Hello everybody, welcome, today’s guest is Jenny. Welcome Jenny.
Thank you Ruth, nice to be here today.
You will hear that Jenny’s very professional. I first heard Jenny’s voice when she was a radio announcer at Ultra106.5. And then we met up, and Jenny has her own podcast, as well as many other things, so a very full life. But you’re not the first podcaster I’ve interviewed.
Oh really? OK.
So you don’t get that privilege, I’m sorry. But she has her own, and it’s called Treasuring Mothers, and I’ll of course put the link in and we’ll hear a lot about that as we dig in.
As the time goes by, that’s right.
And you said you heard me when I was a radio announcer, I am still a radio announcer.
Sunday mornings from six until ten, and then I’ve got the Treasuring Mothers radio show that happens during the week as well.
Yes, of course.
And Jenny’s husband Stephen is the head of the Baptist church here in Tasmania, and they have five grown-up children, which is amazing. Which is why Jenny is very into motherhood.
Well, there’s a whole story around that too.
But we’re not going to start there, we will start with how did you become a Christian?
Well, interestingly, I grew up in a Christian home but was going to the Methodist church (it wasn’t even Uniting back then) and while we said grace at meals and we went to church on Sundays our level of engagement in Christian things was very, I feel, fairly surface level, and very different to the way that I’ve brought up my own children.
In the Methodist church it was sort of assumed that you were christened as an infant, you grew up into the church, and then when you were fifteen you were confirmed as a member, and then you went on from there. So the confirmation was actually the confirmation of what happened when you were christened. And I think it’s probably similar in the Anglican church.
So there was always this understanding that we talked about ourselves as Christians, but there was no meaning of what did that mean. It was just an assumption.
But when I was in grade six we had an exchange student come to our church and she was the teacher of my Sunday school class and she was the one who explained to us that at some point we would need to make a decision for ourselves, will we follow Jesus for what he was saying and he did? Or not?
Where was she from?
So a strong Singapore Christian, a lovely, lovely girl. She was hosted by one of my mum’s best friends. And she taught me how to make fried rice, so I actually make really good fried rice.
But she was the one who explained that. And a few years later I became quite friendly with a girl through Girl Guides, of all things, who went to a Baptist church. And Jan and her family had much more open conversation about spiritual things, but she went through the process of being baptised. This was in the early years of high school.
So when I got to the point of year ten, I’d seen Jan be baptised and was reading the Bible that I’d been given at Sunday school one night, going through a pretty tough time with friends at school who were being a bit yucky. You know what year ten, year nine is like in high school, with girls?
So one night I was praying and reading my Bible and said, ‘Jesus I feel alone, I feel lost. Will you be my friend? I believe in what you have to say.’
And it was like the next day everything changed. It was like I had someone next to me when I was on my own, or when they were saying horrible things, or trying to trip me up with my words. They would always try and catch me and make me feel stupid because of what I’d said. I always felt like I just had Jesus there with me. And he still is.
He’s there with me and my constant companion in everything I do. The timing of that was amazing, it was about six months before my mum died. And so, that I think was the thing that carried me through that really tough time.
So tell us about your mum.
Yeah, well my mum, she had breast cancer. That was diagnosed first when I was in grade 4 and my sister was in grade 3. She was an older mum, she was in her forties when my sister and I were born.
Mum and Dad already had two girls, ten and twelve years before me. And my arrival was a bit of a reconciliation for my parents. They’d had a bit of a rough time. I don’t know the details. I only know that Dad disappeared for a little while and my mum had no money. She had to move in with her sister, and didn’t know what had happened to him. Before the days of mobile phones of course and internet. So he just sort of disappeared off the face of the earth and wasn’t in touch.
And when they did finally get back together because he came home again, then at some point I came along. And then it was clear, I think, that they decided that I needed to have a playmate, so then I had a younger sister.
So that’s how it worked out for us. But that meant she was in her forties for both of us, and not only that, but my dad was also in his forties, but had gone through a pretty horrific time being a nurse in the war.
He and his mates at church had decided that they would get themselves medically equiped. I think they did some complex first-aid training. So when they were called up, as they expected to be, they did their basic training in the army which, I didn’t know all this but I have discovered, they did their six months or however long, three months or whatever the time was for basic training in the army, and then at the end of that you were called up and they said, ‘OK soldier, what do you want to do?’ And so my dad and his friends said, ‘We want to go in the air force. In the medical corp.’
So they all got spread out across the world in different places but they were helping one step back from the front line all the time. And he ended up in Syria, in the very northern reaches of Africa, the desert across the top near the Mediterranean across the top of Africa, and had some awful, awful things happen to him.
Mum and Dad had got married just before he left, and he came back a changed man. He was completely not the same.
So often the story, isn’t it?
That’s right. So obviously, PTSD. But he had his basic psychiatric treatment that they gave them and then was just told to ‘go and live your life’. There was no treatment or anything after that. And I didn’t really understand that diagnosis until he was in his eighties or something, and finally he was properly treated.
So not only did my mum die when I was sixteen (of breast cancer) but Dad was a very difficult person to live with.
And he loved us to bits. There’s no doubt about that. And he had his own personal faith. But it was a very difficult household to live in.
So when you ask me about my mum I sort of have to tell you, she is a hero, a heroine. Because she managed this very difficult marriage. She was told that her marriage probably wouldn’t last because it would be too difficult to sustain. But she stuck with it. And I really admire her for that.
I value the sixteen years I had with her, I know there are a lot of women who have lost their mother even before that, and they have very few memories. I’ve got lots of memories of my mum, it’s just that they stop at sixteen.
It was sad because, probably when I was about fourteen years old, and I was just starting to come home from school and enjoy having those chats with Mum after school, she got sick, really sick. So it just meant that, because the cancer relapsed then, it meant that I didn’t develop that close bond, as a ‘closer to being an adult’ kind of person with my mum.
Were your older sisters at home during that time?
They both got married when they were twenty one so they had left by the time … they were there when she had her first operation. But they had married and left home by the time she started going on her last downhill run. Which was a couple of years long.
They were around. In fact, one of them moved to a closer suburb with her husband and little baby so that they could be nearby. But really it was my younger sister and me.
And I think Mum’s big concern was, ‘How on earth are those girls going to cope when I’m not here to be the buffer between Dad and them?’ It was hard.
Yeah, very hard.
Can we skip forward to your own journey to motherhood. I started reading through your blog posts and that just wasn’t fun, was it?
This is supposed to be fun?
It’s always an adjustment for everyone.
You know when you get married, you have a time without kids. And then you go, ‘OK time to have kids.’ And I didn’t really think about it very much. It was just, ‘Alright this is the next thing you do.’
However, one day when I was about seven months pregnant I was reading an article by someone who I greatly admired who was a bit of a rockstar, Larry Norman. Someone that people my age might know.
And I thought he was going to be talking about his successes as a rockstar musician and how he loved travelling the world and telling people about Jesus. He didn’t talk about that at all, funnily enough, he said that what he did was nowhere near as important as being a parent.
And I was going, ‘What? How can that be? That wasn’t what I thought he was going to say.’
But then in the article he just kept saying it, it ended up being the ‘thing’ in the article. Being a parent is the most important thing you can do.
And it was the first time I had ever, ever thought about that.
I know that’s a fairly loaded statement, because not everybody agrees with that. And of course, if you don’t have children, then you don’t have that. But I think if you are a parent, it is definitely one of the most impacting things you can do. There’s very few things that we do that make a difference into future generations. But being a parent is one that does definitely make an impact into future generations.
So yes, I understand that that’s not necessarily everybody’s viewpoint but for me reading it as a seven-month pregnant woman who had not really thought about what I was about to do, it was a big wake-up call.
All of a sudden I thought, ‘My gosh, oh. I’m going to have this little baby in my arms soon, and I don’t know how I’m going to manage that, because I haven’t got Mum here to help me with that.’
That was a bit of an, ‘Oh no’ moment.
I remember talking about it with a friend who had not long had a baby and saying, ‘How come God’s entrusting me with this? I feel so unequipped and unprepared.’ That’s not what I had signed up for. I was just doing the next thing.
So thinking that through in those final weeks of the pregnancy I put my, I think I put my science/maths brain on, I did science and maths at uni, and I just compartmentalise life a bit like that. And I decided, ‘Really I guess it’s a 20 year project, isn’t it? I’ve got a tiny defenceless little baby that I will have in my arms in a few weeks. By the time she is twenty …’ And I didn’t know she was a she but I had an image in my head of an adult that I was having a really great conversation with and enjoying their company and having a talk about deep spiritual things. And I thought that’s what I’m aiming for. I’m aiming for a functional adult, who is well equipped to leave home, prepared to be part of a really thriving church community, and being able to not just be independent but inter-dependent. So he or she is able to be part of the broader community in a really positive, constructive way.
So I thought, ‘OK, a 20-year project. I can do this, I can get my head around that.’
So that was how I was thinking about it as the birth progressed and I ended up having this little baby.
So you said, with five children, that we’d hear more about that. Is there a reason why you have five children? [laughter] That’s a ridiculous question.
Isn’t it funny when you first get married you have this perception that you’re going to have a similar sort of family to what you had. Mostly. Unless you’ve had a, sometimes I know there’s only-children who say, ‘I am not going to have an only child, I’m going to have more than one.’ But I think for the most part, people go, ‘I’m one of two, I’m comfortable with two, I’m going to have two children.’
With me I was saying, ‘I’m one of four, I’m comfortable with four, I think four is great. Four’s a good number.’ My husband, Stephen, came from a family with three and he was quite happy to stop after three and that was fine. And we got to three and I said, ‘Oh I thought that we were going to have more.’ And he said, ‘Really? I hadn’t thought that.’ So we had to work that through.
And then he goes, ‘OK, let’s go for it.’ So we went for number four and then I thought, ‘Family complete.’ And gave away all the baby clothes, gave away the bassinet, the cot, the capsule, the baby bath, everything. To discover that actually number five was on the way.
That was quite a big upheaval because I was very aware that I … I felt like I had a time limit as a mother.
I definitely wanted to have my children in my sights until they were beyond their 16th birthday because I wanted to make sure that what happened to me didn’t happen to them. I wanted to make sure that they got beyond that.
I also wanted to make sure I got them at least to being that age by the time I was Mum’s age [when she died]. And this is one of those silly things that affects everyone I think, is that you can’t imagine yourself being a parent beyond the age of your own parents.
So, for most people this doesn’t happen, their parents don’t die until they are in their seventies, eighties, nineties. So you have that sort of picture of yourself.
My mum died when she was in her late fifties, and so I couldn’t imagine life beyond late fifties for myself. So being pregnant with number five, I was literally counting on my fingers trying to figure out how old I would be by the time she got to sixteen.
Thankfully I beat that by about three years so that was good. I would have more years up my sleeve than my mum had with me. Now I’ve well and truly beaten that, and it’s still been an issue until actually just ten days ago when I was at a conference and listening to a speaker, it was someone called Lisa Harper from the deep south of America, she had a really broad American accent and talked about y’all all the time.
But she had some amazing things to say and talked specifically about people … She had been told that she wasn’t going to live for very long. Her adopted daughter had been told that she wasn’t going to live for very long. But God got them through those moments.
That was not the whole of her story, that was just some of her journey. But at the end she said, ‘If anyone’s been told that they don’t have long to live, or they have a death sentence over their head’ (we were all standing at that point) she said, ‘I want you to sit down.’
I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve been doing this to myself. I’ve been telling myself that I’m not going to live for much longer. I’ve been planning my funeral. I’ve been doing all these other things. Because I think that now I’m past my mum’s age I haven’t got much longer to go. That is a total fib! It’s a complete lie! That’s not going to happen to me, I’m fit and healthy, and at other times I know I’m going to live into my eighties or nineties. But there’s still this shadow.’
So I sat down, and people gathered around me and prayed for me, and I was released from that.
So it’s only been in the last ten days that I can go, ‘I don’t have to worry about that anymore. I have got decades ahead of me yet. I don’t have to have this urgency I’ve had to get things done so that I can get them done before I die and that might be next year for all I know.’ I don’t have that sitting there, so that’s a relief. And I can’t even remember what your question was.
That’s wonderful. That’s awesome.
We were just talking about you having the five kids, so what a wonderful time of healing.
That’s right, so it’s amazing those things you tell yourself that you don’t realise you’re telling yourself.
The lies you live under.
Yes. And how God doesn’t want you to live there, but you keep on thinking, ‘That’s where I belong.’ And it’s not until someone calls you on it that you go, ‘Oh, OK, that was a thing, that is a thing, I need to deal with that.’
So your podcast, how did that come to be?
Well, it’s an extension really, of the blog and the website I’ve been developing for about three years now. In actual fact, when our youngest daughter (who has now just turned 23) when she started school, so when she was five, I had this sense that God wanted me to pass on the things to other women that he’d been showing me all the way along.
So I’d very intentionally knowing I didn’t have my mum around to help me do the ‘mother thing’, I had intentionally, as I said before, Jesus is by my side all the time. So I’m always talking to him about, ‘What next? How am I going to do this? I’ve got this issue, this problem, I need to do this, I don’t understand that, what do I do now, who do I to talk to?’
Because I’ve talked to Moz (my husband Moz) and Scott who I’ve interviewed before, we’ve talked about how, because their fathers haven’t been present, they’ve had to learn how to father from God. So what you’re saying is essentially the same thing, you can learn how to mother from God? When you don’t have that mothering.
Yeah, and it’s not that I didn’t have great women in my life. I had my older sisters, I ended up with a fantastic step-mum, I can’t talk about her highly enough. But I didn’t have a mum. And so having God there every minute of the day to say, ‘I don’t know what to do, help me.’ Was the way that I got through those times when I was just a bit lost.
So you started writing those things in a blog?
Yes. That’s right. So when Hilary started school, I really felt that I was about to write a parenting book. Then, it didn’t happen that way at all. It wasn’t an, ‘Oh OK I’ll write a book.’
We were at that time publishing a magazine called Alive Magazine, which had once been On Being Magazine. We were the directors of the company. Stephen had started as the graphic designer there, and gradually as time had gone by we’d ended up in this place of leadership there.
And we had recently taken on a magazine called Christian Woman that had been about to fold (from CWCI, Christian Women Communicating Internationally). And that was happening, but the way things turned out they did a big reshuffle the year that Hilary started school, and they were looking for someone to oversee Christian Woman. And the administrator of the place noticed that I was looking for work and he said, ‘What’s Jenny looking for work with them for? She should be working with us.’ And so all of a sudden I became the product manager of Christian Woman magazine, which was a bit unexpected, even the whole idea of a book was unexpected. Because I had seen myself as a science and maths girl all the way along. And it wasn’t until then that I thought, ‘Actually, this is where God wanted me to go all along. I did better in English than in science and maths in year 12, why didn’t I notice that?’ But I just had been so focused on science and maths all the way.
But I had been doing proofreading with the editor of On Being, and Alive Magazine. I had been doing a whole lot of admin. stuff. I had been doing lots of newsletters and bulletins back from when I was in uni. That was where I had been leaning all that time.
So all of a sudden, now I was the editor of Christian Woman magazine, well, that wasn’t my title initially but then the whole publishing company folded, we went into receivership, a very difficult time in our lives, and had to sell our magazines on to Sydney publishers who kept me on and they called me the editor. So that was an interesting excursion for eight years of being a magazine editor. My dream job, it turned out to be. And I had networks and connections all over Australia.
That ended after a while, but before it ended we moved to Tasmania. I ended up learning radio, as part of the community radio station Heart FM up in the north of the state (not connected to the Heart commercial station down here). And I learnt radio, moved to Hobart, did more radio down here, finished with the magazine, and then started working as the communications manager at Ultra106.5 here in Hobart and did that for three years before moving on to being the state manager of Samaritan’s Purse and I did that for three and a half years.
So it turned out that all this time, all those years was actually apprenticeship. I was learning editing, I was learning writing, I was learning more about proof reading, sub-editing, radio. I went to uni and did journalism as a post-graduate course, I did back-end website things, I started using an email service provider to send out newsletters. So all that probably 15–17 years of training to the point where at Samaritan’s Purse I felt God saying, ‘OK, now is the time. I want you to do the thing.’
So I left Samaritan’s Purse, it’s about three years now since I gave notice there. And left to do this. Which is to do some sort of parenting book, I thought. I still thought then.
It took me probably three or four months to work out, actually it’s not parenting. It’s about motherhood. It’s about developing those gifts in women that they don’t feel like they have. That lost feeling you have when you first have kids and you have no idea what you’re doing. And it’s about bringing people and understanding that they can lean on God too, when they go through tough times. So it’s hearing stories from other women who have gone through really difficult times, and how Jesus got them through to a positive outcome.
So I’m bringing stories to the fore such as someone who’s had multiple miscarriages and how God got her through that. Or from women about depression, post-natal depression. I’ve talked to some experts in the internet generation and how we as mothers need to adjust our understanding of the internet because we didn’t grow up with it like our kids are so how can we help them? We’ve got to understand ourselves and that process before we can help them. Somebody who’s lost her husband and now she’s got little children and no husband.
So trying to understand who you are, as a woman. And as a mother. And hear the stories of how they ended up going, ‘Yes I can do this. Because I’ve heard this woman on Jenny’s show, or she’s talked about it on a podcast, or she’s written about how to get through this particular thing, and I can see, I’ve got hope now and there’s light at the end of the tunnel because of what I’ve heard through Treasuring Mothers.’
So that’s the context for me.
That’s exciting. I’m excited. I’m so excited I’ve brought you on my podcast to boost it. Because I just think it’s so important. I think that many of us as mothers feel really lost, or just unsure of how to go through it, or do it. And there’s not only people who’ve lost their mother like you, but there are people who don’t have a good relationship with their mother, or their mother’s parenting toolbox was …
Yeah. And so to get that information and, as you say, to just get that hope from someone else who has been through this.
Yes, I can do this now, I can understand how to do it. And I can understand that Jesus will help me through it. And I think that’s critical to the whole thing.
Alright last couple of questions that I ask everybody. When do you feel close to God?
Yeah, I read that question and thought, ‘That’s an interesting one’ because, as I said, I feel like he’s with me all the time. But then there’s other times when I’m in really large worship environments with thousands of people and it’s overwhelming and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what it’s going to be like in heaven.’ I know we’re going to have jobs to do. I know there’s going to be food—Jesus ate, isn’t that good? Jesus ate after he was resurrected. He cooked a barbecue meal of fish and that was really great.
But we’ll have jobs to do, he’ll have tasks for us. But I know there will be time when we will be in the throng of thousands and thousands of other people, worshipping. And I’m just overwhelmed with, ‘This is just a little taste of heaven.’
There have been a few times I’ve been in multicultural contexts and feeling that. Yes, it’s going to be a multicultural place. We won’t be homogenous in heaven, we will all be very different. And yet we’ll still have this heart and desire to be close and be in the presence of God. Which will be amazing.
Another time is just when I’m surrounded by nature. So I frequently walk on the beach here in Blackmans Bay, early in the morning, sun rising, tides changing, wind blowing, sometimes snow on the mountain as well. It’s just amazing. And to be acknowledging God for his creation and aware that this beach has been here for thousands of years, and once there weren’t houses there and one day Bass and Flinders sailed up that river and saw this beach and just being aware of the length of time, the eons to create that space, that little bit of earth. I just love that.
And then there are other times when I’m falling asleep in bed at night, and this is something that’s been coming to me just in more recent years, is thinking of Jesus and the depth of his love for me and how he just values me so much and wants to be known by me and for me to know him. And just going, ‘Jesus, you are amazing! You went through that level of depth of sacrifice, that pain, that torture, so that I could experience this level of closeness with you. And I’m just so overwhelmed by that, to know that you love me that much. And not just me—millions, billions of people. That’s amazing.’
That individual love.
Individual love for billions of people. It’s beyond our ability to grasp and understand it. That’s how it works.
And is that the thing that you wish everyone knew about Christianity?
Well, I guess it’s that depth of relationship that he desires to have with each of us. And I believe for every single person there is that little voice, that little call that’s saying, ‘Will you be mine? Will you be close to me? I’ve done the work for you, I accept and love you as you are. You don’t have to do anything just acknowledge my small voice.’
Yes that’s what I would hope everyone would understand and come to grips with.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Or have we covered it all?
I think we might have covered as much as I need to say at the moment. I suppose I’m always interested in encouraging women and being a voice of hope for women. And it’s very easy, especially for Christian women, we’re so used to this idea of submitting to our husbands, and yet, that’s not what Paul really meant, I don’t think. In his cultural context that was incredibly important, but I think for us, we forget that we are alongside our husbands. We are co-heirs with our husbands. It’s not either or, it’s not husbands before wives, we are to stand together. And we’re alongside each other. And let our voice be heard. Let’s take our place as leaders in our families, as leaders in our churches, in our communities, and beyond.
But we forget that. And I’m still learning how to do that. Because of my overbearing father it is so easy for me to just slide into Stephen’s shadow, but I have to constantly challenge myself to take steps forward into that. And I think I’m getting better at doing that as time’s going by.
I think we wait to be asked, don’t we?
We do wait to be asked. We tend to hang back. Instead of putting ourselves forward. And I think we need to get better at putting ourselves forward. Even if that means getting slapped over the wrist. And that’s the hard thing.
But you have to keep on pushing into that space. Because if we don’t take the initiative, how are our daughters going to do it? We’re talking about equality in the workplace, how are we going to do it unless we take the steps and do that more?
It’s a challenge. A constant everyday cultural shift that we have to do. And it’s not a simple thing.
No, absolutely. But I agree with you, it’s a cultural shift that’s happening, and if we don’t model it in the church then people aren’t going to see a healthy model of what this is.
No. And if we don’t model it in our marriages, and if we don’t model it in lots of contexts, then how are the younger generation going to see that happening? You know, we haven’t seen it happen. Somebody’s got to break the cycle, haven’t they?
Who is going to do it, unless we do?
Well I see very exciting times ahead for you.
I pray so.
Thank you very much for sharing with us.
Thank you. And thank you for all you’re doing with your podcast and your blog and I’m sure you’re bringing a lot of good stories to light, and emphasising things that people need to hear. So congratulations on what you’re doing.
Thank you, thank you.
So I want to plug it again at the end, but I’ll put it in the show notes: www.treasuringmothers.com is your website, so you can find everything there.
Thank’s Ruth, I really appreciate your time today.