Today’s guest is Julie, welcome Julie. Julie works as a psychologist in the public service, and she is also an incredibly skilled cook, especially when it comes to special foods around allergies and paleo and stuff. I haven’t had enough meals that Julie’s cooked but the one’s I’ve had have been really nice.
And she has one grown-up son.
That’s about my introduction today.
That will do.
And we’ll get to know you better, Julie.
So how did you become a Christian?
Well, I grew up in a Christian home. My dad travelled a lot with work when I was growing up, so I don’t actually remember Dad coming to church with us or anything, but I have very lovely joyful memories of going to church, and going to Sunday school, and everything that went with that. You know, little memory verse cards, and the songs that we sang.
Our Sunday school was held where I went to kindergarten as well so we got to play on all the cool equipment and everything. Just very, very happy memories.
Was that here in Tassie?
That was in South Australia. In Whyalla.
And I remember my mum teaching me how to pray, and how to pray the Lord’s Prayer. They’re just really beautiful memories and I felt very close to the Lord and I felt a lot of joy generally.
As I grew older, some things happened in my teenage years that led to me feeling like God had abandoned me. And I know that’s not true. But that’s how it felt at the time.
So I just turned away from God, from my faith, from everything, and made some choices that weren’t very healthy.
And then when I was an adult, I would have been … I was twenty two. Because I was living a life that wasn’t very healthy or happy or constructive. And I didn’t really care very much about my life. And then I really felt God saying to me, ‘I’m still here. I still love you. And I know you don’t care about your life, but I’m going to give you a life that you will care about.’
Wow, that’s great. Was that during a special time? Were you in your bedroom, or down the beach, or was it just a general feeling?
It was actually just in my bedroom, alone, feeling like, ‘I just don’t care.’ My life felt so meaningless and I felt really empty. And I really felt God’s presence saying, ‘Yep, I hear you. It’s not always going to be like this.’
Wow. What a promise.
I know! It was a great promise!
And I fell pregnant.
That was the life. He gave me this little life, because I really didn’t care about mine. But I really did care about my son’s life, and that was a real turning point.
I had married, and unfortunately my husband’s life didn’t change. Mine did. So when my son was two, we separated.
So God was just tapping me on the shoulder the whole time saying, ‘Still here. Still love you.’ And then I found my way to a church family. I’d started doing some volunteer work with Fusion and met some beautiful, amazing, wonderful people who just really loved me and cared about me and I found that meaning that had been lost. So that’s how I became a Christian.
Wow, that’s great.
OK so did your work with Fusion lead to you wanting to become a psychologist? Or had that already happened?
It certainly contributed to it.
I was doing some study at TAFE to become a welfare worker. I became a welfare worker. And almost at the end of my studies, I was, you know in the old days you used to sign up with Skillshare (before it became Centrelink) and they’d say, ‘We will call you when a suitable job turns up for you.’ And no-one ever got a call?
Well, I did. I got a call.
And it was amazing. I was still studying and I got an invitation to go and do six-weeks’ work with the department of community services at that time as a juvenile corrections worker. And I just thought, ‘I can’t really do it because I’m studying.’ So I rang my mum, as you do when you have big decisions to make, and she said, ‘Well, why can’t you do it?’
I went, ‘Mmm well, I suppose I can.’
So I just got permission from TAFE to go and do this work, and they gave me their blessing, and so I went and did some work for six weeks initially, which turned into six months. And then they advertised the position to be a permanent position, but they said I couldn’t apply because I didn’t have a degree.
So I’d been doing the job for six months but I couldn’t apply.
Apparently you can’t do that job. That happens often too.
It was disappointing. So I thought, ‘Well, if that’s what it takes…’ (because I really enjoyed the work) ‘I’d better go and get one.’
So I did.
Often I hear people who have had a bit of a rough time, or have made bad decisions, or whatever, they want to become a social worker or they want to become a welfare worker.
Yep. I think it was definitely part of my healing. And I see that a lot in the work that I do now. That God can turn things around so amazingly, and that was certainly the case for me. So I don’t necessarily have the same experiences as the people who come to see me, but I do actually understand a little bit about what it means to feel like life has no meaning, or to feel empty. All of those things. And I think that’s what people really look for in a psychologist or a counsellor or a listener, is someone who can understand some of those feelings.
That makes a lot of sense.
That’s that verse, that says, ‘we can comfort those in any troubles with the comfort we ourselves receive from God’
So you did all your study, TAFE and everything, as a single mum?
I did. I did.
Do you have any words of encouragement for [people going through the same thing]?
One foot in front of the other. And ironing’s not that important.
It was really hard. We had no money. And for a lot of it, no support. I started my psych degree in Launceston, and halfway through my first year, the university in their infinite wisdom decided that they weren’t going to offer psych as a major anymore. So I had the choice to either come to Hobart, or go somewhere else, to another university.
And at the time, Hobart strangely had no appeal whatsoever.
You just didn’t know us yet.
So I moved to Melbourne. As a single mum, with absolutely no family support there whatsoever, except that my dad had a house that he was able to rent to me at mate’s rates. So I had somewhere to live, which was fairly close to the university. So that was a wonderful blessing.
But you would have had to pay for childcare and …
And commute a couple of hours a day.
It was really hard.
Did you do it full-time?
Oh my goodness. Because I went to uni with two kids at home, but I had a husband who was also going to uni, which makes life much easier. I mean, we still did some daycare, but one of us was available to pick them up. And then we also, I went part-time, I didn’t go full time until I got to the end of my degree and went into honours. I mean, 75% which counts as full-time but it still made a difference.
So you were pretty dedicated, then. To get through.
Well, I think I was … I felt called. I really felt that God’s hand of blessing was on this work, and that it was a season and that it was going to be OK. And when I became a Christian, one of the promises that I really felt loud and clear from God was, ‘You will always have everything you need.’
And you know, His provision through that time, and it was hard, we had no money, was just amazing. Even things like, my car needed new tires, and I didn’t go around telling people that my car needed new tires. And I did a lot of driving. And an envelope with the exact amount of money that I needed to get new tires appeared in my letterbox.
Things like that.
It was just extraordinary.
You have a testimony that’s really strong, then. Because you can’t really explain that away.
Once you’ve had, well, in our case, six years full of coincidences like that.
My mum always said that a coincidence is when God chooses to be anonymous. I love that.
I love that. It’s gorgeous.
And there’s been a lot of that in my life. I’ve been very, very fortunate.
So when did you choose to come to Hobart? Or why did you come down here?
Well that was a God thing too. Of course.
We were living in Melbourne and it was pretty lonely, and I’d been very sick. And we’d come to Launceston to visit my family, because they were all in Launceston. And it was Easter so the whole family were there. And my son was about ten.
So the whole family’s there, a big family do, and we’re having a fabulous time, and it was like, ‘Oh I just love this so much.’ And my son came hurtling down the back yard and ran through a glass sliding door and just about took his knee cap off.
So, it felt very bizarre, as shock does to you, it was like a sort of slow motion choreographed scene, everyone did something helpful. One person got a blanket to wrap around us, my mum was a nurse so she looked after Jesse’s knee as best as she could, someone called the ambulance, someone got the little kids out of the way … it was just extraordinary the way it happened.
And as we were driving off in the ambulance, I looked up (because it was on a hill) looked up at the family home, and there’s the whole family standing out along the balcony, and God very clearly said to me, ‘If this happened anywhere else in the world you would be all alone. You need to come home.’
So I had a great job, and the house was really nice, but I was very lonely. And once again, you will always have everything you need, so we started making plans to come back to Tasmania.
Best move ever.
Wanted to be close to my family, but not too close. So I started looking at Hobart. And all of a sudden Hobart looked very different to what it had a few years before.
It just looked like some kind of paradise now.
So here we are.
So I always think of a psychologist as someone who sits in an office and people come and see them and chat about stuff. Is there more to psychology as a job?
Yeah, there is a bit more to it than that. I mean, I think that works for some people, and I think that’s what some people look for in a psychologist, or a therapist, or a counsellor. I like a little bit more structure to the way I work. So there’s certainly an assessment that happens. You know, getting a person’s history, finding out about how they came to be in the situation that they’re in, what sort of history might have contributed to that, what’s creating difficulties for the person in the present, and how they see where that’s going.
So there’s a little bit more to it. And especially in the context that I work. People seem to really want some structure around it. So that works quite well in the setting that I work in.
And a lot of people who come to see me have experienced quite horrific things. So they need to feel like they can talk about those things, safely. So there’s a number of ways to do that. And I think explaining the structure and how it all works is part of that.
One of the therapies that I use quite a bit is called EMDR: eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy. And that works on the basis that a lot of the problems that we have are because of the way our memories are stored. So it’s quite a lengthy process, but it works on reprocessing the way the memories are stored to change the way that a person feels about things that have happened in their lives.
That’s really interesting because that’s bringing to my mind that whole thing of sometimes when you’re in a Christian counselling situation, people will ask you to think about where Jesus was in that place where that memory happened. And that sort of explains why that’s a helpful thing.
It’s a very helpful thing. And I’ve had that experience with a Christian counsellor. And it changed everything for me about how I saw things. And that was that traumatic experience as a teenager. So I know now, I didn’t know then, but I know now that Jesus was right there with me and got me through that time.
And when I was doing my studies I did some studies at Tabor as well, and we did some studies on Job. And what I got from that was that it’s actually not all that helpful to ask why something happens, it’s actually much more useful and productive to ask, ‘How is Jesus going to use this?’
Oooh that’s nice.
Exactly. And that was really helpful for me because I don’t know why those things happened to me. And I don’t know why things happen to the people who come and see me. But it’s quite helpful for me personally to think, ‘How is Jesus going to use this?’
It gives it a different type of meaning.
Ooh I like that.
So you work in the public service, so you’re not a ‘Christian counsellor’ by job definition. How does your faith come into your work?
I’m really glad you asked me that question, because I had to think about it quite a bit. And it’s a really good question because one of the things I like about the work that I do is being able to reflect on why I do things the way I do.
I think a really big part of that is the ability to be non-judgemental and to just sit with people while they talk about whatever it is that they need to talk about.
You know, often people come with a great deal of shame. And as I said, sometimes they need to talk about things that are not dinner-table conversation. So people need to feel like they can do that. And I think that’s probably the most significant thing that I can do as a Christian, in the work that I do, is to be able to hear those stories.
So a lot of people would say that Christians are the most judgemental people out there. How does your faith help you to be non-judgemental?
That’s a good question too!
I haven’t given her time to think about this one.
Well, I mean, to really simplify it down to very simple terms: What would Jesus do?
I think that Jesus did that. Listened to people’s stories. And whether it was about shame, or things that had happened to them. So I think that’s it. That’s how I can manifest my faith.
Because people do come from all walks of life, and they come from lots of different beliefs and experiences, and sometimes that’s part of the topic of conversation. I think being able to hear those. How do I do it non-judgementally? I think that’s just about, you know, what would Jesus do? And to be loving and listening and merciful too.
I did a course once on spiritual gifts and it turned up that I apparently have the gift of mercy. And I think that’s how that manifests, is being able to hear people’s stories without taking a particular position.
I might very privately and personally have a particular thought about some situations but it’s not my role to put that on to people in that context.
Absolutely. And I guess we know as Christians we’re all the same boat. We’ve all sinned and fallen short.
And that’s a big part of it too. Yeah.
So when do you feel close to God?
I was glad you asked that question too. Because when I really thought about it. You know, it’s actually when I wake up first thing in the morning. I generally wake up with some kind of worship song happening in my head. And I think the reason for that is because there’s been four occasions in my life when waking up for another day wasn’t something I could take for granted. So each day is truly a blessing.
So having had those experiences makes me really value waking up in the morning. And I do. I wake up and think, ‘Great! God’s got a plan for me. I’m still here so obviously something’s going on.’ And that’s pretty special.
That’s fantastic. Gorgeous.
And what’s one thing about God or Christianity that you wish everybody knew?
That God will meet all of your needs, all of the time. That’s such a special promise to me because he’s never ever, not even almost let me down on that. And it’s something that I’ve been able to share with my family who don’t know Jesus. They then actually understand that. Even though they might not understand Jesus and might not have a faith of their own, they understand that I know it to be true. And they see it manifest in my life. And I think that’s probably a useful witness.
Even my son, who doesn’t have a faith, I was worrying about something once and he said, ‘Just do that thing that you do.’
‘I don’t know what you mean.’
And he went on for a little bit and I was saying, ‘I don’t know what you mean.’ And he was saying, ‘Yes, you do. Just do that thing.’
And in the end what he was talking about was actually leaning on that promise, that God meets all my needs all the time.
And he actually said it in the end, ‘You know, that thing where you say that God meets all your needs all the time. Just do that.’
I went, ‘OK, yes. Right. That’s what I need to do.’
So even though he doesn’t have a faith of his own. He understood that that’s reality and that’s truth, is that God does meet all our needs all the time.
So that’s what I want everyone to know.
I guess I want to ask about, because we live in a very materialistic society, what comes under the ‘needs’ umbrella, and what comes under the ‘wants’ umbrella?
Yeah. They can often be poles apart, can’t they? Well, it’s interesting because when I was a poverty-stricken student and a single parent, needs felt like it was things like paying my bills on time. Or buying food that wasn’t just with a voucher from the City Mission. But we got through. What I needed was to trust that God would keep a roof over our heads and that we wouldn’t starve. And we didn’t.
You know what? The bills did eventually get paid. Often not on time but they did get paid, and we got through.
Yeah. And it’s just such a witness. It really is.
I used to do a Bible study with a group of elderly ladies from Taroona Baptist and they were just the most beautiful people. And one of the ladies, every time you said, ‘How are you Mary?’ all she would say is, ‘God is so good to me.’
And I feel like I can do that too. God is so good to me.
I channel Mary when I get asked, ‘How are you?’ ‘God is so good to me.’
Well that’s a wonderful place to finish. Thank you so much for sharing with us.
It’s my pleasure, Ruth.