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Posts Tagged ‘South Australia’

Jo 17I was disappointed, I have to admit. During the weeks leading up to our recent trip to South Australia, I had been in contact with a particular church to see if an author visit there would be possible. I did not want to intrude or upset any plans the leadership might have—after all, it had been a long time since we had lived in South Australia and been part of this church.

Eventually, I thought it was all arranged. Then, a week before we left, an email arrived: I’m sorry, but there has been some miscommunication—I have arranged for something else to happen in our morning service that day. I hope you can find another church instead.

Well, that was that—and it was too late to enquire elsewhere. We had been looking forward to visiting this church, but would it be wise to do so now? Did I even want to?

On the Saturday of that same weekend, I had scheduled an author visit at the Adelaide Koorong Bookstore. I had barely finished setting up when an older man approached my table.

‘What’s this? Something special on, is there?’

Then he noticed my name.

Jo-Anne Berthelsen! I know you from years ago at church!’

As soon as he told me who he was, I remembered him. And yes, he was from the very church where I had hoped to be interviewed the following day! We chatted for quite a while—I could not get over the fact that the first person who walked in the bookstore that morning knew me, after all those years.

Later, when I told my husband what had happened, we decided we should attend this church, for old times’ sake. And, as soon as we walked in, the gentleman I had met at the bookstore the previous day came scurrying up.

‘I tried to get onto you, but I didn’t have your mobile number. I’ve spoken to the minister—would you be able to talk about your books for a couple of minutes in the service?’

And so I did, unprepared as I was. Afterwards, I chatted with the minister with whom I had liaised and soon saw how much he had on his plate at that church. And yes, there was something extra on in the service that day, with a couple being farewelled. A special luncheon was held for them, during which we got to talk to several people we had known all those years earlier and even sell some of my books.

Later, we could not help but marvel at the way God brought all this about. I had sensed God wanted me at that church. So when it didn’t happen, I was confused. But God wasn’t—and promptly found a unique way around those obstacles that had arisen. Again I experienced, as I have many times in my life, the truth of Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

May you too experience God’s unexpected ways in your life and know the real and lasting joy this brings.

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Jo 23One day, I think I might write a book about all those funny experiences I have had in my writing journey. A good sense of humour is something every author needs to have, I’ve decided, so we can simply laugh and continue on our merry way, writing from a full and free heart.

I remember the first time someone told me they had found one of my novels in a second-hand bookshop. As a relatively new author, I was a little offended. How could someone throw away my precious book I had laboured long and hard to write? What an ignominious end for it! I remember too how I felt the first time I saw one of my early novels for sale on e-bay for some paltry amount. To rub it in, the accompanying description said: ‘First edition—signed by author!’

As I thought about it more, however, I realised there could be all manner of reasons why my books were being re-sold in these ways. With that inventive author’s mind, I could think up all sorts of interesting scenarios. Their owner had died and the relatives needed to clear out all those books so the family home could be sold. Someone had ended up with two copies. Someone had no more room on their bookshelves. Someone had loved it and just wanted to share it with others. Someone had hated it so decided at least to try to make a little money on a bad deal!

Last year, I received the following email via my website:

Just wanted to say I found ‘Jenna’ in a second-hand shop and have just finished it. Thoroughly enjoyed it—a ‘couldn’t put it down’ kind of book. I’ve mostly read Amish fiction for the last couple of years, and it was so nice to read an Aussie book. I live in the Barossa in SA and could identify with the towns you mentioned. That was fun. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful gift. I’m off to the library now to see if I can find any of your other books. Cheers and God bless

Now how did Jenna find her way into that second-hand shop in South Australia? I’ve no idea. And did poor Jenna get read before she ended up there? Who knows? Whatever her journey, I’m so glad my cyber friend found her and enjoyed her.

Then only last week, I received a lovely postcard from a lady in southern New South Wales, along with a cheque to purchase my second novel. She wrote:

Could you please send me a copy of ‘All the Days of My Life’, the sequel to ‘Heléna’, which I enjoyed very much. Bought it at our church’s book fair!’

How did my lovely Heléna find her way into those second-hand books at that book fair? Again, who knows? But how encouraging to receive that feedback—and make another sale!

You know, I don’t really mind whether my books are read first-hand or second-hand—or third-hand! Now I rejoice in it all, exercise that sense of humour and praise God that somehow my writing that has definitely come first-hand from my heart is reaching others and hopefully blessing them in the process.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Phil 4:4

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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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Next week, I plan to give away something I have hung onto for over thirty years and never used in all that time. It is a Fowler’s Vacola bottling or preserving outfit, complete with large, metal boiler, thermometer, clamps and around three dozen glass jars and lids. My sister is soon to move to a large, country town and hopes to make good use of it there.

I first began bottling when we moved to Victor Harbor, South Australia, thirty-seven years ago. To our delight, we discovered several fruit trees in the backyard of our new home – an apricot tree, a huge nectarine tree and two varieties of peach trees. When summer came, we were inundated with fruit, so I decided to buy a preserving outfit and ask one of the local ladies to show me how to bottle fruit.

It was a very satisfying endeavour. I learnt how to overlap the fruit in the bottles so it would look attractive, how to achieve just the right level of sweetness in the syrup and how to seal those bottles well. It was a lot of work, but it was so wonderful to have a supply of homemade preserves on hand, especially when unexpected visitors arrived. When we moved to Adelaide and then interstate, I thought I would buy fruit and keep on bottling, but it never eventuated. The fruit was too expensive and besides, I no longer had the time. So even though I loved the idea, I gave up on it.

And now as I pack up my old bottling outfit, I see something of a parable of the Christian life in it all. Many times, it seems we taste the sweetness of a close relationship with God and reap the benefits of this in our lives. But then things happen. Our lifestyle changes or we get too busy or Christians disappoint us or we think we know it all – and God is marginalised in our lives, even perhaps packed in a box, put on a high shelf and forgotten about.

But God doesn’t forget us. We might forget God – but God is different. ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’, the Lord says to Joshua in Joshua 1:5. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me’ David writes in Psalm 27:10. And God tells the children of Israel something similar in Isaiah 49:15:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

We can even try to fool ourselves and others and pretend our faith in God is still vital to us, but God sees through it all. Psalm 139:1-4 describes how the Lord knows us intimately – our thoughts, our actions, even the words we haven’t yet said. But God is so faithful to us – and so merciful.

My parable falls down, however, in that I am giving away my preserving outfit – yet I certainly don’t intend to give my faith in God away! I want to remain full of God’s sweetness and flavour until the end, just like that wonderful fruit I used to preserve. And I know God will keep me that way, as I continue to stay close to him and allow his Spirit to permeate my life.

So how about you? Have you put God up on the shelf in your life somewhere?

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