Before I began writing The Tallowood Valley Series, I had a clear vision of the setting and one of the main characters - Alex (whom you will meet in Bridge to Return), but I was stuck with getting started on the storyline. I was feeling a bit discouraged and also frustrated, as it wasn't progressing as I would've liked. (I am a perfectionist, and get frustrated when I can't get things right...something I'm still working on!)
I spent quite some time praying about it - that God would guide me and give me some inspiration as I wasn't getting far at all.
Not long after, I met a woman in my 'day' job who "just happened" to live on one of the biggest cattle stations in Australia. She was a long way from home when I met her, and in my brief interaction with her, she told me a little about life on the land - the challenges they faced, the joys they experienced, how their children went to boarding school, how many cattle they had etc.
As I was busy talking to the woman, her husband walked into the room. I was utterly gobsmacked, but had to maintain my best poker face as I was introduced. Her husband - whom I had never met - just happened to be the man I had envisioned as Alex in Bridge to Return. Exactly the same build. Exactly the same features. Exactly the same piercing blue eyes. It was both amazing and frightening! I had to maintain my professionalism and not let on that anything was out of the ordinary. At the time, I remember thinking, "Just stay calm."
It was a bizarre experience, as though my book had come to life right in front of me, before it had even been written. And I truly believe God had something to do with it - just to give me a little nudge of encouragement and inspiration. That particular day has stuck with me, and I still smile at just how perfect God's timing was for me to meet those two people.
God works in ways we can't always fathom, and He often uses everyday circumstances and opportunities to lift our spirits. I always pray as I write - and it is my prayer that God would somehow use my feeble words for His glory and that you might be encouraged by them.
Bridge to Return is available for pre-order now.
Heart on the Land is book 1 in my new series - Tallowood Valley. The series tells the story of the Harper family, and is set in a fictitious town in rural Australia. The idea for setting a book in rural Australia came partly from my own childhood experiences, as well as wanting to share a little about my home country to all my overseas readers.
I have fond memories of visiting my uncle's wheat and sheep property in rural New South Wales when I was a child. My cousins who lived on the farm were all boys, and I enjoyed running around the property with them - not that we ever went too far as it was a huge property and some areas were "out of bounds". I recall spending time in the shearing shed, sliding down the sheep dip, riding on the harvester among the wheat, and playing hide and seek around the hay bales in the sheds. It was a lot of fun, and something city kids don't often get the chance to experience. In saying that, I am a city girl at heart - although I do enjoy escaping to the country every once in a while for the wide open spaces and the freedom it provides.
Although written from Max's point-of-view, Heart on the Land deals a little with the issue of postnatal depression - which is something I personally have experienced. I had four children in six years, and experienced some extremely dark moments when my children were young. I haven't shared much about that time - (I tend to hold my cards close) - but it is forever etched in my mind as a time of pruning and a time of growth. I can honestly say it is only by the grace of God that I can sit here today. God's unfailing love and my faith in His promises are truly what kept me going through those awful moments.
I hope you found some encouragement through reading Max's story. Although it contained heartbreak and sadness, and he faced an uncertain future, he chose to place his faith in the One who holds us all in the palm of His hand.
Holding Hope continues the story of Sarah Harvey, coping with widowed life and raising her two children. An accident forces her to slow down and gives her time to think about her family, her children and her future with Dr Caleb Willis.
During her time of forced rest, Sarah also discovers her true feelings for Caleb. But with the revelation of an old flame and Caleb’s distancing behaviour, Sarah is left confused about what the future holds. Has she fallen too hard, too soon?
Throughout her trials, her doubts and insecurities, Sarah must learn to hold onto the hope that only God can provide.
As I wrote Holding Hope, I wanted to encourage the reader to seek the hope that can be found in Jesus Christ. Sarah faces many challenges in her life - being a widow, raising two children as a single parent, helping her children adjust to life without a father, work stress, being injured and new relationship problems. Yet, she continues to hold onto the hope that God will see her through. She doesn't know what her future holds, yet she trusts in Him for His provision and His strength to cope with the curve-balls life throws her way.
Life doesn't always go the way we plan, and sometimes it is a lot further off track than we ever envisaged. No matter what you're going through, I just want to encourage you to continue to hold onto the hope that only Jesus can provide.
A single thread of hope is still a powerful thing.
God is our ever refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1).
And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5).
Until next time,
The main character in 'Shining Grace' is Sarah Harvey, a strong woman who, despite the curve-balls life throws her way, relies fully on God's strength to see her through some very hard situations. As I wrote Sarah's story, I was quite challenged by her character, and wondered how I would respond if I were in the same situation.
Would I be able to forgive someone for killing my husband (whether by accident or not)? It's a sobering thought, and one situation that hopefully, I won't have to experience.
The underlying message of 'Shining Grace' is of forgiveness and grace. Admittedly, these are hard topics to deal with. When someone hurts us, our instinctive human reaction is to want to hold on to the injustice served to us, and seek revenge. Some people act on that in a physical sense by bringing harm to the offender, while others (including myself at times), harbor a grudge and let bitterness and anger fester.
The thing is, when we let unforgiveness take root in our lives, it consumes us from the inside. What starts out as a small seed of hurt, can quickly manifest into a root of bitterness if it is not trampled out. From there, resentment grows and starts to affect everything we do, including hindering our relationships - not only with those who offended us, but also our relationship with God. In 'Shining Grace', this is the message Sarah tries to portray to her friend Matthew in justifying why she chose to forgive the young girl who took her husband's life.
Sarah struggled with forgiveness - she dealt with anger and bitterness, as we all do - but was prompted to forgive, and extend grace to Jessica, because Jesus forgave us and extended His grace to us.
When Jesus hung on the cross, the sins of the world on Him, He cried out, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing." Jesus had every right to be angry - He was falsely accused, He was beaten, He was mocked, He was spat upon, He was brutally nailed to a cross - and yet, He chose to forgive.
Forgiveness is not easy. It is a choice. It's a conscious decision we need to make every single day. But when we do, we find freedom. When we hand over our struggles to God, when we make the choice to forgive those who hurt us, we are casting off any bitterness, resentment and anger, and saying "I choose freedom from the strongholds that hold me back." Our forgiveness does not mean that the person who hurt us 'gets away with it' - but it does mean that we no longer need to carry the burden of what they have done. Their actions or words no longer have any power over us, because we have chosen forgiveness.
We forgive, because Jesus forgives us. It's as simple and as complex as that. That is the message woven through 'Shining Grace' and I hope it has, in some small way, been a blessing to you.
Until next time,