Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 31:14-15’

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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Jo 12I never thought I would see the day—yet, there I was, sitting in a Latin class again! And somehow, despite the inordinate number of years since I had last conjugated a Latin verb, there was a distinct familiarity about it all.

Knowing I was coming to visit from interstate, my sister had asked her U3A (University of the Third Age) Latin teacher if I could attend his class with her—and what a blast from the past it was! I was warmly welcomed as some sort of ‘expert’, simply because I had studied Latin for four years at high school, majored in modern languages at university and also survived a year of Classical Greek there. As to how much I remembered … well, that’s another story!

The teacher began by gently helping everyone revise all they had learnt up to that point and soon I felt I was in some sort of wind tunnel, being sucked inexorably back over the years. As those beautiful Latin phrases tumbled so effortlessly from his lips, I was again seated in that old classroom in Brisbane on a stifling, summer day, listening to my own teacher explain some finer point of Latin grammar. A moment later, I could hear her dry voice guiding us through a portion of Livy’s account of Hannibal’s exploits in battle. Next, I am sure I heard her sigh with exasperation, as she attempted to help us scan various lines from Virgil’s Aeneid and appreciate the finer points of Latin poetry. We were all so young and restless—and so eager to get on with our lives and leave those school days behind.

I returned to the present with a jolt, realising as I did how different my current Latin class experience was—and what a different space I was now at in my life. This time around, our male teacher was a gracious, respectful, retired university lecturer who knew exactly how to explain things well and how to remind everyone gently about what they already knew, without making them feel stupid in any way. The class members were all mature-age, experienced, lifelong learners who so valued this opportunity to unravel the intricacies of Latin and put their minds to work yet again. I went along for the ride, enjoying it all. And I did so with a truly thankful heart, as I reflected on the amazing journey I have travelled with God during all those intervening years since that last school Latin class of mine.

I have taken several interesting twists and turns in my life, as I lurched from one career to another. Some roles I undertook I thought would be forever, yet that was not to be. Instead, as I look back, I can see how God taught me things through each one that I would desperately need in the next, all the while shaping me to become more of the person I was created to be. No doubt I made some wrong decisions along the way, yet God has watched over me and gently guided me through it all. My times have indeed been in God’s hands—and I am so grateful.

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 often comment to others how fulfilling it is as a writer to be able to draw on past experiences and past occupations I have had in what I do now. It’s amazing to me how the various strands of our lives are woven together in such unexpected ways at times, as we continue to trust God in every part of our journey. Not only does my past provide ample material for my novels and also the non-fiction I write, but it also pokes its head up in the present in other areas, showing me clearly that God has gone before me and knows a lot more about my life than I do myself.

Last week, I sat down to prepare a workshop I will be taking in October at the Word Writers’ Getaway in Queensland (see www.thewordwriters.com for more information). Since my workshop, Getting in before your editor does, will be two hours long and is, after all, a workshop, I knew I would need to incorporate various exercises for participants to do in our time together. So next came the puzzle of how to balance my input with allowing time for exercises to be completed – and also what type of exercises would be most helpful, given our time constraints. After all, I want this to be a rich learning experience for those who choose to attend this workshop.

Soon my mind was in full swing, as I prepared notes, exercises and a power point presentation—and it was not long before I was enjoying myself immensely! Part of my enjoyment, I realised, stemmed from the fact that I was drawing on skills that had become second nature to me way, way back in my high school teaching years. These same skills had also been accessed, to some degree, in my time as part of a church ministry team when I ran short courses on different aspects of ministry. And on top of that, I was also drawing on lessons learnt from my editing journey with my own and others’ manuscripts in more recent years. So in the midst of my preparation, I took a moment to thank God for the way all these experiences are now bearing fruit in my life, as I endeavour to resource other authors.

And now, as I prepare a seminar I am also presenting, I have found an added reason to be thankful. You see, this seminar is called Writing that irresistible book proposal—definitely a tongue in cheek title! From memory, I reckon I have written somewhere between twenty and twenty-five book proposals in the past few years—and potential publishers or agents have had no trouble in resisting many of them! On the other hand, I have also had six novels and one non-fiction book accepted for publication. So I can draw not only on the positive times when my book proposals have borne fruit, but also on the negative times when all my work seemed to have gone for nothing. To me, this is a further wonderful example of how God weaves everything together and how no experience is wasted—not even those moments of rejection and deep disappointment.

As you look back on your own life, can you see God’s hand at work, weaving those strands together? When you do, may you too be able to say with a thankful heart:

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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