Today we’re welcoming Rosina to the show and I have known Rosina for a long time. It’s lost in the mists of time. Rosina’s one of those family friends that’s become a real friend which is really wonderful and I’m very grateful for our friendship, I really am. A little bit about Rosina to give you context is that she worked as a journalist for the Mercury –
Back when journalism was good in the Mercury
Well, the editorial floor had 30 people in it and it was all buzzing. People working there not off-site somewhere.
Yes, a different time. Rosina married Ted, and Ted’s passed away now, and she has two boys who are very grown up. And now Rosina is trying to live a quiet life but she likes to travel quite a lot, she loves riding on her bike, she has a very rich experiences overseas in the last few years and she also volunteers quite a lot of her time at church and she sings in several choirs. Yeah, so that’s wonderful.
So a quick plug for those of us who are living anywhere in Hobart is that All Saints does a compline service on the fifth Sunday of every month at 7pm so if you want to hear Rosina sing you can go along to that.
So anyway, there you go, that’s my first local plug that I’ve ever done.
It’s a beautiful service.
So, Rosina, to start with, how did you become a Christian?
Well, I’m from a very unbelieving family. I think a grandfather was a presbyterian minister or involved with the presbyterian church. But I do feel that the Lord had his hand on me. So I was actually born in Zambia. My parents were working in a teacher training college for African men. My father was teaching the men and my mother helped with the wives. With childcare and domestic things. I remember Mum always saying that the African women would buy Fanta because that’s what the white women were buying for their children and they presumed that anything that the white women did was right. Which was an interesting cultural issue.
But it was very interesting, it was an international compound with people teaching who were from all over the world. And in the compound was a black family, the Karbaypes. And Naomi Karbaype and myself were born within days of each other and I’m not sure whose idea it was, and as I said my parents weren’t very committed in terms of faith, but we decided to have a multi-racial christening. Which was very significant in those times because, I’ve now realised that the white community were completely separately to the black community and here we were both being baptised at the same time.
Yeah that’s a big deal.
And it was very special. It was the first time it had ever happened in Zambia, I think.
So I think that was a really good start. So the question was how I became a Christian?
Yeah, so how old were you when you left Zambia?
I was two when we came here. So I was very young. I do say that I get tingles down my spine when I hear African drumming because the compound where we lived was just down the road from the workers compound in the mines, it was a copper mining area, and every night they would play the drums and sing. And that was my lullaby to go to sleep to. So it is sort of in there somewhere, my connection to Africa.
But my other sort of seminal moment was, for a little while I went to Broaden House Girl’s Grammar school which has now been absorbed into Launceston [Grammar] and I can clearly remember the first time I went to St John’s church as part of, it might have been the start of the new school year, and it was the first time I’d ever been to a service. And I just have this picture in my mind of singing hymns before the Lord in this church and I think he claimed me then, really. It was just so special.
Obviously there were other opportunities later in life I was able to become more committed in the Lord. But that was the start.
Was there a time in your adult life where you said, ‘this is it.’
Yes, well I had a time at high school where my flute teacher was also head of children’s choir which wasn’t really very good but that sort of kept me in, and that was at the Presbyterian church at the time.
And then I remember at uni, I sort of slipped away a bit at uni and I had two flatmates that were a very significant influence. And both of them would go to church in the morning and at night and I kept saying to them, ‘You go twice?’ and then I thought, ‘Perhaps I’m missing out on something.’ And after that I made more of a commitment.
So why did you decide to become a journalist?
Oh well I’ve never really planned anything very well so I fell in love with the classics at uni and I got a scholarship to do a master of philosophy degree on Roman female portraiture. Which is very useful.
Yeah, lots of jobs there.
Yeah that’s right. Well I thought I might be able to get into museums. I tried one, of course couldn’t get into it, came back to home. And while I was waiting to apply for another course I was offered a cadetship at the Mercury. So it was very different from hiding away in a library, writing a long thesis, to sitting in a newsroom with constant noise and deadlines. It was an interesting experience. Good experience.
Did you find that you had ways that your faith showed up in your work there.
I wrote the religion column. At that stage the Mercury did have one. And I was unashamedly Christian focussed. So all the others knew that I was the ‘God botherer’. And I didn’t go to the pub and I didn’t drink and I didn’t sort of relish all of the gruesome stories. Some people, when someone died were ‘It’s a good story, oh good story, good story’ so I think I did stand out a little bit.
And a few people in that editorial floor wouldn’t look at me. Wouldn’t even look me in the eye because I was the “Christian”. And it was at that time I interviewed your mother and father once as well.
So yes, it was very apparent that I was a bit different.
Did you find that led to any interesting conversations with people?
Well I think they just sort of accepted that I was a bit wacky. I remember writing about God’s creation once, and someone pointing out that not everybody believes that.
There was another fellow, Lindsay Tuffin, that was there for a while. He was a great support. He actually taught me how to relate to non-Christians. Which was, ‘Just ask how their children are.’ That’s a good conversation starter.
I did a full cadetship which was a very good experience in terms of writing and learning to write concisely. Because the red pen would come out, and they’d cut it all if they didn’t like it. But then I married and we had to move to Launceston and there wasn’t any … so that was the end of that little chapter in my history.
So that brings us nicely to Ted.
Yes, that’s right. So Ted’s, I have come across another person who’s recently become engaged because they met at a prayer meeting. But that’s how Ted and I met. At a prayer meeting. Which was very special.
That’s very special.
I think he actually planned it.
God, or Ted?
Ted a bit, yeah.
Ted’s faith was very strong. He was a very good model for me who was probably a bit more casual in my faith. For the 22 years we were married we, I think pretty well we prayed every morning together which was wonderful. Ted was very pure in his faith. And that was very special.
And in fact that was one of the hardest things when Ted passed away, that I had to start praying by myself and didn’t have somebody else making me. Having the discipline.
Plus you were struggling with the grief as well.
Well, that’s right. Yes.
So Ted’s one of the most intellectually brilliant people that I know.
He had a pretty stunning brain I think. In philosophy.
Yes because he did honours in philosophy and then he thought , ‘Oh well I’ll do honours in psychology as well’ and he was working teaching while he then did his masters of education and his PhD.
And he did his PhD really quickly too, didn’t he? In a couple of years.
Yes. And there were hardly any corrections needed.
So yeah, an astonishing man. And then he became ill.
That’s right. Yes, so we’d moved to the Eastern Shore and we’d always liked cycling and it was much easier from the Eastern Shore, and Ted headed off one day and it had been raining. And he came down his normal route which is down Napoleon St which is steep, Battery Point, and came off his bike and hit his head. And that was about 2001 I think.
He took a little while to realise the significance of it and the consequences. At first it was losing keys and losing the remote control to the garage. A number of times we had to break the window to get in because the remote was in the garage. Little things like that.
And then it became apparent that it was more than just a bit of forgetfulness. And I eventually got a diagnosis that Ted had Alzheimers. That was probably about 2008 or 9.
And for a while, Ted being Ted, he was very concerned financially that if he stopped work there would be issues. I got him to stop work and I worked full time as a performance auditor, just to do something different. Didn’t enjoy that very much.
Then I needed to go part-time to care for Ted because all sorts of things were happening and eventually I resigned and became a full-time carer.
How did your faith help, or hinder through that time?
It was very profound. There was a wonderful lady at the Alzheimers association who was a Christian and she gave me a book, basically which is all about how having Alzheimers doesn’t affect your spirituality. And in fact I think it becomes stronger somehow. When they lose their functioning.
But your personality is still there and your spirit.
Yes that’s right. And in fact, the last few days of Ted’s life we just sang, Scripture in Song, from beginning to end. He sort of stopped singing after a while and I kept singing and I’m not sure whether he actually enjoyed it. But it was very important.
And I suppose the big issue is that the role of a carer is very tough. And I don’t think we acknowledge it enough.
In a weird way it’s, I can’t really call it a blessing, but it’s a total dependance on the Lord. So I can remember sitting in church one morning and we were singing How Deep the Father’s Love, and it was just like a knife to the heart that line (which I’ve written out so I don’t mess it up):
I will not boast in anything
No gifts no power no wisdom
But I can boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
So as a carer you lose yourself. You deny yourself. And Ted really wasn’t happy being with other people caring for him so I did the majority of it, most of it. And did it for as long as I could until I realised that I was sort of disappearing, the person that I was, and the things that I liked doing. I was sort of merging. It would all be lost in this caring role.
So I took the hard decision of having some respite for Ted, but I knew that it would actually be the beginning of the end.
Because there’s a bit of an irony with Alzheimers that, often you think of elderly people with Alzheimers but there’s a lot of early onset Alzheimers where people are physically still very strong and one of our main activities was cycling together.
So when Ted was sort of put into a secure unit, he thought he was in prison and he tried to get out and then there was a spiral that declined in terms of medication and as soon as they lifted the medication he’d try to get out again and yeah.
That just must have been incredibly hard.
Then the dependance on the Lord is absolute. That’s all you have. And he gives you the grace and the strength and the moments of joy. Like praying together.
It’s not something you would want to experience but I’m sure my faith grew through that time.
In fact, coming here I remembered that I had organised a sort of afternoon tea with your Mum and Dad and some other close friends. That was before he was going to go into care. And I can remember he got fed up. He was sort of grumpy and saying, ‘Well I don’t want you here anymore, I’ve had enough!’ Which is actually quite a good segue to lead into the next …
Yes, the next thing we were going to talk about which is introversion. Because Rosina and I, our friendship has really grown over a shared experience of being quite extreme introverts, the two of us. So when did you start to think more about that, and how did that change things for you?
I used to lead the singing at church, and I still sing at church, but you know sort of lead the service. And people would say to me, ‘You’re not an introvert, you get up there and you, you’re really confident.’ They don’t realise the cost.
So I’ve never liked crowds, I’m always happiest outside, bushwalking or being by the water and on the water. So the seeds were there. And Ted was also an introvert, in fact, I think the whole family were really.
But I can remember going to the Anglican women’s retreat, two years ago I think, and having some spiritual direction and saying to the woman that I just wanted to be quiet. There was just too much noise everywhere. And it was she that recommended me the book by Susan Cain called Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.
It’s a brilliant book.
Yeah, it was really, really helpful. And so affirming of the positives, of the strengths that introverts do have. So I think it’s still a journey but I’ve actually become happier and happier in not saying much. You know, you actually don’t have to always say what’s in your head.
In fact, it’s much better to sit back and listen to what everybody else are doing, saying, and thinking. So I’m feeling much more comfortable about my introversion.
Yeah, and not having to go to all of the events or all of the things that are on, or be part of everything.
And I think, like you, I often think, if you have got a lot on during the day, I think when can be my down time when I can just sit and knit, or do my tapestry, or embroidery, or potter in the garden. Because that’s the time when I’m rejuvenated.
So that leads on to the next one which is: When do you feel closest to God?
Oh well outside!
I think my prayer has a different form, so walking my dog, Daisy, in the morning is when I sort of pour out everything and tell the Lord all about it. Then there’s quieter times when I’m just staying put but it’s like, I suppose it’s like the conversations you have with friends. There are different formats, different styles.
I always, my blood pressure drops a few degrees every time I step out the front door and smell the air and see the water.
Fantastic, oh yes because you kayak as well?
Yes, well in the summer when it’s warmer. I’m very cautious but I do love being on the water. Actually that’s the perfect way of escaping because no one can get you. That’s really lovely on the water.
What’s one thing about God or Christianity that you wish everybody knew?
Well because I have my atheist family, I’m sort of conscious of what non-Christians think of Christians. [laughs] They’ve told me a few times. So I think it’s such a sad thing that a lot of people who aren’t Christians just think of Christianity as being a whole bunch of rules of things you can’t do. Whereas in fact, in submission to the Lord you actually have this immense freedom and peace. And you can cease your striving.
And that’s … God isn’t about rules, God is about love. And I think we do sometimes lose that message of God’s love in our churches a little bit. And that the outpouring of love is how he wants to bless us in very deep and profound ways.
But it’s when people are in a point of need that, I suppose non-Christians would say then you’re exploiting them, but it’s, well it’s like my experience with Ted, it’s good to be brought to your knees sometimes and then you really need to decide what’s important in life and what gives you strength.
It’s interesting, there’s a quote from the book Kisses from Katie, she left the US at about the age of about 19 and went to Uganda for a gap year and ended up adopting 13 girls. She says, they say to you God won’t give you more than you can handle, but she said, it’s my experience that God always gives you more than you can handle because that’s when you depend on him.
It sounds like that’s your experience.
And then he comes through for you.
And also, we assume that life’s going to be easy, but it’s not necessarily. Why should we have it easy when the vast bulk of the people in the world are suffering terribly. It’s a bit of the Western myth isn’t it? That we deserve a comfortable existence without too much pain or stress.
Yes, but it’s good to know that God is there, even in that.
Well, thank you so very much for talking to us today.
Not at all, it was great fun. It was much easier than I thought it was going to be.