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Archive for May, 2010

My eyes are bulging. My shoulders are aching. Everywhere I look I see words in front of my eyes.  You see, I am almost at the end of a final edit of my fourth novel ‘Jenna’ before it is published next month by Ark House Press.

My editor has worked hard on the manuscript too, typing her suggestions in red. My job has been to check all these and change them into black if I agree with her suggestions. But it is often not as straightforward as that. If I want to change anything else or give an alternative to her changes, then I am to type in bold blue.

Now on some pages there is a veritable ‘sea’ of bold blue – especially at the beginning, where I have written a whole new first chapter and altered the second to tie in with it. What will my editor make of all these changes, I wonder? After all, she has already thrown some ‘curly ones’ at me. For example, which is correct – ‘She was one of the few who were still single’ – or ‘She was one of the few who was still single’? And what about the phrase ‘for a while’? Should it be written ‘for awhile’ instead? Is ‘any more’ written as two words or one? And is it better to use double quotation marks around direct speech, with single quotation marks for anything else needing quotation marks within those – or vice versa?

All these things are important, I guess. But in the end, how many people will notice? More than that, how many people will really care?  Of course it’s hugely important to write an interesting beginning for a novel – after all, I might lose my readers before they even get past the first page! But in the end, it may simply come down to a matter of preference.  So how much more time and effort should I put into playing with the words on the screen before me, putting them this way and that, cutting some out and adding others in? I guess until I’m sure that what I have written will draw people into the story and not inhibit their experience or enjoyment of it in any way. I know, as the writer of Ecclesiastes puts it, that ‘of making many books there is no end’ (Ecc 12:12), but ‘Jenna’ is my novel!  I believe in its potential to challenge people and change lives – in short, it has important things to say.  ‘Jenna’ is my ‘baby’ – and I want to see her brought through this birthing process with the minimum of pain or damage to both of us!

I also believe with all my heart that God has called me to write at this stage of my life – so if that involves hours and hours of editing and rewriting, then so be it! The birthing process is never without pain – and my eyes will no doubt eventually recover.  Besides, Jesus told us the path would not be easy, didn’t he? In John 16:33b we read these words:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

I know Jesus is right there beside me with every word I write – or edit out. And he will help me, whatever the challenge – he has overcome the whole world, as he has said!  So I will ‘take heart’. I will turn on my computer yet again and apply myself to the task before me. And in a few weeks’ time, God willing, I will joyfully welcome ‘Jenna’ into the world!

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Have there been times in your life when you wished you hadn’t written that email to someone or at least said things differently in it? Have there been occasions when you felt you’d like to wind the tape of a conversation back and erase the last few words you said? I know there definitely have been for me.  I’m quite experienced at speaking impulsively and thinking afterwards – and the same goes for the many emails I dash off each week.  Once the words are spoken or that ‘send’ button is clicked, it’s too late then to do anything about it – except apologise and try to set things right when I can!

Perhaps this is why I particularly noticed the following verse from Psalm 19 one morning recently:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Ps 19:14)

These words are a very pertinent reminder to those of us who get the opportunity to speak in a public setting or to teach others.  Do we say what we say to make our audience think well of us or admire us in some way?  Do we aim to please them with our words and forget that God is there listening as well? Yet this verse points out that it’s not only the words we say but also the very thoughts of our hearts that need to be pleasing to God.  And surely they are connected, since as Jesus himself says: Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt 12:34).

As I write my novels and even blogs such as this one, I am often aware I am putting what are at times my inmost thoughts out there for all to see.  I might have the luxury in my novels of disguising them as the words of one of my characters or the thoughts of some ‘omniscient narrator’, but God at least knows where they have come from!  Yet this isn’t to me a scary thing. In fact, quite the opposite.  To me, it’s a relief that God knows my heart, hears the words I speak and sees the words I write.  God understands where I’m coming from – and when I make mistakes and my motives are less than pure, God isn’t there with a big stick wanting to punish me. God’s heart is to draw me close in love and to help me do better in his strength.  He is ‘my Rock and my Redeemer’, as Psalm 19 says – the one who has ‘bought me back’ and rescued me, the one who will protect me and never let me down.

So I rest in that love – and in fact, that very love spurs me on constantly to try to be careful about what I say and write.  After all, I want God to be comfortable there in the back row when I speak, nodding and encouraging me – or to truly enjoy reading my latest novel, a pleased smile on his face!

And while on the subject of words, both written and spoken, you might like to check out a ‘written interview’ I did for American Christian fiction author Lena Nelson Dooley recently – it can be found on her blog lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com.  You might even win a copy of one of my novels, if you choose to leave a comment there!

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At the moment, my husband has a broken arm.  He managed to trip while out bushwalking with a friend and, as a result, his arm is broken in two places, necessitating a full caste.  Now one of the key drawbacks out of all this is that he can’t drive – which definitely ‘clips his wings’!   And of course there are other smaller drawbacks as well – like the inability to tie shoelaces, cut up food, mow the lawn and so on.

At first, my husband didn’t know his arm was broken.  He knew it hurt, but decided to wait until things settled down and he could describe exactly what was happening before seeking any medical help.  In fact, after walking home, he chose to keep his promise to our granddaughter to take her to the movies – after all, he’d already paid for the tickets online!  So he then drove her to the movie theatre, sat through ‘Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang’, had a milk shake and drove home again before deciding to go to the doctor.  A visit to the hospital then ensued and a few hours later, his arm had duly been x-rayed and encased in plaster.

Now I’m sure my husband has learnt a lot through this experience.  But as I have watched him struggle with various tasks and also deal with some degree of ‘after-shock’ and fear of falling again, it has caused me to reflect on how many times we all go about with ‘clipped wings’ in some form or another in our lives.  We might know we aren’t functioning fully as God would want us to – but we can’t say exactly how.  It may be we just don’t feel right – that we’re struggling in some area that once was easy, that we don’t seem to enjoy things as much, that we are dispirited or frustrated.  But we can’t put our finger on the exact cause of our pain or discomfort – so we just put up with it, perhaps deciding that this is the best we can hope for.

Or perhaps we know exactly what’s wrong – that our ‘arm’ is in fact broken and not just bruised or strained.  But perhaps we don’t want to face up what it will mean to have our broken parts attended to.  Or maybe we honestly don’t know where to find the help we need or even trust that the treatment offered will be effective.  On the other hand, perhaps we have actually learnt from past experience that the best course of action possible is to head straight for the ‘hospital’, to the One Who knows and sees exactly what the issue is and can do something about it.  And as we honestly admit to where it hurts and trust in the help God offers us, then we will truly be healed, strengthened and enabled to ‘fly’ again.  As Isaiah 40:30-31 says:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  

And that’s wonderful news, don’t you agree?  So may you spread your wings fully this week and soar with all the strength God provides!

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There’s something magical about the excitement in a child’s face as he or she anticipates an upcoming birthday, isn’t there?  Recently our granddaughter turned seven – an event for which she had been counting down the days for some time.  She has various close relatives on both sides of the family – what could they possibly come up with this time for her birthday?

Well, one doting grandfather is of quite an original turn of mind and decided he would create something unique.  He spent literally hours and hours at his computer, figuring out how to use his reasonably new software to fashion a DVD out of some very brief movie snippets he had filmed with his own camera over the last couple of years.  He worked patiently, cutting sections out and ‘splicing’ others together until it all flowed smoothly.  And as an introduction, he managed to find a birthday song online where our granddaughter’s name could even be inserted at various spots.  Can you imagine her face when it came time for her to see her own personal DVD?  Absolute delight, shock, surprise, wonder, excitement – they were all there, written large on her face.  The gift was a definite ‘hit’, even though our granddaughter would have no idea of the hours her grandfather had spent in creating it.  He had enjoyed himself in the process, however, and learnt a lot along the way.  And the cost moneywise was virtually nothing.

Then one of her aunties spent considerable time checking out the trendiest children’s clothing stores for just the right kind of ‘with it’ pyjamas for her niece.  A trip to various jewellery stores followed, as she searched for purple earrings for a little girl with newly pierced ears.  She revelled in it all, despite time (and financial) constraints, and she was happy with her purchases – but she felt something was missing.  Then one day, she spied an extra gift in a ‘two dollar’ shop she couldn’t resist. It was a pretty little ‘secret’ diary, with a padlock and key, so only her niece would be able to look at the contents – and all for two dollars!  And you guessed it.  On the night when she opened all her gifts, apart from Granddad’s DVD, the ‘secret diary’ won hands down over the much more expensive earrings, pyjamas, books, craft kits etc.

So what is it that I take away from our seventh birthday experiences?  Some lovely memories of the joy of the moment, of course.  But also the realisation that it’s not always the expensive presents that mean the most.  It’s the ones where, whatever the financial cost, the giver has truly engaged in the process, reaching out in real love to someone else, desiring the best for him or her.

And that to me is surely a reflection of God’s love for us, don’t you agree?  God is always reaching out with the most amazing love, wanting to give good gifts to his children.  God engaged in the process long before we were even born.  God desires the best for each one of us and understands what we need better even than we do ourselves.  So let’s all, just like a little seven-year-old child, open our hearts and hands to him and receive with thankfulness the best gift of all – God’s own ‘indescribable gift’ of grace (2 Cor 9:15)!

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