Ten or so years ago I used to penfriend with a lady in N.S.W who had 7 children. The number of children we had was the common denominator because we didn't have much else in common despite the fact we were both believers & we both homeschooled. My friend, Dee, was affiliated with a Mennonite church in America & she was quite rigid in the application of her beliefs. Despite the fact we didn't see eye to eye on a number of issues we maintained a friendship for more than 10 years until in the process of moving we lost contact with each other.
For most of my life I have been a chronic reader. I'll read jam jar labels, the adds on buses, discarded newspapers ~ in fact anything at all that has the printed word on it & I have not been overly discriminating. I also travel a lot. Hours I wait on windy jetties for boats before the half hour boat ride home & I find it just about impossible to sustain a conversation over the heavy thrum of a diesel motor labouring through the channels although Star invariably tries to engage me in conversation. It is a combination that had me picking up whatever stray magazine I could get my hands on so I had something to read & it didn't matter if it got crumpled in my bag or rained on or spattered with spray. As the price of magazines skyrocketed & the information between the covers deteriorated God bore it upon my mind that this was not a Godly solution to a perennial problem & the renewing of my mind included cleaning up my reading material. Which left one huge vacuum.
Now this was a problem I was sure would have an easy solution. Surely Christians put out quality magazines full of sage & godly advice, meaty articles, stories that would uplift & encourage holiness. I tried Christian Woman. The older ones were fine but then they changed publishers & modernized & I've decided I'm not a very modern Christian. I'm not a very liberal Christian either. The magazines had nothing to say to me. I don't believe women need to juggle family & work. I don't feel the need to rampantly support women's ministry ~ I know, but Quakers have always supported women's ministry & it is never right for a Christian to demand their own way. That is not the way of Christ. I tried Above Rubies. Better but...And I felt awful because I know lots & lots of lovely Christian women read, enjoy & get great benefit from these magazines but they drove me crazy. They skimmed the surface so much. I couldn't believe how limited my choices were & I was really reluctant to tuck my expensive books into a tote bag when the weather was wild'n'wet.
And then Dee, in one of her cleaning frenzies sent An Encouraging Word my way. Now I was askance at first. After all the publishers, all women, all covered! Yikes. I thought I'd been sent something from a cult ~ the Exclusive Brethren, maybe ~ but I decided to overlook the fact they all wore pinafore dresses [or jumpers if you're from the States] & bits of cloth on their heads & stated loudly men were the heads of their families & had a read anyway.
I liked what I was reading. Firstly, & this is so important, even though I didn't always agree with their point of view they expressed their opinion with great gentleness & respect & they referred me to the original language & funnily enough I can cope with that. Secondly they were very pro children. When you have five & you've heard enough comments like: Haven't you discovered what causes that?[well yes, but do I really have to explain it to you?]; The number of children equals your I.Q [Then that makes me smarter than you, I guess]; or No~one needs that many children [so which one are you suggesting we dispose with?] then anyone who thinks having lots is a blessing rather than a curse is someone your likely to breathe a sigh of relief with. Thirdly, at a time when I was already drifting slightly left of centre & out of the mainstream Christian thinking I found encouragement from others who were also questioning the direction today's Christianity has taken & were choosing a different path, a return to older roots, grass roots Christianity: homeschooling. home churching, home businesses.
Then disaster struck. The lady who distributed AEW in Australia ceased operations. I tried, unsuccessfully, to renew my subscription. I tried for 12 months. It was like breaking into Fort Knox & my computer skills weren't equal to the task. I mourned but accepted defeat. Then Liddy, who was secretly reading my subversive mags, noticed they were no longer regularly arriving in the mail & went in to bat on my behalf. A backlog, 2 years worth, suddenly arrived in a great swag. I devoured them ~ but eventually I was back where I had started. However both AEW & I had modernised & after a few little hiccuphs thanks to our common language I managed to renew my subscription on~line & I waited....& I waited....& I waited. Today the first of this year's magazines arrived.
Now I will tell you something else about AEW. Their magazines are always a *pay what you can afford* offer. They will give away subscriptions if you genuinely cannot afford the money but want their magazines & if you subscribe they offer a *get one, get one free* deal so you can get one for a deserving friend as well. I don't know anyone else who makes these sorts of offers ~ & abides by them. I know they do. At times I have not paid for my subscription yet the magazines arrived faithfully every quarter.
Now I just have to figure out how to back order so I can get the mags I've missed.