Sunday, May 31, 2009

The May Experiment

Well, today is the last day of May, and unless I post twice today, then I have not quite made my ten posts for this month. I am happy to say that I think I've made more of an effort at blogging, and that the experiment has been helpful. Some incentive, or challenge was needed to get me going, obviously. I still think that the main purpose for this blog is to make some of my thoughts/ruminations more real by recording them. I censor myself greatly and to some degree that is necessary. I don't think I should risk exposing others to every thought which crosses my consciousness and I'm pretty sure that I have many thoughts which are not worth recording for posterity.

One of the really great things about being a more diligent blogger has been all the interesting people I've spotted on the net. None are famous, some are people who I've known, met or been in the general orbit of over the years. Some blog anonymously but I've been able to guess who they might be. I have been able to clarify some of the things I appreciate in a good blog. I enjoy lucidity and eloquence, humourous anecdotes, attempts to tackle big ideas and concerns, generous acceptance of human struggles and mistakes, tempered by a desire to be transformed and mature. I continue to be amazed by the minds and hearts of others as they discuss their lives.

I've learnt some things about people which may be a little too much information, but I think I'm starting to see that in the great variegation of humanity, there are some remarkably common themes.
  • I think we all hunger for significance and meaning in our lives. 
  • Even the most adventurous of us need a little safety and security to be happy. 
  • We all need to matter to someone and be connected to others - whether our family is a blood one or a friendship based one it is such a deep anchor for our identity.
  • People get fired up when they see injustice - seeing justice done and people respected, is important to us.
  • Laughter brings a bond and understanding between people and being able to laugh at oneself is both freeing and healing.
We all like to encounter other people's opinions about things that matter to us - relationships, losses, spirituality/meaning, integrity, how to love people well. Even if we disagree with them at least that is a place to start an interraction.

I will keep trying to blog, not least because it is part of my recent efforts to be more self-reflective, to listen more and to sharpen my spiritual life. I hope I can live out this verse from the bible more and more...

 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians chapter 4, verse 8.

I'd like to hear what you think...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

What did I do today?

It seems to be easier to write about the things that are going on in my head. I would like to have some amusing or witty anecdotes about my life, but somehow they don't seem to stick in my brain long enough to be here when I sit down at the computer. I've just read a really funny story about a girl who went white water rafting in Zambia, and lost her pants the first time she got into the water. She spent the next twelve hours in her G-string, adventuring down a river. ( I would love to give a link to the post, and acknowledge her but know diddly-squat about how to do that - all I know is that it was also posted on a recent blog-of-note,

If you would like to imagine what I was doing today - picture this. I am walking home from the local soccer field in the drizzling rain. My umbrella shelters me and the almost-4-month-old baby strapped to my chest. I have two more boys trailing behind me who are eating their sausage sizzle purchases as they follow. We made it home reasonably dry and with cold feet. We made it past the corner shop without buying lollies or footy tazo chips (some may call it a miracle) and had surprisingly little protest about it. It rained most of the afternoon, and there was more 'screen-time' had by kids than would usually be allowed at our place - Play Station and the kitsch 60s Batman movie. Most of the things I should have got done today are not done. If only I could keep the whole house tidy at once (Do I really wish that, or is it just what I think a 'good' mother should say?)

Sometimes it would be fantastic to be white-water-rafting, but I do love my life. I'm just not sure that its very interesting, to anyone other than the people in it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


My rudimentary understanding of the concept is that it refers to the space between 2 people, the relationship or the interraction between them. 

Learning about therapy has been pretty challenging as I sit with my client/patient (depending on what your particular discipline calls her). On one level I am remaining attentive, listening to the content of what she is saying. On another level, I am listening to the themes which arise and linking patterns for future reference. Then my eye must keep attentive to time (note to self - suggest wall clocks for MH centre at LH! Serruptitious watch glances take too much effort!). Then I am also trying to weigh responses to what I say - was that a disjunction or an elaboration? How can I stop and talk about that - bring attention to the intersubjectivity?

At this stage, my brain is overloaded and amidst it all I'm trying to behave naturally and comfortably. Thankfully, the person I sit with and practice all these skills with is also someone who has allowed me to know her and her life intimately. For 4 years we have sat weekly and talked together about life's struggles, stresses and surprising strengths. What we have is friendship and understanding - they lie within a strict frame and boundary - we do not interract outside our weekly sessions, we are not buddies.

The mind is an amazing instrument. So precise and able to multi-task in a complex way. Personal, individual, trainable and focussed. Open to the vagaries of relationship, with marvellous plasticity. Sometimes the language is complex but the reality is simple.

People are made for relationship, made in the image of a complex and relational god. Made to listen and to be together, to grow together and to move through life, hopefully maturing and strengthening. We both learn and grow in this 'therapy' and I hope I begin to get my 'intersubjectivity antennae' working.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mothers' Day Present 2009

I received a fantastic gift for Mothers' Day this year. I actually started to make a present suggestion to DJ before the big day and he stopped me saying, "It's all taken care of". The two older kids had been shopping at the school Mothers' Day stall and my daughter couldn't resist telling me that it would be so exciting when I could wear my present, because it was very beautiful.

My 3 year old and 3 month old went out and bought me an ipod. It has been fantastic and I've been listening to a number of podcasts lately. I am really looking forward to having more opportunities to feed my souland mind by listening to interesting stories and sermons from all over the world.

So, thanks to my lovely family for a great present.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Around the world in 80 gardens

I have found myself regularly sitting down on Tuesday night to watch a man called Monty Don travelling around the world to look at gardens (ABC1 Tues. 8:30pm). It sounds relatively low key, but it is a visual feast and really interesting commentary about the gardens and their links to historical, cultural and spiritual aspects of the societies which formed them.

The TV critic from the London Times hammered Monty last year (when the show was on BBC) for being populist, boring and lacking a script. He obviously has groups of die-hard fans and staunch detractors in the UK as a regular garden show presenter. I have no experience and talent in landscape design and only a skerrick more in gardening. So, I have learnt heaps from Monty's comments about each garden, it's style and construction. I'm looking forward to the last 4 episodes over the next few weeks.

Reflecting about the Tao and Zen concepts which have influenced the gardens of China and Japan, has made me think about my own spirituality and how it might be reflected in my relationship with nature and the garden. I can see how the beauty of our natural surroundings can lead us to worship - either the nature or its creator. It is natural that we would be in awe of both. Nature can be so beautiful, so powerful, even so destructive. Consequently, though, anyone who could make the world we live in, and make it from nothing, must be beyond our imaginings in power.

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. 
So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.  Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.  And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 3:10-23)

Perhaps gardens are one of our attempts to subvert and control nature. Then again they may be part of our expression of love for the world which God made for us to tend, and know and enjoy. For me, gardens, especially beautiful, peaceful ones, allow me to calm my mind and be ready to praise and thank God for his love and goodness. They create space to stop and listen for the touch of divine beauty, to enjoy time with the people I love.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


In April, I planted some seeds in our vegetable garden beds, looking forward to a crop of root vegies, spinach and oniony things. In the first week after the initial sowing, the chooks managed to jump the fence and scratch around in the bed. Now I have a variegated array of plants emerging and it is quite exciting to see what will pop up where, next.

One thing I have noticed is that English Spinach either didn't get scratched up much or it has a unique homing quality for its sibling seeds. 

I have managed to get some gardening gloves to save having to dig the dirt out from under my fingernails prior to cooking dinner. Unfortunately, I seem to wander up the backyard and leave them sitting on the shelf in the garage, more often than not. Perhaps my gardening habits are a little haphazard. Anyway, I'm still scrubbing under my nails more often than I would wish, but I'm also enjoying being outside and watching green things grow.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Yes, I went to a parenting course

Children value themselves to the degree they have been valued.
No child can see themselves directly, they see themselves from the reflection of others.
We hold the key to other people's self-image, especially our kids.
(Suzy from Centacare).

It is confronting to reflect on what my children see reflected in me. Somehow they are present for all those little moments when I react first, think later. I really wish that I could keep my best moments for them, rather than them seeing my selfishness so often. The pity is that they cannot see it for what it really is - MY selfishness. Instead it lays itself upon their pictures of themselves.

Thankfully, there are times when I am able to reflect love and acceptance, patience and enjoyment.

Therapists talk about the 'gleam in the mother's eye' or mirror transference which help us to develop a coherent self. A bible college lecturer I knew used to love to talk about Martin Buber's description of the I-Thou encounter between God and us, in which we are fully known and fully accepted.

Practically, I want to spend more time cherishing my children and accepting them. Much of what is going on in their minds is actually a mystery to me. (Its for another time, to ponder how much is mine to discover and how much is theirs to guard and protect).

My 6 year old and I talked today about being taught to 'Stop...Think...Do' in her kindergarten class. I could take a lesson from her teacher about that, please. And then practice it the next time something is spilled, broken, drawn on, forgotten or just not where its supposed to be.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothers Day 2009

Mothers' Day has always been an opportunity to tell my mum that I love her, that her presence in my life is precious. I'm priveliged to be someone who is able to look back on growing up as a time encouraged and supported by my mother, a strong, determined woman who loved me and my siblings enough to serve us and not expect in return. Not only that, I admire my mum, she completed a tertiary degree while caring for 3 schoolchildren and started working in a technically demanding job when I was a teenager.

I'm aware that my mum is not perfect, but she is someone I can trust and depend on. She is the one that I ring up regularly when I just need to hear a friendly voice on the other end of the phone. Just this week she came over and cooked our family dinner while I took the kids to soccer training.

So today was my opportunity to let her know that I appreciate what she gives to me. And I did do that, along with being richly blessed with loving gifts and cuddles from my own children. But I was reminded of the complicated nature of motherhood in a number of ways today, too. 

Today I talked with a friend whose mum has died, and listened as she recalled some precious memories of her mother - calling her 'darling' as no-one else could and watching their favourite TV show together. Bittersweet feelings, being reminded of a precious but interrupted relationship.

I also thought today about friends who have not been unconditionally cared for by their mothers. Friends whose mothers have failed to give them the acceptance, support or encouragement that they needed in their formation as people. For some, Mothers Day is a reminder that they would rather not experience.

Then, today, I sat with someone close to me who yearns to be a mother but has been struggling with infertility. Her life and marriage have been overwhelmed with the cost - both emotional and financial - of IVF. She has experienced sorrow, loss, disappointment made sharper and more bitter on Mothers' Day. She has had 2 close friends have children in the past month, and I, myself, sit beside her with my 3 month old, 4th child. This is a woman who likes to plan and loves to serve and care for people. Yet, here she is, totally helpless to make the deepest desire of her heart happen. And I know that she struggles to delight in others' children because of the deep disappointment they remind her of.

Parenting/mothering is a deep human desire, and so totally out of our control. We are especially reminded of that when we cannot have a child despite our own desire and effort. Only God can bring a human life into being, and we sometimes forget that when our 'plans' for parenting go smoothly. 

Sometimes I need to  be reminded of just how much I have to be thankful for - a positive, present mother of my own, and the chance to mother my own children. And I pray for comfort and hope for those who find Mother's Day painful or confronting for any number of reasons.

Praise be to our God, who can encompass both joy and pain comfortably, who walks beside us, knows us intimately and loves us deeply. 

And thanks Mum.

Friday, May 8, 2009

My experiment

The more I read the blogs of regular and established bloggers the more I am paralysed in my own efforts. It's a mixture of 
  • admiration for the thoughts that other people so eloquently express, 
  • other people's ideas seeming a infinitely more original than my own (let's face it I've never thought them before),
  • a fear of being trivial,
  • a fear of being self-obsessed,
  • the knowledge that no-one actually reads what I have written.
I am going to conduct an experiment. I will post 10 times before the end of May and see if I just lack discipline, rather than inspiration. Is it just a good expressive apperient that I need?