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Archive for February, 2013

As an author, I get to do some interesting things, not least of which are in-store book signings. Last Saturday, at my fourth such event, I discovered again how neat it is when those little ‘God moments’ pop up.

It was still early in the day when the first of my special conversations took place. A customer who recognised me from an event where I had spoken told me with some trepidation how she had resigned her job and was about to start nursing training—at the age of fifty-nine! Would she cope, she wondered, going back to study? At once I knew why God had brought her to my book table.

‘I was fifty-nine when my first novel was released,’ I told her. ‘Now I have six books published and a seventh due out this year! I hope that encourages you.’

Her eyes filled with tears as she picked up my non-fiction book Soul Friend.

‘Please sign this and write in it what you just said, as a reminder of how God has shown me I can do it!’ she told me.

A couple came by next who also decided to buy Soul Friend because they had begun mentoring some younger leaders.

‘We’ve been reading a book called Mentoring Matters,’ they told me.

‘Oh yes, I know the author. See, he endorsed my own book here,’ I responded, pointing to Rick Lewis’s name on the cover. ‘He spoke at my book launch—his book is excellent!’

A little later, I noticed a young woman standing nearby, holding a little girl by the hand. We chatted about my books and about writing in general, and then she told me she had come to find where her own book was displayed. I asked her what her book was about.

‘It’s about miscarriage—it’s called Losing Sammy,’ she told me. ‘It’s some letters I wrote to encourage other women going through the same ordeal as I did.’

She broke off then, as just at that moment, she caught sight of her book on a nearby shelf. I watched the emotion on her face and went to stand beside her.

‘It’s a special moment when we see our own book in a bookstore, isn’t it?’ I said, as she put her arm around me.

‘Yes—and you’re sharing it with me,’ she whispered.

What a privilege!

Later, an older woman came by. She asked my opinion about the suitability of some books of short stories she had chosen as gifts and I was able to tell her that they contained two stories I myself had written. She then looked at my novel, Heléna’s Legacy, which features a young woman left to bring up her son alone.

‘Oh, that’s me,’ she said, as she put the book in her basket. ‘That’s what I did.’

We went on to talk about so many interesting things, including the writings of Catholic authors Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton.

‘I mention them in my Soul Friend book here,’ I told her.

Immediately, she picked up a copy and added it to her basket too.

‘I go to a Catholic church,’ she told me. ‘I know I will enjoy this.’

I came home convinced that my various conversations had not happened by chance that day. It was as if God had lined up appointments for me—and all I needed to do was show up.

Encourage one another daily’, we are told in Heb 10:13. May you too keep finding those God appointments in your own lives each day and experience the joy of encouraging those whom God brings across your path!

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Our little grandson is perfect, of course, but he is curious about everything—especially things like CDs or old cassettes arranged neatly on shelves! Recently, I decided it was high time we stored these items in my study rather than in our lounge room, thus removing at least one temptation for him. Anyway, what grandparent wants to keep saying, ‘Don’t touch that!’ or ‘No!!’ and taking things from a grandson who looks up with big brown eyes and clings on for dear life to the treasured item he has discovered?!

Moving the items turned out to be the easy part. Much harder was the task of culling both the CDs and our few remaining cassettes, some of which had sustained me through various interesting times in my life or had been favourites in earlier years.

Among these was one cassette that is unique on several counts. It doesn’t look much—it is just a homemade cassette with some songs on it I recorded many years ago for my mother. But what memories it holds! My mother wasn’t particular about the quality—she just wanted to hear her daughter sing. After all, we lived many kilometres away in another part of Australia and saw each other usually only once a year. I remembered then how I had spent many hours sitting in our church as I recorded myself singing, accompanying myself on the organ, piano or guitar. As I listened this past week, not only did the songs evoke memories of other places where I had sung these songs, but it also brought a wave of nostalgia for that time years ago when I could sing as high as I did then and when I could actually play those complicated piano accompaniments I had recorded!

But it was the very first piece on the cassette that threw me completely. To my great surprise, I found I had included a recording of an old anthem King of Kings in excellent four part harmony, sung by our church choir in the South Australian town where we lived around thirty-five years ago! And guess who featured in the very high soprano solo? Yours truly! I listened open-mouthed. No churches, in our circles at least, sing such songs these days. Church choirs are by and large a thing of the past, as are organs like the one at that country church. Yet what joy we had had, practising and performing together, I remembered.

What a reminder of God’s gracious hand on my life, watching over me down through the years! What rich experiences God allowed me to have, even in those days in South Australia as a young mum with three little ones when life was often so busy and draining! As I reflected on my ‘blast from the past’, I was filled with awe. God has persevered with me, teaching me so much, walking me through challenging experiences, rejoicing with me at the many high points in my journey.

People, we serve a faithful, faithful God. May we never forget that and may we all be so thankful!

Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. Psalm 115:1

Praise the Lord. Praise, O servant of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. Psalm 113:1

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I wonder how you fared in finding the refreshment you needed over the Christmas break. Perhaps you had a great holiday with family or managed to find some time on your own where you could replenish your resources. We are all different—what works for one might not work for another. While one person recovers best by staying at home, another prefers to get right away from things.

Somehow I suspect I might have missed out on that window of opportunity to be refreshed as much as needed in the past month. So here I am in February, trying to grab what days I can to relax a little. My family would no doubt say I don’t know the meaning of the word ‘relax’, however! Many times when we are having a birthday celebration here, I am told off for hopping up from the table for this and that. As for watching TV without doing anything else, recently when I was doing just that and pointed out this remarkable fact to my husband, he told me he could hardly believe his eyes!

It is a trap at times for those of us who work from home to keep on working when we should stop for a while. My computer is always waiting here on my desk, ready for whenever I want to write another blog or begin work on my next book or prepare for a speaking engagement or answer a few emails. And I enjoy all these activities, so they can’t really be classed as work—can they? At times such tasks can be frustrating, but mostly I find that pull back into my study to write is like an invisible thread, enticing me towards that next wonderful writing idea or that interesting email I absolutely have to respond to straight away!

Yet we all need time away from our work, however enjoyable it is, to recharge our batteries and gain a more rounded perspective on things. Years ago, I discovered Michael Leunig’s whimsical, little book, The Curly Pyjama Letters. The letter that spoke to me most at that point was one written by Mr Curly to Vasco Pyjama on the topic of rest. In the final paragraph, he urges Vasco to feel his ‘noble tiredness’ and repeats his belief that ‘it’s worth doing nothing and having a rest.’ Vasco maintains the world is ‘dying of restlessness’ and urges his friend not to give in to this. His words ring very true to me. How about you?

Then last week, I was sent some even more pertinent, life-giving words. After I had complained I was feeling a little tired, a friend emailed me Proverbs 11:25:

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

Now I’m sure this includes female writers and speakers as well! And I hope and pray others were indeed refreshed in the past year through my first non-fiction book Soul Friend in particular but also through my times of speaking. I hope, by God’s grace, that hearts were touched and spirits renewed.

So I’m off to relax now, to rest in God’s grace myself, comforted in the knowledge that God will refresh and renew, ready for all that lies ahead. And if you are feeling a little like me, may you too put aside your ‘restlessness’ and find all the refreshment you need in God.

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Whenever awards such as the Australian of the Year are announced on TV on Australia Day or whenever the Queen’s birthday honours list is made public, they are often greeted with a tongue-in-cheek lament in our family.

‘Oh, dear! Looks like they forgot me again,’ I sigh. ‘Ah well! I’ll just have to wait until next year.’

While many worthy people are honoured in this way, most of us will not end up among their ranks—and that’s okay. We all can’t make it there, and some people have done extraordinary things in their lives that deserve our applause. Yet I believe all of us desire in our hearts to be honoured and respected as part of our everyday lives and it seems that’s how God wants us to treat others, too. In Romas 12:10, we read:

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.

Years ago, I facilitated a course in our church in which one session was entitled ‘The Shame Game’. At first, I wondered how relevant this session would be for those taking part, but quickly changed my mind. It soon became obvious that many, including me, knew very well those feelings of shame, not so much because of anything we had done, but of who we intrinsically were. Whatever negative messages we had taken on board when we were younger had stuck. Even if these messages were unintentional, that did not make them any less effective. Some group members had been physically and emotionally abused, causing them to feel completely devalued and unworthy of being loved. For others, it was often some throw-away line, spoken out of anger or jealousy or even simply without thinking, that had cut deep. These beliefs had affected our behaviour in various ways—and we knew we needed God’s help to change and become more whole.

I wonder if you relate to this sense of shame many of us seem to carry? Perhaps, like me, you have found that some things more than others tap into such feelings and catch us by surprise. For example, recently I saw another author’s book strongly criticised in an online review and I felt immediate empathy for her. We both know that authors having different writing styles and that no one author is going to please everyone with his or her work. Yet it hurts when one of our ‘babies’ seems to be criticised unfairly or devalued in some way. When this happens, that old sense of shame is often not far away. Perhaps that’s why it’s said that authors need to have a very sensitive spirit but also the hide of an elephant!

Yet I’ve discovered I need more than that in my own writing journey. I’ve found I need to base my sense of honour and self-worth not on some passing writing success but on where I stand in God’s eyes. I need to remember the grace, mercy and forgiveness extended to me in love and that in God, I have been given a safe place to stand where I can hold my head high, whatever happens in life. This week, I came across the following words in Psalm 61:7:

My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

Amen and amen!

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