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Posts Tagged ‘Brisbane’

IMG_20191007_105632077This spring, I decided to plant a tomato seedling in a pot on our balcony. I hoped it would grow into a nice, rounded little bush and, in time, bear at least a few little cherry tomatoes. But, to my surprise, it has continued to shoot up, sprouting more and more leaves and yellow flowers, daily growing ever higher! Yet it was not its size that captured my attention this week, but rather the pungent scent of its leaves as I touched them gently. Immediately, I was wafted back many, many years to those lush tomato bushes my father took delight in growing in our backyard in Brisbane, where I grew up.

As a little girl, I often liked to join my father while he gardened. One day, I decided I would help him, so I gathered up my skirt to form a soft kind of pouch and made my way along our rows of tomato bushes, picking whatever fruit I saw there.

Once finished, I joyfully showed my stash to my father. But alas—he took one look, then chased me up our steep backyard, roaring with rage, as those tomatoes scattered everywhere! You see, they were all still green—my father had been patiently waiting until just the right time to harvest them. But I did not know that—and I had picked them far too early to be of use to anyone.

Perhaps one could say I was scarred for life, since I still remember this event so vividly! Yet, as someone who has also enjoyed gardening, I can well understand how devastated my father must have felt at losing his precious tomato crop—or a good portion of it at least. Besides, this whole childhood experience taught me a good lesson which, even now as a writer, I need to put into practice. Stories ripen too, like those tomatoes. A whole novel needs time to grow and develop, perhaps even to change shape from what I as the author originally envisaged. It needs gentle nurturing—and often much pruning—in order to be palatable to any future readers. So the whole process cannot be rushed, if my precious story is ever truly going to provide enjoyment and nourishment and blessing to others as God intended.

Recently, I heard two excellent sermons both based on Ecclesiastes 3, which begins:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot … (3:1-2)

What a good reminder to hear—twice over—just when I was feeling frustrated that my current novel would not be ready in time to pitch it to a potential publisher at an upcoming writers’ conference! As a result, I decided to relax about it all and to keep on faithfully writing and fine-tuning my story, trusting God for the eventual outcome and for the Spirit’s enabling throughout.

I remembered those green tomatoes. I remembered there is a time for everything. I remembered my times are in God’s hands and that those hands are so trustworthy—and I pray you will too.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands …’ Psalm 31:14-15

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I suspect I’m about to incur the wrath of some of my friends with the following statement: I am a Queenslander.

Yes, there it is—out in the open! Granted, I have lived elsewhere for over forty years. Yet something interesting happens whenever we head north and cross over that border. There is somehow a different feel about Queensland I seem to recognise from my growing up years. Perhaps it’s the warmer weather and the tropical vegetation everywhere. But it’s also a certain ‘laidbackness’ in the people, with their casual clothing, easygoing ways and warm friendliness—not to mention those occasional flattened Queensland vowel sounds so familiar to me and that ‘hey’ at the beginning of some sentences!

This visit, I had the privilege of speaking eight times, mostly in places where I knew very few people. Yet I was welcomed warmly—and God was there, often with an agenda I had not envisaged. In one smaller meeting I had almost written off as a waste of time, God arranged for two people to be present via an amazing sequence of ‘coincidences’.  One girl had looked up my website at a friend’s suggestion and found I was speaking that very week in her own suburb—and on her only day off! Someone else was invited on the spur of the moment by a mutual friend who wasn’t even sure why she was inviting her. But God used what I said and my book Soul Friend to encourage this person in a special way.

I also paid author visits to four Christian bookstores where again God had special appointments for me. In one store, a lady shared her great grief over the loss of two husbands and a son, then came to hear me speak on the 23rd Psalm at a local church the following Sunday. Such heart connections in my home state will not be forgotten in a hurry.

And of course we caught up with family members and friends as well, including one school friend I had not seen for forty-eight years. What a delight to hear how God had continued to nurture her faith throughout that time! Other friends offered us such warm hospitality where we were able to pick up just where we had left off with them.

I loved these home state experiences of mine. But they have led me to wonder about my real ‘home state’ and the reception I will receive when I reach heaven one day. Can you imagine what that will be like? One thing we do know is that Jesus himself has a place ready for us. And he will be with us there forever.

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me … John 14:2-3

We know too that those who love and serve God will be greeted with a warm ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ and welcomed with open arms to come in and share the Master’s happiness (Matt 25:23). How wonderful that will be!

I can’t wait—can you? Then I’ll know I’m really home.

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to stay motivated, largely in preparation for a writers’ workshop I’ll be taking on the topic at the Word Writers’ Fair in Brisbane on 6th November (see www.thewordwriters.com). It has been a timely journey – I never cease to be amazed how, when I am preparing input for some speaking engagement, God so often uses it to speak to me first and foremost! You see, the fact is that I have now completed seven years of solid novel writing, plus preparing for many speaking engagements over that period. Is it time then for me to have a sabbatical? Or should I forge ahead, complete Novel Number Six and fulfil those speaking engagements that are beginning to emerge for 2011?

Please don’t get me wrong. I love preparing talks – and delivering whatever God has given me to say. And I love writing with a passion. I can’t wait to complete my current novel and find out what happens to my characters! And I have several more ideas for novels sitting on my computer, almost begging me to investigate them more fully. Yet on certain days at least, it can be an effort to stay focused, to pick up the threads of my current novel and to move my characters forward in a way which is consistent with who they are and the journey they have already travelled.

I have heard what God wanted me to, I believe, as I have prepared my workshop input. I know there are vital ‘God factors’ in staying motivated – things like remembering our call from God to write, reading God’s Word, practising the presence of God, praying, and being thankful for the journey thus far. I have seen again the importance of receiving encouragement from others in the form of a mentor who understands the creative process, a wider faith community, friends who will pray for us and teachers and editors who will give us specific, helpful writing input. I have noted too the place of watching our responses to any negative feedback and of learning to say no to things that are not right to undertake. And again I have been reminded of the whole self-care aspect – getting enough exercise and sleep; finding words, objects, places that motivate me; disciplining my time; setting goals; celebrating my little writing ‘victories’; and putting past failures behind me.

But then God takes over again and drops those extra encouraging words into my spirit. This morning I read the following beautiful, simple prayer from 2 Thessalonians 3:5:

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

That prayer to me highlights the two key things I need to remember in my writing journey – the real direction I need to be heading in my heart. If I focus on God’s amazing love for me and remember that this love will never change, whether I write well or not so well or even whether I write at all, then I am on solid ground. And if I keep Christ’s example before me of persevering to the end and of being so determined to do his Father’s will – well, what motivation could be stronger than that?

And just now, again in God’s exquisite timing, an email has arrived, telling me my fifth manuscript has been accepted for publication! Do you think God is sitting back, smiling and enjoying this special encouraging gift along with me? I do!

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