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Archive for August, 2009

No, I am definitely not some ‘miracle mum’ giving birth in my ripe old age to a real flesh and blood baby!  I already have three beautiful children and two equally beautiful granddaughters.  Nevertheless, this whole process of launching another book into the world does feel like giving birth all over again – especially when the book concerned has the very personal name of ‘Laura’.

Yes, my third novel will officially enter the world on Sunday 13th September at 2.00pm!  If you would actually like to be present on the occasion of Laura’s ‘birth’, please feel free to leave a comment on this blog, or to contact me via my website, www.jo-anneberthelsen.com for further information.  

Also on my website, you will find I am offering a special deal for any who want to purchase ‘Laura’ prior to her actual ‘birth’ on 13th.  Yes, I am selling ‘clones’ of my new baby for the very reasonable postage-free price of twenty dollars – but only for this strictly limited period.  After all, one has to draw the line somewhere.

Seriously though – this ‘birth’ has definitely been one of my more prolonged.  While the initial writing of ‘Laura’ did take around nine months, just like any normal pregnancy, the actual ‘germ’ of the idea for this novel came fifteen years ago when I first met my friend Heather.  It was she who unintentionally inspired me to create my ‘Laura’, who in her turn became almost a real person in her own right to me.  There were many puzzling, frustrating moments along the way, however, as ‘Laura’ grew inside me – times when I spent hours searching for exactly the right information about becoming blind, about education for blind students, about artificial eyes, about so many things.  At one stage I almost aborted the whole idea – it just seemed too difficult a book to write well and with integrity.  But by then I had grown very attached to my Laura – and I so much wanted her to push through all the difficulties confronting her and to make a safe entrance into the world.

And now here she is at last – after a ‘pregnancy’ lasting around three years all up!  While the original writing took around nine months, since then there have been many re-writes and many periods of waiting for my publisher to say ‘yes’ and to put the final touches on my ‘baby’.  So it is with great joy and no little relief that I can finally say, with great thanks to God …  WELCOME TO ‘LAURA’!

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The other day I came across a very honest prayer of Thomas Merton that begins ‘My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.’  I have prayed that type of prayer many times, particularly since embarking on this whole writing journey of mine.  At one stage some years back, I had a dream where I was lost in a cold, marshy area and could not see even as far as my outstretched hand.  There were tussocks of green grass at my feet, but as I stepped on them, some held firm while others gave way completely and my foot sunk down into the mud and mire.  Then in my dream I heard a kind voice, urging me on, directing me exactly where to put my feet and walk out of the marsh to safety.  ‘Yes, that’s right – just put your foot there.  Now head to the left a little – yes, over this way.  Don’t worry – keep listening to my voice.  I’ll guide you – yes, trust me, it’s safe to put your other foot there.  Now go straight ahead – that’s great!  Put your foot on that green patch – it’s quite safe.  Don’t go either side of it – just stay right in the middle and keep going slowly forward.

In my dream, I listened and obeyed – and at last I found myself safely through the marsh, out of the fog and onto higher ground.  Phew!

I’m sure God was trying to show me that this is exactly what I have to do in ‘real life’ too.  I can forge ahead and trust completely in my own wisdom and strength, but how much safer and more sensible to listen to the voice of the One Who knows and sees everything!  How much better to acknowledge, as King David did in Psalm 142, that God has a way forward for us, whatever is happening in our lives:

When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way.

Yes, I might have no idea where I’m going, but I’m sure glad God does – and how to get there as well.  And I’m sure glad God loves me enough to bother to give me dreams about exactly that and to see me through those treacherous patches in my life where I could so easily go astray.

How about you?  Had any dreams from God lately?

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Someone read me a beautiful poem recently that contains what I believe is one of the most important questions we could ever be asked.  The poem is ‘A Summer Day’ by Mary Oliver and ends this way:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Well, my life doesn’t quite fit the bill of being ‘wild and precious’, you might be tempted to say.  But just stop and think a minute.  I’m not sure exactly what Mary Oliver meant by ‘wild’ – yet isn’t it true that each morning when we wake up we face a whole raft of possibilities for the day ahead?  Whatever our role in life, each morning we can choose afresh how we act, how we approach the various situations that confront us, how we will respond to others along the way.  And if we consider God to be a vital part of our life, then the journey becomes even more interesting and full of possibilities.  That’s pretty wild, I reckon.

Recently, a woman who had nursed elderly people for many years commented on radio that one of the things in her experience people most regretted at the end of their lives was that they had not grasped the opportunities presented to them along the way or, in other words, had not taken more risks.  I don’t want to be like that.  I don’t want to get to the end of my life and feel I had not attempted the ‘wild’ things God might have called me to do.  I have gifts and abilities.  You have gifts and abilities that can be used for good to bless and encourage others.  We all do.

And yes, my life and your life are definitely ‘precious’.  Each of us is unique.  Each of us is made in God’s image, according to Genesis 1:27.  And each of us has one opportunity to be all we were created to be, to have a positive impact in this world, to make a difference.

That inspires me to listen to God’s leading each day, to invest myself more fully in what I have been given to do, to try my best to honour God with this particular moment of my ‘one wild and precious life’.

I hope you find Mary Oliver’s question equally fascinating and challenging.

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I was in the middle of one of those surreal kind of experiences.  As the rain came pelting down, I focussed all my attention on keeping up with the car in front of me, who in turn was trying to keep up with the one in front of it.  We were both part of a funeral procession, wending its way at quite a fast pace through unfamiliar streets in an unfamiliar town.  I had to get to the lawn cemetery – after all, I was leading the service there for my young friend who had passed away after a long illness.

The rain had eased by the time we arrived, but the clouds hung low on the surrounding mountains, dark and threatening.  Very tentatively, I squelched my way across the grass towards the designated spot.  People were gathered around in a horseshoe shape, only a few able to shelter beneath the nearby canopy.

I began the service.  I read the beautiful, age-old words of Psalm 23:

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

he restores my soul. …

I prayed, committing my friend’s body to its resting place and her soul to God.  I was vaguely aware, as we each placed a flower provided for us on the coffin and said our final goodbyes, that the sky had cleared and the sun was shining.  I was focussed on the next part of the service, however – I hoped it would be just what her parents wanted and  needed.  I thought I had known how it should all go – but then it came to me.  We would sing the simple old chorus ‘Be still and know that I am God’ together, as my friend’s coffin was lowered into the ground.

And as we did, unbeknown to me, but visible to the mourners as they stood facing me, the clouds parted a little above the surrounding mountains – and a beautiful rainbow appeared.  It was a sacred moment.  God was present, offering peace, comfort and hope in the midst of great sadness.

The rain held off until most people had left.  At home once again, I emailed a friend, telling her what had happened.  She wrote back, almost immediately, still in shock.  That day, she had prayed specifically for a rainbow of hope for the grieving family, as a tangible sign of comfort and encouragement to them.

God knows.  God cares.  I am sure of that.

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