Monthly Archives: June 2010


The years teach much which the days never knew. Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are half way through another year.
The children know their numbers and most of their sounds.
We can build from here.
We can begin to add numbers
We can turn words into sentences
Some will begin to write real stories.

I like the halfway point of the Kindergarten year. The parents of the children are like friends who have partnered with me for something great, the development of their child. There is lovely trust and shared commitment. There is laughter and acknowledgement of the idiosyncrasies of their child. The intrinsic value of each child’s worth is incomprehensible. This is what I seek to discover and draw out and develop.

Jesus taught the value of a single human life through the parable of the lost sheep. He said to take care of the safety of the ninety-nine and then to look for the one. Sometimes people don’t go missing literally. Sometimes they just lose their way. Its like this with the children in my maths class, the ones who struggle the most. It’s my job to help them find meaning. I love that they are too small to feel embarrassed or self-conscious, so they freely raise their hand and say ‘I don’t get it!’ I work with them until they do. Like them, it feels like I have my hand up a lot, these days. I’m asking God the same question, I don’t get it either so I’m asking Him to help me see.

In early addition we build on the facts the children know. We have spent the year so far helping the children recognise the numerals and dot patterns to match the number words they know how to recite. We’ve done this through domino games and matching and repetition. After six months they know the basics. Its not much, we have made little progress really but the foundation is important so we do things in fairy sized steps, always going backwards to revise the initial concept before we move on.

This week, while the leadership of our nation changed hands I was teaching Number. It seems so insignificant in so many ways. The country had stopped to study the media and I sat with 20 children, a set of counters and tens frames. We start by revising. I hold up a number that they should know by now. The number four for example, drawn in a pattern they should recognise. “What is this number?” I ask them. Some of them can tell me now just by looking, others need to come close and count the individual dots. I tell them to keep the number in their heads so we can add another number. The number we add at this stage will only be a 1 or a 2. It’s called the ‘Think Big, Count Small’ strategy. You start with the biggest number first, which in this case is 4 and then you think big and you count the small number to see what number you can create when you add.

“You can do this.” I tell them.
“How many is 4 and 1?” I ask

Some children want to start counting the first dot on the 4 domino. ‘No,’ I say, ‘You know that is four, you can start from what you know and add.’ This is a hard concept for them to get. They think that counting means going back to the beginning. They stare at me wishing they didn’t have to try.

I know how they feel. I feel the same way when I am in the doctor’s office listening to yet another diagnosis. I feel like I just came to terms with Leukaemia, a Bone Marrow Transplant, thyroiditis and toenails infected with MRSA. I don’t want to get my head around anything else going wrong, to hear that there is another hard concept to endure or to learn another strategy to deal with something that is already unbearably hard.

I try to make it concrete in the children’s minds.
‘Let’s try it with counters. You will see that it is easy.’
They rock and spin while they wait to be given their pieces, they complain because they wanted a different colour. I wait. I try to be patient. I model what I want them to see. I show them, as many ways as I think might be necessary for them to get it. I don’t want to send them to the table with their textbook to do it on their own, ill equipped, so they’ll fail.

I am grateful for the head nurse who first took care of us at RNSH when Sam was diagnosed with cancer. She sat with me and told me the little things. She gave me the first protocol for the first round of treatment. She told me to get leave from work for one term. She helped me enter the dates for all the chemotherapy into my diary, she explained that we would need to stop every now and again to let Sam’s blood counts recover but when they did we would continue and that we would make it. In her thick Scottish accent she told me, “you will be okay.” She gave me strength to believe that she was right. I think of her often. She knew that there would be much more for me to get my head around after that first protocol but she was wise not to tell me. You can’t do anything when you are overwhelmed.

I have discovered that when I am sinking its because I’ve got my eyes on the wrong outcome, I need to step backwards, I need to remember what I already know and give God all the bits I don’t get. Like the children I give the counters back. I put them in his hands, I pass him my ten’s frame and I ask him to help me.

“I don’t get it.” I say.

Sometimes it feels like we are back at the beginning. I feel like the children with the counters trying to make it add up. I get confused just like they do. Like the children I must think big and count small. Sometimes the two sides of the domino read 0 and 4. This baffles them the most.

I ask them, ‘What is 0 and 4?’
‘0?’ they ask back, shrugging their shoulders.

‘Think big, count small,’ I remind them, pausing each time so they can grasp what I am saying.

‘Lets turn the domino around. Let’s see what you have already got.’

‘If we think big, we see that the first number is 4.’

‘4 add 0 is 4.’

After a while, after lots of hands on experimentation, they got it. I saw the light go on behind their eyes. I gave them their textbooks and sent them to their desks, so they could record what they now knew. They may not remember next week. They may experience that overwhelming sensation that you get when you forget the strategy. I will be there to remind them, just as God was waiting in the hospital corridors later that day at St Vincent’s when we went to meet the new ear specialist so we could get another opinion.

This specialist told us Sam has a condition called ‘myringitis’ caused by the on-going infection in her ears. He told me she is losing her hearing, it’s partially gone already and it could continue to go. He tried to explain to us that the infection will be very difficult to treat but we will start again anyway and he says he is going to talk to the haematologist to discuss a biopsy on her eardrum. I take it all in and realise that it would mean another operation, another general anaesthetic but this way they could determine if the infection is caused by GVHD.

What are you supposed to do, when what is happening can’t be?

You do the only thing you know to do. Instead of hopping in the car I decide we are going to walk to ‘Ampersand’ because it’s a kind of haven. I found God there when Sam had the bone marrow transplant. It is all the things that spell comfort and home to me. It’s an old rambling building like the rectories of my childhood. The walls are lined with books, like the walls of my father’s study. I ordered rice pudding and a pot of tea for me and a hot chocolate and apple crumble for Sam.

On the nearest shelf I found ‘The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Quotations,’ and decided to buy it. Sam convinced me that I should. As I paid I engaged in conversation with the owner, I told her the rice pudding was perfect just like my dad used to make it but she should serve it with a spoonful of strawberry jam. I thanked her for her beautiful shop and told her some of our story. I felt like I had been to church, that I’d partaken in Holy Communion and I left all the bits I don’t get on the altar, placing them in the hands of the one who loves me most.

I said a prayer and remembered a conversation with the children.
‘Amen, means you are saying goodbye to God,’ one little girl told me.
‘No, you are wrong,’ said the boy besides her, ‘and even if you say goodbye, he’ll never leave anyway.’

With that I got in the car, I let Sam choose the music and we sang our way home.



Filed under Life


Look, then, into thine heart, and write! 
Yes, into Life’s deep stream! All forms of sorrow and delight,
 All solemn Voices of the Night,
 That can soothe thee, or affright, Be these henceforth thy theme.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,1893)

Had I not returned to my writing three weeks before Sam was diagnosed with ALL Leukaemia, I am not sure that I would have survived. I’ve kept a journal for most of my life but hadn’t written for a while when the urge to do so returned on the 9th of January 2009. Even now it is my writing that seems to save me. I write for myself and receive great encouragement when I learn that somehow my writing has been of some help to others.

There are many roads on the journey of life, some are highways and others are backstreets and lanes. They may be curbed, guttered, marked with lines or dusty country roads complete with potholes. We are all going somewhere, though at times it seems, we do not know where. It’s in these times we need each other’s stories most. We look for the parts of the roadway that are familiar and the stories that are shared give us glimpses of what others have gone through, they ease the loneliness and confirm that we have not gone completely mad.

I take Longfellow’s advice and notice that each week, if I look into my heart, there is an underlying message in ‘Life’s deep stream.’ Surely this is the river of ‘Living Water,’ the refreshing of His Holy Spirit, the voice He promised would come so that we might never be alone. The Message Bible puts it this way If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” (Proverbs 29:18)

I can’t always see what God is doing. Sometimes I look at my life and I can only see 2 dimensions. It is flat, lifeless and all the lines are blurred. I find myself paying attention, looking at the images, trying to see. I am listening for the whisper that reveals what comes next. There are many voices but really only one voice that we should heed. Sometimes it takes fine adjustment and tuning to hear right, I try to find time to be still.

His voice is like a subliminal message that flashes before me all week long, leaving its imprint on my mind yet still I fail to notice. I am so busy doing life I don’t realize He is telling me how. He speaks to me in all the ways He knows I will hear Him. Through friends, through experiences, through His Word, through movies, through books, even through the innocence of small children but despite His efforts to gain my attention, I think prayer is an effort, something to be endured and I miss the romance He longs to have with me.

Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

There is nothing quite like His presence. It is a deep stream of refreshing, it’s a babbling brook, it’s a warm conversation, it’s light and rest, it’s comfort and peace. If we sit in His presence for long enough and allow Him to sit beside us, He changes the lens of our perception; He shows us how to see.

The children and I are working our way through ‘The Premier’s Reading Challenge.’ This is pure indulgence for me and I find myself feeling guilty for enjoying what I am doing so much. I borrow a stack of books from the school library and we take every opportunity to transition between lessons through reading our books. We read again at the end of the day. The children lean against their backpacks as if they are miniature couches, legs stretched out in front of them and under their wide brimmed hats I see the pictures that accompany my words, reflected in their eyes. Some books I just read, other we discuss at length in the middle of the day. All of them fill us with delight.

This week we are reading Anthony Browne. One of the titles, “Voices in the Park,” presents the story from four perspectives and I wonder if this story has gone completely over their heads? The first voice is that of an uptight, rich mother, the second voice is that of an unemployed dad, the third voice is the lonely son of the rich mum and the fourth voice is the joyful daughter of the unemployed dad. It’s told through the seasons, starting in autumn, through winter, spring and then summer. ‘If the kids don’t get it we’ll discuss the seasons,’ I think as I read.

One reviewer (Publishers Weekly) writes Browne again proves himself an artist of inventive voice and vision as he creates perhaps his most psychologically complex work to date via a commonplace experience, a brief sojourn to a city park… What transpires factually is simple: the two children play together, their dogs do the same, the adults keep to themselves… Browne also celebrates the redeeming power of connecting with another human being.’

Hands fly up as I close the covers. The children can’t wait to tell me their opinions and in the end they decide that the dogs at the park had the most fun, the kids had fun too once they worked out how to be friends but the adults are boring and they don’t know how to be friends. The children love the visual images and want to stand to their feet to turn back the pages, revisiting the complex changes throughout the book. We have a long conversation about the story and then I perceive that God is in the room. He is communicating with me, just as the book communicated with the children. I acknowledge that He is there but it is not time yet for our conversation. He waits at the back of the room, He takes off His hat, He looks at the paintings, His body language tells me to take my time.

We have a ritual we perform at the end of some great stories. I dim the lights, the children tiptoe to their tables, I turn on the OHP and in hushed silence we illustrate the story, paying homage to the author. I tell the children that in art you can show perspective by making the things that are closest to you bigger and the things in the distance smaller. “That’s beautiful!” the children chorus, “You are an artist!”

“Why, thankyou!” I say, knowing I have trained them well in the use of encouraging words.

Even I am pleased with my texta drawing, it has a third dimension. It lifts off the board, it focuses the eye into the distance to the young friends and though it is the smallest part of the picture as you pass through the trees, its where you are centred and somehow you feel secure.

“Again I tell you, if two of you on earth agree (harmonize together, make a symphony together) about whatever [anything and everything] they may ask, it will come to pass and be done for them by My Father in heaven.

For wherever two or three are gathered (drawn together as My followers) in (into) My name, there I AM in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)

There it is, the voice, His voice! I look up from my drawing. He tips His hat and is gone. Yet He knows I have heard Him. I have everything I need to get through this. Even though, like the adults in the story, I am quite bored with my life, tired of the unrelenting nature of illness, the demands that it places on my time, I am grateful to God for the children. I am thankful that they see what adults don’t see! Children know how to press through the barriers of social hierarchy to discover that we really all are the same; we really all need to just get out and play.

The brief sojourn in the city park is much like the long journey through cancer. In the hospital ward there are no distinctions, no class structure, no preference for person, or rank. When we are stripped of everything we discover that we are all just people who need help, love and friendship. You find people who get this, to link hands with and suddenly life isn’t completely fuzzy anymore. Though you can barely make out the picture of what your life will be in the future, you have more clarity for today. It soothes you, just as Longfellow said it would and you are glad you took the time to write, to listen, to see.

Prayer Requests

Dr Moore is back from Europe and I am very relieved! The mouth swab taken by the registrar shows no evidence of GVHD of the mouth. He is glad that we kept the prednisone at 3 MG however the ear swab is still showing staf infection, he (like me) is keen for another opinion and is urgently making appointments for Sam to see an ear specialist at St Vincents. This infection has gone on for 3 months and untreated could render Sam deaf. Please pray for her protection and for everything to be well with her hearing. More prayer requests on


Filed under Life

Fourth Dimension

An ocean runs through me

I feel its current in the undertow

It pulls me to my core.

It laps about my soul.

My soul is an island a long way from the shore.

It’s high tide and I’m covered by the waves of grief.

There is no sand to walk on.

I’m in so deep, as the water continues to rise, threatening to swallow all that is left.

There are days, sometimes just moments, when I can’t take it.

Then when I think I’m going under for the last time

The water retreats again.

I am safe.

Just the evidence of its visit remains.

It leaves its calling card.

Wiggly lines of broken shells, broken glass, the things the sea rejected

Amongst the driftwood, amongst the bluebottles, amongst the sea weed

I find myself looking far off into the distance, remembering my life.

I’m stuck in a chapter of the book I’ve just read. I keep going back to its pages to read it again and again. I’m trying to make sense of the process of thinking. I’m trying to make sense of my brain. I tell myself to let go of it. Enjoy life. Laugh.

I close the book. I leave it on the bottom of the pile beside my bed, the pile that I am working my way through.  I read poetry instead and children’s literature.

I make a decision to leave my questions about my brain alone. I am good at decision-making. I am good at following things through. I am always assessing and re-assessing. Indicators and outcomes, remediation and differentiation, it is what teachers do. Try as I might I cannot separate myself from this role that I play, this job that I do. I am a teacher and I apply the same methods to the way I live my life. I register what I have done, I sign my name by the date and I carry forward what there was no time for. I get things done.

When I sit with the children I enjoy the connection, I listen, I lean in. I am interested in every word they say. Children are tremendously interesting and funny. I enjoy their perspective. It is light and fresh but deeply insightful. Its like they have just been with God and they understand Him.

One child told me she heard God’s voice for the first time last night.

‘Was it quiet,’ I asked her, ‘like softly in your heart?’

‘No,’ she says, ‘it was so loud it made me jump and pull the blankets over my head.’

‘So, was it scary?’

‘Just a bit, at first because I didn’t know it was God.’

‘Then how did you know?’

‘Because then it spoke again and I looked on the floor where the pile of my clothes looked like monsters before and suddenly they just looked like clothes.’

‘Then what did you do?’ I asked

‘Went to sleep of course.’ she laughed back at me, like my question was ridiculous.

I have so many questions I want to ask God. I wish I’d been in her bedroom so that I could ask my questions while she slept.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7,8

I know He talks to me too but perhaps I have too many questions? I ask Him about this and I feel His playful nudge on my arm. He is taunting me, playing with me but I sense that I should keep asking and I do.

‘Watch,’ He says as he sits on the couch perpendicular to the one I’m on. He leans back, lifting both His hands above Him, cupping them together then easing them down to rest behind His head. I see Him lift one leg so that the side of His ankle rests above the knee of His other leg and He watches something on the wall opposite me. Something I can’t see.

‘What?’ I ask.

‘Just keep watching!’

There are so many things I have no idea about. Sam keeps complaining of symptoms and I don’t know what they mean. I am diligent. I take her for appointments. I ask the doctors questions. Sometimes I have to remind them of our case, get them to go over her notes, tell them what they said last time, remind them what drugs she is on. Sometimes I feel like my brain does not have the capacity to contain all this information and when it fails me I check with Sam. ‘Am I right?’ I ask her and she remembers a little detail I have left out.

In most weeks we see more than just one type of doctor. We see the GP, the ear specialist, the endocrinologist, the Haemotology specialist, the Haemotology registrar and lately the physiotherapist as well. They are the experts. I am just a mum who teaches kindergarten but my capacity is being enlarged. This last week Sam had symptoms that concerned me. Very sore eyes and a very sore mouth, this on top of all the other things she was already dealing with.

When she told the registrar about these things he tells us we need to take Sam’s prednisone back up to 25MG because she seems to have chronic GVHD. So I sit there and my heart plunges back into the undertow of the ocean. His words make me silent until I look in her eyes. They glaze over with tears and her lips begin to quiver. They quiver like they used to when she was a baby, only in public she manages to not allow her bottom lip drop nor does she become overwhelmed with crying. Her look says ‘rescue me’ all the same. As the doctor leaves for a device to swab her tongue we discuss this together and when he returns I ask about the risks if we don’t do what he says. I suggest that maybe he is wrong and its not GVHD and perhaps its something else, something minor.

I feel like a mad woman gambling with my daughter’s health. Half of me thinks I should do what he says, the other half doesn’t think he’s right. Either way it’s a risk and GVHD out of control is not a chance we want to take. The doctor then informs me that he will prescribe dexamethozone. I can crush the tablets, dissolve them in water and she can use it as a mouthwash, that if symptoms change by the slightest degree I must call him. I must increase the prednisone from 3MG to 25MG.

The whole next day I feel like jelly in my legs. I miss a call from the hospital as I drive to school, I cannot get onto the doctor, even as the bell rings for the children to come into class I am holding the line praying he will answer his pager. I wait until recess, I call again, I am wondering what they have discovered in the blood tests, my heart pounds and finally he comes to the phone. Her liver is good, the bloods are good but the GVHD of the mouth and eyes will be symptomatic not evidenced in the blood tests. So I call home. ‘Just a little bit sore still,’ Sam tells me. I don’t know what to do. I look up, I remember God on the couch. I know He is watching, I am not completely sure but I think He is watching my daughter and I. I think it will be okay.

On Friday morning for news one of my children brings the upper part of a plastic human skeleton, head, neck and ribs. He tells us he is collecting all the parts but the best bit of all is the brain. He lifts off the outer layer of the skull and instructs all the children to sit in a circle so they can pass around the brain. The brain can be separated so you can look at the parts; they pass them around from one child to the next. There is laughter that the children can’t hear. It’s God’s laughter.

‘You are on the right path,’ He tells me. ‘Go back to your book. Keep asking me questions.’ I look around but He’s not there. Today it’s just His voice and I don’t behold His form. Its all the assurance I need though.

But Christ (the Messiah) was faithful over His [own Father’s] house as a Son [and Master of it]. And it is we who are [now members] of this house, if we hold fast and firm to the end our joyful and exultant confidence and sense of triumph in our hope [in Christ]. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. Hebrews 3:6-8

The book I’ve been reading is ‘Into the Silent Land, Travels in Neuropsychology’ by Paul Broks. A friend recommended it, a friend who is smart. The chapter that I keep returning to is called A-Z and it talks about a trainee neurosurgeon. It says that in his brain he ‘lacked the necessary third dimension. He wasn’t able to inhabit the metropolis of the brain in the way a neurosurgeon must. Neuropsychology requires four dimensions. At least.’

And this is my question, isn’t the fourth dimension the realm where God is? And that being the case, don’t I have the best connections around for knowing all things?

So I ask and go on asking. When I feel God’s peace, when the things on the floor no longer look like monsters, I rest in Him. That’s all I need to do.


Filed under Life


For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Life is not what it used to be. I’m no longer the girl rolling the hoop down the hill. Somehow I’m not as carefree though I delight in the same activities as I once did. I still laugh in the midst of conversation and I embrace the company of friends. More often now though, when everyone has gone home, when the chairs are put up at the end of the day or when the house is empty I find myself as the silent observer, contemplating life and its complexities.

Every now and then I get to spend time with Emma. Today we shopped like two carefree, normal people, with normal lives. I bought shoes for the first time since Sam was diagnosed. Shoes are such an expression of a person. Don’t you think? They say that you are sporty, sassy, bold, daring, comfortable, sexy, sensible even frivolous. Shoes are the best indulgence, you can change who you are just as you change your shoes.

In February last year Sam and I took a detour from RNSH via David Jones on our way home. It was the first time we had been out since she was told she had Leukaemia. I had a voucher for David Jones, a gift from the class of 2008 and we spent it on shoes. Hers were black, mine were cream but both were high heeled with a t-bar and an ankle strap. Feminine shoes with a ruffle of folded leather down the centre.

“Cancer was not going to get in the way.”

That is what we thought. That was then before we knew that it would.

Cancer got in the way of everything. We moved from the pastel houses of suburbia to the castle of gloom on an isolated hill. We felt like freaks and I guess in a way we were. Only 304 Australians are diagnosed with ALL Leukaemia each year in Australia, only 40% are over 18 years of age, most of them are male. We felt like the creator had failed us somehow, that we would never survive but we were wrong about that too.

God has not failed us for a moment, His breath is constantly warm on our cheek, He caresses us, He holds us. He leads us down the dark passages where we have never been.

Spiral staircases shadow the dark corners and crevices, they are the circles in my mind, they are the questions that weave their way like a maze or labyrinth. I am buried deep in the processes of thinking and sometimes I lie awake trying to find the exit, trying to return. I feel God’s hand on my shoulder in the darkness; He needs not speak though sometimes He does. His touch is enough to remind me that He is the one who leads me down the corridors, that He is marking the path.

There are mysteries in the deep that He wants me to discover and as He guides me I seek.

“Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, fenced in and hidden, which you do not know (do not distinguish and recognize, have knowledge of and understand). “Jeremiah 33:3 (Amplified Bible)

“God pours contempt on nobles and disarms the mighty. He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light.” Job 12:21,22 (New International Version)

In Kindergarten we continue our discussion about the weather. This is more about me than it is about them. In every moment He is teaching me and I am just a vessel through which He teaches the children.

One boy greets me at the door with ice he has frozen for the experiment. He tells me this, through a toothless grin, his eyes sparkling with delight. The children pester me for their ice cube so I put off what I’d planned and put cubes of ice into plastic cups and we watch it melt. God is not in a hurry. He wants us to take notice, He wants us to be captivated and see what he sees.

“The crystal is the last thing to melt,” the children tell me. “The clear bit turns to water first, then inside the crystal part shatters and suddenly it all melts.”

“Is that really true?” I asked them. I had got bored watching and checked the diaries instead. Now I wish I had watched to see what they saw and I understand why Jesus called the little children to himself.

I pondered all these conversations at 6am in the morning, recording them in my journal. I pray that God is forming me, chipping away the chaff, molding my life. I consider the intricacy of each snow crystal, the uniqueness of their design, the detail God puts into each one. I picture the white winter wonderland, the spaces He covers in snow, the beauty of it all. I take an imaginary walk with Charlie and Lola to the South Pole and I think about the polar bear. God reassures me that I am not invisible to Him but rather camouflaged for a season, for my protection and He is making me strong, equipped for the journey, that I will return with treasures from the deep.

It was a rich conversation with Emma in the car returning from shopping. We discussed the books we’ve been reading, the lessons we’ve been learning and her gift for encouraging words made me feel like I am the most interesting person she has ever met. I think maybe once I used to take these moments for granted but now they are treasured completely. They give me strength for the next wind that will inevitably blow. I realize that even in the moments we think He is breaking us or dissolving us completely, it is then that we are fluid in His hands. Surrendering all, we let Him have His way.

When Sam joins us in the lounge room I show her my shoes and in exchange she shows me the ulcers that have formed around her tongue. Perhaps the mucostitis has returned, perhaps we need to increase the prednisone again. My heart skips a beat; there are so many questions, so much still to know, so we will go on seeking until  He completes the work He has begun.

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. Philippians 1:6 (Amplified Bible)


Filed under Life