Tuesday, June 28, 2011


She's living at the house he bought. After the divorce. After winning a hundred thousand on a carelessly bought scratchie. He's had the house since half the money was in the till at the pub.

She's glad to have a place to stay. And doing her the favour eases the jagged edged fact that she is his carer. Not his carer on a welfare form. His carer on the watch for when he starts to be distracted with his own thoughts. Looking for his words to lose their distinct flavour. They can become like mist in the headlights.

He says there's nothing wrong. He lives it, too. If ignoring it were therapeutic, he'd be well. But he's not. He sifts everything he hears to capture words that make him better. But they don't. He careens, rather than slips into madness.

She came home to find the windows nailed shut and the back door couldn't open. He'd left the hunting knife on the table. The police had pulled him roughly out the door, with his arms clasped behind him. He hunted for explanation but it slipped away. She was saddened that he didn't notice his own incoherence. He thought it made sense.

She slept. It felt like days. Repaying the debt of pacing, interrupted nights. She tells me of retreating to her room. That she saw his eyes peering out from the darkness. That he waited for her to sleep and then he walked back and forth, all night. Wry, she laughs. His mad thoughts are funny. They are funny and timid and sad and broken.

Somehow she can shiver at his paranoid preparations and giggle at his oddness. Her steadiness is epic.

Family without burden is enticing. But it spoils us for the true beauty of care for a broken brother. Perfection has been smashed so that love can be glued patiently together. Built piece after piece, sturdily, secured one by one. It's a heroic, humble construction.

Joining Emily,

Monday, June 27, 2011

Five books that changed who I am

There's been a few people blogging about books that have changed who they are. Soph at Storms Dressed as Stars, shared and gave an open invite to join in. I can't resist an open invite, when memes can be kinda exclusive.

I have puzzled and thought. There must be five transformative books in my collection. I can think of books that I've loved, books that I've cried over, books that I've waded through. I have a pile of books that I would like to read, but haven't yet. But books that have changed me?

A Bridge to Teribithia. This is the first book that really moved me emotionally. I lay on my bed and cried as I read (not the whole book, but the sad part). It awakened in me a sense of the power of stories. I read it when I was about ten or eleven. The other book that stands out as deeply moving, like this, was Of A Boy by Sonya Hartnett.

When I was studying medicine, I read The Audacity to Believe by Sheila Cassidy. She tells the story of going to Chile and working as a doctor. She was a Catholic follower of Jesus and she tried to live out her faith. I found this really challenging and it influenced how I wanted to work in the future.

The Bible itself has changed me, but I want to highlight the effect of the Psalms on me. I did a course about the Psalms once and read it through a few times. I always found that reading a book and talking about it (eg. in high-school English) gave me a deeper love of it. This happened with the Psalms. Suddenly the words were passionate and spoke to me face-to-face. I began to understand why the word of God had been described as being sweeter than honey and purer than gold, through reading the Psalms.

The Art of Pastoring. I found this book in the (Morling College) library once and read it because I liked the blurb. Reading it made me see ministry differently. It emphasises loving people and serving them with your life. It was one of the first books that challenged me to listen to people and their stories. That ministry is about building real and genuine relationships and living a life of faith together as family. Challenging.

The final book I've included represents choosing to work in psychiatry/mental health. It wasn't just because of this book, but this book was the starting point for me to see the possibility of healing for disease or trauma through therapeutic/transformative relationships. This book helped me learn but also helped me keep thinking and reading about the mind, how it works and the resilience that helps people recover from all sorts of pain or abuse.

Word Update

It's the middle of 2011. My word for the year was 'Commit' and Alece has asked for news on my progress. As I said back in Jamuary, this is a year for getting serious about completing things. I am wanting to stick at it, even when I wish I could do something else.

I realise I cling to being non-committal, and leaving my options open.

In the first two months of the year I sat down and wrote two 10,000 word case reports. The work of looking after the patients had been done in 2007 and between 2005 and 2009. I had been carrying around two folders of notes and photocopies since then. I had barely written one introduction. But deciding to commit helped me sit down and type. My husband helped me by taking the kids to a movie (or two). Thankfully he was willing to be commited, too.

Then I mailed them off to Melbourne and waited. And hoped. At Easter, I found out that they both passed. It was exciting and we went out for dinner to celebrate.

So I am half-way committed. In October, I am committed to sitting for my final exams. I don't know if I will pass. But I will have a chance.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The {real} secret

Something keeps me going in this clamour of doing and being and tentatively pushing up my hand to be heard. I suspect you know that noisiness. And perhaps you know the something, too.

Without it, I am drowning because I know the edges of myself. I meet them abruptly and long before I hope to. I cannot stretch my skirts to cover my anger or impatience or selfishness. I cannot stride out victorious. I stumble when I mimic dignity and I swallow disappointment full of bitter blemishes. But that's without my secret.

It's the daily demand to prove myself and I am Ulysses to its Siren-song. I need to block my ears, or fill them with a purer music. A transforming creator-song, a comfort lullaby that calms and strengthens me.

I whisper it, self-talk as originally designed, "this is the secret: Christ lives in you"*.
Mysterious truth that turns my inadequacy into space for transformation. Into a place for God, for Jesus, to dwell within me and weave me into a beloved companion.

Instead of drowning, I am breathing grace. I am joining in a life that shows the clamour for significance to be unnecessary. My significance and place is already secure.

*Colossians 1:27

Thursday, June 9, 2011


“The present is the point at which time touches eternity.” C S Lewis.

Read this.

This is a great article by Ross Gittins about how poverty is not just about the amount of money you have.

Failure teaches

I long to tell stories of my triumphs. To be able to rest satisfied that I have done it, and done it well.

But the replays in my mind are not triumphs. They are wired into memory by the wrench of disappointment in my stomach. I have spoken with clumsy words, or chosen the wrong reaction, or just run out of time to do what is needed.

I listened as he told me of his shame. The shame he felt when he had to cover for me. To explain my mistake and he knew he could not. He didn't call it shame, but he told me how he couldn't stop the laughter escaping from his chest and he couldn't explain. He had to leave. Abruptly.

The laughter mystified him and he searched for neurological explanations. He framed it as an opportunity to learn. And he didn't want to hear my apology. He was so gracious that he wouldn't allow himself to blame me, so he couldn't face 'sorry'. It was then we talked of shame and I realised how deeply it had shaken him.

My sorry  must become an action. Speaking it is irrelevant if I continue to leave him exposed and without an answer. So I work harder at my list and try to do it better. I know this will not cover all my weaknesses, but this small, particular exertion is important. Because I have seen his vulnerability. Just as I have seen his faithful perserverence.

I must listen to this exposition of my failure and learn from it. Know that I am poor in spirit, but that that itself brings its own blessings. And I realise that the memories based in failure and disappointment, in myself, are the ones that really teach me. Painful though they are.

Sharing with Emily,

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The cost of good

I wake each weekday to Adam Spencer. That drifty time from sleep to wake is filled with today's new debate. A few weeks ago, I listened to callers complaining that their promised rebate for solar power going back into the electricity grid was being cut from sixty cents to forty cents a unit.

So it may be that my dream-laden state has influenced my reaction to this issue. People rang to complain about the government not honouring contracts and recounted stories of spending large amounts on solar panels with the plan that the rebate for extra power would pay the cost of the equipment. GetUp emailed me to join an email protest campaign. I just felt annoyed. The phrase "Suck it up" came to mind. Harsh, I know.

Today it filtered into my half-awake state again. Barry O'Farrell chatted with Adam about his 'backflip' on the solar rebate cuts. So the complaints were pretty vocal, and ultimately effective.

And I'm considering why I feel disappointed.

It's not because I'm against solar power, or because I'm against exerting political power.

I am annoyed about human nature. That we decide to make positive changes for the environment or the community, because they are cost effective, rather than because they are right. That we complain about our expected income decreasing because there are other needs in the community for government money to be spent on. That we expect that someone else should pay for our solar panels.

Ultimately, we are selfish beings and we don't like to consider that higher taxes, or lower rebates, or paying the true cost of goods, is actually going to benefit the community. There will be more money to spend on other people's needs - on Overseas Aid, on mental health programs, on employing people etc. etc. That I am not actually the most important person in the world. That some people are never going to see $55,000 let alone withdraw it from their super to buy solar panels for their house (and then expect the government to cover the cost and whinge when they'll only get two-thirds of it rather than all of it).

I am disappointed that we complain as if we are poor, when we live in one of the most affluent countries in the world. That we have such poor perspective on what really matters. And I'm talking to myself in this, too. I wish we could be people who do right because it is good to do right, not because it is economically viable or cost effective.

Here ends the rant :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Just wondering...

I've got a question for you

We had a church meeting today and our pastor suggested that we think about becoming members (of our church). I've thought about it a few times over the past nine years, but never made the step of doing it. Our church has ten members but  about three times more associates (regular attenders who aren't big M members). Our church is part of the Baptist Union so membership requires baptism by full immersion.

Perhaps I should mention that the pastor making the suggestion is my husband. But anyway...

I have been baptised, in a childhood, Presbyterian fashion. When I was a teenager, I went to youth group, and then church, with some friends from school. At that church, I began to understand God's grace, and started following Jesus. I decided to take part in Confirmation and told my family and friends that I was following Jesus. That was more than twenty years ago. Since then I've graduated from University, worked at a different church, studied some theology, got married, had children, and done twenty years worth of stuff. For the vast majority of that time, I've tried to make decisions in the light of God drawing me into relationship with him.

So what would it mean to get baptised now?

If baptism is a sign of repentance and of new birth, shouldn't I have done it a long time ago? If I get baptised now, is it just for pragmatic reasons? Is that enough?

I ask myself all sorts of hypothetical questions about how other people will interpret the pastor's wife getting baptised. Maybe I just need to explain myself clearly. But I'm not exactly clear why I would be doing it.

Which explains why I'm still thinking about it nine years later.

I'm just wondering what you think. Do you have an opinion about the when, where and whyfore of baptism?

And do you have an opinion about how? Some would say my sprinkle on the forehead, and believing confirmation was entirely adequate.

*complicating factor* I haven't heard him say it directly, but I suspect my husband doesn't think it is. He's hedging in this discussion.

I'd love to hear your comments.