Grief is like that…it surprises us

I was a blubbering wreck – which surprised me.

We were attending a funeral, and my heart ached for the family. But that did not explain my over-reaction.

As I searched in the bottom of my handbag for tissues and got Chris to find his handkerchief, I tried to figure out what the problem was. A quick run through the calendar in my head reminded me: It was the same week as the baby we had lost would have had their birthday.

I realised that my reaction was explainable, and that the emotions that were overwhelming me were really my own grief. So I was able to acknowledge that my feelings were valid, and put them on hold to deal with them later. I cleaned myself up, and at last, offered my condolences to the family.

Grief is like that.

It surprises us with emotions that seemingly bubble up out of nowhere.

Sometimes there are obvious triggers: we see something that reminds us of our loved ones; we meet someone who knew our loved one, and we race home to phone them, only to realise…they’re no longer on the other end of the phone. We watch a movie, a television programme, or even an advert, and the tears begin to roll down our cheeks – for no good reason that we can instantly identify. But if we pause for a moment to think about it, we may recognise it as grief.

But anniversaries are another matter.

Some anniversaries are obvious: Birthdays and Christmas, wedding anniversaries, and the anniversary of the death of our loved one are examples of occasions where we know we will miss our loved ones terribly. Others around us usually understand, and we are easily excused.

But other anniversaries are much more personal and private. Some we want to remember; the first time we met, the first time we held hands, the time we went on a trip somewhere special. Sometimes anniversaries are not even about grieving for a person, but an event that happened, or something we had hoped and planned for that never happened. Some other anniversaries we don’t wish to remember but still live on secretly in our hearts. 

Being aware that anniversaries that we don’t consciously think about may pop up and surprise us can help to reassure us that we are not going insane. Somehow, our subconscious is reminding us that this matters to us.

We can acknowledge our grief

We can acknowledge our grief—which is easier to do if they are pleasant memories—or we can try to lock it away. But if we continue to hide grief deeply within us it can breed like a cancer and cause us to be bitter and angry, poisoning our thoughts and attitudes on the inside even though we may smile on the outside.

Finding someone we can trust to help us acknowledge our grief is so worthwhile; a dear friend, a Pastor, Life-Line or a counsellor.  Often we anticipate that the pain of our past coming to the surface is going to be worse than hiding it away.  But instead, many people find that what before was a deep, dark, lonely secret, brings them hope, joy and healing when it is unlocked and released. It’s as though they’re able to fill a big, deep hole with all sorts of good. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have the memories anymore—it’s just that they are no longer such a burden.

Some people find it helpful to use a perpetual or birthday calendar and pencil in occasions that might be significant. This enables us not only to acknowledge our grief, but warns us—and those with whom we live—to expect turbulence. Instead of cancelling all appointments, we can look at this in the same way as the pilot of a plane navigates around and through stormy weather—being prepared for a bumpy patch and fastening seat-belts, but hopefully getting through without too many bruises.

If we care for people who are grieving,

we can take the initiative to acknowledge their grief. If we’re aware of an anniversary, we can send a card or flowers or take them out for dinner, or to a movie or something else special. On the anniversary of grandpa’s birthday, perhaps grandma would like a way to celebrate. If there’s no anniversary that we’re aware of, how about going out with them for a cuppa or a walk ‘just because’? There’s no lonelier place when you’re grieving than thinking you’re the only one in the world who is.

When we are aware that grief affects us all

in so many different and surprising ways, we can be more compassionate and understanding of people with whom we live and work. If we understand that many of the people who may shock or even disgust us are possibly dealing with a constant source of issues over which to grieve, we can grow acceptance. We can recognise that they need our love—not our judgement.

A number of years ago, our family collected all of the Christmas cards we received and placed them into a basket on our kitchen table. Every morning, we would pull out a card, pray for the sender and send them a note just to say we’d prayed for them that day. One day I received a phone-call from a dear aunt.

‘How did you know?’ she asked me.

‘Know what?’ I asked. She went on to explain that the note we had sent to her had arrived on the anniversary of her husband’s death and how precious the note was to her. We put that one down to being a God-incidence.

Anniversaries and memories are significant parts of our lives. They remind us of all the people and events which have made us who we are. How we deal with them will influence who we are to become.

*Published as ‘When the storms strike’ in The Lutheran, April 2014.


To Vote or How To Vote

OH! I still don’t know who I should vote for…. One lot shares money they don’t have; the other lot gets money from selling the environment’s future; yet another lot care for the environment but don’t have the same attitudes towards the value of life and freedom of religion that I value; and my biggest fear is that this year, votes will have been paid for by someone who personally has enough to advertise for himself.

My prediction: The one who paid for votes will do very well indeed. And whichever party I vote for will lose the election. (100% success record so far!) So should I vote for the party I don’t want to win?

Actually, going on last Federal Election, I think the results were called before SA had closed polling booths – so perhaps my vote doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of things.

…So, I’m going to vote for the candidates who I know work hard in our area, and listen to their constituents. That way, they get a seat in Parliament and vote according to what they hear from us.

Just think what would happen if we ALL:
– voted for those who we know will represent us in Parliament
– and contacted them between elections.

Goodness! A democracy might actually happen.

They Need a Voice: And we do not let them vote

If they learn,

in the schools that we provide,

how the planet works

we have taught them they have a voice.


If we teach them how to manage the future,

but with our actions destroy their future home,

they have every right to a voice.


If they can see our greed

and short-term vision

destroying their world

their voices must be heard.


If we pay them a small percentage of an adult wage

to do an adult’s job

then they need a voice.


If they are paid as children

but need to pay adult-fares

and food and living expenses,

they need a voice.


If we are willing to employ our young people

to work in, manage or run our businesses,

they have earned a voice.


And when they strike

we should take notice and cheer them on

Because we want them to be responsible

And active



And to be proud of their democratic rights


But the voice we have taught them

is the one we have denied them

– because we do not let them vote.



Julie Hahn

How to prepare for Christmas, when it’s nearly here

Christmas is nearly here – and all the stuff that goes with it. If you’re like us, the tree is up, the lights are on, and what’s for dinner is being planned.

But what am I doing to prepare my heart?

It may be only a week until Christmas day, but it’s never too late to:
pick up a bible and begin to read Luke,
pray for the people you might not have had time to send cards to,
pray for the Posties,
the shop assistants,
the families of people who are working long hours right now,
Give donations to organisations who will feed and clothe families this Christmas,

pray for phone counsellors and Crisis Care
for your pastor, community leaders and their families.

And how about popping a Christmas card in the mail box of your neighbour, as a way to introduce yourself and to share Jesus love.

Too late for Christmas preparations? Never.

May the Christ of Christmas fill your hearts this week and always.

I know I was busy, but…

He came home last night, kissed me and asked me what needed to be done.

In between the fritters being fried, the vegies being nuked, the long-forgotten fish fillets being rescued from the oven, the lamenting that the other fridge was not cold and then rejoicing at finding that there were two cold bottles of ginger beer in the kitchen, we asked each other,

‘What did you do today?’

I answered first.

‘You know, I’ve been busy all day, but I can’t really tell you what I’ve done. I feel like there’s nothing to show for it – oh, except for the quilt-block on the ironing board which I sewed during my lunch break.’

He laughed. ‘You know, I feel exactly the same. I know I was busy, but feel as if I didn’t achieve anything.’

We each grabbed the plates of dinner, the drinks and cutlery, took them outside and lit the mosquito-repellant candles. We looked at our plates, said ‘Thank you God’ that the food had miraculously appeared on clean plates…

without us having achieved anything for the day.

You Are Beautiful: A Conference to Serve Women

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL: A Conference to Serve Women

‘Think about when you go to events at church, on camps, to parties, to weddings…’ I said to my hesitant son.

 “Have you ever stopped to think about the women who are unseen, working in the background—and yes, some are very happy to be there—who make sure there is enough food, and clean plates, and clean toilets for you and your friends to have a good time? Do you see that this is an opportunity for you to serve them for a change, to say thank you and let them know they are appreciated? Please pray about it.’

That’s how several conversations went in our house a few months ago. But in our congregation the conversation went slightly differently.

What we’re looking for is an invisible army.

‘What we’re looking for is an invisible army. We want to give our faithful servants a day off – a day for each of our women to be able to sit and hear the message ‘You Are Beautiful’.

So, on July 1st, 2017, an ‘almost-invisible’ army of twenty blokes aged 8 to 80 served 140 women aged 12 to at least 88 (but who’s asking) at our ‘You Are Beautiful’ Conference for Women. Women came from all over South Australia, from Lutheran churches, local non-Lutheran churches, and some from no church at all.

Initiated by a group of women who attended the SA/NT Lutheran Women’s Retreat in Alice Springs in June 2016, the conference featured author, life-coach and speaker Peta Soorkia, of ‘Empowering You.’ Her engaging and entertaining talks inspired each of us to see the beauty that God has placed inside each of us. She coached us through God-moments – that is, taking moments during the day to meditate on God’s word. And she reminded us of God’s vision of us. 

In the evening, she called on her fashion design background to help us look at enhancing our own attributes to help us let our inner beauty from the inside shine on the outside. Our ‘models’ made the evening memorable – and convinced us that not everyone who appears shy is always shy.

It was anything but a ‘Guild Convention

But the day wasn’t just about the speaker. And it was anything but a ‘Guild Convention’. It was a very special event to be part of, from concept through planning, production and participation. 

When the women arrived in the morning, they were greeted with a foyer full of barista-made coffee, tea or hot chocolate alongside tables of home-made biscuits, or fruit for the health-conscious. Seminars by Peta during the day were followed by lunch from the Two Wells Bakery  and an afternoon of relaxation, socialising, being pampered with manicures or facials or hand-massages, doing handicrafts or sitting outside soaking up the rare Salisbury-winter sun.

A light but delicious meal in the evening provided by a local food-cart ‘Bohemian Barbecue’ took our day event through to our fun-filled evening event.

And what made it so special? 

It grew out of prayer. Prayer – when the women from our church were asked about having a speaker. Prayer – when the people who usually run things all booked to be away, so we needed a new team. Prayer – when we needed skills that none of us had ever had the opportunity to use in this context before. Prayer – when we needed a particular skill-set and had no idea where to look. Prayer – when we recognised that our retired caterers would be sitting in the pews and we’d promised them the day off. Prayer – when the invisible army of volunteers were slow to put their arms up. Prayer – that we would cover costs. 

And what did we learn?

We learnt that women need to be with women: But the way we’ve been doing it in the church over the past one-hundred and seventy-five years may not be relevant to the women of 2017. 

Women who faithfully attend worship for years have gifts to share – but we need to give them opportunities to find them.

Women LOVE the opportunity to simply sit and be with others. Our days together do not need to be planned to the minute – though we also learnt that something for the idle fingers to do, such as colouring, would have been appreciated.

Some women have NEVER had someone (i.e. a male) serve them. 

The older women who have been associated with ‘guild’ enjoyed not-having a business meeting. 

The younger women would have liked to have a deeper spiritual input.

That hiring caterers was a huge blessing. Resoundingly they said they were as blessed to be part of our day as we were by eating their delicious food. One of the caterer’s workers collected any left-over food to be distributed through a service to the homeless. 

That God provides what we need always on time – and never too early.

That getting advertising to congregations is really, really tricky.

That we’ve neglected Paul’s admonishment to Titus to ‘teach the older women to train the younger women’ and we need to find ways to do that better. 

That serving in a different capacity was great for our blokes, enabling them to use their untapped skills – and yes, they can serve salads at a barbecue. 

And even our once-hesitant son discovered that blessings can come from being the server instead of the served.

But most importantly…

But most importantly, we learnt that when we follow God’s direction, and we join in willingly, and even not-so-willingly, God is glorified in achieving much more than the total of our contribution. It was way beyond what any of us could have imagined, and is an occasion that participants will look back on as significant in their life.  

There have been plenty of questions about when we will do the next one, and many times we’ve been asked ‘When will you do one for the blokes?’ 

Our answer is that we are convinced that this came about because we listened to God. We followed God’s lead. Perhaps God has more where this came from. Perhaps not. Our job is to pray, listen, discern (use wisdom and scripture to tell whether it’s God’s will or our own) and to join in God’s work wherever the opportunity arises. 

Did You Do Something Wrong or Are You Living In A Forgotten World?

Have you ever wondered ‘Did I Do Something Wrong?’ or Are You Living In A Forgotten World?

Imagine discovering a wonderful place. 

At first, you were a little shy to approach it. But soon, you’d worn a track between your home and this special place. You told your friends about it, and they soon joined you – so the track grew wider.

At the other end, you and your friends met up with a bigger group of friends. They loved your company. You loved meeting up with them. There was a great deal of laughter and love shared over many cups of coffee, tea and celebratory drinks.

As your friendships grew, it made sense to travel in a vehicle together – then a bus, then a bus system. Eventually so many people were using the bus system that a train system was installed. All this new technology was great. It got you there quicker, more efficiently. There were more and more choices of times to travel. You could stand at the train station and just wait for the next train, knowing it would take you to where you wanted to go.

But one day, you stood at the train station and waited for the next train. But there was no train. You waited for the next few hours. Still, no train. You would have asked someone what had happened. But you were the only one there.

You went back there the next day. And the next. And possibly even the next. Waited all day. Still no train.

Overhead, you noticed planes flying. You hadn’t taken notice of them before. You grabbed your binoculars and looked at the tail-end of a plane ‘Faster BB’.

What is this ‘Faster BB’? you wondered.

But there was no-one to ask. Because everyone else had gone on board the plane. And somehow, you’d missed it. You didn’t even know where the terminal was. 

You ask yourself, did I do something wrong? 

Or are you living in a forgotten world?

This scenario happens every time new technology is rolled out without consultation or information in an understandable form–whenever someone is in a hurry to change something, without taking the time to think about who it will affect. 

How many people are stuck at home in Australia, unable to communicate with the outside world because their telephones have been cut off with the roll-out of the NBN? How many people are unable to access public transport because nobody’s ever asked the people who don’t use it, what is stopping them? 

How many elderly people are confused because the highways in their brain have not been considered when IT and Social media experts have had a new idea?

How many people who spent many years developing their own coping mechanisms are now considered mentally ill because they’re expected to change at the next whim of creative designers who have made their new design shinier and ‘more economical’—supposedly—to the bean counters.

Before we change for the sake of it, consider the paths–the highways–that have taken years to develop. Let’s not discard them, for in doing so, we are devaluing the lives of others, both now and their history.

And history ignored is oft repeated.

What do you get when you mix a Writer with an Auntie?

What do you get when you mix a Writer with an Auntie? Not much writing done –but lots of fun putting everything I’ve learnt into practice.

Writing has also been on hold as I’ve been working on family matters – most particularly being a very active Auntie to my two-year-old nephew. It’s so much more fun putting Child Development knowledge into action when it’s your nephew and not your own child. 

I’ve been working on getting my first book ready for publication – and have been building up my bravery muscles to approach Publisher/Agent/Editors…So many choices!

More recently I’ve been experimenting on writing Fiction and poetry, which is new to me. The few poems and fiction stories are new attempts. What I won’t be publishing anytime soon is my NaNoWriMo attempt – an attempt at writing        50 000 words in a month – all in the aim of getting disciplined writing back into my life. It is fun – but is possibly more difficult than to write stories about my children growing up and my disastrous attempts at being their mum.

Anyway, as long as you’re game to read on, you’re welcome to see my attempts.

Welcome Back!


Our Adventure as On-The-Run criminals

Before we knew it, we were heading home from our Magical Mystery 30th Anniversary Tour. Little did we know our adventure was just beginning.

Chris and I hired a campervan from in Melbourne. We brought home a van that was needed in Adelaide, but was going to cost the company much more to bring it across on the back of a truck than if a middle-aged couple drove it back and just paid for the petrol.  

All had gone pretty well. We had wandered through the Dandenongs and outer western suburbs of Melbourne before heading to stay on our friends’ farm out of Bordertown. 





A short stop at Tintinara to see the craft shop in the old railway station, and a little too long at Coonalpyn to see the silo painting meant that we were running a little behind schedule. 


When we arrived in Adelaide, Chris dropped me off at our daughter’s where we’d parked the Tarago before we left. So I drove the Tarago around to the hire-car company–which was closed. Chris followed me, filling up the campervan’s petrol tank on the way. 

Chris arrived at the hire-car company about three minutes before the time we needed to return it. Slightly flustered and with a headache that he’d kept hidden all day he said, 

‘I forgot to pay for the petrol!‘ 

I know that a loving wife should be consoling and supportive. This loving wife burst into giggles. 

I know that a loving wife should be composed in such circumstances. But our time away had been so relaxing that my mind went into story mode. I could envisage a movie about this whole experience – or at least a news report.

Today’s News

A middle-aged man of Middle-Eastern appearance has made a sneaky take-away. After filling his campervan with unleaded petrol, the man neglected to pay for it. He can be seen in this video splashing petrol, cleaning his hands, getting into the van and leaving. The van was later found parked in an unattended hire-car company but the man was nowhere to be seen.

Attendees at a church function across the road said that a man fitting that description had been seen kissing a middle-aged woman of short, solid stature before they both drove away in a silver Tarago – getaway vehicle.

By the time we returned to pay, the petrol-station attendant had already called the police. He showed Chris photos of the van, and reassured Chris that he would call the the police back–though that wasn’t very reassuring when we turned from the petrol station onto the main road and saw a police car with flashing lights heading in the direction of the petrol station.

Though we’re quite embarrassed and rather alarmed, I must admit that we were also a teensy bit excited that for a fleeting moment we experienced life as on-the-run criminals. 

Life has returned to normal . And we look forward to our next adventure–though perhaps without the criminal bit. 





Don’t worry if you’re the only one in the audience who got the joke

The audience was full of women including my mum and my piano teacher. The hall was familiar to me. With nearly ten years of daily practice under my belt, nerves were not likely to get the better of me. 

I sat at the piano and began to play. 

Footballers, tennis players, singers and other performers usually get to warm up before they start the main event. Year 12 music students, who are about to perform Chopin on a piano in the local district hall, don’t. 

I struck the first five notes. Chopin died on those keys. My fingers were used to playing that piece. They’d moved along the keys of my piano every day in the same sequence for the past two years. Yet it wasn’t my fingers that were the problem.

The piano played as if someone had stuffed it full of cotton wool. The piano had no resonance. Even though my fingers knew what to do and where to go, I relied on my ears to tell me what came next.

I heard nothing. 

My fingers faltered. 

The music stopped. 

Embarrassed, I began again. I got to the end of the first page of three that were in my head but not on paper in front of me. But no sound reverberated to remind me of what came next. I stopped. I bowed. I left the stage. 

I don’t remember what happened after that, but I’ve never forgotten the feeling of playing on a piano with no feedback. It’s much the same as playing on an electronic piano that has not been switched on. 

A brand new musical

Last night, I went to the World Premier of a brand new musical. From the moment I walked into the foyer I was transported into the 50’s.

I met my family there and we entered into the auditorium–early for a change. The theatre was decorated magnificently. While we settled in and chatted to each other and those around us, characters came and interacted with us. It was such a warm, inviting atmosphere. We could hardly wait for the beginning of the show. 

The show was great. An accomplished band, very talented performers and choreography that enabled anyone to join in the fun, told a story. Though the story lost me a little, so did ‘Cats’ which I’ve seen four times. So that doesn’t signify the level of my enjoyment. 

I can still hear the songs this morning. I can still remember the jokes. I can still remember seeing the faces of the performers as they realized that they were in front of hundreds of people and that it was a good place to be. 

But, from where I sat, it felt as though someone had stuffed the auditorium full of cotton wool. The music resonated around us but was not applauded. The performers urged the audience to join in. 

Nothing. Well, nothing until I clapped as loudly as I could, quickly joined  by my husband and then slowly joined by others spread throughout the auditorium. 

Either the jokes went over the tops of the heads of those around me or the people in the audience thought they were in church. It seemed as though the audience needed permission to enjoy themselves and give back to the performers.  

When I commented on this at the end of the show my comments were not very well received. Understandably, I guess. But having been a stage performer virtually all my life, I know how important it is to get feedback from the audience. If it’s funny, laugh. If it’s good or demonstrates effort, applaud. If you really enjoyed it, cheer. 

The Conductor handed over his baton

Twenty years ago, I went with my children and their pre-school to an orchestral performance in our then-home-town of Memphis, Tennessee. A clown wanted to be part of the show. 

The Conductor gave the clown a chance to play a violin, a cello, drums, a trumpet. None of them at all successfully. 

Then the Conductor handed over his baton. That was even worse. A very obedient orchestra played according to the whim of a very uncoordinated, out of time, clown. 

The clown looked miserable…until the Conductor told the clown that there was a place within the auditorium that the clown hadn’t yet tried. Every orchestra and every performer needs an audience. Without an audience, a performer has no purpose. 

So the clown sat with us, and we all practiced being the audience together.

Maybe that’s what the audience needed last night–Practice at being the audience at the theatre. 

Performers need feedback from the audience. It is what encourages the performer to continue, to try a little harder, to soften their pose if necessary, to know which jokes are funny, to perfect their timing. Performers need us to be brave enough to laugh, clap and cheer – even if we’re the only ones.

Don’t worry if you’re the only one who got the joke. If you laugh, you give permission to others to search harder to find the joy. If you clap when no-one else does, who cares? It encourages the performer. It’s like saying,

‘Yay! Well done! Thanks for all the work you’ve put into this!’

It’s not the last of the performances for this musical. But I really hope that  future audiences relax a little and allow themselves to become part of the performance. 

If not, perhaps the parents of those performers should quit paying for their music, singing and acting lessons, and enroll them all in tennis.