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Posts Tagged ‘book covers’

I wonder if you can recall a recent conversation with someone or a recent event that encouraged you, even in some small way. It’s like something melts deep down inside us when that happens, don’t you think? Somehow, we feel just that little bit more seen and understood and appreciated. And that in turn can spur us on to keep going, despite any difficulties we might encounter.

One day this past week, I replied to a friend’s email, saying how much I enjoy her writing style. Her words always flow well and her descriptions are so colourful and interesting. When she wrote back, she thanked me and went on to explain how she had never felt she was a good writer, because, to this day (she is now in her seventies), she vividly remembers the red corrections her high school English teacher would write all over her essays.

‘Just one kind word would have made all the difference,’ she added—and that sentence made me feel so sad.    

But this week, I too have received some lovely, unexpected encouragement that has lifted my spirits.

The first of these came as I watched the launch of the Stories of Life 2020 anthology The Swimmer and other stories of life and the announcement of the prize winners of their writing competition. This was livestreamed via Facebook from Adelaide and, as I sat listening, I saw various people I knew taking part. But then, to my surprise, I heard my own name and that of my short story, ‘The Ring’, announced as having won third place in the open section! I was delighted, especially since this particular story is about an event that happened to a dear friend of mine—so this honoured her indirectly too.

Yes, I value the $200 prize money I won, but it was more than that. Right now, I am in the midst of seeing my current novel Down by the Water through to publication and taking those final, few steps in what has been a long journey of several years, with many interruptions. There are those all-important checks to be done with the utmost care, as well as many decisions to be made about cover and layout. For me then, this encouragement came just at the right time, when I was almost beginning to doubt whether my own writing was worth putting out there for others to read.

Then, even as I was writing this blog, my husband opened our front door to find someone had left some flowers from their garden there anonymously for us. As I arranged them, I could not help reflecting on the amazing creativity and kindness of God who uses all manner of people and ways to encourage us. And I sensed God’s own Spirit, the Comforter and Helper who lives in me and is there beside me each day, rise up and whisper such wonderful words of encouragement too: You see, Jo-Anne—I have not forgotten you. I’ll always be with you—don’t be afraid!

Can you hear those wonderful, encouraging words from God for you too today? Let’s listen well—and then let’s share that encouragement with others, because it could make all the difference in a way we might least expect.

 So encourage each other and build each other up … 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT

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Jo 17Is there some particular virtue or positive personality trait you truly admire and wish you could demonstrate more often? Perhaps you’ve noticed it in others and felt ashamed you had so little of it. It could be kindness. Or generosity. Or patience. Or loyalty. Or, as in my case … um … a good, healthy dose of humility!

I am in the right profession, I believe, to acquire more of this commodity. After all, it doesn’t take long as a writer to discover not everyone is going to like one’s books. This is quite understandable—especially given I myself am choosy about what books I read. Yet, being a published author can also add to one’s sense of consequence at times. I admit there is something nice about seeing my name on a book cover. And it is always gratifying to hear how readers have enjoyed or been moved by my books. This is fine, I guess—providing I don’t allow myself to become puffed up with pride and providing I remember God is the source of any gifts or abilities I might have.

At a recent training day, I noticed how some wise Christian leaders I have known for years conducted themselves with great humility. They did not seek any real acknowledgement. Instead, they seemed sincerely interested in everyone around them and spoke to them with gentleness and grace. Add this to several examples I have noticed lately in Scripture and—well, I get the message!

In Mark 5, I read how Jesus healed the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. Heedless of his own reputation, Jesus cared enough about this ostracised woman to speak gracious, affirming words to her and heal her. He then raised up the synagogue ruler’s daughter, even after those present laughed at him when he maintained she was only asleep. As we read on, we see how Jesus, after sending the people away and allowing only the child’s parents and his disciples into the room, ‘gave strict orders not to let anyone know’ what had happened (5:43). Did those who laughed ever discover what actually unfolded or honour Jesus at all for this miracle?

Next, I read John 2, where Jesus changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. To me, this seemed to be done quietly and with minimum fuss, since only the servants knew where that wine had come from. Yes, we are told ‘his disciples put their faith in him’ as a result (2:11), but did that master of the banquet or the bridegroom ever discover who was responsible for such an amazing miracle, let alone believe in Jesus?

Then I read in Luke 17:11-19 how ten lepers received healing, after Jesus spoke to them and sent them to the priests. Yet only one, a Samaritan, returned to thank him and to praise God. Did those other nine ever acknowledge what Jesus had done for them? Yet Jesus’ only concern seems to be that they did not see the need to return and give praise to God (17:18) for their healing.

Yes, such humility is a huge challenge to me—but oh so appealing and important, don’t you think?

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5

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There I was one day last week, working away happily at my computer, when I heard a few dull thuds outside. Thinking it was the neighbours doing something in their yard, I didn’t investigate. Besides, it was a windy day—perhaps a few small branches were being tossed around. Later, however, when my husband opened our front door to go out, he almost fell over seven large cartons blocking his way. On each carton was a label saying ‘Leave at door of delivery if unattended’. Well, we had definitely been home all morning—but no one had rung the doorbell. Still, I guess the contractor thought we wouldn’t miss the little presents he left us.

My heart stood still when I gazed at those boxes. You see, I knew what they contained—my first copies of my brand new non-fiction book, Soul Friend, due for release next month!

Now this is my sixth book to be published, so one would think I’d be used to the whole process. But I find this moment when new books arrive to be rather daunting, for several reasons. Firstly, I always have to steel myself to open that first box and see what my book actually looks like. Of course I have seen the proposed cover online—but will the real thing look as good? On this occasion, I find myself a little shocked at the bright orange cover, which I expected would be much closer to a deep yellow/gold colour. But I’m still pleased with how it looks and feels as I quickly check through it.

Secondly, as I gaze at these seven boxes now on my study floor, I realise I need to decide yet again where to store them in our small house! Until I complete my new Soul Friend website and am able to offer them for sale nearer my launch date, these copies need to find a home here. Having juggled boxes of books for quite a few years now, I have become adept at turning them into coffee tables, benches and the like! It’s a challenge—but not insurmountable.

Much more formidable in my mind, however, is the challenge that lies ahead of promoting this book, not only via my website but at the various venues where I hope to speak or display my books. You see, I am well aware this will involve much hard work, lots of emails and many hours preparing for speaking engagements. It will include setbacks and doors closed to me—but it will also, by God’s grace, include many open doors and times of great encouragement.

And right now, that is where I need to focus—not on the potential difficulties, but on the wonderful opportunities ahead. From the very beginning of this Soul Friend project, God has been with me—and I know this will not change now. As I stand on the brink of this new adventure, I believe that if I continue to look to God for strength and guidance, I will not fall but stand firm, whatever happens.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:1-2

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