2017 What a year!

From sorrow to joy

2017 has been the most difficult yet rewarding year I have ever had. Some parts of it I do not wish to repeat, but others were amazing experiences brought on by the wonderful provision of my God.

It was one year ago that I found myself without a home to live in, and so began the journey of applying for Government and Community Housing, and moving around from place to place (by the end of 2017 I’d moved four times). I was also in the middle of studying for my Diploma in Christian Leadership, and my new situation put at risk being able to complete it. But I found a way and kept going.

An opportunity became available through Bible College to go on a Go Trip to Indonesia. I really wanted to go, but I had no money whatsoever. I decided that if God could provide the deposit needed within two weeks, then I would take it as a sign that I was meant to go. Within a few days, the deposit was secured by a generous donation, so I started a GoFundMe page and the funds began to pour in. I was also given six painting commissions, and the rest came through people in my church giving gift donations. It was an amazing miracle that I was able to go on this trip! Definitely the absolute highlight of my year, and completely life-changing.

From the time I got back from Indonesia, my life was a whirl of activity. And in the middle of the frantic busyness, I was notified by a community housing organisation that a one-bedroom attached house had become available should I wish to have a look. It was right in the city! By November, I was moving in with my few belongings and bedroom furniture. The house echoed, but it was mine – forever if I wanted.

A couple of days after I moved, I attended my graduation ceremony and obtained my Diploma. After such an incredibly difficult year, it was a proud moment. One which had to be celebrated, and my kids and mentor were there to witness my achievement.

The support I have received as I prepared to move into my new home has been mind boggling. Friends helped me move. People from church offered me furniture, crockery, saucepans, cutlery, TV, DVD player, washing machine and so much more.  Another person took me grocery shopping the week before Christmas. The Salvo’s and St Vincent de Paul provided assistance as well.

I have been so incredibly blessed by the amazing support of my friends and family, that I am absolutely blown away! And I feel very much loved by my God who has a plan and purpose for my life and never ever fails me.

My house now feels like a home, and I love it! What a great way to finish the year. 2017 will be one that I will never forget, and I can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring!

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An unknown path

First night on my new journey camping in a one-man tent

It was 21 December 2013 when I left my home and started on a new venture without knowing where it would lead. But I set the time aside to write a book and see where God would lead me. I gave away most of my possessions, and everything I owned was in my small Laser Lynx car. This photo is the first night of my new life. The following is an excerpt from my journal.

“Today I packed up all my worldly goods into my car. I have left my job so I can be free to go wherever God wants me to go and most of my household goods I gave to my son and his friend. I don’t know where God is leading me, but I am so confident that this is the right time to go and this is the way he wants it.

I’m too tired to know how to feel right now. I have a few coins in my purse and not a whole lot in the bank. I’m sleeping in a tent, that my brother gave me, at Semaphore Caravan Park. The tent is comfortable and I feel a great sense of the presence of God with me. Tomorrow I start my first house-sitting job for two weeks. I believe God will provide all my needs. And I wish to not go on Centrelink benefits.”

About a week later I started writing. The following an excerpt from my book Created to Shine: A journey of faith through the storms of life

“Anxiety wells up within me. How do I start this journey that the Lord wants me to go on? I have left my home and all my worldly possessions now fit into my small car. I am staying in a stranger’s house for two weeks. Everything is so unfamiliar. “How do I walk this road Lord?”…….

……..So here I am finally making my own decision to listen to God rather than man, and to trust the Lord with my future. It wasn’t an easy choice to leave the security of a job and the comfort of a home to walk an unknown path. I found that people felt really uncomfortable with this and again tried to control the situation. It was suggested that I wouldn’t be able to sustain this type of lifestyle for long. There was a steady supply of suggestions with regards to what I should be doing. I had to learn to ignore the advice that sounded good but wasn’t what God had asked me to do. Contrary to popular opinion I chose to go all the way with God, follow his plan, and live a life out of the ordinary.”

For Australian customers, My book can be purchased as a Kindle through Amazon.com.au or as a Paperback through or yourbooksonline.com.au

A trip to remember

Commer van 4It was 1973 when revival came to my family. I was the oldest of nine children, and had seen my fair share of struggles. Mum and Dad had come to a crisis in their faith, and they hoped to find the answers they were looking for as they took a leap of faith into the unknown. Brought up in the Catholic tradition we certainly did not know what a Christian convention was, but we were promised that this would be a life-changing event.

The boys fought as usual for the prized front seat between Mum and Dad. And the rest of us piled into the back of our old Commer van, seated on two bench seats, and headed off for the trip to Mildura.  It was a trip that we all hoped would be the catalyst for a brighter future.

When we arrived at the camp ground, the place was abuzz with anticipation of what the next four days would bring. My grandparents were there waiting for us, and I noticed that people seemed to treat each other like family. It was the first time I had ever experienced such a gathering, and I felt right at home. The night rally’s were my favourite part of the convention as we sang, clapped, danced, played various percussion instruments, and listened to the preachers animated sermons. I drank it all in, and I didn’t want it to finish.

As the camp was nearing an end, we stocked up on several buckets of grapes for the trip home. Turns out that we really needed those grapes to keep us hydrated, because the old van overheated numerous times. The only way Dad was able to keep the van going was to drive real slow. What should have been a 4 hour trip back home took us 12 hours. What I will never forget is the vision my little two year old brother praising the Lord along with us and singing the new songs we had learnt all the way home. It was certainly a trip to remember!

My family inheritance

img-150118212000-009If I ever wondered where I got my adventurous spirit from, all I need to do is look at this photo of my Dad. A young, fit, handsome, and funny guy who loved hiking and camping. God knew he had to be because he was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. He had just married a beautiful, charming, witty and strong-willed girl, and he was going to be a Dad.

My grandparents didn’t like this young Catholic who was too idealistic, that had taken their daughter away from the Protestant faith to also become a Catholic. Her father was so upset that he didn’t even attend their wedding. But my parents were in love and looked forward to their future. They dreamed of having a large family and talked about a house with a white-picket fence. There was so much to look forward to.

They felt strongly about their faith and thought carefully about our names, selecting them from either the Bible or from one of the Saints. So our names became Julie Maree, Robyn Louis, Peter Anthony, Stephen John, Paul Gerard, Simon Christopher, Martin James, Joseph Bernard and Aaron Mathew. We went to Mass and confession every week, had family bible studies every night, and every Christmas Eve we played out the nativity scene in our lounge-room with one of our own as baby Jesus.

We had very little money and only a few toys. But Dad’s natural talent for art, photography, music and singing were our inheritance. Both my parents were always looking for purpose, searching for more, while at the same time trying to do the best with what they had. This was the best part of their lives. There’s so much more I could tell you…..but that’s for another blog.

No wonder I am strong, determined and creative. My mother showed me faith and tenacity. I always give something a go, and if that doesn’t work I’ll try something else. But at times this meant that I jumped ahead too quick and made some pretty major mistakes. Yet these have taught me to rely on God’s wisdom, and seek His council before forging ahead.

What I love about my Dad is his great sense of humour, which he still maintains even though he has gone through some serious health issues. He has shown strength through suffering. And he still loves to study the Bible.

Working in the Dark

Working in the darkMuch of the journey of writing my book were met with difficulties. I spent a lot of time in someone else’s home looking after pets. Some places were dark and cold or too hot. Other times I had no access to a computer. I had some periods when after writing a couple of chapters I had to take time off to process what I’d just written and allow healing to come.

One house I stayed had no computer or internet access. So I borrowed a friends old Toshiba XP laptop with the ‘m’ button missing. Because the computer was so old it was slow to work with, and every time I took a break, the thing would go to sleep and fail to load up again. Or it would freeze causing me to force a shut down and start it up again and then it would take a long time to get going.

Some of the paintings I created for the book were met with trials as well, often working in cold rooms with poor lighting. The other problem I had was that I was well overdue for new glasses and my eyesight was failing. But what could I do? Funding was not available at this time to sort that problem out. And because of the lack of money, some of my paintings were produced in frustration taking much longer than it should have because of the inferior paper I was using.

Because I was house-sitting through the whole process, I could only write or paint according to the conditions…or the animals I had to take care of. If they were cats that were allowed to walk on the benches and tables then I had to forget painting altogether. If the animals demanded a lot of attention there was no point writing either. Some places just didn’t allow for that kind of activity.

I am so thankful for my close friends who kept encouraging and urging me to push through. As well as being driven by a God-given steely determination and compulsion to get my story out.

The final outcome? A published book!

My book Created to Shine: A journey of faith through the storms of life can be purchased at Amazon.com.au as a Kindle and yourbooksonline.com.au as a paperback

Laughter is the best medicine

IMG_0580Following on from yesterday’s post ‘Jumping in puddles’ I thought you might appreciate this video called Laughter is the best medicine with Myrtle and Beryl. They are two ordinary women living in an Adelaide suburb and their sole purpose in life is to bring you joy.

I was finding in my own life situations around me where getting too intense. I prayed to God often that He would give me joy in my heart but I couldn’t seem to attain that. That is, until I met Myrtle and Beryl! Now I can’t stop laughing even just looking at their silly faces!

I can honestly say….that laughter is the best medicine and that God did indeed answer my prayer.

To view the video click here

Jumping in puddles

dancing in the rainWhen I was a child I loved storms in summer at the end of a heatwave. In the city where we lived, we used to get some pretty intense thunder storms with lightening often striking buildings near our home. As much as I loved it, the loud claps of thunder would often send me diving under the kitchen table. But after awhile I would join my siblings outside, and we would jump in the puddles and run along the gutters. Fear had been replaced with joy as we danced, ran and slid in the rain.

This can be a great lesson to overcoming fear in our lives. We can either hide from the storm or look for opportunities and find joy in the midst of it. That doesn’t mean that the storm is over, but we learn to look at it differently.

Remember how I said at the beginning of this blog that the storms I loved and enjoyed the most often came at the end of a long heatwave. Sometimes trials in our life, like the heatwave, can be long and hard to cope with. If we allow life to steal our joy, we can end up bitter and hard. I have learnt to look for joy when the storms of life keep relentlessly raging on. And I’ve discovered refreshing rain in the midst of it.

Venturing into the Unknown

IMG_0318How often do we sit at home dreaming about a future that could have been? Living in regret of the past…grieving over mistakes. What about that overwhelming feeling that you are never going to get past the self-limiting thoughts that hold you captive in your mind. Have you given up on believing that there is a way out of the prison you’ve been living in?

Let me tell you a story. It’s a story of a girl who dreamed of becoming someone special but was limited by her insecurities. Never making the grade…an underachiever. She felt that she was not pretty enough. Didn’t have the right words. Not talented enough. Living in a poor family who’s only examples never got ahead in life.

That girl was me!

For most of my life I believed all those lies about myself. That I was never going to achieve anything, nor amount to much. So I adapted my belief system to match my circumstances and daydreamed my way through school. I thought my purpose in life was to become a wife, have children and there I would find my purpose. Yet life wasn’t as simple as that. After marrying and having two children I discovered that my knight in shining armour had a few chinks and my insecurities deepened. I was back to the issues that had kept me chained in the first place.

I thought by finding greener pasture things would turn around for me. But instead, what I experienced was neglect, abuse and bankruptcy. It seemed that I couldn’t fix myself no matter how many self-help books I read or counselling sessions I went to. Only God was able to help me see myself as he created me to be. Once I discovered that, I found freedom.

And now I as I venture out of the prison into the unknown I know I am not alone. I am able to follow the voice of the only One who knows me better than I know myself. The God who formed me in my mothers womb and planned my life. Now I’m living it!

More of my story is in my new book Created to Shine: A journey of faith through the storms of life which you can purchase as a Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.com.au and in a Paperback through Amazon.com and yourbooksonline.com.au

God’s refreshing rain

imageIn South Australia where I live the land is hot and dry. We’ve had cloud that looks like it should rain, but it doesn’t produce anything. It’s been teasing us, making promises but never producing. We had a few drops every now and then, and it looks like we might get a good downpour that might do some good, but it stops before it’s even started.

For many years it’s been a bit like that around Australian charismatic church circles. We’ve had revivals probably about every decade, but for the majority the experience hasn’t produced the kind of fruit in our lives that it should have. We’ve chased after each new movement to have our spiritual tanks topped up, but there hasn’t been a permanent commitment for anything of lasting value. For the most part it has been about us rather than God and others.

But now I am seeing a wonderful thing happening. People, who’s faith had become stagnant, are now crying out for something much deeper in God. I can see people changing. God is raising up an army of Christian soldiers who have been pushing through the tough times in prayer. They are now seeing God do some amazing things in peoples lives. What is happening is that, instead of people just wanting a good experience, they are now crying out for more of God. And God responds to those who are hungry and thirsty for Him. He is responding with His healing and restorative love. And now it feels like it’s beginning to rain!

There’s an old song we used to sing in the 80’s that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

It’s beginning to rain, hear the voice of the Father saying “whosoever will come drink of this water. I promise to poor my Spirit out on your sons and your daughters. If you’re thirsty and dry, look up to the sky, it’s beginning to rain.”

Last night we had that experience in our Connect Group after we spent a considerable amount of time in worship. As soon as we started to pray for people, they were affected by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was like they were standing under a waterfall with the water showering over them. It was an amazing thing to witness.

“May he come down like rain upon the mown grass. Like showers that water the earth.” Psalm 72:6

He carried me

imageWas there a time in your life when you felt utterly abandoned and alone where you thought you would never get through the storm you were going through? And you felt that no one understood or even cared? Are you going through something now that seems so beyond you and you feel that you’re going to drown?

I have been through such storms in my life where I didn’t think anything was ever going to change. I had been in it so long that I believed that I was incapable of changing the situation. The truth is, I couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop the battering waves from trying to take me. I didn’t know how to reach God and I couldn’t seem to get him to hear or respond. But years later, I realise looking back, that God was with me all the time. I just didn’t know it then.

But now I can recount many times in my life when God protected me from grievous harm. I can also see where he has used those times in my life where I thought there was no hope, to enable me to sympathise and help others get through their distress. I believe in the power of prayer, so I often do so, and God always hears me. And he got me through the storms!

If you are going through an extreemly difficult time, call someone you trust that you can talk to, who will be able to help you and point you in the right direction. If you don’t have a trusted friend, cry out to Jesus and ask him to lead you to or send the right person along. This has worked in my life and I trust that Jesus will do that for you.

Theres a beautiful peom called ‘Footprints in the Sand’ which says:

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

– by Mary Stevenson