Thursday, 29 March 2018

Meet Our Members: David Rawlings

Each Thursday in 2018 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today we interview David Rawlings

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.
  1. I’m a freelance copywriter with my own business. I’ve worked for myself for 13 years and have always put words on the page (and now the screen) so I could put food on the table.
  2. I come from a writing background, having been in journalism and corporate communication for 25 years. I've also written songs, poetry and short stories since I was six. Now it's fiction's turn.
  3. I was born and bred in southern Adelaide. I lived in Sydney for a while – the Shire was great  – but moved back to raise a family five minutes from the beaches, five minutes from the bush, and ten minutes from the picturesque McLaren Vale wine region. 
Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc). What do you write and why? 

I write contemporary fiction with a message. I enjoy writing stories that don’t just entertain or provide escapism, but also leave the reader sitting back and thinking deeper about their lives. So I talk about contemporary issues – TV and the media, relationships, transparency and honesty, the concept of friends in social media or balancing work with life. In them, I’m encouraging people to dive a little deeper into life by looking at what makes the world around them tick. In doing so, they might find a little of themselves as well.

My first manuscript (Pastor Swap) was an ACFW Genesis finalist and OCW Cascade finalist in the USA, and addressed the concept of churches and reality TV. My second manuscript (The Baggage Handler) also semi-finaled in the Genesis comp and explores the concept of dealing with emotional baggage.

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it? 

I’ve been working with James L Rubart as my mentor, so it’s mind-blowing to have the guy whose books you are reading suddenly reading your work. I’ve now signed with the Steve Laube Agency, so it was a buzz to have Steve read – and love – The Baggage Handler. He made it to the end of the story, which I count as an achievement considering his reading workload.

And recently I've been blogging on, which meant I had the chance to have work in front of some really big names in Christian fiction. Did they like it? I don't know. But it was good to at least have the chance.

Who would I like to read my writing? People who would benefit from diving a little bit deeper into life. And, like any wannabe debut author, as many of those people as possible!

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most? 

I’m a pantser trapped inside a plotter’s body. I remember meeting Robert Ludlum at a book signing in Adelaide when I was 17, and he told me that he plots his entire book, and knows the start and end point of each chapter. Then, putting that aside, he writes the story to get to that point. Considering he’s my literary hero, I’ve adopted that – and I've found it works really well for me.

I’ve also developed a two-speed process that works for my timing and the way I create. I’m a big dictator (not in the political sense), so I will often dictate entire chapters and then, in transcribing them, edit as I go. That allows me to be free (like a pantser) but also focussed (like a plotter). It also means my first draft is almost a second draft because I fix things along the way. It’s not conventional, but it works. And it means that in downtimes in my freelancing business when I’m able to focus on my writing, I can churn out up to 8,000 words a day when I’m flying.

Oh, and I often write in my hammock.

I wasn't kidding about the hammock ...

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why? 

I was given a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style when I studied journalism (back when journalism was still journalism) and I still use it. I know that I’m getting things right. (Although now that I’m focussing on the USA, the Chicago Manual of Style means I don’t completely come across as a failed 4th grade English student from Boston).

I’ve also had some good use out of Shawn Coyne’s The Story Grid – just another way of looking at story and structuring it in a way that keeps the pace moving.

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be? 

Wow. Way to get me in trouble with those I don’t mention … these are but a few of the people I’ve come to know on CWD. Here goes:
  • Ian Acheson – the Sydney guy I met at ACFW in Nashville. One of the most encouraging Christian men I’ve ever met. 
  • Iola Goulton – one of the first people I met in Christian fiction through ICFW and a Genesis winner herself. 
  • Narelle Atkins – who helped me with some advice when I was in negotiation with Steve Laube, who is now my agent.
  • Mira Pankiw – who always provides great feedback to my writing.
  • Carolyn Miller – who I’ve gotten to know through ACFW as well and has just released her debut novel. 
  • Peter Sewell - I like following his posts as he travels around the planet like a CWD Getaway travel show presenter. 
So I met this great Aussie in Nashville ... with Ian Acheson at the ACFW Awards Gala in 2016.
Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them? 

To have what I've written published and to add to the two manuscripts I've finished with one of the many stories I've already storyboarded.

How will I get there? By working hard on the story, the platform and the prayer, and now that I’m working with an agent, enjoying this part of the process.

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing? 

It drives all of my writing. I believe that all creativity comes from the Creator, so it follows that my stories are from Him as well. My faith is also something I explore, with questions about everything. That comes through in my writing as my characters often have the same questioning approach.

Based in South Australia, David Rawlings is a sports-mad father-of-three with his own copywriting business who reads everything within an arm’s reach.  He has published in the non-fiction arena and is now focused on writing contemporary Christian stories for those who want to dive deeper into life.

His manuscripts have finalled in competitions for ACFW and OCW and he is currently represented by The Steve Laube Agency.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Total Wipeout or Totally Write It Out?

About a decade ago, the first Wipeout game show aired in the USA. Contestants threw and bounced themselves into, around, across, over and through an absurd array of obstacles, mud, more obstacles, mud, creative obstacles, water, (washing off the mud), challenging obstacles, watery downpours … anyway, you get the picture. Total Wipeout, the British (BBC) version, followed hot on its heels, eventually airing in Australia (and currently repeating on ABC ME).  If you’ve no idea what I’m referring to, you can watch Total Wipeout’s first Episode here (after you’ve read this blog, of course).

The ‘killer surf’ giant water slide introduces the show’s final challenge (See it here at about the 48:20 minute mark). By this stage, the field of twenty-four starters has narrowed to three finalists who compete for the cash prize. It’s not hard to draw an analogy between those Total Wipeout contestants and writers, (aspiring and successful). With varying degrees of enthusiasm and expertise, we might
  • ·        bellow a shout of impending triumph at our brilliant intention;
  • ·        leap into the process with a whoosh and a splash;
  • ·        swim through the deep waters of structural sinkholes;
  • ·        tackle the long haul of obstacles (dealing with time restraints);
  • ·        jump barrels, balance disappointments;
  •      climb (or cling perilously to) the walls while a waterfall of negativity assails us;
  • ·        leap onto the dizzying merry-go-round of writing conferences and events;
  • ·        bounce up and down, back and forth, over (and often out of) the submissions' trampoline.

It’s easy to extend the analogy. Both contestants and writers might
  • ·        see it as a challenge, but also as fun;
  • ·        fall and fail, but try again;
  • ·        persevere, even when the mud sticks;
  • ·        step up to the next level after each success.

May I also draw your attention to the response of the game show’s audience because, frankly, they are amazing in their efforts to cheer on the players. They laugh with good humour at competitors’ pedantic pre-action antics, commiserate when they slip and fall, and cheer wildly when they pick themselves up and try again. Sure, every episode has one overall winner who receives a prize, but the audience applauds the efforts of all the players who try, whether they win or lose. In the presence of that faithful, enthusiastic cheer squad, naysayers face, um, total wipeout.

Over the last twelve months, I’ve been whacked and dumped and drowned by a plethora of challenges and disappointments that have seriously undermined my writing progress. I’m sure I’m not the only one. But a couple of weeks ago, the Holy Spirit challenged me with this thought:

The only power/authority/naysayer who 
wants you to fail as a Christian writer
is the devil.
In stark contrast, a huge cheer squad,
 led by Almighty God,
wants you to succeed.

My first thought was, ‘Wow!’

My second thought was, ‘I have a choice to make.’
  1. ·        I can reject this thought, thereby siding with the devil and … treat God as a liar;
  2. ·        I can condescend to it outwardly while letting doubt undermine my trust in God till I flounder in the mud of despondency and unbelief; or
  3. ·        I can accept it, embrace it, and run with it, letting God’s truth strengthen and empower me to keep going.

I'm going with number 3. 

Having meditated on this for a couple of weeks, I’ve concluded the Bible provides ample evidence that God is cheering us on as Christian writers, e.g. Isaiah 52:7, 50:4, Psalm 68:11 and more than 64 other verses that mention the word ‘write’.

It’s also supported by visible actions and evidence, vis-à-vis the encouragement readily given by family, friends, fellow Christians, writers, readers and editors. Honestly, although there are many articles across the web that reflect the struggles and challenges faced by writers, the overwhelming sense from both Christian and secular sources is one of encouragement to all authors, (aspiring and published) to go for it, keep writing, get better, never, ever, give up. In this industry, the players are generally much more inclined to critique with a view to improvement than be critical. Even the dreaded rejection letter is seen as a step or side-step in the journey, not a prescription for failure.

So, next time the devil starts throwing the mud of failure in my face, or yours, let's remember that, unless we choose to agree with him, he’s a minority of one, even if he appropriates a few human mouthpieces from time to time. Meanwhile, the great majority, in heaven and on earth, is cheering us on, big time.

Have you got a favourite line you’ve heard from that cheer squad? I'd love you to share it with the rest of us. Spur us all on to greater effort and action.

(Note: Images used above are Creative Commons sourced from Pixabay)

Mazzy Adams is a published author of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. She has a passion for words, pictures and the positive potential in people. 

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Member Interview - Jenny Glazebrook

Each Thursday in 2018 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today we interview Jenny Glazebrook

Question 1: 
Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.

 I am the wife of Rob, mother of Micah 16, Merridy 13, Clarity 10 and Amelia 8.

The hills are alive in Gundagai

I live in the rural town of Gundagai NSW (population 2,500) with my family and many pets including a dog, cat, sheep, 2 blue tongue lizards, budgie, goose and chooks (yes, we're animal lovers).

My family face many medical challenges between us, including diabetes type 1, diabetes type 1.5 (a rare genetic form), cleft lip and palate, chronic asthma, high functioning autism, ADHD, anxiety disorders, a rare neurological condition and other syndromes and immune issues.

Upon each diagnosis I grieved and begged God to take it all away, but He showed me that for our family His miraculous healing has been an eternal one of the heart and soul, not a temporary physical healing. He has used our weaknesses to show His strength and provided many opportunities to reach out to others despite and because of these struggles. We are so grateful to have Him and each other.

Question 2: 
Tell us about your writing.  What do you write and why?

I write because I love it and I believe in the power of words and stories to change people.

I love creating characters and putting them into words.

Writing gave me a voice when I didn’t have one, and is an opportunity to express all that’s in my heart. It's a way my words can outlive me!

I write poetry as private worship and young adult Christian fiction for the public. This includes my Aussie Sky series, 6 books about a quirky but lovable ex-circus family and the lives they touch.

Question 3: 
Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

I would love anyone between 12 and 99 years old to read my work.

It was never my purpose to write fiction only for young adults or just for Christians. My characters just happened to begin as young adults in the first few books I had published (because I was a teenager when I first wrote them) so I was slotted into this genre.

My books have also been labelled ‘Christian’ because all my characters are drawn closer to God in some way. This certainly doesn’t mean I want only Christians to read and enjoy them!

People of all ages and genders have enjoyed and been challenged by my stories. I have been very blessed and encouraged to hear from Christian schools letting me know of students who have been touched by my writing or come to know God in a closer way because of the stories.

Question 4: 
Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

Finding time without distractions is my biggest challenge.
Who wouldn't find these children a delightful distraction?

Believing my writing is valuable and that it’s okay to say no to all the other expectations which steal my writing time is another challenge.

It helps to remember writing is a gift God has given me, and even if I don’t immediately (or ever) see the impact it has, I can know He has given me this desire to write and will use it.

Feedback from a reader is always a great encouragement.

My process is usually that I sit for hours at a time and just let the words flow and the characters come alive and lead me where they (God) will.

I struggle with being too wordy. Shortening my manuscripts is always hard but necessary.

My latest issue is realising one book in my next series focuses on characters not considered Young Adult because they have grown up and are now 24 years old. My books are being marketed as YA (I understand the publisher’s need for this), so I need to work out how to adjust the story. Not easy when it’s already written and is so interwoven into the other books in the series.

It helps to lay my manuscript out before the Lord and ask Him for answers. Sometimes it comes through hard work, other times I have a dream or ideas that flow so smoothly I know they’re from Him.

Question 5:
What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

I love this book because it confirms what I’ve always thought; that characters are the heart and soul of any story and that if you understand the characters and write them well, readers will be drawn in and captivated by your writing. Lisa describes the process, the brain science behind it, and how to do it.

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

This is a hard because so many of you are so precious to me! God has used different people at different times to be an encouragement and inspiration. 

Carolyn Miller
The one coming to my mind right now is Carolyn Miller.

Her fourth book, ‘Winning Miss Winthrop’ is released in 5 days and I am inspired by the way she has put everything she has into her work. She has been so accepted and admired by even the American Christian market, and she is just so … well, gifted. Every sentence she writes is well crafted and delightful.

She has also become a dear friend and has been a great encouragement in my personal and spiritual life.

Question 7:
What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?

I plan to get at least the second and third books in my ‘Young Aussie Hearts’ series to my publisher, Breath of Fresh Air Press.

I will do this by joining Camp Nanowrimo in April and pulling out of all unnecessary voluntary roles for the year. (Yes, I am learning to say no to all those other demands and expectations).

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

Me at 13 years.
I always found some way
to hide my mouth if possible.
I began writing poetry at the age of 13 at my conversion when God reached in and lit a fire of His hope and love in my heart. I found there was so much depth and joy I wanted to express and poetry was a great way to do this.

Being shy and self conscious as a result of my cleft lip and palate, writing was a good way to communicate with people without having to be face to face.

Since then, writing has been both worship and an expression of my own experiences in life. My novels are based on the way God works in peoples’ lives. It's an attempt to offer a glimpse into what it means to walk with God and be His child in this broken world. I love writing stories that show God's love, purposes and redemption. There's no story quite like the ones He writes with our lives if we let Him be the author.

See what I mean about too many words being one of my biggest challenges? And this is the final, edited version with bits cut out.

Thank you so much for this opportunity. I look forward to getting to know other writers in the same way!

Jenny Glazebrook is the published author of 7 novels, 1 traditionally published, and 6 self published. She has been a CALEB finalist 4 times. She is currently working on her next series with publisher, Breath of Fresh Air Press. She writes because words burn within her. She is an experienced inspirational speaker, a chaplain, and loves to encourage others to walk closer with God and hear His voice each day.  

Jenny’s website is:

Monday, 19 March 2018

Story Telling in 3D

By Debbie Roome

Those who know me well will be familiar with my love of travel. This dates back a few decades but recently has become a way of life. I’ll never forget the day that travelling changed from a postcard view to something more tangible. And no, it wasn’t the day I first climbed into an aeroplane or travelled to a foreign land. I had seen many glossy brochures of London and Europe and could recognise Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but it was a flat and one- dimensional view.

 My perspective changed the day I went to a travel presentation that incorporated a movie on a large screen. It was many years ago so wasn’t in 3D but it was filmed by someone walking through these famous landmarks, climbing spiral stair cases, walking around the back of the buildings and across bridges. It brought travel to life for me, offering depth and an understanding of where these structures were situated, and their size and grandeur. With today’s genuine 3D movies, this effect is even greater and the goggles that give us a full 360 degree view of a movie are amazing!

I was thinking about this recently and realised the 3D principle can also be applied to writing. Do we give our readers a flat, one dimensional view of our characters and settings or do we take them on a breath-taking tour through their lives? Are our settings conveyed in boring prose or do a few skilfully crafted words give them depth and colour.

Our first drafts maybe rather flat and bland but as we rework them, edit them and polish them, let’s make every effort to introduce the 3D effect. May our stories be rounded, have twists and turns, and burst with texture, perspective and life. Our readers may never travel physically to the locations in our books. They may never shake hands with our characters or cry with them, but through our writing skills, they can become immersed in their world.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Stories of Life: from private faith to public storytelling

By May-Kuan Lim

A few years ago, at a writer’s group, I sat on a sofa so low that it felt as if my knees came up to my chest. Someone handed out ‘Stories of Life’ fliers, saying, ‘A writing competition looking stories of faith and testimony.’ It could have been Mark or James, I forget, but what I remember is that I felt no compunction whatsoever to enter the competition.

I had been living in Australia for about eighteen years, but grew up in Malaysia. One of the things I sensed soon after I moving here was that it was impolite to talk about God or Jesus – unless I happened to be in the company of Christians. I felt people didn’t mind what I believed, as long as I didn’t talk about it too loudly. Well, some of the winning stories would be broadcast on radio in Adelaide. Talking about faith doesn’t get much louder than that.

The Malaysia I grew up in had a different spiritual mood. Almost everyone, from prime minister to street sweeper, revered God. I attended a government school in Malaysia, established and still run at that time by an Irish Catholic nun, whom all the girls loved. At school assemblies, staff and students of different faiths  – Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu – would pray to God, all of us bowing our heads in reverence.

I become a Christian when I was 12 years old, in this very school. Christian women from Navigators or local churches used to conduct Bible Study classes, open to any non-Muslim girl who wished to attend.

I was the first person in my immediate family to become a Christian. Soon after my conversion, my family faced a crisis. There were terrible dramas, private dramas. I was not in any physical danger, but the nature of the crisis created for me a private bubble of woe. I spent many days and nights in that bubble, unable to speak to anyone about what was going on at home.

In this aloneness I found great comfort in God. In my bedroom each evening before dinner, as I read my Bible and prayed, I would look out to hills covered in rainforest. All those years ago, the hills had not yet been denuded and built over with highways and high rises and squatters and shops. Many evenings, I admired pink and gold sunsets against deep green hills, and thanked God for such lavish calm beauty outside the house, a foil to the dramas unfolding inside. One particular evening, as I read Psalm 91:14 – because he loves me says the Lord, I will rescue him – the words leapt out as if God had spoken directly to me. In the privacy of my bedroom, my faith was becoming something precious and deeply important to me.

In Australia, I was in my mid-thirties when I started attending Adelaide Writers Week, and later listening to interviews of famous writers. As I strove to learn how to write well, I hung on to their words. I admired their skill and craftsmanship. But sometimes some of them would talk about the religious worlds they had left behind. Sometimes they mocked Christian religious traditions, people within those traditions, and, on occasions, God himself.

Reflecting on my initial disinterest in Stories of Life, I think I was afraid to even consider writing a story of faith. It would require me to bring my private faith into the public sphere. What if people laughed? It would be as if they saw into the privacy of my heart, upon which God’s word had been inscribed, and found me ridiculous.

Sue Jeffrey, one of the 2016 winners

Some months passed. I was driving to a friend’s house when I heard one of the Stories of Life broadcast in Adelaide on Life FM. It was a story by Sue Jeffrey. In the story, she had just moved to Canberra. I don’t have her story with me, but I still remember she described how she was feeling very low. She spoke of a puppy that slowly drew her out. I arrived at my destination before the story finished, but sat in my car, with the engine running so invested was I in the story. It was so real, so relatable, with no clichés. I felt drawn to the story, not because of my Christian faith, but because of my human vulnerabilities. I identified with Sue and loved the wholly surprising idea of deliverance in the form of a puppy.

When I turned the first pages of the 2017 Stories of Life anthology, The Gecko Renewal, I read of the improbable rescue of a young female prison officer, by a violent inmate with ‘heavily tattooed arms … biceps the size of my thighs’. The writer, Amy Ireland, credited it to God. I had been writing non-fiction stories of asylum seekers. My interviewees had described to me the hopelessness and bleakness of detention centres. But Amy’s story said: God is present and working, even in these places.

Further on in the book, I read ‘When Andy met God’ by Ester de Boer. When Andy, born with an intellectual disability, has a sudden change of behaviour, he tells everyone it’s because God has shown up. If Andy’s angry now, he just talks to God about it and he feels better.

The beauty of both stories is that the specificity of detail and authenticity of dialogue makes me think: Amy really worked in the prisons, Andy really is intellectually disabled, God really is there.
Where these two stories touched my intellect, ‘Not Alone’ by Glenda Austin helped me through a tough week. I was in Melbourne, helping my son settle in to university. I was in the guest bedroom of a friend’s house when I heard Glenda read her story in an audio file that I was uploading to the Stories of Life webpage. Glenda described how she saw her son, part of the Australian force in East Timor, on TV as John Farnham sang, ‘You’ll never walk alone’. Right then, I had the sense that God was assuring me that my son, too, would not walk alone.

I’m grateful to Sue, Amy, Ester and Glenda for being brave enough to share their stories with the public, because I wouldn’t have heard their stories otherwise. I’m grateful to them for taking the time to craft their stories well, so that the stories could be included in the anthology, and broadcast on radio. There are many other stories in the anthology, which I believe have touched many other people.

There are stories that were submitted that did not win prizes, and were not selected for the anthology, or for on-air broadcast. But the very act of telling a story to a child, a spouse, a neighbour, or writing it down, is an act of bearing witness. When we tell or write a faith story, we are acknowledging God’s work in our lives. I think God is pleased with that. This makes me think of Jesus’ commandment in Luke 8 to the person he healed. The man pleaded with Jesus to be allowed to travel with Jesus but Jesus said to him, ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’

The faith that Jesus called me to was never meant to only be a private faith, a faith only for me to draw strength in times of trouble. There is a public aspect that I overlooked. If those women hadn’t come to my school to tell the entire class about God and Jesus, where would I be?

If you have a story of how God showed up in your life, do consider writing it up and submitting it to either the short category (up to 500 words), or the open category (1000 to 1500 words). The Stories of Life competition runs from 1 April to 31 July this year. If you would like help to craft your story, register for our free writing workshop that will run on 12 April at Tabor Adelaide, that will also be live streamed on our Facebook page. There are also resources on our website on how to write a good story, including video presentation of last year’s writing workshop.

Your stories matter. We would love to hear from you.

Monday, 12 March 2018

‘I was lookin' for love in all the wrong places
Lookin' for love in too many faces
Searchin' their eyes
Lookin' for traces of what I'm dreaming of…’

Image courtesy of Castillo Dominici

That was me for far too many years; searching for a soulmate, ‘needing’ a fulfilling relationship, hoping for domestic bliss. Yet the harder I looked the further the prize receded into the distance.

It’s a basic human need, this need for love and belonging, and we reach a point in our lives where our spiritual and emotional growth can become stymied if we fail to satisfy that persistent yearning. We become ‘stuck’, unable to move on with other important tasks and milestones in life. Most of us settle down and marry in our twenties or thirties and muddle on with varying degrees of conflict and stress, peppered with romantic highlights and for those who get lucky, some hard-won joy and contentment.

Others of us turn to our careers or what we perceive to be our passion to fill that nagging ache within our hearts and souls. Still others care for parents and relatives, and some of us are besotted with our four-footed furry friends. Every path taken is valid and significant, and every twist and turn can be molded into a valuable lesson. For me personally, ‘real’ love remained elusive and I settled into my 56th year determined to find ways to live a meaningful life without a partner by my side. In fact, God sort of arranged it for me.

It’s not that I’d forgotten about God over the years or even ignored Him overmuch. I’ve been a believer for a long time now and constant communication between El Shaddai and this somewhat wayward daughter of His has been the norm. Yet, I still made some wrong assumptions that drove a wedge between us. I was still trying to fill the God-shaped hole, which exists inside all humanity, with human love.

But God pursued me relentlessly.

A fiancé (not the first) exited stage right (my front door) in a flurry of doubt and confusion, citing unfinished business and pressure from his adult children. It’s a long and somewhat wretched story that I’ll leave entirely to your imagination. (Cue in the musical score from Les Misérables.)

This time, the separation was so traumatic, following close after my mother’s death, that I decided to go it alone for the rest of my days. Well, not quite alone…for God had finally got my full attention. I was done with human relationships (family and friends excepted). Absolutely done, I tell you.

I’d voiced similar sentiments in the past but this was the first time I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I truly meant it. I finally handed the reigns entirely over to my Creator and King, and the fear began to dissipate. Grief remained for a time but not intolerably so. Over the following months, as I read more and more scripture, searching each page with new impassioned eyes, a mantle of peace descended. My shoulders eased. The panic attacks began to ebb away.

As I steeped myself further and further in Christian literature and reached out to my priceless, loving Christian friends, I began to really know my God.

And you know what? I liked Him a lot! In fact, it wasn’t long before I was pretty sure I was in love! And the revelation that left me the most ‘gobsmacked’ is that I knew I’d finally found the one true love; the only one who could completely cherish every inch of my being; the only one strong enough, wise enough and gentle enough to give my still-girlish heart the depth of love and security I’d craved all my life.

But God didn’t stop at sweeping me off my feet. In very short order He set about building our very first home. It was a dream I thought I’d never achieve, and truth be known, no one else believed I’d achieve it either. Financial advisers insisted that, at my age and having only a disability support payment as income, I had no chance of breaking out of that iron-maiden commonly called the rental trap. Real Estate agents shook their heads and showed me through shoddy little hovels they assured me were within my price range. It was disturbing to see the combination of pity and desperation in their eyes as I said no, time and again. God had better in store for me. I was certain of that much.

He knew and understood my special needs and He also knew the desires of my heart, as, of course, He still does. This was one guy I was going to trust to come through for me. We were a team now and I had to learn to work with Him, not under my own steam for a change. I listened carefully, and I stepped out in faith, asking Him to stay my hand if I misread His cues.

And so it was that I came to find a block of land in one of the most beautiful parts of the country; a bank to give me the very small mortgage I needed to secure it, and a builder to give me a fixed-price contract beyond all the odds, which just happened to fit my tiny budget. How those funds came to be in my bank account in the first place constitutes a whole parallel narrative to this story, but I’ll spare you those seemingly mundane details for now. In truth each step of the process was a miracle.

During this honeymoon period of ours, God flooded me with His miracles. It was a tsunami of blessing and abundance. Along the way, there were some headaches and stresses, but that’s to be expected when you build a house.  We took it in our stride. Mostly, we just had fun! What a happy time we had collaborating over building design and materials, flooring, paint colours, tiles…and all the little extras that make a house a home. It was effortless!
The House that God Built

We moved in about a month after the expected hand-over date but He had even that under control. At first I was disappointed about having to wait but I soon realized that, with my chemical sensitivities, I wouldn’t have been able to live with the odour of fresh paint. It would have brought me to my knees physically. And so God delayed things a little. By the time He carried me across the threshold (for real!) the odour had dissipated and all that remained was the heady fragrance of fresh mountain air.

For the finishing touch, He proceeded to fill my rainwater tanks with bountiful rain. They’re overflowing as I write.

I don’t know any human being who can pull that off, do you?

I think I might finally have met ‘the one’. And He doesn’t even mind if I find human love as well, as long as I continue to put Him first. Either way, I’m going to be just fine.

God makes a fine husband. In fact, there’s none better.
And the view's not too shabby, either.

Melinda Jensen is a writer concerned with social justice, spirituality, the environment, and equality. She authors a blog on domestic abuse, particularly as it pertains to its psychological and emotional effects. Over the years she has had a smattering of short stories and poetry published in national magazines and anthologies.  At the moment she is working on two fantasy novels with environmental themes, both aimed at middle school readers. And more importantly, she’s engrossed in a non-fiction work that focuses on thriving in a materialistic, consumerist world, while limited by a tiny budget.