My latest release, The Vow Between Us, is a little different from my usual books, in that it falls into the Christian Fiction category rather than the romance genre.
The Vow Between Us was challenging to write. Not so much for the content, but for the questions that the story raises. How strong is my faith? What does complete surrender to God's will look like? What does forgiveness look like? What would I do in a similar situation?
Without any spoilers... When Andrea's entire world comes crashing down, she finds it hard to discern the truth from the lies. As the weight of devastating secrets comes to light, she must discern between her own desires and God's will. She's left picking up the pieces of her perfect life and questioning God's plans for her future.
When someone wrongs us, it's our human instinct to want to lash out and demand retribution. We hurt, because someone hurt us. And for some reason, we like to hold on to that pain. A little keepsake of the time someone betrayed our trust.
But when someone hurts us, Jesus commands our forgiveness.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Forgiveness is not a once-and-done thing. It's a conscious decision, every day, to cancel a debt. To not let the hurt and anger fester and dictate our emotions or actions. It's a lifelong process to choose each day to keep no record of wrongs.
We forgive, because He forgives us. We forgive, because He gives us the capacity to do so. It's not in our own strength, but only through His, that we can do this. God asks us to forgive others, and then leave the rest up to Him. We're not responsible for how someone receives our forgiveness--that's between them and God. But we are responsible for our own actions and the choice to forgive those who have hurt us.
It's not easy. But it's a choice we must make to live our lives for Him.
As I was writing some of the scenes in The Vow Between Us, I felt Andrea's struggles - the wrestling between doing what was easily accepted in the world's eyes, versus doing what God was asking of her. Her resistance is something I've struggled with, and I'm sure you have as well. It's that moment of holding onto something tightly, not willing to let it go for fear of what might happen next. (I picture a petulant child, not wanting to let go of their favourite toy.) Until God, ever so gently, prises open each of our fingers, and we relinquish total control of our situation to Him.
Surrender is hard. Surrendering to God's will is even harder. But as Christ-followers, that's what He asks of us. There is peace and freedom in that moment of total surrender--submitting our will to His, having confidence because He loves us and cares for us.
We don't always know what lies ahead. The mountains in front of us may seem insurmountable. The storm surrounding us may seem relentless. But we can have confidence knowing that our God is a mountain-mover, a storm-calmer, and He knows all of our tomorrows.
He is unchanging, and His plans are always for our good and His glory.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who Love God and are called according to His purpose for them. (Romans 8:29).
For most of my life, I've felt invisible. The deep-seated feelings of insignificance and worthlessness that have stemmed from being ignored, forgotten, overlooked, have become a constant struggle in surrender and learning to see myself through my Heavenly Father's eyes. It's been a long, arduous journey, and I thought I'd finally moved on from those vulnerable moments when people looked straight through or past me, those moments that left me feeling weak and exposed and floundering for security. However, a few recent circumstances have highlighted those insecurities, and bam! I was beaten down again, left in a wake of discouragement and disappointment. I won't deny that it hurt. I won't deny that the actions of others left me questioning my worth and my significance and my place. But I refused to wallow in what could easily become soil for gossip, or bitterness, or resentment. I know that the enemy uses our weaknesses to bring us down. He hits those insecurities hard, trying to cause us to doubt and believe the lies he creates. But I also know that my God is greater, and I only need to read His word to know the truth.
As I struggled this weekend with those old feelings of insecurity, after several circumstances left me feeling invisible and overlooked, yet again, I was reminded of the devotional I'd written in Thrive, Don't Just Survive - and God's rich, all-encompassing, unfailing love for me.
When the enemy tries to steal my peace, I need to remind myself that I am a beloved child of God who sees me - and that's what matters most.
From Thrive, Don't Just Survive:
I’ve never been one who fits in. I’ve never been one of the ‘in’ crowd. Never pretty enough for the beautiful people. I feel awkward in a large group. I dread any time teams have to be selected because I’m usually one of the last ones chosen. I’m often overlooked because I’m an introvert. I’m spoken over because I don’t speak up. I’ve been told my whole life that I’m too quiet and I don’t smile enough. And I was told never to do anything that would bring a bad name to our family.
Round peg, square hole – that’s me! I’ve carried those wounds and feelings of insecurity through to adulthood, and I could easily be the poster-child for low self-esteem. Which is probably why I feel the need to constantly prove myself – to prove that I’m worthy. Deep down, I’ve realised that I want validation. I want others to notice me, and say, ‘Hey, you’re not so bad.’ ‘We see you. We accept you.’
I’ve struggled with my sense of worth and feeling accepted for most of my life. While I’ve been a Christian since I was a little girl, I never fully understood how God could (or would) choose to love me. I’d heard the whole – ‘If you were the only person left in the world, Jesus would still die for you’ – a thousand times, and yet my head and heart refused to believe it. Why would God want me? I’m nothing special.
I mean, I’ve messed up. I’ve made some pretty poor choices in my life that have hurt not only me but other people. I’ve chosen the wrong path in an effort to be accepted. And I’ve definitely done things that would bring a bad name to my family.
But you know what I’ve learned? No matter how much I try. No matter how much I earn. No matter how many accolades I receive, it will never be enough. I will always be rejected by people. I will never be good enough for others. And I will still be overlooked.
The thing that has taken me a lot longer to learn, is that God loves me. Full stop. There are no conditions for me to be loved and accepted by God. I am His beloved daughter. I am engraved on the palm of His hand. I am loved for who I am in Christ.
God’s love doesn’t depend on what I do or don’t do. His love is not conditional on how much money I have, or who’s in my circle of friends. His love does not rely on me achieving university degrees, or receiving promotions. These things in and of themselves aren’t bad – God wants us to do our best with the talents we have, for His glory – but when our focus is on receiving validation from people and from worldly success, that’s when we start to believe the lie that we’re not worthy.
God’s love is unconditional. He lavishes it on me because I am His child. I love that word - lavish. It means - sumptuously rich, elaborate, or luxurious. God’s love is sumptuously rich. And that’s something that has taken me a long time to fully grasp. I am worthy, because of Him.
"You are precious to me. You are honoured, and I love you." Isaiah 43:4.
The past thirteen months have been ... interesting. I've labelled this season the 'In-Between'. It's been a testing season. A waiting season. A dry season. A searching season. A trusting season. But it's also been one of rest (something I find difficult to do).
For those who receive my newsletter, you may recall mention of a car accident I was involved in last year. As a result of that accident, I now have chronic neck/nerve pain which has impacted my ability to perform my 'day' job, and other areas of my life. Long story short, the processes involved with all of this have been drawn out, humiliating at times, and have removed everything I worked hard for, for many, many years. It's been all-consuming, and a time of swallowing my pride, grieving over the loss of what I've achieved, and trying to figure out what's next. At times, I've felt like a pawn in a game of chess. Powerless to move unless it's within the boundaries set out for me. I've been frustrated. I've been depressed. I've felt worthless. And all the while, I've wondered, what's next?
Even though there is no end in sight at the moment, this 'in-between' has also been a time of blessing. Blessings that I would never have thought possible. Blessings that I would never have experienced if life had been all smooth-sailing. As much as I would prefer life to be comfortable, I'm also reminded that it's in the hard times, those soul-searching dark moments of life, that we grow and experience God in incredible ways.
This 'in-between' hasn't been without a lot of discouragement - when I see what's behind me and can't see what lies ahead. When I see what I've lost, yet can't see the next step. When I wonder if God's forgotten me. But Philippians 1:6 reminds me that God began the good work in me, and will continue until it is finished when Jesus returns, and I am encouraged that He still sees me, and that He hasn't finished with me yet.
This 'in-between' has taught me what it means to be fully surrendered. Worship songs mention 'surrender', but I've never fully experienced it until now. When everything is stripped away, when everything is beyond my control, I've had no other choice but to hand everything to God and completely trust Him. My hands and my heart are fully open in surrender to where He leads. And it truly is an incredible experience to let go and let God, not just in words, but in action.
I have also been reminded of the promises in Isaiah 43.
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. (Isaiah 43:2-3).
And I can attest to the fact that He has been with me through this whole journey. Guiding me, comforting me, holding me. I don't know what's next, but I am trusting God.
If you are facing an 'in-between' season right now, I pray that you will know God's presence and peace. You are not alone. He is with you and will not let you go.
It's been a doozy of a week. It's been one of those weeks where things just kept going wrong. It started with our home email being hacked, which led to other things being hacked, which led to hours and hours of phone calls on Mother's Day trying to reclaim and secure our accounts. (Happy Mother's Day to me!) From there, the setbacks continued.
Our gutter broke during a sudden downpour. Our daughter's laptop screen died. Our refrigerator died. I was hospitalised for 3 days. The list goes on ...
All these things don't really matter in the bigger scheme of things (and compared to what's going on in the rest of the world), but I'm sure you'll agree, when it's one thing after the other (and when you need a magnifying glass to see how much is in your bank account, or you don't actually have the money to fix those things because the emergency fund has been used for another emergency), it can get quite wearing. Yes, it's life, but sometimes, it's hard!
When we go through trials, it's easy to think God is distant or has forgotten us. It's easy to think that we're alone, but the Bible reminds us that God is always with us through trying times.
"When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be
burned up; the flames will not consume you."
It's also important to remind ourselves of God's goodness, and how He has provided for us in the past. Remembering God's blessings and His provision, gives us hope.
"But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
They are constantly in my thoughts.
I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works."
Over the course of this past week, I've been wondering how on earth we're going to afford to fix everything, all the while, reminding myself of the ways God has provided for us in the past. When things looked bleak, when I couldn't see a way forward, God always came through, and always in ways that I would never have imagined.
As I was getting ready for church, I went to do up the hook-and-eye on the front of one of my favourite dresses, only to discover the 'hook' had fallen off in the wash. My first reaction was, "Oh, come on!" Sure, it was something minuscule, but it really annoyed me after the week I'd had. I fiddled with my dress, trying to get it to sit in a way that was still "church-appropriate", but nothing worked. I could've changed into something else, but I'm stubborn, and I was determined to make it work! And then I prayed. "Lord, help me find a safety pin." (Trust me when I say this was a prayer of desperation, because we have zero safety pins in the house. I needed one recently and searched every drawer and every cupboard, only to come up empty-handed.)
After I prayed, I went straight to my nightstand, opened the top drawer and guess what was sitting there - clear as day? Yep, a safety pin. Needless to say, I laughed. "Really, Lord?!" It was one of those moments where God humbled me and showed me that He is still there. He's still looking out for me. He's still providing my needs.
It might seem like a silly story - why would God use a safety pin to show me He still cares? Why would something so small matter? I believe God gives us those moments to remind us that He hasn't forgotten us. To remind us He's still there. If we believe what the Bible says about God caring for the birds, then we need to believe that God will take care of us even more so.
It's been a doozy of a week, but it's also been a week of pressing into God. Claiming His promises. Counting my blessings. And trusting that He will continue to provide our needs.
“Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true.
Not a single one has failed!”
(Joshua 23:14, NLT)
Life is messy. Rarely is it simple or straight-forward. It’s beautiful and lovely, but it’s also full of hurt, pain, suffering and difficult moments that make us wonder how we’re going to get through.
As Christ-followers, we are not immune to the hurt and suffering in this life. And there are many times when life is plain ugly:
• When you’re down to your last cent in the bank
• When an accident forces you to quit your job
• When you’re faced with a devastating diagnosis
• When a child rebels
• When bills are mounting and you can’t see a way out
• When a marriage breaks down
• When friendships dissolve
• When anxiety suffocates you
It’s times like these when the questions creep in.
Why is this happening? What have I done to deserve this? What’s going to happen next?
I love the following quote from Corrie Ten Boom:
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
If anyone had reason to fear the future, it would be Corrie. And yet, despite her dire circumstances, and the huge unknowns ahead of her, she continued to put her faith in God. Why? Because she knew God and His character. She knew what He had done, and what He had promised to do. She didn’t know her future, but she knew the One who did.
When life’s storms threaten to sweep you away, when you’re filled with questions that seem to have no answer, hold fast to what you know.
• God is good
• The Lord’s mercies are new every day
• God will never leave you or forsake you
• He will provide all your needs
• He keeps His promises
We may not know what the future holds. We may be frightened of what’s around the next corner. We may not be able to see a possible way out of our situation. Life may still be painful and gut-wrenchingly difficult, but hold fast to what you know. Let hope be the anchor for your soul.
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.”
(Psalm 77:11, NIV)
When my eldest daughter was young, I made a scrapbook of her first year of life, taking time to carefully preserve the photos marking each milestone, her birth announcement, her wristband from the hospital and her first lock of hair. I worked as a scrapbook consultant at the time and enjoyed getting together with friends to work on our memories together. (By the time our fourth child arrived, I’d moved onto digital scrapbooking!)
My children’s scrapbooks line our bookshelves, and every so often I’ll pull them out, reflecting on their milestones, smiling at the memories and laughing at the funny things they did. I love seeing their unique personalities come to life on the pages. Now with three teens and a pre-teen, it’s easy to forget some of the events from those early years. Life is hectic, and my mind is focused on this season of parenting – running them from one activity to another while still trying to manage some one-on-one time with each of them (all the while praying hard over them as they navigate the teenage years!) One of the things I’m thankful for social media for is that every so often, an old photograph will pop up, and I’ll say, ‘That’s right! Remember when …’
While we might forget small things about our children, God doesn’t want us to forget what He’s done in our lives. When we’re facing trials, and worry about the future creeps in, it’s easy to forget how good God is. Our mind is focused on the present and the unknown, that we often forget what God has done for us before.
The Old Testament tells of God commanding Joshua to assemble twelve stones in the Jordan River, and another twelve as they’d passed through. I’m guessing they were thinking that was a pretty crazy thing to do at the time. Why on earth would God want them to put two piles of rocks in the river? We discover why in the final verse:
He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever. (Joshua 4:24, NLT).
God asked Joshua to establish the monuments to remember where they’d been and where they were going. It was a reminder of God’s goodness for generations to come.
In Psalm 103, David writes, ‘Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.’
Forgetting what God has done creates doubt for the future – will God really help me? And it can also lead to disobedience. We only need to recall the Israelites and their grumbling and short-term memory loss as they wandered in the desert! God blessed them so many times, and yet they were so caught up in their circumstances that they quickly forgot God’s goodness – what He’d done and what He promised to do.
God is good. Let us never forget that. When trials and doubts arise, remember what He has done for you before, and take comfort that He will do it again. He has brought you this far, and He will do so again.
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.
Several years ago, a news report mentioned that a woman and two children had gone missing from our local area, and they were last sighted boarding a train heading north. I’m not sure if they were ever found, but snippets of information released at a later date indicated that they’d escaped a domestic violence situation. The story struck a chord with me, and made me wonder what life was like for that woman. How fearful she must have been for her life. It broke my heart that she and her children were subject to such circumstances, but I was also filled with awe at her courage to leave and seek a better life for herself and her children.
This scenario was the inspiration behind This Steadfast Heart. The opening scene shows Nicola, with her daughter, fleeing her partner on a northbound train to a town called Willoughby Beach. The story unfolds with Nicola’s past coming to the surface – the hurts, the fears, and the ugliness - as she tries to make a new start for herself and her daughter.
Zac Bains is an ex-missionary, whose overseas work was cut short due to a motorcycle accident. He has a strong faith, and also holds his relationships to a high standard. When Nicola and Zac’s lives intertwine, Zac is left questioning his staunch view on what it means to serve others, and is challenged by his pride. Is someone more deserving of help because they live in a third-world country, or does God want us to love and serve everyone, no matter their demographic or social standing?
The main themes for This Steadfast Heart are about challenging our own ideals, and looking beyond the boxes we create for ourselves to really see those in need, to love others as Jesus did.
I enjoyed bringing Zac and Nicola’s story to life, and at times it made me question my own beliefs. How do I treat others who are different to me?
This is my third book in The Potter's House Books Two series, and I pray that you will be encouraged by Zac and Nicola's journey.
From the Ruins is the first 'mature-age' book I've written. (As I'm not quite in my later years, I hope I did okay!) The main characters were inspired by people I know who have lost their life partners in recent years. In particular, I drew inspiration for Sandra's character from a lady I know who felt utterly lost after the death of her husband, to the point where she was paralysed by fear and didn't have the courage to feel alive again. After a lifetime of ministry serving beside her husband, she suddenly found herself alone and without a purpose. Even the simplest of tasks would overwhelm her, and she lost all sense of who she was. With time, and with God's healing, she began to step out of her comfort zone and realise her new 'normal'. By doing so, she discovered a path that she would never have chosen for herself. A path with new opportunities, new experiences and a newfound joy.
I really enjoyed bringing these characters to life, and exploring the idea of trusting God and finding love again in the 'twilight' years. I also enjoyed writing about my beautiful country, Australia, particularly the east coast and some of the places I have visited.
The overarching message in From the Ruins is about learning to let go of the life we imagined for ourselves and learning to trust God. When we do that, when we release our fears and let go of our closely held expectations, we can learn to step fearlessly into the unknown because we know The One who holds our future, and we can have confidence knowing His plans are always far better than what we could ever imagine for ourselves.
Life becomes an adventure when God is leading the way.
I hope you enjoy From the Ruins - and if you've read it, why not let other readers know what you think.
Keep an eye out for the rest of the Winds of Change series. In the meantime, you can purchase From the Ruins here.
A few years ago, I watched my youngest daughter run her first event at the primary school athletics carnival. At the time, she wasn't too fussed by her finishing place. I don't even think she was fully aware of what it meant to 'sprint'! When the starter's gun went off, all the parents cheered from the sidelines as their children ran their hearts out towards the finishing line. It was cute to watch their little arms and legs flying everywhere. Some kids knew what it meant to run fast! Other kids took their time. Then there was my daughter - looking around at everyone else and flicking her ponytail out of the way as she ran. She was completely oblivious of what it was all about, and had a huge grin on her face the whole time. She quite enjoyed herself - but she ran slow because she was too focused on what everyone else was doing around her.
Lately God's been encouraging me to 'focus on my lane' - to run the race He has set before me, and not be distracted by what's in the next person's 'lane'.
At the start of any race, an athlete zeroes in on the lane in front of them. They fix their eyes on something in the distance, and focus on that very point as they run. This helps them stay in their lane and run their own race. If they turn their head to see what other athletes are doing, a number of things happen: they become distracted, they slow down, and they are no longer running the race they prepared for.
The same thing happens in our lives. When we focus on what we see in other's lives, we become distracted (discouraged), and we're no longer focused on what God has prepared for us.
God has a unique path for each of us - sometimes it might be long and arduous, when prayers go unanswered, or things don't quite work out how we'd like. Other times, it might be full of abundance. Lately, I've been caught up at looking at other's paths, rather than focusing on what God has set before me. Some days it feels like a real slow journey compared to what others are doing. But then God gently reminds me that this is all part of His plan for me. The path He chose for me looks different to the one He has for my neighbours, my friends, and you.
We are each called to run with endurance - with stamina, to not give up - even when it feels like we're going nowhere. Even when it feels like God isn't there, or our prayers bounce back unanswered. Whether we're feeling stuck, despondent, or in a season of waiting, it's comforting to know that God already knows our path. Keep your eyes fixed on Him, and don't allow the noise around you be a distraction from the plan He has for your life.
Dawn of Mercy originally started out as a completely different story (one involving a fully completed first draft, mind you.) But I was intrigued by circumstances involving some acquaintances of ours, and I felt God telling me to shelve my original story for another day. Thus, Kara’s story was born.
Amidst a theme of worldly success, I was a bit hesitant writing about such a topic as domestic violence.
As someone who hasn’t experienced domestic violence firsthand (but know women who have), I tried to be sensitive to the horror that many women endure in their daily lives. I didn’t want to gloss over or trivialize Kara’s experience, because I know it is not something to be dealt with lightly. The pain and suffering victims endure is real, debilitating and can also contain an element of shame. I wanted to bring to light just how real this issue is, and I also wanted to portray a message of hope – to show there is a light that shines in the midst of our darkness.
Throughout her trials, I brought Kara to a point where she had nothing left but to receive the peace and love that can only be found in Jesus. And it is my prayer that you would come to know His peace and love as well.
I hope you enjoy Dawn of Mercy and are encouraged by Kara (and Owen’s!) story.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46:1, KJV).