been virtually picture-less. We either did not use the camera or forgot it entirely. I am determined to do better, but here is what we did glean from the time we spent at Stuart and Karleen's house.
Real men do dishes. Stuart sets the example here, and Bradley follows in his father's footsteps. A dynamic duo - or at least the photographer thought so. Thankfully, the photographer is also a follower of this maxim.

And last but not least, real men eat breakfast. Rowan is setting the pace here. And these two lovely home scenes are all the traveling pictures we took, despite having been at several friends' houses and two scenic beaches recently. Oh well, we just didn't want to make you jealous, right?

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Leadership is something every pastor and elder is called to contemplate. I have been contemplating this theme a lot since before I began the ministry, and I have not stopped yet. I begin to wonder if I ever will.

While I was looking for a picture for this post, I came across several posters that provide nutshell summaries of leadership. Most of them not too helpful; they're oh-so-cute with great pictures, but not so helpful.

Books on leadership abound. There are several "Christian" books on leadership as well. They can be helpful, but they have not proven so to me yet.

In seminary, we had a special class on leadership. We received practical advice, read a few books of varying degrees of helpfulness, and attempted to study Biblical principles and Biblical models of leadership.

My contemplations of leadership have been humbling and uplifting of late.

I have not been in the ministry very long and am limited on experience. I am not even 30 years old yet and lack maturity. I am in a new country with a new culture (although some Australians fear America is replacing and extirpating their culture). The state I live in is an island with its own unique history and sub-culture from the rest of the country. Faced with my responsibly for the spiritual state of all the men and women in the church I serve, and especially the task of leading, it is tempting to become overwhelmed. As I contemplate these factors, I find myself crying out to the Lord, "How can I lead?"

Thankfully, the Lord continually brings His Word to bear and provides direction, and with direction strength and hope. The two greatest helps follow:

1. Be strong and courageous, not fearful, trusting in the LORD and His Word

Joshua 1:5-9 " There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. 6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. 7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. 9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."

These words applied to Joshua as the Lord's chosen successor of Moses and deliverer of His people. It chiefly refers to Christ as the true law-giver and deliverer of the Lord's people, and because it applies to Him, it may also be said of all those who are in Him, and in a special way to those who hold church office.

2. The fear of the LORD is my conduit of strength and my God is my shelter.

Proverbs 14:26 "In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge."

As I prayerfully reflect on these texts, and seek to faithfully execute my office, I see the LORD providing for me and His church. Humility brings uplifting as the Father ever demonstrates His faithfulness in bringing about His plan by His Spirit for the sake of His Son.

My contemplations of leadership may never stop, but that is a truly blessed thing.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

We spent New Years' Eve with the Kingstons and had a lovely time all the way around. Food and friends and fireworks... what more can you ask for? Well, family would have been wonderful, but we enjoyed the celebration anyway. After all, it was not till the next day that our families joined us in the New Year. We in Australia are almost the first to celebrate the coming of the New Year... after New Zealand.

The night started with a beautiful banquet that the Kingstons call tea - but believe me, it was a good deal more than caffeinated hot water. :) As you may know, what we Americans call supper is tea here. And it was presented in a lovely way with folded "fan" napkins of a lovely burgundy color, matching the festive tablecloth.

Afterward, we started in on a game of Apples to Apples (you can see the cards in the middle of the table). It's a hilarious game that also requires a bit of intuition about your fellow game-players. Emma, Martin, Robert, and I are all grinning - the hilarity is really contagious.

Emma and Rob are Kingston siblings, while Martin is a friend from Hobart visiting over the holidays. Here Steve Kingston, to the left, is resplendent in his splashy Hawaiian shirt. Too bad Terry wasn't wearing his - they could have had a matching picture.

Meanwhile, Julie shows us how it's done. Have you ever seen anyone wash glasses with a more professional flair? And that's not all she was up to in the kitchen after we ate. She made oliebollen so good that only one was left... a clear indicator that she made the perfect amount, or else that everyone was too polite to take that last one. They were great!

When we had eaten and played games far into the night, we approached twelve o'clock and headed to the living room to see the fireworks from the Sydney bridge on TV. Terry and I hadn't seen them before, of course, so we found them quite impressive. I especially loved the part where they created a waterfall of fireworks off the bridge. It was beautiful!

Of course, the display also created an irresistable opportunity to poke fun at the hypocrisy of a country that is very strong in its tree-hugging stance. So much money going up in polluting smoke rather than put to use in research about the one-eyed pink-toed marsupial fish off the coast of Flinder's Island! And no, there is no such creature, in case you're curious.

However, there is another fun little Australian culture quirk we got to observe. Everyone here texts each other... not just the teenyboppers who seem to have nothing better to do. It's cheaper than talking on the mobile in the land down under. But on New Year's Eve, texting is apparently a bit of a ritual. And of course, the network can't handle the fact that 99% of mobile phone users are texting all of their friends at once. Consequently, the messages on New Year's usually either get through hours later or get lost. However, Rob is not deterred by the futility of adding his text message to the chaos and happily tries to message his friends.

To finish off the night, we all headed outside with sparklers and popping plastic thingies to make our own display out in the midnight fields of Exeter, Tasmania. I end up looking like a fat fairy godmother holding up her wand... but I had a blast. And I really don't look THAT big... it's just the dress. Trust me. Meanwhile, Terry is working on a new title - "Terreth the Fire-eater!" Thanks to Emma for these two pics.

The next day was the church barbeque under the Batman Bridge. We brought blade steak, chorizos (spicy Spanish sausages), onions, and broccoli salad. There were also other foods being shared. Looks good, doesn't it?

Below left, Pat and Mavis enjoy their plates of food. Speaking of plates, we were glad they brought extra with them in their camper van. I'd concentrated so much on food that morning that plates and utensils were entirely forgotton! Below right, Dennis, John, and Nathan dig in as well.

The above pictures show a scattering of the crowd: Stuart and Colleen with their boys Bradley, Thomas and Rowan; Ron and Ava; Pam; the Kingstons; and Amanda. After eating and talking, the men and boys struck up a game of cricket. John stuck with Terry, whom he happily addresses as "Mis-tuh Kway-vuh." He and Terry are apparently consulting on the likelihood of Pat to catch or hit the ball - I'm not sure which.

Below left, Amanda picks up the soccer ball which disrupted the ladies' conversation... again. We were also disrupted a few times by the shadow of the bridge moving (at which point we too would move) and the umbrella on the food table blowing over. Below right, a view of the Tamar.

Our final picture... the lovely couple, Nathan and Jaslyn. I'm not sure if the grimace is a distaste for pictures, a result of the pressure of a fast-approaching moving day, or a random expression of goofiness. In any case, we'll sorely miss them when they go off to the mainland with their sunny little John-John.

New Years is already a memory, but I still find myself surprised at the concept that we're in 2008. As I've told Terry a few times, the year 2007 was the end of time in my mind. Student teaching, graduating college (aka "uni" in Aussie-speak), packing up, getting married, traveling, and finally moving to our new home in Australia.... To me, the fact that we're living in 2008 brings home more solidly that I really am living in the land beyond the proverbial bend in the road. God has faithfully kept us on our pilgrimage, though, and we trust Him to guide us around this year's bend in the road: parenthood.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


On the morning of Monday the 24th, we headed down to Hobart to spend Christmas with some friends. We decided to leave a bit early and see a bit of Tas. The trip down to Hobart is always a beautiful one of scenic fields, paddocks, and rolling hills, but this time we stopped at Bonorong nature park. We had a chance to spend some time with Oz animals.

Here is a young "Common Wombat." Common Wombats are the only ones found on Tassie but there are different types on the mainland. They are quite tough little animals, with a bony plate on their bums. For defence, they simply dig a hole and stick their back side out.

An albino (or "al-bean-o" as they say in Oz) wallaby with a little brown "joey" (baby) sticking its head out of the pouch.

Koala bears sleep most of the day and the tour guide said dirt has more energy in it then the eucalyptus leaves they eat. They are not native to Tassie but they have a few in nature parks.

After Bonorong, we continued to Hobart and caught up with friends. We had dinner and then a relaxing night playing games. On Christmas Day, we got up and generally hung out and ate. We also prepared for the trip planned for the next day. The picture above is of the pastor of the Southern Presbyterian Church of Hobart, Iain Smith. Here, he is preparing his fishing rod for the next day. He grew up on the island of Lewis in Scotland; fishing was an essential part of life.

On the left is Lorraine tenHaaf, a friend from the Launceston congregation, and on the right is Mary Smith, Iain's wife. Both ladies are enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful day.

This is Terry "the Bishop" Connors. He is a retired elder from the Hobart congregation and the older brother of Pat Connors, one of the elders in the Launceston congregation. He is holding up a sign he got for Christmas. The sign is very fitting, as he is our fishing guru and chief. He may not be from Scotland, but even Iain acknowledges that "the Bishop" knows his fishing and asks for occasional advice.

This is Bev, Terry's wife. She takes good care of all the folk in Hobart, and has the challenge of keeping "the Bishop" in line.

Lorraine, Martha, and Terry opening Christmas gifts.

The day after Chrismas, we drove an hour south of Hobart and headed to Iain and Mary's "shack." The "shack" is what non-Tasmaniacs would call a cottage or holiday house.

Iain has done a lot of work on the shack himself. The latest edition was finishing off this enclosed porch.

The shack looks small from the outside but has a finished porch, kitchen, two bedrooms, dining room, and deck. Here is the first half of the living room...

...and here is the second half of the living room, which is also Iain's away office.

Iain and Terry sitting out on the "wee" (Scottish for "little") deck.

After spending an hour or so at the shack, we headed out to go fishing. Here I am all dressed up and ready to fish. Thankfully, I remembered my rod and reel, though they aren't pictured. Martha thought this was the perfect shirt for the occasion!

Here is the mighty fisher woman herself! My beloved wife caught five fish, tying with Iain Smith. I brought in the biggest haul with six fish. None of them were huge, but they were perfect pan size fish. When all was said and done, we went back to the shack with nineteen fish.

Our first Christmas in Tassie was a very blessed one. We may not have had church services (being Presbyterian, we do not follow the church calender), but we had an excellent and restful time of Christian fellowship. Martha and I have missed friends and family, and even the snow and the cold, but we have a special bond with Iain and Mary too. We have both come from different traditions, Scottish and Dutch, to labor in the Word and lift up Christ in this small island at the ends of the earth. We are both students of Reformed and Presbyterian theology, but each with his own specialty. Iain knows John Owen very well and I continue to be fascinated with Geerhardus Vos, Cornelius VanTil, and Neo-Calvinistic epistemology (the philosophy of how we know things) in general. We both have a strong love for the warm-hearted experimental Calvinism of both the Dutch and Scottish traditions and seek to have an evangelistic focus in our preaching and labors. Plus, we just get along. And of course our wives are "Mary and Martha."

The Lord be with you all. We miss you.

Terry & Martha and baby K