Archive for October, 2016

BecomingMe-OFC-I like to think it wasn’t old age that caused me to make a rather crucial mistake recently. Stocks of my latest book Becoming Me had arrived, so I promptly sent out emails to lots of contacts, along with an attached brief document about the book’s release.

I vaguely remember a number of these emails taking much longer to send than the rest—which should have given me food for thought. But I ploughed on, eager to have my mammoth job completed. And soon I began receiving some encouraging responses and quite a few book orders via my website.

But last week, an email arrived from a friend who had just finished reading my first non-fiction book, Soul Friend. After explaining how much she had enjoyed it, she commented on my recent email about my latest book: I look forward to reading this one…. by the way, did you realise that you emailed the book transcript out, not the news release?

I was horrified. Surely I hadn’t sent out the whole manuscript of my new book to all my email contacts? With shaking hands, I checked my ‘Sent Items’. Phew! I could see I had attached the right document in most cases. But alas, around twenty-five people had indeed received a free digital version of the entire book!

Hmm—what to do? I decided to email these twenty-five again, apologising for my blunder and attaching the correct document this time. Now I am sure some would have quickly deleted this second email, as they had the first. But others reacted differently. One lady emailed that, after perusing my manuscript, she had decided to buy a hard copy at Koorong, which I know she did. Another lady wrote saying that she looked forward to reading the book ‘in some format’, as time permitted. Did that perhaps include my ‘freebie’, I wondered. Meanwhile, a writer friend was honest enough to admit she was puzzled at what I had done, yet was so happy to receive a free copy that she stayed quiet!

But one lady, way across the world in Ireland, exceeded all expectations. We have never met, but had been in contact about some workshops of mine she hoped to attend while visiting family in Australia. She began her email with the following:

So that explains why your manuscript popped into my inbox and ibooks! A most interesting read.

This lady went on to comment on various things she had enjoyed about Becoming Me. But she didn’t stop there. She also posted a review on Amazon UK! Not only that, she gave the book a five star rating!

This lovely, positive outcome from my silly blunder began to give me food for thought. Would this lady have ever purchased a copy of Becoming Me? I doubt it. Perhaps others who received my book by ‘accident’ might never consider buying it either, but still read it out of curiosity and be helped in some way. Whatever the case may be, I have decided to relax and trust God to bring good out of this whole event.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

A silly blunder? Maybe—maybe not.


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Jo 17Whenever one of our daughters phones us, her first words are always, ‘It’s me!’ Immediately, we know who it is. But as last week unfolded for me, I made the momentous discovery that God often says the same thing! It was as if God was whispering, over and over again, ‘It’s me! It’s me! Did you see my hand in that little event? Can you sense my love for you through this one? Open your eyes and ears—all around you, I’m working for your good! It’s me, reaching out to you! It’s me!’

Here are some examples:

  • Our daughter lost a big, silver ring she was wearing, as she helped me clean up after my book launch. ‘Perhaps it got caught in a plastic bag we put in the bin!’ was her anguished late night phone message. By then, the rubbish had been taken to our outside bin, so I promised to check next morning. I went out, picked up the first messy bag and carefully began examining one delightful piece of rubbish after another. And just as I had decided the task was impossible, there in the midst of crumbs and dollops of cream, I saw that silver ring, with its large, yellow stone glinting in the morning sun!
  • A writer friend phoned from another state, asking if I knew the contact details for a particular staff member at a bookstore. At that exact moment, I was halfway through an email to this staff member myself! It had taken me some time to find out how to contact this person, yet just when my friend asked, the information was right in front of me.
  • I received two lovely, encouraging emails from friends who had finished reading my newly released book, Becoming Me. Both said they were about to read it again slowly, to give them time to highlight things they needed to remember and apply to their own lives.
  • I was cross with our very tired grandson who wanted more lollies and let my feelings be known. I then noticed his little sister, looking up at me with her big, brown eyes. ‘Are you okay?’ she asked in a gentle voice, at all of two and half years of age. My heart melted.
  • I arrived to speak at a women’s breakfast at a church. As I sat down, I recognised the lady opposite me—we had met several years ago at a conference and I remembered how she loved my books. ‘I still pray for you, Jo-Anne,’ she told me quietly. ‘You are on a list of people I pray for often.’ Had I not come to speak or chosen to sit near her, I might never have discovered this.
  • I walked down our backyard. Yes, I could see lots of weeds—but there were flowers too and new growth and a refreshing breeze blowing and blue sky and birds twittering nearby. God was there, all around me and so near.

So this week, I plan to watch for more of those ‘It’s me!’ moments from God and be grateful for each one. Will you do that too?

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him. Psalm 34:8 The Message

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One would think I would know the ropes by now. After all, I have had seven other books released and have put on launches for all but one. Yet, in the lead-up to the launch of my eighth book, Becoming Me, this past weekend, I found myself inordinately nervous. Why on earth had I decided to put on yet another launch, I asked myself. After all, I am not the best at catering for such functions. Come to think of it, why had I even decided to see this particular book through to publication? Surely seven books were enough?

Then I figuratively shook myself and realised what a strange mindset I was taking on. Where was God’s perspective in it all? Hadn’t I felt God had guided me clearly to complete this new book of mine? Also, I had a good venue for the launch, as well as offers of help. And I had a lovely group of family and friends coming to support me, some of whom have tracked with me through all my previous launches.

So I decided to take a step back, listen better to God and allow that peace that passes understanding to permeate my heart and mind—even in the midst of shopping, cooking and the general tasks of getting everything together for the event. And I also decided I was not going to let the enemy rob me of the joy of this whole experience. In reality, it is such a privilege to be able to launch my eighth book, with family and friends around. So surely I needed to come to the event with a joyful heart, thanking God for this wonderful opportunity to put my thoughts out there once again for others to read and hopefully draw nearer to God themselves in the process?

As part of stepping back, I met up with a friend for coffee. Even the process of driving some distance across Sydney helped in gaining a more rounded perspective on all my launch activities. Then my friend not only insisted on shouting me, but also gave me a special gift and a beautiful card in which she had written: I’m so happy for the arrival of Becoming Me! I have no doubt it will be a great blessing and encouragement to many people, including me! Yes, God was indeed changing my perspective with a flourish and delighting in doing so, it seemed to me. And if God was enjoying this moment in my life that would never come again in quite the same way, I was determined to as well.

In The Message version of the Bible, Philippians 4:6 says:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

This week in your own busy life, can you step back a little and try to see things more from God’s perspective? As you do, may you too rejoice and be at peace, as you hand those concerns over to God in prayer.

PS And yes, I did indeed have a lovely, encouraging, happy book launch!

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I sit in silence, yet around me I hear the whispers of so many different creative voices, each speaking of God’s own creativity and love and grace. I sense I am on holy ground—the air seems to vibrate with God’s Spirit.

I am at our church’s Art Installation*, a reflective space filled with all kinds of creative works—paintings, drawings, collages, photographs, wood carvings, knitting, pottery, poetry, prose and more. In varying ways, these works portray the four seasons, with a tree at the centre sectioned into quarters to display different seasonal foliage. But they also depict four important ‘rhythms of grace’—gratitude (spring), hospitality (summer), fasting (autumn) and solitude (winter).

Almost all works on display have been created by our church members—some young, some much older. I read with care the notes most have written to explain the significance of their work and how God inspired them along the way. Here and there in the room, benches have been placed to enable visitors to sit and reflect. At one spot, we are encouraged to swirl the water in a beautiful, blue pottery bowl around with our hand, to notice how the water takes time to be still again, to listen to our hearts—and gradually, as we sit, to become still ourselves in God’s presence.

I continue on, praying that those who visit this creative space will delight in what they see and be drawn closer to God, but also that they will encourage the artists and writers who have risked exhibiting their work. I come to my own piece of writing, displayed alongside beautiful photographs of solitary scenes. It is an honest, revealing piece, but I am glad I have written it.

Solitude. My lifeblood. My sacred space where I can reconnect with God, with myself and with that creative part of me that is crying out for inspiration and refreshment.

I sit still for as long as it takes to become mindful once again of the presence of God all around and within. As my spirit breathes in God’s life-giving Spirit, I realise how much I have missed these times of solitude, in the midst of all my busyness, and how desperately I have short-changed both myself and God. My emotions surface—I become aware of a sadness within, a kind of desolation at losing sight of the person God created me to be under those heavy layers of worry and self-doubt and expectation.

I cry out to God then to comfort me, to reassure, to tell me again who I am, to show me my unique place in this world. The moments pass, as I am held close in those loving arms. I rest in God’s grace and forgiveness that flow over me and through me, bringing deep healing and watering those parched places within.

I know I am God’s child.

I know I am loved.

I know I have a place and a purpose in this world.

And I am at peace.  

May you too, wherever you are today, be at peace with God and know God’s amazing love for you.

*Please note:    Should you wish to visit Parramatta Baptist Church’s Art Installation, 84-94 Kleins Rd, Northmead, Sydney, it is open until this Sunday, 9th October, from 7.00-9.00 each evening, 9.00-12.00 noon on Saturday and 9.00am-1.00pm and 4.30pm-8pm on Sunday.

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