Changes for 2020

From Motherwell Magazine

It’s nearly February. Nearly time to put the holiday feeling behind us and get back to work for reals. I guess if you’re in the northern hemisphere you’ve already done that, but for us in the south, the warm weather can make us take longer to realise that the year is actually happening. But people, we have to face it now.

One of the things that often happens in holidays is that the problems you’re facing all become clear and you make promises to yourself that you’re sure you can hold to when you get home again.

I remember going away for as little as a weekend and thinking, ‘All I have to do is exercise regularly. It can’t be that hard. Just a little every day. We can do this.’ And then coming home, and the normalcy of life hit, and I realised that it was a lot harder than I thought.

I have this self-delusion in many areas of my life, not just exercise.

While I’ve been away visiting my sister, swanning around LA, I have been thinking about what I want to accomplish in the year ahead. I’ve been thinking that it shouldn’t be too hard, I just need to write a little of the novel each day, and write a little of the nonfiction too, and record a little of the audio book, and make sure I blog and podcast each week.

My sister Cath, Moz, Yossi and myself. Saying goodbye is hard!
You gotta have the photo with the Hollywood sign!

And I guess if that was all there was to my life, it wouldn’t be too hard.

But life is not like that. It is full of mundane things like washing up and going grocery shopping. And extras like declaring war on ants in the kitchen, putting away Christmas decorations, having coffees with people who need a chat, and celebrating special occasions. 

Life is not neat and tidy. 

Even my business life is not neat and tidy. I need to market my books and podcast in several different ways. I need to invite and meet people for podcast interviews. I need to keep my accounting up to date, and upgrade my websites, and learn new skills. 

When I got home from LA I drew out some mind maps. Maps of things I had to do, and things I wanted to do with my business. Plans and dreams and necessities.

And when I looked sensibly at the workload I had given myself for the year I realised (with Moz’s help) that I couldn’t do it all. I needed to plan differently.

I needed to plan to do less. Not just try to squeeze in more.

This is difficult because I love everything I do. Everything I try to fit into my days has meaning and purpose. Each item on my to do list is in line with what I want my life to be. 

But still I don’t have time to do all that I want to do.

I’ve cut out the fat, I guess, but I still can’t reach the goals I want to reach.

I need to slow down. Change my goals. Let myself off the hook.

So I’m trying to do that now. 

So what’s changing?

I am changing the podcast up a bit this year. I will be releasing a podcast interview once a fortnight. 

On the other week I will be recording and releasing a chapter of My Year of Saying No.  (Which will be good, because obviously I need a refresher on that content.) Once I’ve done that, I’ll put all the recordings together and release the audiobook.

I am also taking a break from this blog. I am thinking deeply about what I want to accomplish with my writing and I think when I come back the blog will take a different form. If you are interested in being there when I come back, please sign up to my newsletter here because I’m not sure that this particular blog space will resurface.

I’m also going to be spending more time working on the writing craft, reading craft books, doing exercises, and studying the books I love so that I can see how the authors made them so amazing. This will mean that I won’t be able to release my own books at the same rate, but hopefully it will also mean that my own books are much better value when I do release them.

So there are some of my thoughts as we get started on 2020.

How about you? What are your plans and goals like for the next year? Are you already feeling the need to pare them down? Share your thoughts with me in the comments.

The perfect Christmas verse

I think I’ve found the perfect Bible verse for Christmas.

It’s not your normal verse. Not ‘In the beginning was the Word’ or ‘For God so loved the world’ or ‘For unto us a child is born’, or anything like that.

It’s a different one.

But I think it’s suitable.

It’s this one: Philippians 4:13

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
The 'do all the things' meme
And sometimes we feel like we have All the things to do!

Now this verse has a bit of a bad rap. 

People have used this verse to say that they will succeed in their business or pass all their exams. They use it to say that things will go well with them because they’ve told Jesus to ‘make it so’. But that’s not what this verse means.

In his letter, in the lead up to this sentence, Paul says that he’s learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Whether he’s in need, or has plenty, whether he’s well fed or hungry, it doesn’t matter. He knows that he can do all things through God who gives him strength.

Paul has learned that whatever happens, God will be there with him. 

Advent candles. Four white candles surrounding a purple candle. The white candles are all lit.
The fourth Advent candle is lit. Just the Jesus candle to go.

Christmas can be very hard for some of us. 

Everyone in my family has had conversations in the last few weeks with people for whom Christmas is a really difficult time. People who have difficult family relationships. People who are mourning. People who are lonely. 

For some of us, (cough *introverts* cough) Christmas is exhausting just because it is full of people and fun and good times.

Christmas is a time that requires extra strength.

But that’s God’s gift to us. He gives us strength. Strength to the weary. 

So whatever you’re doing this Christmas:

  • if you’re the one cooking the whole meal for the hordes this Christmas 
  • or you’re going to eat your mother-in-law’s famous roast
  • if you’re surrounded by people
  • or doing Christmas day on your own
  • if you’re going for three straight days so you can visit all the family
  • or if you’re mourning the loss of a loved one
  • if you’re still frantically shopping to make sure all the presents are bought
  • or if you’ve been organised since July and everyone’s getting a goat from a charity anyway
  • if you’re leading the Christmas Eve service, the midnight service, and the service for Christmas day
  • or if you’re not going to church at all
  • if your Christmas decorations have been up since mid-October
  • or you haven’t decorated even one room in your house 

Lean on Him who gives you strength. He promises to never leave you. He knows what you’re doing, how you’re just barely coping, or how much you’re giving to others. He will be there for you.

You can do it, you can do all the things, through Him who gives you strength.

A nativity scene. Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, two sheep, a blue plastic dinosaur, and four lego figures representing our family.
This year’s nativity scene. The lego figures represent our family, thanks to a present from Jess.

A helpful hint for a stress-free Christmas.

It’s joy week. If I had a rose candle I’d be lighting it this week.

My lovely Mother-in-law has a philosophy about wedding anniversaries. She says that if your marriage is having trouble, then your anniversary is the most important day of the year. You have to make it perfect. And woe betide the spouse who forgets the date. But if your marriage is good, if you’re investing in each other throughout the year, if you communicate well, then the anniversary isn’t so important. It’s nice if it’s nice, but it’s not the end of the world if it’s not.

Which is a very good thing, really.

Moz and I have had some doozy wedding anniversaries. We’ve had a couple on Scripture Union camps, where we shared our cabin with not only our children, but our nieces as well. Fun and all, but not the best for romantic pursuits.

Then there was the one in Vanuatu where it rained all day, there was no power (our fault, we’d left a speaker on all night and drained the solar-powered batteries), all our battery operated devices ran out of power and there was almost nothing to do. We played crib with a packet of cards we had bought as a gift for Caleb. When the clouds finally cleared and the rain stopped, our host asked Moz if he could help him out – one of their goats had died and needed to be buried.

On one anniversary, Moz had been given the option to go sailing with my uncle so we spent the day apart. Which wasn’t so dreadful, but it did happen to be the day where I had to make the decision to have our cat put down. Another gem of an anniversary.

We’ve had some good ones as well, but either way it doesn’t matter. We can celebrate our day on the day, or we can celebrate our marriage at another time. We know we’re all right, and we make the effort through the year to rejoice in each other. It’s fine.

I think the same philosophy applies to Christmas.

Christmas day can be a day filled with stress. It can be a day we feel intense pressure to ‘get it right’. To make it perfect. To have the absolutely most special family day of the whole year.

But think about it, you’ve been putting effort into the family for the whole year. You have shown them over and over again that you love them, and they you. Christmas day is a special day, but it is only one day. Even if everything falls apart, you can come together on another day to have another go.

Let’s let Christmas go a bit this year, hold it more lightly, laugh if things go wrong and tuck the stories away to share at a later date and make others laugh too.

Rest in the knowledge that you’ve shared love throughout the year, take the pressure off this day, and let it be the type of special that it needs to be.

May this Christmas be joyous and peaceful for you and those you love.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Get The Whole Story Here.

Two candles lit this week.

I wasn’t sure what to write about in today’s blog and then last night Moz and I went to Nine Lessons and Carols and I knew.

I thought that someone who reads this blog might not know the whole story of Christmas. You might think you know what Christians believe from what you heard in Sunday School or during the end-of-year school assembly. You might be piecing together the story from Christmas cards or bits alluded to in movies (I don’t think that famous Christmas movie, Die Hard, has a whole lot about the story though). 

As I sat in the beautiful chapel, listening to the readings that spelled out the whole story, I thought I’d put them up in my blog today. You too can begin at the beginning and read through to understand what it is that Christians are celebrating this time of year.

You might be surprised – there’s a child sacrifice averted in the nick of time, there’s a prophecy that was told long before the Roman Empire even existed, there’s the threat of divorce and shame. And there’s great rejoicing too.

So have a click on the links below, read the story for yourself, and see what you think. I’m happy to chat about any of it, just email me at

The very beginning

A sacrifice averted

An ancient prophecy

A pretty gutsy woman

A threatened divorce

A birth in strange circumstances

A terrifying encounter

A jealous king

How does this apply to me?

If you have questions about the historicity of the story, many of them are answered in this brilliant podcast by John Dickson.

If you read this and feel like you’ve missed out, if you live in southern Tasmania, St Luke’s Taroona is holding a Nine Lessons and Carols at 9am on the 22nd December.

You may also find that it’s broadcast on the ABC on Christmas Eve (though I’m not sure about that one). Or you can find the Kings College Cambridge version here.

Happy New Year!

Thou shalt light but one candle on the first Sunday of Advent, and the number of candles to be lighted shall be one. Four candles there are, but thou shalt light but one, not two, nor three, but one. And stay away from the rose coloured one.
Wish I’d seen these instructions before I bought the candles 😉

If you’re a churchgoer of the traditional persuasion you may already know that the church year started on Sunday. The first Sunday in Advent is the first day of the church year.

Somehow it’s not having the same effect on me as January 1st does. There’s something about the world having a huge party the night before, and a public holiday, that makes New Years Day feel special.

Having said that, I felt like I wanted to do something for Advent this year. I want to make the lead up to Christmas something different. To prepare myself.

I am not one of those who puts a Christmas tree up in November. If you are one, more power to you. I find I’ve had enough of the tree taking up my living room once it’s been there a couple of weeks, so I wait a little longer to put it up.

I am also not organised enough to make up an Advent calendar of any significance, and I don’t want to eat extra chocolate every day before Christmas. (I was going to say, ‘eat chocolate every day’ but I realised that I’m probably going to do that anyway if the past few weeks are any indication.)

Just an aside, I have really great friends who have done an amazing thing for their kids. They’ve made up an advent calendar, in each little draw there are a few pieces of Lego and a page of instructions. Each day, the girls will pull out the draw and add something to the growing Lego construction. At Christmas time they will have a full Lego toy, and it’s one of those three-in-one things so they’ll be able to pull it apart and make the other two on Christmas day.

I was never going to do something that organised.

But I decided that there was something small that I could do to make the time seem a little more special and that is Advent candles.

Four white candles surrounding a purple candle, on a wooden board. One white candle is lit.
My little Advent wreath

I went to the local everything cheap store (and marvelled at the overwhelming amount of sugar wrapped in plastic junk that is available to all of us). I found (eventually) some candles, and then after a little more searching I found candles that were unscented (so I don’t spend the whole of Advent with a stuffed up nose). And I found a little board. 

I’ve made my own Advent thingy. It’s not really a wreath, it doesn’t have greenery. But it’s Advent-ish.

Each Sunday I will light another candle. One for each of the Sundays, and the purple one for Jesus on Christmas day.

I chose not to worry about the pink one for the ‘Joy’ Sunday, and I think that technically all the white candles should be purple, and the purple one, white. But see the earlier comments about scent. All the purple candles in the store were scented and one candle is more than enough scent for me.

I’m hoping that lighting candles each week gives enough of a slow down moment to make the lead up to Christmas less hectic as I take the time to remember what it’s all about.

Oh and I saw this amazing Advent calendar on Facebook that I thought I’d share with you too. Maybe we can make this month a precious and joyful time and put some good back into the world.

A 25-day calendar with a suggestion of a kindness to do each day. For example, let someone in front of you in line, or buy a friend coffee.

What are your Advent traditions? When does your tree go up? Is anyone else doing a clever Advent calendar of some sort?

Shirt Sandwiches

Yes, this is exactly how neat and organised my workspace is. Exactly. Not.

You all probably know by now that I’m doing NaNoWriMo. That is, I’ve been writing a novel this month of November, aiming to get 50,000 words written by the end of the month. It’s been fantastic fun.

You may think I’m insane, but I have been enjoying myself immensely.

That is not to say that some days it is very hard to sit down and write the required 1667 words. And I don’t think I’ve had even one day where things have flown so well that I’ve not noticed the time go by and have looked up to find 4000 words on the page. It hasn’t been like that at all.

It’s been hard work.

Nouns and Verbs

I listened to Simple the other day and Tsh was talking about nouns and verbs. I’ll let you listen if you want the whole story, but the upshot was, you don’t get to be the ‘noun’ if you don’t do the ‘verb’.

For example, 

  • you are not a writer unless you sit down and write.
  • you are not a baker unless you spend hours in the kitchen getting all floury
  • you are not a runner unless you spend time outside sweating and puffing and dodging geriatric dog-walkers

A person who sits inside on the couch and watches running videos all day may be very interested in running, they may love the look of running, but they are not a runner. Not unless they run.

A shirt sandwich.

Whatever you decide to do with your life, there are good parts of that thing and there are bad parts. But if you really want that thing, you’ll put up with the bad parts. 

Mark Manson asks this question (and I’ll give you the ‘The Good Place’ interpretation):  ‘What’s your favourite flavour of shirt sandwich?’

In other words, you need to look at the work involved in an idea and decide if you’re willing to do that work. If you love, like I do, sitting at a laptop and bashing out a couple of thousand words a day, if you’re willing to do that, then you may be ready to be a writer.

If you love, like I definitely don’t, pushing your body to the limit, watching your toenails fall off, and getting rubbing rashes, then you’re good to go to run a marathon.

There are payoffs for everything, but you need to be willing to do the work.

I’ve been employed in the arts since graduating.

This week on the podcast we talk with Catherine Gaffney, an actor and voice-over artist. She said she’s so blessed that she’s been employed in the arts since she graduated from her undergrad degree about twenty years ago. That made it sound like she’s had her dream career, that she’s been acting all her adult life. But when we pushed a bit further, it turns out that she hadn’t been working on the stage all that time – sometimes she was in the box office, sometimes coaching or teaching, sometimes narrating audio books, and yes, sometimes on the stage. She hasn’t stood on her dignity and refused to do anything other than act. She’s accepted that some of the work is less fun than other parts. She’s grateful just to be in the arts.

This week I wanted to make you think, what is it that you are willing to do some hard stuff for so that you’ll get the payoff? What is your shirt sandwich? What are some drudge jobs you are grateful for because they keep you going with your dream?

I’d love to hear your answers.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Beautiful diversity

One thing I love about the spring is the flowers. Just walking along my street there is a plethora (don’t you love that word?) of different blossoms. The pig face is in full bloom this year and the delicate white flowers look like they are made from rice paper. There is a bush that gives huge flower heads – as long as my arm – and each covered with tiny purple flowers. Daisies flower in profusion opening with the dawn and closing at sunset. Some trees are covered with small compact blossom, some with large, flowing, pendulous blooms. Reds, oranges, blues, purples, whites, pinks, it’s glorious.

I know nothing about gardening, and I don’t know the names of the plants, but I love walking past all the flowers on my street, enjoying the different scents, and the different sights. It lifts my spirits.

Imagine if every flower was the same? I know what flowers are for – they attract insects so that the plants can be pollinated. Each of the flowers I see attracts insects. They don’t need to be as varied as they are. I’m sure that something with more uniformity would get the job done. But there they are, a motley haphazard collection of diverse and assorted flowers. 

I love them.

Look, you know all this. You’ve heard this sermon before. Isn’t it wonderful that we are all different? You are special just as you are.

Last week on the podcast we heard from Christina who has seven daughters. In a couple of weeks we will hear from Catherine who, by choice, has no children.

I love working at home in my own office with no one around, but Moz loves going in to school, surrounding himself with teenagers, having many conversations through the day.

My sister Catherine does an awesome job of being positive and joyous on social media, brightening people’s days with her posts. My friend Annette doesn’t even have a mobile phone. She is never online at all.

And so it goes.

It is so easy to feel guilty because you are not like someone else. Especially when you see them doing such a great job of whatever they do. I don’t know how we convince ourselves that we are valuable and have something to contribute whatever the thing is that we choose to do, but today I’m giving it a try.

Today I want to encourage you. You do you.

Be the beautiful flower that you are.

Brighten the world, or challenge the world, or comfort the world, in your own way.

Let’s be a garden full of beautiful flowers.

Partial Solutions

Do you have a dream? A really big and beautiful dream? A dream that you feel like you just can’t start working on yet?

Maybe it’s a book you want to write. A book you will write, just as soon as you can set aside a space in the house that is just for writing, and take uninterrupted holidays and spend a month or so dedicated to your magnum opus.

Maybe you want to invite people over to dinner. And you will. Just as soon as you get a dining table that can fit more than four, and can afford a new couch to replace your ratty old one.

Maybe you dream of running a marathon. And you’ll start training just as soon as you can block out an hour of each day to go for a run. 

Maybe you want to travel. But right now you spend every weekend at home watching TV because you can’t afford an international adventure.

Maybe you want to go into missions, but you’re worried about how you’ll finance your retirement if you leave now, so you’re staying at your job waiting until your superannuation is at a sufficient level before you take the leap and go.

Christina and I have a bit of a chat about our big dreams (among other things) in this week’s podcast. I’m finding that I’m becoming very enamoured of the idea of ‘partial solutions’. (I first heard that term on Tsh Oxenriders podcast, Simple.)

Whatever the dream that you have, I’m sure that there’s a perfect solution that will allow you to achieve that dream. And you may have spent hours thinking about that perfect solution, polishing it up, gazing at its beauty. But all that time and effort has not brought you any closer to achieving that dream. And in some cases, it might have pushed you further away.

Here’s a beautiful scene we found on a weekend adventure.

How about you start thinking instead about a partial solution?

Maybe you can start to write your book sitting on your bed in the last fifteen minutes of the day.

Maybe you can invite people over to dinner despite your small table. The kids can sit on the ratty couch and you and the adults can take the table. You won’t be so worried about stains if the couch is already ratty, and you can all relax.

Maybe you can pack some runners and go for a walk in your lunch hour at work. Or if you have kids, you can walk them to school. Maybe you can only get out for ten minutes; it’s better than nothing, and my experience was that a ten minute walk kickstarted my fitness routine much more effectively than a half-hour run that was never taken.

Maybe you can pack the car and go for a Saturday adventure. Just a day out, right where you live. A bush walk, or an investigation of a small town you have never looked at before. 

Maybe you can share your faith with those around you, reach out to people where you are, just like you would if you were living in a foreign country.

And here’s a thought, if you’re not putting partial solutions in place, then maybe you don’t actually want that dream after all. Maybe you just like the idea of it. Maybe it’s time to really examine your priorities and find out what your dream actually is.

What dreams do you have, and what are you doing to move towards them?

When you look at your life do you already see a partial solution in action that shows your heart for what you want to do or be?

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

More Blessed

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

This week’s podcast guest is Celeste. Celeste and her good friend Priscilla visited our church some years ago. They came from Argentina as missionaries. They blessed us immensely. However, I felt guilty throughout their visit because I didn’t have much time to spend with them. I didn’t get to see them very much at all. I didn’t have them over for a meal or anything like that. In fact, though my daughter spent a bit of time with them, I felt like their whole trip passed in a blur and I pretty much missed it.

At the end of their trip the church threw them a farewell party. Somehow I managed to make the time to attend that. And for some reason I felt it was right to give them a gift. Just a small gift of  money. I wrote a card, put the dollars in, and gave it to them at the party.

They were a bit taken aback. They told me that they were on their way home now, the trip was over, and they didn’t need the money.


I’m used to getting that reaction, people are not used to being given gifts and they often don’t know how to react or don’t want to take the gift. But the thing is, we put money aside to give to people. This is money we will never use on ourselves. Sometimes we give it to the church, sometimes to visiting missionaries, sometimes to a charity organisation. We give away about 10% of our income.

This doesn’t make us special. Tithing, or giving 10%, is a Jewish law, and Jews and Christians through the ages have given their tithe, and often given offerings on top of that. I’ve heard of people who give 90% and live off 10% of their income.

 In fact, if you’re having money problems and you come to me for advice, the first thing I suggest you do is tithe. It’s counter-intuitive. But it’s one of those laws of the universe. Your money management will go more smoothly if you put aside 10% to give away. 

God doesn’t ask us to test him much. Almost never. But he asks us to test him when it comes to tithing. In Malachi 3:10 he says, ‘Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’

A quick aside, I am not talking prosperity gospel here. I am not saying give money and you’ll get rich. I am saying that if you give your 10% as a sign that you trust God to provide, then he will provide for your needs. And he’ll bless you in other ways as well. And this story that I am telling you (yes, I’ll get back to it) is one of the ways that God has blessed me through my giving.

Had I failed?

When I got home from the party I felt a bit strange. Why had I only given this money at the end of the trip? Was this just another failure in being part of the church response to these beautiful two girls? Should I have given the money much earlier? I felt bad, but what was done was done. I got on with life. I forgot about it.

I forgot about it until Celeste reminded me in this week’s podcast. She tells us the end of the story. And I’ll share it here too.

Perfect timing

Just before Priscilla and Celeste flew out of Hobart, they found out that the flight from Sydney to Argentina had been cancelled. They had to spend a night in Sydney and then catch the next flight out. And the money that I gave them covered the cost the hotel room for the night.

It had been right to give them that money at the end of their trip. It was a necessary gift to cover an expense that they hadn’t seen coming.

When I heard Celeste tell me this I had truly forgotten that I had even given the money. And when I heard that it was me that God had used to provide for their needs I was truly blown away. I had done the right thing. I had heard God correctly and done what he asked. He used me to provide for these girls. What a blessing! To them, for sure, but also a huge blessing to me!

There is joy in receiving a gift, and there is also so much joy in giving.

Let me challenge you. Test God. Give 10% of your income. Find out just what an amazing blessing it is to give.

Do you have a joyous giving story? Or a story where someone has met your needs at just the right time? Please share with us in the comments! Let’s encourage one another.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.
If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!