Monthly Archives: February 2011

Listen

Sam and Emma, Newport Beach.

Over the last three weeks I’ve taken Sam to hospital seven times.

“This is crazy,” Sam said, as we sat yet again in peak hour traffic. “Three hours in the car for three minutes with the doctor. I’m over it.”

I’m over it too.

In January it felt like we had seen a change. Things were beginning to look easier; life seemed to be returning to normal and for the first time in two years, we made grand plans. My life was back in order; I was exercising each day, re-enrolling at uni and preparing for school. Sam had managed to get back into part time work and she too enrolled for uni full-time.

Then out of the blue came the chest pains that took us to emergency and now we have a string of appointments for lung scans, breathing tests and the thoracic professor. In addition to this, Sam’s left toenail became ingrown again and infected. The lovely oncologist who treats her for this tried all that he could to resolve the problem, prodding and probing her with needles in his private rooms; but resolve it he did not, so this week we found ourselves queuing up, gowning up and preparing for day surgery.

Add to this the reason we attend hospital in the first place, which is to see the haemotologist to:
• make sure that her bloods are okay and there are no signs of leukaemia;
• see that her major organs are functioning as a result of the bone marrow transplant; and
• try to provide her body with the supplements she needs to survive either via infusions or oral medications,
and life begins to feel a little overwhelming.

In the New Living Translation Bible it says, “Son of man, you live among rebels who have eyes but refuse to see. They have ears but refuse to hear. For they are a rebellious people.” (Ezekiel 12:2)

As I look at my situation with my daughter, I know one truth that above all things: God is good. So if God is so good why does he allow so many bad things to happen? I watch the world news, I see the physical changes in my daughter, I cry with friends whose kids are suffering too and I try to make sense of it all. Life is hard, but God is good and what does He want me to see?

Again the Bible says, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

I am a girl of simple faith, so I ask God to speak to me in simple ways. I ask Him to forgive me if my heart is rebellious. I ask Him to help me to see what it is that I cannot see and to know the things that I do not know. I don’t want us to be like the people in Hosea 4:6 who perish due to a lack of knowledge.

I worry about this sometimes. I worry that there is so much that I don’t know. I am terrified that I will miss some important truth or lose a file, or a phone number or some important piece of information. Sometimes I feel like Lumiere from “Beauty and the Beast” and all the plates are spinning; but God is faithful, He works with who I am. He teaches me how to hear and how to see. He speaks in the language I understand.

It’s a combination of small things this week that linked together to form the information I need right now. If I watch and listen, He is showing and telling. Sometimes I need to adjust my activity so that I am not too busy to notice; but sometimes I just need to pay attention because He is in what I am doing as well.

Last Sunday I went to swim laps and for the first time ever I removed my wedding and engagement ring. As I did this I was subconsciously aware that it was unusual, but it was not until I returned from my swim that I noticed my diamond was gone. After a little search (and a keen eye – my diamond is miniscule) I found it on the dresser. In the silence I realised I had been prompted by God to remove my rings, which are precious to me and therefore important to Him. I sensed Him saying that He will show me all that I need to know.

Sometimes we need to see things with new eyes. In a reading I was doing for university, I came across this great story of a little girl who told her mum that she knew that four times four was sixteen. She went with her mother into her room to show her how she had made this discovery by counting the holes on the blinds where the cords passed through. The mother was confused because though there were holes in the blind, they were arranged in groups of two rather than groups of four. So she asked her daughter about this and the little girl went on to explain “that it worked when you went ‘cross-eyed’, then the twos became fours.”

No wonder God tells us to come as children. Only a child would stare long enough at a situation to discover a truth by going cross-eyed. As adults we are always rushing from one thing to the next, ticking off boxes and getting things done. Yet God has things to teach us if only we will persevere and stare at the situation long enough to see all that He wants us to see, to lean in long enough to hear what he wants us to hear. When we focus, when we look at things from every angle, the possibilities are multiplied.

It often seems like our situations in life are too overwhelming to deal with. We feel confined, caged in and confused. Yet standing there in the middle of it all is our teacher, just waiting for us to stop and to listen to what comes next. It’s like that in my classroom at the outset of every year. There are all these little people, lots of noise and activity. I am tempted to raise my voice when I need to get the kids’ attention; sometimes they will stop if I ring a bell, clap my hands or sing, but when we are all on the floor for mat time the thing that works best is for me to whisper or to be completely silent. Eventually every child stops, looks around and seeks my face. I smile. I say, “thank you, I was waiting for you.” I tell them what comes next, how we will do it and what they should do if it gets too hard.

How thankful I am that in this season of confusion I have a teacher walking alongside me every moment, who cares enough about the small things in my world to teach me what is next.

Tell me, when has He surprised you with the whisper of His voice?

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Wordless Wednesday

In January I posted about getting ‘sorted’ I took some photos of the finished results and after reading the comments after Sunday’s post I thought I would show off my tidy kitchen here.

It seems I am not the only person who uses January to sort out there life. I loved this entertaining post on Allison Tait’s Blog in January.

Tell me, do you have any tips to getting sorted? I am always open to new ideas and interested in other people’s stories.

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Collecting Things

I’m reading ‘Water for Elephants’ by Sara Gruen. As the back of the book says, it’s the story of Jacob Jankowski who “recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, swindlers and misfits in a second-rate circus struggling to survive.”
Sometimes the circumstances that we find ourselves in are less than predictable. The other night I read this paragraph before falling asleep:

“Listen,” he says. “I ain’t trying to know your business but I do know you ain’t been on the road long. You are too clean, your clothes are too good and you don’t own a possession in the world. You collect things on the road – maybe not nice things, but you collect them all the same.”

I woke the next day with it fresh on my mind and began to journal about all the stuff I carry. Not just physical stuff but ‘thought’ stuff really, the stuff that weighs me down, the things I fear, the uncertainty of it all. Mostly I am not sure how we got here nor how we managed to stay here for so long. Sometimes I feel like I got on the wrong train like Jacob did, I look around me and I don’t see how we belong.

The emergency department at St Vincent’s hospital is not unlike sideshow alley at the circus. The nurses at the window, the ones who decide how important it is that you be admitted and when, are tough. They have to be. Every drug addict and homeless person has been knocking on the glass all night asking for sandwiches, coffee and coins. They are making up ailments so that they can be seen. Sam and I sit amongst them, saddened by their stories and dig deep in our handbags for change.

These days I pack light. For years I carried around a massive big handbag full of things I ‘might need’. Spending a year in hospital with Sam changed that. She taught me how to carry the essentials, to pack light and to have a spot in my bag for each thing. That year in hospital I nearly drove my daughter mad. My phone would ring and I would forget which pocket it was in, I would lose my keys and could never find a pen to write down all the things the doctors were telling me. She re-educated me about the benefits of order. She has been teaching me this since the day she was born.

Sam and I made our way across town to St Vincent’s late afternoon twice this last week. We tried to make conversation in the car but the main thing on our minds was what to do with all the new complications. In an attempt to be light I told Sam funny things about the kids; things they have drawn and cute things they did for news. We laughed out loud together over the anecdotes. We both love children and teaching and watching them grow.

In school this week we introduced news for the first time. The syllabus categorises it as ‘Talking and Listening’ (those of us who are older may know it as ‘Show and Tell’) but the kids normally just call it ‘News’ or ‘Telling News’ if they didn’t bring something to show. I love when the kids tell their news, all their quirky personality traits (and some of their parents’) creep out in this two minute session of weekly fame.

When I announced it was news time, one little girl sprung to her feet with boundless enthusiasm. “I’ve got good news,” she announced and raced out the door to get it from her bag. “I like that,” I told her when she returned and at that moment I decided that from now on we are calling news time – ‘Good News.’ In her hands she had a little book she had made from the cardboard that came with the new curtains. She told the kids this in response to the question “How did you make it?” I love the creativity of children, their ability to find inspiration in the simplest of things. As she turned the pages she treated us to the story of her life.

It was jam-packed full of the coolest things. My favourite page of all was the street where she lives. She pointed to her house in the cul-de-sac that was drawn from aerial view and therefore all the houses on the lower side of the street were drawn upside down. How clever is the perspective of childhood! I smiled at her detailed drawing and thought about how my house feels upside down these days too.

Then I started to wonder whether God allows our worlds to be held upside down so that everything is tipped out and emptied. Maybe he wants us to examine what we are carrying with us and how much of it is necessary for our life. Even though the bag I carry now is small I am still myself and the order of things may never be quite like Sam’s bag. Mostly it’s in order. The outside pocket holds my phone, the medical bills I need to claim sit in the one at the back (should probably claim them) with my lipstick and in the centre is one space for my kindle, my wallet and my keys.

As I watched the homeless man go from patient to patient, from window to window, I remembered I had some change in a ‘tooth envelope’ (this is another story) and it probably was at the bottom of my bag. I whispered this to Sam and asked permission to load the contents of my bag on her lap. Sure enough I had 70 cents I had forgotten about down at the bottom, hidden under everything. I caught the eye of the homeless man and called him over. “Look what I found, its only 70 cents but its yours if it’s helpful.” He grinned at the money as he poured it from the envelope into his hand telling me he could get some more off the doctor, enough for chips from the vending machine, and he scuttled off.

Maybe this is what God is doing with our lives as well. He tips everything out, he gets us to pay attention to what is going on around us and as we seek Him he shows us small treasures we forgot that we had, little discoveries that may be useful for someone else’s day. Perhaps when we offer our lives, as a living sacrifice, He listens and begins to unpackage us so that all that is left is our desire for Him. I can imagine Him taking out all the contents, moving things aside and sorting things out.

We headed back to hospital for this very reason: to sort things out. I wanted to get answers to questions and to work out what to do next. Sometimes the only answer is to wait and see, or to have more scans and tests. This was the outcome on both days this week and now there are so many more tests we need to have done. Sam needs a lung scan, a detailed one that analyses her breathing; she needs to see the oncologist who normally removes tumours to look at her toe; and she needs more blood tests to discover what is happening with the levels in her liver. Sometimes feels like this might never end.

It’s tiring going through the process but so much of life is about getting things straight and in order. Along the way you create better systems so that the next time a problem does arise you have a better way of dealing with it and maybe somehow through it all your capacity to carry things expands. This week however I am thinking that God doesn’t want us to go out and get a bigger bag for all the stuff we carry with us. Maybe we’ve collected things ‘on the road’ that aren’t ours to collect. Instead of trying to be brave, to expand and carry more stuff I am seeking God for the things he wants me to let go of, the stuff that is buried at the bottom of my bag that I don’t really need.

What about you? Are you lugging around stuff that you don’t need to carry? What’s in your bag? You may enjoy this lovely post I read on another blog.

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resilience

“Those who can see beyond the horizon and do not stay in the valley and play the victim are those who not only are resilient but also who open the door to other possibilities and sometimes great opportunities.” Shambaugh

Last Sunday night, I started reading Rebecca Shambaugh’s book “Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton” and was hooked straight away. Shambaugh writes, “Hillary provides us with examples of several unique attributes that are required of leaders at any level … such as being a continuous learner, being resilient and being adaptively authentic.” Somehow that word resilience jumped off the page and accompanied me like a dog on a lead all week long. I’ve been asking myself what it means; how do you develop it in yourself; how do you develop it in children; and why is it necessary?

I’m always inspired by other people’s stories, especially people who rise up in the face of adversity. I love the fictional Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind.” Do you remember this famous scene? My husband and I love Scarlett’s character so much we came very close to calling our first daughter Scarlett but you can’t have Scarlett Froggatt can you!

I have real live friends who inspire in the same way. On Monday evening, I was privileged to watch Australian Story with my friend Maggie Mackellar. Her courage and resilience is awe-inspiring. You can read her book or her blog.
She is warm, generous and delightful as you can see in this post she wrote for me last year.

On Tuesday, the dog was back pulling on that lead. I watched the kindergarten children at my door. Some lined up confidently, while others held onto their mothers, screaming for dear life. I took the criers’ hands and told their mums to go. With my knee I pushed open the door for the rest of the children to skip inside, put their hats in their trays and meet me on the floor. All the while I was remembering when my children were small and the agony of letting go. Our Sam was the clingiest of all. She would wrap her whole body around mine and her fingers around my hair so that it was almost impossible to separate us. When we finally unravelled her and the teacher would take her, Sam would have one last desperate lunge toward me and I ran. For the first few weeks of kindergarten this experience tore at my heartstrings. I would return to my car, put my head in my hands and bawl.

Raising my children these past twenty three years has been a series of letting go and holding on. Ed Young, author of “Kid CEO”, defines parenting as “the process of teaching and training your children to leave.” It sounds harsh, but what I really think he is talking about is building resilience so that your children are strong when adversity comes. Adversity does come.

On Wednesday I came home from work to Sam complaining of chest pain. I tried not to react (tug of the dog on that lead and my desire to be resilient), I tried to consider all the possibilities, but when the pain was still there at 6pm on Thursday night I took her to the medical centre and the doctor sent us straight to emergency. By midnight, after many scans and tests they ruled out blood clots in her heart and sent us home. We were delighted to sleep in our own beds but I wasn’t convinced that we’d found the solution. Leukaemia has taught me not to take risks with health issues and even though Sam said the pain seemed to be a lot less, I wasn’t sufficiently satisfied to ignore it. On Friday I rang the haemotologist. He agreed it was necessary to bring her in for CT scans to see if Sam had GVHD in her lungs. Again we spent the afternoon waiting and late afternoon the scans revealed that it was not GVHD, but that there was a hole in Sam’s oesophagus and air bubbles had escaped from her lungs.

We were sent to emergency to be admitted. Entering the empty room together for Sam to change into her gown was a surreal moment. It felt like January 2009 all over again. “Hey Sam,” I said, “let’s just pray.” We held each other close and the tears rolled down, intermingling on each other’s cheeks, and peace came. Peace in the form of a solid gel enclosed in the shell of a
pod-like cocoon and we were in the centre. I felt Jesus holding us in the palms of his hands. It was tangible.

Then the rush began. They inserted a canula into her hand, took blood, hooked her up to IV fluids and prepared her for an ECG. The doctors told us she would be fed through IV until they were certain that they had been successful in closing the hole. There was danger that any food or water could pass through the hole and cause a severe infection in her lungs. Five doctors gathered around the desk outside where Sam lay, discussing the prognosis. This, we were told, happens to one in 33 000 people and had nothing to do with Leukaemia or the bone marrow transplant; yet in spite of this and the fact that she’s been a patient at St Vincent’s for over 18 months. Sam had to go through the entire history of her treatment.

The lung specialist arrived at the same time as the orderly. The orderly was there to take her for another CT scan with dye, but the lung doctor told him to come back later. He sat by her bed, tenderly taking her hands. For what seemed like an hour they spoke. He examined her, our haemotologist arrived at the end of his shift to check in on us and see if we were okay. He shook his head and told the lung specialist about Sam, about the bizarre complications since her transplant and for a moment we felt like family. So much of our daughter’s life has depended on this man.

I cannot describe the peace in the room and even the laughter. Yet this was serious. I reflected for a moment and thought to myself, We are becoming strong; we are gaining resilience; somehow we are going to be okay. Then I heard the doctor say, “So I’m going to send you home but I want to see you on Wednesday and you can call me anytime on the weekend if the symptoms get worse. We are going to let the hole heal itself.”

As I write this I am still slightly in shock. I don’t understand any of this. I don’t feel particularly strong or invincible, but I cannot deny that we were surrounded by hope those two days this week in the hospital. Hope, accompanied by grace and maybe patience, is doing its perfect work like it says in James 1:4. Sam is here with me as I type. She is updating her website. She has a pounding, infected ingrown toenail but her breathing is good and the chest pain is gone.

If you want to take the resilience test you can look here. As for me, I think I am still a work in progress but I serve a very big, capable God.

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Decisions

“You cannot make progress without making decisions” – Jim Rohn

Just as January is all about plans and goals, February is about making decisions. Decisions are the catalyst that moves us forward. We can ponder thoughts for hours, we can discuss them with friends, review our options and seek out opinions but in the end the decision is up to us. Sometimes decisions terrify me, but once they are made I am empowered by them.

Last month I bumped myself from swimming 1km in the pool up to 1.5km. It may seem like a small step, but for me it is big. I find swimming hard. Each time I lower my body into the pool, I take a deep breath and tell myself I love it. I look to the other end. I see the waves crashing against the rocks in the distance. I see the sunbathers along the wooden deck on one side and the old codger beside me swimming with slow determination like he has done it all his life. I think to myself, “I have options, I don’t have to do this.” Then without another thought, I kick off.

I am not elegant in the pool. At least I do not imagine that I am. My left foot is all silly from the car accident of ‘96 and it follows me limply, threatening to cramp. I suck in water, I splutter, I remind myself not to try to breath under water. You would think I would know this by now! After four laps I want to get out and my brain is telling me all the reasons I should:

“It’s been a long day.”
“You work so hard.”
“You should be cooking dinner now.”

Any line that will convince me that it is okay to get out.

So lately I have developed a plan to trick myself. I tell myself I can get out after ten laps and then when I get there I say it again. After twenty laps I tell myself it was easy and I should try for another ten, that I will feel like a true champion and will see that it was easy! Of course none of it is easy, but that sense of accomplishment when I finish is great. There is nothing like the feeling when I scoop out those little yellow foam things from my ears and the sounds of the sea are again audible; then peeling off my cap that is tight around my throbbing brain and diving under the water. Every hair follicle thanks me for releasing it and I dive, pretending I am Ariel and that my hair is glistening in the slow setting sun. As I walk to the car I feel sanctimonious. There is something incredible about breaking through a barrier.

All around us there are circumstances that limit us. It can be as simple as the thoughts in our head, or the way we see ourselves, or a past experience that tells us we will never amount to more than this. The truth is, I think, that on the journey through life there are roadblocks, things we must experience to get us to the next stage with compassion, grace and wisdom for what comes next. Our struggles, our trials and our greatest grief often are the things that position us best. I thought about this today when I read Anna Bligh’s story in the Herald Sun.

It’s easy to settle for the place we are in, to accept the boundaries, to shrink back from dreaming that there could be more. Yesterday my husband and I went down to the surf to cool down. He is an incredible swimmer and surfer, having grown up on the beach, having lived here all his life. He crashes through the surf with great confidence, ducking and diving his way out the back. I find myself stuck in one place, getting pummelled by the white wash and holding onto my bikini top for dear life. Any minute now someone will say, “Hello Mrs Froggatt!”. Trust me – it happens all the time when my dignity has been dumped by a wave.
I told myself I was happy to be cool and wet, but really I wanted to be out the back, chatting with my husband, bobbing up and down.

I think this is my problem in life – I tell myself I am happy way too easily while inside my head I have grandiose plans. I shelve those plans, I push them aside and I settle but sometimes the monster raises his head: the hateful, jealous monster that craves for something else. Do you have one of those? He turns up dressed all ugly, every now and then, wanting to be fed.

What do you do with that guy? With that inner voice that tells you there could be more? Do you walk away? Do you show him your hand, like the face isn’t listening? Or do you listen? Is he really so ugly, or is it your fear hiding in shadows and sillouettes, telling you that it can’t happen for you? Are you being limited by the voice, and past experience, and a series of bad luck?

Sometimes you have had a little taste of the thing he is showing you might be possible. Like mastering the first ten laps, or getting back up after being dumped by a wave, or marking time before the marching band starts playing. But in your head, the 1.5km is not for you and neither is ‘out the back.’ But then you realise you are there, standing in the water, wishing it was possible.

When I was a schoolgirl, every year we had a tradition of marching before the Athletics Carnival. For weeks we gathered in our house groups, giving up recess and lunch to train. I remember the boredom of it all, the repetitions to get the counting right, and the precision it required for all of Kent House to take off on the right foot. I remember with clarity the tediousness of marking time.

From ground level, marching seems fairly pointless; but come Athletics Carnival day, suddenly it was worth it because the prizes were given out. High up in the bleachers there were adjudicators watching us, analysing our formations from an almost aerial view. This was the day when it began to make sense, when the preparation paid off and ribbons were handed out.

Maybe in the season you are in, you are confused by the motionless, monotony of marking time; but just around the corner the rhythm of your steps and the connections of your community may be about to form a spectacular display. What are you doing today that is getting you ready for the dreams of tomorrow?

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Wordless Wednesday

In November last year I decided to write the first draft of my memoir. I discovered that if I could churn out 50 000 words I would qualify for ‘nanowrimo’. So in the middle of possibly the most hectic month of the school calendar I rose every morning at 5 and wrote. I also had the privilege of escaping to this little boatshed on the lake for two weekends alone. I thought I would share with it with you here. I wrote 52000 words that are in desperate need of editing and reviewing but I am on my way to having a manuscript.

Evening - First Day

Evening - First Day

 

View from the couch

 

The turbulant sky of early morning, anticipation rumbles

Settling in to writing, as the boats sailed past

The late night ferry and the sounds of laughter across the waters - company!

A magnificent sunrise and still waters ease my soul

 

'Come away with me' - quiet time!

 

Feeling very much at home

Yacht races

I'll be back - last glance over my should as I leave for Sydney

Do you have a magical place you like to escape to?

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