Thursday, October 28, 2010

Strong Women, Soft Hearts: Chapter 5

I am here with my thoughts on chapter 5 of Paula Rinehart's book! I'm getting there!!

Control: Releasing Our Sticky Fingers

Um... I just ate a brownie so that’s how my fingers got sticky.

It’s got nothing to do with my control issues. (cough)

Actually, I don’t think I have a control issue at all, as long as everything is going the way I want it to there’s no problem.

(oh...wait...there’s now a little voice in my head telling me that is my control issue...huh...who knew?!)

My need to control is fundamentally a lack of trust in God. Really, it is. It’s about me thinking that I know what’s best for my life, and not trusting that God knows what’s best for me and has my best interests in mind at all times.

I want things, my way, in my time, how I planned them, and heck nobody is going to stop that from happening, and God’s just supposed to come to the party and make it all happen.

You know, because once I became a Christian everything was just supposed to work out, right? Nothing is supposed to go wrong, bad things aren’t supposed to happen, all my prayers should be answered how I want them and when I want them to be, right?


Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

So as it turns out I didn’t sign up for a magic genie when I gave my life to Christ, I actually signed up to be transformed into Christ’s likeness and that is going to hurt. God never promised it wouldn’t, but He did promise to never leave or forsake us.

It’s interesting how often we (by “we” I really mean “I”) forget that exactly what we are doing when we make a commitment of faith is that we are giving our lives to Christ. That’s right, handing our plans, dreams, our ideas on how our lives are meant to look over to the One who loves us, and sacrificed everything for us, and already has plans for us.

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

For crazy reasons however, I find myself regularly taking my life back into my own hands.

In this chapter Paula beautifully quotes one of her friends. “You have to realise..that your dreams aren’t going to materialise in the way you have hoped – even ones you thought God gave you. Some will turn out better than you could ever imagine. Some will go belly up. And hardly any will match the picture in your mind.” (pg 70)

I think as soon as we (again, I really mean “I”) can realise this, the much more sane we will feel, the less brownie crumbs we will have on our fingers.

The more I think about my life the more I realise that for the most part, things have not gone according to my own plans. Why on earth would I think the next 25 years will all go according to the script that I have so carefully written in my mind, work out anymore than the last 25 years?

It’s totally OK to dream and plan, but I believe that a holy flexibility is the key. A willingness to bend and mould, and even completely throw out our plans as God leads is essential to living with much less stress in life.

I sure know that my stress levels climb up and up the more controlling I become. And the controlling can happen so subtly, I don’t even notice it at first. It’s not until I start to notice my stress levels elevated that I realise my sticky little fingers have been at it again, snatching my life back from God’s very capable hands.

As Paula stated letting go means freedom from the everlasting burden of always having to get our own way.

And honestly, all the striving and planning and worrying about how everything will turn out is exhausting! I know I would like to be rid of those unnecessary burdens.

I think it’s about time that I made like Carrie Underwood and started singing “Jesus take the wheel.”


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Strong Women, Soft hearts Chapter 4: Losing Heart

I am finally back with the fourth instalment of my thoughts on Paula Rinehart’s book “Strong Women Soft Hearts, and I have to say that I am loving this book, but I am really loving how much more I’m getting from it by writing about it! Even in no one else reads these posts, I know I have really grown in my discoveries as I’m writing down my thoughts and feelings – things just keep tumbling out! So here are my thoughts on chapter four.

Losing Heart: How it Happens

“Hope that is pinned to God, rather than to people, has a buoyancy to it because it is grounded not in our own illusion of how our story should read, but in the character of God.”

Isn’t that really the basis for how most of us would be likely to lose heart – we get disappointed because something we hoped for, even when we didn’t realise we were hoping for it, doesn’t happen how we thought it would.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I definitely have a tendency to get lost and caught up in my own illusion of how my life’s story should read. Then I lose heart. And it can take me a while to find it again.

On page 48 Paula makes this statement. “If you want to know real joy in life, then be willing to let pain tutor your soul.”

I like to run away from pain, I usually don’t enjoy experiencing it, but recently I have been letting God break my heart a little. And when I do, my eyes are opened.

What I’m starting to realise is that when I allow God to use the pain, I become more of who He wants me to be.

Dave’s boss is currently battling cancer, and that got me thinking about the kinds of people who get cancer. It seems like it’s always the cheerful people, the people who are tough enough to find beauty in life and enjoyment, despite their suffering.

But then I felt like God said to me that I had it backwards.

In the moments of suffering and pain, they allow themselves to be transformed. They realise what is truly important in life. They let pain tutor their souls.

I’m sure that cancer, and any other loss or serious illness isn’t part of anyone’s imagined story, I know it’s not part of mine, but its how we choose to respond that makes all the difference in our hearts.

Will we choose to lose heart or to live a passionate life?

In the book Paula Rinehart tells us that the root of the word “passion” means to suffer. So in other words, in order to truly live a passionate life we need to experience suffering.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

God didn’t ever promise us that we wouldn’t have any trouble, hurt or suffering, and I sometimes forget that. But He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5)

I think I’m tired of trying to play it safe, and trying to avoid anything that might hurt me or cause any sort of pain. Besides it hasn’t stopped pain anyway, so I might as well embrace it and live a passionate life that has some trials and suffering, instead of losing heart and living a mediocre life!


Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Leftovers Dinner: Sausage & Baby Tomato Penne

I decided to link up with Daniel and Lyndsie over at A Love Worth Waiting For, with their "Monday's Meals"

Yes I know that it's Tuesday when I posted but that's just because it's Tuesday where I live by the time they posted Monday's meals!

So here is my "Leftovers Dinner"

So what do you do when your refrigerator is full of food items that need to be used up before they expire in the next few days?

Get creative in the kitchen that’s what!

Over the weekend we had a massive garden overhaul, and we thought we would be nice and feed our lovely parents since they had given up their Saturday to come and help us.

Well Monday night rolled around and we had a heap of food left over that needed to be used up, so I decided to come up with my own little pasta dish, and I have to say it turned out really good!

So here is the list of leftovers that I started with:
Baby tomatoes
Gluten free sausages
Red onion

To that I added:
Ridiculous amounts of garlic
Tinned tomatoes
Tomato paste (with garlic, onion and herbs)

I started by halving the baby tomatoes and sprinkling (read dousing) them with garlic. I then slowly roasted them in the oven until they were bubbling and juicy.

While they were baking away, I took the outer skin, thing off the sausages and then broke them into little bite size pieces.

I added them to sliced red onion and even more garlic in my big fry pan and cooked it all up good until the sausage bits had browned slightly.

Note: I found that if I stirred to vigorously the sausage got a little mushy so I did a lot of pan shaking to stir them all around. Once they go brown it’s easier to stir!

Then add to the sausage mix a tin of chopped tomatoes and a good dollop of tomato paste.

Let this all bubble away on the stove top for as long as you like. I left it there for about a half hour or maybe even more. But you can make it as quickly as you want to really!

Cook up your favourite pasta (we used penne, but I think anything a bit chunky would work – probably not spaghetti or fettuccini, but spirals would be great!), and when it’s how you like it, drain and add to your sausage sauce. Give it a good stir and then don’t forget to add the gorgeous roasted baby tomatoes!

We had our pasta with salad, which I think it totally needed – the sauce was sooo rich! Unfortunately we ate the last of our garlic bread over the weekend, but that would have just rocked our dinner even more!

Yum!!! Enjoy!


P.S. If you don’t like garlic quite as much as we do, you could roast the tomatoes without it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

What a weekend!

This week has been an interesting one! We had a great weekend which started with Dave and I going on a road trip in the Corvette to Melbourne. Our first stop was USA foods to see what kind of American food goodies they had. We were not disappointed! There was heaps of American candy, sauces, seasonings and meal bases that we had to make ourselves leave before we spent a fortune! From there we drove to Ikea, just to see what they had. We always love Ikea, and we came away with a big list of things to save up for!

While we were driving home I got a phone call from the daughter of the lady we rent our house from. She had a phone call completely out of the blue from the guy that is supposed to be taking care of the gardens, asking if they just wanted him to mow over one of the garden beds in the back yard. They had no idea what he meant, so they wanted to come around and see what the guy was talking about. We know our landlords through our church, so even though we weren’t home I didn’t care about them stopping over.

I didn’t really expect to hear anything more about it, but when we arrived home, they were just leaving so stopped to let us know they had fired the gardener! The dodgy guy had been charging them regularly for gardening, when all he had been doing was occasionally mowing the lawn and trimming some bushes! Dave and I felt so bad, because we had just assumed that all the gardener was supposed to be doing was mowing the lawn, otherwise we would have let them know sooner that he wasn’t doing the gardens properly.

We said that we would be happy to take over the care of the garden as we hope to buy the house off them in the next few years. They were happy with that so Dave and I got really excited about what we could do with the yard – like plant a vegetable garden!

We’ve been renting from them for the last two years and have always planned on buying the house eventually from them, but in our minds that plan was another 12 months away, especially as we want to go to America next year. When we first started renting, the landlords (Mark and Cathy) mentioned that they would probably sell in a few years, and the time frame was perfect for us. It’s a 1950’s house with the original bathroom and kitchen, so it’s in need of a little love and care, but Dave and I have been really excited about the prospect of renovating it as much ourselves as possible, so we were really excited at the prospect of getting started on the yard.

Sunday at church started normally enough, but then following the service, Cathy came up to me with tears streaming down her face. She told me that her mother’s health had gone downhill rapidly over the last few weeks and that she and her sister were in the process of deciding what to for her. Poor Cathy even said that her mother was so unwell that she had prayed that God would take her home and spare her any more suffering.

She asked if we were still interested in buying and what kind of time frame we had on doing that (another 12 months was what we had been thinking) because they might need to put her into care which would mean that they would need to sell the house soon in order to afford the costs of assisted care.

This sent us into a little bit of a panic over if we are going to be able to afford to buy a house where we are financially at the moment. We really love our little house, and right from the very first moment we set foot inside it felt like “home.” We have all sorts of ideas about what we would like to do to the place over the years to make it more liveable and more us. It’s in a great area, quite street with a fantastic sized back yard for extending and making additions to the house. We love it here, but it was quite a shock to both of us to think we might have to push all of our plans forward.

So our first step was to find out how much we had in our savings account to put towards a deposit, and incredibly we had way more than I thought we were going to. Praise God!

We then had a real estate agent come over to give us a quote on how much they think the house is worth – way more than I think it really should be – the Australian house market it out of control!

Our next step is to go and get a loan pre-approved at the bank, and then see how much they want for the house. I feel like such a grown-up, I don’t know if I like it!! :)

On a completely different note, it was my Dad’s birthday yesterday, so we had dinner over at my parent’s house last night.

Happy Birthday Dad, I love you lots! xxx

Friday, October 8, 2010

Strong Woman, Soft Hearts: Chapter 3

Pain: The Crossroads of the Heart

“Pain is experienced as a wave, and the question is: how will we ride it out so that we emerge in a stronger place, more grounded in God, more open to life, more wise?”

I don’t know about others out there, but more often than not (and more often than I care to admit too) my first instinct is to withdraw, protect my heart, keep whatever caused the pain at a distance.

And if I’m completely honest, too often I withdraw from God too.

I only wish that I was already strong enough to emerge from pain stronger, more grounded in God, more wise.

I think the biggest struggle in this area of overcoming pain for me is that I’m not really sure how to experience pain in such a way that I grow from it. Mostly I would rather just avoid it.

As I got thinking about all of this a woman came to mind, a woman who has walked a path of pain of the worst kind – the loss of a child.

I have never met her, may never meet her this side of heaven (even though I will admit to having prayed about meeting her! ;) )

Angie Smith – she chose to embrace the pain, to fully experience it, to be free in her expression of it. She allowed herself to feel pain fully. But she also chose to look past the pain, to see a bigger picture, to find moments of solace in God’s arms.

During a routine ultrasound for her fourth child, Angie and her husband Todd were told that their unborn daughter had too many complications with her little body that she would not live and the best course of action for them would be termination.

Devastated, but strong in the conviction that God is the only one who has the right to make the choice of life and death, Angie and Todd made the decision to carry little Audrey for as long as God would allow them to have her.

On her blog and in her book, Angie shares her deep struggle through this journey. She boldly bares her pain and shares how she at times she ranted at God, at times was so devastated she couldn’t get out of bed and how many times she prayed for a different outcome.

Yet throughout her blog posts, there is a resounding hope that lingers in her words. The hope of a woman who is aware that God is weaving a tapestry of her life, and that even in those moments of inexplicable pain He holds her world in the palm of His hands.

Despite her pain, Angie allowed God to use her to reach countless women. She allowed her heart to remain open, she didn’t withdraw and try to hide, and as such she has been able to be a tool in the Masters hands.

“ happens. And none of it catches God by surprise.”

Nothing about the Smith’s journey caught God by surprise, and nothing that happens in my own life catches Him by surprise either.

This is a truth that I know in my head, but sometimes my heart can be a little slow to follow, a little slower to trust completely, even in my heavenly Father.

My prayer is that I might be a little more like Angie Smith. And of course more like my Saviour.

There is so much more in this chapter that I could write about, but this post would be incredibly long if I kept typing! So I will leave this post with a couple more thoughts.

“God often allows us to be wounded in the same location of an old wound. The pain – in his hands – has an antiseptic quality, with the potential to cleanse and make new.”

This little quote/idea of Paula’s really opened my eyes to some areas that I know I need some healing in, to allow God to cleanse and make new. And then hopefully, to use that pain for good.

On page 43 Paula makes this comment. “I had this mental image of how my life should be, a painting on the wall of my life. And try as I might, I could not get the reality to match the dream.”


That is a huge struggle that I have over and over again in my own life. I battle the mental images that I have carried about how my life will look at all these different ages and stages, every time these hoped for milestones pass without my expectations being met. Another area that I can feel God starting to work on in my heart – like I have previously said lining up my desires with His, with His will for my life.

There is so much good stuff in each of these chapters so far, I could just keep writing and writing about them! But I won’t, I’ll stop here!

Have a great day!


P.S. Angie Smith’s full story can be found on her blog at

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Well, I’ve been sick for the last few days, so I only really felt like posting Chapter 2, yesterday, which I had already written last week. I haven’t updated on what we have been up to for a while, so let’s see what I can remember!

Geelong was inundated with cyclists over the weekend (and in the weeks leading up to last weekend). The UCI racing championships were held here, which at first I, like many others, thought would just be a major traffic issue! During the 5 days of racing a huge number of Geelong streets were closed off to traffic during the day, meaning that getting around was a challenge and required quite a bit of planning. However as the week progressed and I watched the coverage on TV and found out more about the UCI race, I discovered that it was actually quite an honour to have the race in our own town.

In 77 years, the race has only been held outside of Europe seven times, Geelong being the seventh. It has a huge following in Europe, which meant that our small town was being telecast all over the world and being seen by millions of people worldwide!

So on Sunday after church, along with half of our church, we wandered off to watch some of the racing. Part of the racing course went right past the street our church is on so it was quite the place to be following the service – the building emptied pretty quickly! :)

It was beautiful spring weather, in fact so sunny that I got sunburnt! I know I shouldn’t be excited, but it’s my first sunburn leading up to summer, so I am a little bit excited to get the tanning started! I know, I know, bad Sharen!

It was a great afternoon, except I forgot my camera so I have no pictures! The atmosphere was so upbeat! Everyone loves a good sporting event here and the cycling was no exception. The thing I love most about Australian crowds at sporting events is the way that they always cheer for everyone. Yes, the Aussie competitors got the loudest ones, but we also love the effort that the riders put in, so the athletes that got the next biggest cheers were the ones that were coming last – way last!!

On Saturday morning I had a gorgeous brunch with a group of girls that I went to high school with! A couple of the girls I hadn’t seen for a couple of years, so it was really great to catch up with what’s been happening in their lives over the last few years. A couple of us are married, one is expecting her first baby...well babies...twins! Crazy!! We enjoyed some yummy food at a beachfront cafe, basking in the beautiful sunshine.

All in all it was a great weekend (well, until I got sick on Sunday night, but I’ll save whoever reads this from the details of that!) and a great finish to the school holidays!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Strong Women, Soft Hearts: Chapter 2

Desire: The Language of the Heart

“The language of the heart is the language of desire.”

For so long I have felt like my desires would never be met, and often like they were wrong. I’m the kind of person who always wants more, I’m always desiring more. But when Paula made this comment in the book, my eyes were opened.

“It’s as though we still have a memory of the Garden of Eden, and we are homesick for something we just can’t quite get our hands around here. These longings are the holes n our souls. They tell us something important – that we need God.”

God wants me to keep desiring, wants me to want more, be always wanting more, but He wants me to want Him above all else. My desires show who I am, they are a deep intrinsic part of who I am, and they become more alive the closer I walk with God. As C.S. Lewis said “when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.”

When we have our hearts lined up correctly with God, our desires become more like His, our hearts more in tune with what God desires for our own lives and for those He wishes us to have influence in the lives of. Our desires might change a little, some desires may disappear completely as we realise they don’t line up with God’s will. Other desires might even become intensified as we are able to more clearly see God’s plan for them. Perhaps most importantly of all, when our hearts and desires are lined up with God’s will we can be confident in our desires, hopes and dreams, because they are His.

Paula asks this question: “Where would desire take you if you didn’t douse the flame of possibility before someone else attempted to blow it out?” and I add: if we didn’t douse the flames with our own doubts?

Fear of failure, of what others will think, of where desires could take us, these all impact on how we feel about desire – I know that it has in my own life. The beauty of walking close to and setting our hearts close to God’s means that we can let go of these fears because we can trust that God is in control!

Sadly, even when our hearts are set right with God we may not see all of our desires come to fruition. But we can’t let that discourage us from having them, and even going after them in God’s will. We may never know this side of heaven what impact we have had on earth, and we may not live to see all our desires fulfilled. For some of us we are the start of something bigger, some of get to be a part of and see the fruits of what others have started and some of us fall somewhere in the middle.

Reading this chapter has helped me to reignite some of the desires that I had pushed to dark corners of my heart for fear of failure. I felt God prompting me not to give up hope, not to hide my dreams from Him but to give them over to Him for Him to use for His glory.

I don’t know yet where this journey will take me, but my heart feels alive with possibility! I’m prepared for some of my desires to be changed and moulded by God, but somehow I feel lighter for having read this part of the book!

Thanks Paula!