Monday, September 21, 2015


Back in 2008 I heard a friend of my mother’s say “thank you Lord” when we got a good car park. I thought this was absolutely absurd and asked her why she was thanking God for a good carpark? She told me that she always prayed for good car parks wherever she went, and that God was always faithful.

To be honest, I initially thought this was rather over the top! Why would God, who has the universe to run, when there were people living in extreme hardship and poverty in the world, care about whether I got a good car park or not? But early the next year the chronic pain muscle condition that  I lived with moved to my legs and every step became extremely painful for me. It was then that I also started to pray for good car parks close to the shops that I wanted to go to. And it was then that I started to be amazed.

Initially in doing this I would pray for a good car park and then take the first car park on the street of the shop I wanted to go to that came available thinking that this was the best park I would get. Then I would painfully have to walk the couple of hundred metres to the shop, only to find that there was a car park right outside the shop that was there waiting for me. This happened to me time and time again until I started to have the faith to trust that God had the best for me. I would then not take the first car park that became available. I would keep going up the road and to my amazement I would get a car park very close to, if not right outside, where I wanted to go.

I have now done this for over 6 years and God has taught me a lot about life and his providing the best for us if we trust him through it.

All of my life I have trusted God that if it was his will he would provide me with a man, a life partner, who believed in what I believed in and who was right for me. Throughout high school I wouldn’t date anyone who didn’t share my Christian beliefs as these beliefs were too important to me, and too much of who I am, to not be able to share them with the most dear person in my life. 

There have been many times over the past 20 or so years that I’ve thought about pursuing certain guys but have felt the Lord saying that, like the car parks a few hundred feet down the road, that he had the absolutely right one for me and to trust him. At times this has been quite a hard one to hold to as 38 years is a long time to wait! I also had times feeling as though I thought I really only deserved the male equivalent of a park at the wrong end of the street before the shop where I wanted to park. A man who was absolutely not the best that God could give me. Was not someone who suited to me, was someone who could treat me badly, and not treat me with respect or love.

However, in meeting someone in recent times that I guess you could say is the equivalent to the absolute best carpark, directly outside the shop I wanted to go to, I have realised that the theory was valid.

If, due to having been single for so long had left me desperate, I would have settled for the ‘car park 500 metres away’ in a man. This would have meant that I would never have met the absolutely ideal ‘car park’ that God had in store for me.

What God has taught me about life and men through car parks is to not settle for anything less than the best that He has in store for us. If we do we will never get to experience the best ‘car park’ (or in this case, man). The one that he preordained, is absolutely right for us, and that He has always had in store.

Far too many people in life settle for less than the best because they don’t actually believe that they are worth the best. But the more I have applied my believing for the best carpark theory to life, the more that I have become aware that God has the absolute best for us. We need to take hold of that, trust him for it and keep on believing it and not settle for less than that.

For 37 years I didn’t, and I could not be more stunned and amazed at the ‘absolutely perfect car park’ equivalent of a man that God has brought into my life.

Don’t settle for less than the best that God has for you people – you might be surprised to find that you get it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


‘What is This Thing Called Love’ is the name of a jazz standard that I have been regularly singing at gigs throughout 2014. However, since the end of January, it has become a question that I have been asking myself on a daily basis.

Several weeks ago I came across an old journal of mine from 1998 – 2000 and realised that in fact, this is a question I started asking 17 years ago. It’s actually not new to me at all.

In January 1999 I wrote the following entry into my journal:
What is it?
How does true love feel?

Is love the admiration of another
Combined with a physical attraction?
Is it a similar way of thinking?
Is it similar beliefs?

Surely there are many
That there are these things towards
What is it then that makes one love unique?
If love is a mere expression
How could it be focused on one?”

My feeble attempts to express love in the years leading up to 1999 had ended up with my extreme pain and rejection. In April of that year I wrote the following piece entitled ‘The Expression of Love’:


What if this feeling
Is never expressed?
If as time passes
So do the opportunities
To reveal what is stored
And stirred in my heart

What if the next opportunity
Were to be the last?
Would it matter then
What others would say?

What if I were to live in the moment
And seize each opportunity
To express my feelings
To express the elation
That peace
The knowledge
The passion

Other feelings are in different leagues
None is near as precious as love
None so rarely in truth expressed
None so tied to hurt
With little knots
That can and will only be cut off in time
With the scissors
That have the same name
As that that caused the knots to form
In the first place
The Expression of Love

At the time of writing this I had never experienced love other than that of family members, friends and my wonderful, loving God. I had adored a few males, but it had never been mutual. What I felt for these males was also based entirely on the wrong things – namely physical appearance and how they would make me look and feel. Then after all of the brain trauma I underwent with my ten lots of neurosurgery between 2000 and 2006 I only had the strength to think about getting through the next few hours. The reality is that I had 10 years there when love from the opposite sex never crossed my mind. I am so grateful to God that he removed that desire from my heart for that time.

However, with my recently meeting a truly extraordinary male, a lot of these same questions have risen to the surface. I am finding myself once again asking myself, what is this thing called love?

The bible clearly talks about love and what it is in the 1st book of Corinthians, chapter 13. It says “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres Love never fails.” 

However, this excerpt of scripture still leaves me questioning what love is. What I am coming to see though is that love is not one thing but rather, like the bible excerpt quoted above says, a myriad of things.  

What ‘this thing called love’ is is something that I am delighting in learning and I imagine I will continue to learn as the months and years ahead of me unfold. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Prior to 2004 I thought I had been to hell and back with all my neurosurgeries and all that they had left me with. However, I can fairly say that the hardest times I have had to walk through were in the years following my three lots of neurosurgery in 2004.

After these surgeries I was placed on a high dose of steroids to reduce the swelling in my brain. One of the side-effects of steroids is that they cause you to gain weight, rapidly. They also cause your appetite to increase to about tenfold and you are forbidden to try and lose the weight.

In the space of 10 months I put on 40kg and went from being a ‘big’ person, to no longer recognising myself when I saw my reflection.  And then I had doctors say I had done so well to ‘only’ gain the 40kg! I just wanted to scream at them “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HELL THIS IS”.

In 2003 I had been put on steroids for six weeks after having very basic surgery to have a monitor placed in my brain for 48 hours. This excerpt from an email that I sent to friends at that time accurately describes how they left me feeling.

“I haven’t mentioned in any emails just how much they (the effects of the steroids) have affected everything I feel about myself. They puff you up something terrible and I currently resemble the ‘marshmallow man’ from ‘Ghost Busters’. It’s been so extremely hard to look in the mirror and not even recognise the person I see….. I know that we all say beauty comes from within etc., and I totally agree with what is said, but in saying that, it has been horrendously hard.”

I had only gained 6kg on the short dose of steroids I was on when this email was sent out. I am just so very glad that I didn’t know then what was going to happen and what I was going to have to go through in 18 month’s time.

Incredibly kindly, for Christmas in 2004, Mum gave me a photo shoot with a photography portraits company called ‘BodyShots’. I had the photo shoot straight after Christmas and those photos became a lifeline to me. By this stage I had already gained a lot of weight and the photos were massively airbrushed. However, these photos were like gold for me over the years to come. They gave me a glimpse of the fact that I could look attractive and I absolutely clung to that.

Here are some of the ‘Body Shots’ photos, followed by a photo that my father took (un-airbrushed) when we returned home.

After about a year on steroids I clearly remember getting to the point where I said to Mum that I no longer wanted to go outside the house or down town. I didn’t want to go anywhere where people could see me, or where I could catch my reflection. Because of my memory problems I would forget I was as big as I was and every time I saw my reflection I would get such a huge shock that it upset me terribly. However, in my response to saying this to Mum she said what seemed to be the cruelest thing in the world; that if that was the case, we were going out for coffee and now. Little did she or I know that she actually saved me from starting to develop a phobia.

As the months moved into years while I was on steroids I continued to exercise every day. At first I was walking 5 – 10km a day. Then in 2005 I started falling over during my walks and skinning my knees (being on steroids not only causes you to put on weight, and your appetite to increase, but they also cause your immune system to significantly weaken and your skin to thin out). I was on an endless course of antibiotics and with money that I had recently inherited I put a deposit down on an elliptical cross trainer.

I was still very weak after my three lots of surgery in 2004 and didn’t feel strong enough to do my workouts. Every day I would say to my Mum that I didn’t know how I was going to do my workout, and every day she would reply “Just try doing 5 minutes and go from there”. So every day that is what I would do.

There is a verse in the book of Philippians in the Bible that says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Every day, as recently as today I still pray, “Lord, you say it, I believe it, please give me that strength” and every day he is faithful.

It turned out that the reason I was falling over so much was that there were two haemorrhaging blood clots on the back of my brain stem. I had surgery to remove these clots in early 2006 and this once again left me experiencing extremes of weakness. The surgeons said to my parents after that surgery that it had been my strong heart that had got me through it so well. Even though I was morbidly obese, I was fit.

December 2006 - 

In retrospect  it seems strange to me that even though I had been a Christian all my life, it wasn’t until there wasn’t anything in the mirror that I could identify with that I turned to God for my identity. I remember starting to pray throughout each day for God to show me what He saw when He looked at me.

I don’t remember seeing any clear picture, or hearing God speak any clear words to me, however, between the end of 2006 and the end of 2009 I worked out on my cross trainer every day, calling on God for strength with every workout. Between 2006 and 2009 I lost 40kg, and I have lost another 15kg since then. I found that not only did my workouts increase my fitness but they also gave me freedom from pain and my weight began to reduce.  During the years that I lost my steroid weight exercise changed for me. It went from being something I had to do, to being the best time of my day and something I really wanted to do.

There was something that was hugely different in this weight loss experience from the many times I had lost weight (and regained it) in the past. As each kilo came off I felt immense excitement and felt gorgeous. I clearly remember at my 30th birthday (2007) feeling so slim and beautiful, and yet I was more than 35 kilos heavier than I am now!

There was an enormous change in how I viewed myself. Even though on steroids I was the heaviest weight I have ever been, I slowly started to view myself as a treasured daughter of God’s, and to see myself as truly beautiful. Now I am not saying this in a ‘full of myself’ way, but rather in that I had begun to see myself as God saw me. My external appearance had actually become irrelevant to how I felt about myself.  For the first time in my life I began to actually feel joy and contentment when I looked in the mirror. I no longer saw my size when I saw my reflection because I felt such beauty inside.

I am not saying that the snap answer to losing my steroid weight was in merely praying for God to show me what He saw, there were several things that worked together. I don’t have any snap formula for how I lost the 40kg I had gained. I know that while I was on the highest dose of steroids I took natural appetite suppressants for a while. I had a hunger that was just out of control. Twenty four hours a day I felt ravenously hungry and nothing seemed to quench that hunger.  These tablets helped to curb it a little. Eventually though I was able to start reducing the portions of food I was eating. I also loosely followed the Weight Watcher’s ‘Points’ plan, though I didn’t attend any meeting. And, as I’ve already said, I exercised daily.

In walking through the hardest part of my life, I feel as though I have been set free. I would never want to go through that out-of-control hunger, and equally out-of-control weight gain ever again. However, I am so incredibly grateful that God not only allowed me to go through those years, but walked beside me every day and gave me the strength to lose not only the physical weight, but also the emotional weight of a lifetime.  


2007 -

2008 -

 2009 -

2010 - 

2011 - 

2012 -

2013 - 

2014 - 

God is so good and has set me free!

Thursday, August 14, 2014


As I sit here in our lounge and watch yet another sensational, awe-inspiring sunset I went to run and get my camera but it wasn’t where I thought I’d left it and I felt called to go back and soak in the beauty of it while it lasted. The lashings of fiery red across the sky, separated with dark pillows of cloud, with beams of gold fading into the distance.

As I did so I came to just praising God and feeling an overwhelming sense of awe, gratitude and humility. Awe and gratitude to God who ‘merely’ puts on a masterpiece of artwork every night, and humility in feeling that He who did this loves me so much that He was prepared to send His Son to die for me and my sin.

As the sky has darkened and the beauty of the sunset has gone, I feel blessed and reassured. Blessed to have witnessed one of the most stunning pieces of ‘art’ I have ever seen. And reassured that even though at times in our lives there is no evident beauty and everything around us is dark, that tomorrow is a new day.  And that even if not tomorrow, the sun will shine once again in our lives at some stage in the horizon.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Since the end of May this year I have been experiencing an extreme increase in the intensity of the normal (well, my normal) 24/7 headaches. Fortunately I have only been getting these extreme headaches once a week but they are incredibly hard to deal with when they are here. When I have them the intensity of the pain comes in surges; it varies from moment to moment.

When I was first diagnosed with my brain tumour the only prominent side-effect of the tumour was headaches and a lack of energy. So I have lived with headaches for a very long time (20 years in October). However, there have been periods when these headaches have intensified. Generally when my shunt has blocked.

Because of where my brain tumour was, and a mound of scar tissue now is, there is a blockage of one of the main ventricles (or ‘pipes’) in the brain. Because of this cerebral spinal fluid wasn’t able to drain out of the brain and there was a huge amount of pressure in my brain (this state in the brain is called hydrocephalus). They put a shunt in and this functioned well until the late ‘90s when it started to block.

In 2000 the shunt blocked well and truly and they tried to remove it unsuccessfully. I had to have 6 lots of neurosurgery in 8 days as the brain had grown attached to the shunt and their trying to remove it caused haemorrhaging, clotting and, it is now thought many small strokes. 

After all that surgery I had four years without any further blockage problems. My tumour grew and I had to have radiotherapy in 2002, but no shunt blocks. However, in September 2004 I had a bout of extreme headaches with visual disturbances and it was found that my shunt had blocked again. On the 14th of September I went in for surgery and came out of it well. They replaced the shunt and everything seemed to go according to plan. My vision came right and it seemed like I was out of the woods.

However I began to have severe headaches with visual disturbances again on the 20th of September. These increased and I was woken in the night by another violent headache that was an ‘off the radar’ headache (in terms of intensity) with extreme visual disturbances.  I was briskly taken in to hospital where, because the only neurosurgeon able to do the best surgery was out of the country for another 24 hours, an external drain was put into my brain. The following day they put a clamp on the drain to cause the pressure in my brain to increase again (as, in order to do the surgery, there had to be an excess of fluid in it).

On the 23rd of September I was taken down to theatre to have a ventriculostomy done. In spite of its long and complicated sounding name, a ventriculostomy is quite easy to understand once explained.

Because there is very little room in the skull for anything other than the brain, the level of cerebral spinal fluid has to be kept stable. If there is excess CSF (cerebral spinal fluid ) in the brain this causes pressure in the brain, leading to intense headaches and visual disturbances. When this is the case a form of drain has to be inserted into the brain to drain the fluid. So on the 23rd of September Mr Law did a ventriculostomy.

In lay-man’s terms, a ventriculostomy, unlike a lumbar drain, is open all the time. It's connected (as with a lumbar drain) to a sterile, closed system. It's also connected to a levelling apparatus that in some cases is kind of fancy and in others involves, like, an old radio antenna and a marked pole. 

The goal of my having this was to get the CFS in my system draining through this new, levelled system. I was watched like a hawk by a nurse to make sure that the ventriculostomy drain stayed at a particular level, ordered by the doctor. During this time it is monitored, to check that there wasn't too much or too little fluid draining out.

With this surgery there were similar risks as having a new shunt put in, meaning that it could block. The operation has a 60 – 70% success rate so there was a 30 – 40% chance a shunt would have to be put in again. I am so incredibly fortunate that the ventriculostomy didn’t block again but there is always the possibility that it could happen and that is why I find it frightening when I have a return of the symptoms of blockage.

After these 3 lots of surgery in 1 week in 2004, with 2 lots on consecutive days, I was pretty shattered. It all went well and was very straight- forward for the surgeons. However, after this surgery I had to be put onto a high dose of steroids to reduce the swelling in my brain.

I had to remain on steroids for several years and, well, my experience on steroids is a whole other blog. In short, I put on 40kg in 10 months on the steroids which adds another daunting factor to ever having to have this surgery again.

So even though to the outsider, what I have been experiencing of late just sound like mere headaches, their being a very distinctive type of headache carries with it many unpleasant associations and anxieties.

On Friday (the 5th of July) afternoon I had extremely intense head pain with the pain around my eyes becoming extreme in the evening. In reality, I should have headed to hospital then (as I had been directed by my neurosurgeon) but we had been in the city all day and were half way home in peak time traffic and I just couldn’t face it. I stated that I would do so if it was bad the next day. Yesterday it was bad again, but not as intense as on Friday night. We went into the hospital and I was eventually given a CT scan that didn’t show any abnormality. However, because a fluid blockage in the brain can drain very quickly I am still unsure as to whether it can be ruled out (I had many episodes of my shunt blocking in the evening, and then draining by the next morning when I was scanned before it was ‘caught’ blocked in a scan in 2000).

It has only been in meditating on God’s words in the Bible, and meditating on his promises for my life that I have been able to keep my anxieties about all this at bay.
The key verses that have really been feeding my spirit over these past few weeks have been these ones below.

Proverbs 3, verses 5 – 6 says “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.”  Trusting God is to me absolutely imperative as I can’t actually see  what is going on in my brain. Whenever I try and work it out, I get it wrong and get anxious so in my mind it is only sensible to trust in God who does know and understand what is happening.

The second verse is one that has comforted me from the day I was diagnosed when it was given in a card to me and my family. It is Psalm 139 verse 16: Your eyes saw my unformed body;  all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Knowing that God has known about what is new and frightening to me since before I was even born has always been a great assurance to me.

Jeremiah chapter 29, verse 11, I also find to be an incredible reassurance. It says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

And finally Psalm 91 verses 14 – 16: “Because she loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue her; I will protect her, for she acknowledges my name. She will call on me, and I will answer her; I will be with her in trouble, I will deliver her and honour her. With long life I will satisfy her and show her my salvation.

This chapter in the book of Psalms in the Bible was again given to me in a card when I was first diagnosed and has always brought me great reassurance. Knowing that God is with me when things get troublesome and hard, and knowing that He will deliver me has always given me a sense of peace during trials.

So even though things are, at times, scary with these current extreme flares in my headaches, neck and eye pain, and even though I am having recurrences of the symptoms that have led to trauma in the past, I am holding onto God’s word, God’s faithfulness to me in the past, and the hope that there is in that. 

Monday, March 10, 2014


Surrounding my sister’s holiday home in Urquhart’s Bay is spectacular scenery.

 There are many day walks of various lengths that can be done. There is one particular walk that I love that takes you over to Smuggler’s Cove’. It involves a steep rise for half of it, and then steep walking down to an exquisite beach. 

Yesterday morning I was keen to do this tramp and managed to persuade my 9 year old niece, Stella, and 7 year old nephew, Will, to join me. They have hiked a lot up here and are very fit and I knew they were perfectly capable of it. However, as we got to the entry gate of the hike Stella started to complain of having a very sore knee, and Will began to whinge that he too was sore. I decided to take this opportunity to share with them how I have learned to manage my own pain with these hikes.

I told them about a song that I had written to help me with this exact hike with the intense leg pain that I experience. It is based on the book of Philippians in the Bible, chapter four, verse 13 which says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.  Back in 2011 when I was up here I first started to challenge my beliefs that I couldn’t do these hikes due to my pain. I made it over to ‘Smuggler’s Cove’ every day that summer and when my pain was intense I would just sing this scripture to myself with varying intensity, depending on how much I needed that strength at that time. However, I changed the wording from the actual scripture to being,

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
There is nothing that I will not try
For I am empowered with the power of God”

Stella and Will seemed to have taken in what I was saying as they both stopped complaining of their ailments and happily did the hike over to ‘Smuggler’s Cove’.

Later, in the early evening, when we went to walk down my sister’s very steep drive to go swimming, I said to the kids that I might have to take the car down to the water’s edge as my leg pain was really bad. It was then that Will piped up and asked “But Aunty Gabe, why don’t you just sing your song? It will give you the courage to keep coming!”

Will’s saying this was a total reality check as I realised that he had 100% believed that I gained strength and courage (his words) from the words of my song and he couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t also apply it now when this was the case. His speaking up and saying what he did really got me thinking of how it is far too easy to say things to others that have helped me in the past, and then forget to continue to apply them to my life.

This brought to mind a comment that was made to me as a teenager by a non-Christian friend who had said that Christian’s are all hypocrites and never practised what they preached. I wondered if I had become one of the hypocrites. However, in this instance it is more the case that I remember the things that inspire me and help me keep motivated when I’m not weary, but forget them once fatigue is added to my pain.

Will’s comment yesterday really challenged me to not only ‘talk the talk’ but to also ‘walk the walk’ and it is something that I hope I will remember to come back to every day.

I believe that if we are to be true, authentic people, we need to not only mean what we say, but also put into practice what we say.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Over the past 14 years, since I had 6 lots of neurosurgery in 8 days in March 2000, I have at times felt immense frustration with my body. Especially with the continual headaches I live with and the fact that I seem to have so little control over the chronic pain that I have everywhere.

However, one of the things that has helped me so greatly over the years has been changing my focus. It would be so very easy for me to fall into self-pity mode if I focused on what others have that I don’t have. And especially if I focused on the lives of my friends who were at University with me and what they have gone on to achieve. However it would be utterly futile and actually destructive to focus on these things.

When things have been extremely intense with my pain, and my spirits sink, my mother and father are quick to remind me how fortunate I am to even be alive. When things are trying it is just so easy for me to forget the number of times that I nearly haven’t made it through my (13 lots of) neurosurgery, and forget how long it was that I couldn’t even see clearly (due to changes in my tumour), and forget how I couldn’t walk unaided, how I had TENS electrodes stuck to every limb with wires sticking out of them that everyone noticed. I forget that I was 55kg heavier than I now am (due to gaining 40kg in 10 months on steroids) and didn’t even recognise myself. It is just too easy to forget how incredibly hard things have been for me at times over these past 14 years and how vastly better my life is now compared to what it was.

Being reminded of these times serves as a much needed wake up call, a slap on the face you could say, to remind me of the freedoms I now experience that I haven’t always had during these past 14 years.

I think that a great way for anyone to sink their view of their own life, regardless of their circumstances, is to focus on what they don’t have rather than what they do. Worse yet is to focus on what others have that you don’t. When we have this frame of mind we are so blind to the blessings in our own lives. And in doing so we are undoubtedly starting ourselves down the slippery slope that leads to the destructive mental state of self-pity.

In the 4th chapter of the book of Philippians in the Bible, Paul sums this up brilliantly. “……I have learned how to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need. I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

I have found that the only way that I have reached contentment about my physical situation and my circumstances is to try to focus on the blessings in my life. I try to remind myself about what I now have that I haven’t always had, and also remind myself of the freedom I now walk in. In focusing on these things, and on the fact that God will give me the strength to do anything I need to do in life, I have indeed become truly content.

Like the old saying says, “keep your eye on the donut, not the hole”.