Heart Transformed - Chapter One
Coarse laughter sliced through the dank air. Wiry, leaf-bare trees swayed beyond the wire mesh fence. Shivering, Genevieve hunched her shoulders, bracing against the westerly wind biting through her thin, green sweatshirt. She tilted her head, eyeing the pack of three women, much akin to wolves sizing up their next victim to prey upon, prowling around the perimeter of the drab, grey courtyard. Her heart hammered against her chest as the pack approached a lone woman pressed against the concrete wall. Scrawny with yellowing hair, the older woman drew her knees to her chest and gnawed on her fingernails, her eyes downcast as the trio leered at her, tossed a few ugly words her way and continued on their menacing walk.
Genevieve narrowed her eyes, watching their movements as they cussed at, or mocked anyone who dared look their way. Her back tensed. She’d fallen victim to their taunts before, and she didn’t have the strength to face their insults today. The first few months within the grey walls of the Women's Correctional Centre had opened her eyes to an entirely different way of life, and had seen her develop a thicker skin, armour to protect her emotions and self-esteem as a means to survive.
Karina, her cellmate, had taken Genevieve under her wing, giving her guidance and tips for enduring her time in the women’s prison. As a result, she’d learned who to talk to, and who to keep away from. And the women slowly approaching her were certainly ones to keep away from.
Molly Abbets, the self-imposed ringleader of the trio, was downright mean. Heartless and cruel would be better words to describe the solid-set woman with short-cropped black hair. Janet Niland and Susan Daintrey were fairly harmless by themselves, but Molly certainly called the shots when they were all together. Typical bullies. They were the dregs of society, now asserting themselves at the pinnacle of the prison hierarchy. Life behind the razor wire tended to be reverse of that in the outside world. The no-hopers were inclined to dominate, while the upper-crust of society were brought down a notch or two, toppled off their stilettos and tossed out of their McMansions up on Hamilton Hill, only to find themselves at the bottom of the pile.
That had been Genevieve’s experience. Her fall from a life of privilege had been less than graceful, much to her parent’s utter disgust and disdain. But when it came to the classes of society, she knew both sides of the coin. And it was the tail end, trusting the lies whispered against her skin that had landed her in the correctional facility exactly seven hundred and thirty-five days ago.
“Whatcha doin’ there, Jimmy?” A loose pebble scuttled across the ground. Genevieve flinched at the nickname, an obvious barb to her flashy lifestyle before her Jimmy Choo’s were exchanged for the green Velcro-strapped running shoes now adorning her feet. She slowly raised her head, willing her pulse to slow. She would not show fear. She would not panic. She refused to let the women intimidate her.
“Drawing.” Her eyes met Molly’s piercing steel-grey ones. The other woman reached out, snatching the notebook out of Genevieve’s hands. A sneer formed on her thin, cracked lips as she flicked through the worn pages. Genevieve swallowed. Only Karina and a few others had been privilege to the sketches within the spiral notebook. And her mother. She held her breath, waiting for the torment that always flowed from her mother’s lips.
“Why are you wasting your time on that? You won't make any money. You’re so much better than that.” The harsh words tightened around her heart again. Along with the humph of disappointment that always ensued. As an only child, Genevieve was expected to follow in her father’s footsteps, pursuing a prestigious career in law. What a disappointment she’d been.
“This is good stuff, Jimmy.” Janet’s nasally voice broke through her thoughts. Her bony finger tapped on the open page as she glanced up from her position over Molly’s right shoulder. Genevieve interlaced her fingers in the wire fence behind her and shuffled her sneakers on the concrete.
“Thanks.” Her sketches were of another time. Another life. Faded memories of what she’d left behind, and dreams of what she was yet to see. The ivory coloured pages of her notebook were filled with drawings of the Brisbane River, the cliffs at Kangaroo Point, and the view from the jetty at New Farm Park. The pencil lines were crisp and clean, reminding her of the good times, before her choices led her into the prison cell she now occupied.
“Who’s this?” Molly’s callused finger poked at the face of an infant child. Pencil curls floated around the soft, angelic face staring back at her.
“No one,” Genevieve murmured, smoothing her hand over her stomach as she glanced away. Even with daily exercise, loose skin remained, a bitter reminder of the selfish choices that had ruined her life.
“Hmph,” Molly grunted and tossed the notebook into Genevieve’s lap. Smoothing over the creased pages, Genevieve ran her fingers over the child’s face as an alarm echoed around the courtyard, signaling time for the women to return to their cells for another evening. Pressing her lips together, an all-too familiar ache welled in her chest. Would the guilt and emptiness ever leave?
Home in the Valley - Book 3 in The Tallowood Valley series, tells Cameron Harper's story. As a result of being abandoned by his mother as a baby, Cameron struggles with feelings of rejection. He longs for acceptance, but is afraid of being rejected again. And so, he holds his emotions close and his relationships at arm's length.
After surviving a car accident, which left him incapacitated for a number of weeks, Cameron finds comfort in alcohol, and uses the bottle as a way to numb the pain. He experiences flashbacks due to his accident, which leave him depressed and jealous of those around him who can continue on with their daily lives. However, one particular dream is different to his previous ones, and it is this dream that triggers a turning point in Cameron's life.
Cameron's dream is actually based off a vision I had many years ago. At the time, my family was dealing with some issues that had been ongoing for a number of years. Despite praying continually, I was at a point where I couldn't see a way out of what was going on. I felt helpless and hopeless.
I attended the 'Colour Conference' that year, and during a time of corporate worship, I saw myself in a pit, surrounded by complete darkness. I felt alone, afraid and helpless. Then, through the dark, I saw Jesus, kneeling down, reaching his hand down to mine. I reached my hands up, and He pulled me and my family up out of the pit into a place of amazing light.
The worship went on around me, while I stood in awe at the vision I had been given. I remember being filled with the most indescribable peace. I knew, in that moment, that my prayers would be answered and our family would be okay. Needless to say, my prayers weren't answered for a few years after I had the vision, but the peace and comfort I had was enough for me to have confidence that God was with me and He would continue to be with me.
I believe that God speaks to us in many ways and always meets us where we're at. Cameron experienced peace after his dream, and this triggered him to contemplate the direction of his life.
Whatever trials you're facing, I want to encourage you to reach out for Jesus and find comfort in the peace that He gives.
Wow! To say this book was challenging to write, is an understatement. When I was asked to join 'The Potter's House Books' as an author, I knew I needed to tell this story. I also knew it would be a tricky subject (or two) to write about. (And I can vouch that the enemy didn't want me to write it!)
A Vow Redeemed shares the journey of Gabby and Justin Greenstone, after Gabby uncovers Justin's pornography addiction. After losing sight of their first love (God) and each other, the story shares the couple's journey of fighting their way back from the clutches of a pornography addiction.
The devil loves nothing better than to see families destroyed, and many families have been torn apart from the insidious effects of pornography. It is a subject that is too-often taboo in Christian circles. While it is rife in the secular world, and often seen as 'normal' and 'harmless', it is an addiction that doesn't discriminate. Many Christians (both male and female) struggle with pornography, and it is an addiction that brings shame, humiliation, condemnation and feelings of worthlessness. Its effect on society is far-reaching - and throughout A Vow Redeemed, I touch on how Justin's addiction not only impacts his own life, but also that of his wife and children.
While dealing with a tricky subject, the overarching theme throughout A Vow Redeemed is of hope and redemption. Nothing is too big for our God. Nothing can separate us from His love. He offers us unconditional love, forgiveness and redemption through His amazing grace.
A Vow Redeemed - available now.
Read 'The Potter's House Books' here.
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,