Friday, 31 July 2015

Film Review - God's not Dead

I had some time on my hands and some actual energy so I thought I would find something to watch. I happened upon this film God's not Dead. I wasn't in the mood for being preached at or have my brain over stretched but I thought I would give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised. 

The film has a simple premise a freshman takes a philosophy class in which the teacher asks everyone to sign a piece of paper to say God is Dead. Of the 80 plus students he is the only one not to sign and here goes the drama of the piece. Intertwined in this are a number of other small stories and subplots. 

Does the film do anything out of the ordinary? To be expected the freshman produces some good arguments and wins the debate. However although the outcomes to the stories maybe be cliche I have to say it felt authentic. From the beginnin there were times when I wanted to skip to the end to see how it finished in places it felt slow. But when I relaxed I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. The film was gentle non confrontational and showed that it was possible for young inexperienced to take on the giant and win. All this in the face of huge opposition and even your Christian girlfriend dumping you. 

I guess the point it made for me is that even in the face of opposition it's possible to hold your views stay calm and allow others to use their free will. I am relieved that the main point seemed to be free will. I cannot tell you how that filled me with joy. There was also no moment of condemnation really. If you don't believe well then burn. That was pleasantly missing. Hats off to the makers for keeping their cool and demonstrating love all exceeding. There was only one moment when I would have added an extra line. But then if I added that maybe the makers thought everyone else would do. 

The film is nearly two hours long however if you have the time it's a good watch. Remember though when you get to those places when you are fed up and want to skip to the end keep going it's a nice film. 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Going Dutch - Finding a Home

A major part of any move is where you will live. The intensity of the need for a roof over your head is determined by many factors. Age, family, culture and more all play a part in how you feel in the process of securing somewhere to live. The process itself is determined by the organisation you are moving with or if you are moving alone. Then if you add that to moving internationally in a different language this process can be quite the undertaking. 

If you are just moving by yourself no matter the age this might be slightly easier. The minute you start adding other people this is where the level of complication can be increased. This definitely goes up if you are doing it on a budget. So this is where we find me. I am relocating to the Netherlands for a new life as a pastor of two churches in Eindhoven and Heerlen. It is not one of the main cities. I am moving my husband and two adorable little storms who are just starting their schooling experience. None of us speaks Dutch and we are moving with the church not a major corporation. So we have to find our own place we have no family there and we are relying on the good will of one of way friends and pastoral colleagues! Anyone say challenge! 

What challenges have we found? Well aside from the language here are a few things that we have found a challenge. 

Number of rooms vs number of bedrooms. This seems to mean anything from counting the toilet and closet to not counting whole rooms in the attic/loft! This proves very confusing when you want to put actual people in rooms. So read carefully and count rooms as you go to get an idea of what each estate agent considers a room. Some websites like Funda are better than others at this. 

It isn't actually or rent! We found lots of amazing properties advertised none of which were for rent they had already gone. Yes they were advertised and yes it looked like available however small words meant that they had already gone. Now this might not seem like a big deal but depending on the area you are in Holland, this can prove a real challenge. Where we are the property turnover is ridiculously high. So it was an added frustration. 

You find a property and this is where most of you will not have a challenge but we did. A stay at home father is not the norm. People have no idea why he would follow his wife and children where they are going. They have no idea why a man would do this. So they were really confused reluctant to rent to a family in this structure. We will come back to this point in another blog but this is all I would say for now. 

The minimum earning amount. This has been a real shocker. It doesn't matter what you do, what references you have if you do not earn enough they won't even talk to you let alone let you view or rent s property! How is anyone supposed to rent. What do low income families do? It all puzzled me. But we found somewhere phew! 

It's yours till it's not yours. This was a surprise again. In the UK most places you rent are expensive and come with a basic level of decoration. Here? No way. You would be lucky to find flooring let alone paint! The owner is like you do whatever you want return it in the condition you found it or better and we are cool! That's it. Put in carpet, flooring, paint wall paper. As long as when you return it the property looks the same or better they are not bothered as it is yours till you don't want it or don't need it! Well that's definitely not like the UK where they tell you don't hang a painting without permission most times! 

Finally you can't meet all the owners criteria and they can turn you down because you have the same surname as your husband. This one made us all laugh the most. As with most owners and in particular Dutch owners they want to be sure they are renting to suitable tenants. This question made us laugh the most why do you and your husband have the same name! Well in Holland you might not do that but in other parts of the world we do so I did. I know that seems strange but you have never heard of this. Ah man we are in trouble now. 

Well all this aside we have a place to live finally! Even though they want three times as much deposit from us. This is because despite all our patience with the questions our employees coming forward and dealing with stuff they were still not convinced! But we are happy to have more space than we have at home and security of somewhere to live! 

The Bermuda Experience

We have landed on my in-laws Island. It is a beautiful picture of paradise. The sea is the most beautiful shades of blue that melt into the blue skies. The greens of the trees and the countryside just pop out under the sunshine. I have yet to see the pink sand in person but if it's anything like the rest of the island then I am in for a treat. As you drive through the countryside the beautiful houses in bright colours pop out from their hiding places among the trees and winding roads. Bermuda is definitely a beautiful island to explore. 

The reception at the airport after two days of travel to be here was overwhelming. By the way it doesn't take two days unless you are on a serious budget which you know I am. The family were overwhelmingly happy to see us. There was a lot of them too. For me that was quite something I come from such a small family by contrast. The joy was that it wasn't unusual there was lots of other massive families waiting to see there relatives. How nice it is to have such a wonderful welcome as part of contrast. 

Walking around the island people are so friendly. You can't help but think that 22sq miles and 60,000 people has a good affect on friendliness. The real surprise is that it doesn't feel that denseley populated. I quite enjoy saying hello to everyone I meet reminds me that we can all be nice to one another. Especially when you are reading about what evil we do to one another a simple Good morning can do a lot to make the simple day to day happy. 

Then there is the most special thing we have done so far. The dolphin experience! I think it's the best place in the world to meet the Dolphins. They are happy beautiful creatures, who live in the sea who come into play with the people. That's the best description I can give. It was completely magically to watch the children in the water making friends with those highly intelligent Dolphins. My little storm will tell you that the dolphin spoke to him. What more happiness can you have. Well we are here for a few more weeks so we shall see. 

Friday, 17 July 2015

Going Dutch - Schools

I have encountered a system I don't really understand it's amazing. School in Holland. It's so different from the UK so I have a few disclaimers that I have observed. If you are moving to Holland from the UK especially a city like London these things will surprise you. 

Ofstead does not exist. I know cry with Joy you teachers no more silly inspections that cause you to cry. No more measuring system that means you have to push to only one uniform standard or face failing! However without it how do you know a school is a good school?  What is a good school? They also don't have league tables! So there is no measuring device for your children. How can we competitive parents cope without measuring how good our little darling is against other little darlings? Is it possible for our little darlings to achieve in life without measuring them against social norms from birth?! I might be oversimplifying the system or maybe I don't fully understand it yet however in essence after looking at several schools, government websites and blogs from expats this is really the bottom line. 

There is no Ofstead there is no league tables at primary age children. I will write about secondary school when we get there. 

As liberating as I find this being an ex teacher! As liberating as I find it as a parent of a child who I want to develop at their own natural rate. It left me after two school visits confused with what to do with myself. 

My second observation and maybe this is exclusive to the smaller cities that the big ones. However there are no fences! You know what I mean. In the UK where I live you have to scale incredible fences to get into the school or if your sensible go through lots of security gates and buzzers before being allowed in. Here the playground is open. There might be a small hedge or line on the floor or little hoops that distinguish the school playground from the grass it sits in. My little darling on his first visit was taken to the red lines on the ground and told not to pass them without an adult. I nearly fainted but apparently this works! I am serious little four and five year olds as well as massive 11/12 year olds don't just walk out and disappear and also strange people don't just walk in. This is going to take some getting used to. I mean I am glad the kids won't be fenced in sort of. 

The size of the play area. Baffled I was to see small playgrounds outside the school which the children used! I thought the Dutch were outdoors play based learning people and there was this tiny space outside with no fence outside. I was then told not to worry and as I looked up children were being taken all over the place for fun. I am pretty sure they didn't tell the parents they had a class trip. Oh boy this is going to take getting used to. I even went to a school where the children cycled from one sight to another unsupervised so they could use their new classroom. How can I do this. 

The great Dutch Half day. I kid you not most Dutch primary school children get a half day! In the area we will live the children get two half days! I am not joking. Two days a week they finish at 12. They still manage to have high literacy rates and highly educated people on half day school attendance! People in the UK could never cope with this. As it is they are trying to increase the school hours. Imagine what it might be like if your children were expected to be raised by parents and not the state. 

Overall I found the experience of being in Dutch schools off putting, exhilarating, thrilling and sometimes I must confess a little overwhelming. The teachers seem to genuinely love what they day and want what is best for your child. 

Most surprisingly I found that the teachers wanted what was best for my little stars! It didn't matter what it meant to the school what was important was my child getting the best they needed. 

I am not sure what the school will be like when we finally arrive but guess what I have hope. It's been a long time since I had hope in an education system. 

Monday, 13 July 2015

Going Dutch - Children

My disappointment ran super high yesterday. I was talking with a friend about childcare. I explained that in the UK I had to take my youngest with me to work. It was something I fought for. I was a youth pastor and while not a single young person minded I did have issues with some of my senior members. It was a battle but it worked. My friend promptly informed me that never in Holland. 

I cannot tell you how distressed I was. I heard wonderful things about Dutch Culture. I had read how flexible they were surrounding part time work and making families a priority. My bubble had been burst. It would be the same as the UK in her words worse. The Dutch understood childcare issues but didn't want to see them. 

Now since we are moving as a single unit. How is this going to work? In the UK we had lots of support from family and friends but here we would have no one. How could we possibly be everywhere doing our job serving the church with no flexibility towards our position as parents. Someone would always be left holding the baby.  

Going Dutch might not be the dream I had hoped for but I guess I will have to wait and see if it is any better than my home. 

40 Day Fast - The Lessons

I have a feeling of overwhelming pride not in a bad way. I am just so happy to say I completed my 40 day fast. The first one in my whole life but guess what I did it. I have so many lessons to learn from this. 

Main question is did I achieve my goal? Well I am not sure what my goal was but I knew that I wanted to do one with no fuss or fanfare just get from one end to the other. I had a side goal of weight loss which was naughty but true. The first I did. I don't think my fast really affected anyone. Just me. Everyone else got to live uninterrupted by my fast in face very few people knew. Even when I thought it would be hard I did it. Disappointing however was I probably lost a few pounds. But since that shouldn't have been a goal oh well I shall survive. 

So what did I learn? 

1. I need to spend more time in prayer. I am terrible at sticking to it. I have now installed an app to help with this. I am going to try. 

2. I generally talk to myself and God. I have a mixed dialogue of telling myself and God lots of stuff all day. This is good but also needs to be focussed more. 

3. Bible reading with a family is hard! Getting up early means not being there when someone wakes. Going to bed later means not being there when someone goes to bed. Doing it during the day means finding space aside from the children and that means not being there for all the little things. Trying to incorporate them into the study means setting it at their level while rewarding means no depth for me which should be happening in personal time. Find time and stick to it consistently. It's what I tell those I teach an counsel and guess what that is what works. Make the sacrifice and sticking it. 

4. Drinking is important for a happy body and mind! The Lord didn't set our bodies up so that we could ignore how they function. Please please please drink more and more. 

5. Random food! I didn't realise how much stray food went into my mouth. I thought I didn't snack until I realised that I ate as I made food for the kids. Who knew random food arrived in my mouth so frequently. Hopefully 40 days has broken that habit. 

Would I do it again? Yes yes yes. I want to at least twice a year. It is so worthwhile! It is so important and rewarding and actually works on every level to remind us that our bodies are the temple of God look after them holistically. God wouldn't want it any other way. 

Monday, 6 July 2015

Bat and ball and fasting!

Hey there. So here is a new challenge how to run around in the sun with a rumbunktious child playing bat and ball in the summer sun when fasting. It's normally a challenge to keep up the energy. The little one is crazy in energy and has me running most days. Fasting however adds an extra level of danger to me and my sanity. 

I have to say the key I have discovered to my fasting experience has been keeping hydrated. Without liquid I fade quickly. My body is unable to cope especially in the sun with the little ball of energy. 

The lesson I have definitely learnt is I need to drink more. I say this to the children all the time. However for myself I have often not had a drink for the whole day. All I can really say is Lord please help this be a permenant change and not just because it's necessary during fasting or I faint!