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

The Dying Art of Contemplation

imageLooking at this painting helps me to remember the importance of taking the time to stop, allow ourselves to rest and take stock of where we are going in our lives.

I was thinking about how much life has changed in the past 20 years. Its hard to believe that it was only 10 years ago that Facebook was launched to the public, which by the way, has been a great outlet for those who are isolated from their community and can’t get out to meet people. The trouble now is that people prefer this as a way of connecting rather than face to face. And as a result, I feel that we are not as friendly with each other as we used to be.

I’ve also observed that it’s too easy to pick up our eletronic device to be entertained by the lastest thing. We don’t allow ourselves to take stock or develop our own thoughts because we are driven by someone else’s. I also think that it robs us of our ability to sit quietly and listen to the voice of wisdom. The world we live in now is fast paced and hectic. There’s so much information out there that it’s impossible to absorb it. If we tried we would end up with information overload. We are forced to embrace technology, and if we don’t move along with it, we run the risk of becoming a nobody and miss out on opportunities.

Don’t get me wrong I’m glad we have it, because it opens up doors that would have taken forever to open, if at all. As a writer, I really appreciate it. But there are individuals I see who really struggle with this, and they have become a demographic of people that are ‘out of sight, out of mind’, living behind closed doors in a house somewhere in the abyss of suburbia.

I remember my grandparents talk about the days of the great depression when communities helped each other and neighbours dropped in for a cup of tea. As I look over old family photos, I recall how we used to ‘muck around’, joke, sing and play together. Yes we used to fight, but the memories we created far outweigh the difficulties we shared as a family. We travelled from place to place in a car too small for the amount of people in it. We went to the park and had picnics. We played cricket and football. And we valued family gatherings with the relatives. When we went on vacations we didn’t take a phone or an ipad because there wasn’t such a thing. We didn’t watch TV or put on the radio. Instead we spent many hours taking in the scenery, playing and eating. When we became adults we took the time to enjoy friends, listen to records, read or just do nothing. We gave ourselves time to be regenerated.

I am reminded that God in his wisdom urged us to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. Why did he say that? So that we can be refreshed and apreciate him on this day. To take stock and to listen to Him. Sunday was the day we didn’t work, the shops were closed, we went to church and we rested. God knew we needed it so that we could be refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of the next week. For me it’s a time to reflect on what God says in his word, to check the direction I am taking in my life, and to listen to what he is saying to me. Its a chance to be spiritually, physically and emotionally refreshed.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3

A story to tell

imageIf I was to create a drama what would it be? A fantastical, musical show or would it be a skit that leaves an impact.

If I was an author what would I write? A piece of creative fiction or reflections of a real life story?

I love a good fiction novel if it has a purpose, or it leaves me wondering what happened to the characters after the story has ended. Is there more? Will there be a sequence? You know it’s well written if it leaves you wanting more.

I love a non-fiction book if I feel that I can relate to the content within it. I especially love reading stories based on true events, or someone’s life, where it leaves me wanting to know more.

I have written a book called Created to Shine: A journey of faith through the storms of life that I hope will do exactly that.  In it I share from my heart some wisdom I’ve learnt from many years of struggles, mistakes and hardship. It wasn’t easy to write parts of it because it exposes portions of my life that I would rather forget. Yet it’s an open and honest account of my life and what God has done for me.

My hope is that by reading the pages within this book, you will find the keys to personal and spiritual freedom. I share it because I don’t want anyone else to experience the loneliness, sadness, frustration and consequences I’ve suffered. I came to the conclusion that it was worth putting my story to paper if it helps those struggling with the same things I have to experience victory and true freedom.

Watch my new promotional video Created to Shine

My book Created to Shine is available for purchase through Amazon.com, Amazon.com.au and yourbooksonline.com.au

Storms of Life

Jesus save me (resized)

I’m going to start today’s blog by sharing a segment out of Chapter Three of my book Created to Shine: A journey of faith through the storms of life

The following section flows on after I talk about the radical turnaround the we encountered as a family, thinking that things were going to be better for the family, but we did not know the struggles that we would face in the years ahead.

……This took us on a whole new journey and for a few years things got better in our family. The church bought an old bus and painted the word “Jesus is Lord” on it. Dad drove that old bus around the housing commission area to pick up kids for Joytime Club and Mum would run it. A lady at church was teaching me how to play the piano by learning chord progression and I was able to play for Joytime, which was easy because all the songs were just a three chord progression. I started to gain confidence and make some friends. But my parents became unhappy and disillusioned with the Bendigo CRC church that we attended. They wanted to serve God, but felt that if they stayed, their faith would become stagnant. Apart from relationship complications and confrontations that were occurring too frequently. But all the problems that I’d experienced at that time were nothing compared to the upheaval that was to come…..

I’ve been thinking a lot about the storms we face during the course of our lives and also what we see happening around the world. When you look at the news it’s overwhelming and we don’t know how we can help. I have found that the only one who has been able to help me when I feel like I am drowning is God. He lifts me out of the stormy seas and puts me down on solid rock. It staggers me sometimes what others go through, and I wonder how they get to the other end. Humans are resilient, but there are terrible things that people go through that can scar them for life.

I’m hoping that by reading my book that it will encourage you to find your purpose, and that your future will be full of hope.

My book can be purchased at Amazon.com, Amazon.com.au and yourbooksonline.com.au

‘Tis the Season

IMG_0396I don’t know about you, but November and December seems to be the time when the stresses of life catch up with us, and just keeps on increasing to the ridiculous until Christmas Day. Then we spend the next week recuperating until we are finally able to wind down from a busy year.  It was November 2011 when I fell and broke my foot in five places. It was three months before I could go back to work and six months in all of physiotherapy. Through the many hospitals visits during recovery, I met people with casts or boots on one or both legs, and we shared our stories. A lot of people said that it happened because they were rushing or moving too quickly. There seems to be an extra tension in the air at that time of the year where there is more risk of injury than at any other time of the year. This year was no exception as I heard of several trampoline accidents in the weeks and days leading up to Christmas.

A friend told me of a little boy who fell off a trampoline onto his head just days before Christmas, sustaining head injuries, and was in a pretty bad shape.  Then we heard from our neighbour that their eight year old girl was in hospital recovering from surgery. She also had sustained a serious injury a couple of weeks before Christmas whilst playing on a trampoline.  Her accident resulted in a painful condition called compartment syndrome, which occurs when pressure within the muscles builds to dangerous levels. This pressure can decrease blood flow, which prevents nourishment and oxygen from reaching nerve and muscle cells. Such was the damage that the Dr feared if things didn’t settle they might have to amputate her foot. The Dr told her that she will never be able to dance again, which was devastating for the little girl, because she loved ballet and dreamed of becoming a ballerina. When we found out, we asked our church to pray for her. Thank God, the surgeon was able to save her foot and now the prognosis looks pretty good.

I did this painting for the little girl to give her hope, and to say that, even if she doesn’t dance, she will still be able to use her talents in another way. I told her about my own daughter who also dreamed of becoming a ballerina until a specialist told her that she would never be able to. This devastated her at the time, but she instead learnt other forms of dance and took up singing. She has been the lead singer in a band for about 10 years now. I love watching her perform, because she puts all of herself into the songs. Even I haven’t given up on dancing. Even though my movement is restricted because of the metal in my foot, I can move with a certain amount of rhythm.

I gave this picture to the little girl to give her a fresh determination to try new and exciting things, and to let her know that she has a great future ahead of her.

Shelter through the Firestorms

Psalm 91 (compressed)Since the end of November last year, within my family and close friends, there has been a wedding, funeral, Christmas, New Year and then the fires. Thrown in the mix were other incidences, some of which were stupid and unnecessary, but were out of my control. There was little to no break between each and it seemed that every day brought something else. This was bordering on the ridiculous and I wondered how much more I could take. I wasn’t the only one going through it, most people I know were going through a similar type of storm.

Then on  Friday 2 January a firestorm began in the foothills not far from our home. We were watching it develop, took some photos, but didn’t ever think we would get the call to evacuate. But on Saturday at about 2 o’clock in the morning we received the message from the CFS. We packed up our cars and went to a friends home near Gawler. Another couple arrived as well about an hour after us. In all there were nine people, one cat and two dogs in that house. None of us slept that night as we listened to ABC radio wondering if we might need to evacuate again. At that stage the fire seemed to be travelling toward us but still a reasonable distance away. We were so focused on keeping watch that we didn’t pray or do anything – we couldn’t. It was all consuming. We are now home safe and secure and the storm seems to have passed. Visions of devastation and stories of experiences are beginning to unfold, and I thank God that no one lost their lives from the fire.

After we arrived back home on Sunday, I remembered a dream I had back in 2010. I didn’t fully understand what it meant at that time. In the dream there were firestorms all around our neighbourhood and we had to keep watch and be alert. Then later I was in a house with other people a safe distance away. It was night time and we kept going outside, watching the sky for fire clouds. Then I saw to my left what I thought was a large dark rain cloud, but as my eyes adjusted it became clearer and seemed to have a pattern. This became larger and as it was filling the sky it came closer and closer until I could touch it. I looked again and saw that this was coming from a distant tree on a hill. As I reached out and touched one of the patterns, I discovered that these were large purple feather-like flowers. I picked one and pinned it on me. and as I did, I perceived that these were the blessings of God.

Now I know the full interpretation of that dream because we had been living it the past few months and the firestorms became a reality. Yet through it, I felt a deep peace. I knew we were going to be alright. And this is why we didn’t need to pray for ourselves. We were already sheltering under the shadow of God’s wings.

For about a year the Lord had been reminding me of Psalm 91 and I knew that there would come a time when I would need to rely on this message of hope to get me through whatever it was that would come. Psalm 91:1-4 says, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”

All those who had gathered together in the house that day had already made this a lifestyle. Even though our focus was totally on what was going on around us, we could do nothing accept keep watch, be alert, and do what we had to do. It was when we came back home that, because we were already living in His shelter, we realised we still were. Because we have been in that lifestyle, we know that God will bless us and protect us through all that stuff. Its a good lesson to keep going like that. When we live in that lifestyle the Lord responds to us with blessing and favor. It doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the experiences or go through the storms but the Lord hears, honors, and delivers us when we are in trouble.

There’s a story recorded in Mark 4:38 which tells of when Jesus was asleep in the hull of a boat he and the disciples were in when they encountered a fierce storm. The disciples were panicking in the storm but Jesus wasn’t. Why? He knew that they were going to get to the other side. Because He knew that – He was in perfect peace. And that’s what he wants us to have. This story was written for our benefit so that we can look at it and realise that’s what Jesus wants us to have – perfect peace.

Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.”

Last night I remembered some of the words of a song by Hillsong called ‘Anchor’ which says: I have this hope as an anchor for my soul; Through every storm I will hope to You. In endless love all my fear is swept away; In everything I will trust in You.

From dessert to bloom: New beginnings

IMG_20140924_124218-1-1-1I didn’t know what I wanted out of life. The only focus I had as a child was to grow up, get married and have children. I really believed that, if I could find my prince charming, I would live happily ever after. I don’t think I’ve ever been alone in that conquest. A lot of people want to find that special someone who will fill the void in their life. Someone to love and care for them. Blame the Cinderella stories, listen to all the love songs and movies that are out there and they all tell us the same thing.

As an adult, I did not know what my true potential was – didn’t even know where to look. It seemed that even when I started to venture out, someone would come into my life. Putting other people’s wishes before mine, I would live their dream. I didn’t know that I could write or paint. I thought everyone else was gifted and talented, but not me. I felt that I didn’t quite make the grade – an underachiever – a jack of all trades – a master of none. What was my purpose? The more I tried to make my own way in life it would be interrupted through circumstances, and the cycle would start all over again. It didn’t seem to matter how many self help books I read, or counselling sessions I’d attended, I couldn’t seem to get it together. It wasn’t until I came to the end of the road about twelve years ago, and committed my life to the Lord, that things began to change. I knew that He was the only answer for me. I invited Him to take control and to lead and guide me, and now I am not the same person I used to be. I have found freedom in Christ and now I’m beginning to blossom.

God has encouraged me through many dreams and prophecies over recent years. I had a word spoken over me in 2008 through a prophet called Fayleen Sparks. Some of the words she said to me were; “…the dessert is gonna blossom like a rose. Surely the cold north winds blew! You are a garden enclosed. You are one who is protected. And I’m bringing you forth even with a new beauty – with a new flourishing – with a new coming forth! And my Word is gonna produce – as Jesus was a tender shoot planted in a dry ground – not just thirty fold, not just sixty fold, but the garden of the Lord. It’s a new planting…”

Now its nearly the end of 2014 and I look forward to 2015 with a new vision and purpose.

Psalms 1:2-3 NLT

“But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”

An oasis in the workplace

imageI would like to say that this painting came from the resources of my mind, but that would’nt be entirely true. It is my impression of a picture I saw in a magazine. A former work colleague asked if I could paint him a picture for the wall in his office, and I was happy to oblige. He said he often looked at this painting in the midst of the busyness, and at times chaos, that occured too frequently. I think we can all relate to that.

Too often we find ourselves overworked and time poor in the workplace. We do our best to be diligent and efficient in our effort to produce a top quality product for our clients. We have policies and procedures in place to ensure quality of services. Some organisations even have guidelines for health and wellbeing in the workplace. But how often do we actually take care of ourselves whilst doing our job?

At least at this person’s desk, he could take a little time out while looking at this painting, and dream about a vacation somewhere quiet and remote. A place where he could escape – even if it was just for a few minutes.

So proud to be of service with this one!