Tuesday, 30 April 2013

in praise of counsellors

I've seen my counsellor a couple of times in the last few weeks, not having seen her regularly for a long time. I have to say, I am really grateful having someone whose opinion I value and who seems to understand me. It can be hard to find a counsellor who you click with. For me, having someone who understands what it means for me to be a Christian is important; a non-Christian counsellor I went to for a while was helpful in some ways, but really unhelpful in others when it came to giving me advice that conflicted with my beliefs and being a bit patronising about it.

I guess maybe counselling isn't for everyone, but for me it helps to have someone I can lay everything out in front of. She doesn't judge me, she doesn't criticise me for choices I've made. I don't have to worry that something I say might hurt her feelings, I don't have to censor myself. I just say what I think and feel, whatever is occupying my thinking on the day I go to see her.

She's adept at getting to the heart of what I'm trying to say, and at making links between that and things I've said in the past. She doesn't tell me what to do, but she helps me make connections myself and gently guides me to consider things in a way I may not have before. She's able to get a bird's eye view of my situation, without being tangled up in it, and she can point out where the path might lead when I can't even work out how to take another step.

So hurrah for good counsellors! I don't know how to pick a good one necessarily, but I reckon if you've had bad experiences or not clicked with a counsellor, it's worth trying others. I know that can be exhausting, having to tell and re-tell your story to a complete stranger, but when it works (like any relationship I guess) it's wonderful.

Sunday, 21 April 2013


Unable to sleep last night, this was the psalm I turned to, which seems the perfect psalm for one's birthday.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:13-16

Thank you God for the days you have formed for me!

I'm also grateful for a delicious breakfast at Brasserie Bread, laughs and love from some dear Christian sisters this morning. And flowers! And presents! It's all good.

Anna, me and Jess (pre-pancakes)

Friday, 19 April 2013


It's been a very long week. It seems like aeons since I wrote that last post.

I've been trying to drink in as much true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, excellent and praise-worthy stuff as I can this week. I've found that it's the only thing keeping anxiety, worry and unhelpful thoughts at bay. As such, trying to go to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night or in a quiet moment, it can be challenging because that's when it's just me and my thoughts. And I'm really, really tired and would really rather be sleeping, thank you very much.

So I'm reading psalms. Listening to more sermons by Keller. Lots and lots of Christian music. The audiobook of Kay Warren's Choose Joy, which I had downloaded a while ago when it was free on Christian Audio but hadn't actually listened to. It took me a while to get used to Warren's delivery style (fast, upbeat, earnest American), but it's been very helpful and I'm grateful to Jess K for having recommended it. Though listening to it in the light of her son's recent suicide is particularly heartbreaking and poignant and prompts me to pray that she is able to cling to those truths she has written about.

Brokenness Aside by All Sons and Daughters has long been a favourite when feeling down, but has definitely been a help lately.

Also West Coast Revival's version of All creatures of our God and King (well basically the whole EP) has been on high rotation. I recommend it; you can listen to it below. It's got a triumph to it that I love and reminds me that my chief purpose is to glorify God and enjoy him forever (as the girls and I discussed at growth group the other night).

Friday, 12 April 2013

Rejoice in The Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!

At staff retreat this week I was asked to do a devotion on whatever Bible passage I wanted. I picked my favourite bit of scripture, Philippians 4:4-9:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don't worry about anything but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable -- if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise -- dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. (HCSB)

I talked mostly about how rejoicing isn't a command to be happy. Joy in the Lord is something deeper, richer, more grounded than mere happiness. You can be joyful in the midst of great sorrow and suffering when your hope is in God, when your hope is secure that one day all of this will pass and we will be with God and he will wipe every tear from our eyes. And that peace really is beyond all human understanding. Joy in suffering? It makes no sense without God.

Today on my drive to work I listened to the latest Tim Keller sermon in my podcast queue, titled Peace - overcoming anxiety and it was just on this passage. There's so much gold in it. Obviously it's something I really need to dwell on at the moment. My energy reserves are nearing the bottom of the barrel, and so my emotions are scraping along, raw and rough. I'm just exhausted and crying a lot, for no discernible reason. I hate, hate, hate depression and just long for Christ to return and set this world to rights, to get rid of sickness and decay and our warped view of reality. This bizarre view that tells me all sorts of negative things about myself and has me believing them.

Keller talks about the fact that when we're anxious or worried (or depressed, for that matter) we can either listen to our hearts or talk to our hearts, which is something I know but so easily forget:

Now there's two things you can do with your heart [when you're anxious]. You can sit and listen to your heart and go 'nnnnhhh nnnnhhh', or you can talk to your heart. In Psalm 42 you can see exactly what happens. David, in Psalm 42, is depressed and he says 'why art thou cast down, O my soul?' Who's he talking to? Himself, he's talking to his soul...What he's doing is instead of listening to his heart, he's talking to it. He's saying 'Think about this, think about this, think about this. Don't forget this. Don't forget that. Don't forget who it is that made you. Don't forget who it is that saved you. Think!' Worry is listening to your heart. Peace comes from talking to your heart. It comes from telling your heart what? Not just talking in general, and not just saying 'hey, I heard a funny story'. Peace comes from talking to your heart about who you are in Christ.

He also talks about our enemy - not just the world, the flesh or the devil, but all three working together with the prime goal of destroying our peace and joy by attacking our assurance of our salvation. "They're trying to get you to look more at your sins than your saviour." The enemy will always try to keep us away from the gospel. Just yesterday I was feeling terrible and part of me was saying "Just read your Bible" and yet it was so hard to actually sit down and do it. And what do you know? Just sitting there, reading the Bible and praying for 10 minutes and the weight started to lift. Speaking truth to myself just healed so much of the blackness...and yet when I'm feeling down I will do anything but read God's word.

The sermon is worth a listen.
The world, the flesh and the devil are after you. But everything's fine if you have the right expectations. Don't be upset that you're upset. Don't be down that you're down. Jesus was constantly a man of sorrows and weeping. All the great Christians were constantly wrestling with these things. And frankly, you're going to get back into your joy and you're going to get back into your peace faster if you're not so bummed out by the fact that you don't have it right now. For every one look at your sin, take five looks at your saviour. The noble, the pure, think of these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

peopled out

I'm at a staff retreat on the central coast. There's nine of us in a two storey house. It's a great bunch of people and there has been much information imparted and many hilarious stories have been flowing...but sometimes it just gets too much for this introvert. I've had to retreat from the retreat a few times today and just hide away in my room. After lunch I just zonked out and fell asleep while the others went for a walk.

It's especially hard when there are three conversations going at once, involving people with loud voices, who get louder so they can be heard over the other conversations. I feel like I used to feel as a child when we would go to eat at Chinese restaurants with large groups of people and, tired, I would put my head down on the table after the meal and just hear words smashing and swirling around me without any sense of what they meant.

The last couple of weeks I've been reading Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking by Susan Cain, a book I heartily recommend to any introverts who don't understand why they don't seem to fit in the world as easily as others, or extroverts who may want to understand what makes introverts tick a bit better. It's definitely skewed towards the introvert rather than being a balanced assessment of introverts and extroverts, a bias which Cain readily admits in her closing notes. But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing; as an introvert I've found it helpful to have things that I've long internalised articulated so clearly it's made me go "Of course! That's why I feel that way!"

So I don't feel especially bad for hiding away. I'm carving myself what Cain refers to as a "restorative niche" (using a term coined by psychologist Brian Little). I'm frustrated that I'm so drained I feel like crying, and yet I don't necessarily want to go to sleep. I just want some quiet time. 

I tried to observe myself a bit today, and I understand why people who don't know me well are surprised to learn I'm an introvert. When I participate in conversation I joke and quip, I laugh loudly, I give my opinion freely. But it's almost like running sprints. I have bursts of being a "pseudo extrovert" and then need to recharge again before the next burst. Being a pseudo extrovert is pretty much how I operate though. Everyone laughed at dinner when I said I have no trouble getting up at church, singing in front of a crowd, warmly saying to everyone at the end of the service, "I'll see you at supper!" silently adding, "No you won't!" and then hiding away, packing up gear and rolling cables so I don't have to talk to anyone.

I'll leave you with this bit from the end of Quiet, which sums it up well:
Whoever you are, bear in mind that appearance is not reality. Some people act like extroverts, but the effort costs them in energy, authenticity and even physical health. Others seem aloof or self-contained but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama. So the next time you see a person with a composed face and soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet. We know from myths and fairy tales that there are many kinds of powers in this world. One child is given a light saber, another a wizard's education. The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of available power, but to use well the kind you've been granted. Introverts are offered keys to private gardens full of riches. To possess such a key is to tumble, like Alice, down her rabbit hole. She didn't choose to go to Wonderland, but she made of it an adventure that was fresh and fantastic and very much her own. Lewis Carroll was an introvert too, by the way.
Quiet, Susan Cain, chapter 8 (transcribed from the Audible book)

You never know. I might be designing a hat.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Product placement: Stay don't stray

I recently went to Malaysia. That, of course, gave me the chance to peruse the duty free shops and buy make up type things, which I rarely do at full price stores. Make up is just a bit of fun for me; I'm glad I don't have to wear it every day but I like to play with it every now and again.

Another reason I don't wear it all the time is that I forget I have it on and inevitably rub my face at some point during the day and end up with panda eyes or smeared lipstick. Who can be bothered touching up makeup during the day? Putting it on once in the morning is effort enough.

Anyway, while I was checking out the bits and pieces at the Benefit shop, I decided to try their eye makeup primer, Stay don't stray. I always thought primers were kind of stupid...why put on layers before you put the makeup on? It just seemed a bit Emperor's new clothes for my liking. But the promise of eye makeup staying where I put it was quite the lure.

For my first two days back at work this week, I used the primer, some eye shadow and They're real mascara (which is also new, and which I also love). I can happily report that by the time I came home in the evening, the eye makeup was all still where I had left it, nary a panda eye in sight. And I kind of had fun looking a bit more put together on my way to work, rather than the wet-haired, pale-faced and half-asleep look I normally rock.

Actually, the first day of 'work', I had gotten ready verrrrry slowly and reluctantly, got stuck in horrible traffic and, still a bit jetlagged, started falling asleep. I was running so late, but had to pull over in a Maccas parking lot, where I nodded off for a few minutes. I rang my boss to apologise and say I was on my way, only to be told I was still supposed to be on holidays - in my infinite wisdom I had planned for a rest day after travelling, but hadn't actually remembered that I had done so. Duh.

So I happily trundled back home, and as soon as my head hit the pillow I was asleep. What a great day! And, to get back to the point of the post, even after sleeping five hours my makeup was still on and not smeary at all. Win! Maybe there's something in primers after all...

Final note: you can buy direct from the Benefit website - Stay don't stray is $19 cheaper in the US than in Australia. Almost half the price. That's ridiculous. But also, yay for the internet!