Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Girl in the Corner

photo credit: lilongd via photopin cc

She stood in the corner of the room watching, waiting for the ballet class to finish. Nearby, a group of mothers who were all well acquainted chatted amicably among themselves. They didn't seem to notice the girl in the corner and seemed oblivious to her presence but I did. I was in the same position. I traveled from the country into the town to bring my little girls to their classical ballet class. I didn't know the other mothers and I didn't know the girl who stood in the corner. She fascinated me. She dressed conservatively and wore no make up. I wondered whether she was a member of the local group that re-enacted the Victorian heritage of the town - quite a number dressed in Victorian costume as a matter of rule. I knew I should really go over and introduce myself but with an older boy in tow and a wriggly baby on my hip who would soon need a feed, as soon as the girls had curtsied to their teacher I raced over grabbed their hands and quickly ushered them out of the hall to strap them into their car seats for the 40 minute journey home.

I regretted only smiling at and not speaking to the girl in the corner. The time was drawing near when we would be leaving our farm and moving across the Tasman. Then one week somehow she overcame her shyness and spoke to me. I knew it had been a courageous step for her as she asked quietly and politely whether my daughter would like to come over and visit. Her daughter needed a friend but I sensed that she was also asking on her own behalf and reaching out to me. I took up the invitation. She lived just around the corner and I let out a gasp when I saw her home. A stately Victorian town house with a walled garden. 'Wow, you live here?' She smiled. I had walked past it often and wondered who was fortunate enough to live in such a historic property. Now I was being given a tour of its interior. As our girls played together we chatted over a cup of tea. I told her about my life as a farmer's wife and she told me what it was like to be the custodian of such a grand old home. Caring for it took a lot of her time. I noticed the books on her shelves. Classics and the works of great men of the Christian faith such as Spurgeon and Tozer. A fellow believer, a quiet, and unassuming lady. A gentle soul. She was lovely company and how I wished I had made the effort to get to know her sooner. I saw the sadness in her eyes when I told her we were soon leaving to start a new life in Australia.

Perhaps you also know a girl in the corner. Maybe she attends your church, your playgroup or your ladies ministry meeting. She stays in the background. She sits alone or alongside the older ladies who have invited her to join them but are now engaged in conversation with their neighbour. You may even be that girl in the corner. You are ignored. You look around the room and you feel you don't fit in. I tend to think of myself as fairly outgoing but I know what it is like to be the girl in the corner. Even at church. The one place where the welcome should not be confined to a greeting at the door. On the occasions when I became the girl in the corner I can't really explain why. It's happened at gatherings both large and small. I once attended a swimming carnival run by a homeschool support group that I had not attended before. I barely knew anyone  but I had so much in common with everyone there. I never expected to be ignored, to sit in the stands and occasionally have other women look up from their conversations and stare across at me but no one came and introduced themselves. Needless to say, I never returned to that group.

On other occasions I know many of the people in the room but it seems they are all caught up in conversations with the group they are with so I sit quietly at my table and sip on my tea and wait for the meeting to begin. There is lots of talk about sisterhood but barely a mention of motherhood yet most of the women in the room are mothers or hope to be mothers one day. Why don't they teach about being a wife and a mother? What about homemaking? I once had the opportunity to speak at a large gathering for women. Just a five minute slot in a packed programme. I chose to speak on the table and why it was the most important piece of furniture in my home. I shared about family and hospitality. That was over 10 years ago but recently a woman came up to me and told me that she had never forgotten what I shared on the table.

Maybe that is why the girl in the corner has come along. She's hoping to be able to glean some wisdom from an older woman. She wants to be a better mother. She dearly wants to hear others share their experiences of everyday life in the home - the place where she knows God has called her to be. And perhaps there might be someone, who like herself is also looking for a friend, someone she can confide in. Not a small group or a Bible study held at an impractical time that she has to travel to. Just one caring person who will call in to see her from time to time. Who will have time to stay for a coffee and some conversation. The next time she ventures out to a larger gathering her new friend will look out for her, she will introduce her to others. She is no longer the girl in the corner. You see she knew all along her value and worth to God. She didn't need to hear another message on that. What she really needed to know and experience was that others valued her as her Saviour did - that they noticed her, spoke to her more than a greeting or a passing 'how are you?' as they dash past to see the friend they really want to catch up with.

Dear friends, can I encourage you to look out for the girl in the corner. Especially, when you attend church or gatherings of women or even your homeschool support meeting. Scan the room. There will be a girl in the corner. She might be a young mother or an older lady. You might say but our church has small groups. She should join one, that is where connections are made and friendships are formed and yes that is true but not every person can get along to a small group. Distance to travel could be an issue or finances. Maybe she can't afford the petrol or doesn't enjoy driving at night. I experienced a road rage incidence once on the way to a woman's ministry night. I feared for my life as the car which had been speeding came up behind me flashing his lights, sounding his horn and sitting on my bumper as I drove at the speed limit. For a long time I avoided attending meetings held at night. Perhaps the small groups are held at an inconvenient time during the day. Or maybe the groups are overly age segregated which is one of the issues I face as a woman in her 40's. Too old for most of the small groups for women and families and too young for others, leaving me with very few options. I have young adults, teenagers, young children and a pre-schooler. I have much to offer younger mothers but few opportunities to minister to them.

Be open to the prompting of the Lord. He will place people across your path or maybe across your street who need to know that someone is genuinely interested in them. Who will smile, make them feel truly welcome and take the time to talk to them and invite them to come and sit with them. It may lead to a sweet friendship, an opportunity to minister or it may be the only time you meet them but they won't forget you because they no longer felt alone or awkward in the situation they found themselves in. I will continue to look out for the girl in the corner and I hope you will too.

P.S She might be visiting your blog.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Whole Family Ministry

Today I am sharing the story of how we became involved in a ministry that has a special place in my heart. I have longed for a ministry that every member of my family could be involved with from the youngest to the oldest, where hospitality and the opening up of our home would play a pivotal role. A ministry that would not separate parents from children or take individual members out of the home for long periods. The Lord heard my prayers and after saying to Him ' Lord, we are available, please use us to reach out to people beyond the walls of our home and church' He answered in the most incredible way, fulfilling the desire of one daughter to be a missionary to China by bringing China to our doorstep.

It has been an exciting first year since the initial conversation with the wife of the Pastor of a church we had attended for a number of years before moving to a smaller church closer to home. How her eyes lighted up when I explained that my daughter had a passion for China and was learning Mandarin and she told me of a wonderful couple she had met the evening before who had established a ministry to Chinese students in our city.

Before long we had attended our first Chinese festival and were introduced to some of the students and the partners in the ministry. It became apparent that to be truly involved we needed to move back to our first church and give up the benefits of being involved in a smaller fellowship of believers.
Although we are now in a much bigger  church we feel closely connected because of our involvement in this ministry. We have been able to befriend many of the students and welcome them into our home. My husband is a mechanic by trade and he has been able to assist a number of the students by repairing their cars and helping those who needed to purchase new ones. We became aware of the number of young people from Taiwan and South Korea who were here on working holidays and by helping out just one girl we were able to befriend many others in the same group. Some we have befriended on a more permanent basis and have been able to keep in touch with and others we met only once or twice.  But it became apparent that they all loved being befriended by a family and being invited into a home. One day I received a text from one of the backpackers we had met just once. He wanted to know if he and his brother could come out and visit us again on the weekend. Of course we said yes and they turned up smiling and were delighted to see our children again. They played soccer in our backyard and jumped on the trampoline... for hours! We drove them to a lovely part of our valley for a short bush walk and invited them to stay for dinner as I could see they really did not want to leave! It was the last time we would see them as they would be traveling to Tasmania and New Zealand but I know they were impacted by the time they spent with our family.

There is so much more I could share about this incredible ministry and the harvest it is reaping but time does not allow. It is such an honour to play a part in it and our life as a family has been blessed in so many unexpected ways. The day one of our sweet friends told me that I reminded her of her mother who she was missing very much and after we had visited her on her birthday and made her a cake and presented her with flowers she told us it was one of the best birthdays in her life! I was astounded. Really.. a chocolate cake made by my children and a bunch of supermarket flowers could bring someone so much joy? Sometimes the simple things say so much. I am so grateful that the Lord prompted me to go and visit her in her temporary abode taking with us most of our younger children. We met a lot more young people from Asia that day as we sat with them and my husband manned the barbecue so they could chat. 

These are just some of the stories from our whole family ministry and there will be more to come. The academic year has just begun and the students are arriving to commence their studies. Already this year we have helped out one young man with car troubles. He was a committed Christian and I sensed very grateful for the help and the opportunity to spend time with our family getting to know us. It is true that God does set the solitary in families and He needs more families who are willing to open up their homes to others, especially those who are on their own or in an unfamiliar country and missing their families.  I am grateful that we have the time and have not over committed ourselves or our children to segregated activities away from the home. The freedom to say 'When can you come out? We are home most evenings' is a wonderful thing.
Are you involved in any whole family ministry? I'd love to hear about the opportunities that exist for families to come together to share their homes and their lives with others!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Degree and Debt Free

2013 came to a very exciting and fulfilling close after we traveled to Melbourne to attend our son's graduation ceremony for RMIT University. He gained a Bachelor of Technology (Computer Studies) and graduated with distinction. Those who have followed my blog over the past few years may remember his homeschool story. I am a strong believer in delight directed learning and allowed our son to concentrate on a subject throughout the high school years which he enjoyed which was computer programming. He began teaching himself to program at age 12 and at 16 he enrolled in a unit at RMIT University via Open Universities Australia (OUA). When his friends were sitting the HSC at 18 our son was partway through his University degree. His part time farm job provided income for the initial units and at 18 he set up his own web design business from home. I gave up trying to explain to people who kept asking when he was sitting the HSC. Blank stares ensued when I said he was already undertaking a degree. Now I am being asked what he is going to do now he has a degree! He is not unemployed. He has a successful business and we pray that it will continue to flourish.

We are so proud of his achievements and the fact that he was able to graduate debt free. As more design work came in, he enrolled in more units. The flexibility of the OUA programme made this possible. He studied at home and he worked from home. Exams were sat at an office in the city. Some days he would have an exam in the morning followed by a business meeting with a client! The years of hard work paid off and what a delight it was to take our first trip to Melbourne -  which is now on my list of favourite cities for lots of reasons.

Students who study externally via OUA earn exactly the same degree as those attending the bricks and mortar institution. During our stay our son met up with some of the other OUA graduates putting faces to names of people he had met and befriended on online study forums. On graduation day students from RMIT marched down the street from the University to Federation Square. In the evening the graduation ceremony took place at Docklands Stadium. I had no idea how big RMIT was or how many students would be graduating. In a sea of thousands of cap and gowns, families watched on from the stands above as their sons and daughters waited for that moment when their name was announced and they could step onto their respective stages and receive their degrees. Large screens set up around the stadium meant we were able to see in much more detail this very special moment. I had to pinch myself a few times... it was really happening!

Academic achievements aside... what delights my soul more is knowing that my son continues to walk with the Lord. That his convictions concerning God's Word and the truth it contains are strong and steadfast. That he honours God with his life... how much more important it is to be qualified for Heaven through faith in Jesus!


We made the most of our stay in Melbourne. We walked for miles until we sussed out the trams (why are there no large signs explaining they are cashless and you need a card!) and I found the best little vintage shop in the universe where I bought my first chandelier. A real chandelier from the 1940's made of glass and not plastic unlike some modern reproductions  it's for our vintage hire business but hangs outside under the verandah where it is easy to access and admire. Our trip home was eventful. A day of crazy heat that our van could not handle. It was 45 degrees (that's 113 f for my overseas friends!) as we drove through inner Sydney and the decision was made to stop for the night somewhere on the way home which meant we got to visit quite a few country cities and towns. I did most of my Christmas shopping in these towns and found Vinnies (a thrift store) that had vintage china at reasonable prices. Now that is quite something these days!

We were home for Christmas ... a quiet and intimate Christmas this year and an opportunity to relax and enjoy my favourite time of the year with my favourite people - my family.

2014 has already commenced . I pray that it will be a year of many blessings for you all. That God will reveal Himself to you more and more ...His ways, His plans, His paths. I hope I find more time to blog but no promises are being made. I hope that sharing some more of our homeschool journey has been an encouragement to someone ... maybe someone who is just starting out or a mom who is constantly being asked 'How is he going to get to university if he doesn't go to school?'. We have been there and know what that is like! The Lord goes with you wherever you go. He is with you every step of the relax in that knowledge and enjoy the learning journey with the precious ones He has entrusted to you. Persevere dear homeschool friends.... you will not regret your decision.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Very Vintage Christmas

I'm writing this post and publishing from my smartphone which is a first for me. Perhaps it will allow me to post briefer posts on a more regular basis but no promises as December looks to be even busier with a trip to Melbourne planned the week before Christmas in order to attend our son's graduation ceremony from RMIT university.

I decided to concentrate my Christmas decorating to one room this year. Our open plan family kitchen/ dining room where we do most of our living! I set up our tree in the corner window and thought I would use some of the vintage props we purchased this year for our business.

I have also decorated our Stanley stove and will bring in more greenery for it closer to Christmas day. The picture I took a few years ago of our decorated candlelit stove seems to be getting lots of repins on pinterest at the moment.

This morning I brought in a little vintage step ladder and draped it with the long, slender fronds from the Kashmiri cypress which graces the front of our home.  I adorned the steps with pine cones, tea light candles, doilies, a favourite Christmas book, added a bundle of cinnamon sticks embellished with a silk flower and now I have the perfect place to set out those little gifts that get lost under the tree! 

Our Christmas tradition of making crackers for the table became a real family affair this year with my 8 year old twin daughters taking over! I had cut out some sweet pictures of British birds and nests from Country Living magazine. They made up the crackers from a kit, covered them in crepe paper and glued on silk ivy and white flowers. Apart from needing some help with tying on the ribbon, they made the crackers themselves with only verbal instructions.  I was amazed at how they knew to fold in the edge of the paper to create a neat seam. They are so motivated to make another set which is a good thing as I have invited a number of the Chinese students and backpackers we have befriended this year to come for Christmas dinner.  If they all decide to come we will have a full house! At least I will have enough plates with all this vintage china, cutlery and crystal I have collected and I have every intention of using it for my very vintage Christmas! Hear the collective groan from the children who know that it cannot go in the dishwasher! The very thought of serving guests food that we lovingly cooked and baked on plastic or paper plates is one that makes me shudder!

I have no idea whether this mobile app for blogger will let me upload more than one photo. So let's tap done for the text and see what happens!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Her great Canadian Adventure begins!

I have to say I am a little envious. I have never met any of my blogger friends, not even the ones who live in Australia and it's only a dream to be able to fly to the other side of the world to meet those sweet ladies I have connected with, thanks to this blog, in North America. But my daughter is living my dream. Right now she is in Canada and has just spent the first few days of her trip in the beautiful city of Vancouver staying with my dear friend Camille from Flowers in His Garden. How grateful our family is to Camille and her family for showing such gracious hospitality to our daughter, picking her up from the airport and welcoming her into their home, looking after her and showing her the sights of the city such as Stanley Park. Camille has just put up a blog post about our daughter's visit so in a moment I will send you over to visit her where you can read more about her stay in Vancouver, see more photos and learn about some of the activities they managed to fit in during such a short space of time. I offered up profound apologies for sending over a tube of vegemite as one gift for the family (I'm English, can't stand the stuff and convinced you need to be a natural born Aussie or Kiwi to be able to digest it!) To compensate our daughter made the family her famous lemon meringue pie!

She's now on the prairie and has been reunited with her friend she met over here a few years ago when a team of young Canadians came over for a short term mission. She's also experiencing the coldest temperatures she has ever experienced in her life -12 c but feels like -20 according to the forecast she sent through! I'm sure it feels like -20 after you have come from one of the hottest springs we have experienced for some time. It reached the high 30's (that's close to 100 F for my friends overseas) in the week prior to her departure! During the next 2 weeks she will be taking a road trip with her friend visiting cities such as Calgary and Edmonton and seeing the Rocky Mountains. She's rather excited about the fact that there is a mall in Edmonton that has a roller coaster - really? She will return to Vancouver and spend another night with Camille and her family before flying out.

We are looking forward to seeing more photos of the country that is part of her heritage. My great grandmother came from a wealthy and prestigious family in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She married an English gentleman at Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal. All places I intend to visit when it is my turn to visit Canada!

My daughter returns home on my birthday and celebrates her 19TH birthday the following day. We are missing her, her cat is even missing her. We look forward to her return, hearing all about her great Canadian adventure and hopefully she will make me her lemon meringue pie on my birthday!

Do pop over and visit Camille's blog to read more about her stay in Vancouver and see those amazing fall leaves!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Arbor

I have been wanting to share with you for some time now a picture of the beautiful arbor (or arbour as we would spell it in Australia!) that my husband built. It came about when I showed him a picture of an ornately carved Balinese style timber wedding canopy that I had pinned on my pinterest page from a wedding blog. 'I could build something like that' he said and that evening the ideas began to flow. He would design it to be transportable - in sections that come apart and are able to be reassembled on site. As our new family business is vintage china and accessory hire, our arbor needed to have more vintage elegance than the Balinese canopy which had originally caught my eye and that's when we thought 'veranda'... let's make it look like the entrance to a traditional Victorian villa home or permanent gazebo in a park or country estate, perhaps we could find some authentic cast iron lacework and work that into the design. I was starting to get excited... and here is where it became one of those 'meant to be' stories.

The very next day we went into town for a latte at our favourite cafe which has all manner of vintage wares for sale, a great place for any bowerbird. As I went for my weekly wander through the shop as we were waiting for our coffee, I just happened to glance down at the floor and saw four corner pieces of cast iron lacework from an old veranda. They were magnolia pink and I immediately knew they were meant to be ours. My husband could hardly believe it either and we promptly paid for what would be the most gorgeous feature of our soon to be built arbor.

We knew it would need more than just four corners of lacework to give it the look of a veranda and just one week later we found what we were looking for. A last minute decision to call in at an antique shop in another city where the china is usually too highly priced for our budget but out the back we discovered a shed stacked with all manner of furniture and vintage wares. Yet, another glance at the floor (it pays to look down!) and stacked under a table were more corners and panels of cast iron lacework. Not just any lacework but the exact match for our previous find and painted the same shade of magnolia pink. Could it be that they were salvaged from the same old house and ended up for sale in different cities? We were scared to ask the price as we had been looking on ebay and knew that people were asking hefty prices for authentic cast iron lacework so when the lady gave a very reasonable figure for all the panels we didn't hesitate.

We did go and look around some more salvage yards in the hope of finding authentic posts but old veranda posts are heavy and expensive so we had to settle for new turned posts from the hardware store. Lots of construction and painting ( Dulux antique white USA of course - my default paint colour) ensued but finally it all came together just in time for its first outing to a wedding expo - we already were showcasing our china and were given permission to take along and set up the arbor! We brought it home and set it up on top of our freestanding concrete water tank which has one of the best views over the neighbouring fields. The white arbor stands out with its verdant background of green and I try to imagine it set up in a field or on the lawn of a country estate. A chandelier sparkling in the sunshine and a couple about to take their marriage vows. We have had one genuine inquiry thus far for a wedding next year and if that eventuates I know from the setting they want it for, that it is going to look spectacular. We are hoping that it will be hired before then as I'm certain there are couples out there that want something different to the usual bamboo poles or flimsy metal garden arches for their wedding ceremony and not every park or country estate has a gazebo. In the meantime, I'm just enjoying having the opportunity to admire it every day and know that at least one of our children will one day God willing be married under the arbor their father built by hand. I can't wait until then for it to be used so I have plans for special tea parties under the arbor.

Hope you have enjoyed seeing our arbor and hearing of the providential story behind its construction. We are still hoping to find two more corner pieces to really finish it off and I know they are out there somewhere!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Finding Time for Tea and a Blog Post!

I'm not sure whether this is an official return to blogging for me but today when the sun is shining and the afternoon feels more like a summer's day than the season of winter I made a decision to find some time to write a blog post and update you all on what has been happening at Eight Acres of Eden. So here goes!

Establishing our family business.

The main reason I needed to give up writing my blog for a season and I'm so glad I did. We have been ever so busy - not so much with actual bookings but in simply getting our name out there, networking with the right people and buying the right kind of products that people might want to hire for their wedding or special occasion. For those of you new to my blog it's a vintage china and accessory hire business and it's something we thought our region might appreciate. It's been costly (vintage china is not that easy to find here and op shops have realized its value so bargain finds are rare and at garage sales we are competing with the secondhand dealers!) and time consuming but it has been a lot of fun, we have met some lovely people and it is all worth it when someone tells you that the pretty china they hired for their event is what made their day so special! We have been to two wedding expos (another big expense!) and received a wonderful response. I was selected to style a table at one of the expos which will feature in a bridal magazine and had the chance to work with a very talented florist. So this year I have hired china for a wedding, a baby shower, a bridal shower and I have a booking for a spring wedding. So much more I could share but thought you would prefer to see the photos - just a few because my computer is just too old and slow.

A glimpse of my display at the bridal expo. Do you like the little silver sugar shaker that I found on ebay?

I turned my vintage picnic basket into a dessert station, stacking it up with pretty plates, bowls, cake forks and other vintage accessories. I thought this would be a great idea to set out alongside a dessert table.

Just one of my favorite teacups! I have over 200 trios and I'm now collecting dinner plates, silver cutlery and vintage glassware. Even when the trend for battered suitcases, fringed lampshades, lace embellished mason jars and old ladders at weddings is over I'm hoping that people will still want their tables set with beautiful classic china like this!

Wedgewood is now my everyday china! We were given this dinner set. It doesn't match in with my other English china which is mainly cream so we are using it for family dinners. It's from the 70's I believe and came with a matching ashtray which of course we don't need but the gravy boat is very useful when we have a roast dinner!

Family Life

Family life and the business have become intertwined. My daughter pictured above who just celebrated her 16TH birthday loves helping me with the business. It has helped her develop confidence when dealing and interacting with people and she has become a prolific pinner, finding so many wonderful ideas on pinterest for high teas and wedding decor. And I love the dresses she pins - so proud of her feminine style and it is obvious she understands that modest can be beautiful and fashionable!

My son celebrated his 21ST birthday recently. He is in his last semester of university study. Just 2 units to finish and he will have completed his degree. He continues to receive high distinctions. His web design business is becoming well established and he has plenty of projects to keep him busy. 

Our 18 year old daughter is still a farm girl. Reliable, skilled and hardworking. She is very valued by her employer and she works just next door so she is still here and living at home which I am very grateful for. She has the travel bug though and is traveling to Canada later this year. She will stay with a friend she met here (her friend was also homeschooled) and I'm insanely jealous that she is also going to meet one of my blogger friends! I offered to accompany her and said I would carry her bags just so I could get to Vancouver where she will stay with my sweet friend Camille from Flowers in His Garden. But I am needed here. One day though....!

The twins are as lively and active as ever. Never a dull moment in this house even when they play chess! No my 3 year old does not know how to play chess but he watches and he is a fast learner - actually he was 2 when this photo was taken. Eight acres of Eden - you think peaceful, serene, quiet. Not a chance. It's LOUD! Double chattering, double laughter, add in a 3 year old with an impressive vocabulary, a cockatiel and budgies that try to compete with the children..... you get the idea! People often say to me' 7 children, how do you manage with them all living at home?' I don't think I could manage without them! It would be just way too quiet.  What would I do if they were not here? I know the answer to that. I would clean my windows but I would much rather read stories to my children! I'm so excited to be reading the Elsie Dinsmore books to my twins now as I did with my older girls. The Life of Faith series I purchased all those years ago is now out of print so I'm very glad I kept it and one day I will read it to my grandchildren. I'm just hoping that this home will always be full of children so don't know when those windows will get cleaned! I will get to them - when I find the time!

And somehow I found the time to write this post. So much more I could share about family life and boy do I have some scary snake stories for you but that will have to wait for another time. I do want to show you something my clever, creative husband built. It's for our business, it's beautiful and I get to admire it every day. I can't wait to show you. It's the result of what happened when I showed my husband something I saw on the internet and subsequently pinned. He said 'I can build that'. Intrigued? You will have to wait for my next post which means just one thing ... 'I'll be back'!


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