Answer your enemies

Answer your enemies with excellence.

It probably won’t win you favour. It’s more likely to incur more venom. Wrath. Judgement. Criticism.

But, you will be above reproach. Beyond accusation. Strong, with clean hands and a clear conscience.

Don’t allow this to let you grow prideful. Remain humble. Even the worst accuser grows silent then.

The way I see it

I was pouring out my heart to Andrew about something earlier and he said “You should write a blog post about that”.

I grimaced. He noticed, and asked why.

I’ve grown quiet in most spheres. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, everything to the contrary actually. Enter our home or car and you’ll soon discover that, as a family, we all have PLENTY to say!

But, do you read blogs? Do you go on Facebook, ever? Do you listen to, or engage in conversations around you? Do you read newspapers, more specifically, the letters and comments in response to articles posted?

I was going to say “perhaps it’s just me” but I know it’s not. Good news is hard to come by. This past week water shortages, drought and a prolonged heat wave have brought my country to her knees. The attacks in France have brought the world to her knees. And splattered in between and among those heart-breaking stories are more heart-breaking stories of the terrible things happening in our homes, communities, countries and indeed across the whole wretched globe every moment of every day.

That’s just the current events. Then we have news of the more personal kind. Facebook and Twitter. Bloggers sharing their stories and perspectives on their blogs and websites. WhatsApp chat groups, emails, radio show hosts and callers-in and I suppose TV shows too (we don’t have TV, so I’m guessing there). And then the rubber hits the road with face-to-face communications: across the dinner table and at parties and gatherings, at book club, at Church, in the staff room or around the copier at the office, our children’s school events and sports clubs and so on.

It’s not really the sharing of stories or news that is the problem. It’s the response to them. It seems to me that we have fallen so in love with our own opinions that thoughtfulness for the recipient of whatever comment we think is important enough to toss back at them has been unceremoniously thrown under the bus. A decade ago many would apologise upfront, prefacing what they knew was going to be offensive with the “no offence BUT….” that I grew to hate. Yes, I said it. Hate. I always wondered why someone would knowingly say something offensive, and if they really thought saying “No offence but…” excused them.

But now we just open our mouths, or set our fingers flying across the keyboard, and let rip.

I’ve noted a growing trend of defensiveness as a result. We cannot say a jolly thing without desperately needing to anticipate the negative responses and nip them in the bud, or justify ourselves, or defend something we’ve done, said or stood for. So we spend as much time, space and energy emphasising what we’re NOT saying as we do just saying whatever it is we want to say.

(And here’s my own bit of pre-empting: my feelings here are based almost entirely on what I’ve observed, not what I’ve experienced. I’d lie if I said no amount of poison or ridiculous response to something I’ve said or written somewhere had ever been spewed in my direction. I’m a homeschooling Christian mother of 5 with stronger-than-average views on politics, social issues and society in general. I’d live in a bubble if I didn’t know people consider me “intimidating” and “opinionated”. But my feelings about this are not based on those few personal experiences.)

Of course we are all entitled to our own opinions. I’m not of the same school of thought as my father who used to tell me “if I wanted you to have an opinion, I’d give you one”. But I also think that in this day and age of fluctuation and the breathless rate of change all around us, we’d have some respect for different views. Discussion, constructive criticism and even disagreement are healthy; harsh criticism, lack of empathy, a refusal to seek to understand and outright hatred is not.

As I’ve watched us go from bad to worse in just how highly we treasure ourselves and own opinions regardless of the cost to others, I’ve simply but purposefully stepped back, wanting no part of it.

I have also watched some bravely endure, knowing that what they had to say was of value and worth the risk. Strangely enough, it is from these individuals (some on Facebook, some bloggers, some journalists, a few personal friends) that I’ve learnt the most.

Andrew’s response when I shared all this with him was not only a mutual feeling about the matter, but these words: “Well, I want to encourage you to write again. I think you have something to say.”

You’re free to disagree, of course. He has offered to moderate my comments section for me.

Quick Update

Dear friends

Time truly passes by so quickly, doesn’t it? I have so many things I’d love to share here, but just don’t have time to fit the writing in.

Well, here is a quick update on the Timberlake family as we currently are:

Amié-Jayne (AJ) has just turned 18. No, we can’t quite get our minds around that either! She is taking her drivers license test next week. She wrote her final Cambridge exams at the end of last year. We were initially disappointed that she didn’t do as well as we all hoped for, although she got an A for English, a C for maths, and passed her ABRSM Grade 8 flute exam with distinction. However, we have since discovered that the lower marks won’t affect the direction she wants to move in, and once again we were humbled as we learnt life lessons and saw God’s guiding each step of the way.

She is participating in a ministry and discipleship programme at a Bible college run from our home Church, called BBISA (Berean Bible Institute of South Africa). She is thoroughly enjoying it and thriving academically, spiritually and emotionally, and even physically as she enjoys a 1km walk to and from school each day :-) The work load is intense but results in a solid and complete grounding in scripture, doctrine and ministry, practically and theoretically. She has stepped into a leadership position with the junior youth programme on Friday evenings which, to her surprise, she has enjoyed. She continues to serve alongside her family in music ministry, blog (deniedself.com), and seeks opportunities to serve in various other ways, such as crocheting for charity, caring for little ones to give busy moms a break and making meals for families going through a trial of some kind.

BBISA 2015

BBISA 2015

She is also working part-time as a child minder/aupair to several families and as a virtual assistant handling administration for a ministry that arranges conferences (Truth Walk). So, she is a busy young lady.

Jess turned 14 in February. In addition to playing violin and piano, she has started playing viola too and is working towards her Grade 3 Piano, Violin and Viola exams later this year. We love to have her playing with us when we minister musically. She is enjoying the senior youth group and looks forward to being a Sunday School assistant periodically too. She will resume horse riding in May which we all look forward to (trips to the stables are fun for the whole family!). She cooks and bakes delicious treats and is currently working on scarves for a charity.

Cael is enjoying some “school” most days and is eager to learn to read and write. It is so exciting! He has also started learning violin but his enthusiasm waxes and wanes. He is a very affectionate and caring little boy, courageous and adventurous, a real delight to all of us! Cadence is just beautiful and very, very cute. She loves to sing and adores animals. I enjoy reading the Bible with them in the mornings, and both delight to sing or give thanks at meal times and pray at bed time, which is a real blessing to Andrew and I.

My wonderful husband continues to work and study hard and seeks to serve and minister at every opportunity. The youth group (which he co-leads), our young adults group and music team all thrive under his guidance. I am so blessed to share my life with him and raise our children together.

We arranged a travelling supper for our Young Adults Group on Valentines Day. It was a delightful evening; we learnt so much from the three wonderful couples who hosted us with such flair and ministered to us with their testimonies.

We arranged a travelling supper for our Young Adults Group on Valentines Day. It was a delightful evening; we learnt so much from the three wonderful couples who hosted us with such flair and ministered to us with their testimonies.

We enjoyed having Gran with us for 2 weeks in March. She will soon turn 89 so we are very aware that time is precious. Adam and Andrea also spent a few days with us for AJ’s birthday, which was wonderful! Adam and Andrew have been close friends for about 30 years now, and he and Andrea are dedicated godparents to our children. We enjoyed 3 days at the coast a few weeks ago; hope you like our photo!

Family Fun, Ballito Beach. Feb 2015

Family Fun, Ballito Beach. Feb 2015

That’s enough for now, the highlights if you will. I hope to write again soon. Have a blessed Easter!

 

 

Popping in to say Hi

I’ve been quiet here. The second half of this year has been pretty full, even a bit stressful and as a family we’ve had to shift and reshuffle to adjust to yet another season.

Families move through seasons. It’s natural. Ours seem to change thick and fast; such are the dynamics of raising teens alongside toddlers, I think. It’s not all bad. We just need to regularly stop, catch our breath and regroup, lest we become overwhelmed.

My life was brought sharply into perspective a few weeks ago. Although Amié could have waited to write her matric next year, she wanted to get it over and done with and so, with an intense increase in pressure and workload, the preparations for exams began in August. It had been one of “those” days, ferrying her to and from flute exam rehearsals and tutoring sessions, in between supervising Jess’s schooling and music practice (for two music exams), trying to manage the demands of a busy household all the while wrangling two toddlers who seem to find new and creative ways to get up to mischief the moment my back is turned.

Amié had just finished her 4th tutoring session of the day and we were inching home in rush-hour traffic, admittedly with a stunning sunset to admire, courtesy of Johannesburg’s smog. Amié got her learners license a while back so I was talking her through lane-changing and following distance and Cael and Cadence were voicing their disapproval of yet another car-seat confinement, probably their 10th that day, from the back. I realised I was travelling in my own car as a passenger, with my eldest capably at the wheel beside me while my youngest wailed loudly behind me, wanting “drinkles” (she’s still nursing) and a nappy change.

In that moment I wondered if this was the sort of scenario playing through peoples minds when they questioned how sanely I had made the decision to have more children when, with our girls then aged 9 and 13, we could have been free, clear and done, our children adults and out of the home by the time we were 40?

I see their point.

But we’re having fun. Most car trips are more jovial, even exciting, as the very sight of an orange Putco bus ignites squeals of “LOOOOK!!!!! BUS!!!!” from our baby, and being stuck behind a cement truck or brick lorry is hardly a hardship, on the contrary, travelling in its wake at 20km/h gives us all the more time to admire it with our truck-loving boy! And it’s cool to have my daughter drive me around. And she thinks it’s cool to drive her siblings around. And it’s kind of neat to think that while one daughter finishes school, another will start potty training.

Some say it takes a village to raise a child; I have come to believe it takes a family to get a homeschooled teen through matric. Every one of us have played a role, in some way, every day. Some days have gone better than others, and with the end of the exam-road in our sights, I dare say we’ve all been on a learning curve, together, and it hasn’t been all academic.

So yes, it has been busy. Some days pass in a whirl, others drag, but none are dull. Amié has 4 more exams left and we’re talking through choices and decisions for next year, like will she live at home, will she continue piano lessons and how much paying work will she manage alongside her studies. Jess will start highschool. Boy will begin violin and Baby will join in almost all of the above, toddling in and out of rooms and activities as her interest leads. Andrew will hopefully grow his business and continue his degree. We hope the Lord will present more opportunities for us to serve and love others and trust our current work among the youth and young adults will continue to bear fruit.

So I don’t think life in the Timberlake home will be slowing down much. But that’s okay. It’s good work. The kind the leaves you exhausted but fulfilled. The best kind.

I love my family. I love the crazy age gaps. I love the journey.

My newest favourite thing

We all know that we need to reduce our energy consumption to help our planet, right? And we all know that electricity prices are not decreasing, anywhere, any time soon, right? And we all love to support a great cause, right?

Ta-da! The Wonderbag!

The Wonderbag

The Wonderbag

I first learned about the concept of wonderbags through an organisation called Soil For Life. They uplift the poor by teaching them to grow healthy, nutritious food where they are, using what they have, for very little cost. They started teaching women to make insulated bags or boxes to minimise their fuel consumption by starting their meal on a heat source (electricity, gas, paraffin or wood) but then use heat-retention to complete the cooking time and thereby save money.

The concept has now grown into a business that makes and sells Wonderbags to the general public.

A birthday surprise

Andrew read about them on a Yuppie Chef mailer and immediately ordered one for my birthday knowing that this sort of thing is just ‘me’! I have a Sunstove (a box that harnesses the sun’s light and heat energy for cooking) and frequently sing the praises of my pressure cooker which cooks up delicious curries and stews using a fraction of the electricity that conventional cooking does. I love my slow cooker too, and take the energy savings further by covering it in a heavy towel to reduce heat loss while it is in use, reducing the cooking time by effectively cooking as if on the HIGH setting while the dial is actually set to LOW. (For a funny story about my towel wrapped slow cooker, scroll to the end!)

And now, I LOVE my Wonderbag! It is essentially a slow cooker – except that you only use a few minutes of electricity while a traditional slow cooker uses electricity throughout its cooking time.

How it works

Just start your food on the stove top or in the oven, bring it up to full heat and then remove it from the stove, close it up in your Wonderbag and leave it there to keep cooking. The insulated bag retains heat amazingly well (seriously, I was SO surprised at how hot food still is hours after being removed from the stove) and keeps cooking without using any electricity. It works really, really well!

The website has cooking guidelines and recipes. I haven’t used any of their actual recipes yet except as a guideline for how long I should cook one of my own soups, stews or whatever.

So for example, to cook rice I add one cup of rice and two cups of water and a little salt to my usual pot. As soon as it’s boiling, I remove it from the stove top and close it up in my Wonderbag and 1 hour later I have perfectly cooked rice! I cooked a traditional beef stew on the stove for about 20 minutes, closed it up and left it for 4 hours in my Wonderbag and served a delicious and tender meal that was still hot enough to not even require reheating.

So far, everything I have tried has cooked beautifully. I’ve done rice, beans, lentils, soups, stews and even bolognese mince sauce. It cuts electricity usage by about 90% while still cooking food very, very nicely. 90% electricity savings is not insignificant!

The only drawback is that the bag is bulky and so takes up some storage space when not in use (it is about the size of a dog basket for small dogs). And I will admit that it took a bit of a mind shift to cook my food in a bag. But within days I was completely convinced that its not just a good idea, it’s a GREAT one!

To get one for yourself…

If you live in South Africa, order yours from Yuppie Chef (free delivery in SA). Yuppie Chef also offers the amazing option of buying the Wonderbag for an underprivileged person (they handle the donation) for just R150!

If you live in the USA, buy your bag on Amazon. For every bag purchased in the USA, one is donated to a needy family in Africa!

Autumn, my sweet fat hen nestled comfortable on top of my towel-wrapped slow cooker!

Autumn, my sweet fat hen nestled comfortable on top of my towel-wrapped slow cooker!

 My towel-wrapped slow cooker became quite a joke when my sweet hen wandered into the house one evening while I was bathing the children (yes, my chickens visit us inside sometimes). I’m not sure what prompted her to jump up onto the counter but upon discovering the slow cooker wrapped in a towel, decided she had found herself a bed far softer and warmer than her wooden box in the garden! She settled comfortably on top of it and looked wonderfully content!