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Posts Tagged ‘The Inheritance’

Yes, there it is again—something dark brown around my laptop. I can see it in my peripheral vision as I type and it doesn’t seem right. For so long, all I have seen is a mass of white stuff, interspersed with a few coloured folders and bits and pieces. Yet now, wonder upon wonders, could it possibly be … ? Yes, it’s the top of my desk! Now don’t get me wrong. There are still a few things scattered across the surface around me as I sit writing this. My diary, a couple of notebooks, my journal, my Bible, a few cards, a pen or two, a candle, some other odds and ends. But how exciting it is to be able to see the dark wood of that desk again, after weeks and months of its being submerged in copies of various talks I had promised to give during our two recent interstate visits!

I’m not complaining, however. I felt privileged to be able to speak at all the places I was invited to do so and enjoyed it all. I met many wonderful people and watched God work in the lives of a number of them as I shared. Some have even emailed and sent cards to me since then, so our relationship is ongoing. On top of that, my books have now reached a wider audience. Already, I have received some lovely, encouraging feedback about my latest novel The Inheritance, launched in the middle of these interstate visits.

But oh, how wonderful it is to have a tidier desk—for a while at least. Yet I realise that tidy desk represents more to me than the fact that I have come through a very busy period in my life and met all my interstate speaking and bookstore appearance obligations for the moment. Somehow this paring down of stuff in my line of vision seems to have pared back something deep down inside me as well. Something seems to have shifted a little in my spirit so that once again I have space to reflect, to be still, to acknowledge God’s presence with me and in me, to be just me. What freedom that brings with it for introverts like me!

I enjoy preparing messages and talks of varying descriptions. I enjoy writing my weekly blog. I even enjoy answering emails. But what a special joy it is to allow my mind to float free for a while from all these things! Yet I am also aware of a sense of anticipation building within me that maybe, just maybe I will soon be able to get back to working on my current writing project—another work of non-fiction. Maybe, wonder of wonders, I will even have time as well to check in on those novel outlines waiting patiently on my laptop for my consideration as to whether they should be pursued further or not.

But for today at least, I know I need to take care of my mind and spirit and just be. I know I need to give God that time and space to speak, to show me the way ahead, to remind me that anything envisioned or attempted apart from him is quite useless, when all is said and done.

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46:10-11

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Without a doubt, I have some interesting experiences in this writing and speaking journey of mine. And radio interviews, particularly those conducted by phone, would have to be high on that list.

Recently, the publicist at my publisher organised one such interview with Ian Andersen from 92.9 Voice FM Toowoomba. Now I quite enjoy doing interviews like these, but they always feel a little surreal. After all, how bizarre is it that I can sit at my desk here in Sydney, chatting on the phone with someone I have never met, knowing everything I say is being recorded for any number of people I will probably never meet either to hear?

Just prior to this, I was speaking with an author friend on the phone and telling her about my interview.

‘Oh, well, just make sure you look your best,’ she said in a perfectly normal voice.

I was silent for a moment. What could she mean? Surely she’d heard me say it was a phone interview?

‘You know—like Hyacinth Bucket did!’ she continued a moment later.

I was still mystified, so she went on to explain how this particular character from the BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances would make sure she looked as perfect as possible before ever answering the phone. Later I Googled some images of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced ‘Bouquet’)—and there she was in all her glory, complete with make-up and jewellery, answering the phone in her best hat, which matched perfectly with the rest of her outfit!

I loved my friend’s quick sense of humour, while at the same time feeling a little embarrassed at my ignorance of Hyacinth Bucket. But more embarrassment was to come. Not long after, as I sat waiting at my desk for that phone call, I found myself straightening my clothes and tidying my hair. After all, I didn’t know this interviewer and I didn’t want to look too much like the epitome of an author working at home in her disreputable old track pants and top, with messy hair and no make-up! Then I woke up to what I was doing and laughed out loud at myself. Not even my husband was home to see me—and my phone interviewer certainly wouldn’t. Even if he could, would it really make any difference to the quality of our conversation? He probably wouldn’t notice anyway—or care—what I looked like.

As I sat there, I reflected how wonderful it is when family and friends don’t care how we look and accept us as we are. Yes, it’s pleasant to be complimented on our appearance, but it’s good to know too we are loved just as we are. Yet it’s even better, as far as I’m concerned, to know God loves me just as I am, despite the fact that he can see right into my heart and soul to the real me.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7

God loves me, warts and all, with all my funny ways. Yes, God wants me to become more like Jesus, but in the process, I am still accepted and loved where I am right now. And I’m so glad of that.

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TIL035Just over a week ago, I held my own personal launch for my latest novel The Inheritance. We decided to keep it low key and opted for a simple celebration of coffee and cake in our own home. I invited only a small number of family and friends because our house isn’t large and I knew I would see other friends wider afield when I spoke at their church or group.

I hesitated about having a launch at all this time, mainly because I was too busy preparing to head interstate to speak soon after. But as I reflected on the evening, I’m so glad I went ahead, because God used it to remind me of several things for which I need to be so thankful.

I realised, for example, that some friends present have actually attended all my launches over the years since my first novel was released in 2007. Some have tracked with me even before that, from the time I first began writing in 2003. Another friend who was there on the evening emailed later and used the term ‘champions’ about these faithful friends and supporters of mine—and that is exactly what they have been. They have wanted to see my books published and for people to enjoy reading them. And they have wanted me to be happy and fulfilled in what I believe God has called me to do at this stage of my life.

I also realised later that three women from my little prayer team of nine who pray for me whenever I am asked to speak somewhere were also among those able to be present. I value them and all the women on this team so much—it is wonderful to be able to email this group before I speak anywhere to let them know where I am going. Afterwards, I always email a little report of my latest ‘adventure’ to them too, as I am aware they like to know how it went. How blessed am I to have such excellent prayer support wherever I go!

And again I was reminded on the evening how much various family members and friends have helped me in practical ways in my writing journey, as I watched my husband and a friend washing up afterwards and our daughters, who had both baked wonderful cakes for the launch, sorting out the food. Another friend had lent us an urn for the evening, two others gave me flowers, while several more offered to bring food. Some other authors present later reported about the launch on Facebook, complete with an image of my new novel, which helps so much promotion-wise. And, of course, a good number bought a copy of The Inheritance on the night, while some who had already bought it still came to support me.

How thankful I am for God’s grace shown to me via these wonderful friends and family! May I never ever take them for granted—or God’s amazing and abundant grace to me, for that matter.

Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits … Ps 103:1-2

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theinheritancefrontonly--final versionThis past Sunday, our family celebrated not only Fathers’ Day but also the official release of my sixth novel, The Inheritance! Now you might well think I’d be used to all that goes with such events by Novel Number Six. I myself thought I would merely take it in my stride—but no! Not this time. As those copies begin to appear in the bookstores, I find myself holding my breath just a tad yet again.

You see, I know this new novel is a little different from my previous ones. For starters, it feature two main characters of equal importance—and that’s something new for me. The Inheritance explores Michael Trevelyan’s struggle to come to grips with the past, be reconciled with himself, his family and ultimately God, and face the future with courage and integrity. But it also explores Alexandra Hope’s struggle to stay true to her faith in God and pursue God’s purposes for her life. It was quite a balancing act at times to put myself in the ‘head’ of one and then of the other, trying to react as each one might in a given situation. Yet while it was challenging, it was also great fun—especially when Michael chose to be very angry, arrogant and bitter all at once! I hope I have done both him and Alexandra justice. After all, they are real people—aren’t they?!

I feel too I have incorporated more suspense into the story this time around, although it is hard for me to judge this aspect of my own novels. As I wrote, at times I didn’t even know myself what twists and turns my main characters would experience in their lives or how things would turn out for some of my minor characters either. Yet, while the story might have captured and held my interest, will it do the same for my readers?

Finally, I believe the central theme of this novel is so important for us all to take to heart. I have attempted to convey clearly in The Inheritance how anger, bitterness, hypocrisy and pretence can have such an adverse effect in our own lives, as well as in the lives of others, and keep us from experiencing God’s amazing grace. As I wrote, the words of Hebrews 12:15 were very much in the forefront of my mind: See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. I felt responsible writing about such a significant issue and did not want to trivialise it in any way. And I hope and pray God uses this story to touch readers’ hearts and enable them to experience more and more of that amazing grace of God.

So for me, another new and fresh adventure begins, as I journey with my latest creation, The Inheritance. Again, I am so thankful to God that yet another of my stories has seen the light of day, courtesy of my new publisher, Even Before Publishing. If you would like to check out The Inheritance, it is now available not only in hard copy via my website, www.jo-anneberthelsen.com, and my publisher’s website, www.evenbeforepublishing.com, or in Christian bookstores but also as an e-book for Kindle on Amazon or for other devices via the bookstores.

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This past week, I achieved a couple of ‘firsts’ again for me. I gave the final of ten talks I had agreed to give at various venues during May—a record number for me all in one month. And I also completed the final few edits of my next novel, The Inheritance.

Now I am so grateful for those ten speaking opportunities—I loved them all. I even look forward to more in the coming months. But it has felt at times a bit like a mini-marathon, as I have juggled preparation and editing. I completed the original version The Inheritance in May 2011, so it has been in my mind for a while—even through the writing and eventual release of my first non-fiction work, Soul Friend, last August. But now I again have a clean writing slate, so to speak. At last I am again on the brink of being able to dive in to another whole project—and that can be a heart-stopping moment, I’ve discovered.

You see, in one way, the possibilities are endless—almost overwhelmingly so. Of course, one key decision I need to make is whether to plunge into writing a second work of non-fiction or to opt for a seventh novel. Which should it be? I have ideas for both. In fact, I have the outlines or general concepts for three more novels already saved on my computer, each very different from the other. How do I decide?

And it’s at this point that, despite all those ideas running around in my head, I can hear that doubting little voice whispering away as well. What makes you think you can come up with yet another book? None of those plots you’ve already thought out are any good. Anyway, it will be such hard work—and you don’t have the time, in the midst of preparing for speaking engagements. As for another non-fiction book, what on earth would you say that hasn’t already been said? I know from past experience this is the enemy using my old self-doubt, so I close my ears to it all. But on it goes.

I turn to the Scriptures, wondering what God has to say to me today. I am excited, as I always am, when it’s time to begin reading a different book in the Bible—and today I am about to start John’s Gospel yet again. I read that first chapter and am reminded that God, ‘the Word’, created all things, that in him was life and that this life brought great light to men, overcoming and confounding the darkness. I read on and take in the mind-boggling fact that ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (Jn 1:14).

I remember that the Spirit of this ‘One and Only lives in me right now, inspiring me, encouraging me, dispelling the darkness of doubt and fear. I know, as I listen to that voice that is so full of grace and truth, it will become clear which of those endless possibilities I am to pursue. The Word is with me and in me, shaping my own words. And I am so blessed.

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I wonder if you’ve ever tried to describe a scene you have imagined but found your audience wasn’t quite catching the vision. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? It’s so clear in your own mind – surely what you mean is obvious? Yet more often than not, I find it’s my fault rather than anyone else’s when this happens. Usually, I have not taken the time to stand in the other person’s shoes or to think how best to convey that picture in my head to them.

I experienced this again recently in trying to explain to a designer what I wanted the cover of my next novel to look like. It is entitled The Inheritance and isn’t due out until next year but needs to be featured in a catalogue soon. Since the book is set largely in the English countryside, I have always pictured an old, English manor house on the cover, with a wide, curved driveway leading up to the main door. I also imagined lots of trees and green lawn as well, with gardens sloping down to a nearby lake. And over the stream leading to the lake, there would be an old, stone bridge, since one of these is featured in the story on key occasions.

Yet when the poor designer came up with his version of the cover, I felt something was lacking. There was the manor house and the driveway, just as I had asked for – but somehow it all seemed a little soulless and unromantic. I could not envisage my characters living and breathing, loving and hating in that place, as they do in the book. So back it went to the designer, along with a little more information, for him to have another go at getting inside my head.

Perhaps you have experienced this issue yourself at home, as my husband and I do on occasions. Sometimes one or the other of us may be so involved in what we are working on or thinking about that we blurt out a comment about it all, forgetting the other person is on a different tack altogether. At such times, I have been known to let out an exasperated sigh, as my husband stares blankly at me and asks for some clue as to what I’m talking about! And all the while, I’m thinking to myself, ‘He must know! It’s so obvious what I mean!’

So it’s a huge relief to me when I can turn my attention to God and rest in that all-knowing, all-powerful presence once again. I don’t have to explain myself to God. In fact, I don’t have to explain anything to God. God knows all my thoughts even before I myself am consciously aware of them, as Psalm 139 reminds us:

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.

God has no trouble understanding those 3D images and concepts in my head, as well as all my motives, dreams aspirations and intentions. In fact, God is right there with me in every part of my life, intimately involved and eternally watching over me. And that’s something I hope I will treasure forever and never take for granted.

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I wonder how long it is since you have signed an important document or agreement of some description. Perhaps it was in the process of purchasing something big – like a house or a car. Perhaps it was that agreement to pay back to the bank the money they were kindly lending you. Did you feel as if you were signing your life away? Perhaps it was those certificates you signed on your wedding day. Or perhaps it was an agreement at a hospital, consenting to a particular procedure you were about to have. How did you feel when you were putting your signature on those important documents?

Last week, I found myself signing two important documents once again – two more book contracts, this time with a different publisher. One was for my first non-fiction book, Two are better than one: the story of a spiritual friendship, which describes my own journey over the past fifteen years or so with my very faithful spiritual mentor and friend Joy.  The other was for my sixth novel, The Inheritance, which focuses on the theme of forgiveness and highlights the truth of Hebrews 12:15: See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Now I was very happy to sign both these contracts. I love my sixth novel – I feel I have been a little more adventurous in the way I have gone about writing it and I love the characters as well. As for my non-fiction book, while I feel quite nervous about having many of my inner struggles of the past few years made public, I believe in this book and hope and pray it inspires others. Yet in both cases, I found myself hesitating for a few seconds before signing on the dotted line.

You see, signing these contracts means I commit myself to see these books through to publication and beyond. For starters, it means I am declaring these books are all my own work – and that I will deliver these completed works by the dates specified. But more than that, it means I agree to cooperate to the best of my ability with my publisher throughout the whole process and to do my utmost after publication to promote my books well. Now in return, my publisher also has to sign and agree to certain terms, such as delivering the finished product within a particular time frame and paying any royalties due. So we both commit ourselves to keep our end of the bargain and to work well together in the process.

All of which has made me reflect on the biggest commitment of my life – my commitment to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and to follow him forever. While these other documents we might sign or contracts we might agree to are important, nothing could ever be as important as our commitment to God. God’s commitment to us was made abundantly clear through the death of Jesus Christ, an act of love above all other. While we were still sinners, far away from God, Romans 5:8 tells us, in love, Christ died for us.

I chose to sign my life away to God many years ago and am so thankful for that. But right now, how am I doing as far as being true to this greatest commitment of all is concerned?

Could this be a question you might ask yourself too?

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