Monday, 11 July 2016

Sandlewood and Vanilla

I have been presented with a wonderful opportunity to speak at a local artists' night here in Adelaide. It's a "Pecha Kucha" night, where the artists share 20 images, each for 20 seconds, and talk to the audience about, well whatever they like, pertaining to their art. 

This is a wonderful opportunity to share my personal testimony with a majority non-Christian audience; in fact, I would go so far as to suggest there may be some quite anti our beliefs, as is often the case among creative circles, sadly. 

This has really got me thinking about how we relate to a non-faith based audience, with what we write/present/speak on. My journey has been both incredible, with such a wonderful experience of healing, but also in some ways quite heartbreaking, and not at all what I thought it would be. But I am absolutely certain that God is the centre of everything I have experienced; therefore, to present my story, even minus the specifics, I must include God, or I would have nothing to share. I feel quite nervous about this, it's such a foreign environment for me; but I believe that God is showing me, in his beautiful and gentle way, how I should approach this.

I am to be like the beautiful, Sandlewood & Vanilla-scented soy wax candle I am enjoying as I am typing:
  • The aroma of this candle is beautiful and delicate; it does not overwhelm me with such a powerful scent that I cannot bear it, but rather just subtly touches the air around me, so I catch a glimpse of the flavours every so often. Heavenly!
  • The glass the candle is held in is translucent; the glow from the flame is evident, but is not glaring and blinding, forcing me to turn my face away; it is gentle and alluring, the flicker dancing to its own tune, bringing such a delightful sense of tranquility. 
  • The candle did not light itself; it relied on someone else to light its fuse.
  • Every time the candle is lit, it is changed; the wax is melted, then reforms a little differently, and the wick has become just that bit shorter.

And this is how these things relate to my presentation:
  • My faith should come across gently, not so over-the-top that people feel overwhelmed, but rather that they hear a small, sensible account of my faith; God should be woven in between the layers of the story, so people know without a doubt that he is there, and do not tune out right from the start.
  • Preaching to people who are not familiar with God will accomplish little more than blinding them, like lighting a flare in a room that has been in darkness for years. Yes, I absolutely should shine my light, but in this setting, a little will go a long way. Too much, and they will turn their faces away.
  • I can probably come up with an adequate presentation without God; I am creative, after all...but unless I include God in the preparations, my light will remain unlit. And in the same way an unlit candle gives off neither scent nor light, my presentation without God would be...perhaps entertaining, at best? I want to be courageous in a place where faith is seen as weakness, or worse, as bigoted religiosity, and show that there is so much more to God and to being a Christian than what the media, and social media, depict.
  • As I step out and speak of my faith in God, I am making a declaration that I am prepared to be changed - that is, I am willing for God to determine how my name is defined. I want to be accepted as a respected photographer/speaker/writer, but people will see me on this night and they will form their own judgments/opinions accordingly. Throwing faith into the mix may cost me some degree of credibility, or alienate me from other artists who perhaps are not accepting of Christians. But I will not modify my story by intentionally removing God from it, for the sake of others' approval.

    Ultimately I pray that they will see someone with kindness, compassion, humour, hopefully talent, and a story of healing and freedom from mental health issues of nearly 20 years; that they will leave with hope, for themselves and/or somebody else they may know.

    And I pray that God would use my words and pictures as a link in the chain of someone's salvation. Not because I stood there and preached up a storm, but because I stood there like a fragrant candle, with gentleness and a peace that falls on all who are there. 
Blessings, Helen

Matthew 5:15-17 (NIV)
15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.


  1. Loved your post Helen, - thanks so much for sharing. Your title grabbed me too. The analogy is beautiful. Congratulations on this awesome opportunity to share. I know you will do a wonderful job and will pray that God will use it to draw people to know Him. I love how you say 'I must include God or I have nothing to share'. That's how I feel too. I am sorry about the heart breaking aspects of your story but I'd like to add that often God uses our hurts and pains to bear a stronger testimony. I know He will use you to share His love with a hurting world. All the best to you Helen. Keep us posted about how it went. And perhaps you could share with all of us too one day! :)

  2. Thank you for your lovely, thoughtful post, Helen. I sense your heart to honour God in all you do, which is wonderful. May you sense the presence of God with you and in you as you prepare those photos for your presentation as well as what you will say--and may you just enjoy the moment and feel so free as you share from your heart.

  3. Thanks Helen. It would be if wonderful if more people aspired to that sandlewood and vanilla style of faith you describe. I hope you have a great night presenting.

  4. What a wonderful opportunity Helen - and I love your heart to share God's love in your life with gentleness and beauty. Praying that you find the wright words and that people's lives will be touched.

  5. Thanks Helen, a beautiful post. What a wonderful opportunity to share your journey you have before you. I'm sure you will ace it. If God is for us, who can be against us. God will be with you as you present your story. Blessings to you my friend.

  6. The way you have explained your faith is not confronting at all, Helen. I believe there will be those in the audience who will truly be touched by your testimony. And there'll be those who are not. But we cannot tamp down our faith for fear of offending. That's why the Lord says. 'Those that honour Me... I will honour'. May God bless you.

  7. Helen, I just went to my CWD blog to answer comments and saw your note. Thank you for your encouragement - it is great to know that our writing does help others! I read your post earlier and loved the way you likened sharing your faith, to the candle. Well done! God has given you this opportunity to speak out and represent Him, and I am sure that You will bring Him honour. I am praying for peace and strength, and that you and your story will touch the hearts and lives of many. Bless you as you step out in Him.

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  9. Great post. :-) I hope the event goes well.

  10. The candle analogy was just lovely, and your tender heart will show through your presentation. I pray that you will touch many lives at that event.

  11. Thank you Helen for your post. Your presentation here in this arena has certainly been inspirational and gentle. I do hope you are a blessing to your audience and God whispers to some of the hearts listening to His words through you.

  12. I loved your post Helen ... thank for you for sharing. I absolutely adore your analogies within. I hope the event goes/went well. Thank you for your heart-felt inspirations, and may God bless you abundantly as you move forward.
    Love and blessings.

  13. Thank you everyone for your comments, and my apologies for not replying to each one individually. Your encouragement and support is such a blessing; I thank God for all of you! Abundant blessings to you all, Helen. xx

  14. Thank you everyone for your comments, and my apologies for not replying to each one individually. Your encouragement and support is such a blessing; I thank God for all of you! Abundant blessings to you all, Helen. xx