Today’s guest is Beth. Beth and I met when she and Steve moved to Tasmania and started attending our church. And then they had to move away. And they’ve done quite a bit of moving. And we’ll talk about that today. And Beth, as you’ll hear from her accent, is from England. And they have three beautiful girls. And when I met Beth and Steve, Steve and I worked at the same university. And I’m gonna have a chat to Steve a bit later. I hope if he can fit it into his busy schedule like Beth has fitted this into to her busy schedule. But now it’s quite fun because now Beth and I are doing similar jobs. So it’s cool. It’s been good to keep in touch through all the moving and the changes and things. And again, I’m very grateful to technology for allowing us to do that. But today, I’m really happy to talk to you. Beth, so very welcome.
Hi. Thanks, Ruth.
All right. I always start at the same place. How did you become a Christian?
I became a Christian in my first year at university in Leeds. So towards the very end of my first year. So I’d grown up with very committed Christian parents. Probably like many teenagers, floundered a bit in my teens and it sort of stopped making much sense to me.
Really, it was kind of like a comforting tale, but it wasn’t really a real thing. And in the UK, possibly a bit less so now. But at the time that I went to university in the 1990s, the usual thing was you went away. It’s a bit different to Australia where people tend to live at home and go to the local uni, you normally move away. So I moved away thinking, yippee, I’m finally free of all this nonsense in the house, it would be really good to just have a normal life. I did the normal life that I was, you know, that I felt I was expected to do and that I thought would make me fulfilled and happy. And by the end towards the end of first year, I was thinking, what’s wrong with me? I don’t feel any … I feel like something’s really missing. I feel like there’s no meaning or depth to life or everything seems quite futile.
And people are just covering up with all these parties and fun events and shallow relationships and things. And it struck me that this was the first time in my life that God wasn’t there. Because I didn’t want him there. And I was no longer in a home with people who’d wanted him there regardless. And so that triggered quite a bit of searching, really made some new friends who were my age and who turned out to be Christians a bit like C.S. Lewis, saying that he found that most the people he liked best were Christians. He was very tolerant because he could tolerate these people and their eccentric beliefs.
After a while, I started realising perhaps I liked them because of their beliefs. And the way that their beliefs influenced their behaviour and their relationships and their approach to life. And we would stay up long into the night having deep, meaningful conversations.
And then, yes, I remember there was an event, there was a big Christian band was playing at the University Union. I went along with my new friends and I remember a very key moment in this particular line of a song where I really suddenly felt there was nobody there but me and God. And He was saying, do you want me or not? That’s the point when I became Christian.
Yeah. Wow, that’s fantastic. How did it change things for you then when you became a Christian?
I remember it was really vivid at the beginning. I couldn’t put the Bible down. I was finding all of this incredible meaning in it. I felt like I was seeing things with … Really it was a bit like I’d had, I don’t know if anyone else has got poor eyesight. But when you finally get a pair of glasses, that actually works. And you can see clearly. Suddenly it felt like I could see all this intricate detail in the world that I hadn’t seen before.
So, yes, it changed me a lot.
Cool. When did you meet Steve?
I met Steve a little after that.
So I started going on along to the Christian Union at Leeds and there was a point at one of these events when he gave his testimony. I think that was probably Friday or Saturday.
And then on Monday morning I was sat in these old fashioned things called computer labs that probably don’t exist anymore. I was working on an essay. And the guy next to me said, Do you mind watching my stuff? I need to just pop in the bathroom. And I looked at him and said, oh you’re Steve Micklethwaite aren’t you? And he was like, how do you know my name? And I said I heard your testimony at the Christian Union. And so we got chatting. And then the following year, I think I moved in with some … We had a lot of overlapping friendship groups. I moved in with some people that he knew. And we were just in and out of each of those homes quite a lot. So it turned into one of those things where everybody kept teasing us that it was more than friendship. And eventually they were right.
So why did you guys move out to Australia?
Well, Steve was … we got married when Steve was partway through his PhD. So we were finishing off. I was working he was finishing up his PhD.
He got to the end of his PhD and decided that he should start applying for some jobs and to get good practise he applied for lots of jobs, including one in Canberra, because you know geology is a big international field and he was just applying for the application practise. And then he happened to get that job. So we came over for, we did the classic British thing of coming to Australia for two year contract and never going home again, really. So it was two years. The initial one was for two years at the ANU in Canberra that stretched to about six years altogether. We moved to Tasmania when I was pregnant with Lily, which is when I met you, I think I remember having you to tea when I didn’t know many people at all. That was great. And then then, yeah, I had Lily and Anna in Hobart, then moved to Perth quite unexpectedly. We were there three years. We left Perth when I was pregnant with Zola, who was born in Sydney. Then we’ve been in Melbourne for the last four and a bit years and now we’re in Brisbane and hoping not to go anywhere else.
It’s huge. I’ll come back to that in a second. But I wanted to mention you’ve brought your whole family over to Australia with you, haven’t you?
Well, yeah, it was funny. My sister and her husband moved over a couple of years later. Well, they came over, had a lovely holiday and kept saying, oh, we love it. We’re going to move. And we thought that was just the kind of holiday euphoria that many people have. But they started making serious plans, so in the end they moved over maybe about five years after we did and then mum and dad had all their kids over here. So when mum retired from her job as a primary school principal, they moved over. Dad had retrained. He’d been an engineer when I was growing up, but he’d retrained as an Anglican minister. So they moved over. And there was this brief and wonderful period when they were in Tasmania, too. Before we had to leave.
Yes. Yes. Because. Yes. Even though moving to Australia is good. Australia is a very large place.
So I wanted to talk with you about all the moving that you’ve done, because I know that it’s just been such a huge amount of upheaval. And yes, some of the moves you’ve wanted to do and some of the moves you haven’t wanted to do. And I just wondered how you cope with that?
In different ways, sometimes well and sometimes badly. Most of them have been for job reasons rather than … They’ve been initiated by the job rather than by personal choice that we’d like to go. I think some of them have been deeply distressing. Some of them where I’ve felt the season was changing. And then there’s others where it’s been a real uprooting that I haven’t been ready for. And I’ve just had to trust God that he knows what he’s doing. Even though I can’t see it at the time.
I’m quite an introvert. I prefer like a gathering of people that I already know quite a deep level and feel comfortable with. Steve’s much more of an extrovert. I think in a funny way, moving around a lot has taught me how to be a little bit more of an extrovert and perhaps made him a bit more of an introvert. It’s quite funny. So I don’t think those things are like rigidly fixed. I think I think in some way the moves are a tool that God is growing me a bit in learning how to enjoy knowing a range of people. And I’m incredibly, like those people I’m incredibly grateful for, like you that I would never have met had I stayed in one place. But then I have really missed the opportunity to deepen those relationships, because inevitably when you leave, it’s harder to, you can’t maintain the same depth of connection because geography is a big factor.
The church has been a wonderful thing for us as well. I think we’ve really had a sense of God going before us and creating a place for us and a ready made family of people wherever we’ve gone. And I think that would have been I don’t think that would be the same at all, if it was say, the tennis club or something like that. I think there’s just a deeper depth of fellowship amongst Christians, and that’s probably been the only thing that’s really enabled me to cope well with this.
Have you have you found that you just, you know, very quickly found a church that you felt at home in or you had to do a bit of church shopping when you’ve gone to a new place?
In most cases, it’s been quite quick. One wonderful example probably was when we moved to Melbourne, so we had a seven week old baby and we didn’t know anybody in Melbourne, so we rang up somebody that we’d known from St Clement’s in Tassie. We rang up Mel Brown who was back in Geelong and we knew that Geelong was completely the other end of Victoria. But we said, do you know anybody over this way? And she did. She put us in touch with someone who was an assistant minister at the church that we ended up going to. And this woman, Bree, was wonderful.
She turned into our removal co-ordinator pretty much by the end of that phone call. We were coming down for a weekend. She’d arranged a family for us to stay with. She’d arranged a few lunches. She’d connected us with various families, with kids at local schools. She’d put us in touch with the real estate agent in the eight o’clock congregation. And by the time we left, I think by the time we left, we had a house, a church and various other things just in place and several people we already knew. So that was quite good.
Wow! What an amazing person!
I’ve had to work quite hard this time around not to kind of go, OK God, do that again, that was really helpful.
And God said, Beth, you’re in a different place in your life now, you have do a bit of the work yourself.
So I said that we did similar things for a job. Would you like to tell us all what you do for a job?
Yes. Well, I actually have an answer to that now that’s nice and clear. So I am a copywriter.
For years it wasn’t clear and simple. I was all sorts of different things and I was quite a generalist while Steve was very specialised. I used to be incredibly envious of people who were say, a dentist and they knew what they wanted to do and there were certain steps on the ladder to get there. And I’ve done all sorts of different things and not seen any real way that they all came together.
But while we were in Melbourne, I never enrolled at RMIT University and did my diploma in professional writing and editing. I’ve been freelancing for quite a while now.
I realised I liked the copywriting writing side of things more than the editing, which is basically the writing. It’s basically any kind of non-fiction writing. The things that you would see in blog articles or website pages or billboard ads or video scripts, that kind of thing. Mine has always been with a health aspect to it. I realised that when I look back, I’d actually worked for the UK Health Service, the UK Department of Health. I’d worked for various health related charities in Australia. So I feel like it’s although I’m not a clinician, I’ve seen the health system from several different angles, including the patient angle, because I’ve lived with chronic conditions as well. And so, yes, I enjoy writing that. I mainly now take a lot of the medical literature and put it in plain English for ordinary people who are often worried about their health and need accurate information. And I really enjoy doing that.
And as you say, having been on the receiving end of it, you can sort of say, we need to hear this. We need to hear xyz, because what was your original degree in?
My original degree was in politics with a bit of history thrown in. I wanted to be a political affairs journalist at that point in time.
But then went down a different route.
There’s always been some sort of desire to write?
Yes, I think so. I think there’s more opportunities to write now. I think with the rise of the Internet, there’s an awful lot of content that needs writing.
And the good thing for me has been you can do that from anywhere. So moving around has kind of been less significant, I’ve been able to bring the work with me.
So how does your faith show in that kind of a job?
Yeah, that’s a slightly tricky question, because I’m often not with people very much. I think I’m writing for people who are a long way at the other end of, you know, I never meet my readers, for example, I often don’t meet my clients either. So I think it has to be in other ways that aren’t necessarily faith driven. Like I’m good with deadlines, I’m reliable, I’m accurate, I’m truthful. I think I try not to buy into the advertising idea that this new product will change your life forever or bring great meaning to you. Or some of those sort of things where I think marketing is selling the whole vision of what it’s like to be a person. Whereas I’m aware that, you know, we all make choices about the things that we buy. Increasingly, people are making their choices on pretty sound ethical issues. And that works quite well for me. That fits quite well into my my own viewpoint. But no product is going to hold the meaning of life for you.
Sure, absolutely. So I guess that’s really part of what you’re doing is advertising copy. Have you ever been in a situation where you’re like, no, I can’t write that for you because I don’t believe in what you’re trying to sell?
Not yet. But I know plenty of colleagues who are. And that range is all sorts of things, depending on what they, what their issues are. People who don’t want to write for anything relating to the Melbourne Cup because they have a strong animal welfare bent. There are issues I wouldn’t want to write about or would only want to write about it in an informative way, not a recommending sort of way.
So, yes, there I am aware that there are some of those possibilities out there. And yeah, people do to some extent pick and choose what they will and won’t do. Yeah.
Yeah. Fair enough. I have interviewed another copywriter. Megan (in episode 29). And she was saying that she’s quite astonished that she can use her gifts to to help people out, even though her gift is just sort of writing an email that actually makes sense and takes her a lot less time than anybody else.
Yes. It’s always tricky, isn’t it, when things come easily to you, you don’t necessarily … I think many, many people undervalue what they can do because it comes easily to them.
Yeah. And I agree with you, too, about the Internet, I think. So I prefer we as we know the editing side of things more than the copywriting side of things. I just enjoy writing my own novels instead, but I do write my own blog posts as well. Now she says, now I come to think of it, but. Yeah, but it’s just amazing, isn’t it, that that we can do this job because of the Internet. I think about ten years ago when I had little children at home, I couldn’t do this job because it didn’t exist.
For me now, it’s a wonderfully flexible thing where I can do work that I enjoy from home in school hours and, you know, not be battling traffic and some of the wider hassles that go with and to some extent, I think I’m more productive as well. Because there’s a lot of distractions when there are other people there. And particularly with writing when you need to shut out the noise and concentrate. Yeah. I don’t know how you do the novel side. Like if I’ve got a brief I can write really well to the brief, but the blank screen, where you have to come up with the idea? I find that would be a challenge for me.
It was definitely challenging to start off with. It’s funny, once you start the ideas start coming, it’s really cool. Anyway, at the moment I’m writing about aliens in Cygnet. It’s quite fun.
Such a peaceful place.
It was. It was. So back to more sensible things. When do you feel close to God?
I was thinking about that. I thought my first answer was going to be, you know, when I’m walking on a beautiful Australian beach and the waves are lapping and all creation is in harmony around me.
And then I suddenly realised I was really struck by Psalm forty six recently. And I think I saw a poster of this years back, but it tends to be slapped on pictures of waterfalls and lovely things.
But it’s actually about total chaos and relying on God in the middle of … that that line ‘be still and know that I am God’ comes in the middle of all sorts of things going badly wrong. And I actually think for me I feel closest to God, oddly enough, when I am most stressed. When I am most aware that I’m at the edge of my own resources, that I can’t do this by myself, that whatever it may be is beyond my strength.
And that’s when I remember, that his grace is sufficient for me. His power is perfect in my weakness. You know, he’s with me. He’s reassuring me he’s gone before.
And you know that that’s often the times, whereas when things are sailing along quite smoothly and I have the illusion that I’m in control, I tend not to notice God so much.
I like that ‘the illusion that you’re in control’.
It’s a lovely vision.
Yes. I would love to live there. But praise God he doesn’t let us do that, does he?
No, no. And I think that those sort of times when I do feel overwhelmed or often when I realise that I need to spend more time in prayer or that God’s been trying to tell me something and I haven’t been listening. Or, when wonderful things happen, you know, someone will just ring and say, I was thinking of you, how are you going, or, yeah. You know, or a certain verse sticks out to you. And you just remember then that God, God is that God is watching, God’s with me.
I know I can’t do this, but God can.
As a busy mum of three girls, when do you manage to fit in reading the Bible and prayer and things like that?
Not terribly well, I think. I think I’m really good at the arrow prayers, where it’s just like ‘God help with this’.
Oh, yeah, absolutely.
And I think that, you know, I think God has, God knows what this season of life is is like. And I think the deeper prayers, that sort of time and space to really reflect on what’s being brought up in your life. I tend to be better for those when I’m doing something physical. That’s where going for a walk or often for me when I’m swimming, I’ll often just do laps at the pool and pray as I swim. For some reason I think because my body’s occupied, that seems to help my mind focus a bit. So that’s often the time when I pray.
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. It really does.
And Bible reading. I like the Psalms. I like the Bible studies that I do with with other people where I get their perspective on things as well. And then I find various apps quite useful for just flicking up verses to me in the middle of my day.I find that actually quite helpful.
For sure. Yes. I like my morning verse. It comes up on my phone. Though sometimes I think, am I treating this a bit like a horoscope? I need to make sure that I’m not.
Yes, and how out of context is it?
But still. It’s a good reminder too, to get into the Bible.
So finally, what’s one thing about God or Christianity that you wish everyone knew?
I think for some reason, when I was growing up, I equated Christianity with being good, the Christians were good people. People who, you were well behaved. You were polite, you were. It was very much like a good girl thing.
And that leads you to feeling quite a bit of pressure, really, about your own performance I think. The line in that song when I was at that Christian group playing on campus all those years ago was ‘now I know that God is for me, not against me’. And that really struck me. And I think I wish everyone could know, it’s not about us being good and God judging how we’re behaving. It’s about accepting his goodness. And I think that’s the wonderful aspect of what God has done for us in Christ is loving us as we are, but then transforming us into the likeness of Christ through various ways.
So I wish there was less of a sense of Christianity is about all of these rules and ways of behaving, and more of a sense about it’s being with God, being part of God’s family.
Yeah, absolutely. Totally with you. Thank you so much for sharing with us today. It’s been really great.
You’re welcome. Thanks, Ruth.