Thursday, 31 July 2014

Investment Opportunity, May Require Some Effort

It's taken a while, but I believe that I am finally growing up. Really, I mean it! You see, I have come to realise the importance of investing. Not just financially, but in so many different areas; health, knowledge, and especially in regards to keeping my house tidy!

Why is this a sign that I am perhaps reaching some semblance of maturity? Because for many years I have thought that things other than a wholehearted investment of my own time and/or money and/or prayer would see me achieve what God has in store for me. Actually, to see that written down makes me cringe; it's such an obvious concept, and not really a hard one to 'get.'  I believe that this lack of wisdom in my own understanding has contributed to many of my "half-begun" projects, (note, they are not even half-finished! Most have barely an introduction before I have thrown my hands up in resignation).

I have so many good ideas, but none that have really come to fruition. Oh believe me, I've got a plethora of people or things to blame for that! Sadly, not once did I seriously consider that I might be my own worst enemy when it came to success.

Now, I am attempting to take a few small areas of my life and become accountable for them.

Healthwise, I have recently been given a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes. Rather than getting cross with God, or my hubby, or lamenting my horrible existence without chocolate . . . oh wait, scratch that last one . . . I jest, but in all honesty this has been a massive wake up call for me. It has made me want to take control of my health, to look at what I'm eating, and why. And above all it has forced me to acknowledge that, firstly I was not honouring God with my lifestyle choices, and secondly, that if I didn't invest in this area of me, then I could be taking something so very valuable away from my kids far too early. Excellent investment, Helen! Well done me! (As an aside, since learning of this I have lost about 13 kg and feel amazing, but that's another story).

As for my writing, I have really struggled in the past 6 months. I have blamed so many different things; emotional dealings, the kids, lack of inspiration, among others. But I was missing the key truth; the only thing stopping me from writing was my choice to play Candy Crush and not write! I know we all need some down time, but I was avoiding the very thing I loved because I couldn't see the benefit of the investment of my time. It's hard work pulling something together; I'm sure many reading this blog can relate to that. But the rewards are so amazing, seeing people's lives changed by something we have written is the best feeling. And this feedback provides the momentus for me to reinvest, again and again and again.

Yes, investing part of ourselves into something else can be somewhat painful, because the cost can be so high. Right now, for example, it's 1.54am and I'm just finishing my blog post which I forgot about (oh dear). It was so tempting to simply write an apology and provide a quick link to an older story or devotion I'd written; but I knew that that was a cheap way out, and that you are all worthy of a much higher investment than that, (and I really hope this has made sense; things are getting a little blurry now!).

Ultimately, I want to live my life in a way that pleases my Lord Jesus Christ, whose investment on the cross was so much more than I can ever repay. And I know that the best bit is that with every investment I make for him, he will bless my socks off at the same time! It just doesn't get any better than that!

I wonder, what do you invest yourself into? I'd love to hear your spiritual/physical/practical examples!



Monday, 28 July 2014

Lessons Learned from Losing Wisdom

by Charis Joy Jackson

A magical idea strikes me. I run to my laptop before inspiration can leave. Well, “run” isn't the best word for it... it's more of a slow shamble while my vision blurs and the ground sways beneath me. Did I mention the pictures on the wall seem to expand and loom over me? That's not normal, right? Laptop in hand I settle onto my blue fainting couch. The battery's dead and the cord's all the way in my room. I consider the idea of crawling over walking but decide crawling would take more energy. Computer charging, I drink some water, careful to avoid sensitive areas. Finally, I open a new post. Time to write. What was that magical idea again?

It's gone! I tell myself to write anyway, a writer must write despite inspiration.

I struggle through a sentence, a paragraph. I make the writer's mortal sin- I edit instead of just getting the words out. I shuffle sentences around, try to find a better beginning. I am focusing on too many subjects for one post. Gah! I delete everything and start again. I can feel the story churning but an hour passes and I still can't form anything. The words won't flow. My worst fear is realized. I can't write.

Pain begins to throb through my jaw. An alarm goes off on my phone, time for more pills. I chug some water and swallow a handful of meds. The pain edges away again to be replaced by a swimming head and a roller coaster of emotions. The blank screen expands just like the pictures on the wall. Was this what Alice felt like in Wonderland? I fight through another paragraph, but it's hopeless. Fear wins. I put the laptop down. I'm just beating a dead horse and that's not very nice at all. Poor horse.

My nightmare's a reality.

Welcome to my life for the last few weeks. I had oral surgery to remove impacted wisdom teeth and I was sent home with a list of drugs that killed the pain but brought complications and dizzy spells. The ironic part - I was afraid I'd forget how to write. All I'd think about were the "what if's"... What if the meds messed with my brain and I lost all my wisdomy goodness? - WORSE! What if my stories disappeared?!

Fear consumed me. I'm a bit dramatic, can you tell?

Has fear or overwhelming obstacles ever held you back?

Here's the lesson I'm reminded of, one I keep close at hand – especially at times like this. No matter what, write. Every day. Doesn't matter how horrible it looks, keep writing. As writers we want to be praised for our work and fear is like a constant companion sitting next to us pointing out how unoriginal we are or how cheesy our writing is. Who cares about fear. Write! I'm convinced it's the author who pushes past all the fears and walls of insecurity that actually produces the real gems. Look at Tolkien. It took him over ten years to finish Lord of the Rings. I read recently where someone claims it took him seventeen years! Who cares. The story has captured our heart and it's because Tolkien kept writing. Imagine if he'd put his pen aside after three years of writing... the world would never know of Middle Earth.

That, my dear friends, would be a tragedy. So again I say, write! No matter what. Write!

What about you? What valuable tools do you hold on to when fear or other obstacles come knocking?

Charis Joy Jackson is working as a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization & is part of The Initiative Production Company. She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel, which she hopes to create into a seven part series. 

Here's to a life lived in awe & wonder. 
Welcome to the adventure.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Trying To Find The Perfect One Liner By Buffy Greentree

If you could pass on one piece of advice to a new writer, or a school student interested in writing, what would you say?

Working as a boarding house supervisor I'm constantly confronted with the problem of wanting to give advice but needing to condense all that I would like to say into a short, pithy sentence.

Here's what I've come up with so far.

If I'm in a sporty mood, I copy Nike: Just Do It.
This was a piece of advice no one gave when I was young, and I wish they had. I think one of the most important things for developing a career as a writer is getting in and learning as much as you can as soon as you can. As with a lot of talent based activities, you need to practice to get perfect. Some suggest 10,000 hours to become an expert. For writing, I've heard it's your first million words. So why not get these out of the way as soon as you can?

If I'm in a techy mood I'll tell them: Build A Platform.
Even high school students, okay maybe especially high school students, can start a blog. Or build up a Facebook presence and connect with other writers. They can load up works in progress and start getting feedback. Start now, I'd tell them, because it's going to take years and is one of the greatest things you can do outside of actually writing towards becoming a best seller. Publishers will want you, or you'll already have a tribe if you want to self-publish.

If I'm in a carey-sharey mood I'll say: Connect With Writers.
I was petrified the first writing conference I went to. Obviously they would all be really serious writers and laugh at my poor attempts at YA. But surprisingly they weren't. Half were just as nervous as I was, and the other half were so supportive and shared such great advice that I've been hooked ever since. It's great catching up at least once a year and seeing what everyone's learned and working on, who's published what, and how far everyone has come. Then there's the online writing community; following people's journeys on their blogs, and feeling the support when they comment on mine.

If I'm in a slightly pessimistic mood I'll remind them: Think Long Term.
Writing is not a short term goal. I don't actually believe in 'overnight successes'. All the great writers I've talked to or read about either wrote many books before they were noticed, or developed their craft for years before writing their first runaway best seller. If you are not prepared to put in the effort, don't start. If you think it's the next 'get rich quick' scheme, well (insert laughter here).

If I'm in a professionally minded mood I'll suggest: Do Everything To Improve Your Craft.
The number of non-writing people who believe that all it takes is just sitting down with a laptop makes me want to cry. It's like saying you can be the next Picasso by spending an afternoon with your kid's paintbox. Writing is a craft. First, you need to be able to manage the writhings of a plot that threatens to slip out of your hands and tangle itself on the floor. Then you also need to be able to tame the English language with its profusion of adverbs and adjectives,and its hydra type sentences where you cut off one overly long sentence only to create two in its place. Dealing with all this takes experience and skills.

Finally, if I think they've understood all that, my final piece of advice is always: Don't Stop.
If you just don't stop, it is almost impossible to fail. Maybe you'll have to put aside your first manuscript. Maybe you'll have to publish five books before people start finding you. Maybe you'll have to self-publish your work until a traditional publisher realises how awesome you are. Maybe they never will, but you'll develop a devoted following who wait for your next book. Even if all that happens, if you just keep improving your craft, polishing your manuscripts, and building your platform, eventually you will get there. It's just a matter of whether you want it that much.

Luckily I do.

How about you?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Are They All Yours? by Janette Pepall


Why did I choose this title?   

 When our children were young international adoption was unusual, and Australia was not multi-cultural. We were constantly asked, “Are they all yours?”  Well, yes. We know our family ‘looks different’ …….the adults are Caucasian, the 6 children are close in age (6 under 9 years) and there are two Caucasians, two Chinese, a Vietnamese and a Sri Lankan! 

Our birth, foster and adoption journey, which has spanned over 43 years, has shaped and changed our lives, it has taken us on a journey of joy, adventure, challenges and connected us to a network of friends across the globe.  I would not be an international educator and consultant on children at risk nor an author of training manuals and more recently my children’s books on adoption! 

Dean and I married in 1968, and wanted to have a large family. God fulfilled our dreams but not the way we envisaged.  While we often think of personal issues as a challenge, they are also the place of new beginnings. We just don’t recognise it at the time! Our continually growing family now consists of 6 adult children, one from birth and 5 from adoption, their partners, and now five adorable grandchildren.  We have also been foster parents of two children with disabilities.

Our first adoption was an infant son born in Australia, with our second son arriving 20 months later by birth. At this time, the 1970s, the war in Vietnam was raging, and we became aware of the horrific situation for thousands of Vietnamese children.  There was no legislation to allow Australians to adopt, so with several other proactive South Australian individuals and couples we formed Australia’s first adoptive parent group.  

After many months of lobbying, the only Australian airlift, a Hercules transport plane with over ninety children, arrived from Vietnam. With a toddler and an infant, we were allocated one of the youngest babies (4 weeks old).  We never got to meet Daniel, who died in hospital a few days after arriving. We were very sad to have lost a son, especially as we had not held him in our arms.
Committed to adoption, and with our state finally passing adoption legislation, we were the first family to be allocated from Thailand, an infant girl. However, on the very same day we received a second phone call from the Adoption Unit.  Would we consider the placement of a 9 month old Vietnamese baby boy?  He is 9lbs, and so our third son had arrived. 

In 1977, with three sons, but with a desire for a daughter, we re-applied for adoption to Thailand.  We were soon allocated a 4 month old baby girl and called her Miriam. Sadly, in the following hot summer, measles took many babies lives in several orphanages, including hers.
We transferred our paper work to Sri Lanka, and were allocated a 6 month old baby girl. While we adored our sons, how exciting, a daughter at last!!   A long story and lots of heart aches with three allocations, but after 4 weeks I traveled home with a week old baby girl. 

During this time a visiting pastor called me to the front of our church and prophesied, “You will be an author of many works’. Hm……….was that possible? Again, God had His plans!
In the 1980s we were living in the Northern Territory which did not have legislation to allow international adoptions. After being stopped on the street many times- Are they all yours? we pioneered another parent adoptive group and became a political force! In the next two years, two daughters aged three and a half years and five years from Hong Kong arrived. Three sons and three daughters, our family was now complete!
I am sure from this snap shot of our family, you will recognize that we are passionate about the care of orphans and vulnerable children. After a distinct call to be missionaries to Hong Kong, we lived and worked there for a large children’s agency.  During the early 1990s I was instrumental in pioneering the adoption of children with disabilities to the USA and setting up the Hong Kong small group homes and foster care programs. 

God was able to use all these experiences, positive and negative, to His purpose and plan for my life! I am the Founder and Director of, with a team of twelve people in seven countries. We have trained over 3000 people, in 12 countries, including adoptive and foster parents, social workers and orphanage child caregivers, Sunday school teachers, teachers and pastors.
My journey as an author began at a ‘mature’ age when I felt God ask me to write training material for those in the developing world who are directly involved with children. I wasn’t sure why, but I have always trusted God and His promptings. But would it be valuable to my heroes, the child caregivers in orphanages, who had grade 3 or 4 education?  My responsibility is to do as asked; His is to bring forward the fruit.

Now I have written three training manuals, Care for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, National Training: Understanding and Responding to God’s Vulnerable Children, and National Training: Understanding and Responding to Children At Risk.  The Understanding God’s Children is being translated into Chinese, Spanish, Bahasa and Burmese and is being used across the globe.
Then my latest adventure! After many years of advising adoptive parents, grandparents and professionals that it is never too early to introduce and ‘normalise’ the word adoption, I was unable to find any books for toddlers, especially those adopted within certain cultures. So…….I am the author of a series of children’s books on adoption! It has been hugely challenging!  Do I self publish? If so, where? What is an ISBN number and do I need one? Do I sell on line, or through a book company?
The first books, I AM ADOPTED (Sui Ling and Lok Tin) I believe will prepare children, both adopted and biological, for understanding the adoption experience.  They are currently in English, soon they will be bilingual. After finishing the series, I intend to write about our life’s journey.
So, yes, praise God they are all ours…

To learn more about my work and resources, please go to: and www.