36 hours full of new people

Our college year starts with a retreat (weekend away).
Lecturing staff, administrative staff, board, full time students, part time students AND all their families.
It starts Saturday morning and runs through until after Sunday lunch.

70% of people groan at the idea. Even those who identify as intensely extroverted may find it draining.
The program is low key and flexible, but designed so you are always with people.

And yet – it is so valuable.
It builds relationship. It builds community. It shapes QTC for the whole year.
It reflects the truth of our unity in Christ as we learn from his Word; it shows the variety of people and ‘ministries’; it helps us to know others are struggling along with us.

This year was my 6th year of attendance.
Three great things about being an upper year.

1. Not everyone is new.
At least a third of the cohort I already know. It grants me more energy to meet new people, and provides the respite of sitting next to a familiar face sometimes.

2. I know what’s happening.
I’m familiar with the timetable and expectations. I try to meet people whilst waiting in the queue for meals – quieter than the dining hall to start a conversation and you have found someone with whom to sit.
I’m aware of the benefits and seek them out. I try to meet more of female students – a throwback to when we were few in number.

3. I know myself.
An awareness of me and my needs.
This could mean skipping a draining session [taking my husband out of the noisy auditorium during family games and walking on the beach instead].
Sitting next to a familiar face at the start of small group activities – it’s easier to keep a conversation going when you have somewhere to go.

So reader – when you are next stuck with new people;
in a seat near you at church; in a row at a conference…

  • Acknowledge a small proportion of us are excited to meet new people, but most of us are happy to have had a connected conversation.
  • Say hello and ask a broad question. [How are you connected to the college community?]
  • It’s ok to have times of silence. Most people need time to process, especially with new conversation topics.

Extra Reflections:
A. On our way to retreat, I prepped my paragraph. The quick couple of sentences to say when people ask about me.
“I’m a part time student, about to do my last subject. Excited that my husband is studying with me this semester.” I forgot to expect the next question… “What will you do after you finish college?” Oops.

B. I was brave when someone asked what else I do apart from college, I acknowledged managing a chronic health condition took up time and energy. Twice that moved our conversation to place of great encouragement for my conversation partner.

We must celebrate often to build resilience for the other times.

Felicity wrote those words in an email discussing the sadness of old friends passing away.

Mourning is hard and sad and lonely. But times of celebration with others build our emotional strength, build our emotional reservoir, and build our community of support. Sharing moments of joy builds the relationships that we need to share moments of sorrow. It lets other people model patterns of life, patterns of responding to existence. It reveals the internal worlds of those around us. Joy, as much as sorrow, cuts open the geode and shows the arrangement of things inside.

These words particularly struck me as I consider the bulk of my friends.
We don’t always have the expected societal points of celebration from my parents’ generation (wedding, birth of children, anniversaries of those events, buying houses).

Instead I seek other achievements and moments to celebrate

  • new job
  • birthday
  • obscure historical events.

Instead I seek fun things to do

  • gin club
  • Shakespeare readings
  • movie viewing and discussion
  • picnics and cocktails by the river
  • hot chocolate overlooking Brisbane. 

    Safe people. Recently we held dinner with friends. Some of us physically sick, some heartsore, some exhausted. But we knew the gathering would be full of safe people. A space of fun and friendship. At times one of us would duck off for a quick nap or some alone time. We listened well to the joy and the sorrow of recent events. We attempted the 50 states game again (Missouri!). By celebrating various times together we have build a community where our emotional strength and resilience grows.


Recent months have been quiet on the blog.

I’ve been pondering how to systematise my thoughts on loving deeply.
I’ve been writing assessment.
I’ve been strengthening relationships.
I’ve been investigating delicious food and drink.
I’ve been caring for nieces and nephews a lot.

So I’m planning a gap for posts.
I’ll be spending the first part of 2018 finalising a raft of interviews.
Delay your expectations until June.

Five Things: Online Reading

Occasionally I stare at my laptop and want something to read.

Here are the first places I go:

  1. yesandyes
    Sarah has helpful things to say about happiness, entertaining web wasters and profound true stories.
  2. Lazy Genius Collective
    Kendra aims to be lazy about the unimportant and genius about the important.
    This genius also includes the entertaining – voting for best hollywood woman.
  3. Sayable
    Lore is both spiritially and emotionally mature. She makes me reflect in helpful ways.
  4. Geeks Under Grace
    Lucas’ movie reviews make me laugh out loud and deepen my enjoyment e.g. Roman Holiday.
    I haven’t read much else on the site.
  5. Brain Pickings
    Maria pushes me to think deeply. And remember how to read longer pieces.


Friend – a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.

That definition seems simple.
But making and keeping and growing and ending friendships is complicated.

This begins a series of reflections on friendship.

Friendship has broad agreeable themes – similar interests, enjoyment, connection.
But all of us have different expectations and energy.

Rebecca Bloom the main character of Crazy Ex Girlfriend sings
I have friends, I definitely have friends
No one can say that I do not have friends

I have friends, I definitely have friends, friends, friends,
friendly friends, time to meet my friends

[Disclaimer: I do not endorse Crazy Ez Girlfriend, much of the song list is catchy but dodgy.]

My current situation has me questioning my friendships.

I am in both
– an oasis of tight connection (the fruit of previous overlapping circles of writers group & gin club)
– and an isolation with lack of contact.

How did the oasis form?
What drove my friendships?
What weakened past friendships?
Will they continue?

My mum celebrated her 60th birthday this year, attended by friends from every stage of her life.
I’m not like that. I have so many friends whom I loved dearly but let slide because of my sickness or Stephen’s or both, because of changes in work, study, location, busyness.

I have so many friendships that I initiated – do they want it to continue?
Were we only close because of the structured nature of my mentoring?

Like Rebecca, I need to remind myself I do have friends.
People with whom I have regular contact, whose company I enjoy and seem to have a level of reciprocity.

Thus begins the reflections – I promise they are not all so melancholy.

I’m aiming for clearer definition of friendship by the end.
I’m aiming for steps to make and grow friendships.
I’m aiming for healthy ways to change and end friendships.

Life Event: Single in your 30s ish cont’d

A couple of weeks ago we heard from two people who are single in the 30s.

Here’s another interview.

Agnes B
What is a book or tv show you enjoyed in primary school? Why did you like it?
A hard question, too many to choose from! But one that links the two – when I was in grade 7 I was flicking the channels one Sunday evening and stumbled across a show about a feisty & witty woman with 4 sisters living in the beautiful English countryside. Yes, you’ve probably guessed it, it was the (now) classic BBC 1995 Pride & Prejudice TV adaptation. I was sucked in from that moment, and when I found out it was based on a book I knew I had to read it…and so began my love affair with Jane Austen & classic English literature.

I think with the TV show I was attracted by the whole package – the costumes, the scenery, the country houses (who doesn’t fall in love with Pemberley?) but especially the storyline, the characters & the dialogue. It picked up well what I then discovered in the book – Jane Austen is a master in the study of people in all their follies & foibles. And I must admit, I am a bit of a romantic!

Give us a quick overview of the details in your life event?
I’ve been single since the day of birth to my current 33rd year. I’ve never been married, been engaged or had a boyfriend. You could say I’m an expert in singleness, lol.

What’s it like?
I think most of the time it’s pretty good – I’m busy with work that I enjoy, I’ve got friends and family to love and be loved by, my time is mostly my own to choose how I will spend it. Sometimes though it’s hard – I have always desired to get married and have children, and there are times when I’m really sad that that hasn’t happened. Weddings, the birth of babies, Mothers Day – I rejoice in these with friends and family, they are wonderful, but they’re always tinged with a little sadness. But probably the hardest thing with being single is the underlying sense that I’m just that: single. Alone. When I go to church, I go alone.  At gatherings of family or friends sometimes I’m the only single, so all those couples can reinforce that I’m alone. When I have to make decisions, in the end they’re up to me.

What was a helpful thing someone did at that time?
Friends who have invited me over to their normal family dinner & evening hangout in front of the TV.  Friends who invited me to their daughter’s end of year dance concert. The guys I work with coming over one day to clean my gutters and do a few other house maintenance things.

What was an unhelpful thing someone did at that time?
Friends who began dating, or got engaged or married, who suddenly no longer talk to you or include you in their social events. Being asked, “So why aren’t you married?” Church language where family nearly always = nuclear family rather than the body of Christ. Women’s events that are nearly always about being a wife or mother.

What would you want the people around you to know?
Firstly, singleness isn’t something to be rescued from. It’s not a disease to be cured of. Jesus was single and the most fully & truly human ever. Marriage doesn’t make you an adult. Secondly, as with anyone in a different life situation to your own, it’s just about being mindful of the single people around you. Notice them and include them. Older singles can especially fall through the cracks in churches, when most people at that age are in the life situation of marriage and children.

What ways could we love you in your present season?
Say hi to me at church and invite me to sit with you. Ask me if there are things I need help with. Invite me over. Tell me when are good times I can invite you over. Include me in normal family activities.  Don’t let me wallow in self-pity! Remind me that God is always sovereignly good and I am never truly alone.

Triple Treat: Podcasts

College has started. I’m tired.
But so far I’m keeping up with readings, lectures and assessment.

Increased public transport time has included more podcasts.

  1. The Popcast with Jamie and Knox
    Highly entertaining conversations about pop culture.
    I’ve only listened to a few so far but those ones have been frivolous and enjoyable.
  2. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
    National biography entries read aloud.
    I find people’s lives are so interesting.
    Recent highlights: A A Milne, Ada Lovelace and Audrey Hepburn
  3. 5 Minutes in Church History
    Quick insights into various moments in the history of the church.
    I enjoy the material, but the theme music is very annoying.

A book I enjoy, combining biography, church history and great illustrations.

The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 other heroes of the faith

Review: There is no good card for this

There is no good card for this: what to say and do when life is scary, awful and unfair to the people you love
Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell

Books and articles on caring abound. This is the best I have ever read.

It feels like sharing a cup of tea with Kelsey and Emily, hearing their wisdom whilst looking at Emily’s Empathy cards.
Except it’s written, illustrated and professionally referenced.

They start from the expectation our first response is “uhh…wow. Let me know if there’s anything I can do?”
That we want to help but are not sure of the next step. Because we fear messing it up or it being a burden.

Both authors have extensive experience in messy life happening to them and their friends. Kelsey has an academic and clinical social work background and Emily launched her Empathy Cards after the isolation of her cancer experience.

Like all good persuasive writing it has three parts.

1. Laying some groundwork
what are you like
background unpacking of your motivations
learning postures of empathy

2. The three touchstones of showing up
your want to help equips you to help
the importance of listening
small things have big impact

3. Just help me not be a disaster
practical and clear case studies
the do’s and don’ts

What I loved:
– Kelsey and Emily’s work in unpacking the concept of compassion.
Compassion is to notice, feel and respond.
They discuss how to grow in compassion and how to act in compassion.

step by step conversation and action points (especially for when I’m feeling socially awkward)

no guilt. About the bad job you may have done in the past

no superhumans need apply. Their suggestions are actionable by everyone and do not require vast commitments of energy.

There is no good card for this:
gives clarity on motivation
develops empathy and compassion
and provides concrete actions.

Every person who cares about another person should read this book – that’s everyone!

Please borrow my copy, or buy your own.

Triple Treat: Theatre

I love going to the theatre and concerts!

Recent attendance:
1. Blue, Queenie van der Zandt Powerhouse – June
Queenie as Joni Mitchell tore our hearts apart and up,  then put them back together in joy and wonder at the art and beauty of her music.

2. King & I, Rodgers & Hammerstein Savoyards – June
Obviously our niece and nephew stole the show as some of the King’s children. Though the last scenes of the musical caused me lots of frustration – I struggled with the representation of both cultures.

3. Ruddigore,  Gilbert & Sullivan QOpera – July
We found $25 tickets for the balcony. So much fun.
We both grew up listening to Gilbert & Sullivan with our families.

Past favourites:
1. The Magic Flute,  Mozart QPAC 2000
School trip: I slipped in with the Music and Drama students.
My first ‘big’ show.

2. Much Ado About Nothing, ShakespeareGlobe Theatre 2011
Stephen and I were in London… so good.

3. Women in Voice, QPAC/Judith Wright multiple years
Dad likes to use our birthdays to encourage us with strong women.
Mum receives biographies, I receive tickets to WiV!

If you can’t afford tickets…
– ask for them as gifts
– enter competitions  (most venues mailing list or lifestyle sites e.g. The Judith Wright Centre, The Weekend Edition)
– check out free events
– look for discounts
– watch some university performances (QUT/Griffith/UQ all give free or low cost performances)

Why be another online voice?

Not every day, but every few days I wonder why I blog.
Most of what I say other people know, most of what I say is said elsewhere (probably more coherently).

But then I hear of situations like this:

Felicity was speaking with a small group of women, women she’d been chatting with for a few months.

In conversation she said
” I was just so depressed, it’s got to get better than this.”
Cue pause.
Cue long pause.
Then they changed the subject.
Poor Felicity!

Here are three things you could have said:
1. Yes, it’s hard to see out of the deep.
2.Do you want to talk about it?
3. What support do you have?

Three reasons you might be silent.
1. You have no experience and no idea what to say.
2. You worry about being lumped with a large emotional burden.
3. You are also in the deep and have no capacity.

Three reasons to speak to Felicity.
1. The moment of being heard is incredibly valuable to Felicity.
2. You could spark the next steps for her to receive encouragement and support (you don’t need to be this encouragement and support).
3. You will/have felt this way, being able to mention the struggle in conversation is beneficial for the whole group.

So I’ll keep writing.
Because we are all still learning how to love people deeply.
What to do or say.
Where to put the boundaries.
When to care for ourselves.